food / travel

Traffic Jams And Yoga, A Skeptical German Ventures To India

Just go, leave everything behind and relax. We sent our reporter to Jodhpur, India’s blue city, where he is desperately trying to disconnect with all his worldly stress.

A view of Jodhpur, India's blue city.
A view of Jodhpur, India's blue city.
Michalis Pantelouris

JODHPUR â€" Measured against India's other urban centers, Jodhpur, known as the "blue city," is relatively small, with 2.8 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Still, on your first encounter, it suffocates you with both heat and noise. Soon enough, however, you will also be breathing in the most beautiful colors and most intoxicating scents of curry and saffron, cinnamon and cardamom.

It is called the blue city due to its Brahman houses that have been plastered with a mixture of indigo and whitewash to keep out the heat and insects. There is aggressive traffic like you have never seen, which may make you feel as if everyone is out to get you on two, three or four wheels â€" and legs.

If relaxing means slowing down your day, you won't find it here. But if it means making the day yours â€" and seeming to stop time altogether â€" then this is the right spot. Your senses are bombarded with so much information that you are forced to give up from sensory overload.

Motorized rickshaws and endless motorcycles whizz in between each other, and around everyone else. I was driven around Jodhpur six times in one of those motorized rickshaws â€" and, yes, we managed to hit two people on two different occasions, once a motorcyclist with a soft, metallic ping and a pedestrian, who yelled at us furiously. But we did make sure to give the holy cows a wide berth.

Even that is a bit too much, all these rules, religious ones, what is considered unclean, the Gods, the symbols, the chanting. Feet are unclean, your left hand more than anything else, one well is reserved for Brahmans only, and if someone from a lower caste were to drink from it, he/she might be torn to pieces within minutes by an angry mob. But just a few meters next to that same well, rats are frolicking among the torn rubbish sacks thrown out onto the street. Dirty and unclean are two very different things in this country.

The right hand is clean, you eat with your right hand, and only with your right hand, which means that you will have to tear your flatbread with one hand as well and that is surprisingly difficult, and you use the flatbread to grab the solid pieces within curries that taste like everything you ever hoped for and thought of when thinking about India â€" foreign but also lush and exciting, like a thousand little adventures rolled into one.

From the rooftop

You shouldn’t be here if the only criteria for your journey was sensible leisure. My editors sent me to do my best to relax, and that’s what I had in mind, sitting around and people-watching, or preferably on the beach, the ocean lapping at my feet. But an ocean is the last thing you will find in this desert-like city of Jodhpur.

I did try to relax one morning, while sitting on the roof top terrace of one of those so-called "Haveli," former aristocratic houses that have been turned into hotels. I just sat around and starred into the blue sky. But the sky is full of flocks of birds, and five eagles were soaring above the old Maharaja’s Fort and Palace Mehrangarh, in which the respective Maharajas wielded power.

It seems so close from down here, and yet the Maharajas lived in a world that was completely removed from the city below. Every window arch, every wall has been finished with craftsmanship and attention-to-detail unbeknownst to us nowadays. Fort Mehrangarh, the "majestic fort," is a magical place. But the current Maharaja is living in an even more beautiful palace outside the blue city now, part of which has been transformed into a luxury hotel to pay for all the opulence since the Maharajas’ principalities were dissolved in 1956.

At one point, a group of three parrots landed nearby as I sat on the roof terrace. While they came to have a drink of water, I noticed that the neighboring roofs were crowded with apes who were lounging around delousing one another. One of the apes was holding his leg in the air while grabbing his foot so effortlessly that any yogi would have been envious. I certainly was.

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Preparing a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Huzhou, China.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Ciao!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Brazil's senate backs "crimes against humanity" charges against Jair Bolsonaro, the UN has a grim new climate report and Dune gets a sequel. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt explores "Xi Jinping Thought," which is now being made part of Chinese schools' curriculum.

[*Italian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Senators back Bolsonaro criminal charges: A Brazilian Senate panel has backed a report that supports charging President Jair Bolsonaro with crimes against humanity, for his alleged responsibility in the country's 600,000-plus COVID-19 deaths.

• Gas crisis in Moldova following Russian retaliation: Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries, has for the first time challenged Russia's Gazprom following a price increase and failed contract negotiations, purchasing instead from Poland. In response, Russia has threatened to halt sales to the Eastern European country, which has previously acquired all of its gas from Gazprom.

• New UN climate report finds planned emission cuts fall short: The Emissions Gap Report 2021 concludes that country pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions aren't large enough to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 °C degrees this century. The UN Environment Program predicts a 2.7 °C increase, with significant environmental impacts, but there is still hope that longer term net-zero goals will curtail some temperature rise.

• COVID update: As part of its long-awaited reopening, Australia will officially allow its citizens to travel abroad without a government waiver for the first time in more than 18 months. Bulgaria, meanwhile, hits record daily high COVID-19 cases as the Eastern European's hotel and restaurant association is planning protests over the implementation of the vaccination "green pass." In the U.S., a panel of government medical advisors backed the use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.

• U.S. appeals decision to block Julian Assange extradition: The United States said it was "extremely disappointed" in a UK judge's ruling that Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, would be a suicide risk of he traveled across the Atlantic. In the U.S., he faces 18 charges related to the 2010 release of 500,000 secret files related to U.S. military activity.

• Deposed Sudan prime minister released: Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has been released from custody, though remains under heavy guard after Sudan's military coup. Protests against the coup have continued in the capital Khartoum, as Hamdok has called for the release of other detained governmental officials.

Dune Part 2 confirmed: The world will get to see Timothée Chalamet ride a sandworm: The second installment of the sci-fi epic and global box office hit has officially been greenlit, set to hit the screens in 2023.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Front page of the National Post's October 27 front page

Canadian daily National Post reports on the nomination of Steven Guilbeault, a former Greenpeace activist, as the country's new Environment minister. He had been arrested in 2001 for scaling Toronto's CN Tower to unfurl a banner for Greenpeace, which he left in 2008.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Chinese students now required to learn to think like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university, reports Maximilian Kalkhof in German daily Die Welt.

🇨🇳 It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education. The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader. Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself.

📚 Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

⚠️ But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation? The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I'm a footballer and I'm gay."

— Australian soccer player Josh Cavallo said in a video accompanying a tweet in which he revealed his homosexuality, becoming the first top-flight male professional player in the world to do so. The 21-year-old said he was tired of living "this double life" and hoped his decision to come out would help other "players living in silence."

🇸🇩💥  IN OTHER NEWS

Why this Sudan coup d'état is different

Three days since the military coup was set in motion in Sudan, the situation on the ground continues to be fluid. Reuters reports this morning that workers at the state petroleum company Sudapet are joining a nationwide civil disobedience movement called by trade unions in response to the generals' overthrow of the government. Doctors have also announced a strike.

Generals in suits At the same time, the military appears firmly in control, with deposed Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok allowed to return home today after being held by the coup leaders. How did we get here? That's the question that David E. Kiwuwa, a professor of international relations at the University of Nottingham, takes on in The Conversation:

"Since the revolution that deposed Omar el-Bashir in 2019, the military have fancied themselves as generals in suits. They have continued to wield enough power to almost run a parallel government in tension with the prime minister. This was evident when the military continued to have the say on security and foreign affairs.

Economy as alibi For their part, civilian officials concentrated on rejuvenating the economy and mobilizing international support for the transitional council. This didn't stop the military from accusing the civilian leadership of failing to resuscitate the country's ailing economy.

True, the economy has continued to struggle from high inflation, low industrial output and dwindling foreign direct investment. As in all economies, conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of COVID-19. Sudan's weakened economy is, however, not sufficient reason for the military intervention. Clearly this is merely an excuse."

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

471 million euros

Rome's Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, better known as Villa Aurora, will be put up for auction in January for 471 million euros ($547 million). The over-the-top price tag is thanks to the villa having the only known ceiling painting by Renaissance master Caravaggio.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Who wants to start the bidding on the Caravaggio villa? Otherwise, let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com!

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Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
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