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IMG_7953The Millennial Generation (born between 1980 – 2000) believes in beauty in design and architecture. They skirt the windswept modern plazas to seek out cities with secret courtyards and rooms, such as this 12th century university centre in the walkable neighbourhood of Hauz Khas, New Delhi, India.

IMG_7934One of the cafes (actually it’s a tea salon) preferred by the Millennial Gen in Hauz Khas, New Delhi.

IMG_8644It’s possible to spot Milly-Gen neighbourhoods in cities around the world.  Watch for cultural fusion and art that’s part of streetlife, not sequestered to institutions.  In Istanbul, eclectic vintage stores are layered next to antique jewellers next to architecture studios in Tophane district across the river from the ancient Hagia Sophia. Even the heaps of garbage on the sidewalk are artful.

IMG_8677The Milly-Gen tends to be well-travelled and well-educated.  They’re foodies with a love of eclectic, locally-grown dishes that pull on old traditions.  This fresh Istanbul breakfast served in a neighbourhood transitioning from strict Muslim…

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In Toronto at the Stop Market anti-poverty fundraiser – a crowd of Milly-Gens contemplates life in the big city, naturally, in a parking lot.  Values of the Millennial Generation in Big City Canada: EQUALITY OF THE SEXES; PERSONAL CREATIVITY; NEED FOR ESCAPE; CULTURAL FUSION; FLEXIBILITY OF GENDER IDENTITY; CONTROL OF DESTINY; ECOLOGICAL LIFESTYLE; INTROSPECTION AND EMPATHY; EQUAL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUTH;  GLOBAL ECOLOGICAL AWARENESS; DISCRIMINATING CONSUMERISM; PURSUIT OF ORIGINALITY; SOCIAL LEARNING.
(Environics Analytics)

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The Taj Mahal, in dusty, chaotic Agra, India, viewed through the red sandstone gatehouse, within the press of the crowd.  Symmetry  and material tension run high between the dark sandstone and the brilliant white marble of the mausoleum.   Conceived by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to honour his beloved wife – who died giving birth to their 14th child.

IMG_8048The big onion dome hovers over the crypt, its reflection absorbed in the reflecting pool.

IMG_8074Young and old – the elder woman on the right bent nearly in half –  cram into access stairs to the elevated plinth on which the Taj is set.

  IMG_8080The entrance archway to the mausoleum: an astonishing, ‘edgy’ wrinkled and pleated treatment of white marble. This, accomplished by 1653.
IMG_8694Stone courtyard slabs leading to the Blue Mosque (1616), Istanbul.

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Remember that rule about lighting up a room with at least two light sources?  How about hundreds?

IMG_8700Sensory overload at the Blue Mosque: every tile, every inlay of marble, every dome set against another dome, intended to dazzle your senses with enlightenment and keep your mind distracted from the masonry weight of the domes.

IMG_8732Nearby, the Hagia Sophia: Holy Wisdom, designed at a monumental scale, sheathed in marble and gold and built, remarkably, in five years (532 – 37 CE).  The Roman emperor Justinian commissioned the mathematician Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus to design the dazzling structure. What they achieved by way of supporting half-domes, quarter-domes and mammoth structural piers is mind-boggling.  Forty small windows run along the lower ring of the uber dome, creating an illusion of weightlessness.

IMG_8808Exposed structure: the bronze girding at the base and top of the massive marble columns have prevented the splaying of the pillars over the centuries.   The eye is kept constantly moving, from the milky-white river coursing through the marble floors to the green marble columns then the deep red ones, to the silver and gold of the mosaics.

6 AM.  Floating on the Ganges River, Varanasi, India, where the current runs strong but time has stayed still.  A boy in a light wooden craft selling handmade wishing candles skims along the Ganges, considered by Hindus to be the sacred ‘mother’.

At sunrise, pilgrims descend the ‘ghat’ staircases to wash themselves vigorously at the edge of the holy river.

6:30 AM. At the main ‘burning’ ghat, some 300 bodies are turned to ash on open funeral pyres every day.  Masses of logs are brought to the famous Dashashwamedh ghat and hauled by men up the steep slope to the burning sites. The burning stench lies heavy in the air.  According to ancient dictate, those diseased with chicken pox, leprosy, holy men, children and pregnant women are not burned but lowered into the Ganges with the weight of stones.

Women bathe, immersing themselves fully in the river while wearing their saris. Vendors put out their jewellery beneath the “chhatris”, timeworn parasols made of thatched bamboo and clad in patchwork.

Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is renown for its ancient design of saris. But try choosing one in the heat, when the vendor keeps pulling more and more exotic colour combinations from the boxes on the shelves. When I was there, a ‘sacred’ cow wandered down the laneway and stuck his enormous head inside the shop.

A river of silk – part of the hallucinogenic spell India casts on visitors.