Wednesday 16 May 2007


The next part of my story, as told in The Moon's Complexion takes place in Mamallapuram (also known as Mahabalipuram), an ancient coastal city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu . It was here that the Pallava Dynasty built some of the earliest temples in South India dating from the seventh and eighth centuries. In spite of what happened to me there, it's a magical place, as I hope the following extracts from The Moon's Complexion and pictures demonstrate.

'Ahead the twin spires of the Shore Temple kept watch over the Bay of Bengal, as they had done since the eighth century. To Hannah they resembled golden pyramid cakes sandwiched with butter-cream, where layers of sandstone carvings had been eroded by centuries of salt wind.'

'A group of women and children, rainbow saris and long skirts pulled up to reveal glimpses of slender, rust-brown ankles, were playing chicken with the tide, running to the water’s edge and retreating with excited shrieks as the dying waves rushed in and splashed their feet. '

'They reached the temple compound and let its tranquillity wash over them. The outer walls, where long lines of huge, stone bulls looked out to sea, had fared little better than the temple buildings themselves, time-ravaged but still recognisable. '

'For three hours they discovered Mamallapuram’s ancient sites, treading barefoot on the sacred soil. By now the sandy earth had become a frying pan for feet unaccustomed to the ferocity of India’s midday sun. '

"Chariots - used in processions to carry the gods out of the temple. But these rathas, they’re misnamed. They’re actually little temples cut out of a ridge of solid granite. Things aren’t always what they seem, Hannah. "'

'The Mandapas, ancient rock temple halls carved into a boulder-strewn hill, provided a refuge from the overbearing heat.'

"‘And under the mountain life goes on as usual,’ he said. ‘Milking the cow, carrying water, depicted for eternity.’
‘Nothing is for eternity.’"

'Carved upon the rock face a cavalcade of men, deities and animals converged on a cleft in the centre that represented the Ganges River. The pageant on the rock was in perfect harmony. Not so Ashok and Hannah. Their unsung melody had slid almost imperceptibly into a minor key.'

Photos and Text © Irene Black

Saturday 3 March 2007


Hi, this is the next part of my photo journal,which shows the locations in Irene Black's novel The Moon's Complexion. At this point I was in Chennai. Things were really hotting up, in every sense of the word.

"Hotel Pandava on the Poonemale Road in Madras, or Chennai as it was now called, was an almighty celebration of art deco eccentricity... "

"A colonnaded walkway and opening out onto it were the ground floor guest rooms."

"Perched over them, layered balconies, painted in a riot of yellow, lilac, red, cream and blue checks, curves and stripes... "

"...the back streets behind the hotel were visible, with their strange mix of architecture: ramshackle little dwellings and tiny roadside stores snuggling unselfconsciously up to the great, wedding cake pink façade of a Raj-era girls’ school. "

"India was a strange psychedelic wonderland, whose dark forces were manifested in the Qutab Shahi Tombs. Now she was in Sugar Candy Land, where no harm could come to her."

"Hannah stopped at a fruit stall, a perfumed cornucopia of delights. Enormous bunches of red, green and yellow bananas hung from the awning..."

"A family with a bicycle had stopped to watch her, father pushing, older daughter on the saddle, baby straddling the cross bar, mother walking alongside. "

"A monster had landed on the grass; related, perhaps, to an old Hillman Imp, though this creature had been decapitated, so that instead of a passenger compartment, it carried a large platform on its carapace…standing in front of the monster, blowing in apparently uncoordinated abandon on strange clarinets and cornets. "

"Before her stood a goddess. "

"When they laughed, which they did frequently, the rolls of fat on their exposed, well-upholstered midriffs wobbled in unselfconscious delight. "

"Hannah watched as the Gopal Band set off out of the hotel grounds, a riot of dissonant sounds echoing in its wake. "

"After it on the horse rode the timid young bridegroom in his cream silk wedding suit and red turban "

"The noisy cavalcade crossed the main road, halting the never-ending stream of assorted vehicles


Photos and Text © Irene Black

Tuesday 16 January 2007

Golconda - The Qutab Shahi Tombs or

'She stood mesmerised ... the blackened limestone domes of these colossal, square edifices testified to the passing of centuries, and despite the harmony of the architecture, they purveyed a sense of emptiness and desolation, which mirrored their purpose in a way that shocked.'

'She wandered along sandy paths under bougainvillaea-covered pergolas ...'

'...admiring the cold perfection of Islamic arches and elaborate stone balustrades.'

'...stopping for a moment to watch a couple of workmen high up on a domed roof, as confident as crows, no safety devices to hold them in place.'

'Inside they were empty except for a black basalt sarcophagus...'

Photos and Text © Irene Black

Wednesday 3 January 2007

Hyderabad - The fortress of Golconda

‘The massive ruins of the Golconda citadel festered like an elaborate but crumbling sandcastle.’

‘[From] the entrance...'

…they made their way across the grassy base to the steps up to the citadel, past the first ruins…’

‘…and along the Grand Portico.’

‘…old granite walls, splendid and still powerful in their decaying glory.’

‘…hundreds of steps that led to the top of the hill.’

‘As if the hill upon which they stood had thrown them up in some cataclysmic collision of wills.’

‘Dominating the tableau like jet on a pebble beach stood the Qutab Shahi Tombs, each the domed mausoleum of some ancient Islamic noble.’

‘As they climbed, they explored the citadel…’

‘…the twelve-arched Durbar Hall.’

‘… a party of noisy school children had arrived, clad in crisp green and white uniforms, the little girls with their hair in identical bunches.’

‘…started off slowly down the hill, taking a different route via the harem palaces.’

‘ Little was left to testify to their former magnificence except the huge façade that now provided perching places for small green parakeets.’

Photos and Text © Irene Black

Friday 29 December 2006


Hyderabad - my first stop in India.This is where The Moon's Complexion began...

'Market stallholders held up yard-long gourds or plump melons and stood to attention...'

'People called from shed-like shop entrances. ‘Photo, here please! Photo!’ '

'...shops selling colourful lac-bangles, wares spilling out onto the streets. '

The Charminar - 'an ancient Islamic arch that stood in the centre in a state of splendid decay.'

'There reigned beneath the bustle of frenetic activity, and the clamour of competing motor horns, an undercurrent of self-assurance and control.'

'She stopped by a pair of giggling girls in bright saris, who sat on the pavement weaving garlands of jasmine and marigolds.'

Photos and Text © Irene Black