T Magazine

Loulou’s India

8 May 2014 – T Magazine

It’s only mid-February, but winter is already starting to retreat into the hills, leaving South India’s fertile plains to bake under the pre-summer sun. After a year of weak rains, the landscape here in the Palani Hills — where the flat expanse of Tamil Nadu rises to the spice and tea estates of the lush Western Ghats — is dry.

Just above the coconut fields, Isla Van Damme (call her Loulou) walks onto the veranda of the home she’s spent the last year building in this remote, largely unknown corner of India. She glances down at the table she’s just finished setting — the colonnade of candles, the offhand flourish of bougainvillea set out for her first dinner party in the new house — then up at the sky. “There aren’t going to be many stars tonight, but you never know,” she says. “We make our own stars.” (more…)

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Wanderlust: Madurai, India, Where Time Stands Still

21 March 2014 – T Magazine Blog

Though it’s home to more than a million people, Madurai, the second-largest city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, remains a paradigmatic temple town. Around its ragged edges, Madurai looks much like any other medium-sized Indian city, with its clusters of concrete buildings and traffic-choked streets. But at its center – an elegant arrangement of concentric ring roads surrounding the labyrinthine, 17-acre compound of the Meenakshi Temple, among the holiest in South India – the city feels timeless. You come here not to experience the much-touted New India but the India that has endured for centuries. (more…)