Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Week That Was

Some events act as clear dividing lines in our lives, almost like the markers BC and AD. The terrorist attack on Bombay on 26th November, has become one of those. You think of life "before 26/11 and you think in terms of life after 26/11. It's changed, not only for those who survived the violence at CST or at the Taj or the Oberoi hotels. And not only for the number of people who lost their friends and relatives in the attack. Life somehow seems different for a whole lot of us living in the vicinity of these places, or those of us who belong to the middle or upper classes who were mainly the target of this revengeful act. It has made us sit up and think in a way that never happened before.

The upside of it is that many individuals are all set to seriously examine what is wrong with society, and with the world we live in. Unfortunately far too many people are engaged in pointing fingers and unwilling to be part of a half way sane dialogue. A piece I recently wrote for Desicritics elicited a barrage of responses mainly from people who dont seem to want to look further than their nose. It depresses you to read them because you see how few people among the educated classes are even half way willing to own up to the fact that if the world is in a mess today it is because we too have contributed to it in our own way by agreeing to be part of a system which is destructive and self defeating.

Those who want to do more than complain and are ready to contribute their time and energy to a long term project to further environmental awareness which also involves awareness of the self) please get in touch. Some of us at Basicindia are organizing a series of sessions for friends and generally anyone interested, to voice their thoughts and feelings and come up with peaceful solutions to the current state of fear, anger and confusion which has gripped the city in recent times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Shambhu's latest antics have left me with mixed feelings. After being labelled "dumb" and "stupid" by almost everyone, he left us quite zapped by catching a sparrow the other day. We didn't actually see it happen but found the evidence on the carpet in the form of some feathers and spots of blood. I have seen him also frequently pounce on and dismember lizards, which makes me groan because I personally find lizards not only cute but useful to have around as the bigger ones catch the cockroaches.

So on the one hand I find this bloody sport rather difficult to handle but on the other hand when I see Shambhu having such a good time I get confused. It's all in the game I suppose. The lad has now been galivanting like crazy, he is sometimes out for twelve hours in a day. Yesterday he left home at 4 in the afternoon and returned at 3 in the morning, yowling away to tell us he was back again. He is currently stretched out on the sofa, dead to the world. Guess he's had a hard day.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Goa November

What really got me gaping at the Mumbai airport as I sat waiting for the flight to Bangalore two weeks back, was this spiffy floor cleaning machine which just whizzed past me, leaving behind it a spanking clean surface. The new airport at Bombay really is quite nice I must say and pretty well organized.

Landing in Bangalore we were greeted by heavy rain which followed us most of the way to Neredu 2. Venky and George picked me up from the airport and we set off immediately, reaching Neredu 2 by late evening.

We had the meditation at Lallu and Bullu's place this time (I am still waiting for photos from Sharat) and it turned out to be also a very good place for us, especially the balcony outside their bedroom overlooking the green valley and surrounding hills.

The workshop brought us all much closer together and we had some fun times lounging around in Lallu and Bullu's courtyard, with Lallu mostly reclining in the hammock. It rained throughout though and the solar panels were not able to provide any electricity this time so we were quite dependent on the generator for lights and our music as well. The nice thing about the rains was that the weather was wonderfully cool which is something to be grateful for as October can be rather warm in that area.
View from the first guest house I stayed in

Goa was a dream as usual, and this time in Agonda we found a spectacular place by the sea, quite by accident. Sudha and I had driven down from Bangalore on the 26th with Shiv and Indira and Uma L joined us a day later. At first we all stayed in quite a nice guest house which was a five minute walk from the sea but on the third day we saw this place called "Sunset Point" which was right on the beach and it just so happened that that very day one room had got free. So Sudha and I jumped at it and within an hour, had moved our bags over and just didn't regret it. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of other people know about it so it is quite full till almost the end of March. Or so the owner says.

At sunset time

The other people staying there turned out to be a rather nice bunch. There was a French couple, bodies entirely tattooed over, a handsome Portuguese man who took the front most room by the sea, a guy who seemed to be a French Algerian and an Israeli who was surprisingly friendly, who was in the room next to Sudha's and mine, who even made us a cup of filter coffee one morning on his camping stove.

As soon as I get additional pics from Uma L and Sharat I'll post them.

"Ummery" (Humphrey) the friendly old mongrel at Sunset Point

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The trials of Dassehra

Ratna and Mansi after visiting the Mahalaxmi temple

Dassehra is once again in full swing and the queues at the Mahalaxmi temple wind up the road for at least a couple of kilometres. They all stand in the heat with such an incredibly patient look on their faces, almost as if they enjoy torturing themselves. Among those waiting for a glimpse of the divine power was S’s sister, husband and three year old daughter Mansi.

Where I sit at the computer now I have to put up not only with the usual traffic roar but also with loudspeakers blaring out sangeet and bhajans. The Dassehra festivities in the hall next to where my parents live, which hold up traffic for days, is toned down I believe this year, on account of terrorist threats but it doesn’t seem to make a difference for the thousands of devotees who throng to the temple anyway.

At home S, A and I are planning to celebrate Dassehra with lunch at Swati snacks this afternoon. S has a few days off from the second job as her employer has gone on vacation, which makes it easier for her to go out in the afternoon. Swati snacks, which most people in Bombay and especially around this area are familiar with, is such a popular joint that I hope we don’t end up waiting on the pavement like we will have to, if the place is full. And after lunch there’s a movie to watch – we’ve ordered a Marathi DVD for the afternoon which has been heavily advertised on TV and which S has been dying to see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Home Again

Lulu clowning around

We hit Indian soil early yesterday morning. It was my first morning landing, because most of Lufthansa's flights from Germany normally get here after midnight or thereabouts. So now it is a return, from plush surroundings and well fed children and adults to foggy skies and babies abandoned in trains, kids getting run over by buses and shopkeepers and normal citizens getting mugged just by the way (all in today's papers).

Still, I am happy to be back, and put it down to the aging factor. Whereas earlier it used to take me weeks to get over my misery at having to leave all the good things of life, I now find that the "good things" are actually back home. I'm happy to be eating Indian food again, happy to chat with A and S and generally to be back on my balcony after four weeks.

Here are some pics from my last few days in Prien and in Aufkirchen. Aufkirchen is a small hamlet near the airport in Munich, where my parents and I stayed a day or two before flying back. It's a real one horse town or even a half horse town because there is absolutely nothing to do there, at least around our hotel. We were forced to stay in Aufkirchen because all the hotel rooms in the city were booked on account of the Oktober Fest - a mad festival highlighting beer, crowds and drunken revelry. While we were there Walter and Anja visited us because they said it is closer to where they live, than Prien. Anja and Walter conduct workshops in self awareness and specialize in "Water rebalancing" which has to do with therapy in a swimming pool (to simulate the experience of the pre-natal months).

Claudia who
plans to help the training group in 2009

Ayse, as usual in good cheer

"Horse" Petra (because she rides and trains horses)



Saturday, September 20, 2008

Morning At The Kindergarten

Two years back when I was in Prien nursing a broken leg, Felix, who was then about four, wanted me desperately to come with him to the kindergarten where he was enrolled. That time Ariela explained to him that I couldn't make it because most likely the wheel chair wouldn't go through the door. His spontaneous suggestion was, well then, why not organise a smaller wheelchair for me? Soon after that he dropped out of KG altogether and this Tuesday was the first time he had been back, in almost two years. This time too, I was able to go with him.

Yesterday morning Ariela dropped us both off there and I spent quite an interesting morning with about twenty kids who seemed to range in age from three to six years. The youngest was a little girl whose mother had dropped her off and gone back home, who spent a good twenty minutes shrieking her heart out. Felix sat there with a grim expression on his face and fingers stuck in his ears and soon the other kids followed suit.

The kids were all curious, not so much about my colour or where I was from but what had happened to my leg. To simplifiy matters I told them that I had broken it some time back. So I heard from various boys and girls how they had broken a finger or some other part of the body, one boy told me his father had burned his hand and another one said he had broken a leg that very morning but that now he was fine.

It was a treat, to see them play, sometimes led by the teacher, sometimes doing their own thing. I saw that in Germany kids are given a lot of freedom to play on their own and do what they feel like doing. One of the joint activities had to do with sculpting a snail out of dough. At this point Thomas arrived to take me to the bank where I needed to change some cheques and we left, with Felix crying and whining a bit that he wanted to come with us. Finally he agreed to stay back with the other kids on the condition that Thomas would come and fetch him soon after we were through with the bank.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunshine Again!

After two days of rain and cold weather, it has turned sunny again. Living here you notice how the sun lifts your spirits - unlike in Bombay where cloudy skies relieve the searing heat of the sun.

These last couple of days have been quite hectic with friends turning up, and some last minute things to do. Ruth, who took great care of me the time I broke my leg, came over on Tuesday and we borrowed Ariela's car and drove around a bit. She helped me with some essential chores, among other things, mailing a heavy packet of jaggery to Bibsi in Kempten. I had taken the stupid parcel all the way to Switzerland, knowing that Thomas would drop me at Bibsi's on the way back, then I forgot to pack it into the backpack which I took with me to Kempten.

Yesterday Sabine, who lives in Frankfurt came over for the day. Her mother has a summer house in a place not far from Prien, which she visits quite frequently. She had driven there on Tuesday and Prien being just about 20 minutes away, she decided to come and meet me.
Was great catching up with her after almost two years and we spent a bit of time recapturing the past with a lot of nostalgia. Sabine has sold the pharmacy which she used to run and now lives a happy retired life, though still very active, what with looking after her daughter's dog, her grandson, travelling, attending workshops and offering cranio sacral sessions herself, a field in which she trained some years ago.

(pic on left shows Lilly with the muffins she's baked.)

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At home meanwhile, all the kids are back in school and Felix has started going to Kindergarten again after almost a two year break. (He said it was "okay" yesterday, and that he enjoyed parts of the day and one boy was very nice to him, though he didn't know his name). (In the topmost pic you see Felix making his scary dinosaur face. Hope you're all suitably terrified). Lilly and Lulu are also back behind the desk and it is peaceful once again at home.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

German Titbits

So last week Marlis took the train down from Berlin and we spent two days together in a nearby pension. Most places here offer bed and breakfast including the hotels. So here too we got a breakfast which was okay, meaning not quite as lavish as the other places but it filled our stomachs. A typical breakfast here consists for example, of coffee or tea, rolls (a little bit like our gutli in India), butter, marmelade and salami and ham or some such thing.

Marlis who had gone to the pension to deposit her bags and collect the key, came to fetch me from Ariela's place, full of apologies because she felt the place was too dingy, seedy, badly kept etc and just looked like a German version of a cheap Indian hotel room. I expected the worst so was pleasantly surprised to see that it really wasn't as bad as she made it sound. It looked quite clean, the windows looked out onto the porch, which was a nice place for breakfast, and it was big enough for the two of us.

We rented a car the next day and explored the countryide around Prien, which is very pretty. Wherever you go you are surrounded by the Bavarian part of the Alps. It is all green, rolling terrain and here and there you find hotels and restaurants. We stopped at one place which looked very exclusive and discovered that it was so exclusive they wouldn't serve us lunch because we were not staying at the hotel. But they deigned to serve us drinks so I had a beer and Marlis had a "Radler" which is a Shandy (half beer half lemonade). The only people around seemed to be elderly (maybe they were the only ones who could afford it).

M and I got deep into a conversation about the workshop we had attended at Samuel's and were somewhat startled when an elderly gentleman approached us and told us in an irritated voice that he wanted us to know he and his wife could hear every word we were speaking. Well several rude retorts came to mind but we were very polite, hastily paid up for our beer and drove down to another cafe along a river which was more congenial.

Back in Prien we continued to have good weather for a few days but the last two days it has been cold and wet. Oh well, can't complain, I think I had my share of sunshine this time and anyway now we are getting into autumn. So I guess I'll be glad to get back to the warmth!

view from an outdoor cafe in prien

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Life in Germany

It's been more than a month since I've been able to blog and even now time is short but I thought that before I lapse into a comatose state altogether I'd put in a word. Well for one thing I'm back from Switzerland, from our workshop there - back in Prien that is, with Ariela. On the way back from Switzerland Thomas dropped me at a friend's place in Kempten (also in Bavaria).

Bibsi happens to be among my "original German contacts", that is, among the first people I met here in Germany, whom I got to know very well in the late eighties and with whom I visited Samuel's first workshop years ago. Bibsi emigrated to Canada some time in the late nineties, where she lived alone on an eighty acre farm, in a trailer, with three cats. Schatzie is the only one of the three who managed to accompany her to Germany. Bibsi suspects that Zotl, the black cat was eaten up by the neighbour's dog when she was away for a few weeks though the neighbour was supposed to have taken care of the cats at the time.

Gisela and Bibsi at the Italian restaurant where we had dinner


Anyway I caught up with Bibsi after seven years, the last time having been in Canada where my parents and I visited her on her farm in British Colombia. She now lives alone in this rather big house, with a splendid view of the mountains, and with a sprawling garden adjoining the patio. We went out one afternoon to get a glimpse of the snow mountains and one of the lakes in the vicinity and on the way back saw this herd of cows being shepherded by a cowboy on a motor bike. That made quite a funny picture.

Back in Prien, Felix and I have been playing and chatting and watching movies. Watched "Mary Poppins" this afternoon after I dont know how many years. Feli was very taken up with the parts where the kids together with Burt and MP walk into a picture he has drawn on the sidewalk as part of his effort to earn some money, and also the part where everyone floats up into the air laughing.

Sammy the greedy cat in Prien

Monday, July 21, 2008

Breakfast With Shambhu

Can I get away with it?

I suppose most cats think they are either on par with or superior to human beings? Shambhu for example thinks it is his right to join us while we're at the dining table. He might be playing furiously in the living room but as soon as he hears my fork against the plate he comes galloping at top speed and immediately jumps onto a chair so as to watch me eat. Then in slow steps he tries his luck, to see if he can actually get onto the table though mostly I swat him away with a rolled up newspaper.

Incidentally Shambhu's way of digesting the morning news is to first sniff at the paper, then look at it intensely, then scratch it up and try to chew the edges off. Am sure he gets more of what is happening in the world than I do.

Oh, now that's really interesting - let me just get through this paragraph before you knock me off the table

Shambhu's favourite toy with which he can spend ages playing at a stretch, is something that looks like a white bottle cap though Saru told me recently it is not a bottle cap at all but some part of a table fan that he prised loose while pawing the fan. He pushes it around with his paws, chucks it up in the air, leaps up to retrieve it, executes professional looking somersaults over it and scrabbles around madly from one end of the room to the other - for a minimum of two hours, until he drops down exhausted and then proceeds to sleep soundly with one paw over his eyes for the next few hours.

He has been going down to play in the garden as well, though he is very fussy and insists on being escorted into the lobby. Once there, he takes off. For some reason he doesn't like to go out on his own, though once in the garden, he is able to find his way back home alone! Cats are strange!

Now I dare you to shoo me off!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some Highlights Of Our Marve Retreat

Clockwise from left: Chandran, Sudha, Suresh V, Suresh D., Sharat and Meher

For those of you not present, here are some highlights of our retreat this weekend, at the guest house in Marve by the sea.

Chandran made the tea! Too bad we don't have photos of this but I believe it was quite an event. I only got to taste it and I must say it was gooooood.

We got an opportunity to shake our bodies and jump around and generally let loose, which is normally difficult to do in the city, during our two hour weekly sessions.

During an afternoon session we discovered a whole lot of hidden talent in the members of our group. In pairs they composed the most philosophical verse I have come across in a while, and I hope to post it on the basicindia blog soon.

After dinner there was a round of story telling with each one contributing a sentence to the main story. We came up with an all time record of a horrendously stupid story involving a right angled cat (contributed by Sharat) a sexy cat, a lightening conductor and Chandran. I forget who actually bolted up the lightening conductor - the sexy cat, the right angled cat or Chandran but one of them did and the story ended on that note. Chandran if it was you up there I presume you are back on earth.

Suresh V was so exhausted with cats and Chandran going up and down the lightening conductor that he retired to bed a couple of hours before actual bedtime. He was followed downstairs by Suresh D, Sharat and Sudha who then sat up chatting up old Hindi movies till well past midnight after which Suresh V really decided to call it a day because he was expecting a visit from a neighbourhood ghost apparently with whom he claimed to have spent the night.

Another highlight: it was quiet in Marve! Even more quiet than it is during the week. We normally avoid going to Marve on weekends because of the cars racing up and down the main road playing their boom boxes at top volume - not to mention loud parties that keep us awake till 4 in the morning, sometimes. But this weekend it was very peaceful, it rained a couple of times and we were quite grateful to whoever organized the peace and quiet in Marve.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Finally, after planning it for weeks we got down to seeing the movie "Babel". I think those of us who watched it yesterday evening (including Chandran and Sudha) must have been the last to see it. Almost everyone I had asked seemed to have seen it already and most of them said, "It's a very good movie" and then kind of shuddered. So I, not being a fan of movies based on violence and other depressing topics, have to confess it took me too a while to even decide to see the film.

Well, I must say it's one of the most thought provoking movies I've seen in a while and doesn't allow itself to be easily classified, bringing together as it does, four different stories in four different parts of the world. What was the message? Was there one? I'm not even sure but yes, it makes you think about a whole lot of things. Makes you think about the nature of our world (the human world), about the rich and the poor and how the rich seem to always end up with the attention. It makes you think about fate, about whether or not our life is in our hands and side by side it makes you think about responsibility because of the nature in which we are all linked together in today's world.

Towards the end of the evening, the door of the drawing room (where we were watching the film) opened accidentally and Shambhu wandered in. Knowing his tendency to play with and chew at wires and generally jump onto tables and push things around, and being extremely protective about my DVD player I yelped and got Sudha to catch him and remove him from the scene once again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More About A Cat

Saru and Shambhu setting out for a walk in the garden

Simba has undergone umpteen changes in name. Though he is still sometimes called that, we felt a Maharashtrian name would be more suitable so Simba became Simbhaji which then turned into Shambaji which was then converted to Shambhu and finally now to Shambhu Maharaj. So for the time being this is it. (Pankaj recently referred to him as the "mini Maharaj".)

He is one of the most peculiar cats I've come across in that he is not greedy. He likes food and willingly gobbles up stuff you give him, which he likes, like cheese or bits of papad. But he doesn't beg or screech like most of the other cats we've had. He just watches with big eyes. He also loves to join us at the dining table when we're having lunch or dinner. I think it's mainly for the company though. He tries to park himself on the table itself, then seeing that that is definitely not on, he goes and curls up on one of the chairs and goes to sleep while the rest of us eat.

Shambhu likes to watch TV. God knows what exactly his little brain registers but he sits intently before the TV screen at times, following every move with his head. On one occasion he was terribly annoyed when Saru switched off the TV set and jumped up to claw the screen. As soon as she switched it back on, he again settled down to watch the programme (I think it was the late night news in Marathi).

Mornings are the time when he tears around the place like a maniac after which he most often settles down for a snooze. Periods of frantic rushing around are interspersed with long periods of rest (luckily for me!)

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Addition To The Family

Simhachallam (Simba for short) joined us on Tuesday 27th. Simba is the ginger coloured ball of fluff I saw rushing madly around the Willingdon club verandah when I took Sean and Pervin there for dinner about five or six weeks back. I wanted to take him home straight away but the fond waiter serving us requested me to wait a couple of weeks as the kitten had not yet been weaned. In the meantime I didn't get back to the club and the kitten went out of my mind. Till I was there with my former classmate Nazneen and I suddenly thought of it again. That afternoon we were in a rush so the next day I roped in Sudha and Sharat to help out and we went off with a basket to collect Simba, who was so fast asleep and just gazed at us from the basket like he was stoned, that I thought he might be sick. Nothing of the sort. In the cab he started to yowl like a crazed lion (I knew immediately it was a male!) and now that he's got used to being here he tears around madly, bites Saru's feet and wraps himself constantly around her legs, tries to jump up onto the dining table during meals and does all the things a normal feline ought to do.

He's fussy about food though. Doesn't seem to relish anything other than minced meat. We'll have to try out the regular cat food now. Currently he's sitting on the window sill watching the crows.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chipko at Haji Ali

Chipko is a movement that was originally conceived of and followed by women peasants in Uttarakhand, to prevent the felling of trees in the region by the forest department. Launched in 1973, this movement by the end of the seventies, had spread like wildfire throughout the Uttarakhand Himalayas . The good news is that the movement continues to inspire people from all over the country and the latest Chipko slogans I've been reading about have been raised in my own neighbourhood.

A whole lot of residents living around Haji Ali have decided to battle against the municipality which wants to chop down 84 trees as part of a plan to beautify the promenade at Haji Ali. The idea is to get rid of all these trees and replace them with Zodiac signs. Huh? Concrete Zodiac signs as part of a beautification programme?! Are there any sane people left in the municipality or are we dealing with a bunch of complete morons? Neither probably. Somebody somewhere is going to be walking away with a bulging wallet and a fat smile on his face, on account of the so-called beautification programme which according to many of us will result in a seriously hideous promenade.

Anyway the Chipko movement at Haji Ali has been apparently spearheaded by one Jayashree Desai who has also agreed to adopt a tree. Several people have now said they will adopt and look after a tree and that they will stand between the tree and the axe if the municipality comes along to further its idiotic ideas. I feel tempted myself to go join them so I'm going to be finding out more about this protest, very soon.