Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What Do You Call A Kid Like This?

Mansi putting on a serious act

The last three or four weeks have been one muddle of movement from here to there, home to Andheri for treatment for the ageing knees, then for trials for the brace to be fitted on my left leg, interspersed with work and exercising at home.

So Mansi's visit was like a very welcome breeze. In fact she floated in with her parents one afternoon, after paying a visit to the Mahalaxmi temple and promptly asked if I would like her to sing or dance for me. My nod got her going to such an extent - especially on seeing the camera - I figured she wouldn't ever stop. Eventually I had to tell her there was no more space left on the camera to do any recording after which she reluctantly wound down. Here - enjoy the video:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Dance Within

After weeks of planning and fumbling around with dates, Sharat finally managed to pick dates which suited most of the people who wanted to attend Vaneeta's 2 day workshop "The Dance Within", centred around movement and awareness. The exercises were both fun and did in fact enhance our awareness of how our bodies move (or fail to oblige, as the case may be!) I guess most of the participants went away with the feeling that they truly deserved their lunch the days they worked out!

Maintaining contact through movement

Chandran exhibiting his skills as a dancer :)
Moving blindfolded

The "Streamer" dance

Improvised movements

Group statue

Group clapping exercise

the pencil dance

Sudha, Sid, Radha chilling after lunch

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Goa In October

The last few weeks have been so packed that it's been impossible to really add anything to the blog. I had barely got back from Germany at the end of September when it was time to rush off to Goa for the training group workshop. Now back home again, I can relax and enjoy sleeping in my own bed after over two months of being constantly on the move, at least until late December when we go to Neredu 2 again.

Goa was hot, but then I suppose that's to be expected in October. Though nature's occasional son et lumiere show accompanied by buckets of rain over an extended period, did sort of cool things down off and on. The good part was that this still being the non commercial part of the year, the beach which was almost empty except for a few people and a handful of cows strolling along the sand. No doubt by early December things will start pepping up and all of Goa will begin to look like a giant disco with colourful flashing bulbs and music blaring from every beach shack.

We arrived at Fatima's Guest house in Agonda to find out that the management had been taken over for the next few months by a handsome trio of ("cousin") brothers from Assam, the Sharmas. Though the prices on the menu were simply absurd - which is logical I guess, else how else would the guys make a profit after paying the rent - the smiles, the charm and their friendliness made it pinch less.

Nice though it was being in Goa again, it's a far cry from how it used to be fourteen or fifteen years ago. Hordes of Russians, Israelis and other nationalities cram most of the space on the beaches and even isolated beaches like Agonda used to be, have become garish and loud during the season.

Dinesh Sharma

Ganga tending the bar

George and Ayse

Sharat, our chief organiser agonising over some lost detail

Chandran and George relaxing on the terrace

Heinz enjoying a joke

Sudha, probably defending herself against some unfair observationAt John's

Heinz, Ayse and I decided to go down memory lane the last day and went off to Bogmalo where we spent the night at the IEI guest house and dined at John's. The food at John's Seagull was as usual incomparable - garlic cheese naan, garlic squid and prawn, and an unimaginably delicious barbequed fish - a large sea perch which John personally served us. For dessert (we were stuffed by this time) the three of us shared a Crepe Suzette which came flaming to our table. Including a whole lot of drinks, the snacks and main dish our bill for three was a little over Rs. 1600. Where in the world would you get that kind of deal?!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Indian Summer In Lüsslingen

We`re enjoying the tail end of the summer here and what glorious weather it is! Bright and sunny and warm but not hot. I spent several hours sitting on the front porch yesterday just looking at the trees and the garden, children playing and from time to time, reading one of Samuel`s latest book, dedicated to his teacher Manuel Schock.

It is good to be here again. And somehow amazing to think that I have been visiting the place now for eighteen years! Sometimes memories come back of the early days, when I used to spend the summer with Samuel and Daniele and then the slow movement of people into the area and the evolution of the "Swiss community".

Samuel enjoying the Sunday afternoon

On Sunday several of us met at a fortnightly gathering over coffee and cake. It was a convenient way to catch up with everybody, including Samuel and Daniele, with Anke and Arno, Sabine Negwer and several others. It was a brilliant afternoon and the garden was buzzing with grown ups and children, people lying down in the grass in the sun or chatting. Ulrike and Peter had between them cooked up a wonderful Indian supper of dal, rice and paneer curry which to me tasted quite authentic.

Meanwhile the Bertenghi household is a regular bee hive of activity centred mostly around children. Every afternoon a whole lot of kids, friends of Anina, Laura and Päuli land up here to run around the garden, drink lemonade, and eat ice cream, till it`s time to go home.

Since there is not much time to write more I decided to post some photos instead which should give you an idea of the place.

Irene and Päuli

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bollywood Comes To Prien

Sonya, the Bollywood fan

One of the first things I learned about Sonya, the cleaning lady who comes in twice a week here, is that she is a great fan of Bollywood. Apparantly she discovered Indian cinema through the weekend TV in Germany and has been watching Hindi films regularly in the last three or four years. She loves Shahrouk and thinks Hrithik Roshan is a great dancer. She generally goes into ecstasies over the Bollywood dance numbers.

Sonya, actually from Croatia, has lived in Prien with her husband for quite a few years and they have a seven or eight year old daughter who goes to the same school as Felix. I love to hear about her trips to Croatia to her home and the way her mother spends an entire month in summer making pickles and jams and all kinds of things to eat over the rest of the year. Last year she brought back a whole string of really hot chillies for me and this time I have been digging into the pepperoni and a red chilli home made sauce. Sonya normally gets in a little after nine thirty in the mornings when I'm having breakfast so we often spend at least half an hour chatting as she tidies up the kitchen and before she goes on to the rest of her chores.

Günter, who many of you will remember from his last visit to Mumbai, was here for a couple of days and it was lovely to catch up with him. Since the weather was unusually good both days we went to the lakeside for lunch. There is quite a nice restaurant right on the lake where, if it is warm one can sit in the garden. This is what we did and spent several hours chatting about everything from tantra to community life and the difficulties of human relationships.

Now with just two days left to go before my departure for Zürich, I am making the most of my time in Prien. This evening we've organised a musical evening after dinner so we're all looking foward to bringing out our guitars and various instruments and belting out all the numbers we know.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bavarian Sights

Though a lot of boring standardized houses have erupted everywhere in Germany in the last few decades, (and where in the world don't you find them!) it is always a pleasure to come across the traditional Bavarian houses in smaller towns and villages with their picturesque facades. The day after Bibsi (a friend whom I've known for over twenty years now) arrived in Prien, we went for a spin around the countryside, passing scenic little towns and eventually stopping at a beautiful lakeside restaurant for lunch.

On the way we passed several houses with their balconies overflowing with flower boxes and pretty gardens bursting with flowers. Outside one of the houses there was this ginger cat who could have been Shambhu's twin, except for a white patch on his chest, who insisted on getting on to the top of his owner's car and refusing to budge even when the car started to move down the road. Eventually they had to stop and shove him off.

Cat on a hot tin (car) roof

Bibsi at the restaurant


I arrived last Tuesday in Prien after quite a hectic evening with my friend Ruth in Munich. She picked me up from the airport and drove me straight to a jam session which she attends every alternate Monday evening, made up mostly of a number of amateur but good musicians, who play every type of instrument from the guitar to the didgeridoo. It was fun improvising with them and I too put in my two cents worth on the extra guitar which Ruth had thoughtfully brought along for me.

The next day we set out for Prien in the afternoon and got in at about half past five. Back in the Bogenberger house it feels like home, only a lot colder, except for the odd day when the sun shines and the temperatures go up a wee bit, like yesterday when Lioba and I sat in the garden downstairs warming ourselves in the afternoon. In fact it got so warm I had to peel off the layers and finally had to go upstairs for a cold drink.

In Prien big changes are afoot. The girls have both more or less moved out, and Lulu is going to be a mother very soon, with the baby to arrive in January. The weekends are normally houseful as this last one was, with Lulu and her boyfriend Alexander staying with us, and Lilly the older girl who had come down from Munich, Lioba (whom those who attended the bodywork workshop in India last February will remember well) and the rest of us - i.e. Thomas, Ariela, Felix and me. And of course Sammy who continues to constantly whine for food no matter how much he's been fed.

The underfed Sammy

Günter, (who was in India early this year) intends to visit us tomorrow. And by the end of the week I'll be heading for Zürich to meet friends from the Swiss community and to attend the workshop scheduled for the third week of September - the Warrior course.

Friday, September 10, 2010

European Summer

Basia making pumpkin soup

Summer in Europe - ha! The day I landed in Frankfurt and a couple of days after that, the weather was great. Sunny and warm enough for us to be able to squeeze in a few outdoor lunches in Frankfurt - once with Basia at a streetside pizzeria and again on Sabine's wonderful terrace a couple of days later. But the weekend we arrived in Cologne it started to rain and get cold and we were mostly stuck indoors. Not that it mattered because we were able to catch up with all our loved ones over breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Dwight at the pizzeria in Frankfurt

Heinz - Sunday breakfast

Heinz, perfect host as usual helped us to weather the cold and rain with the meals he conjured up ranging from an array of exquisite cold cuts, cheeses and wine, to lamb fillets accompanied by roast potatoes to spaghetti in a creamy sauce, with shrimp. And then there was the evening we dined at the neighbour's - Jackie's - who lives across the courtyard and where we got to know her three kids, the oldest of whom, eleven year old Klara, gave us a drawing she had made of the Buddha.

Jackie, an American, is a musician, plays the oboe and has performed in orchestras in Germany. Though she claimed to be out of practice we were treated to some terrrific live music after dinner.

As usual we got to hear a range of music on Heinz's way out stereo system, of which I unfortunately dont have any photos, because it does look like some weird contraption straight out of a sci fi movie. We heard everything from country to classical to rock and a lot of "The Grateful Dead".

Flowers from Heinz for my birthday

Now I'm enjoying the cold and rain in Prien on the Chiemsee (Chiem Lake) though of course horsing around with Felix and chatting with Ariela intermittently through the day and at night after dinner does kind of make up for the lack of sun.

Friday, July 30, 2010

When Life Twists Your Ear

Sodder (Mother India) and Radha in Pune

Some weeks are bummers. Hopefully it all remains within that short time span! Last week we had hoped to visit Jyotsna in Pune and carry on from there to Khandala for the grand finale of our dialogue group. The Pune trip happened but Khandala went for a sixer on account of my knee which suddenly decided to pack up and had me hobbling all over Jyotsna's apartment hanging on to Sharat for dear life, and sometimes to Sudha as well.

As they say however, every cloud has a silver lining so the lining in this cloud was Radha, who's moved to Pune recently and whom we saw a lot of during the two days we spent at Jyotsna's. We caught up with all the news, enjoyed an evening of music and meditation together with a round of sharing. And one of the evenings my god daughter Devika cooked up a fabulous meal for us, the base of which was Korean chicken supplemented with Khim chi and other delicacies. So got to meet "The Boy" - Dottie's wonderful fiance, Tarun, who periodically slipped off into the kitchen to help the beloved with her task for the evening.

Devika and Tarun

Getting back to Bombay the knee improved but now I've come down with this stomach bug. Ugh. I shouldn't be surprised as this is an annual phenomenon - something which happened exactly at this time last year, which laid me low for over two weeks. Am hoping that having addressed the issue with some potent antibiotics prescribed by the doc, the germs will vacate my stomach soon. Well the silver lining right now is that my old Buddi playmate from Kindergarten, Suman is here for a few days and we are "having a fun", being shamefully silly and slipping back into our KG years without any qualms.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mayah Balse 11th December 1939 - 9th July 2010. Serenity In Action

Mayah and Suresh in the early days

I sometimes don’t feel like an Indian at all, because among my many anomalies is the fact that unlike so many people from this country I do not spend a lot of time catering to the whims and fancies of relatives and filling my time with weddings and birthday or tea parties followed by hours of resentment at having to do stuff I didn’t want to do. Luckily for me the people I do count among my relatives are few – but what I can say about those few is that they mean a lot to me.

Mayah belonged to a rather small branch of the family on my mother’s side and with her death a few days back what I am left with is a sense of … what can I call it? Not only sadness at having lost a cousin but well, at having lost a comrade whose view of life somehow resonates with my own. Her last wishes according to her husband Suresh, reflect this in a way. Approaching the end of her three year long battle with cancer, she made the following requests of her family. Not to have to undergo chemotherapy, not to be hospitalized, and not to be allowed to survive in a coma. Also she didn’t want any ceremonies and rituals conducted after her death. Having had these requests agreed to, she then went on to assiduously detail the many tasks which needed to be done after her death, to make lists of where the family would find various things so that nobody would be inconvenienced when she was no longer around to take care of all that she had previously handled.

Her down to earth attitude more or less echoes that of most of the women in our family who lived ordinary lives and yet, who when they passed on, left behind a sense not only of their fierce independence but of deeply caring about others. And so one could say perhaps, of this individual too, who never made much of anything, who was almost defined by a seeming ordinariness that in fact in her low key way of going about her work and life she was rather extraordinary.

“Seeming” is of course the key word. For Mayah’s laidback attitude, belied the inexhaustible energy with which she backed her many talents. TV addicts from the old days will remember the serial “Dekh Bhai Dekh” which she scripted as well as others like “Campus”. That’s not all. Through the years, she kept open house for an assortment of people, and both she and Suresh tended to sick or ailing relatives, including both sets of parents, with supreme aplomb that quite hid the effort that must surely have gone into taking care of them.

Sunaina (Nina), Mayah and Supriya (Pia)

These days, seventy seems like a relatively young age to die, but then Mayah had it lucky in some ways. Her last few months were spent in the company of a totally devoted husband, and her two daughters Pia (with whom she stayed in Bangalore, the last six months) and Nina, as well as their spouses.

At the time of writing this short tribute to a cousin who was an intrinsic part of my childhood, (in fact theirs was the only household where I agreed to spend weekends away from home when I was a child of four!) whom I kept meeting through the years, both when the family was posted outside Bombay as well as in their apartment in Andheri after Suresh’s retirement - while writing about this woman who took the ups and downs of life so serenely, I can hardly believe that Mayah is no longer with us.

But then, in a way she lives on through her writing, through the volumes not only already published but also books yet to be published, a trove of stories and other material which her daughter Pia informed me she now needs to sort her way through. For me though, Mayah mainly lives on through her family – through her husband Suresh who quite on his own reflects the same qualities that his partner did, and the daughters and their families as well, whom I am glad to be able to think of as part of my own.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rainy Day Ballad

Apu Moll and Furbie

I didn't really think that anybody would want to get out in the kind of weather we had yesterday, with all the rain and wind, when Aparna and Shivraj (Chokra) turned up. With them came their feline Furball, who had had a bit of an accident a few weeks back and is now hobbling around with his leg stuck in a green plaster cast. We spent the entire day chatting, fooling around with my new mac and with garageband, which is a fun programme to create music using all kinds of different sound effects. The only thing missing were the hot bhajiyas at tea time, as S is on leave till Sunday.

Chokra trying to frighten us

I was actually very nervous about Shambhu turning up while Furball was still around and (like any self respecting tomcat) going ballistic to find a strange male on his turf. Shambhu actually sits on the balcony ledge quite often and tracks down the movements of all the felines in the neighbourhood. Should they even approach his empire, he springs into action and chases them across the garden and over the wall right across the rooftops of the shanties behind the garden wall, to put them in their place.

Shambhu keeping a lazy watch out

Luckily it was Maharaj's day out and he didn't return till about 8 in the evening when we were having drinks out on the balcony. Furball safely ensconced in my bedroom, behind a locked door, seemed to be blissfully unaware of the presence of any other cats and continued to sleep on my pillow. Shambhu meanwhile wolfed down his dinner, strutted around, yowled for a minute and then left again presumably to join his lady love in the garage.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The True Meaning Of Speed

How can anyone write anything 15,000 pages long? A novel, a text book, a legal document, whatever. And how can anyone be expected to read something 15,000 pages long. In India anything is possible. Or maybe it's today's world?

The IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi's lawyer submitted six cartons of documents to the BCCI Chief Administrative Officer containing altogether 9000 pages while Modi himself has sent a repy to the BCCI which, according to his tweet runs into 15,000 pages. Did he do that because he expected it to take another twenty years for the matter to be processed by which time it would be buried and done with? No, actually Shashank Manohar, president of the BCCI is a lawyer and it is said he will need only a few hours to go through Modi's reply. I guess to all the other meanings and dimensions of speed you can add this one. The ability to fly through mountains of written matter (let's not speak about its quality) in less time than it takes to eat your breakfast, drive to work, have a cup of coffee and work through the files till lunchtime.

And I always thought speed had to do either with jet planes or with amphetamines.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

April Is The Cruellest Month

"April is the cruellest month" ... I can imagine the line from T.S. Eliot going through my sister-in-law Peg's head, even if not in the same spirit as the poem was meant. April is not quite the right time for people from cooler regions to visit Bombay - not this year anyway. So the poor thing suffered her way through the two weeks which she and my brother Vishnu spent with us, with some relief in between (I hope!) in the form of a cool breeze from the sea now and then and of course ... mangoes. The king as I keep referring to our very own "Alphonso".

But April this year does indeed seem to be crueller than most years. Hot, sticky, perfect weather to sleep away the summer. Will May be worse? What about the water shortage? How will the government deal with the problem? No doubt by building new flyovers, extending the sea link, putting up a few more statues (some in the sea, perhaps?) and changing the names of several public parks, roads and other facilities.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Music, Meditation and Volcanic Ash

Irene and Paul

Paul and Irene who recently came here to help out with our training group workshop , probably never imagined what a great adventure they were about to embark on when they left Switzerland for Bombay on the first of April. Considering it was his first visit to India, just being here must have seemed very exotic to Paul. (Irene is here for the second time - her first trip to India was in the late eighties some time).

Everything was going just fine when this thing happened. The volcano in Iceland began to cough out mountain loads of ash and gases and here we all are biting our fingernails thinking of how P and I will get back to Europe. After much reflection they have decided to fly to Tunis and to take the ferry from there to Genoa. From Genoa they will have to take a train to Berne in whose vicinity they live, with their four children ranging in age from four to eleven years.

The whole incident has started off a serious inquiry in us as to how accustomed we have become to certain luxuries which include air travel and so many other aspects of modern life. Not for the first time, we are all looking at the possibilities of how we will travel in the future when petrol and diesel prices sky rocket due to scarcity. Will it be back to sailing ships? And within India will we be restricted to train travel? Maybe walking and cycling will come back into fashion?

It looks like for many of us, life will be turned inside out - and maybe that wont be such a bad thing in the long run, at least for the planet.

Irene helping A in the kitchen