Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tales from Turkey and Switzerland

An unexpected beginning and an equally startling end marked our recent three week trip to Turkey and Europe. The training group had been preparing for this adventure for at least a year and a half, if not more, so although our departure was scheduled at the unearthly hour of 5 am, sleep was the last thing on our minds. Half past one at night. (Or you could say early in the morning). George and I await the driver Murugan who is supposed to help us get the luggage downstairs and reach us to the airport. Not only does he not appear at the appointed hour but several phone calls only confirm that his mobile phone has been switched off and that he is most unlikely to make an appearance in the next few minutes. We’re already marginally delayed, so George and I call for a cab and dash off. It’s only a couple of days later that we discover the reason for Murugan’s absence. The Enfant Terrible who has been working for us for a bit over a year, and seems like a somewhat older Indianised version of Denis the Menace, had apparently decided to take a sleeping tablet to help him relax a bit. Good thing he didn’t answer the phone, George said when we got the news in Cappadocia. What would have happened, if he had turned up and fallen asleep at the wheel!

Luckily the rest of the journey, in spite of some hiccups at Istanbul airport on account of a few people in our group having decided to get their visas on arrival, unfolded quite smoothly. The eight hour wait at the airport to catch our flight to Nevesehir in Cappadocia, was less harrowing than I expected though by the end of the day I have to confess I was half dead and felt that way most of the next day as well.
Waiting at Istanbul airport
But the magnificent scenery which greeted us on the bus ride from the airport kind of made up for everything and when we landed at our hotel and found ourselves surrounded by our Turkish friends, ready to show us up to our rooms, it felt like a real home coming.
Meditation room at Cappadocia
The workshop was a great bonding experience and there was a sense of two countries, two cultures having merged into one. What we need is a new politics,  we all I felt. The politics of friendship and freedom

Dilek, Uma, Ayse, Selva at the barbecue on our last evening at Cappadocia

The meals were splendid and I always looked forward to the breakfasts – hot coffee which Ayse or one of the others would bring up for me, shortly before a tray arrived filled with freshly baked bread, different kinds of cheeses, olives, wedges of tomato and cucumber, and an occasional slice of sausage or piece of omelet. It was so hard to stop eating, and the result is several extra kilos which have made my tummy their home which I am now trying hard to send back where they came from.
The bus journey through Cappadocia was spectacular – the weird natural rock formations in the shape of cones and ridges had all of us gaping most of the time.

The "camel" of Cappadocia

A ten hour bus ride from Nevsehir brought us to Izmir which was our next halt, and where about seven of us crashed Indian style at Aysegul’s two bedroom apartment. The day after we arrived we looked through the colourful market at Izmir, stopped at a roadside eatery for plates heaped with the most mouth watering kababs, shopped around, stopped once again, this time for coffee and ended the evening at a café on the seaside boulevard, where we relaxed with glasses of Raki, a bagful of mussels which Ful had bought at the market which was now passed around, along with an apple flavoured hookah.
Izmir market

Coffee stop with Aysegul, Venky, Sudha
Our last riotous evening in Turkey was spent at an outdoor restaurant which our Turkish friends had especially chosen for us, with Turkish folk music and dancing. Once the evening got underway nobody wanted to leave and maybe we would have stayed there till morning had it not been for the flight we had to catch to Zurich early the next day.

Farewell Izmir and Turkey
Switzerland was more peaceful and meditative in comparison, providing us with enough opportunity to truly chill, surrounded by green fields, gently mooing cows and the tinkle of cow bells. The workshop which we attended is something we wont forget in a hurry, once again serving to bond us with the Swiss and German people who attended it.
Chandran receives his certificate
Last afternoon in Solothurn
Three weeks later we found ourselves on our way back, tired, happy, full of memories but looking forward to the noise and filth of home. At Istanbul airport where we once again had to wait a few hours we lounged around an internet café, assuming that in a few hours time we would be able to crawl into bed and catch up on some sleep.

The THUD with which the Turkish airlines plane landed took us by surprise. Even when I heard it I presumed we had just landed a bit badly though realizing that the plane had come to a complete stop instead of taxiing forward to the gate, made me wonder. It was only three quarters of an hour later that we were officially told that we had made an emergency landing, that the plane had buried a part of itself in a patch of mud on the runway and that we would have to leave the aircraft from the exit at the back via a chute. And no bags allowed please, the airhostess waggled her finger at us.

So saying goodbye to all my precious belongings including an Ipod, an Ipad, my camera (a temporary goodbye as it luckily turned out) I got ready to whoosh down the chute and was mighty relieved at the end of it, to find myself in the arms of a burly, comforting member of the airport staff who saved me from sliding down into a puddle of wet mud and helped me into the bus waiting for us nearby.
Four hours later we were home surrounded by exclamations of relief. It had been fun. A fitting end to our trip, it seemed to me in retrospect.
For more photos: Facebook Pics

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gray Skies Warm The Heart

In Bombay (or should I say in India) gray skies have a different connotation than in Europe. Just as the sun in London, or in Frankfurt or Paris makes your heart sing after a spell of wet and cloudy weather, in Bombay gray skies in the wake of the sweltering heat bring a huge sense of relief. The whole of the last week it's been raining, hopefully the lakes are filling up (and not only our potholed roads) and we wont find ourselves in the agonising throes of a waterless existence, as the newspapers had been predicting just a couple of weeks back.

Rupert and Brigitte came and went, and the Bodywork workshop we had planned for months also went by in a flash. S was in great spirits throughout and on the last day had the entire group giggling hysterically for no particular reason other than the sound of her maniacal giggle and laughter. I told her maybe it was her mission in life to start a laughter club in Bombay.

Following the workshop, Sid, S, Jyotsna and I landed up in Neredu where we caught up with various friends. Ravi P from Vizag joined us too and together we visited the 7 acres of land which we've jointly bought between us, in order to put up a centre for workshops and which will serve as a retreat.

Luckily it didn't pour during our stay at our retreat in A.P. It rained or rather drizzled just enough to cool down the place and we were able to go out quite a bit. Got quite a lot of work done, regarding what has now come to be known as the "Neu Anfang" project (in German this means New Beginning).

And one of the highlights was the fact that it was S's first plane ride. She was bursting with excitement throughout and has now concluded that she will travel with me only if I take her by plane.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Endings Lead To New And Happier Beginnings

Celebrating Chandran's birthday during the workshop

Last Sunday we concluded our three year training course with a week long stint in Deolali. The atmosphere though festive was unavoidably tinged with sadness at the thought of three years of togetherness seasoned with occasional bouts of verbal sparring, pretty much the way a bunch of older querulous siblings is prone to do, three intense years of learning from and with each other, slowly drew to an end.

Happy George

And even happier Venky
The centre at Deolali where the workshop was conducted, turned out to be an ideal spot for us. With the mornings and evenings being pleasantly cool we somehow managed to work our way around the rather warm afternoons (mostly with looong afternoon naps).

Relaxing on the verandah

The first couple of days of Deepak's culinary efforts (the young cook who had been hired this time round) left us a bit depressed at the thought of having to battle our way for seven days, through food drowned in masala, chilli and oily gravy. Until we could no longer stomach his fare, and protested by more or less by going on a hunger strike. Sudha then diplomatically got him to cook with less oil and spices, though the very thought made him cringe. However the delighted look on our faces and extravagant compliments he received, at what he labelled "tasteless food" seemed to compensate for this sacrilege.

Deepak sharing a joke

Ma-ji proudly observing her children

Maruti, our Man Friday in charge of the guest house, was his usual warm, calm, helpful self, perpetually bustling around getting things done and tending to our needs.

Maruti - unchanged for decades

Deep contemplation at Temple Hill

Evenings we would pile into the two cars we'd brought along and drive up to Temple Hill where we spent a pleasant hour gazing at the hills and the sky before returning for dinner.

Chandran lost in thought

Temple Hill

Now we're all back home, hopefully geared to transform the world.

Free up blocked avenues, clear the route for self expression and generally help each other to enjoy life

The training group - a happy end leading to a new beginning

Friday, March 04, 2011

Chilling in Pune

The two most impressive things I found about Pune this time were: the banyan trees and the mosquitoes. The rows of banyans especially in Koregaon Park, with their huge clusters of roots dangling down the sides of the trees are apt to make your jaw drop. The mosquitoes too for that matter. You spray the room, you coat yourself with mosquito repellent and they still come at you in droves, humming and buzzing around your face, nipping you every now and then leaving behind a trail of spots and bumps. Maybe these are the mutant kind, who thrive on Autan, you figure, like a mutant Dracula who loves garlic.

Jyotsna relaxing on her favourite sofa

Apart from the mossies though, Pune was fun. Jyotsna and Ravi's spacious apartment is the right place to unwind in, and with the rows of travel books, novels, and other delectable reading material you're all set to chill for a couple of days, nursing your coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening.

My brother Vishnu was visiting the city after several decades while Peg, his wife, was there for the first time. So we circled the cantonement area the first evening, and all around Koregaon park, landing up at some point on Main street for bread and juicy mutton samosas available on a side street for pre-dinner snacks. Vish and I who had often visited Pune in the old days, spent a lot of time reminiscing on the laidback air of Pune at that time and the many changes which have since then, taken place, including some new, very yucky looking bungalows at Koregaon Park.

The next day I decided to work at home and finish off some editing while Jyotsna, Vish and Peg braved the morning heat in the name of some sight- seeing which included the Aga Khan palace and Raja Kelkars museum - which I had visited over twenty years ago when Raja Kelkar himself, overflowing with enthusiasm,had shown us around, elaborating on the history of almost every object he had showcased.

Jyotsna's daughter Devika who spent an evening with us

Needless to say like all holidays, the food added at least a couple of needless kilos. Jyotsna, gourmet chef that she is, what with her cooking blog and all, turned out an elaborate meal the first night, with chicken, steamed brocoli with anchovy sauce, roast potatoes and a wonderful low calory cheesecake (is there really such a thing?) which she claimed was made not out of cream but yoghurt. Add to that lunch the next day at Ramakrishna's restaurant and dinner at Malaka Spice the usual chicken satay and fish in green thai gravy, it was a wonder that anyone was able to fall asleep that night. (I didn't quite, but then it was the mossies that kept me awake :(

Vish and Peg poring over the menu at Malaka Spice

Vishnu and Peg back in Bombay

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recapturing Old Times

Christoph is back in Bombay after more than ten years. To all the newcomers who never met him (or should I say haven't yet met him - Christoph (or Chrissie as I like to call him to tease him) is the guy who helped to get the Basicindia network started way back in the late nineties, at a time when we hadn't even thought of giving it a name. We had met in Switzerland the year I went to study and stay with Samuel, and subsequently he visited India several times, often working with my dad's company, on the issue of conflict clarification (a useful process to learn and apply also in daily life). He held my hand during the many workshops we conducted together, enabling me later to start out on my own.

Over the years that he visited India, a small group of us began to come increasingly together, for sessions and workshops and today the family has really grown to several times its original size. We did workshops based on conflict clarification, on holotropic breathwork, and self awareness based on music and meditation.

Among some of the memories I have of Christoph and his wife Iga are of all of us in Goa, at Bogmalo, eating fish and chips in Agonda, chatting about all kinds of things, and sunning ourselves on the beach, in between workshops.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

In Her Grandfather's Footsteps

Beate, Michael and Mira posing their Fabindia wares
"Winter" in Bombay is a time for guests. Once the fierce heat subsides all over the country, people from north America or Europe tend to flock here to thaw out their chilled bones. Among those who recently visited was Mira, the partner of an old friend, Michael who lives in Switzerland. She and Michael along with a third friend, Beate, were here for a couple of days, looking Bombay, sniffing out its special air, taking the local train from VT to Mira Road (curiosity I suppose to see what a road with one's own name looks and feels like), getting a shave from a roadside barber (that was Michael), and going berserk at Fabindia.

Mira, who has just completed her studies in medicine in Switzerland, was the first to arrive, some time early in November, and she spent the first several weeks following the traces of her grandfather who had lived in India, (in Bombay) from 1910 to 1930. After a few days in Bombay and being shown around Bandra which is one of the areas he lived in, Mira took the train to Delhi and further north to places like Naini Tal and Almora which her grandfather had also visited. While in Bombay she read out snippets to us from the letters her granddad had written to his mother during the years spent here, describing all that he experienced. The effort that Mira's put into transferring his handwritten letters to the computer and compiling them into an informal booklet is quite amazing. For that matter so is the minute detail and attention with which Herr Lieberherr has described the places visited, the country that was his home for twenty years. Everything from the colour and texture of the Goan soil to the taste of the King of mangoes - the Alphonso - supposed to have been imported from Brazil a couple of centuries back.


Currently the three of them are in Andhra and after visiting a few more places expect to be back here towards the end of their trip around the third week of January.