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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2009

My lovely family and friends

I have just returned from Cyprus - my little island in the mediterranean which is where I come from. It is ridiculously small in the scheme of things, less than a million in population and struggling to find a just solution to the Turkish Invasion of 1974 which has deprived it of some 30 % of its beautiful land but against all odds Cyprus and Cypriots continue to flourish and enjoy the good life.Restaurants are overflowing, road rage is not uncommon as people fight for a parking space for that last minute shopping expedition. Women, mercifully not all of us, but an astonishingly large number, are decked in Louis Vuitton and Gucci and Fiorucci and the fast cars are a pedestrians nightmare.
For all of its issues, and there are many, I love the place to bits and even more family and friends who I leave behind every time I depart. They are so precious to me and for all their quirks and vanities, idiosynchrasies and peculiarities I could not have chosen better even if I could.
The family is always there for me, hopefully at a distance I for them too, and they are talented, multi- faceted  lovely people.

The friends I grew up with all those years in school are my equivalent of Desperate Housewives. A wonderful collection of bright and articulate women with professional backgrounds and each time we pick up where we left off the last time we met. They are all special in their own way.The friends keep up with my life in India on the blog and said they needed to be part of it to find fame if not fortune.  So here they are in full glory.

Friday, 25 December 2009

An Indian Xmas

I write to you all on the 25th of December to wish each and every one of you who celebrate a very merry Xmas and a great new year. This is our first Xmas in India and it feels somewhat odd.
I have given up on Xmas Cards. That is the end of the road for them. Instead the money goes to supporting an Indian child's education for a year. Less cards, less paper another consideration.
Back from a week's trip to my home country I am now in the count down to Xmas. No queues in shops, nothing more than the usual traffic jams. Only the smallest signs of consumerist Xmas goodies and spending and no Xmas lights to talk of. In some respects this is welcome and absolutely right as this is a largely Hindu country. There is no snow on the ground, just sunshine every day.Does it feel strange...
Well we have wrapped presents and put them under a tree. The tree was a quest in itself as I was determined not to succumb to an artificial tree but there were no farmed xmas trees to be had so I went to the closest nursery and bought a fir-looking tree in a pot which is a pathetic little thing but which can be used year in year out while we are here.

But my little xmas miracle ...finding a turkey for Xmas lunch.

Now all I need to do is negotiate cooking it with Parmesan who promises that special indian twist to roast turkey and tatoes.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Auto rickshaws

Ever since we arrived in India my son has been fascinated by auto rickshaws and said that the best Xmas present would be an old one that he could slowly and lovingly restore. I scoured the market for a toy one and found a poor replica but I am also keeping my ears and eyes open to see if one of these days I could fulfil that wish. They never cease to amaze us these three wheeled wonders that go back a long while.This one took my fancy at the house of a friend who rescued it to serve as a Bar to family and friends. 

The first licence given to Bajaj to manufacture them was in 1959. In 1971 the three-wheeler goods carrier was introduced and in 1977 The Rear Engine Autorickshaw.

CNG-propelled auto rickshaws are green and yellow in colour while petrol-run auto rickshaws are usually black and yellow (or yellow in southern states).In July 1998, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Delhi government to implement CNG or LPG fuel for all autos and for the entire bus fleet in and around the city. Delhi saw a dramatic improvement in its air quality.Typical mileage for an Indian-made auto rickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre of petrol.

Did you know there is an Indian AutoRickshaw Challenge (IARC) ?This is a 1000 km (590 miles) rally through the most scenic roads of South India in a Auto rickshaw. The race is open to everyone. Rickshaws are provided by the organizers. Participants have 2 days to prepare their vehicles before the start.The (IARC) takes participants deep into the heart of Tamil Nadu. Once there they travel through an incredible course of misty jungles, balmy coastlines, flooded streets, monsoon rains and Indian crowds. They have to overcome these challenges to become AutoRickshaw Rally World Champions. Now that is something I would love to experience.Has anyone done it ?Would love to hear from you if you have. Any willing participants ?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A muddled moment

Was rushing to go to Delhi today so brushed my hair and tidied myself up.

Reached for the toothpaste in the cup and spread it on my toothbrush. Put it in my mouth and brushed vigorously. It was minty but somehow the bubbles and froth were missing and I looked at the tube to see if my husband was experimenting again with new brands. Kumari had found the tube lying in the bathroom and popped it into the cup. I had brushed my teeth with a mosquito repellant cream !!

My mouth tasted tingly and furry and was mosquito-proof for the whole morning!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Abandoned Lives

Every day this week when I have read the paper I have come across stories of babies being abandoned in various places, from the hospital in which they were born, a case of twins recently, to a baby being abandoned on a train track today, to countless others which perhaps go unreported. A web page that I receive confirmed the suspicion which is that perhaps this is on the increase and I quote an NGO:

“A total of 15 babies have been rescued from across the
city in the last 65 days. These babies, less than 20 days old, had been
abandoned in garbage bins, bus shelters, hospitals and railway stations”
“Normally, four or five babies are found abandoned in the city every month.
We have never seen so many children being abandoned.”

Recently when we were in Orchha we went to the cenotaphs that were built by the Bundela kings at the time to honour their dead. They are found by the river Betwa and are enormous and imposing and really of not much significance except as empty reminders of lives gone by.

There was one life however at the entrance that touched my heart strings and which I often return to in my thoughts. Tired of looking at the cenotaphs I wandered to the entrance and there under a great banyan tree there was a little boy who seemed to spend hours sitting happily and playing with the merchandise that the woman was selling. He was totally engaging and took great delight in stacking the Lux soaps and then moving them all away and I sat by and watched. This is his story.

He was abandoned by the tree when he was a few days old. No one came, no one claimed him. The woman who sells chai and cigarettes to the few locals and even fewer foreigners who stop there, called him Ramu, and since there was no one else to look after him she adopted him and there he sits happily, rootless but loved, abandoned but cared for.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Chandni Chowk old Delhi- a little history

Having walked the streets of this area I became a little curious about its history.Even more so when my driver mentioned that Chandni means moonlight and Chowk means intersection or crossing. Chandni Chowk is the major street in the walled city of Old Delhi, which was originally called Shah Jahanabad. The walled city which includes the Lal Qilla, Red Fort of Delhi was established in 1650 AD, by the Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan and designed by his daughter Jahanara Begum Sahib, who contributed to the landscaping of her father's new capital of Shahjahanabad.Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city.

Originally a canal ran through the middle of the street as a part of the water supply scheme.It is said that moonlight reflecting on the canal, earned it its name, 'Chandni (Moonlit) Chandni Chowk was once the grandest of the markets in India.With the most famous mosque of Delhi Jama Masjid (Delhi) built in 1644 in the vicinity, it is an unusual street that has several famous religious shrines, belonging to different religions making it such a wonderful melting pot of people and cultures with the most perfect name. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Chandni Chowk old Delhi

A friend came from Geneva so I thought it would be nice to shake her clean sensibilities a little. We took a cycle rickshaw into the inner streets of Chandni Chowk and what a time we had. Hassan was our guide and he took us to places that perhaps foreigners don’t often go, so we climbed dark and dirty staircases and visited rooftops and looked down across old Delhi but more immediately at the filth and the squalor. The chilies by the sackful made us choke and the scent of the cloves filled our lungs. We visited the wholesalers of wedding saris and followed Hassan into dark allies and inner sanctums. We looked at doors and stood in admiration of their colour, contour and class and he looked at us perplexed. We wondered how on earth they work out the electricity lines and then watched a baby monkey chewing on one.We visited the simple house of a poet and looked at the beautiful handwritten manuscripts. We went past the great mosque where thousands of Muslims congregate every Friday.Opposite a butcher’s shop with decapitated goats heads all in a row. We smiled and waved at the school children and bought delicious fruit. On the way home a naked man walking serenely down the road. Her sensibilities were shaken and stirred and sizzling hot.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Marriages all around

We live in an area of South Delhi which has a preponderance of so called “farmhouses”.

No much farming goes on here but “milking” the wedding industry ah that is a whole different ball game. These massive houses are built and often rented out as hospitality places and as wedding venues.

The result an enormous amount of glittery bits, generators by the half dozen to supply the electricity, baubles and ribbons and all manner of over the top decorations, including but not limited to statutes of Greek Goddesses, come and go but specially at the weekends when the lights flare up and the music, not always soothing to the ear, starts from early evening to the early morning hours.

We wish each and every couple well but is it really necessary to spend so much money for the wedding and then leave behind a vast trail of rubbish, broken bottles, plastic debris and waste?

Some might argue it is a job creating scheme, but schemes which have promises of a future life should set examples that all can follow.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Marriage X 3

 A tribe in India called the Newar who live in the valley of Kathmandu marry their girls three times. Once before puberty to Bel the fruit of a wood apple tree, secondly with the sun and finally with a human.
I wonder if practice makes perfect and by the time they get to a human they have sussed it all out !

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The Taj Mahal, Agra, revisited

The Taj Mahal, Agra, revisited

This is my third visit but it is not until now that I realized that the name Taj Mahal came from her name Mumtaj Mahal. In other words it is her house …and what a house it is.

This is the story of Emperor Shah Jahan building this as a memorial for his third wife and great love Mumtaj, who died giving birth to his 14th child and it is at this point that my feminine side kicked in and said:

“OH PELEEASE did he not realize that anyone would expire after 14 kids and why did he not give her a break and visit the other wives once in a while? Surely even in those days 14 was quite a number. Poor girl she deserved every brick and inlay on that mausoleum but I know what I would prefer- contraception.”

My cheekiness does not detract from its beauty but this time I felt I wanted to capture something different from this sumptuous place. The evening light was fading and the air was cool and the pilgrims and admirers were snaking around the marble barefoot. Their shadows domino dark, their faces alight with expectation. The school parties were plentiful and playful. A party of school girls walked in from the main gate and in an instant of instamatic wonder, sadly no longer, they digitally imprinted the Taj. This building is still so wondrous.

We followed the flow, snaking round till finally we entered the mausoleum. This wonder of the world had not one electric bulb to its name and the intricacy of the marble and the translucence of the precious stones was flickered on and off with lights off mobiles and an occasional torch. It seemed astonishing but perhaps appropriate that this monument is not brought into the 21st century and that it remains as it is, in the light of everyone’s mind.