Hello welcome to my Blog

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.

Search This Blog

Friday, 26 February 2010

Living in India

Living in India you often feel the need to help. A lot of us find instant niches and there is an abundance of good causes. You can start with the very small, charity starts at home, with your staff,  to the very big, finding a cause and running with it succesfully. I have become involved with the United Nations International Association and they run a kindergarten which I visited yesterday with children from my son's school.
We went to Dav Senior Secondary school Janpura in Nizamuddin which houses the kindergarten. It is fully supported by UNIA and the children are given uniforms, encouraged to attend on a regular basis and given scholarships to go on with schooling at a later stage.These are very poor children where often their one full meal is the one they get in school.
There was an immediate and stark difference between the kindergarten which receives some external funding and the rest of the school which was an ordinary secondary school. The school classrooms were tiny, the children had no desks or chairs and for the most part they were filthy and dark and probably quite cold in the winter and baking hot in the summer.

The Kindergarten was roomed in two big rooms where the children at least had some poor carpeting to sit on and they had an abundance of learning aids, puzzles, building bricks and pens and paper.
These are the happy and delightful faces we came across and who will form the back bone of this country.
It is moments like these when you wish you were a Gates !

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Walking the dog

It is at weekends when my husband and I like to take the dog for an extended walk. It is not always what she wants (small parenthesis here to explain she is an adored, spoilt, large and slothful Lab whose favourite place is a bed or a sofa preferably snoring away and if that is not possible eating anything.)
Having come from the land of Swiss wanderwegs ( walks to you and me ) this is the one thing I miss more than anything else. The chance to walk out in the open and to regroup my thoughts, to be observant of nature and to breathe the fresh air.
We were determined to re create what we could of these walks here so we found a wooded area not far from where we live which is our central park/ hyde park - no better actually, because this area is quite densely wooded. It seems to sprawl for miles and if you climb to one of the little hillocks you get views of suburbia and possibly Qutb Minar. I believe it is called Sanjay Van and this is where we go.

My husband, who is known for his ability to explore extensively one day decided to take a right fork soon after entering the park so straying from the broad footpaths you see above.This is what we found and it makes my heart bleed. It need not be a river of plastic or an open sewer but I just wonder when the realisation sinks in that these are places to be valued and preserved will it be too late for this forest ?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Book club delhi style

The most hysterical exchange happened at my bookclub this morning.

Friend picks up the phone and rings Delhi Bookshop

"Hello do you have water for Elephants ?"

Silence on the other side.

"Hello hello, yes hello have you got water for elephants?"

"Water for Elephants, no ma'am we do not have any water for elephants. Ma'am this is a bookshop."

Oh I am so sorry not actual water for elephants but the book Water for Elephants.

We were rolling with laughter.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

La cuisine indienne a la Parmesan

For those of you who have followed this blog from the start you may be aware that I have a part time cook who has been christened Parmesan and who is the funniest bloke in miles. Its not just the spicy cooking that keeps us sitting up, its his chanting and singing and his stern voice commanding my attention
he shouts and I leap to attention. This time he was calling me to show me another delight for the eyes- so I told him to hold still and I captured it for you all. Parmesan aka Cinnamon ( courtesy of Cal ) presents his new rice dish,yes you are seeing correctly the dish is decorated with red peppers and slivers of strawberries.
Jamie Oliver eat your heart out

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Terrorism and Faith

There is something surreal about being in the midst of a pyrotechnic people where nightly my sensibilities are assaulted with a barrage of firecrackers and blasts the strength of which sometimes seem eerily close by. I use the words carefully because I have been through a war, I know what it sounds like and it is not how anyone would chose to fall asleep. This strikes me even more insane in the light of the real danger that India faces from terrorism and the lengthy announcements that come out of the US and UK embassies following the Pune bomb blast at the weekend where a number of people, foreigners and locals were killed.
We are urged to be vigilant among seas of people and packets and security measures that predicate passage on the mistaken basis of the colour of your skin.
And then I ask myself a thousand times why people who want to harm can justify what they do and whether faith is reason enough. I am exploring Delhi and the passage of turks, afghans and moghul rulers and the consequences of faith and power are all too visible.
Visiting Nizamuddin which is the more liberal arm of islam with its emphasis on love and tolerance an openness to followers of other religious affilations I came across this woman who was huddled on the outside of Nizammuddin's tomb almost as if she was part of the pillar. All you could see of her was a huddled mass - and then she turned to look at us and in those eyes I saw anger, scorn and annoyance and it struck me that even here faith plays a part which I am not comfortable with. Perhaps she was angry at being disturbed and I can only apologise for that but there was more to those eyes than that. Women are excluded from the tomb, they have to be on the outside, shrouded and hidden. God only knows what her life must be like and while I do not profess for one minute that mine is preferable or better I know that so much that is wrong in the world is the adherence to faith which enables radicalism,suppression and subjugation in its name.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Smashing my way through Delhi Traffic

Sunday is a day of rest for a lot of our drivers. So we are usually stuck - not unhappily for the most part but definitely stuck unless you have two drivers and we dont. This Sunday I had a lunch invitation and I knew my driver was busy and my husband and son away and so I was damned if I was going to be defeated by the system.
I made my plate of houmous and crudites, I chose a nice bottle of chilled sauvignon blanc, placed the houmous on the floor of the car and the bottle on the seat and set off.The Guard looked bemused as I confidently drove out the gate and headed up the Mandi road. That is the easy bit. The problem is negotiating the junction onto the MG road which basically entails crossing a congested two lane mad Indian highway straight across to get into the lane towards Delhi.Typical Delhi junction, highly dangerous, totally mad and very crowded even on Sunday.
I stopped and waited for the cars to build up on either side of me. This is called safety in numbers, then I crept out with them as the cars and motorbikes hurtling towards us, horns blaring and saris flying.
I got across and breathed a deep sigh of relief, looked behind me at the Gurgaon traffic zooming up and joined the flow gingerly but confidently only to find myself applying the brakes quite sharply as a biker swerved in front of me.
Note how many different directions cars/bikes are facing !!
No collision, no damage, (You do not want to be a european creating or being implicated in an accident on the roads here as mobs quickly collect ) but as I came to my stop I heard an almighty crash coming from the back seat. My lovely chilled bottle of Sauvignon blanc had found its own momentum and had flung itself off the back seat and landed fair and square in the middle of my beautiful  north african dish carrying my houmous. Dish smashed to smithereens but bottle miraculously intact so with a refound confidence I parped my horn politely and warned everyone I was on my way.
Ahhh the feeling of being in control .....

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Pashan Garh Madhya Pradesh

I have been meaning to write about this for a while but this is the right moment. The Chinese are celebrating the YEAR OF THE TIGER and I hope all of India joins in as there are only 1,411 left.
We had booked a couple of days at a game park and were eager to explore the tiger reserves of India now that we were living here but we had heard how notoriously difficult it was to spot them. So with lowered expectations and a bird book we began our first jungle safari in Panna. We were the only vehicle on the road for our entire time there. We saw antelopes, Sambar and Nagai a form of deer, spotted deer, always reminiscent of Bambi and crocodiles sunning themselves on the banks of a lovely wide river, the Ken.

The birds were everywhere, plum headed parakeets shrieking and swooping, the jungle babblers the Egyptian vultures, the red headed vulture, a  grey headed fish eagle, the white eyed buzzard,  the Indian darter and jays, the Indian roller and lots more.

Shree was out naturalist and he was lovely. Round face, small moustache, chubby and smiley he was full of did we know stories – did we know that the jungle cat had a very short tail, that the beeb tree produced berries that some of the animals ate.

The chalets presently seven, are soon to be twelve. Each is built in a corner of the grounds secluded from the others. The rooms are the work of Interior designer Christopher Brown, who is known for a lot of his work in South Africa. The attention to detail is truly impressive. A gazebo with flowing curtains and cushions where you can lounge like a maharaja or maharani, a full window of the world from your bed, cushions everywhere, a mini bar in leather, a gym, neatly folded away in your desk, reading lamps that enable you to read. Good lighting a rarity in this country of light.

Lovely leather accessories with the finest finishes. A handwritten card of welcome. Each chalet has a story to it and its name is inscribed in the paving stone at the entrance. A telephone from days gone by which gives you instant service all the time. A bathroom to die for, individual sinks, a rainfall shower in the middle of the room, bathrobes and every conceivable product you might need to use, including insect repellant and torches. They have thought of it all. The food an eclectic mix of nouvelle and Indian.Delicious.

On our last day we stopped to watch a troupe of monkeys. Then we heard Sambar alarm calls and soon watched them running scared. There was definitely something there and we waited almost catching our breath in anticipation of what we were going to see.

Shree thought it might be leopard and that was good enough for us but there she was in her glory a fully grown tigress emerging from the undergrowth and then doing the unthinkable which is walk right in front of the jeep. No straining to see her, no long grass to block our vision but there turning her head as if to greet us and then striding on she was a vision of beauty larger then life. Not just memorable. Unforgettable.

Friday, 12 February 2010

India incredible, yes but also indifferent

I was going to tell you about a wonderful tiger safari but I feel the need to write about two items of news today which I just feel are an example of why I cannot fathom this country and what makes it behave this way. This is a country which has so much going for it, so much potential and yet and yet ...

"A senior railway engineer was run over by a train at old Delhi Railway station". Not clear how the accident happened and perhaps it does not matter." The body lay there for an hour and a half while two railway police forces bickered over who would lift the body. Another train was coming in and ran over the body again."

"A maid, 10 years old complained of being ill treated by her employers. She had bruises all over her body and her eyes were swollen and her hands burnt.He employers had punished her for not making the chapatis properly".

The article ended by saying "that the has been an increase in the case of ill-treatment to underage servants in the city this year" as if employing underage servants was just part of the course.

I cannot be indifferent to the suffering and the sheer callousness that is often displayed to human life. It makes me feel angry and despairing.This is a country that has had 60 years of Independence and democracy and still this...

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A couple of shorties - Shoppers Stop and Stopping Stalkers

This follows on from a previous blog where I complained about how slow service was in Shoppers Stop so I promised to give them another go and I did. Metropolitan Mall in Gurgaon, in to the store, found product, off to the till and out within a millisecond aaaaaaaah 

The other shorty is this:
For days now I have been receiving calls, messages, and missed calls  from numbers that are +88. I have tried answering, getting my husband to answer, not answering and switching off. The messages are in Hindi I think and poetic it seems and despite repeated attempts to convey the message that I am the wrong recipient they come frequently and sometimes in the middle of the night. Nijer harano porichoy khuje pete chao tahole 3&6 no eksathe poro. Does anyone know what this is and how to put an end to it ?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A salad of Seasons

I never thought I would be sitting in India loving listening to the noise of the rain on metal outside. I never quite saw the monsoon this year and I suspect a lot of others feel the same way and since I have been here it has rained only once. Hence the "talcum powder traces" in my previous blog.
The earth is so thin, nothing to hold on to, nothing to cling to, it just disappears in a puff of dust.
So the rain falling out there is wonderful and refreshing and will at least uncover the true colour or foliage delhi wide and give earth an anchor.
There is however something I dont quite follow here - in Europe after a hot summer, the leaves turn and fall off the trees. In winter all is barren. Then in spring plants and flowers come out and that is what I thought was happening when I posted all the flowers in my garden in my last blog.  Here after a hot summer and what seems to be an autumn, nothing happens, winter comes and almost goes and now the leaves start to fall.Is this how it is ?
Autumn after winter or is it spring before winter ?

Saturday, 6 February 2010

The God of Small Things

I have just finished reading for the second time Arundhati Roy's disturbing and beautifully written book the "The God of Small Things". She tackles many difficult issues in that book but it is her style that I want to talk about briefly today because her book is full of similes and distorted word spellings that surprise and excite. Today when I went out between 6-700 am with the dogs the air is fresh but not biting and the moon is still visible in the sky. And thanks to her my mind runs away with similitudes about where I am and what it is like.

As crowded as a mustard field
Dust dry
Talcum powder traces
Poppies popping like mustard seeds
Holly hocks reaching for the skies

The God of Small things in my morning.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Who said life was easy ?

Who said life was easy ? I look all around me as I am being driven in my car to my preferred destination of exploring at leisure the seven cities of erstwhile Delhi and I am going over this in my head. I went to a talk yesterday directed to expat women and their ability or not to adapt to India and its Indian ways and while some of the issues were left unexplored I came away with this nugget thrown out by the speaker. We have grown up to expect that life will be easy and I do so recognize the effort and commitment that went into this from my mother and father who bent over backwards to make sure that we had an easy, uncomplicated, privileged life. 
But is this a promise that we need ? Is this a weapon that helps us deal with life on a daily basis. 
The answer is sadly not. 
The majority of us have learnt to expect nothing less than the best and often the slightest rocking of that comfort boat is likely to start storms.We have learnt to expect the perfect and the pretty, the straightforward and the stylish, the exclusive and eclectic.
Walking and driving in this city gives me the daily reminder that life is far from easy and I could not give a damn that my shoes do not match my handbag but can only say that I have more that is easy in my life than those around me. From the streets of today

We drove alongside this man as he pushed his impossible load forward in impossible traffic.

The rubbish pickers at a local dump.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


The Dabbawallahs of Mumbai are being studied as a business model and will be considered by students of the Harvard business school. I mentioned to you that Mumbai's float of the Dabbawallahs was one of my favourites at the Republic Day parade - well it looks as if they are quite a remarkable and noteworthy business phenomenon.
One question that concerns me is surely when you are delivering lunch to as many as 200,000 businessmen at lunch time every day arent you exponentially adding to the traffic and the chaos and the congestion and wouldnt it be simpler and more globe friendly if everyone grabbed a sandwich from their local shop around the corner, not only supporting local business but even expending a few calories in having to go and get it ?