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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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Sunday, 29 August 2010

The demise of my Kenyan flip flops

It happened in the monsoon here a day or so ago and you might rightly think why on earth is she writing about her flip flop.Well here they are and why they are important to me is that I bought these flip flops in Bata in Nairobi in the year 2000.

 We had embarked on the most beautiful camel and walking safari in the Matthews range of hills in Kenya and I needed flip flops. I bought some for me and my whole family and mine have lasted a decade. They bear the marks of Tara's teeth and countless entries of thorn tree spikes which are the bain of flip flop walkers in the Kenyan bush.They are as soft as putty and nearly worn through but they have accompanied me around the world and I am loathe to throw them out but sadly when I was walking in a field the other day the power of the mud was so strong it sucked the central part straight out tearing the rubber and they are no longer safe to walk in.

Spare a moment for the flip flop. Who invented it, how long ago ....

The modern flip flop design was invented in Auckland, New Zealand by Morris Yock and patented in 1957 shockingly the year I was born. YES that long ago. They are modelled after the japanese wooden sandals that you see in Japan.
Flip-flops may have been familiar in the United States in the mid-19th century. An 1861 letter to the editor of The New York Times mentioned poorly equipped troops in the Seventh Regiment Volunteers wearing "flip-flaps":

Havaianas a Brazilian brand of flip-flop gained world recognition in 1998 after the company developed a flip flop for the World Cup that featured the Brazilian flag.The brand has been around since 1962. The brand's famous slogan "Havaianas. The Real Ones." originated in the 1970s as a response to other companies making knock-off versions of the flip-flops.  The name Havaianas means Hawaiians in Portuguese.

So the end of another era ? Time for an Indian flip flop from the shop in the picture.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Preparation for the Commonwealth Games

For those of you here you know the plans have been on the cards for a few years now. For those of you tapping in from abroad Delhi is hosting the Commonwealth Games in October and preparations have been steadily progressing but now with just over a month to go they are reaching fever pitch.

There are so many stories about this, Sonia calling for all those involved in dirty dealings to be held to account,Kalmadi calling for a probe post Games, Sheila Dikshit calling for a positive attitude towards the Games and people talking, talking, talking all the time. Will they get everything done, will they succeed, was there corruption ?

My personal view is that India needed these Commonwealth Games like a hole in the head. The country has SO much more important stuff to be getting on with but even if this is job creation, there are still choices to be made there and painting the underside of an overpass would simply not be mine.

The slum near Vasant Vihar has recently seen bulldozers nearby. So where will these people go if they are turfed out of their modest houses ?

Roads, pavements and roundabouts in central Delhi are receiving quick-fix makeovers. There could have been a wonderful documentary about this with BEFORE and AFTER pictures and there is a lot of the AFTER which is significantly better but it is just for the sake of the Games. The roads where the athletes will be travelling down will even have a special lane on which they can speed to the venues instead of experiencing the joys of Delhi traffic. Meanwhile if you do not live down a road which is en route to a venue well, tough luck, and like me you are likely to be negotiating this, with a little bit of that thrown in for good measure.

What are your feelings about the Games ? Proud to have them or money wasting ?  Good for the country and a question of national pride ? Time for an enforced holiday or going for 100% attendance ?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

If only we could learn to harness this potential by Sherkar Kapur

This follows on from my previous blog about the way services are so readily available in India coupled with the great entrepreunerial spirit of Indians. I received this via the internet and thought it worthy of sharing with you all.

A Blackberry addict discovers grassroots enterprise in India- Shekhar Kapur

A greater ‘hole in the wall’ you cannot imagine. A small fading sign on the top saying “Cellphoon reapars” barely visible through the street vendors crowding the Juhu Market in Mumbai. On my way to buy a new Blackberry, my innate sense of adventure (foolishness) made me stop my car and investigate. A shop not more than 6 feet by 6 feet.Grimy and uncleaned.

‘Can you fix a Blackberry ?” ‘ Of course , show me”

” How old are you” ‘Sixteen’

Bullshit. He was no more than 10. Not handing my precious blackberry to a 10 year old in unwashed and torn T shirt and pyjamas! At least if I buy a new one, they would extract the data for me. Something I have been meaning to do for a year now.

‘What’s wrong with it ?”

‘Well, the roller track ball does not respond. It’s kind of stuck and I cannot operate it”

He grabs it from my hand and looks at it “You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller

ball get greasy and dirty, then no working’

Look who was telling me to wash my hands. He probably has not bathed for 10 days, I leaned out to snatch my useless blackberry back. ” You come back in one hour and I fix it’
I am not leaving all my precious data in this unwashed kid’s hands for an hour. No way.

“Who will fix it ?” ‘Big brother’ ‘ How big is ‘big brother?’ ‘big …. Umm ..thirty’ Then suddenly big brother walks in. 30 ??? He is no more than 19.

‘What problem ?’ He says grabbing the phone from my greasy hand into his greasier hand. Obviously not trained in etiquette by an upmarket retail store manager.

‘Normal blackberry problem. I replace with original part now. You must wash your hand before you use this’. What is this about me washing my hands suddenly ?? 19 year old big brother rummages through a dubious drawer full of junk and fishes out a spare roller ball packed in cheap cellophane wrapper. Original part ? I doubt it.

But by now I am in the lap of the real India and there is no escape as he fishes out a couple of screwdrivers and sets about opening my Blackberry.

“How long will this take ?” ”Six minutes ”

This I have to see. After spending the whole morning trying to find a Blackberry service centre and getting vague answers about sending the phone in for an assessment that might take a week, I settle down next to his grubby cramped work space. At least I am going to be able to watch all my stored data vanish into virtual space. People crowd around to see what’s happening. I am not breathing easy anyway. I tell myself this is an adventure and literally have to stop myself grabbing my precious Blackberry back and making a quick escape.

But in exactly six minutes this kid handed my Blackberry back. He had changed the part and cleaned and serviced the whole phone. Taken it apart, and put it together. As I turned the phone on there was a horrific 2 minutes where the phone would not come on. I looked at him with such hostility that he stepped back.

‘you have more than thousand phone numbers ?” ‘yes’.

‘backed up ?’ ‘no’ ‘Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up’‘You tell me that now?’

But then the phone came on and my data was still there. Everyone watching laughed and clapped. This was becoming a show. A six minute show.

I asked him how much. ‘500 rupees’ He ventured uncertainly . People around watched in glee expecting a negotiation. That’s $10 dollars as against the Rs 30,000 ($ 600) I was about to spend on a new Blackberry or a couple of weeks

without my phone. I looked suitably shocked at his ‘high price ‘ but calmly paid him. Much to the disappointment of the expectant crowd.

‘do you have an I-Phone ? Even the new ‘4′ one? ‘no, why”

‘I break the code for you and load any ‘app’ or film you want. I give you 10 film on your memory stick on this one, and change every week for small fee’

I went home having discovered the true entrepreneurship that lies at what we call the ‘bottom of the pyramid’. Some may call it piracy, which of course it is, but what can you say about two uneducated and untrained brothers aged 10 and 19 that set up a ‘hole in the wall’shop and can fix any technology that the greatest technologists in the world can throw at them. I smiled at the future of our country. If only we could learn to harness this potential.

‘Please wash your hands before use’ were his last words to me. Now I am feeling seriously unclean

Thursday, 19 August 2010

A visit to the Barber's

A simple visit to the barber ? No such thing in India and it was a source of huge amusement and sheer surprise when my husband had his hair cut and then was treated to a relaxing massage. This is his nose I think !!

The lovely thing about India is that services are often at our finger tips, or close at hand and you dont need an appointment in three weeks or tons of money. Just walk off the street, or sometimes stay on the street and it all happens before your very unbelieving eyes !!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Happy Independence Day India 2010

I have just returned from the Presidential Palace where the President and the Prime Minster were holding a reception to celebrate Indian Independence.
The Palace is majestic in every way, its drive way, its grand entrance, its marble staircases and finally the Grand Hall where the ceiling is covered with the most exquisite art work.
I was admiring a beautiful painting of a pale and sensuous Mughal princess when the bugle player started bugling and soon after under this seductive painting stood the diminutive figure of Pratibha Patel the current president of India. She exuded none of the sensuality but she does n't need to perhaps as SHE is the President so eyes away from art and firmly onto the politicians now , the speaker of the house, another woman, the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi among others, all sitting in a semi circle like kiddies in a classroom waiting for story time.  
The Prime Minister who is not known for his party spirit, was in a particularly chatty mood and worked the crowd of diplomats and cabinet ministers. I congratulated him on the Independence of India and shook his hand. His bushy white eyebrows and quiet demeanour seemed positively perky this evening. 
The President's Personal Body guard was all over the Palace. The most statuesque six foot figures, with handsome faces in their formal livery, white coats and gloves, gold and black turbans and black boots to their knees each brandishing a silver sword of considerable length. It was hard not to stop and stare.
An India of tradition and splendour, little of which is seen by the man on the street. For them today marks a day of leisure and for the children a time to fly their kites.
I captured a few of the stalls selling them in the run up to Independence Day today.
One little boy in the middle of the biggest two lane highway on a little traffic island was trying to fly his kite. Thats the spirit I thought !
In the paper today a huge announcement that must have cost a lot of money from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerement saying :

"We salute our freedom fighters and builders of modern India and reaffirm our commitment to empower the underprivileged to realise their aspirations."

Builders of modern India hmmmm, I wonder how her aspirations are being met ?

And finally a headline that made me laugh: 

"Buy a house, get a cow free in Rajkot !!"

India has spirit and panache and tries but has a long way to go.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A year on

Don't you occasionally stop and take stock ?
Most of us perhaps feel that the pace of life is sometimes too fast and we have little time to do so.
It is worthwhile and time well spent

So for me and Mezze Moments a year on .....

I have a settled home. Even the last box has now been banished to the recycling.
My energy levels are slightly higher.
The electricity mostly works and the internet too but it is not their pace that has changed but mine.
When they are off I am out on a walk,swimming or reading my book instead of fretting about them.

The blog has been a great source of comfort and commitment for me and above all it has kept me positive.
I still dont know how to do a thousand and one things on it to make it better compared to some others out there but does it really matter ?
It is the words that carry the weight and the pictures the flavour and that is all you need.
My readership, though small, is every little bit valued as are comments and thoughts.
Some of the sense of loss has dissipated though I would not say it is gone.
I still have an acute sense of loss of personal freedom and the ability to walk but in their place are my frequent attempts, sometimes with dire results, to stray off the beaten track and do my own thing.
The rewards are plentiful though often fleeting like the beautiful bird that danced in front of us, a form of egret I believe, this morning on a walk with Tara.
I still struggle with the "full picture " which is often distorted and different depending on who you ask and how many times so the answer there must be DONT ASK

I often despair at the lack of common sense or simple reasoning skills but also common courtesy. It would seem the poorer the person the more courteous. Today as I was getting down from the car, a car sped up to where I was honked loudly and then proceeded to do so again. I expressed my disapproval politely and stood defiantly in his way. He swerved past me irritated.

Being in control of my existence is gradually returning and is counter balanced by necessarily reduced expectations but a keen awareness of the obvious - why should I expect my mali from Bihar to know what chemicals are needed in the pool? It did take months to realise he didnt know but now the penny has dropped I no longer have the right or even the inclination to be angry, nor frustrated, but just accepting of his hard work on my behalf.

Is it easier ? Only in the sense that I am more resigned and more accepting but a lot of what I find hard about living here continues to be so day in day out. Change will come but slowly and painfully perhaps for the millions whose voices are not heard and whose bodies are not counted.

When I arrived last summer I wrote about the workers living in their corrugated huts that I saw every day see .http://mezzemoments.blogspot.com/2009/09/other-side-of-life.html.

A year on they are still there, nothing appears to have changed but the road is complete, if already full of bumps. Baking hot in summer and leaking in the monsoon season these men work for the dignity of keeping themselves and their families. Families who are probably far away and who they hardly ever see but here family is replaced by the friendliness and the camaradie of fellow workers.

Once again this is part conjecture and part extrapolation which seems to be the way that sense is made of the eye numbing spectacles that assault me daily.
So mountains are reduced to molehills and not the other way round and studied consideration supplants strident thoughts but not always.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

After the Rain in Mandi Road

The Rainy Day by Rabindranath Tagore
Sullen clouds are gathering fast over the black fringe of the
O child, do not go out!
The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting their heads
against the dismal sky; the crows with their dragged wings are
silent on the tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the river
is haunted by a deepening gloom.
Our cow is lowing loud, ties at the fence.
O child, wait here till I bring her into the stall.
Men have crowded into the flooded field to catch the fishes
as they escape from the overflowing ponds; the rain-water is
running in rills through the narrow lanes like a laughing boy who
has run away from his mother to tease her.
Listen, someone is shouting for the boatman at the ford.
O child, the daylight is dim, and the crossing at the ferry
is closed.
The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly rushing rain; the
water in the river is loud and impatient; women have hastened home
early from the Ganges with their filled pitchers.
The evening lamps must be made ready.
O child, do not go out!
The road to the market is desolate, the lane to the river is
slippery. The wind is roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.
The setting above is rural and representative of the greater picture of India by India's favourite writer. However wherever the rain may find you, and we have to think here about the floods in Pakistan and the mud slides in Leh, the effect is a mixture of a blessing and a curse.
Blessing in the form of a life line for the farmers, the reservoirs and the people. A curse for the those who have to deal with the after effects of the monsoon. Mandi road is a road which is frequented by expats, diplomats and Indians going to and from their work. Year in and year out the scene is little changed and this is what we negotiate on a rainy day. We do it in the comfort of our car, but what about all those merchants whose products are ruined, the little girl and her father contemplating how their ancient scooter will be fixed, the labourers trudging through the sludge and the sewage ?

Blessing - yes at times but oh that it were always that.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Pilgrims' Progress

The last couple of days in Delhi I have been seeing orange clad men holding some bizarre things that almost look like lampshades perched across a pole on their shoulder. Sometimes they walk in groups and other times they are solitary. They walk with purpose and resolve but some are clearly struggling with the effort while others seem to manage much better.

So I was very curious to find out who they were and what they are up to and it appears that they are Pilgrims who go to the Ganges and pick up holy water near Rishikesh or Haridwar and then walk back the enormous distance to wherever they have come from on foot. I believe they are called Kanwaria and they come from Haryana or Rajastan.
The interesting thing about these pilgrims is that there are even degrees of pilgrims. Some need to carry it on their shoulders all the way and cannot put it down. Do these pilgrims eat,sleep ? How does that work. Local knowledge gratefully received. Do write and tell me.
Others can place the container on the floor while they rest or even hang it on a special stand.I witnessed that when I asked my driver to stop at one of the pilgrims rest places where I took a few pictures. 

When they reach their village or destination apparently they pour the water over a specail deity at a temple.
The distances are truly impressive at some 300 kilometres and I ask myself whether I would have the devotion and the physical stamina to undergo a challenge of this magnitude.

This is what makes India so different because of the depth of belief and commitment which sometimes baffles but is still very much part of life even today.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Dealing with Dogs

As you may have realised I am a bit of a dog lover but I am especially fond of my lovely Lab and her two side kicks- local Indian strays - who have adopted us and we them.

French blonde demoiselle called Tara
However I am not unaware of the wider issue and one of the questions I have always asked myself is why are there so many dogs ? Why are they somehow all tolerated and fed ? Is this part of the Hindu faith that you are not allowed to kill other life ?One web site http://www.karmayog.com/dogs/religiousattitude.htm put it as follows :

Buddhists / Jains: no animal to be killed for whatever reason, even sterilisation not desirable / acceptable
Hindus - veg ones: God is in every living being, so not ok to kill
Parsis: 600 lashes for killing a stray dog; so not ok to kill

Astute Indian Stray called Chini (Tara's personal trainer)
If that is the case why are there no cats ? You very rarely see cats in Delhi whereas every shop, shopping precinct, road and rubbish tip is full of stray dogs, napping, foraging or just socializing with other dogs in the area.

One of the thousands of strays having a rest
Last night was a beautiful evening and having spent part of the day at home I thought it would be nice to go out for a walk so I put the dog in the car and set off. I parked where the road was quiet and off we went. I now carry a stick with me because on a similar walk some months ago with my mother in law a stray dog who seeemed to be approaching Tara, suddenly turned on my mother in law and bit her and of course we immediately got her a set of rabies injections. A bit of a shock for a 90 year old however hardy and sprightly she might be. Rabies is endemic in India and if you have a pet or a tendency to go out walking or children who might be tempted to pet a dog then being vaccinated is probably a good idea. A statistic albeit from 2008 said:

"A person is bitten every 2 seconds, and someone dies from rabies every 30 minutes. The annual number of person-days lost because of animal bites is 38 million, and the cost of post-bite treatment is about $25 million."


This is a paper I found on the Internet but the numbers seem too shocking to be true. Whatever the numbers I know that this is a serious one.

So stick in hand we set off and as we walked past a field a whole pack of strays started barking and being aggessive. Tara who has the capacity to ignore them all, was just in front, so I shooed them away and waved my stick and walked on. On the way back however unbeknown to me, but typically so for my fat dog, she sat down on the corner, as if to say
"If you think I am going the long way round, think again because I am not coming !" I had walked on ahead a little lost in thought and taking in the lovely chanting from the sikh gudwara in our neighbourhood and then the next thing I know one of the pack comes charging up and attempts to take a bite out of Tara's back. She  is moulting mercifully so the stray went off with a pack of Tara's hair in his mouth and did not break the skin. I barely had time to react and by the time I had turned around and chased it the damage had been done.
How to cool off  by YOGI
I am not scared of venturing into areas with dogs but they are a menace and everyone needs to be aware of them. Vaccinating your pets and your family is sound advice in this country.  They say dogs get hot in the hot weather like we do but they cant take their coat off so tempers fry and fly !

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Preservation of Monuments

A HUGE job in India something that falls to the Archaeological Survey of India known as ASI for short. It is particularly busy at the moment because of the need to have monuments and sites ready for all the visitors who will, we are told, come in their thousands when the Commonwealth games are on in October. We shall wait to see about that but in the meantime a lot of  work is going on hampered a little by the good monsoon this year.

Erecting scaffolding

Cleaning one of the domes

The one and only time we saw workers with hard hats and harnesses

There is so much history and archaeology it must be hugely difficult to prioritise and have adequate resources to cover everything. Sadly that is not possible and in our programme of Seven Cities exploring the seven ancient cities of Delhi we came across sites that were terribly neglected, others that had received a dubious and sometimes inappropriate facelift and others that had been lovingly and painstainkingly restored.
It is on this latter point that I want to rest today.

How painstaking is that. Bucket and brush and you have to clean every brick
Chiselling away in the sun

The facilities here are just unlike any other city. Labour is cheap and tasks are sometimes set out in a simple and understandable manner for these workers who work in the glaring sun for countless hours a day. I wonder if they ever question why they are doing it, or whether they are filled with pride for the small part they play in the restoration process. I doubt it somehow.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Delhi afresh

Back to Delhi and what a change. We have been away for two whole months and in that time the grass has sprung and turned a vibrant green, the trees are dusted down and dreamy and the earth is pliable like plasticine. Plants push their frenzied way to the top as if there is a competition on. Everywhere there is growth and a lushness that almost shocks.Some of the road works have progressed astonishingly fast, some of the pavements have been completed and the barriers put on the MG road to detract cows at least from the central reservation, if not from the motorway.Progress, progress all round, fabulous.

The garden is a delight and this is what has greeted me so I am smiling inspite of the heat and the humidity.

Then today, a  few days or so into our return and another familiar scene re- appears. The electricity in the quarters is not working. The hot water geezer in the kitchen is melting my pots, there is a leak from the fridge or the water cooler or both and one of the vents of the living room A/C is not opening.

We travel down the Mandi road after an hour of rain and there are floods everywhere and people getting soaked and splattered by rude drivers who drive too fast. Precious rain water stagnates in the sewers and the road becomes impassable for all. And after years of this happening still no effective drainage or water preservation for this life giving commodity. Who is to blame ? Who suffers ?

So not that much has changed after all.....

Short post today gotta chase all the workmen waiting hahahahaha to enter into a dialogue which as always will be part surreal, part Hindglish and part take your pick as to what the outcome will be !