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

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pushkar 2010

If you or I throw a lotus leaf on the ground gravity will take its course and there it will lay. When Brahma throws one though a lake is created and even more remarkably in a desert area like Rajastan. It is this little town of Pushkar which is blessed with this lake with special powers that I visited just a few days ago. The Camel Fair in Pushkar is held every year round about this time but always under a full and yellow moon. 

I went not really knowing what to expect other than perhaps colour and some animals and I came back with an overwhelming sense of why this country is so special and its people so unique. Pushkar is one of the festivals which perhaps is heard of in the West and which tourists travel here specially to see. So when I saw a carousel I had a slight feeling of foreboding. I hate fun fairs - I really do and it was a nightmare for me if ever the children wanted to go to one. This is a funfair with a difference.

Pushkar is 11 kms from Ajmer. We travelled there by train and went to our campsite. Pushkar is a small town which swells enormously in population, (about 200,000 visitors and 50,000 animals) to accomodate the pilgrims, the visitors and the merchants. So a lot of temporary camp sites are set up but as with a lot of these marquees and outdoor living the Indians excel and we had spacious tents with hand woven colourful carpets on the floor and an adjoining bathroom with a western style loo, a washbasin, a tarpaulin floor and a bucket. What more could a girl want.

We were eager to go out and explore and we did - on camels that is - we rode off on these ungainly animals which seem prehistoric in structure and movement  and we cut through the open fields littered with temporary pens for the beautiful marwari horses, the camels and some goats. The men rode the animals, sat, smoked and chatted, the women cut down the grass and tied up sugar cane in bundles, the children ran riot after the tourists and had fun.

We wound our way up a hillside. Pushkar is almost in a dip surrounded by gentle hillocks and undulating paths. The camel I was on, called Moti, had a peculiar sway.You adopted the movement and went along with it, occasionally it would snort but largely speaking it seemed to have a resigned attitude to its burden. We arrived at a hilltop and there waiting for us was the sunset, high tea and the most handsome man I have seen with his delicate female partner who sang from behind her pink and golden sari while he played lyrical song with prompts to her on his indian violin.

I have to confess I could not get enough of his majestic face and in any other instance I would have been compromising my safety perhaps and her wrath by staring at him so much. His eyes were red, almost blood shot but his irises were blue, steely blue and bewitching.His face was that of a perfect Rajastani man. Tanned, moustachioed and weather beaten.

We watched the sun disappearing and dusk briefly enveloped this landscape. Camel carts transported us back to our camp where we ate heartily and tried to get warm. Deserts are well known for this but as is always the case we were not prepared enough and going to bed was one way to get warm. I was under two blankets and two quilted covers - effectively cemented in - and my thoughts went out to those who were sleeping on the side of the road or those who had travelled far to be here with their animals and who had nothing but a wood fire to keep them warm.
The day brought the warmth we so needed and we set out to explore. There were constant programmes all day long involving milking, wrestling, water pot races by women, horse races, camel races and tugs of war.The mela area is huge with stalls, shops, eateries and eager shoppers everywhere. We did our fair amount of shopping and gawping but what was interesting was that while there were foreigners there, this whole Fair was a real celebration for the locals who came from far and wide whether because of the animal market or because they wanted to dip themselves in the lake and cleanse themselves while doing a puja. We saw proud men with huge turbans leading groups of spectacularly dressed women through the streets,we saw endless families jumping off the roofs of buses clutching their bundles and heading to the Lake. We enjoyed looking at the young women huddled in front of the jewellery stalls.We smiled at youths who were clearly out to have a fun time and we marvelled at the older men whose faces said so much.
There was an awful lot of staring going on here, I am not ashamed to admit it. It was mutual. They liked looking at us but not half as much as I liked looking at them.

We caught the sunset over the lake, watched the pilgrims bathe. This is the first place where I saw women  bare breasted dipping themselves in the Lake.There were fireworks over the Lake and celebrations all around the ghats.

The closing ceremony was held in the Mela ground and was a feast for all eyes, camel processions with fierce looking Rajastanis their moustaches curling upwards and round their cheeks, brandishing their swords and wearing their finest jewellery.


The women dancing in fields of crimson, lilac, fuschia and fire red to the drumbeats of the local players. The stadium was full to the hilt, but some of the VIP chairs reserved for guests were empty. That was my only sadness that people who had travelled miles were not let in to occupy these seats. There was such an overwhelming sense of pride that went out with cheers for the camel riders and the local men who fought the tug of war.People were there because this place was significant and meaningful and there was a real sense of carnival, pilgrimage and purpose that came together in this display of colour, custom and creed.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Shades of Grey

I have a very special friend. We became friends in Geneva because we were attracted to the same loves, four-legged creatures, good food and good writing. She has written this poem which I am reproducing here with her kind permission because it talks loudly to me for many reasons. It is forthright and bright, clear and cutting. Perhaps, in a strange way, it is also the perfect precursor for my next blog entry which is the Camel Fair in Pushkar.

Shades of Grey

please don’t give me those shades of grey

don’t cloud the colours of life

why seek to mask with diction soft

and guarded smile

the errant thoughts

wayward acts

misdemeanours of each day

that faded pink was once a glorious red

the sizzling orange now turns mushy peach

while you thrash and thresh the truth

in vain attempt to blind and hide

what’s true, but wrong to say outright

or so you think, and deeper sink

into a misty mire of gloom

time will tell, the way it does

and once the blinds are drawn

the black will show as boldest black

and white as purest white

so think again, and why not now

relieve the conscience, free the soul

today can be a clear new day

purged free of hazy shades of grey

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Salaam Baalak Trust -A Walk in the streets of Delhi 2010

A mural at the New Delhi Railway Station.
As some of you are aware since I have been here I have tried to raise funds and items for the children looked after by Salaam Baalak Trust. To this purpose I organized a walk last month led by two of the young men who have been educated by the trust and who now live independently. They took a group of about 27 expats around the area of the New Delhi Railway station and Paharghanj. These are the areas where the children take refuge, where they are able to work in tea stalls or as collectors of cardboard which they sell to merchants for a few rupees and where they learn the tricks for survival.The areas are congested, narrow, and dirty. They do however provide the comradeship and the support networks for the children.Some of them,the drug and prostitution gangs are destructive and damaging while other peer groups are more nurturing. This is the reality for these children before the Trust  takes them in and these are some of the sights that we encountered.
 Preparing the pottery for the Diwali lights

 Another pottery seller in Paharghanj

This man is 90 and he remembers the area as it was and how difficult it has been to eke a living.
Some children playing.
Some of the slum areas on the railway line.
 One of the shops selling garlands on which you attach money notes.
Two of the boys in the holding centre with their chapatis

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Closer to home

It must be a little irritating to naturalists when their guests say- yes we have seen them in our garden. Truth be told however we are lucky enough to enjoy a large number of birds in our garden and while the pictures may not be so good we even have some regulars - a couple of whoopees and a disabled minar bird with one leg, countless parakeets and loud plovers who swoop on Tara on our early morning walk when a red red sun is just bursting through the haze of winter fog.It makes me appreciate the precariousness of the bird life in India even more as I have it on my doorstep but it doesnt stop me from seeking to see it elsewhere as well.
 Bee eaters who enjoy regular dips in the pool. The underside of their wings is an irridescent green.
 One of the hoopoe couple who regularly feeds in the garden.
My disabled Minah bird

The sun red hot and ready to do its daily work.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The bounty of Bharatpur

We have just returned from Bharatpur which is 175 kms south of Delhi just off the main Delhi Agra road where we visited the  Keoladeo Ghana National Park also known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.This is a UNESCO World Heritage site and perhaps the only bird sanctuary which was created by a Maharaja. The city and surrounding area used to flood terribly, so in 1760 the Ajan Dam was constructed and became Bharatpur Lake. This became the hunting preserve of the Maharaja and was considered one of the best duck shooting areas in the world. There is testimony to how many more birds existed in those early days from the plaques found in the centre of the park reporting the day's shootings. I have photographed the one recording the largest bag of the day with over 4000 ducks shot ! What did they do with them? How much duck can you eat ? Were they able to preserve any for later consumption? It does raise so many questions about this sport. 
In recent years Bharatpur suffered lack of water, through failed monsoons and also through the dam not releasing enough. We were told that after many legal battles some of these issues have been solved and the Park will be able to receive a lot more water in the next year. The water is vital to ensure that the bird life is preserved and increased.  
This is the best season to visit.Contrary to last year the water levels are higher and the bird population is plentiful perhaps not at the levels of the erstwhile Maharaja but enough for those interested in birds to view and admire in plentiful numbers.
The anhinga Darter also known as the snake bird.Sleek and elegant.
 The painted storks nesting in the trees. Big and clumsy.
 The faint touch of pink on the painted stork's tail. So feminine.
One of the millions of dragonflies that are another favourite of mine.

We were not disappointed. For one thing you can walk in the park on raised tarmac paths and on both sides of the road you can view the birds in the wetlands. When you get tired you can opt to take a cycle rickshaw and there is really no better and more peaceful way to travel in this bird haven where the only sounds you hear are the bird calls. That is not to say that you cannot see water buffalo bathing, chital, Nilgai and boar but our attention was focused on the birds. I am no twitcher but the sheer enjoyment at being able to clearly see and enjoy the birds at close proximity was very rewarding.

This is where you can see the endangered Siberian Crane- none to see this time as they havent arrived yet- but we saw the Sarus Cranes in the fields, the woolly backed storks, the painted storks in their hundreds sitting adroitly on their nests with their fluffy babies, the beautiful anhinga darter which is also known as the snake bird. When you see it swimming through water it really does look like a snake. The herons, pond, grey and purple ones who are  like the soldiers in the Park forever patrolling this field or that. The egrets, lesser and larger everywhere,the wire tailed swallows darting in and out of the bull rushes, the whistling ducks and knob-billed ducks, the beautiful white breasted kingfisher and even a spotted owl and a marsh harrier. The list goes on but perhaps rather than listing them all you could go and see them.
 A cormorant sunning himself.
The park was covered in these wild bushes with fruits that looked like aerial strawberries. I am sure a great favourite for some of the residents. The park was tranquil and relaxed and a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Delhi.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

London Exhibitions

Going to London for me is always an opportunity to enjoy what is on in the capital and while this might be very far from every day life in India if you are heading that way in the next few months you may want to pop in to the Royal Academy of Arts which is currently showing "Treasures from Budapest". The Museum in Budapest houses one of the finest collections of art in Central Europe. Principal to this collecion are the old masters collected by the Esterhazy princes from the 17th to the 19th Century one of the foremost aristocratic families in Hungary. From Leonardo Da Vinci's charcoal studies to El Grecos "St James the Less" there is something for everyone in this exhibition spanning four centuries.

My favourite this time however was Venice "Canaletto and his Rivals " which is on from now until the 16th of January 2011 in the Sainsbury wing of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. When travellers went on their Grand Tour, Venice was a major destination and views of Venice became very popular. Canelleto was the one who epitomised this in spectacular scenes of the city and some of his rivals strove to copy his grandeur and style. This makes for a stunning and truly magnificent exhibition of Venetian landscapes with such detail and perspective that they leave you open mouthed.

But perhaps the piece de resistance of exhibitions is the one being staged by Anish Kapoor in Kensigton Gardens from now until March 2011.It is the largest ever exhibition dedicated to a living artist with huge installations in the gardens of stainless steel which create visually stunning reflections. There is a Kapoor of this nature in the Kiran Nader Museum in Noida for anyone who might not make London in the next few months.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Happy Diwali 2010

Happy Diwali everyone - to my family, my friends, my helpers, my readers, may the year bring you wealth, health and happiness in abundance. Marigolds are part of this celebration as are lights at your door. May your paths be flowered and floodlit.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Psychic Surgery healing in the Philippines

I am a deep sceptic about things like this but I have to say the man I met in my previous post was living evidence of this type of healing. If you are at all interested click on this link below and read more.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Meeting interesting people

It happened in Thailand. We met over lunch on a floating village.They were a couple on the same tour as us.I was so taken by what they were telling me that I even forgot to ask their names and at the end of the day they left and I lost them. However what I had heard and the way they talked to me kept me so engaged.So this post is for their spirit and their friendliness and the fact that they had taken every advantage of what life threw at them.
His parentage was mixed Greek and Jewish. That in itself is unusual. There are few Greek Jews and few Jews in Greece.He was born to a Greek father but a Jewish mother. His father was a stalwart of the Greek Communist party and he was assassinated when he was only two. His mother, fearing for her life fled to Cyprus where she met another man and married him. This second man raised him as if he was his son.He grew up feeling there was a piece of him missing and finally at the age of 30 he found out about his father and went to visit his family in Greece.  Bizzarly for a half Greek he had real wanderlust and spent many a year travelling all over the world exploring continents and people.

When he was back in Israel he met his love - a woman 20 years younger than he was - clearly it was a passionate and enduring love and they had three children together who they named Imagination, Magic and In God's way - they wanted their children to be distinct and special and I am sure they are. I wanted to find out more about their love affair but I didnt get the chance.He was persuaded by her to go back to University to study for a degree in chemical engineering but when his idea was taken by a superior he became disillusioned and turned to the earth to find his solace and his livelihood. He travelled to the Philippines at one point to find a healer who operated on people with her hands. He was operated on and cured and lives to tell the tale. We talked and talked and my mind was alive with scenarios, intrigue, history and adventure. Better than any soap let me tell you.