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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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Friday, 26 August 2011

The phenomenon that is Anna Hazare

Whether you are resident in India or resident abroad chances are you will have heard this name by now.
This is the 74 Indian who has sparked a wildfire of indian peaceful protest for the elimination of corruption in India. He is currently fasting and he can be found in Ramila Maidan in the centre of Delhi.
Daily, the newspapers are full of reports of his movements and his pronouncements, of the ever increasing crowds that come to lend their support and the jittery and uncertain steps of Congress as they attempt to douse the fire and take things back from his control.
My driver Shiva who is from Kerala went to lend his voice and support to Anna Hazare and this is his account:
"I went by Metro though I was not sure where to go. As soon as I got out of the Metro someone took out a tricolour waved it in the air and we all followed him. We went to Ramila Maidan. This is a large area like a stadium. The place was full of supporters showing their solidarity in a peaceful way. There are thousands of volunteers who clean up the stadium from the plastic and the plates. Others have set up stalls with food to feed all the people who come. There are others selling snacks and cold drinks. The atmosphere is jovial and determined and we spent many hours talking to others and hoping to hear him. He has three doctors with him who monitor his medical condition now he is fasting.
In the evening we went to India Gate and from there we started a candlelit procession. There was a man of 94 who came from Haryana who was carried by his family. He wanted to be part of this. There were buses full of supporteres from all over the country. I was so happy to see people were finally taking a position on this terrible corruption which eats into our society."

Friday, 19 August 2011


Looking all around me and I could be in Switzerland, which I love so much, but actually this is unmistakenly India and it is full of all the beauty of mountains and water but spiced with the green eyes of the local population which makes us stare rather rudely,  kawha tea and Kashmiri food, beautiful stallions and exquisite pashminas.

I am in Gulmarg - at 2,730 metres ( Meadow of Flowers ) and all around me are majestic mountains, fir trees, meadows with the most beautiful alpine flowers and fast flowing rivers.

This is a hill resort well known for skiing and winter sports. The summers are of course a time for alpine walks and horseriding and this is what we chose to spend our time indulging in.

The clouds rolled overhead in the mornings and threatened all manner of damp destruction but actually the winds seem to carry them away and within 10 minutes we would often see a completely transformed weather front.
Walking up to the border with Pakistan where we could see the barbed wire posts through binoculars was a little hairy as the soldiers seemed reluctant to let us go. Finally we were shown a back route.We walked slowly and purposefully. The air is thin and the going is hard. We were lucky, the weather held off but we were hopelessly underprepared and I briefly worried about the power of the mountain over my life.  The terrain, large boulders, often decorated with bright yellow funghi- the softer ground full of bright red flowers and edelweiss. The Swiss, it seems, do not have the monopoly on them.
We headed up and up with clouds and swirling winds around us to get to what is called the Frozen Lake although during these summer months it is not frozen and takes on the colours of the surrounding mountains.
We sat eating our picnic at the very top and taking in the majesty of it all.
The alpine flowers

The swirling clouds and winds
The soldier who was afraid to let us go any further
Toboggans that have seen better days
Gentian blues and marigold yellows
The frozen Lake
Looking across to the border with Pakistan
We headed down happy and tired ready for a good dinner of mutton and baigan giagni, rice and channa and vegetables.The next day was another adventure this time on the back of some formidable horses. We rode in and out of the forests and streams to a flowing river where we sat and cooled our toes and hands. I marvelled at the fact that I managed to hang on. The steep rocky slopes were frightenting and the paths barely visible but that was part of the this wonderful adventure.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Shrinagar  (Sri- rich /abundance  Nagar- a Town)  is the capital of Kashmir and it has clearly been a favourite destination for Moghuls, Britishers and anyone who has a love of nature and beauty. The Moghuls thought of it as a place for rest and relaxation and somewhere to take the Begums - so they planned and planted the most beautiful gardens for them to enjoy.Modern day husbands can take a leaf out of that book.
There are several  gardens worth visiting - Chashma Shahi (the royal fountains); Pari Mahal (the palace of the fairies); Nishat Bagh (the garden of spring); Shalimar Bagh; and the Naseem Bagh. The Tulip Gardens have been recently opened to public by Sonia Gandhi.
The attention to order and linear form is strangely comforting and the variety, colour and fragrance is wonderfuly enticing. Unlike in a lot of places in India where the Moghuls designed their char baghs the waterworks here are kept in good order and the soothing sound of water flowing is the only audible noise.
The Shalimar Gardens
Take a walk - I would say in any season- when we were there the dhalias were out in their full glory. I said we must return in the autumn to catch the changing leaves of the Chinar tree which is the tree of the area, a type of plane, tall, with a huge base, wonderful leafy foliage and characteristic of the area.

 The Nishat Gardens
 The Pari Mahal on the hillside overlooking the town
The town is an interesting mix of very old and beautiful wooden buildings and lots of bakeries selling kashmiri breads and sweets. The bazaar is buzzing and the people, oh the people, they are so very handsome and welcoming it is hard to leave.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Indian Independence Day 2011 and some snake charm

Its the 15th of August 2011 and India's Independence Day. I was busy catching up on emails and sorting out paperwork at my desk.Holidays are good days for catching up on such things, since we chose not to go to the Red Fort in the pouring rain. I got up to tidy away some box files that had been on the floor for a while.
As I was ready to pick them up a snake slithered from out of one, a foot long, grey-green with a forked tongue. I called my Knights in shining armour who arrived armed with barbeque tongs and gardening gloves and between them Charles managed to pick it up gently behind the head while Anthony held it down and they took it out into the garden where we released it.

To be absolutely honest I was a little freaked by it all.
Hope this indicates a madness of good luck and fortune on this auspicious Independence Day for India.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Kashmir - where beauty pays a price

Most Europeans would not entertain the idea of visiting Kashmir. Last year there were quite a lot of disturbances there and for years it has been plagued by the unhappy politics being played out by India and Pakistan. I ask myself whether this is this the price you pay when there is so much beauty as everyone wants a part of it?
Kashmir was in the hands of a Hindu Maharaja at the time of Independence but it always had a large Muslim population. At Independence there was an expectation that it would go to Pakistan but in fact the Maharaja signed the Instrument of Accession which was accepted by the Indian government. The resulting war in 1947 produced a divided state where India claims the majority of it but there is also Azad Kashmir administered by Pakistan and Aksai Kashmir administered by China. Throughout the years disputes, militancy and armies have kept this region on the edge and its people have suffered endless hardship and injustices.
I cannot lie- the military presence was everywhere. Barbed wire fences, sand bags, barricades, smart and large Indian soldiers wielding weapons and impressive army establishments like the High Altitude Warfare Institute are all around you.
 Our balcony on the houseboat
The dining and sitting room
Typical Housboats

 The bird life is right there in front of you swooping and singing all day long

All the more reason to say enough - these handsome people should not suffer any more and need to be supported to promote the beauty of their country and the two or indeed three dominating countries have to find a peaceful way forward. I will not lose sleep over this or hold my breath but feel I need to say it as I come from a divided country too- probably the last in Europe and half my homeland is under occupation 37 years since it was invaded by the Turkish army but I still hope that one day there will be a settlement which will allow us to live and prosper, side by side, in our own beautiful land.
So we visited Kashmir and it was truly magnificently beautiful and strangely one of the most peaceful places I have been to in India. Shrinagar is the capital of the state and we stayed on a houseboat on Dal Lake. As often when I am faced with new situations I question how things came to be- who started the tradition of houseboats and why. Part of it was the reluctance of the Maharaja to allow anyone to own land and the increasing desire of the Britishers to spend time in this cool paradise. Doonga boats were introduced to house them and they eventually lead to the sophisticated, elaborate and plush houseboats that you can now find on Nageen and Dal lake all of which are almost exclusively used by tourists and which are stationary but come complete with wood carved ceilings and ornate balconies facing the lake, electricity, Kashmiri carpets and flush toilets and a cook who prepares and serves aromatic Kashmiri food.
The Lakes are surrounded by high mountains- I could have been on lake Leman, lake Como or Annessy in France - but this was even better because the best way to move around on the lake was on a shikara, a shallow wooden boat with an awning and cushions to recline on, steered with a single heart shaped paddle by an obliging Kashmiri through the lotus and marigold flowers. The light plays games with the colour of the water and the mountains cast their reflection downwards to add to the aura. More on the the areas around the lake in my next blog.
 The heart shaped paddle
 A shikara
 The lotus flowers in bloom
 Our wonderful shikara man Lhasa who spoke the Queens English and had never been to school.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Sentiment sound if not the spelling

But what they don't say is women need to do so too. Everywhere you go in India you find the men wearing safety helmets but the women and children riding on the back are always without any protection whatsoever.
Less important, more dispensable, or just a question of cost ?

Monday, 1 August 2011

Slut walks and walking tall

Delhi has just experienced its first ever Slut walk. Just saying it is distasteful in my mouth and I really cannot imagine why oh why anyone could have happily attached such an awful name to such a good cause. But that is just me and perhaps we need to get beyond the names to see the real essence and appreciate the urgent need in this country for equality in the sexes and education of the way men in particular behave towards women in society. I have blogged about the incidence of rape here - it is APPALLING and any moves to educate and eliminate unacceptable behaviour can only be a welcome step in the right direction.
This event happened on the same day that I saw a small but not insignificant announcement in the Delhi Times Matrimonial section. I am sure most of you are familiar with the many convoluted messages posted looking for suitable brides and bridegrooms. This one however was special
In Red Letters---------HIV POSITIVE

1982 born, HIV + Engineer, Punjabi, 5' 8'' No health problem, seeks reputed family, qualified girl. Contact
Tel no ..................

I find that so refreshing.Just saying it the way it is and looking to a better future as he and every other HIV+ is entitled to. Change is indeed on the way.