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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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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Sad sad day for India

Today we know that in spite of all the efforts, the hopes and the prayers, the rioting and huge outrage this poor innocent young girl lost her life to a gang of vicious unthinking rapists. We are all appalled and saddened  for her her family and all of India is grieving for the loss of her life. 
What however must be remembered is that she is sadly the most visible example of something that has happens with unbelievable regularity and vulgarity in India and goes largely unnoticed and unreported.
It is not just about the severe penalties for rape and the protection of women that is called for,  it is a radical mind shift starting from the acceptance of female infants, to the value of a girl's life equal to that of a boys, to the way they can grow and be a part of society in the same way as men. Until and unless that happens there is not much hope for how women will be treated in India 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Merry Xmas

To all Mezze Moments readers all over the world, I wish you a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year with joy, happiness and good health for you all. I would say wealth too and here is hoping that 2013 might turn out to be better than expected, but there is no doubt that many families and friends have been affected by the economic down turn. Lets all hope for better days not just for our sakes but those of our children.So have a lovely Xmas from a rather rainy London town where I am spending Xmas, surrounded by family and a fuzzy Xmas tree. Alcohol induced fuzziness, time for new glasses or new camera....
The sentiments are all wrapped up in its fuzziness. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Rose Home

Nearly nine months ago we undertook a project of renovation and repair of a Salaam Baalak Trust Home called Rose Home. Through the very generous support of many friends who have given money from all over the world, but in particular Celia Marsh, and with the unfailing energy of my other half in this project, Adam Budd we have made significant improvements to the Home and to the girls lives.

It was not just about fixing the drains, putting in new loos and sinks, repairing the walls and the chairs and setting up a computer room but also making sure the girls had fans in the hot summers and sheets for their beds, cold water and somewhere shady to sit outside.It was to make the girls feel this was their home and they could have a part in its reorganisation and operation.

We have had many a frustrating moment in the process but there are no pools of water on the floor, no rubbish in the adjoining plot and enough bathrooms that work for all the girls. 

Most importantly the money which continued to come in from Celia has now been used to employ two wonderful teachers who come to the Home and teach the girls on a daily basis, from the basics, Hindi and learning how to read and write, to the more advanced English, to theatre and design and art classes.
Here are some of the boring bits of change interspersed with the human and palpable joy of the girls.

 The open sewer that used to run outside the Home has now been concreted over at last.
 The sinks are new and all work with taps and drains that are properly fitted.
 The girls have a whole new area on the roof with a sink where they can wash clothes.
 The dormitories all have fans

 The lighting is much improved in all the Home and the electricity system overhauled
 Kushboo now goes to Art lessons and is doing fantastic work.
 The girls have a good library at their disposal
Chairs to sit on and Computers to work with 
The teachers and the counsellors with Adam  

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Bell Bajao and Breakthrough

Its a simple concept and I like it. It means ring the bell - it is directed at every person who is aware of violence going on and takes a simple action, such as ringing the bell, to stop or interrupt the violence.

It is not the definitive answer to domestic violence, but it is a great starting point and when men and boys, bystanders and communities stand up against violence, homes are made safer for women and families.

It is based on the basic principle that human rights start with each and every one of us as we can take responsibility for what know goes on around us.

Breakthrough is a global human rights organisation empowering individuals and communities to stand up for universal human rights. Bell Bajao is one of its campaigns which started in India but is now going global.

It stands for standing up against abusive behaviour.

To see more:

Participate in community work
Become a friend on facebook
Watch work on You tube
Join email list and stay in the loop about events and issues
Support Breakthrough with a donation

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Gujarat's wildlife

We only visited Sasan Gir but there was a distinct purpose to that visit which was to see if we could spot the only lions left in India and indeed we did. But we enjoyed lovely game drives seeing the other wildlife that the park had to offer and even the areas beyond the park.The park is mainly teak and the leaves were just beginning to turn transparent and as thin as fine embroidery. 

Our camp was right next to a reservoir which was full of the most beautiful herons, ibises, kingfishers and bee eaters. Our drive back to the camp came to an abrupt stop on our first day when I spotted something long and black in our path and as we came closer a black cobra lifted its triangular head to greet us but mercifully it did not spit on us. This was our first ever encounter with a snake, and a venomous one at that in India, and it left us all a little shivery and quite excited that we had seen it so close. 

The park was full of spotted dear and we were soon going to discover that they are a predator's favourite food. As we were driving along early one morning our guide spotted a leopard, sitting not very far from us, with its beautiful spotted back to us. It was being partly shielded by a termite mound and on the other side of the termite mound a small herd of spotted deer were grazing oblivious to the leopard's presence. Within a flash it bounded over and made a dash for one of the young ones and within a minute it had apprehended it and it was lying lifeless in its jaw. The leopard walked casually but cautiously away holding on to its catch while the mother stood emitting plaintive cries for the loss of her baby. There was no time for cameras, no time to even breathe, it was too close, too raw and  distinctly unforgettable. 

We had not lost sight of the fact that after several days the cats, apart from the leopard had eluded us so we were delighted when on our last morning we came across four lionesses sitting in the path at dawn. The jeeps started arriving. News spreads fast when the lions are spotted. They seemed very unconcerened with us and after a while they got up and wandered away in the dim light before dawn. Most jeeps stayed hoping to follow them but we decided to take another route and there in our path was the most majestic of lions who strolled alongside our vehicle. When asked if this posed any danger to us our guide said lions are royals animals and they know they have nothing to fear from humans and his behaviour really said as much. He found a piece of shade in the forest and sat down allowing us wonderful views of him. 

Royal in every way and we were thrilled to have been granted an extended audience ! 

Thursday, 29 November 2012


I knew nothing about this state, other than that it is one of the most industrialised states in India and perhaps one of the richest. So I travelled there with great curiosity to see what it was like. It is, like a lot of states in India, huge and houses some 60 million people so what I saw was probably a smidgen of all the state has to offer.

Some titbits I enjoyed :

It is the home state of Gandhi, Jinnah and S.V Patel all giants in Indian history and for very different reasons.
It had one of the earliest ports in Lothal, so trade in goods and slaves was plentiful.
Slaves - yes and mercenaries - who came from Africa and made their home in Gujarat. Some tribal groups are still very evident here and they are called Sidis or Habshis.
What with Gujarat being the only place in India which still has asiatic lions you could well be confused for wondering where you were occasionally.

It is a dry state - alcohol is not sold or served. Maybe that is why a lot of Gujaratis left !

Its cuisine is quite special and they pride themselves on the wonderfully delicious dishes they serve which often have a sweet, sour taste and while spicy are not fiery hot.

The roads are quite good which helps travel.

The people are a real mix of Hindus and Muslims and tribals.

There has been a history of communal riots involving both communities. More recently Narender Modi who is chief minister was exonerated of any blame. It seems that he has been instrumental in the rapid industrialisation and development of the state.

And yet wonderful scenes from the middle ages still appear with bullocks pulling a plough and shepherds wearing traditional dress like this shepherd here.

We received warm hospitality wherever we went and were invited into beautiful, well ordered houses.

More on the wildlife and the flora in my next posting. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Urinating men

A young girl has just been shot dead in Delhi because she objected to a man urinating near her house. Her mother was injured in the attack. Last week a court in Rajasthan apparently said that they would name and shame men who urinated in public by getting people to bang drums and blow whistles to expose them , for want of a better word. Then they changed it and said they would reward persons with INR 500 if they caught them urinating or defecating in public. I am not quite sure how they expected the evidence to be forthcoming once the citizen's arrest was made but that is another subject altogether. Are they completely without reason and aforethought even in the Courts?

Is it really a question of naming and shaming or rewarding or catching the so called perpetrators or is is a question of addressing the problem that millions of people in India have NOWHERE ELSE to go to the toilet other than the open or other people's property?

Their whole approach is totally wrong, dare I say even farcical and I think every Indian in this huge sub continent would agree with me. Isn't it really time they tackled this issue once and for all and before any more people lose their life over it? What a shameful loss of a young girl's life. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

My bank and our account manager

We bank with HSBC and we have done so for years. I remember when the bank was part of Midland Bank which may age me a little or a lot depending on how you see it. In India my bank is small but friendly and a little unusual so I want to tell you about it. It is a shop front in a busy shopping precinct and to see my account manager I have to go down a fire escape.My first office was down a fire escape in Cyprus so it brings back sweet memories.

My account manager is a spirited and efficient Sikh. She comes to the office dressed in western dress but she invariably wears her Sikh kirpan, her ceremonial sword and her bangle. She does not cut her hair as is the Sikh tradition and she bears a very Sikh name - Kaur,  but which marks her origins and religion.

The branch recently celebrated Diwali, the coming of the new year, so it was decorated in all its traditional finery with lights and banners but also the more traditional rangoli drawings on the floor.

 You can see the fire escape at the back
 You can see her bangle and the small sword
She very sweetly gave me some additional information about Sikhism which I am including here as this is one of the religions I admire.

"Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region of INDIA, by Guru Nanak Dev which continued to progress with ten successive Sikh gurus.Sikhs engage in social reform through the pursuit of justice for all human beings. Sikhs embody the qualities of a "Sant-Sipahie"—a saint-soldier. One must have control over one's internal vices and be able to be constantly immersed in virtues clarified in the Guru Granth Sahib.

A Sikh also has the courage to defend the rights of all who are wrongfully oppressed or persecuted irrespective of their colour, caste or creed.

Sikhism advocates the belief in one pantheistic God (Ek Onkar) who is omnipresent and has infinite qualities. Sikhs do not have a gender for God nor do they believe God takes a human form. All human beings are considered equal regardless of their religion, sex or race. All are sons and daughters of Waheguru, the Almighty.

Sikhs defend, safeguard, and fight for the rights of all creatures, and in particular fellow human beings. They are encouraged to have positive, optimistic and buoyant view of life.

It is every Sikh's duty to defeat these five vices: ego, anger, greed, attachment, and lust in his/her being with contentment, charity, kindness, positive attitude and humility."

I can honestly say that she is espouses all the above and I see the work that the Sikh gurdwara does in my neighbourhood. HSBC has a well known campaign about the importance of local knowledge and how they apply it. Perhaps this is a good example of it.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

A bounty of bunnies

A few posts ago I wrote about the Hares in my garden. Well all is well on that front and today look what we found. Too cute. Hare population growing well in South Delhi.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Port Blair

Port Blair is the capital and it is a thriving and bustling little city with a rich history which is very evident everywhere you go. According to Wikipaedia in 1789 the government of Bengal established a penal colony on Chatham Island in the southeast bay of Great Andaman, named Port Blair to honour Lieutenant Archibald Blair of the British East India Company.

A very British looking post box in the Prison grounds. Letters back home ?
The Cellular Jail which you can visit today was a modern example of a prison, mainly for political prisoners which was very widely used under the British administration.

We walked around the city and enjoyed seeing the fish market and the goat on the roof. We stayed in a very atmospheric hotel with a great view of the bay and had the best crab curry ever at the restaurant that night. As you can see from the hotel swimming pool crabs get into everything including the baby pool.

How it got there I have no idea

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Havelock Island

Havelock is a ferry ride from South Andaman and named after Henry Havelock who was a British General. The astounding thing about the islands is that they still, to this day, retain most of their British names, Lawrence Island, Sir William Peel Island, Interview Island and Table Island. Perhaps it is a sign that the mainland actually is not really engaged with the islands except the few that are of military importance to them so largely speaking there is little change and creeping but not galloping development. 

Havelock is perhaps the most developed with a thriving back packer and diving community all built on the wonderful white sanded beaches. There are two roads on the island. One going to the eastern beaches and the other to the western where we were. 
Barefoot resort is lovely. Nestled in a clearing of the rain forest the tents are comfortable and spacious and there is a palpable serenity to the place. There is a restaurant and a yoga centre and a great bar where everyone hangs out in the evenings and exchanges stories of the day's adventures. 

The resort is a short walk from the beach which is one of the loveliest on the island. There are no umbrellas or organised outlets on the beach, just the shade of the forest which literally comes down to the water in some places. 

This remind me about mad dogs and Englishmen in the midday sun 

The butterflies were so impressive and extremely large. 

The reef off Elephant Beach is well worth visiting and there are trips for diving and snorkelling there on a daily basis. 

We also loved the rain forest so we took one of the guides from the resort and headed on a four hour round trip which took us into deep and dense rain forest and then back along the beach. A beautiful but demanding walk where our guide had to cut a path through the forest which was lush and overgrown from the monsoon rains.A word of warning, however, the next day when we headed off on our own to walk to Elephant beach we had to come back. The path was slippery and muddy and the forest path often had different directions and it was impossible to know which was the right one. We had to admit defeat and come back covered with mud to our knees but grateful that we managed to find our way back to the main road. 

 The trees were gigantic and went up to a 100 ft 
The sunsets were amazing but inevitably I didn't carry my camera so this one was sent by a Spanish friend we met on the beach. 

The best moment was coming across this sign :

More on Port Blair in my next blog