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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, 27 April 2012

And we are off ....

The work to renovate and refurbish Rose Home has started in earnest as of yesterday - this will undoubtedly occupy a lot of my waking and sleeping time in the next few weeks but Adam and I have only been able to move this forward because we have had some incredibly generous donations from friends and corporates who understand the significance of making a difference. Please watch this space and pray and hope that all will go well. We are dealing with contractors, plumbers, carpenters- you name it. If you want to contribute please please do, as this is the time we need your help. Please go to 
http://www.salaambaalaktrust.com/   and or get in touch with me directly by sending me an email on

The Home today

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Child rearing in India

I am going to give you two examples, both widespread, but clearly there are others in between.
The one is a wealthy middle class family with three children. The family has four servants for the children alone, one child, the youngest, has two as he is a handful and needs ayas on a shift basis. These kids are woken, dressed, bathed, fed and taken to school, if they are of school age, and collected from school by the servants. They come home in the afternoons to a host of tuition ranging from music to tennis to maths. They barely see the mother or the father and I suspect that since they are not around much and the servants are not allowed to discipline the children there are not many boundaries set for them. Some children, by the admission of their parents themselves, are unable to feed themselves as they have always had food shoved into their mouths by exhausted and badly paid servants who for the most part are extremely loving and loyal to these kids.

The other one also involves three children, but this time the mother works on a building site and the three children, a child of about 8, looks after the toddler and the baby, while the mum carries bricks on her head and large bowls of cement. It is so labour intense. She earns probably the equivalent of 100 R ( $2 a day ) and brings the children to the building site every day. The kids barely have any clothes to wear so much so that in the winter months I was horrified to see how thinly dressed they were and I went out and bought them all warm clothes.Clearly they will not have the opportunity to go to school. The toddler plays in the heaps of sand and stones on the edge of the site and the baby is quiet and seemingly content in the arms of an older sibling.

Both, you might say, are lovingly reared within their own means but I see the seeds of complacency in the one and a certain hopelessness in the other. Or in reverse hopelessness in the first and resignation in the second. Whichever way you choose to look at it and there may be several , what I can say is that it is hard to build solid lives from such shaky foundations in either case is it not ?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Bollywood's Birthday

 April 21st 1913 was the date that Dadasaheb Phalke featured his film "Raja Harishchandra" at the Olympia Theatre in Mumbai. This was the first truly indian feature film produced.

Today Bollywood enters its 100th year and marks a moment when festivities, awards, commemorations and nostalgia will all take centre stage on the Bollywood scene.
There was no looking back from that date- Indian film production has gone from strength to strength.  It was only the other day when I was introducing Bhachain Patel whose recent book called "Bollywoods Top 20" celebrates  some of Bollywoods greatest stars through a series of essays. His book is a timely reminder of  20 of the greatest stars in Bollywood particularly those early stars of the fledgling industry. I read with interest the stories of how they rose to stardom as with the unassuming K. L Saigal and the more recent  Bollywood branding giant ,SRK. 

For anyone living here there is a must see list of Bollywood films. After asking some friends, the recommendations are :

Mother India 1957
Mughal el Azam 1960
Ram Aur Shyam 1967
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro 1983
My name is Khan 2009
Three Idiots 2009
Today India is the largest producer of movies in the world. The movie industry has come a long way in 100 years.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Marriages are made in Heaven

"In a thousand different ways God guides us through our lives .Who we marry is all up to Him. But there is nothing to stop us from lending Him a hand by filling the form below"

This is the wonderful heading to a Times of India advertisement for its Matrimonial Pages which caught my eye. The sub headings were Wanted Bride and Groom with respective age groups and then an unbelievably long list of specifics ....

Agarwal,Bisa,Brahmin, Chandravanshi, Kshatriya, Charasia ....these are castes ...

Then the religion / area Gujarati, Jain, Yadav, Agha Khani, Jehovah Wintess, Assamese, Bengali ....

Foreigners are all in a special category too: British, European, Gulf Muslims ....

Specific personal detail like disabled, widower, second marriage ....

and finally professions accountants , Architects, banking and business....

So once you have gone through all these categories believe me it would be as close to a match made in Heaven as it could ever be. There is even a Pay for 2 and get 1 free !
Not a bad deal for a life long partner.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Something about my thinking space

There is something about my thinking space which seems to attract all types of creatures.Distractions of a different kind that is for sure.  So while I was sitting at my desk this morning I felt a little tickling on my right foot. Silly fly I thought and looked down to shoo it away and found this climbing up my leg UGH
A couple of months ago it was a snake slithering from my box files next to my desk.
Mercifully it did not sting me and I live to tell the tale.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Walking T

I get more upset these days if I dont walk T then T does - she is getting old and is a little arthritic and sometimes I push her to go on a walk but invariably when we do it is always a smaller or greater walk of discovery. Yesterday was a greater one in my eyes because we came across this. It was lying in the undergrowth and my eye found it because of the colours and it lay still and motionless, so I picked it up thinking it might be injured but sadly it was dead. Isnt it just exquisite and for the twitchers in our midst this is a purple sunbird Nectarinia Asiatica.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Indian Post continued

For those of you who read the blog entry about Indian Post I have good news - a birthday card I posted last year for the 7th of January birthday has just arrived in time perhaps for Easter.
It clearly does work at times.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

The case of the missing mangoes and bananas

On Wednesday around lunchtime I went into the kitchen to find a banana, except there werent any -
 I walked outside and ...
This is the evidence
And after some investigation these are the culprits
And this is the police doggie who is clearly corrupted or got other pressing duties

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A morning with Indian Post

A friend asked me to post some sheets to him in France. He is a dear friend so I was keen to help and he seemed to think that it was do- able and relatively inexpensive. So I sent my driver off with the bundle to ask how much it would cost and how long it would take.

He came back with the following suggestion from Indian Post- I should put each sheeet into an envelope which would cost about R 2000 per envelope to send. I had 12 sheets to send so even I could work that one out. The postage as suggested by Indian post cost more than the sheets, and sounded completely bonkers;  it was clear I needed to go and do this myself.

So off I went - but prepared. Cardboard box, bubble wrap and newspaper. Duck tape and brown paper at the ready, a permanent marker, scissors and a fistful of rupees.

Got there but the box was open. We thought they might be curious about what I am sending but they said no do it up, so we sat on the Post office floor and did it up beautifully, all tightly wrapped, neatly packaged and clearly addressed. Stood in the shortest line which was indicated "Multipurpose" - nothing seemed to move for ages. In fact no one moved except the sides of the queue which seemed to get fatter as people pushed in. People pushed you in the back, stepped on your toes and even started arguments. Not me, you understand .Got to the front and the man took one look at my beautiful packaged box and rejected it without any further consideration for my feelings.

"No good" he said. "Can be damaged. Has to be material wrap nah" - he said and gaily carried on producing stickers for something while the queue got longer and longer.

But I remonstrated the whole of the world thinks cardboard is OK and it is going to Europe, are you sure you can't accept this ??

"Package no good, go find tailor" he said helpfully

So off we went to a nearby market and found a tailor who has already probably bought his pentouse in Manhattan on the strength of these cloth covers. He gets over 100 a day which may also account for the fact that Indian post is fairly lax about how it deals with its packages once received which are strewn all over the post office floor. Packages and letters under chairs, others hiding under books and ledgers and some kicked under filing cabinets. But I was confident, my box was too big to be lost and I was demanding paperwork.

So off we went back to the Post office with my beautiful material wrapped box. I stood in the shortest Multipurpose line where the offical had finally come back from lunch and we waited. I must have been in the line about 30 minutes and he had not served one customer, so I moved to the next line, where the official seemed to be a little faster. I waited patiently in that one too but somehow he ground to a halt because people just come in from behind and demanded things to be done.The phone kept ringing incessantly and no one ever answered it. I would like to believe it was because they were busy serving us but there wasnt that much evidence of that. The office of the Postmaster was just next to me so I left my place and popped my head round the door. There was no one there, flowers on his desk but the rest looked as if it hadnt been touched or lived in for several days. The aluminium door handle was black from the grime and dirt. So clearly that line wasnt going to work and if everyone else was patient I guess I would be too. Finally, finally I get to the front and say in clear English. "Speed post please and regsistered" - "How much ?" he gets up weighs it comes back and says 5000 Rupees only cash OK and 15-20 days. 

I immediately respond positively - yes yes of course cash No problem.I said Speed Post not snail post. 20 days too long.

He mutters something to my driver who disappears. I think good, something is happening. I sit there like a lemon and wait and wait and wait and finally my driver comes back and says he was told to go and find another official but there was no one there.What to do. Ask him I say, ask him what to do !
We ask him what to do and he says it is NOT MY JOB !
It took all my energy and nerve to remain quiet, civilized and smiling. I asked my driver to retrieve the box from the broken scales and smilingly I looked at the waiting silent people and said with my eyes REVOLT for godsake REVOLT.
But I dont think they got the gist nah ?