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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 October 2012

The Tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

There are six aboriginal tribes on the islands, some barely in existence, but all fascinating for their roots, their customs and their traditions.

The Onge,the Great Andamese, the Sentinelese and the Jarawa are quite short with curly hair and are very black.

The Nicobarese and the Shompen are lighter skinned and have straight hair.

Anthropologist could write entire books about them and make them the subject of their life's work.
I will only give you some of the information I picked up from this book.

The Great Andamese is a collective name for about ten sub tribes. In 1969 apparently only 19 were left and it was at that point that the government relocated them to Straits island and since then their numbers have grown but their old way of life has practically died. They cry out loudly when they meet and blow softly on each others hands when they are saying goodbye. There must be more to those forms of greeting then meets the eye but what a great way to do it- shouts of joy at meeting and then a gentle blow to set you on your way.

The Onge -live on Little Andaman and their name means "Perfect Man." They are rumoured to be the darkest men alive- I have no idea if this is true or not but some pictures of them would suggest so. They hunt and fish and collect plants and roots. They have an excellent knowledge of medicinal plants and apparently even know how to keep malaria at bay.

The Jarawas - Are considered to be hostile and inaccessible. They are now concentrated in the Jarawa Reserve on South and Middle Andaman where they can be seen occasionally on the Andaman Trunk road which sadly has been built through the reserve.  They are hunter gatherers but their food is devoid of salt and sugar which is unusual and I am sure that alone would provide some interesting research. They dread death and disease and bury their dead in very shallow graves with the head and legs exposed. They eventually exhume the lower jaw which they wear around their necks and waists. The most memorable fact for me is that they greet each other by sitting in each other's laps !

The Sentinelese - live in complete isolation on North Sentinel island. They live off the sea and are considered to be probably the tribe most protective of their way of life and have been hostile to any intervention or contact with the outside world.

The Nicobarese- Folklore talks about them being descendants of a Burmese princess. Dogs are central to the folklore and treated kindly. Their world is steeped in festivals and traditions over the year, each season bringing different celebrations and they believe that evil spirits are afraid of the naked man so if they sense an evil spirit they will strip naked to drive it away !

The Shompen - live in the forests of Great Nicobar and are hunter gatherers. The book said they number about 300 and they dress in red loin cloths and bead necklaces.

I was captivated by their lives, customs and traditions, but clearly very few if any people have contact with any of them. Its a difficult call, interfering, introducing new ways of life or leaving them be.
The pictures are from the web:
Onge women wearing bushes and facial paint

The Jarawas around 2004 Photo Wilhelm Klein.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Perhaps the first question I would need to answer for most people is where on earth are these islands and they are here :


The little red bits !
Miles away from anywhere and very interesting because of it.
I was fascinated by their history. I found a book at the resort we were staying called "The Islands and tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar by Priti Singh and while the southern  monsoon lashed down I read all about these 572 islands which are now a Union Territory of India. They are geographically closer to Burma but apparently Burma didn't want them.

Only 38 islands are inhabited and most of them are covered with dense rain forest and particular fauna and flora. The Great Andamans are three islands, North, Middle and South, Port Blair is the capital. The name is thought to have come from Hanuman or Handuman as the Malay people used to pronounce it.

The Nicobars, the Land of the Naked People, also consist mainly of three main islands,Car Nicobar, Nancowrie and Great Nicobar. The Nicobar islands are actually off limits to visitors, I think mainly for military reasons but also to protect some of the remaining tribes of the islands.
The islands were colonised by the Danish East India company in 1756 and then again in 1769. They came under British command in 1869 and Port Blair became a penal colony in 1890 and the now famous Cellular Jail was built to house all the criminals who were transported there from the mainland.
The Japanese invaded the islands in 1942 and took over their control for a period of three years.The British abandoned Ross Island which was the administrative headquarters and to this day you can see the place which was called the "Paris of the East" as it lies deserted, taken over by the strong forces of nature. Not really surprising - the islands are 92% covered by thick rain forest and that is what makes them quite special.
 An aereal view of the islands
What is noteworthy are the tribes that lived there and in some small numbers continue to live there. More about them in my next blog.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Chattarpur temples

A lot of us who live in this part of Delhi drive past them very often but it is not till the other day that I had the opportunity to visit the Chattarpur temple complex.
It was a very interesting visit which might appeal to some more of you out there as it is "Navratri", a fasting time meaning nine nights and there is so much going on. We had an excellent guide Priti who told us that the complex was started in 1974 by a swami from the south who was keen to offer people a place of worship. It is a large complex, complete with an immense statue of Hanuman, the monkey God, a shrine where the swamis remains are found, a massive hall for the pilgrims and the main temple with representations of some of the gods bedecked with garlands and offerings for this festival period.
We saw performances from the Ramayana, children dressed up to perform themselves, pilgrims worshipping, a band of drummers coming to pay their respects to the shrine of the swami and watched as the crowds enjoyed being part of all the activity and the music that was blaring out of some of the large Television screens in various parts of the complex. At night the festivities are even more elaborate with throngs of pilgrims coming to make their offerings. This ten day fasting period which ends on Dusherra is dedicated to the nine manifestations of the Goddess Durga. If you want to visit do so in the next few days to see the complex at its functioning best.
You can contact Priti on 9811470861

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Last month there was a small article in the newspaper to say that the government was going to ban gutka - non Indian readers of the blog are unlikely to know what this is so with apologies to my Indian readers I can tell you that this is a concoction which is sold on the streets of India and according to Wikipedia it consists of : 
a preparation of crushed areca nut (also called betel nut),tobaccocatechuparaffinslaked lime and sweet or savoury flavourings.[1] It is manufactured in India and exported to a few other countries. A mild stimulant, it is sold across India in small, individual-sized packets that cost between 2 and 10 rupees per packet. It is consumed much like chewing tobacco, and like chewing tobacco, it is considered responsible for oral cancer and other severe negative health effects.

When chewed it releases a strong red colour and you will often see these red stains where gutka chewers spit on the ground or the wall or any area closest to them. The whole of Delhi is marked by these stains.
Drivers stop the car, open the door and spit. I guess they open the door so as not to get it streaking down the car door which would be unsightly and yet they have no compunction about staining every other surface anywhere else or littering the ground with their little shiny packets.Like so - these were collected in only one small walk with T.
Spitting is just a way of life here and I have asked to find out why it is done with such vehemence and voracity and the answer is something to do with cleaning your passages ....by fouling others ?

Perhaps the two concepts are not combined in their synapses.

So it is with some fascination that I will watch this latest initiative of the government taking action especially since I have seen no absence of these foul packets from any of the road side stores and shops.

Cheekily perhaps I wonder if they are not better off asking everyone to learn the art of swallowing ?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Top Traffic Tip

Picture the scene if you can:
We are travelling on the road into Gurgaon, a satellite town built very close to Delhi. They are in the process of building and extending the Metro. There are scaffolds above,diversions below, we go round a roundabout the wrong way,(everybody does that as it is shorter route,)  as someone is trying to do a three point on the actual roundabout, his progress momentarily stopped by a motorbike carrying a man and two Muslim women on the back, each hanging on to a baby with a toddler between the man's legs, trucks lumber up and don't know where to go and pedestrians amble through it all hoping that they will continue to have life at the next scaffolding or junction. Taxis and autorickshaws stop to take passengers anywhere and motorbikes weave in and out of the workmen, the drivers, other drivers and hapless children who also appear from nowhere.

Here is a snippet of it all :

And then in that inimitable style which is all things Indian comes :

And that is their contribution to law and order. They got that right because you have to smile !

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Traits of a woman

This, dear readers is verbatim from an interesting journal called the Inner World.

Know your knees
"Women with rounded knees are going to be with you for a long time and would be a great support to the husband or a friend. The women who have knees devoid of flesh or bones jutting out were considered to be unfaithful. Those with knees having protruding thick veins were considered to be very aggresive. Women having very thin and ugly knees were considered to bring  financial disturbances. Also women having dark knees full of dark hair were considered to bring ill luck. The signs which were considered lucky were those having thin fine hair, plump( not very thin, not very thick) legs and thighs with pleasant rosey complexion like the setting sun."

I dare not look down - do you ??

Saturday, 6 October 2012


As most of you are aware I live in the so called "Farmhouses" of South Delhi. To be honest not a great deal of farming takes place though on my compound they do plant and harvest mustard seed. So it was with incredible delight that we saw three of these leverets bouncing around the garden one night. Today one of them was sitting peacefully under a bush and I was able to get a picture.

So here you have it the Indian Hare alive and well in South Delhi !