Thursday 31 January 2013

In Gandhi's footsteps - Mani Bhavan in Mumbai

Dear reader,
When I was young and vacationing with my parents and little sister, the vacation always included some sort of walking-tour. Usually were walking in the footsteps of some known (or more unknown) historical hero. I remember we marched our way through Baker street in London in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes - not the coolest thing for a 16 year old teen - and the guy was not even a real person!

An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

Well, I am not a teen anymore, and I have come to re-enjoy theese footstepping- exercises, and today the enjoyment led me to a house I had wanted to visit for a long time. Mahatma Gandhi's house in Mumbai. This is where he lived and work from 1917 to 1934, when he was in the city.
The sign outside Mani Bhavan - the house where Gandhi lived.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

The house has 3 floors. I was suprised to see there was no entrance fee, but you can donate some money if you like. There is a library in the first floor, with over 50.000 books. On the walls you will see pictures from all his life, press clippings and Gandhi's quotes. We enjoyed walking around reading and looking, and just taking in the atmosphere in this house where Gandhi himself lived.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

I think we enjoyed the most to see the livingroom/workingplace - the room which Gandhi used when he stayed here. It is on the 2 floor. I noticed that when Michelle and Barack Obama visited in November 2010, they were allowed into the room, but all we normal visitors admire it through a large glass window. You can see the spinning wheels, book, sandals and his floor bed, and the room has been preserved as close as possible to its original setting.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

The house is considered one of the most important Gandhi Memorial Museums in India, and Jawaharlal Nehru stated: Mani Bhavan in Bombay will ever remain a precious memory to all those who visited it on many occasions when Gandhi used to stay here. I am glad therefor that this house is being converted into a Gandhi Memorial.

It was also quite special to see the terrace where Gandhi was arrested early in the morning 4. January 1932. He used to sleep and hold his prayers on that terrace. I think we were all a bit moved by the thought of being in the same house as The Father of India. An very inspiring footstepping-exercise indeed:-)

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

The Mani Bhavan is at 19, Laburnum Road in Mumbai.

A very good visit - and interesting for my teens to see also! We have all heard about Gandhi right? And not a fictional person like the one in Baker street..! So, a place to visit when you are in Mumbai. For more info on the house and museum you can check out the webpage.
That's all, dear reader- stay tuned. Good evening from Mumbai!

Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday 29 January 2013

A Parsi in Mumbai

Dear reader,
Not sure why - but Sting's Englishman in New York came to my mind the other day when we visited one of the Parsi colonies in Mumbai. I couldn't get that song off my mind. Well, didn't meet the Englishman but on the other hand - I met the Parsi in Mumbai! And what a wonderful meeting it was!

Because - oh, yes, we are up and off again - exploring Mumbai - in this great group we have. Remember I told you about the group and our leading star Manasi? Well, we are in India so we just kicked off our season with a Puja! And then were off exploring, and this time we were ready to learn about the Parsis (= Persians in Persian language) in Mumbai. The parsis came from what is today Iran to India in the 10th century. They were allowed to stay, but not allowed to marry outside their religion neither to recruit new into the religion. Today there are only around 100.000 parsis left.
Happy explorers learning about the Parsis in Mumbai:-)
We were so lucky to be guided by the wonderful Taronish who is a Parsi herself. She took us around to look at their temples and houses, and it was like visiting a whole different place - looks nothing like other parts I have been in Mumbai. The architecture of the houses with the beautiful wooden balconies are typical for parsi houses.
A street with parsi houses

The wonderful wooden carvings on the parsi houses balconies
So, we were strolling around in the parsi neighboorhood, learning about this once world-ruling - and now in decline religion. We were walking in Mumbai, but still not quite in the city in a way... while Taronish enlightened us on their history, customs and rituals. We looked at the temples and the private houses and we made an unautorized stop at a divine-smelling bakery. Mmmh - yoummie parsi bread! The temples have the symbol of zoroastrian with the 3 layers of feather representing Good words, Good thoughts and Good deeds- and on the other side the opposite.
The parsis worship in fire temples. The fire has a special significance with giving light, warmth and energy and therefor life. This is one of the largest parsi temples in Mumbai.

 I think the highlight of the tour was in the end when we were invited in to a parsi home. We were served traditional tea, bread and cookies, and were told and showed more about the parsi life. The initiation in the religion takes place when the child is 7-9 years old. Then they are given the sudrah, a white shirt which they wear all their life- to remind them that their deeds should be as pure as the shirt. We were shown both this and the kusti, the sacred cord. The symbolism in the religion is build on the good words, thoughs and deeds, and it was very inspirational to learn about.
This is from the worship room in their home.
 What a great day! Thanks for the interesting tour and hospitality. Thanks to Taronish and Manasi, and thanks to my fellow explorers. How wonderful it is to experience something new in such great company. And with the sun shining! Stay tuned for more expat tales. Good night from Mumbai!

Monday 28 January 2013

Veggie love

Dear reader,
Monday; new week, new possibilities. I hope you have had a good start of the week. Do you remember that I told you before about my enthusiasm for shopping fruits here in India. Well, living here has awaken my kind of sleeping - love for vegetables too. Of course I used vegetables before, but with the vibrant colours and wide selection, my curiosity is triggered, it looks sooo much more tempting and sim-sala-bim: veggie love is unleashed!

Many Indians are vegetarians, and all the fabulous dishes they come up with, is a great source of inspiration. Remember, I showed you how we make Dal? Well, that is just one of the veggie-dishes I have come to love. To bad that some of the dishes takes forever to prepare, with all the cleaning and chopping and chopping and cutting... But I think the flavours makes it worthwhile, and by the way I am sure you can find a friendly-chopping-expert-helping hand?:-)

Also, a stroll at the vegetable market with the piles of fresh, colourful veggies makes it fun to shop  and once you have shopped them, you might as well eat them, right? So, let me show you a few pics from my stroll at the veggiemarket today. Doesn't it look tempting?:
I just love the colours!
Tomatoes, peppers, large and small cucumber, ladyfingers...
Eggplants: large, small, round, oval....

Well, we still had chicken for dinner today, but with lots of salad. And tomorrow we'll have Dal- after all we are in India:.-) Stay tuned for more tales, dear reader!

Sunday 27 January 2013

Dharavi - a visit to remember

Dear reader,
Even before I came to Mumbai I had heard about it. I had seen how it looked like, in the film Slumdog Millionaire. I had read about it, in the book Shantaram. To me, it sounded a bit sad, a bit intimidating and I was not at all sure that this was a place I wanted to visit. Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia.
Dharavi, home for around 1 million people
Well, we went there, my whole family: husband, teens, visiting grandparents, and in company with my Belgian friend and her family. An experience we will not forget so easily. And the greatest moments? My teens playing cricket with the teens there, my husband chatting with kids surrounding him (probably their first 2 meter tall Greek), my father-in-law: lost in the little workshop where they transformed old car-parts to new ones and my mother-in-law admiring the detailed work of the tailors.
Cricket in Dharavi - and my teens joined the game. Great fun!

Tailors at work

And here they were making jeans
We visited small workshops, most of them based on recycling garbage. What an eyeopener for us westerns: to see how well they utilize what other people has just thrown away, and make brand new products. We saw workshops for recycling metal, paper, wood and plastics.
This guy's work was to remove the copper from inside the cables. He was payed by each kilo copper he delivered.
We met really friendly, hard-working and proud people who were eager to show us the techniques, skills and quality of their work, and tell us about the good things in Dharavi. They work every day, and we were told that if they do not work one day, the large factories they deliver to, will have problems. They also work directly for some well - known foreign companies, like making leather jackets for a famous French fashion brand..

Here we are visiting the bakery. And really hot and steamy place, where the happy bakers wanted us to promise to come back:-) 5 rupees for a bread!

We visited Dharavi on India's Republic Day. We were therefor so lucky to end up in the middle of a Childrens celebration. I think they found it hilarious with this bunch of foreigners suddenly appearing. They almost forget their games, being so busy asking our name, giving us small Indian flags and shaking our hands :-)
Childrens festval, patiently waiting for the race to start

Giggling kids:-)
Bye bye Dharavi!

So, bye bye for now Dharavi! Thank you all for an interesting visit.
Have a wonderful Sunday dear reader, and stay tuned for more tales:-)

Friday 25 January 2013

1,2,3,4 - Greek Halva - receipe

Dear reader,
Language confusion can be quite entertaining. Take words that mean something in your language but something completely different in other languages. I am very intrigued by Hindi language and determined to master it  - to some extent, but it is sooo different. If you remember I have tried to, and Hindi Crash Course Take 2 may well come up soon. It's fun, and people are smiling when I try out my Ap kese he? The respond is usually not understandable for me, but sometimes words occur which I really feel I have heard before.. For example, when visiting an Indian friend the other day, she proudly announced: Oh, now I will introduce you to a lovely Indian Sweet. Halva.

Halva?! What? Come on! Its called the same thing in Greek. And it turned out it was veery similar - made with semolina and lots of sugar and lots of butter. Oh yes, halva was definately halva. So of course we had to make it the Greek way and exchange and share the halva-experience with our Indian friends. You will soon understand why this recipe is called 1,2,3,4 halva..


You need:
1 cup with half butter, half oil
2 cups of semolina (rava in hindi)
3 cups of sugar ( 1 1/2 - 2 cups is more than enough really)
4 cups of water
2 cinnamon sticks
If wanted you can also add grated lemon/orange peel, chopped almonds and raisins.

You do:
In a pan mix the sugar and cinnamon sticks with water and heat until the sugar is dissolved.
In another pan, brown the semolina a little bit in a pan. If you want almonds add them towards the end. Add the butter/oil. Mix a little bit. Remove from heat.
Add the sugarwater (and grated peel from lemon/orange) to the semolinamix and stur until it looks like porridge. Leave a little to cool off, pull into forms and leave to cool. Sprinkle over some cinnamon powder.

Tip: I thinks it gets extra tasty if you add some grated lemon peel. Yoummie! And then:

You enjoy!

Good evening from Mumbai. Stay tuned!

Greek halva with strawberries


Wednesday 23 January 2013

In shoe heaven

Dear reader,
Do you remember when I was in Sari heaven? Well today - if there is a shoe heaven we were in it! At least judged by quantity that is! We did go to shoe shops but with experience from the Greek Basari, the shoe stalls seemed somehow a lot more appealing. Anywhere where a good bargain is in sight, is a good place to be! Shopping with my Greek mother in law is a lot of fun. She does not take no for an answer and makes a pretty good challenge for the Indian stall-holders. We did follow the main rules (the ones from the Greek Basari work also in India!!Yeah!) and ended up quuuuite satisfied:
  • do not pay the price the sellers tell you 
  • feign indifferent to the item, (even you could kill for those sandals), and even pretend to walk away if you have to (most likely they will stop you with a reduced offer)
  • do not take their word for it. 38 is not the same number as 39, brown is not the same as dark red, and the first price they give you is not the best price ever
  • do not pay more than at least half of the price they tell you
If you need, there are also some good advice to be found on how to do bargain in India. And it is a relief to read here that the shop keepers also enjoy the bargain. I hope that counts for the people who met my mum-in law and me in action today too!

Well, if in Mumbai - this is worth a stroll down the road. This shoe heaven is on Linking road in Bandra. Have fun all! We did! Stay tuned all, and good night from Mumbai!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Online offline hotline

Yes, I have become a techno-genious. Compared to what I was before, that is. I now master programmes on the computer I had never even heard of. And I blog, I tweet, I ping. You name it. Most of this, thanks to my teens. They go to this amazing school where e-learning is top priority, so they have been good and - usually -  patient teachers. And the best part of it, is that online I can stay in touch with family and friends wherever they might be, and wherever I might be.. And as I am now in India, I can't help feeling how unbelievable it is to chat and be connected to people on the other side of the world. Wow, it is great to be online!

Nice to be offline too though! Just be in the present, close the phone (at least switch off the sound), look at the colors, smell the air, hug a friend - just enjoy the moment. Go offline - great to -give it a try!

So, where am I going with this? Well, today I just felt like writing a bit about a theme many expats deal with - in different ways. What is it like? Breaking up - moving to another continent, another country? Leaving family and old friends, meeting new people, making new friends..

I think that relationships expats make, are in a way in constant motion: at some point either you leave or they leave. But our new relationships often gets strong - maybe it is a kind of substitute for the family or the good old friends who are not here?  So, then naturally it gets painful when it is break-up-time. Before X-mas I wrote about the Christmas farewells and saluted my friends, remember? It was sad to come back to Mumbai and some friends are not here anymore. But I still think positive, celebrate my friendships and then if things get rough, I always have my hotline. That phonecall to that special friend in Norway who is neither on facebook nor has a computer. Always wonderful to hear her voice, and even more great to find out that they are coming to visit us! Oh how I look forward to share our India with them. But right now I am exploring Mumbai with some other visitors from home. My parents-in-law came today, first time they travel outside Europe, and managed to chit chat their way through Chhatrapati with suitcases filled with ouzo, Greek spices, Greek coffee and Greek sweets - enough to feed an entire army:-) Yoho! Zito!

So, Gateway here we come - again!

Friday 18 January 2013

A Puja for Powai Explorers

Dear reader,
Remember I told you about my desire to explore Mumbai and the wonderful group I am a part of? Well, today we "kicked-off" the Spring season in my home. With a bunch of great ladies - from UK, Canada, US, Denmark, Japan, Germany, Belgium, India and New Zealand (puh:-))- we started this season on the more spiritual side with yoga and meditation with Manasi. Spread all over the living room floor we first challenged every living muscle in our body, through different yoga poses.

We then learned an interesting foot reflexology practice: when you walk - try to use the different parts of your foot. First walk on your toes, then on your heels, then on the outer side of your foot and then on the inner side. I tell you: a looot of giggling as we were strolling around in the living room, testing out this technique!

Then we moved on to challenges for the mind, the different ways of breathing and striving for the union of body and soul, the very essence of yoga and meditation. And we practiced some serious relaxation. Lying there on the floor with Manasi singing to us was a niiiice. And it was kind of hard to get up again. But Manasi assured us that the more relaxed we feel, the more energetic we will feel later in the day!
Yoga and meditation in my home today:-)

And then it was time for the puja. A puja is a religious ritual performed by Hindus. For everything new, or at the start of something new, a puja is often performed. The idea of a puja is to give an offer or a gift to a deity or important person to get a blessing in return. It can be done at temples, public places or at home. Today we marked the start of a new season for our group Powai Explorers.

Our puja was to a Guru, our guide's spiritual master and teacher. We offered flowers and fruits. His feet was symbolically washed and there was a burning light, symbolizing the spread of wisdom. So, we were sitting with our eyes closed, enjoying the sanskrit being cited and the puja being performed.  while a delightful scent spread in the room. A wonderful moment!

The Puja set up
See the small sandals? -  symbolizes his feet 

Manasi explaining about Puja to us and why coconut is good to offer.

So, our group had a good and spiritual start, and we learned about the puja! And after coffee, tea, fruits and more chit-chat the ladies even managed to find their shoes again:-) Ready for exploring!

Have a wonderful Friday dear reader, and stay tune!

Thursday 17 January 2013

Bollywood in Greece and Norway?

Yes, yes, yes...I knoow, dear reader - Bollywood is of course in neither of theese places, but right here with us in Mumbai! Only the largest film producer in India and one of the largest film production centres in the whole world, right. I just enjoy so much to discover links between my 3 countries: India, Norway and Greece.

Did you for example know that scenes in the film Maattrraan, directed by K.V. Anand was filmed in Bergen and West-Norway? Oh yes. Surrounded by waterfalls, fjords and mountains, the very essence of what Mother Norway can offer, to our Bollywood stars. And the Norwegians were obviously veeery satisfied, hoping this would be the start of a Bollywood - boom maybe? I think that they also hoped it will attract more Indian tourists to Norway. Yes, just have a look here.


A prospective Indian tourist? Have a look at the northern lights and the midnight sun here. Any Bollywood directors out there who was intrigued by this? There is also the Western Norway Film Commision (WNFC) which can assist you!

Trolltunga. From

And now we are moving on from the Mother Nature (man-alone-on-the-cliff) to Bolly-Sing-and Dance. Oh how I enjoy the rhythm, colors and energy in Bollywood films! I remember being at a Bollywood festival in Oslo in the early 90-. I'll never forget the audience: laughing, singing, clapping! I think the whole Indian community had gathered up, and were having a blast. And now here in India - I love going to the movies!

Well, just as much as I like the Bolly-style - so does apparently also the Greek singer Eleni Foureira. In her latest song Pio Erotas Pethaineis- she is all around ... in her Sari... I am so curious what my Indian friends will think about this. Do you like it? You can watch it at youtube here

Eleni Foureira as an Indian?
 So, we can conclude: Bollywood is all around! Have a wonderful day all, and stay tune!

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Powai - with a Greek twist

"Ahhhhhhh - look at that!!" The Greek is impressed. He streches his neck back, gazes up again and is pointing towards the blue sky. Wiiiide smile from ear to ear: "Look!"

I look. Is it Acropolis, the Parthenon temple? Are we in Athens, Greece? Ahhhh, no it is just the top floor of one of the residential complexes here in Powai, our neighborhood!

Ah, dear readers, we are used to it by now, since we actually live here and see it every day, but is was fun to see it for the first time last year. I suddenly understood why The Greek felt so at home here in India:-) A-ha:-).

Powai, where we live, is a nice suburbian neighborhood, north-east of Mumbai. It has grown to be one of the city's most upmarket commercial and residential hubs. Hiranandani Gardens in Powai has some of the tallest residential buildings in suburbian Mumbai and - here we go: many of them known for their neo classical (read Greek) architectural style. As we live in a giant city, and- as I have told you-  use a lot of time in the car - I have now reconciled with the fact that that's the way it has to be! But oh, how I enjoy walking around in my local neighborhood on the carless days. We have a lot of green parks and gardens, Powai Lakes is just by, and a variety of cafes and shops are around. A lot of activities are also organized. For info on what is going on when and where in Powai, check out:
So, especially for you readers who wonder how it looks like where we live: here are some pictures that my wonderful daughter Amalia has taken - Powai with a Greek twist - you know. Have a look at our neighborhood:

See what I mean: Greek colums on top of house
And more...
Green lung

amalia z
Majestetic lions of course

Street life, shopping and cafe.

One of the nice parks between the houses

More colums...

Our local supermarket: Haiko (the first land-mark I learned..)

 Good evening from Powai! Stay tune for more tales!