Friday 29 March 2013

Offline in Goa

Dear reader,
I have to admit - being offline can be challenging - even if it is by choice as in this case - but oh, dear reader, Goa must be the most wonderful place - to be just that: offline.... So in case you should wonder what I have up to the last few days:  I have been totally and completely offline - in Goa:-)

For Spring break, my family and I left bustling Mumbai behind and headed out for Goa. Oh, so nice to see the wonderful long sandy beaches of Goa again - and with sea you can swim in. So when I am offline, I am to be found in the shade of a palm tree, on a long sandy beach - with the sea in front. Maybe I have a coconut drink in one hand and a book in the other, and maybe chatting with my hubby, my kids or my parents - who, by the way, came with us, and who are visiting India for the first time.

Oh, I  love the nature in Goa: the beaches, the green trees and bushes, the flowers and the sea.

So, long sunny days on the beach, some sightseeing and exploring and of course looong meals - you might remember when we dined with the Greek Gods in Goa -and this time we went back to Mariketty again - and again- - and again - enjoying fantastic Greek food on Thalassa taverna placed on the cliffs overlooking Vagator beach while watching the sunset over the Arabian Sea. Amazing moments.

So, dear reader - I will be back with more news from Goa - now when I am online again. I hope you have enjoyed your week and wish you a nice start of the weekend.

Friday 22 March 2013

A treasure hunt at Chor's Bazaar?

Dear reader,
I love bazaars and markets! All the people, the piles of strange things for sale, the game of bargain and the bustling atmosphere. Take all that and add some dust, heat, cows and all the colors you can find- and spice it up with even more traffic, people, sounds and smells -and there you go: the markets in Mumbai! I went to the Crawford market and to the markets close to Gol Deval temple - and now it was time for the market I had heard the most about: The Chor Bazaar- the thieves' bazaar. 
Chor Bazaar is a quite organized flea market. The market was originally called Shor Bazaar, ( noisy market), but the British started to pronounce it chor. And maybe it is both?! It is said anyway that stolen goods in Mumbai has a tendency to end up for sale at Chor Bazaar. So if you loose any of your items, maybe you will find it again here? A popular story is that a violin and some other items belonging to Queen Victoria went missing when she was visiting Bombay. They were later found for sale in the Chor Bazaar...
In the bazaar you can get anything: old Bollywood posters, authentic Victorian furniture, toys, boxes, replacement parts for cars... well actually,in stead of making a long boring list here, let me show you some of the things I saw: 
Fancy a (new) cookie box with Charles and Diana? 

Or what about a cassette- player- remember these from the -80'?  

Old Bollywood film posters for sale.

Or one of these for playing some real music??

Lots and lots of little stuff here!
And this is for showing my teens what a real phone looked like - back when mum was young! Miss them? 
More film-posters! 

I liked the expression on this ones face:-) 

Ahhh- Bruce Lee!

Wanna buy some money? 

Or do you want to go home with this under your arm?
When shopping at Chor's it is an absolute must to bargain! And it can be a biiit more advanced than bargain when you go shoe-shopping! A friend of mine got a bench from here, and she told me that she went back numerous times over a period of 2 months! Every time she showed up, the shop-keeper remembered both her and the price they had discussed the last time she was there. Well, the bench is at her house and it looks beautiful - so keep the spirit up! Maybe also you will find exactly the thing you have been searching for - for years - in Chor's Bazaar? 
Happy weekend dear reader! 

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The birth of a Library

Dear reader,
Please image a nine year old girl. She has just been told that she can choose a book to take home with her. She can hardly believe it. But she smiles. She giggles and her eyes are shining: " Is it true? I can take it with me home?" She carefully looks through the available books, quiet she looks at the pictures, the backside, letting that one go. Picking up another one. And then that biiig smile again- and she is coming over to me to have it registered. "This one." And she hugs the book, caresses it like it is the most valuable treasure in the whole world. That lucky book - going home with her!

A very emotional day today, dear reader. At my NGO, we now have our small library up and running! Hurray! Today, for the first time, the kids got to choose a book to borrow with them home. For some of them it was a new experience, but something they obviously loved!

You see, the kids in the Basic English class could use some extra reading, and we had this idea to make a library for them - with books in English. It had to be some very basic, and some more advanced. So we started planning and the plans turned in to action! Some books were bought and some were donated.

Some of the books donated to the CFI library. 
So, today the books were shown to the children for the first time, and each child could pick one book to take home. Oh,  how I enjoyed watching them searching for The Book. And they all found one, and then they were dutifully signing for it. And then, oh so carefully carrying it with them. Some of them were already planning which book to borrow the next time!
Hm... which one to pick?

So, hopefully this is just the beginning! You see, we want to work to make our tiny library grow big and strong. A warm Thank you to all my friends who donated books! Be assured that your books have got a new and loving home:-) If you want to support my NGO - read more here

Sunday 17 March 2013

Animal Moments in Mumbai

Dear reader,
No, no, this is neither a Mumbai Zoo Tale nor did I go on a sweaty Sunday Jungle Safari today  (I actually had a very lazy Sunday...) Today I simply wanted to drop in, to show you some memorable moments.. You see, many of the animals here are quite exotic for us Europeans. Actually, not too many years ago, jungle life ruled in the area we live in. A National Park is located just north of Powai, so the leopards live just next door, and in Powai lakes there are crocodiles (I had to see that in a picture to believe it!.)

My most exotic animal  moment was the evening I was going home in the car. Waiting for green light at the signal - on the left side of the car - a huge shadow - an elephant - also waiting for the light to change..? I was lost for words and couldn't mooove, so that moment was not caught on camera.

But some other animal moments were captured, so a few photos for you today... Ok, well, maybe cows and dog are not that exotic. For a foreigner it is still fascinating to see the cows stroll around in between cars and people. This cow was almost following me into the car, veeery friendly:-)

And don't you just love this little guy?  - chillin' at a sunbed too! The squirrels are many - and some of them are quite tame - and brave!

Just like the cows, it is quite usual to see goats around in Mumbai - also just by the main streets. This little one was one of a hurd - just by Haji Ali.

And then - the monkeys ... This one is a Malaysian monkey - but just up in the National Park here you will meet them. And hold on to your items! A friend told me that when she went there,  a monkey snapped her water bottle, opened it (!) and sat down to drink from it just next to her:-)

My exotic favorite is the green parrot! One of the first morning at our house here, they woke me up - and I often see them fly by our balcony- usually in the morning. And yes, I say them, because they are always 3-4 or more together. Beautiful creatures - and so see them flying around free like this is wonderful.

And to finish my animal tale with the animal I see and hear all around-  day and night -  the dog...  I just love this moment in hanging garden - no tourists or guards around - just so peaceful, and a perfect moment to relaaax! 
Good night from Mumbai:-)

Friday 15 March 2013

Hare Krishna and Govinda's culinary fusion

Dear reader,
Do you know why the Hare Krishna monks wear orange or why the Hindi Gods are often painted blue? No? Neither did I - until today. Because today I spent half the day in a Hare Krishna temple. Oh yes. OK - dear friends in Europe - I can just sense how you are jumping up and out of your sofa right now, pulling your hair and rolling your eyes: What- will -be- the -next -crazy- thing- that- lady -does!?  Because we have all seen them right - on the streets in snowy Norway wearing their orange light clothes, with no hair and with the tambourine singing, dancing and laughing: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare...

You see- today I was invited for lunch by a friend, and the restaurant ( I will get back to that) is in the temple compound - at ISKCON Mumbai, close to Juhu beach. So before lunch, we went to look at the temple. You know I am a curious soul right, and this is also a part of religious Mumbai., so why not just dive into the Hare Krishna religion - or culture - as they describe it themselves?  
The temple 
At the entrance of the temple- colorful saris and white marble
ISKCON, The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is a large compound which consists of an auditorium, restaurants, a seven-storey guest house and then there is the temple. The temple is very spacious and made of pure white marble. It has a garden, and the inside of the temple is quite impressive with the large golden doors where the Krishna statues are placed. They are not always open, because Krishna has to eat and rest - we were told-, so when the doors open, there is a crowd of cheering people in front, and you can get the blessing too. And the music and words Hare Krishna is all around, all the time.
The monk Nitaihari - and the temple garden. Inside people are waiting for the doors to open. 
We started to talk to the monk Nitaihari who offered to show us around, and we had an interesting tour. He told us that there is a large festival coming up, the Gaura Purnima (Golden Full Moon) on the 27.3. Everybody is welcome, so if you want to have a look, that could be a nice time I guess. You can read more about the temple compound, festivals and activities here.

Nitaihari also showed us the quarters of the founder of Hare Krishna, who was actually from Mumbai - also something new to learn!
This is a doll- copy of the founder - placed around in his quarters. 
Srila Prabhupada is worshiped at the temple. He was from Mumbai, but in 1965 he went to New York and there in the Hippie movement, the Hare Krishna culture was born. From there it spread world wide, very quickly. He died in 1977, but the Hare Krishna continued to grow. They have more than 500 temples around the world now, and the one here in Mumbai is one of the largest ones. You can read more about the Hare Krishna movement and the founder here.

Here they are waiting for the red curtain to be pulled aside.
The Krishna appears and the crowd is cheering.
The temple foundation also runs a lot of charity, like Food for Life - giving out large amounts of food to school children in Mumbai. They believe in a very simple life- and that my friend- is why they wear orange. Because orange is the color of fire, and it symbolize that they have "burnt" /got rid of - their materialistic belongings. Because in their belief, the body is not material, but spiritual,  and we are all energies and part of a larger whole. And that is also why the gods are given a blue color - to show that they are part of eternity, just like the sky or the sea.

And then we went for lunch! And Govinda's is not just any restaurant. This is a cuisine with a philosophy. Offering a transcendental, truly blessed and karma-free dining experience with a wide variety of pure, healthy, wholly vegetarian, international culinary fusion. Delicious food is cooked with love and spiritually sanctified to elevate one's consciousness, enchant the taste buds beyond imagination and fully satisfy the soul. (text from their folder) It was a large buffet, and lots of tasty dishes- and like my friend said: Because the food is always offered to Krishna first, we know it is healthy- and well, - blessed.
A culinary fusion at Govinda's 
Well, dear reader, another memorable day in Mumbai for me - with Hare Krishna and Govinda.
Have a wonderful Friday evening, dear reader:-)

Thursday 14 March 2013

FRRO, quality time and must-reads

Dear reader,
Today I went to FRRO to have my visa renewed.  FRRO - just utter those letters to any expat in Mumbai - and run and hide! Just kidding- but at least I think every expat in Mumbai will have a story for you about when they went to the Bureau of Immigration in Mumbai to apply for a visa or extension of visa. I do too!

Now, this was my second time there, so this time I was well prepared: physically with an uploaded phone with music, a book, coffee, water, newspapers and an energy bar and mentally: I can do this! They are just doing their job. Breath Eli! Breath! Read your book. Enjoy this as quality time! Just go with the flow!

The first line you will meet is the line where you get a number ( for your Counter and Token). Then, head off to the waiting room (you can try to pop your head in the counter room, to see if your counter is available, but most likely they will tell you to sit down and wait - in the waiting room) I know I should go with the flow, but today it was getting a bit out of control in the waiting room. One guy had not brought all the papers and started to yell (didn't get him anywhere of course!), a large colony of babies decided to show their support by crying their lungs out while their stressed-out-parents were running around with bottles and diapers. A screaming dad was chasing his screaming 2-year old around, trying to force her to eat a brownish banana. A German back-packer couple were singing in a corner (oh yes!) and then the electricity broke down, so no air-condition..

Amazingly enough, I managed to finish 4 pages of the wonderful "a strange and sublime address" by Amit Chaudhury, before I was caught up in chatting with the Germans, a Lebanese couple and a French lady. I finished my coffee too, and then it was my turn to enter the room and my Counter.

To make a long story short: I walked out of there with my renewed visa, and even managed to finish more than 4 pages in my book on my way home. By the way, this is a book we read in a book club I am in, and the intriguing story is from Kolkata. Since I have read a lot of books from Mumbai lately, this was a nice change. Hhm, might have to visit Kolkata one day! I told you before about some of the Mumbai-must-reads. Lately I also read Katherine Boo's Behind the beautiful forevers (thanks for the tip-Mia:-)) - a strong tale of an area of Mumbai which is quite special to me. The book is from the slum hut areas close to the international airport, where the NGO I work as a volunteer for is situated.

So there I was, driving home and was doing a bit of reading too, but do not think that means that I have lost my enthusiasm for looking out the car window. Oh, what an exiting city we live in - and with my bright and shiny renewed visa - I am ready for new days and new adventures in bustling Mumbai.

Stay tuned dear reader!

Reading, studying - quality time also elsewhere in Mumbai:-) 

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Haji Ali - worth a visit, but check the tides!

Dear reader,
You may know by now how much I enjoy exploring this city right!? Mumbai is full of secrets and behind every corner is a something new to discover. With our great explorers group we have done the city back and forth - but still so much to see and do! We have also done our best to explore the religious Mumbai.We have visited temples and churches. We have been up close and personal with Jainism - the religion of harmlessness, and the religion of the Parsi and with the holy Hindu site: the Banganga tank with surrounding temples.  

A lot to see, learn and digest! And sometimes I am in for a real surprise, like when we went to Worli - remember I told you about the colorful houses and Virgin Mary in the pink sari?
That was a place I had passed a lot of times - and from the "inside" it was nothing like I had thought.. A wonderful surprise..

So, with that memory fresh in my mind, I headed out to explore another place which I had passed again and again. The white building on the small islet close to the mainland... First time I saw it, it was Friday and it was sunset, -with hundreds of people on the narrow path taking you out there... Haji Ali dargah.
The view - the other way around... 
The walk out to the dargah, with sea on both sides, - a great experience:-)  
View from Haji Ali towards the city

On the way out, you can buy flowers, perfumes, carpets and wishing-treads- all for use in the dargah.
The Haji Ali dargah was constructed in 1431 for the rich Muslim merchant Haji Ali. There are a lot of legends surrounding his life. The last one describes how he fell ill on a pilgrim journey to Mecca. He had directed his followers to throw the casket with his body into the Arabian sea, and miraculously it found its way back to Mumbai, right to the cliffs on the islet, where the dargah (tomb) then was built.
Then entrance gate to Haji Ali .. A lot of eager photographers. 
On the islet- a place where thousands of pilgrims come to have their blessing  
After walking for about a kilometer, and after passing all the photographers, beggars, sellers and the weigh-in people (Yes, they have a scale, and for a couple of rupees they will tell you your weight... We were told it is because a lot of Indians do not have a scale at home. NICE, I say... ) you are out there. You need to remove your shoes before going into the dargah itself. There are different entrances for ladies and gentlemen, and both men and women must cover their heads. Ladies: they have some colorful scarf you can borrow, if you did not bring one, and some for men too. As a man, you get quite close to the coffin, but as a woman you must look from a distance. You can still receive a blessing from the saint though - a man will pat you on the head with a peacock feather with holy water. You can also leave your wish behind, by tying your wishing-tread to the door or to the wishing-tree.
The shoe-removing line - before getting in to the dargah
This is from inside the dargah - the tomb of saint Haji Ali
Here the women can have their blessing, and leave a donation. 
The wishing-tree with orange wishing-treads
Good to know: 
- The Haji Ali is considered a dargah, a tomb, a mausoleum and not a mosque. All are welcome, and people from all religions and beliefs find their way out there.
- Avoid Thursdays and Fridays when it is really packed with people.
- Use your time out there also to admire the great view towards the city, and the sea... 
- And last but not least: check the tides! The dargah is accessible only during low tide, and be sure it doesn't change during your visit out there. You may not want to be stuck? 

Happy exploring! Stay tuned:-) 

Monday 11 March 2013

On radio: "Gatelangs in Mumbai"

Dear reader,
I hope you have had a nice start of your week? Nothing like Mondays eh? A new fresh week with days lined up in front of us. I remember when I first came to India last year. Coming from a busy life with a full time job, I was terrified that I would just sit around doing nothing, so I signed up for all activities I could possibly find!

Well, I had to make some priorities along the way, and now I just feel lucky that I have this possibility - to choose, to fill my own days, to make my weeks. To write, to work with what I like. And believe me: no need to sit around and be bored in Mumbai! Here in Powai we have a very active network and a lot of activities going on. Today we had the monthly coffee morning, and this month I was hosting: so as I watched all these lovely ladies, from all over the world, filling up my living room, it just struck me again:  How lucky I am to get to know all these amazing ladies. It is such an exciting international world we are a part of!

Later today, I was sitting preparing the Basic English class where I'll go tomorrow. You see, readers, I am so excited because so many positive things are happening there and I enjoy to be a part of what they are doing. And you might remember that last month there was a journalist from Norway with me to the slumhutarea? Well, I guess she was a bit overwhelmed by all the impressions she got in Mumbai. So, the days she stayed here, actually led out to more than one radio programme.

The first one went on air 28.02, and is a really nice general - along-the-streets-in-Mumbai - story. You can listen to it: Ekko: Gatelangs i Mumbai (along the streets in Mumbai) on the webpages of NRK. You need to find Ekko. And: Then klick at: 28.02 (17:30 - 18:00) . It's in Norwegian, but the sound and feeling of the city will be familiar also to the non-Norwegian speakers. I will let you know when the next programmes will be sent, and in the meantime: I hope you enjoy this one.

And I tell you: if you are not in Mumbai: listening to the programme will really make you feel that you are here!

Have a wonderful week! Good evening, and stay tuned:-)


Friday 8 March 2013

Women's Day - a tale of gratitude

Congratulations ladies!
International Women's Day today, and the first thing that came to my mind was gratitude. Gratitude for my life as it is, for the present, for the past and gratitude for the women who fought for what they believed in, so that I could freely choose my education and how I wanted my life to be.

I am grateful for Gina Krog. She was one of Norway's most prominent voting rights activists. In 1885 she launched the first association for women's voting rights, and 5 years later the Parliament considered a proposal to let women vote. It was rejected with 70 to 44 votes, and an argument against was: giving women the right to vote would damage family life and conflict with women’s natural calling. So - oh fear - the traditional home life would be in danger! So, I am grateful that Gina Krog and her fellow campaigners never gave up, and they must have been both strong and persistent and a bit stubborn..

In 1913 the women's struggle to vote ended in victory. 11 June this year we can celebrate that it is 100 years since Norway got full women's suffrage! That was, by the way, 99 years after Norway in 1814 had adopted a constitution establishing that the country should be ruled by its people. Did you know that Norway was the 2nd country in Europe and the 4th in the world to get full women's suffrage?

Gina Krog - pics from Nasjonalbiblioteket
I am grateful for Cecilie Thoresen. She was the first Norwegian female university student. In 1882, when women were not allowed to study, she applied to the Ministry for permission to study, but it was denied. Did she give up? Nope. She teamed up with a politician and they submitted a proposal to the Parliament, and she was given permission to study at a university. What a pioneer!

I am grateful for growing up with strong and great female role models: my grandmothers, my grand-aunts, my mother, my aunts, other relatives and friends. I am grateful that I did not have to fight for the right to go to school or university. I am grateful for growing up in a country where my options were wide open. I could choose freely, and I did. Thanks to the pioneers- who bravely opened (or- shall we say: "kicked in") the doors for the women-to-come.

It is strange then, to celebrate International Women's Day in India. A different scenery, a different culture, a different setting, other challenges, but the women - the strong women- they are everywhere! The women who fight their own battles, their everyday challenges. The women who stand up for their daughters, who will support them and who will hug them and say "You can do it!". And when it comes to education, I have seen how some mothers look at their daughters with this proud I-know-smile:  "She will make it!" No matter how crazy their dream is, their mothers will support them!

I am sure you may have noticed that my passion here is for education - and especially education for girls. I am grateful that I have been allowed to try to make a difference. To contribute a little bit. So, one day every week I spend in the slum and I meet Kirti, Priyanka and Tara - young girls with their dreams and hopes. Just like I had, when I was a little girl. And I think: they are the future for India! Oh, it must be possible for them to choose their education and their own way in life too! And like I had mine pioneers, I hope that they will have theirs - you know - the brave, stubborn door-kickers! Let us celebrate them today!

And finally, I am grateful for every single wonderful woman I have met during my life! My strong and wonderful sister, my childhoodBFF, old friends, new friends, colleagues, x-colleagues, family and friends in Norway, in Greece, in India, in US, in Bangladesh... - and everywhere else! I am so grateful that you are in my life!

Happy International Women's Day 2013!

The future of India:-)

Thursday 7 March 2013

The bazaars at Gol Deval

Dear reader,
Late last night my friends left India. Remember, our good Norwegian friends who laughed nervously over the traffic and cried for the kids? They left with their suitcases stuffed with tailor-made clothes, tea, and Sula wine. Their camera card was full and they left with a smile on their lips and tears in their eyes. You know - when the hugs that are just never many enough. Well, today I decided to ease the pain of our emotional farewell, by keeping myself busy, so I headed out to the bustling markets in south Mumbai - to be more specific: to the Gol Deval temple area.

It is difficult to miss the temple itself, as it is placed right in the middle of the road! And a walk in the narrow alleyways was heaven for a curious soul like myself. I enjoyed the Crawford market- but this market was packed with stalls for selling stuff I didn't even know existed!

The stalls for wedding-stuff were great; so colourful, shiny and bright. And they had everything: colour for henna-paint, all-in-one boxes for the bride, decorations- (some made of money), hat for the groom, accessoir for the bride, garlands, glitter and gifts of all kinds. Just have a look:

See what I mean? There was also a vegetable market in there- quite clean and with the vegetables neatly put on display, piled up in small pyramids.

The grandpa was very eager to have their pics taken . Not convinced the grandson shared his enthusiasm..:-)

We also went to a nice shop selling cloth bags (great for shopping), and one for watercontainers of ceramics, one for kitchen stuff, and one for disposable plates - made of a kind of leaf -  so much better than plastic! Just to mention a few...

Great cloth bags for sale here!

For keeping the water chilled during Indian summer..

Lots of kitchen stuff..
Sharpening the knives..
Disposable plates made of leaves..

Let sandalwood and other fragrances fill your house..:-)
And one small street was filled with stalls with bracelets and other jewelry. Took some time to pass that street...

Bangles in any colour and shape you like:-)
And just on the opposite side of the road was this nice juice bar - they told us that now when it is getting summer in India- (basically means that the temperature goes from 30'C to 40'C...) fresh made sugar cane juice is a very popular drink!

So, after a refreshing sugar cane juice you may regain your strength to continue further on to the Chor Bazaar - just around the corner... but that is another story... Stay tuned dear reader.

Ta ta - from Mumbai!