Thursday 27 February 2014

3 naps and The Babbling Parrots

When we lived in Greece I adopted the magnificent local custom of having a  - lets call it power nap. A relaxing time out in the middle of those hot summer days, when the sun is at it's highest and the heat seems unbearable. I must admit that the nap comes kind of natural, after those looong lunches filled with Greek yummies in various forms. What joy then to locate a cool place in the shade of an olive tree, and just doze off to the sound of the waves and cicadas while a soft breeze caresses you. 

In Norway, I did not use to nap, and here in India, I must say my power naps has been less about a caressing breeze, (unless it is from the car's AC), and more about dozing-off-in-the-car (stuck in traffic anyway). But sometimes, my long-lost nap-routine is awoken by naps I see around me: 

1. Sleeping dogs is not an unfamiliar sight in the streets of Mumbai. And they sleep on the most noisy spots, by roads and in the middle of the hustle and bustle. Then, it was more peaceful to watch this guy, occupying one of the nicely painted benches in idyllic Hanging Gardens. He was stretching out there in the sun - making me sleepy just looking at him. -Car! 

2. And nothing like a relaxed cat, right? Lying there, blinking her eyes at you. This majestic lady had found her spot on a top of a box, pretending of course that she had no interest whatsoever in the smelling piles of fish lying around at the market... Ah, those smart cats. She reminds me of some of the Greek cats that use to hang out in the fish harbor, stretching out in the shade, on lazy warm summer days.. -Car! 

3. And don't you just love this little guy? Pretending to nap at the tourist's towel. Ye ye... Who are you fooling? Because can squirrels really nap? If they can, they must be the most active nappers ever. This fellow was up with his head all the time, looking around, watching.. He sure found himself a soft place for his express nap though:-) -Nah - don't need the car after this one 

- Oops! Tourist-Return Alarm: better hit the road, guys! 

So, some relaxing nap moments, a welcomed break from the busy city life. But what a contrast then to my domestic atmosphere. Because did I show you our new alarm clock?

Oh yes! Every morning, this gang have their morning assembly  -- where? Well, conveniently enough (!) - just outside our bedroom! They are always a group of 4-6 together, fly together, hang out together and talk together. And they can really talk. Loud and clear, I tell you. They are babbling and babbling. It goes on forever. Non stop.

So, I take their picture and they stare back at me, nodding their head, but only for a little bit, until they have enough of this paparazzi lady. Their colors are so beautiful, and what an effective alarm clock they are! And an exotic one, I think?!

Only wish I could teach them the difference between weekdays and weekends...

- Hi there, strange lady! We're on to you and your camera!
And while speaking of parrots, I read in The Hindustan Times, that a Green Parrot assisted the police in solving a murder case. Can you believe that? You can read it for yourself here. Amazing:-)

Babble babble from Mumbai! All the best to you, dear reader, and thank you for following.

Saturday 22 February 2014

The smiles of Mumbai

A wonderful week is coming to an end. Our visitors are leaving, and we will miss them deeply. And what can be better than letting them tell you themselves how their first visit to India and Mumbai has been? Today's post is therefore a guest post. My fabulous sister: the floor is yours: 


We`re driving through the streets of Mumbai. Houses that look more like huts or not even that, maybe only some sheds. People live there, I think to myself. Small kids without shoes, close to the gutter. Lives lived on the pavement. So many harsh impressions, visions that will stay on my mind forever.

Suddenly I hear my son saying, pointing out the window; Look mum, that`s terrible!
I am convinced he`s thinking the same as me. About the unfair world we live in.When I put on my most serious "comforting face" to talk to him, he responds with the special look he get`s when there`s something mum "clearly" doesn`t understand.
"No mum, not that. But look, that boy is wearing a Manchester United shirt!"

I just have to smile. My son is what you would describe as a serious soccerfan. He`s probably quite an average 7-year old Norwegian boy. Loves to play soccer and watch soccer (favourite team being Liverpool), loves everything about the game.

As many norwegians do, he has also travelled a lot, but mostly on typically child-friendly charter tours. Before we left Norway for India I therefore got the advice to try to prepare him for the poverty we would see. I tried to have a serious "preparation-chat", but he started being scared of what poor people look like, behave and what they will do to him, so I ended up dropping the subject.

Our little drive this particular day ended at the school where my sister is a volunteer for Children's Future India, and it turned out to be the best experience on the whole trip. It was joy, it was singing "head, shoulder, knees and toes" and reading a story about David (7) together with some children of Mumbai. It was a meeting filled with learning for all of us, and memories for ever.
"This was the best day, Mom", my son told me later that evening. Although he still cant get over that none of them had ever heard about Liverpool or soccer. Only cricket.

Normally in the winter holiday would go skiing. This year, we went to India.

Now, over a week has passed and we have had days filled with the most extreme impressions - all at the same time. The streets are full of contrasts. It`s fantastic, I`ve loved being here. My son has loved being here. Seeing my sister's life, being around to the places she has been talking about, meeting lots of wonderful people. Taking it all in.

But what really took with me by surprise is all the happiness. The friendly curiosity towards us visitors.
"Why are they looking at me, mom?"
"They`re probably curious. Maybe they haven`t seen people like us before?"
"But mom, aunt Eli has lived here for over a year!"
And we can`t really grasp how many people actually lives here - there are people everywhere!

We`re getting used to it. Today my son smiled back to the guys in the rickshaw that stared and waved to him. An attitude to take back to Norway. Along with heaps of memories..and some tailor-made clothes..:)

Yes, we`re in the picture, along with some enthusiastic kids we met during our visit to Mumbai.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Speed - sightseeing in South Mumbai

Ok. So sightseeing in Mumbai with a 7 year old is not the same as sightseeing in Mumbai with parents-in-laws-cousins-friends... well in short: with adults! I knew that. But still fascinating to experience in real life. And I'll tell you one thing. I have never seen so many sights in Mumbai in such a short amount of time. Here we are talking speed-sightseeing BIG time!

Our day started at the Gateway of India, where the boats and ships of course was much more interesting to watch than admiring that huge stone building. And what a lovely morning it was.

Then it was tea/refreshments-time. You know, that time that with adults tends to stretch on to a looong coffee-break filled with chat and countless re-fills. Well, not with a seven year old. Sip sip. - Done. What are we going to do next? Aren't you done yeeet? 

The road then took us to every single party stuff shop and toy stall in Crawford market. And I mean every single one. Big success. But a noisy place, so after bargaining hard and long for 12 fake mustaches and a set of bunny ears (for little sister back home) - we were out of there.

Lunchtime, and time to taste local food! Of the thali, the rice and bread was definitely the most tasty..

... and in between hasty stops to buy small elephants and some more gifts, our little visitor - like all our other visitors - was a bit worn out by all the weird things to see outside the car window. And like all of us... he enjoyed the sea side in south Mumbai. - This was a really beautiful place!

But isn't it funny - after a long day of speed-sightseeing in this strange city of ours - one of the favorite moments appeared (totally unplanned) in the evening. Because what greater happiness for a 7 year old than to hang out with his older cousin: - some bowling, some football and a real game of FIFA x-box! His bubbling laughter is filling the whole house! Oh, the joy of these lovely visitors!

I hope you have had a great week so far, dear reader:-) All the best from Mumbai!

Tuesday 18 February 2014

A little boy in the big city

Imagine you are seven years old. You come home from school on a normal Wednesday afternoon, and the weather is perfect. Perfect ... for skiing with your family! It is cold, and the air is crisp and clear. As you put on your skis, it starts snowing again. Just a light sprinkle, not too much. You ski towards the forest. No cars or other people are in sight. You hear no traffic and no loud noises. You can only hear the sound of your skis on the snow, of your own breath, and maybe of your mother promising you a cup of hot chocolate when you get back home inside?

And then the next day you find yourself on an airplane. You travel for many hours and even some more, and finally you arrive somewhere where the air is hot and the smells are just so different than back home. And there is no snow, even though it is February. How strange. People are wearing t-shirts and summer clothes. You hear lots of noises, and there are cars and people all over the place. Yes. You have for the first time arrived in India, and one very happy aunt is waiting for you!

Because, yes, dear reader, we have visitors. And it has been a while.. , but if you have followed my blog for a bit, you might remember that last Spring broke every possible-visitor-amount-record. Ever. First my Greek in-laws came and stayed for a month, and the same night they left, two of our best friends from Noway came and stayed for two weeks.Then, my parents came for two weeks and we had a wonderful trip to Goa, and a few days later my cousin and her hubby came.

So, I am right here with you. Still in Mumbai, but these days, a bit occupied re-discovering the city in company with our visitors  - who are in India for the first time! So, stay tuned to follow the tales of One Excited Aunt:-) Yey! Ta ta! And all the best to you dear reader:-)

Some Mumbai moments: 

Thursday 13 February 2014

A hungry little lunch guest

I saw her as soon as I made my turn at the corner, and walked up the dusty narrow alleyway. She was lying next to a pile of garbage, stretching out in the only sunny spot around. She looked up as I passed by, and I could tell she had seen me too. She was so tiny, and her big eyes was blinking reassuringly to me, like she was saying - Hello there foreign lady, I am your friend, you know.. 

A bit later she was outside the door. She was looking at me like - Hey, I know you. Don't you remember? We just met down the street? So tiny. Obviously hungry, but still curious and playful. She was just hanging out there, with her little sister, even tinier than her.

Around lunchtime we gathered as usual. We spread our goodies out and sat down to eat. And there she was. Like a shadow she had sneaked into the room. First she was lying under a chair a bit away from us, trying to look relaxed and uninterested, like she was saying - Oh, don't mind me. I am just here doing my thing. But that stuff sure smells gooood! But then she was crawling a bit closer. And closer. Still blinking to us, like only cats can, you know - Hey, I am your friend. I am just hanging out here with you guys. But sure if you want to share some of those goodies - fine by me:-)
Hi there guys, I am over here..
Who can blame anyone for wanting a piece of this?

So, we were all a bit fascinated by our little lunch guest, and the way she was using all of her skills and charm to win us over. Aaa - those elegant cats, they have their way..

Have a great day dear reader! Take care:-)

PS! The new airport terminal in Mumbai opened yesterday, just as scheduled. And the airline companies are arguing which one was the first to land on it! Read more in this article on Times of India 

Saturday 8 February 2014

A Perfect Day

A day stretched out on a sunny beach or a day hiking in crisp mountain air? A day at work, doing what you love the most, or maybe a day of doing absolutely nothing? A day which includes traveling, dancing, reading, helping someone out or playing with your kids? Or all of that? What would be a perfect day for you? And is there really such a thing as A Perfect Day?

All I know, is that I woke up this morning with a smile on my face thinking: Wow, that was a perfect day yesterday! And unbelievably enough, our day started with a visit to the FRRO office, an adventure I have described before. With two reluctant teenagers in the backseat ("do we really have to use (read: waste) a school-holiday on this?") we set out on The Mission to renew our visas.

Every time we have been to FRRO, there are some new rules. This time we were told by a brisk guard that we were not allowed to enter the building until 9.30. Oh well, I spent the time taking some pictures from the area, and at 9.20 we stormed the stairs armed with visitor badges (also a new rule), for the first line to get a number. Another new thing: in the waiting room we were welcomed by a smiling male employee: " Good morning and welcome!" What?! A pleasant contrast to the screaming No-person at the main gate. And we were in for another surprise. Learning from experience: we had prepared for the worse and brought with us supplies. Well, didn't need any! After only 2 hours we found ourselves at the main gate, all 4 of us with our bright and shiny renewed visas - so: one more year in India! Yey! PS: My theory is that The Greek's very insisting and helpful hand to our officer when he ran into some PC- trouble speed-ed up the process!
The FFRO office building...
...and a neighboring house.. (waiting for the FRRO gate to open:-)) 
By then, everyone's mood had improved considerably, including the teens', and encouraged by our success we decided to celebrate with a better lunch. We ended up at Britannia, an institution in Mumbai, known for delicious Parsi food, but one we had still yet to visit. We quickly overlooked the paint coming off the walls, when we were so warmly welcomed by the owner, the 92 year old Boman (only 1 of his 9 names though, one of the others being Batman:-) What a character! Almost worth the visit alone! He was patting my kid on the head instructing him: -  I am planning to be 114 years old, so you have to be at least 120, ok?! Well, the 14 year old didn't have much choice but to nod obediently - 120 years old huh? Ok, ok, no problem:-) 

So with the stories of Mr Boman, we sipped our Fresh lime soda and enjoyed their famous dish Chicken Berry Pulav - rice, chicken in sauce and topped of with barberries. D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.

My favorite drink: fresh lime soda: and here with sweet on the side served in a water bottle:-) 
William and Kate overlooking us and waiters waiting to serve:-)
Note the sign " Please do not argue with management!" 
92 year old owner Boman - a well of interesting stories:-)  
Yummy Chicken Berry Pulav :-) Huge portions! 
What a fun day it turned out to be! We had planned for something else and there we were: talking, laughing, spending time together, then going for coffee, meeting interesting people and sharing good moments. And then in the evening, a bit spontaneously, we decided to head up to Breeze - for what became a wonderful evening - catching up with old friends and getting to know some new ones. 

You know, it was just one of those days, when life plays you a small trick! When the day turns out so different than what you had anticipated. Good talks with family and friends, lots of good-laughs and some moments that makes you smile when you think about them. And you just feel so well and so grateful. To me that is a good day, maybe even a perfect one? 

So, what would be a perfect day for you? And is there really such a thing as A Perfect Day?

Well, I hope you will have a perfect weekend dear reader! Enjoy the moments and take care:-)


Thursday 6 February 2014

A good-read and a guest-post

"- Have my parcels arrived from America?
- I don't know
- Can you find out?
- No.
India is the country of the No. That "no" is your test. You have to get past it. It is India's Great Wall; it keeps out foreigner invaders. Pursuing it energetically and vanquishing it is your challenge.(..)"

"I now realize that if you don't understand the no, pretend it doesn't exist, was never said, then slain by your incomprehension, it will transform itself abruptly into its opposite. Or it might never become a Yes but will turn into a wagging of the head, which can mean either No or Yes, depending on your interpretation. You will interpret the wagging generously, charitably, and proceed."

I am obsessed by this book these days. I can't put it away. It's brilliant, humorous, rough, moving and interesting - this "The mother of all Mumbai books" (according to Time Out Mumbai ). Suketu Mehta portraits Mumbai in a captivating way in his Maximum City. Bombay lost & found. As a 14 year old he left Mumbai, and returns 21 years later to rediscover the city. It's a fascinating journey to follow.

Mehta received good reviews and several prizes for his book, well deserved. It is a truly good-read!  I particularly like the words of Rohinton Mistry: “In Maximum City, Suketu Mehta has given us a brilliant book. He writes fearlessly about the horror and wonder that is Bombay. One by one, he reveals its multiple personalities: maleficent Bombay, bountiful Bombay, beckoning temptress of hope, manufacturer of despair–city of dreams and nightmare city. Best of all, reading this book helps one understand why Bombay can be an addiction.” 

I am so into this book, that when fellow blogger Amelia with her Chai - a Cup of Life asked if I could write a guest post on her blog, about Mumbai, I immediately thought: Yes, I can write about my Maximum City! And there is a first time for everything, right? - so my very first guest-blog on another blog was just published. Yey:-) A fun experience! You can read it here: My maximum city.

Here is a small taste from the post, hope you enjoy:


"Here I have learned the rules of cricket, how to make pakoras and how to put on a sari. I have cried with homeless children, fought with rigid rules and physically removed a lady who tried to cheat in queue. Here I have ended up as a statist in a film shoot, seen elephants and had chai with people whom I will remember for the rest of my life. Here I have become immune to traffic jam, I have learned to dress like a Diva, indulge in spices and I have seen crocodiles, monkeys and rats. I have watched senior citizen doing yoga in the parks and I have seen babies deserted on the streets. Yet, I have never seen a brighter sunset than here."

- and you can read the rest of my guest post on the blog, if you like:-) 

Well it's a sunny and warm Thursday morning in Mumbai, and weekend is coming up. Stay tuned and have a great day, dear reader. Thank you for following:-)

Monday 3 February 2014

A Sunday stroll and a monorail

It is Sunday in Mumbai. One of the few days of the week when the whole family may have a day off, as most kids here go to school also on Saturdays. The cricket fields, the malls and the sea promenade are packed with people. Families go for walks together along the sea, they have a pick nick or they hit the movies or the parks. The weather is warm and sunny, and of course we go with the flow, we expats too:-) Here are a few pics from our Sunday:
Cricket in south Mumbai

And as everywhere else in the world: going for a stroll at the sea promenade is popular also here! A wonderful place to enjoy the sea breeze and watch the sun set in the ocean.

And a big day for our city today! You see, we came over these long lines and crowds of people. We couldn't really understand what they were lining up for, or what they were staring at high up there in the air! But then it hit us! Aha! THE MONORAIL! Today it opened, and any attempt to improve the public transportation in Mumbai we warmly welcome! And as with anything new - people were lining up to check out what this was about! You can read about more about the new monorail in Times Of India. 
Long lines to check out the city's new monorail today! Congrats Mumbai! 

I hope you have had a great Sunday dear reader, strolling like us or not! I wish you a wonderful start of the new week! February already, can you imagine?! Wow! May it be a great month! All the best from Mumbai!