Thursday, 25 September 2014

Geeta

I saw her again today. Little Geeta. The girl from the slum area where I volunteer. Geeta, who lost her mother and brother in a traffic accident. Just before I was about to leave Mumbai a couple of weeks back, we had the terrible news, and went to visit her at her home, where she lives with her grandmother and 5 other relatives in one small room. One of the most heartbreaking memories I will ever have. And then I boarded the plane for Europe.

Now I am back in Mumbai, and I met Geeta again. Quietly she sat there on the floor in class, listening, looking at the others, biting her pencil. After class, she gave me a drawing with a sun, blue sky and flowers in it. She pointed at a large yellow flower in her painting - Sunflower, she said. - I like them. My mother like them also. And then she sent me a shy smile, and waved goodbye as she left.

And like so many times before, going home in the car, my feelings overwhelms me. Thinking of Geeta, and all the thousands of Geetas who live in this city. The poverty. The harshness of their lives. And suddenly a moment of joy for a sunflower and a happy memory of a loving mother. I can not control my tears. I feel numb as I sit and stare out the car window. So many destinies. So many people who could do with a helping hand, only just a bit of extra support so they can make a better life for themselves.

We try to adjust - wherever we go, don't we? And I know I have been writing quite a lot about the road side in this city. Every trip brings something new, but right now I see only the sad part: the people living on the street, the small children knocking on the car window, begging for money...


But that is the strange thing here. Tomorrow, or even just in an hour, I might feel differently again. I might see something funny along the road and start to laugh and shake my head and think: - Oh, I love this crazy country India... Like seeing this guy, next to my car:


So, as a special treat for people outside India, who do not know what I look at when I drive around in Mumbai- here is an example:

video

Today, I must admit, I am trying to fight the feeling of hopelessness that has overwhelmed me. I am sitting there, sweaty and dirty, with running mascara on my cheeks and my hearth hurts. Because no matter how many people you can help, there are always so many more out there.

Well, I sigh. I dry my tears, close my eyes and I think of Geeta's sunflower. For hope for the future and a happy memory of the past. And in the end....


... right? And what can be better than reading again one of my favorite stories:


I hope you have a good week dear reader.

Count your blessings and enjoy your moments.

Ta ta from Mumbai. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

In Robin Hood land, enjoying some fresh Dosas

- Dosas? Would you like to try Indian Dosas? All fresh? I look around me, and my confusion is obvious. They look at each other and then back at me, and ask me again with an even bigger smile - Have you ever tried Dosas? They are very tasty.

Have I ever tried Indian Dosas? Well. Yes. Have I ever tried fresh Dosas at the Castle of Nottingham? Well. No. That is the first.

Yes, dear reader, I am in the UK, and we had decided to explore the historic soil of The Castle of Nottingham. Remember them right? Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and the fair Maid Marian?

And then I hear music. Indian music. I see stalls with colorful shawls for sale. I smell familiar scents, and then the dosas. I have to smile. How funny is this? All around us there are people dressed in saris, and on the stage they are preparing for a dance show. Indian dances.

I start to speak with an elderly man who looks at me, and smiles with disbelief: - Really? Where do you live, you say? Bombay? Really? Bombay?



But in the end we leave the lovely Indian party and the dosas behind, and head off to what is supposedly the oldest inn in England: Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem (1189). This is said to be one of the places where the crusaders stopped on their way to the Holy Land, and the legend has it that even the king Richard the Lionheart visited.

The way the pub is made, carved in to the rock under Nottingham castle makes it a very atmospheric place. You can sit almost in the cave, or choose, as we did, a table outside in the sunshine (on a sunny day:-) )

We also liked our visit at Annies Burger Shack - established by American Annie who has combined the best of her two countries: US burgers and UK Real Ales. Book a table, because this place is busy.


Continuing our stroll in Notts, we suddenly start to giggle: What is that? A rickshaw? But not on the street. On the wall. Yes, on the wall. Hanging on the wall outside the Indian restaurant 4550 miles from Delhi. and further down we see the Memsaab, the Calcutta club and then Bombay Delights...


So here we are in Robin Hood land enjoying multicultural moments, global surroundings and seeing the old Sherwood forest tales come alive. And who could have guessed that some fresh dosas would be our first taste of enjoyable Nottingham?  


And, dear reader, as we say here in Notts: Terrah then!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Ganesha drums and Autumn symphony

I had to smile, when my blogger friend, Arti, My Yatra Diary, asked me to write a guestpost on her blog on the Ganesha festival. That was going to be fun:-) And it was! Thank you for hosting me, dear Arti. 
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Ganesh Visarjan: Close up with Ganesha
" It had been 4 years since I had been religiously covering it. 
But not this year. This year, I wanted to pass the baton to someone else. 
I wanted to hear the story but from the other side. 
And... it didn't take me long to circle who that someone else would be. 

How about my dear blogger friend, Eli @ Expat LivAn expat journalist
and writer from Norway living in Mumbai since the past two years?  
I thought. It would be nice to hear what she feels about the Ganesh 
Chaturthi festival. Being a regular reader of her blog, I already knew 
her love for India and that she connected with the festivals and cultures of 
the country at the same emotional level that I do. Thinking thus, I immediately 
set off to shoot her an e-mail requesting if she would like to be a 
guest on My Yatra Diary... and pen down something on Ganesh Visarjan 
and the festival from an Expat's point of view?

And voila, there she was, in the midst of flying in from Goa and 
flying out to Europe, all excited to make some time and honor 
this little corner of mine. I simply couldn't stop feeling grateful and 
thanking her for this kind gesture of hers.

So on that note, there we go -- sit back, relax and read all that the 
festival of Ganesh Chaturthi means to an expat, from an expat's point 
of view -- rest assured, Eli is the kind of writer who shall leave you 
wanting for more! 
******
When I was invited by dear friend Arti to write about Indian festivals in 
general and Ganesha in particular, I could feel a huge smile spreading 
on my face. Because even long before we moved to India over 2 years ago, 
I had a vision of the Indian festivals. Colorful, noisy, wild, crazy, fun 
and with crowds of happy people drumming and dancing all over, 
all the time. I was not disappointed. The festivals here are all that 
- and so much more. 

I go with the flow, from festival to festival."


You can read the rest of my guest post here: on Arti's amazing blog My Yatra Diary.

____________________________

So, one day I am right there. In the middle of a wild crowd in Mumbai. Surrounded by people who are drumming, dancing, laughing and together we are moving like a human winding train towards the water. I can feel the heavy drum beat. As I stretch back, I feel raindrops on my face. I start to laugh because it all suddenly feels so crazy, loud and intense. And here I am -  right in the middle of it. This enormous crowd of people, all here to follow their Ganesha to His last journey. The immersion. And the drums do not stop. At all.


And then the next day I am somewhere else. I am walking on a path in a green forest. No drums. No people. No cars. No sounds. Just quiet. I can hear my own heartbeat. Lots of trees. The colors are changing. From green to yellow, orange, red-ish and brown. An Autumn symphony. And yet, the drums are with me. Somehow. They do not stop. Not even here.







A short week back in Bergen, but already today I am moving on... To where? Stay tuned...:-)

Ta ta! 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Irumbai and Greening of Auroville - a guestpost

Do you remember our vivid travel around the world in 26 days, dear reader? Since my P was Pondicherry and my urge to travel there has not diminished notably since last April, I figured it was time to feed my urge. So, what could be better than to have one of my favorite bloggers Beloo Mehra take us to her Pondicherry?

I came across Beloo's blog in the same challenge - and followed her 26 posts on Education In India with enthusiasm, curiosity and awe. Since then I have been stuck on her blog LetBeautyBeYourConstantIdeal. I am honored and excited to showcase Beloo here, and hope you will enjoy her writings as much as I do. Thanks for accepting my invitation, dear Beloo: the floor is yours:-)

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Irumbai and Greening of Auroville
Beloo Mehra

 Once upon a time, maybe 500 years ago or more, there lived a highly evolved Siddha, a Yogi (Self-realized person) known as Kaduveli Siddha. He lived in a small village presently known as Irumbai, about 10 kms from Pondicherry, and near Aurovillethe international township with a deeper aim to realize the inner unity of humankind.

Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.
To read more about Auroville, visit: Auroville.org
To read Auroville Charter, click here.

Back to the story...

During a time when the village and nearby areas were not getting any rains and the drought condition was making life difficult for people and other creatures, Kaduvella was busy performing his austerities and spiritual practices (tapasya) sitting under a peepal tree. He was so fully concentrated in his tapasya and the intensity of his physical and spiritual heat (tapas) got so strong that soon an anthill started to rise up around him. People thought that the drought was getting worse because the tapas generated by the Siddha's intense tapasya and austerities. But they didn't know how to break the yogi's concentration, especially when they saw the anthill grow bigger and bigger with every passing day.

Suffering because of the drought and resulting deprivation, the villagers approached the king who agreed that the Kaduvella's ongoing tapasya must be 'broken' in order to bring down the intensity of the 'heat'. But he too didn't know how. A temple dancer, named Valli, a woman of enticing beauty and a devotee of Lord Shiva, decided to do her best to get the attention of the yogi, and to rescue the King and people from the adverse effects of his tapasya (penance).


Valli observed that occasionally Kaduveli would, with his eyes shut, put out his hands to catch and consume the falling, withered leaves from the peepal tree where he was sitting. So she prepared a bunch of thinly fired apalam (a flat salty wafer made out of green gram daal), and started placing them in the yogi's outstretched hands as he tried to catch the falling leaves. He would eat the apalams and slowly got his taste back. In a few days he grew fatter until finally the anthill broke and he was once more exposed to the daylight.
One day finally Kaduveli ended his tapasya and opened his eyes. Valli was extremely happy and convinced him to go to her house where she kept him happy with her dedicated service and dancing talents. Meanwhile, the rain gods were relieved from the torture of the heat of the yogi's tapasya. The village received plenty of rains and the people were once again happy and on way to become prosperous due to abundant crops.


This called for special celebrations and the King arranged a special Puja to be held at Irumbai temple, (also known as Mahakaleshwara Temple). As part of the celebrations, Valli performed the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, the Nataraja. It so happened that while she was dancing one of her anklets fell off, and she lost her balance and rhythm. Kaduveli, who saw the Lord Shiva in Valli, picked up the anklet and put it back on her feet. The King and other members of the royal court were shocked to see an enlightened Yogi touch the feet of a mere dancing girl. They mocked and ridiculed him and made sneer remarks. Kaduveli got furious and invoked the Lord Shiva to come out of his temple and prove his innocence by causing a rain of stone. Immediately the shivalingam in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple exploded, and wherever its fragments fell became desert. The Siddha cursed that no greenery will grow in that area.


The King was naturally frightened and begged the pardon of the Siddha, bowing down to him with all his entourage and pleading with him to take back his curse. Kaduveli was by now calm enough to realize the devastating impact of his curse. He told the king that the curse couldn't be taken back, but sometime in the future people from far-off lands would come and make the desert land green and fertile again.

Today, there are villagers in Irumbai and many other villages near Auroville who feel that the Aurovilians, many of whom hail from many different countries, are the people from far-off lands mentioned by the Kaduveli Siddha and that the curse is now beginning to leave them. Spending a little time in Auroville and seeing all the "green" around one gets a sense that the legend may indeed be true.

To learn more about the ongoing afforestation and other 'greening' work going on at Auroville, click here and here.

Love of Nature is usually the sign of a pure and healthy being uncorrupted by modern civilisation. It is in the silence of a peaceful mind that one can best commune with Nature.  (The Mother, Collected Works, Vol 16, p. 401)

All pictures are from Irumbai temple, credits: Suhas Mehra

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Aaaahhh, dear reader. I hope you enjoyed the story? I sure did, nature lover as I am... And my urge to visit Pondicherry area, Irumbai temple and Auroville? Oh yes, still there, maybe even more...:-) Thank you dear Beloo for sharing this wonderful story:-)

About Beloo:
Beloo donned the hats of school teacher, university professor and researcher for many years, and is now happy to be doing what she does best – learn. Living in Pondicherry for the last 7 years and working part-time as an online educator for a private university in the US, she devotes most of her time to studying the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, blogging, reading, gardening and just being. She blogs at http://letbeautybeyourconstantideal.blogspot.in/ and can be reached at beloome@gmail.com

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Have a continuous good week!
Ta ta from Mumbai!