Fire Mountain (part 2)

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I’ve not written a post in nearly a year! I’m not sure why I stopped writing. I think I got a bit too serious for myself let alone everyone else!

In my previous post I wrote about how and why I went on a yoga & ayurveda retreat – a life first for me! I will pick up where I left off with some excerpts from the diary I kept during my stay, just to complete the story and in my next post will start a new direction for my blog – hopefully a more varied, cheerful and interesting one!

Here is a link to a (free) piece of meditation sound art I recorded at the centre and composed back home, charting a day from sunrise to sunset. It’s an hour long and I use it to transport me back whenever I need some relaxation:

Fire Mountain Part 2

Each day at the center starts with Agnihotra at sunrise. Sunrise is at 6.22am which is super early and setting off wasn’t sure how was going to cope with this.

On the first day, as a serial insomniac I happened to be awake at 5am anyway so at least getting up  wasn’t an issue at the start.

First up was Agnihotra. It is basically a prayer ritual to fire whereby you sit around an inverted pyramid of burning cow dung, chant mantras and offer rice and ghee to the the fire. I read in the booklet in my room that I was to have ‘concentration of mind with feelings of seeking refuge in the Absolute.’ However, my mind was mainly focussed on a burning sensation, matching the fire quite aptly, on my thighs. I thought it might be an allergy to the soap I had used in my shower and remembered the Vipassana teaching of ‘an itch during meditation should not be scratched as it going teaches us the non-permenace of all things or something.’ It was driving me mad!

In truth I was learning my first lesson at Fire Mountain – listen to Lee! She had warned me of the mosquitoes. Assuming this was advice she usually reserved for foreigners visiting India and being a Mumbaikar where our mossies are regularary gassed, coupled with not usually being up at 6.22am to know that like dusk, this is feast time, I had  not bothered with repellent. Back in my room afterwards inspecting the 20+ bites adorning my derriere, I decided to listen to her from now on. A bottle of odomos later and my morning ritual reverted back to offering rice and ghee to the fire/sun god instead of a blood sacrifice to the mosquito god and the resulting meditation was much better!

Getting up this early every day was HARD. Each day it got harder not easier and my strict regime of yoga three times a day has made me feel like I was beating myself up. I was craving sugar and nicotine but self resolve held out well. I was fully convinced there would be a turning point where I am bendy and up early. The blow of getting up was softened somewhat by views like these from our post-yoga morning walk:

On my return from the walk I had my first two treatments consisting of four wonderful ladies massaging me all at once (Abhyanga) and being baked in a wooden box full of medicated steam (Bashpa Swedha) until the appropriate shade of lobster colour and deep relaxation was achieved. And all before breakfast, which like all the meals there consisted of organic and uber healthy ingredients, some grown on their farm behind the retreat:

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Post breakfast and a little rest it was time for treatment number 3. Forgoing medicated oil being poured into my nose in Nasya Karma I settled for the rest of the facial massage process of the treatment. On some days I had Netra Tarpana where they pour cow ghee in your eyes (actually really pleasant if a little strange) or Karna Poorana ear treatment.

Post the morning treatments I wrote, read, did yoga and meditation or had fascinating philosophical conversations with Lee and Jeanetta, the latter of which taught me a great technique for self healing and balancing emotions called Jin Shin Jyutsu.

I also got to visit the Paduka’s workshop – part of the Centre’s endeavors to improve the lives of local people. In this case empowering women by teaching handicrafts which they sell in the boutique (I bought a few- beautiful work!) They also teach various skills, enabling local Adivasi not just to get an education and earn a living, but improve their lives with water conservation and hygiene, renewable energy and agriculture techniques. You can learn more about their projects here:

https://shreenityanandaeducationtrust.org

Post lunch and group meditation/prayer (you can hear the beautiful chanting of all the staff doing this in the recording above) I had my back, neck or knees tended to with Kati, Greeva or Janu Vasthi treatments where a circle of wax is made on the area and medicated hot oil poured in. This totally sorted out my sciatica and gave relief from pain such as I have not felt in years. This was followed by Shirodhara, a deeply relaxing treatment where oil is poured on your head for ages until you are in a blissed out semi-trance that had the added benefit of giving me fabulous, soft and shiny hair.

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I opted out of the evening fire meditation to relax for as long as humanly possible in the natural hot spring hot tub, up amongst the leafy branches to sound of crickets and frogs and the occasional monsoon shower.

I left Fire Mountain a much happier and healthier person. It was actually a really profound experience and nearly a year on the mental-health benefits are still with me. Could really do with a massage now though! I had every intention of going back on a regular basis but life seems to have got in the way once more – maybe like blogging, it is something I should make a habit of once more!

If you would like to visit the very highly recommended Fire Mountain Retreat you can find out more here:

http://www.firemountainretreat.com

http://firemountainayurveda.com

www.padukasboutique.com

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Posted in alternative living, Alternative medicine, Ayurveda, Health, india tourism, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fire Mountain (part 1)

fire mountain retreatThis month, I’ve shipped myself off to a ayurveda, yoga and meditation retreat.
I want it to be like a reset button for my life – break the old bad habits, create some new healthy ones and regain some balance in my life so I can generally be a better person.
Having no idea if it would work, further confused by a mixed reception of skepticism and enthusiasm from various friends and family I set off to Thane to meet the ayurvedic doctor who would assess me and prescribe a treatment plan for my stay.
I have to say I felt a certain amount of guilt leaving my daughter and using my precious annual leave and money on something that was just for me. It goes against your instinct as a mother.
My partner had another view – he felt that by making some much needed changes in myself, getting a better handle on controlling my emotions and reaction to stress specifically, I could be a better mother, employee, relation and friend and that not just me, but everyone around me would benefit.
Healing yourself shouldn’t be viewed as a selfish thing, but the pressures of modern life seem to reduce the act of doing something like a yoga & ayurveda retreat to something self indulgent -akin to being pampered in a spa – something only for the rich with no responsibilities. Even I felt this way, hence the guilt. Luckily I have my partner to encourage and support me otherwise I would never have done this.
After seeing the doctor who assessed my dosa prakriti (body constitution) and noted any medical issues, we continued on to the centre near Ganeshpuri. The journey was very pleasant. The Maharastra countryside is so green and lush in monsoon it feels like a magical landscape from a film, color corrected so that the greens leap out at you, vibrant and unbelievable. Darkness fell as we were nearing our destination and the trees lit up with the twinkling fairy lights of fireflies, flashing in unison. We got a little lost and google maps nearly took us down a muddy track into a small pond. Yogesh from the centre came to our rescue on his scooter, meeting us near a temple that Amit told me was for the non-angry incarnation of Kali which I took as a good omen. The path got narrower and bumpier and before long we had arrived at Fire Mountain retreat centre.
We were greeted by the warm and welcoming Lee and a round little over-excited dog. As we sat down for dinner and spoke to Lee and Yogesh my anxiety lessened. Lee, a kind faced American lady, told us her story of being a retired chief technology officer (a fellow geek – another good omen) and how she had now embraced her ‘other life’ full time, following the spiritual teachings of Bhagawan Nityananda and Swami Muktananda, in the retreat with her colleagues Jeanetta and Dewa. The foundation is a charity which helps provide employment and education for the Padukas (local tribal women) and does a whole load of other good stuff in the community, which I will write about later.
Yogesh told of his many years experience in ayurveda, training therapists along with his brother Hemant. He also told us about his about his home village, which in another lovely coincidence is where our maid Jasmin is from. Reassured I was going to be well looked after, Amit went on his way and I went to bed in my very comfy, cosy room that was to be my home for the next nine days.
I will write more about my experiences on this trip in parts 2 & 3 coming soon..
Posted in alternative living, Alternative medicine, Ayurveda, blog, Fitness, Health, spirituality, Wellness, women empowerment, Yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tomorrowland

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An amazing thing happened to me last week – not off my own merit I have to admit – in truth it was down to pure luck of having a British passport thus being able to travel to Europe at a moment’s notice (well until Brexshit anyway). Also, my boss who should have been going was unwell which is not a lucky thing at all. I felt rather guilty about both of these things so planned to buy lots of Belgian chocolates for all my colleagues and vowed to do my company and my adopted country proud on the trip ahead.

So still a little unable to believe I was really going, I found myself on a (very nice – shout out to the brilliant Brussels airlines!) plane going to Tomorrowland. I was part of a group that included Indians, Canadians, Norwegians, Ugandans, Germans, of course Belgians and maybe a few other nationalities.

We were put up in a stunning converted church hotel in the beautiful town of Mechelan which, is so picture perfect I felt like I was on a film set. The surreal feeling was not helped by the fact that I was playing golf. Yes golf – not a bad way to tour a city. Even stranger, I ended up being ok at playing golf by the time we had reached the final hole at the newly opened town museum. The museum, not unlike the mixture of modern and ancient architecture in the town, had a mixture of modern art, historic artifacts and cool technology engagements. The day wound up rather fittingly in a brewery for dinner, after which I rushed off to get as much sleep and charge in my batteries for the following day. Mechelan – you get a big thumbs up and recommendation to my readers! Belgium is just so bloody nice you have to see it! As are the people – even the airport immigration officer was charming, funny and friendly!

So after eating as much as I could cram in for breakfast we set off for the festival. I won’t gush on too much about how amazing it was and how lovely our host and the new friends I made were – I will let the pictures do the talking. However if I had to describe the experience I think I could sum it up in three words – SO MUCH LOVE!!!

For a commercial event, I heard a huge amount of non-commercial, awesome music. I met people from all over the world carrying the flags of their home countries – not to stand out in the crowd, but to show solidarity that they were there, part of this huge, diverse global family, dancing together. The feeling of peace and unity in the face of all the shit we read in the news everyday really was incredible. It was backed up by the MCs and DJs expounding the same philosophy, the lyrics in some of the tunes being played and in the films and interviews about the festival I have since watched.

There was hardly any litter, no vandalism, no glaring in your face sponsorship plastered everywhere killing the vibe and the art, I didn’t see any trouble (or interestingly, any police in the festival), felt safe as a woman wandering around by herself, highly decorative infrastructure (and not much of a queue for the loos), world class sound, lights and production and just beautiful happy people of all ages (yes! I wasn’t the oldest there!) holding it down and having the best time. I even found some Belgian hardcore and people who know what R&S is. My feet hurt from dancing so much and face from smiling like I used to ‘back in the day’ as we aging ravers say! My head however did not hurt – no hangover and no ringing ears.

A one in a lifetime, great experience and a very, very grateful me.

Now come on India! – Let’s overcome all the challenges we face in the events industry here (I won’t kill the joy of this article by listing them now) and bring Tomorrowland home to India – or create something of our own equal, or if it is even possible, better!

 

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Posted in blog, Culture, expat, Festivals, happy news, Live Events, Live Music, Live Sound, Photoblog, Review, Tomorrowland, travel, Travel Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve started so I’ll finish…

Well I don’t often bare my personal thoughts publicly, but there has been something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while so here goes…

A year ago I started something that meant a great deal to me, that as yet I’ve been unable to finish. I wanted to make a film. It started out as a simple film about musicians from India and the UK touring each other’s countries. As someone who has moved away from everything I know and love in the uk – my family, career as a sound engineer, being part of a community of techies, musicians, artists and crazy circus performers, all working doing what they love, often not for money but for a belief that through their art they can change the world for the better.

Also I moved away from a broken heart, the loss of my job at Boomtown and friendships I thought were solid until I decided to keep my baby and all the controversy that caused. While I made peace with the other responsible party involved and many of those that hurt me, I knew the UK, the small island that it is, had lost its calling and I had reached the limits of what I could do there professionally. India, the country that contained not only the man I had fallen in love with, but a music, arts and festival scene that was exploding, exciting and loaded with new challenges and opportunities to create – a new culture to immerse myself and my daughter in and a fresh start and fresh career- it was calling me.

Through my film I felt I could bring the best parts of these two worlds together. When I went back to shoot at Glastonbury festival, I was reminded of the beautiful energy of the people working there to make a positive change in the world. The film became so much more – not only about two groups of musicians experiencing each other’s culture, but about the potential for positive social change such exchanges opened up and the hurdles that existed to such a venture, both financially and in regards to freedom of movement across borders. Amongst many others, I met some people from South America running a grassroots festival there who also felt the same as me – that the power of music and art at music festivals and other such events has a huge transformative potential. The film became about facilitating this foreign exchange, advocating it – for better or worse, about this more than objectively filming that very thing in a documentary.

If I am to be very honest with myself it was also about the maybe selfish motive of keeping that connection with the scene I loved and the people I loved in the UK and the new world I was part of in India. I returned to India with grand plans of creating a non-profit entity to aid non commercial/independent musicians and artists to be able to participate in performance changes to each other’s countries – doing my bit to make the world a better place and helping out some amazing artists and friends on the way. The organisation would springboard off the film and it would begin by bringing a UK musician to India that winter. I would also finish my other (first) film project on the musicians, performers and travellers working to help the Syrian refugees.

Not long after I returned to India, I was unexpectedly hospitalised and suffered a traumatic experience involving my ovaries, a corrupt insurance company and crooked, nasty doctor. I suffered PTSD and depression and anxiety as a result, but kept on going – I had to for my daughter- and I got my head down and tried my best in my new full time job for an Indian events company. The job is fantastic but demanding and between keeping my head afloat at work, trying to organise a tour, a second shoot at Boomtown festival (remotely from India) and trying to be a good mum, I struggled and failed at pretty much all of the above.

In India I lacked the network and support of kindred spirits willing to make the tour and film happen. I couldn’t apply for Arts funding in the UK as I am not resident there and I couldn’t apply for funding in India as Im not a citizen here. I tried to seek help from the British council and received a very firm good luck but fuck off. The numerous huge forms and impossible deadlines for funding piled up with no help, guidance or time to fill and I watched everything slipping away. People who initially promised help lost interest or let me down. I didn’t have the resources solo and I just had to admit it. It felt immensely lonely and all I could do was put my project on the back burner and try to prioritise keeping my job and being there for my daughter and partner.

It was soul crushing when I had to admit that I couldn’t organise the tour and had spent the last bit of my credit card on the Boomtown shoot. I had all this footage and minimal experience in editing a film – my blind belief that sheer bloody mindedness and conviction in what I felt was a worthy cause would enable it to happen. simply wasn’t enough. It was overwhelming. It ate away at me night and day. I felt I had let so many people down – the bands, my work who had supported me above and beyond enabling me to do the first uk shoot, all my friends and colleagues in the UK, my family and myself. I couldn’t bear to look at the footage, to try to raise more funds – I felt sorry for myself that more people hadn’t helped me and hadn’t felt as passionately about the subject matter. I felt that I was wrong to have even tried and that as family finances were not great I had made a bad decision putting money I didn’t have into a failed project. I felt I owed the world who was laughing at me now surely, a huge apology and more isolated than ever from the UK.

My day to day life had become about making slogans for corporate company’s employee r&r events, pushing through the harsh crowds on the Mumbai local train and fighting guilt, insomnia and nightmares. My relationship suffered and I became a horrible person to be around. The only joy in my life was the time spent with my daughter. The only thing I felt proud of about myself was that I could still read to her every night and pay her school fees and give her fun and love.

My thirty-sixth birthday approached and with still no wedding to my partner, no sure immigration status or residency and the general feelings of insecurity this produced, along with crazy stuff going on with my hormones producing yet more insecurities about early menopause and there being no chance of ever giving my child a sister or brother in the future, coupled with the occasional urge to cut my hair and dye it a crazy colour – I had finally arrived at mid-life crisis.

Conversations with my mother had turned to her talking some well-intended nonsense (sorry mum if you are reading this) about seeing a pretty flower and it making her feel content and thankful. My partner had taken to sending me inspirational quotes and articles on food to eat for depression and trying to get me to do more yoga. A few faithful and beloved friends persistently kept in touch despite the distance and time difference and a few more over here persistently invited me out despite me rarely accepting and generally not being any fun at all when we did meet. I was absolutely adamant that I didn’t want to have a birthday.

Then the day came. I went to see a doctor about my hormones – whatever it may be it should be treatable and there is hope I can feel normal again in that dreaded week of my cycle. I refused several lovely offers of lovely company and sat down at my computer to face my demons. The first thing I was faced with was broken files, lost work and missing data. My wonderful partner convinced me it was salvageable and despite being on the other side of the country, conspired with my friends, teenage niece and six year old child to get me a cake, beautiful golden gift, pink roses, nice wine and a lego pass-the-parcel containing some hair clips that belong to me, various barbie shoes and home-made beads.

The next morning with the help of a dear friend, I started afresh with a new edit project for what I have shot of my film so far. I know it will not be easy and maybe it will never be the film I had originally planned, but if I can make something meaningful and call it my best shot I can maybe live with myself. Who knows, maybe if I can make something that gets my belief across, that if we don’t give up in life when it feels like the world is against us, and keep on being creative, putting our art out there, regardless of what it earns us or costs us, or what anyone else thinks, maybe, just maybe we can make the world a better place.. and maybe, just maybe someone else will feel the same, maybe, just maybe one day with the help of others, I will be able to make something more than what I can do on my own.

I think of the people I have shot and interviewed in my film so far and the ones I still want to shoot – they are the ones who have achieved this and are living this – the ones who inspired me. I owe it to them to finish what I’ve started. Better late than never..

Posted in blog, Bombay, Culture, depression, documentary, england, expat, Festivals, friends, fundraising, Health, Illness, immigration, India, intercultural relationships, Live Events, Live Music, London, Love, migrants, Mumbai | 1 Comment

Lessons I learnt from Durga

reposting this from a couple of years back – happy Navaratri! Source: Lessons I learnt from Durga

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Mumbai Public Transport (yes again!), being on the radio & why trains are a metaphor for the world.

 

local-train-_-from-burrp-com_.jpgAny of you who have followed my blog for a while will know I like talking about public transport – maybe because I spend so much of my time on it – maybe I’m just weird.

Yes I know, I hear you, why not take OLA share? However, trains get you places faster, are considerably cheaper for the daily commute, plus I get car sick, hate AC set to Arctic and am socially awkward (not to mention the time OLA share took two hours for a twenty minute journey). So happily each day I plug my headphones in, bury my head in a book if there’s space, another person’s armpit if not, and chalo on the train.

See how I refrained from calling not one single OLA driver a moron in that paragraph? The other day however, I did not have the same self restraint when it came to the Mumbai local. After yet another irritating experience on the train I let rant on social media, requesting some good retorts I can give back in perfect Hindi to the aunty train mafia. The response was overwhelming. Many people gave their sympathy, offered support, were shocked, angry, etc. I even had a friend who works in radio ask if I would come and do an interview on the subject!

I was taken aback as really the experience, whilst annoying, hadn’t left me especially deeply traumatised. Then a thought struck me -others, less thick skinned than myself might have been.

What if you were a young girl going to college for the first time and you found yourself having to do daily death defying leaps onto the approaching train (necessary  if you want any chance of not being trodden on, elbowed and having your slippers kicked off as you try to enter)? What if you were just starting in a job and taking your first train and dared to take a seat ‘reserved’ for another lady by her friends in ‘their’ carriage?

 

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Image pilfered from Pallavi Jain – check out her brilliant art and give her some paise here

What if you were so very, very ill you couldn’t fight your way onto the train to get a seat that day, so asked, very politely mind, to take the ‘fourth seat’ and got brazenly ignored, then shouted at, for trying not to fall off the zero cm of space that no one had bothered to shift even a tiny bit to give you? And then got gossiped about in front of your face by the ladies you have to see every day on your morning commute, while they all pass cake around thinking it is all very funny like the time they trod on you while you were on your hands and knees in the train doorway trying to retrieve your shoe from the edge of the platform (again). Hilarious.

Ok well that last bit was me. I’m over it now. So far all sounds a bit like a school bus with a bully problem? Over lunch at work I heard much worse stories – a friend who had her glasses broken, yet more shoe losses, purse thefts, cat fights, people not being allowed by others to board trains or get off trains, people being pushed off moving trains, people screaming for tmumbai-local-759.jpgheir lives as they hang out of moving carriages whilst others refuse to go inside further, old ladies being dragged along the platform by their dupattas and one lady of 55 died in Borivali jumping off a moving train, being dragged underneath it. The very worst story by far was of a lady who sadly passed away. She was beaten up by a (female) train gang after refusing to give up her seat – she had given birth only a few days previous. No one was caught.

So every rush hour traveler knows as a rule, the ladies carriage is worse than the mens, never to take the Virar train (unless you are going to Virar) and where to stand if you want to have any chance in hell of getting off at your stop. Most commuters, including myself generally know how to fight through the whole experience. But what ****SHOCK**** if we stopped fighting for a minute and decided to help each other through this daily assault course? Fighting to get on a train happens even when there is plenty of space and plenty of time before a train leaves. Why? Is it really the highlight of these people’s days that they got a morning seat on the local train, risking their own and other’s lives to do so? Why do civilised ladies suddenly become animals, all over 30 square cm of plastic seat?

It struck me that the local train is like a microcosm for the world. People claim their territory and try to keep it from newcomers by forming gangs. In 2008 the state of Maharastra saw violent attacks on migrants from North India. We all know about the ongoing clashes in Kashmir. I look at my country of origin and see the anti-migrant aftermath of the Brexit vote- and lets not even start on what is happening in America! There is a lot of talk internationally about ‘the greaI5fqZaH.jpgt evil’ of economic migrants and how we need armies and walls to keep them out (along with the refugees). This talk makes me both angry and befuddled. If you travel a great distance and suffer a great hardship to be able to work, then you are likely to do just that when you get there. More hard working people in the community + more money in the local economy = better infrastructure and welfare, all with the added bonus of cultural diversity, which can lead to the better understanding of each other so we can all live in blissful harmony. In theory. Of course it depends on the honesty and competence of who is in charge and the influence of the media on popular opinion. I think though it is safe to say that in most cases, if these migrants get wherever they are headed and find nothing, they are more than likely to go somewhere else – because they want to work! Anyone who argues they are here to take your job – I second the guy above (replace English with whatever applicable language). Conclusion, territorial behaviour and isolationism = bad, migration and diversity = good. Anyone in charge who tells you otherwise is more than likely blaming migrants for their own shortcomings in governance and/or trying to control using fear.

I digress. So back to the radio. Initially I dismissed the request as rather funny and no thanks, not a chance, no way in hell basically. Whilst a lot of people would jump at the chance to be live on the airwaves, I work behind the scenes in production for a reason – I’m actually pretty shy. Then I learnt about the motives for asking me on the show – noble ones of generally getting people to be nicer to each other and making the train a safer place for all, so I agreed. Especially after I had read the inspirational article of this lady who stood up to train bullies and recalled once being brave enough to go on BBC Radio 2 to speak up in defence of squatters.

However, the night before I got cold feet when I heard it was to do with a film release Atithi in London (Guest iin London). There is a saying in India ‘atithi devo bhava‘ which translates as ‘guest is god.’ It rings well as Indian culture is renowned for its wonderful hospitality (and tendency to feed guests as many biscuits and cups of chai as possible). I didn’t want to give the impression that I felt that as a foreigner, I was a guest and should be treated as such, as god – after all I live here, work here, have family here, pay tax here and consider Mumbai my home (as much as any other migrant). The producer assured me this would not be the case and I took the plunge.

The interview was with the very sweet and down-to earth RJ Archana, someone who is genuinely trying to make a difference in the world. In amongst sharing train stories we talked about how we are all equal on the train- and not in a ‘some are more equal than others’ kind of way! Everyone should look out for each other and bullying should not be tolerated – especially in the case of grown men and women who should know better! We should extend the ‘guest is god’ mentality outside of our homes and to all the strangers we meet every day, on every train, from every state, from every country. Being nice to each other on the local train maybe a far cry from achieving universal equality and world peace, but it’s a good start.

You can watch a video which includes some of  the edited interview here.

You can see RJ Archana preparing for her very own trip on a Mumbai local train here.

And you can listen to her show Mon-Sat 7am-11am on Radio City.

http://www.newscrunch.in/2017/03/mumbai-man-bullied-local-train-fights-back-facebook-video.html

http://afternoondc.in/city-news/women-bullies-on-radar/article_189512

http://www.arre.co.in/people/the-seat-mafia-of-mumbai-locals/

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-rough-times-for-train-bullies-1055727

http://www.asianage.com/mumbai/rpf-brings-train-bullies-right-track-357

http://www.mid-day.com/articles/cops-must-come-down-hard-on-train-bullies/15532186

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/Virar-train-gang-beats-up-short-distance-passenger/article14512188.ece

http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/other/woman-falls-from-crowded-local-train-dies/articleshow/56011122.cms

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/deaths-due-to-fall-from-overcrowded-mumbai-local-trains-go-up-reveals-rti/

https://www.nyoooz.com/news/mumbai/563233/govt-to-explore-options-for-maratha-reservation/

 

Posted in Bombay, Culture, Ex Pat, expat, immigration, India, migrant, migrants, Mumbai, Public Transport, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Animal Rescue

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Meet Pie the kitten. My daughter rescued her from a pile of rubbish outside a hospital. The vet said she was only about ten days old. Our beautiful Russian friend had spotted her hanging around with a mama cat and litter of kittens who were several months older and rescued her out of the traffic a few times, where disorientated she had wandered into a busy road.

Pie’s rescue was her not-so-evil plan; she already has so many rescued animals in her house that her husband has basically banned her from getting any more. She was babysitting my daughter while I was at Hindi class and happened to ‘show’ her the kittens. When I picked up my daughter we went for ice-cream which inevitably led us past the pile of rubbish and kittens. Looking down at the little lost kitten and my daughter’s trembling lip, pleading ‘we can’t just leave him here – he will die’ I knew there was only one thing to do. Thus kitten had the rickshaw journey of his life and my partner had a phone call that started ‘please don’t be cross but…..’

After a long night picking around fifty fleas off the poor kitten and trying to get some milk in via a kid’s medicine syringe, the next day was a rollercoaster. We took Pie to the vet who confirmed he was in fact a she and needed kitten formula milk. We dropped her home and set off on the scooter to buy some. By the time we returned the kitten was limp and floppy, her tongue hanging out and eyes rolled back. We rushed her back to the vet’s and there followed a feline version of a scene from Casualty. Pie was put on a drip and given oxygen whilst being injected with all kinds of medicines and warmed up with a hair dryer.

Several hours later the head vet came in and was told “chances bahut come.’ I understood the hindi (chances are very less) and tried to prepare my daughter for the worst. I think the severity of the situation was somewhat lost on my four year old who was apparently ‘getting bored.’ Still, I thought I would spare her the trauma of seeing her new pet die and took her out for chaat and ice-cream. When we came back we were very pleasantly surprised – Pie was awake and staggering around like a tiny furry drunk. We took her home and I spent the night giving her rehydration salts every two hours and refilling the hot water bottle she was sleeping on.

The vets were wonderful – they were so shocked that our little street urchin Pie had survived that they treated her for free. It is wonderful to see such genuine compassion and dedication and now they are our vets for life!

A few months later we have a naughty, mischievous and very cute new member in the family. She has even stolen the heart of my cat-hating partner and the rest of his family and spends most of the time wrestling with her my little pony fluffy toy and viciously attacking shoes or flat on her back on my lap.

Pie is the second animal we rescued, the first was a dog I found half dead outside Matunga Road station. As I sat with his head in my lap, waiting for the animal ambulance to come and take him to the animal hospital in Dadar I had some varied reactions from the public. Many stopped to ask me what on earth I was doing and when I explained ‘animal rescue’ many commended me, but more than half thought it was hilarious and some even tutted and gave me disgusted looks. The heroes of the hour were some school kids who helped guide the ambulance men who couldn’t understand my accent and terrible Hindi.

I named the dog Matunga after the station and paid for his treatment and went back to visit him and take him for walks with my family. Sadly my partner was a little more realistic about adoption (we both work full time and live on the 8th floor) and I vowed to find him a home. I was then struck down with fever and illness (so much for karma!) and missed the call from the hospital saying he was fit and they were releasing him back in the same spot I found him. He’s still there outside the station – I see him often and always bring him food and water, always getting the same bemused looks from passers by. Sometimes he follows me to the train and it breaks my heart. Now his fur has grown back and he is fussy about what brand of biscuits he eats so I guess he is not doing too bad.

Pie is soon to get neutered – she had her first heat and spent the nights howling out the window ‘come and get me boys!’ During this episode new neighbours moved into the flat next door. They left the very same night claiming the house was haunted! I did wonder if it was Pie’s cries for a mate that they mistook for a ghoul!

Everyday I see so many stray animals. It seems the people who are most kind to them are the humans who are also sleeping on the streets and the building watchmen – in return the cats chase away the rats and the dogs stand guard at night.

However, there are also some wonderful organisations in Mumbai who are making a difference. If you are still unpersuaded by my cute ball of feline fluff to adopt a stray then take a look at some of the links below – you can always donate or even go walk a dog or two at a weekend (be warned though – I bear no responsibility if you fall in love!)

http://www.bombayspca.org

https://www.facebook.com/groups/yoda.mumbai/

http://www.amtmindia.org

http://www.karunaforanimals.org

http://www.idaindia.org

plus a great list of helpline numbers in this blog: http://www.headsupfortails.com/blog/emergency-contact-numbers-for-animals-birds-mumbai/

 

Posted in animal welfare, blog, Bombay, Ex Pat, expat, fundraising, good news, India, medical aid, Mumbai | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cheese and Wine Whine (Review)

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I was reading a thread about favorite home traditions of people who have married into Indian culture. Very fast the posts turned into nostalgia about various types of food. I wanted to expand on my thoughts about this, plus I have never ventured into the world of food and drink blogging so here goes….

I’m English and I love cheese. Indians have no idea how to do cheese. Sorry, but it is true. And selling imported cheddar and parmesan in Hypercity or Nature’s Basket for some ridiculous extortionate price is not the solution and paneer doesn’t bloody count! Cheese is important as is red wine. I am currently drinking indian red wine which is genuinely nice – if the Indians can learn red wine surely cheese will follow? We can only live in hope….

Now please forgive me and correct me if I am wrong here, but Indian wine used to taste like a mix of vinegar and piss. Now however, they have totally hit the nail on the head and are producing some damn fine wines! Below are a few of my favorites, all for under 1000 rupees (because let’s face it I am not as rich or as classy as I would like to be!) Any Indian wine makers out there please feel free to send me some expensive wine (for free) to review….

Sula Madera

This is my trusted favorite wine. At a reasonably priced (read cheap) 290 rs a bottle you can’t go wrong (unless you are thinking Blue Nun) with something that is this drinkable. I can’t say I agree with their advised serving temperature of ‘slightly chilled 14-16 degrees.’ Come on! Red wine should NOT be served cold! Yes we live in a hot country but seriously! It’s fruity but not sweet. Best drank after children’s tantrums and arguments with rickshaw drivers. Goes nicely with heavy oily high calorie tikka masala (mutton or paneer) and pizza.

Choco Vino

According to the label this wine is ‘to be enjoyed anytime during the day’ which basically legitimizes my daytime drinking if I so wish. The marketing is clearly praying on 30 something women like myself who love chocolate and wine and the idea of a combination of the two is too hard to resist. It doesn’t really fast anything like chocolate but it is rather nice and has a good body (unlike mine if I drink too much or indeed eat too much chocolate! Note to self!) I found another review which begs to differ on the chocolate taste front and is also rather funny, which you can read here. (I stole the photo from here – sorry!)

Sula Dia

Red wine that is COLD and FIZZY! AND CHEAP!!! Sounds minging? Actually it’s not – it’s delicious! The dryness counters the sweetness and it’s more like a sparkling rose more than a red. It has a rather classy Art Deco label design so you can feel classy drinking it, even out of a coffee mug. I think I have found India’s answer to Prosecco and I am a happy lady!

Fratelli Classic Shiraz

Sounds Italian, actually Indian, actually easily as good as the Italian it wants to be. Rich and ruby red and smooth on the palate. Had this in a restaurant in Lonavala so bit more pricey than the rest of the wines reviewed. Looking at their own description which describes it as having ‘hints of leather’ and suggesting it goes well with ‘Thai beef stir fry,’ I’m not sure they have thought their marketing strategy through well for an Indian audience.

Sula Samara

Bought this because they had run out of Madera in the weird local wine shop that only men seem to go to. It’s cheaper and actually maybe nicer! Maybe I just really craved wine this evening but this is totally hitting the spot. It’s a bit weak at 11% but as it is cheaper you can buy two bottles guilt free and therefore drink more. Best drunk while watching sci-fi serials on netflix while your man is away and you miss him a bit. I’m sure it would go well with chocolate but sadly there is none and no one to send to the shops (small violin playing in the background while I eat Indian ‘cream cheese’ on toast)….

I would give you some reviews of Indian cheeses, but let’s face it (and again please correct me if I am wrong) but there is no bloody point!

Please do share with me you suggestions and recommendations for Indian domestic wine and cheese…..

 

Posted in Cheese, Culture, england, Ex Pat, expat, Food, Humor, Humour, India, Review, Tradition, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Mumbai (un)Public Transport part 3

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my Sunny Scootoni as modeled by a random man

I’ve written previously about my experiences on the Mumbai public transport system. Now I would like to share with you my newfound love, my daily joy in sunny yellow, my savior from traffic jams, chore rickshaw drivers and being pretty much beaten up getting on and off local trains – introducing Sunny Scootoni – my sexy, Italian and rather stylish scooter.

She’s daring, a fast woman in bike form with matching retro yellow helmet. She doesn’t care how loud you beep your horn or if you are on a noisy massive Enfield because you can just eat her goddamn dust at 5mph stuck in a queue of two-wheelers on the side of the highway. No you are not jumping ahead in front of this lady – where are your manners? What happened to chivalry?!

I know she is a little dangerous and my mother does not entirely approve of her but I love her and I hope we will never part. I look forward to waking up to her each morning and coming home from work on her each evening. All the family love riding on her.

I’ve ridden scooters before when I stayed in Goa but always been a little terrified of the Mumbai infamous crazy traffic. Most ex-pats I know have cars with drivers to ferry them safely through the chaos (nothing wrong with this – living the dream!) Not having the option of this luxury coupled with depressing journeys in OLA cabs watching the two wheelers zip around me stationary in the traffic jam there was nothing for it but to take a deep breath and ride on regardless! My journey time has halved and I’ve not only become accustomed to but adept at weaving my way through the gridlock.

For others brave or crazy enough to drive/ride in this city here are the unofficial rules of the Indian roads:

  1. Lane discipline is not really a concept and undertaking is totally OK.
  2. Mirrors are also not really a concept. I saw a lady the other day who had chosen to gaffer tape carrier bags over hers because it was raining or because she was a lunatic, I’m not entirely sure. Instead of relying on your fellow drivers to see you in their mirrors, it is customary to beep the shit out of your horn when overtaking and take responsibility for your own life by making it’s presence heard.
  3. Many places in town have no horn beeping signs. These are largely ignored.
  4. Horn beeping is not considered rude or something done in anger as it is in many other places in the world. However it is often rude and done in anger. It is also really annoying if you live anywhere near a road until your brain creates a natural filter to ignore it.
  5. Right of way is who pulls out first in front of the other, unless you are a bus.
  6. At busy times traffic cops will direct traffic at various junctions. They are largely ignored just as traffic lights are.
  7. Helmets must be worn by law but only if you are the driver – your wife, sister, four children and goat that are also traveling on your bike need not wear one.
  8. Paise gets you everywhere in matters involving traffic cops.
  9. Pot holes, pot holes everywhere. And cows. And pedestrians with death wishes.
  10. The existence of the pavement is another thing that is not really a concept, certainly not as an area for walking on anyway. Setting up a shop selling pani puri, corn specialist treatment, place to tie up your goat/cow, or housing four generations of a family under a single piece of tarpaulin on the other hand….
  11. Men dressed as women clapping at traffic lights is a common sight, as are people selling all sorts of plastic crap and hot nuts, people with no legs on skateboards and small skinny children with big pleading eyes. They all want your money and they all break my heart when I see them.
Posted in Bikes, Bombay, Culture, Driving, expat, India, Mumbai, Public Transport, Traffic, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sick as a Street Dog

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In times of late I have not been well at all. Having suffered (and survived!) in the past from the infamous Indian ‘Delhi belly’ I have developed, quite proudly, guts of steel. During my last stint living in India I got sick once- not a bad record for two years! I definitely found myself suffering basically never from the seasonal colds and flu viruses that the UK is plagued with. I found the extra sunshine and healthy diet (due to abundance of cheap fruit and veg) and addition of health giving spices was eliminating the experience of being bed-ridden from my life.

This time around however the story has been very different. It started with a stomach infection or sorts. My partner took me to the doctors. I relayed my symptoms to him and he immediately thrust two pills into my hand. ‘Take these now.’ he commanded. My refusal to take the random medicine and daring to question what it was and what it was for dented his ego somewhat. ‘Doctors are like gods here,’ explained my partner, ‘this guy is respected all around the area and people queue to see him because he is the best.’ I begged to disagree as the doctor had promptly prescribed me some random medicine, which upon looking up was not only completely unrelated to my ailment but I was also allergic to!

One week later I was still sick and sought the help of a gastroenterologist. He went on to prescribe no less than five different types of medicine, some of which made me feel high as a kite but totally did cure me… Until I got some other horrific tonsillitis/flu/fever/sinus infection. Thanks antibiotics, my immune system has totally gone to pot! A week after recovering from that delight I once again have tonsils the size of laddoos.

India, for all its culture of Ayurveda and holistic health seems to very happy to put blind faith in allopathic doctors. There seems to be a culture of taking antibiotics for everything and anything and rushing to the doctor at the appearance of the smallest sniffle. However, maybe it’s a wise thing to seek medical help with the threat of Dengue and Malaria ever lurking (I’m half convinced maybe I had mild Dengue). However, I do worry that the knowledge we now have about the overuse of antibiotics and the development of antibiotic resistant ‘super-bugs’ has not quite filtered down to the Indian GP or indeed the common man.

My Indian family are totally caring and wonderful when it comes to looking after each other (and me!) when they are ill. I’m perhaps not as big a fan of seeing doctors and taking medicine as them but I know they have the best of intentions to help and looking after one’s health is considered very important in our family. I hope maybe I have learnt a little from them to take care of my health as a priority as well as some good home remedies. As always I hope I can give something back to them with a few of my home remedies.

Below are some useful links for home remedies to keep at bay the necessity to take antibiotics, as well as some articles on why we need to curb their use, in India especially ASAP. I’ve also put a link to a good site & project about Dengue prevention.

http://www.huffingtonpost.in/open-magazine/how-india-became-the-antibiotics-capital-of-the-world-and-wasted/

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/Overuse-of-antibiotics-harming-Indias-fight-against-TB-Lancet/articleshow/53858713.cms

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/08/india-a-race-to-the-bottom-with-antibiotic-overuse/

http://www.ayurvedichomeremedies.net

http://easyayurveda.com/ayurvedic-home-remedies-2/

https://www.breakdengue.org/toolkits/dont-get-dengue/

 

Posted in Alternative medicine, Antibiotics overuse, Culture, Dengue, Ex Pat, expat, Health, Illness, India, Mumbai | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments