Be careful what you ask for! – 2

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Isn’t the plural form mice?

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Phoren Boogeyman!

Having lunch at a busy suburban café in Mumbai. I turned in my seat to signal for the waiter to bring the bill.

As I did so, a father at the table behind me admonished his 3-year-old daughter who until now had been ignoring all requests to sit still.

“See that Uncle” he told her, while pointing in my direction. “He is getting angry. He will take you away to America! Do you want to go to America?”

An Indian Christmas

An Indian Christmas

Despite spending a lot of my time in India over the years, this was the first time I had spent Christmas in Mumbai. The suburb where I am staying is called I.C. Colony (Immaculate Conception) and after Bandra is probably one of the largest concentrations of Catholics in Mumbai. Consequently Christmas is a major festival in this area. Whilst you could be forgiven for thinking that Christmas is not celebrated in other parts of Mumbai due to the paucity of decorations, there is no mistaking it in I.C Colony. Late on Christmas Eve, The Boss and I prised my little niece away from her Hindi TV serials and went for a walk around the colony to see the decorations. The streets were filled with people considerably better dressed than us, the men in suits and ties, the women in their best dresses, the younger ones looking suspiciously like they were heading to a nightclub rather than midnight mass such were the slinkiness of their outfits.

An Indian Christmas

Christmas DecorationThe decorations were fantastic, the streets lined with stars, trees filled with blinking lights.

 

Indian Christmas DecorationsIndian Christmas DecorationsEach apartment building had a nativity scene set up in their grounds, a local political party having sponsored a competition for the best display. My favourite was the Football themed one, complete with Jesus Mary and Joseph in center-field!

Indian Nativity SceneIndian Nativity SceneIndian Nativity SceneIndian Nativity Scene

 

Portable Mosquito Repellent

I was at a wedding the other day.
The climate in Mumbai at this time of the year is very pleasant and conducive to outdoor entertaining in the evenings. Consequently the wedding was being held in a large garden at a local “country” club.
However as any of you who have visited India and spent time outdoors in the evening will know, this is the perfect time for mosquitos to go about the work for which they were unfortunately designed. These ones were huge, the size of light aircraft, and it was only after the third small child was carried aloft by one of the blood suckers that I decided to take precautions
I called over one of the staff and asked them if they could provide any mosquito repellent as I am a reluctant donor at the best of times and wanted to maintain my body’s usual content of 5 liters of the red stuff ( and I am not talking about Pinot Noir here, of which my level is usually much higher).
The waiter dashed off and true to his word, returned after 5 mins with some mosquito repellent.

Portable Mosquito Repellent
Not quite what I expected but it seemed to do the trick. Got rid of some pesky wedding guests as well!

The Universe smiles kindly upon me once more

I am often amazed by how the Universe looks after me.
Yesterday my car broke down. Not normally a reason for celebration you might say, however it broke down just as I handed the keys over to the Valet parking attendant outside one of my favourite restaurants in Bandra. The car wouldn’t start and anyone who has been in Bandra at lunch time will know that the narrow lanes are so jammed with traffic that it was impossible to push start the vehicle. So always one to try and make the best of a situation, I abandoned the car, asked the Valet to keep a watchful eye over it and went inside for lunch. No sense in being hungry at a time like this.
After carefully placing my order I started making a few calls. My citrus salad and BBQ chicken wings appeared a short while later so I put down the phone and concentrated on the more important matter of satisfying my taste-buds. The wings were beautiful, very tender with a sweet but spicy marinade. Hunger temporarily sated I resumed the calls and by the time the main course of succulent Roast Chicken with grilled vegetables arrived, I had located a very helpful man at the local Mahindra dealer. With the manner of your friendly neighbourhood doctor he asked a number of probing questions (about the car of course) and finally diagnosed that there wasn’t enough charge left in the (now 4 years old) battery to start the car and it would need replacing. By now I was really enjoying the chicken, beautifully cooked as it was, meat just falling off the bone, and he put me in touch with a local battery dealer.
I contemplated ordering another plate of roast chicken but decided instead to direct my attention towards the dessert section. I ordered a lovely molten flour-less chocolate cake with orange sorbet, the acidity of the orange balancing out the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly. The only disappointment was that the Boss insisted on sharing it.
Dessert satisfactorily devoured and a couple of cups of a very pleasant white tea from Darjeeling later, an elderly man turned up on a scooter, (outside the restaurant I hasten to clarify), with a new battery which he duly fitted. I paid the bill, thanked the staff for their excellent service, retrieved my keys from the parking valet, and headed on my way, stomach full and Tommy enjoying a pleasant post-prandial slumber.

A Moment of Peace in Bustling Bandra!

While in Mumbai a very good friend from HK happened to be there and was staying at the Taj Lands End in Bandra.

It was the first day of the Bandra Fair which commemorates the nativity of Mary and a very auspicious time to visit the Mount Mary Church which is right next to our friend’s hotel.
So we decided to kill two birds with one stone and dragged our friend out and up the tree-lined lanes winding through some of Mumbai’s most expensive real estate up the hill to the Church.

Interesting sign

There were some interesting signs on the way.

Please avoid Horn

 

Mount Mary Church or to use it’s official name “ The Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount “ has been a place of worship in one form or another since the 16th century and is very popular in Mumbai.

Visited by people of all religions it is interesting to observe an example of the many cultural differences present in India. You can spot the Hindu worshippers easily as, accustomed to removing their footwear before entering a temple, they do the same before entering the church, despite not being required to do so. Muslim women enter and cover their heads as is their custom in the mosque.

Wax Offerings

Outside the church are stalls selling wax offerings shaped as people, houses and even body parts. If someone has an illness or injury affecting a certain limb, then you purchase the wax moulding of that body part and make an offering of it inside the church in the hope that your prayers to the Mother for healing will be heard.

Wax Offerings
I don’t consider myself a religious person, more spiritual, and not a big visitor of churches. I have to say though that it was a very pleasant experience inside. Very calm and peaceful and one can see why so many people seek this space out.

The serenity of the church is only disturbed by the large black crows cawing from their perches on the red chandeliers hanging from the church ceiling, seemingly passing comments to each other about the worshippers kneeling below.

Crime and Punishment – In which the Long Arm of the Law relieves me of some hard earned cash!

The drive up from Bangalore to Mumbai was pretty uneventful. The weather was good and the countryside lush and green from the Monsoon rains.
We did come across 3 accidents that had happened minutes before we arrived, enough time for a huge crowd of villagers to surround the upturned vehicle, blocking two of the 3 lanes, but not late enough for the ambulance and police to arrive. In all 3 instances it must have been driver fatigue as the roads were straight and the vehicles had just seemed to veer off the road into the barrier or into the ditch. Because of India’s population, whatever happens to you, there will always be a crowd within minutes!
We drove into the town of Hubli about 400kms from Bangalore to find a place for lunch. Rounding one corner, a traffic policeman stepped out in front of me, pointed at me, and then pointed at the side of the road, making his intentions clear.
Irritated because I had done nothing wrong I half-heartedly pulled over making sure I still blocked traffic in the hope that the cacophony of horns to follow would persuade him to wave me on. It didn’t.
I wound down the window, and he asked “Driver’s License”
“Why?” I asked, “What have I done wrong?”
“Vehicle checking” came the reply.
“Why aren’t you stopping others?” as vehicle after vehicle drove past. “You only stopped us because we have an outstation number plate”
“Stopping everyone” he said and pointed to 3 other cars pulled over in front of us, all with out-station number plates.
Frustrated but realizing arguing would get me nowhere, I handed over my license.

To our left, a senior cop lent on his parked motorcycle, eyes shielded with mirrored Ray-Bans, arms folded, too senior to get his hands dirty shaking down the public, but no doubt busy mentally calculating how many plots of land he could buy back in his village with this month’s takings.
Handing back my license, the cop asked for my insurance. I handed it over; he gave it a cursory glance, and then asked for my registration documents, which I duly presented. “Anything else?” I asked as he handed back the docs.
“Emission certificate”
Damn! The one thing I didn’t have and was not even sure I needed as my car is not that old.
“This car is only 3 years old and doesn’t need one” I replied, as an ancient bus rumbled past, spewing out clouds of thick black smoke.
“Emission Certificate” He demanded again.
Realizing that this was not an argument I would win I admitted to not having one.
“Rs600 fine” he replied and then waited, hoping that I would try and bargain him down to a lesser “un-official” fine. Not wishing to contribute to his retirement fund, I told him ok and insisted on a ticket. He started typing into his Blackberry, pressed a button on the wireless printer attached to his belt and printed out a ticket. I examined it carefully, checking the details were correct and handed over the money.
Pulling out into the flow of traffic I drove off behind a two wheeler almost hidden by the clouds of blue smoke coming out of it’s exhaust.
Half a kilometer later another policeman stepped out in front of me, this time I pretended not to see him, although not convincingly as I had to swerve to avoid hitting him, and carried on.
Speaking to a Rickshaw Driver later, he told me that it was the end of the month and the cops had to make up their quotas, official and unofficial.
I now have an Emission certificate, at the cost of Rs100. Apparently one is needed after a vehicle is two years old and it needs to be renewed every 6 months. Judging by the air-quality in the city though, I must be one of the few who actually has one!