Isn’t the plural form mice?
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?”
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.
Each 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!
Won’t this make the car park longer?
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.
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.
The last time I came through here 3 months ago I was fined Rs300 by an over-zealous cop for driving my vehicle without a document I had no idea I needed (see here)
Hubli despite it’s comparatively diminutive size, seems to have more traffic cops than the whole of Bangalore. They are on every corner and seem to have a vendetta for anyone driving in from other areas. Meanwhile the locals blatantly flout every traffic law and regulation with impunity.
So 3 months later I have returned, stopping for lunch on my way up to Mumbai. I pulled off the highway and spent the next 5 minutes crawling along behind a tractor in 1st gear as it swerved from side to side trying to avoid potholes and doing its best to dislodge the population of a small village perched all over it.
Frustration at this extremely slow progress getting the better of me I spotted a gap in traffic, pulled out and accelerated at warp speed finally getting out of 1st gear and changing up into 2nd.
Suddenly a traffic cop ran out from behind a tree and stood in the middle of the road pointing at me. Bearing in mind the last time the cops shook me down in this town, I contemplated ignoring him and continuing on my journey. But not wishing to sully the glistening paintwork of my beautiful car with the blood and bodily fluids of a policeman I decided it might be better for all concerned if I stopped.
“Why have you stopped me” I asked
“Overspeeding” he replied using a term peculiar to India.
To me one is either speeding or not speeding, so I am not sure where overspeeding fits in.
“What is the speed limit?” I asked
“Where is the sign?”
What speed was I doing? I asked
“Over 40” came the reply. “Come with me”
Reluctantly I got out and followed the cop to where 3 of his colleagues had set up camp in the shade of a tree with a radar gun on a tripod.
The senior-most police officer announced in a haughty manner befitting of a Maharajah of old, “You were driving very fast”
“Really? How fast?” I asked
“74” he replied
In second gear! On a severely potholed road! Wow. I was amazed for a second or two but suspecting that my diesel SUV had not miraculously transformed into a Ferrari overnight, I questioned his findings.
Telling me to look at the radar gun to see my speed, I wandered over and read the display.
“It says 30” I told him.
“That’s someone else’s speed.”
“Where is mine”
“It’s deleted. But you were driving so far above the limit we are booking you for reckless and dangerous driving” he told me, thereby increasing the fine amount by 30% in one fell swoop.
Well I had a good run, I thought to myself. Seven years of being the only safe and sensible driver left in India was a pretty good effort, but I have finally succumbed. I think it’s called assimilation by osmosis.
I argued a bit more trying in vain to retain my unblemished status but when you argue with a donkey it is never likely to see your point of view.
I paid up, retrieved my license and returned to my “Ferrari”, head hanging in shame and with a noticeably lighter wallet.
An hour later lunch completed I headed out of town. Rounding a corner another policeman sprang out in front of me. A barrage of expletives echoed around inside the car, not just from me but also from the usually dulcet toned Boss sitting beside me. Barely restraining myself from running him down I pulled over and dispensing with all niceties demanded an explanation as to why he had the temerity to pull me over.
“Do you have a license?” he asked, with one eye on the traffic.
He jumped out in front of another car with outstation number plates and waved it over in front of me, ignoring all the local vehicles driving past.
Returning to my window he asked:
“I have everything! A marriage certificate also! Do you want to see that? Why the hell do you keep stopping me? I was stopped an hour ago!”
“Where?” he asked
“On the Bangalore Rd” I told him
“Where are you going now?”
“OK, happy journey” he wished me, shaking my hand and waving me on, anxious to attend to his next, hopefully less argumentative victim.
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.
There were some interesting signs on the way.
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.
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.
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.
Chocolate and Wine
Two of my favorite things! So imagine my excitement when a friend of mine in Mumbai presented me with this bottle.
Now I am not one of those people who can wax lyrically about the different flavors and scents emanating from a glass of plonk. To me it either tastes good or it doesn’t. And they all taste of grapes.
My brother is different. He is a wine maker back in NZ and unfortunately he has gone over to the dark side. Before he completed his wine making degree at University I remember phoning him up for some wine recommendations and his advice was to go to the supermarket and buy whatever is on special offer because “you can get some very good wines for a couple of dollars”.
Once he graduated he told me one wine-infused evening that he would never buy a bottle under $20! That was after swilling some wine around in his mouth and announcing that he could taste (and smell) in no particular order, river stones, autumn leaves and lanolin. I suspect he was channeling some hidden fantasy involving farm animals and the countryside, but no matter how hard I try I can never smell or taste anything other than grape juice.
Game to try anything I opened the bottle and poured a glass and was quite amazed to get a distinct chocolate aroma. So amazed in fact that I ran round the house shoving my glass under the nose of all and sundry to see if they could smell it!
Upon tasting, the wine does in fact have a distinct chocolate flavor. I mean it still tastes of wine but does have something about it that makes you think of chocolate. The colder the wine is the more distinct the flavor becomes.
Over the next couple of days I hunted high and low through Mumbai wine stores until I could find a shop that stocks it, and bought an armful of bottles to take back to Bangalore. Now in the interests of efficiency and time management I can enjoy my two favorite vices in one easy glass!