The Help – This Time she was Flustered!

OK – I really like my maid. She has been with the family since 1999 and she comes for all of one hour every day to do the dishes, sweep the floor, mop the floor, and wash the clothes, and clean the bathrooms. The bathrooms she does twice a week and the clothes she does thrice a week. Yes, we have yet to buy a washing machine. In the meantime, we will utilize the help’s strong hands and enthusiasm to wash our clothes, because by god, she does a good job!

I am going to refer to the maid as “V”. So, this afternoon, V came in at her usual time, and we both commiserated about the sickening hot weather of Mumbai, and then went about doing our work. V then got going on the bathroom floors and I told her that this afternoon I was expecting two Swiss ladies who had volunteered at my mother’s animal sanctuary in Puttaparthi, and who were transiting in Mumbai for one night: Check out

At first, she did not understand the concept of “Switzerland”, and I had to explain to her, on an imaginary map, where Switzerland was, and how these two women were White, and were in Parthi for 3 weeks helping in the sanctuary, and were now on their way to Aurangabad. Just then, the door bell rang, and I thought to myself, “Now, this is going to be interesting.” I opened the door, greeted the young girls in, led them to the living room, gave them some water, and started talking to them. As soon as they came in, V dropped everything and assessed them from head to toe, looking in astonishment at their huge backpacks, their white skin, and their incredible heights! She was amused.

I then led the ladies to their room and continued our chat there, but from the corner of my eye I could see V cleaning the bathrooms in full force, as if she were possessed by the bathroom cleaning gods or something.  I don’t know. But, I saw her doing things to the bathroom that I had never seen before. Clearly she was adamant to make an impression.

So the girls and I kept talking and I finally see that V has finished her madness in the bathrooms and is now standing in front of the mirror, prettying herself. I was stunned. She was putting her hair back, straightening out her saree, washing her face…..the works! I was beside myself. So I went to her and thanked her for her work and she casually inquires if these girls are going to be gone by tomorrow. I respond saying that they will be gone before she is here in the afternoon. With some disappointment she says, “So I won’t get to see them?” My heart sank a little and clearly, she wanted to engage with  these tall, White, strange looking females. I took her to the room and introduced her to the girls and she grinned from ear to ear, like a little kid in a candy store. There  I was, playing interpreter to the two parties: the inspector and the inspected. I explained to the girls that V was part of the family for almost 15 years and that we treat her as family; that even when we did not live in Mumbai and rented our apartment out, we kept V on for the other family who stayed. V then shared that she was going to go to Church, a 15 minute walk from my house. When I informed the girls of this and suggested that they could go with her, she was very eager to escort them to the church. When they shared that they were afraid that they may get lost on their way back to my house, she immediately volunteered to bring them back as well. It was hilarious. Her enthusiasm and eagerness grew with every passing moment. The girls then said that they would rather just take it easy at home since they just had a 20 hour train ride from the South of India. Immediately, V instructed me to take them to Church for the mass at 8 pm, as that would be the last mass and the least crowded. Again, I was amazed at the woman’s zeal and enthusiasm.

As I type this post, I am a little warm and fuzzy thinking about the simplicity of people’s lives; people such as V. Every new thing is a great novelty for her , be it a new eatable, a new skin color, a new animal, and so on. In a way, I envy her: her simple way of life, her bare necessities, her curiosity, and her willingness to take risks (such as making me introduce her to the Swiss girls). I know that she envies me too, in some way…..Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side, and it’s always fun when we can share our slice of the pie with others.


Getting a Facial in Mumbai…. A Whole new Experience!

So today, I was craving a facial and was dying to get some down time in the relaxing confines of a saloon (I still want to say “salon” like it is in the US, as opposed to “saloon”). But when in Rome, it’s usually in one’s best interest to do what the Roman’s do. I was also craving a facial because my face was feeling grimy and oily from all the dust, dirt, and grime it has been exposed to in the last 3 months of living here. Not to forget, every time I have a shower and wash my face with a cleansing oil, it does not take me more than 15 minutes to see sweat beads on my face. Thus, my face really needed some TLC, to say the least.

Now, I could have taken the time and made the effort to research good spas or saloons in and around the area, but I was too tired. Yes tired, not because I did anything “tiring” per say, but because it is almost the end of November and it was 36 degrees Celsius this afternoon (97 degrees Fahrenheit) coupled with 70% humidity. This is a whole new concept of winter for me, and I hate it!! Anyhow, I decided to try the local saloon in my neighborhood and I knew I should not expect to be treated like I was at the Ritz Carlton or something, but I also hoped that I would have a pretty relaxing experience.

So, there i was, on the table and definitely got a facial, although the ultra relaxing aspect of it was missing. To simplify my experience, and because San Francisco is my only yardstick, I will break down my experience in the pros for getting facials for both cities.

Pros of getting a facial in Mumbai (at a mediocre saloon):

1. The facial lasted for 1 hour and 15 minutes, as opposed to the 50-60 minute facials I was accustomed to in SF.

2. The facial comes with a mini back massage (which lasts about 5-7 minutes). I could never expect that in SF.

3. The cosmetician takes great pains to massage your face and neck for about 25 minutes, again, something I am not used to in a facial in SF.

Pros of getting a facial in San Francisco (at a mediocre saloon):

1. Your hair is neatly tucked in with a band and made sure, as far as humanly possible, that it did not interfere with the facial. Today, although the cosmetician did tuck my hair back with a band, it wasn’t done well enough because every 10 minutes or so, she would have to pull strands of hair off my face.

2. The temperature of each room is controlled to ensure the comfort of the client. Nope! This was not to be. The person in the next room was feeling warm, and her cosmetician turned on the fan full speed, much to my displeasure. When I expressed my dissatisfaction to my cosmetician, she didn’t really do anything about it except to mutter, “Sunita, turn the fan down a little.” Mind you, each “room” is created by diving walls that are made of concrete, but the walls don’t go all the way up to the ceiling. So, the concept of “temperature control” is null and void in such a saloon.

3. You get soft, serene, relaxing music playing in the background, lulling you into a state of relaxation. I got old Hindi songs cranking out of a beat up boom box….but, luckily they were pleasant songs and not plain old cacophony that you get in the newer Hindi films.

4. Finally, I used to get to hear my own breath and the soothing music when I got my facials in SF. In Mumbai, I got to hear the conversations of the lady in the next room, I got to hear the giggles of two girls who were getting pedicures, of chairs being dragged around the saloon, and of people going in and out. One of the conversations I overheard, while attempting to get a relaxing facial, was between these two women who were talking about their tailors; how one of the women’s tailor won’t give her back the finished product until she is completely satisfied with it, and how he is “too good” when stitching Indian clothes. Another conversation revolved around how one of the women is now ready to show her legs in public because she “just recently started waxing.” I was just amazed at these conversations, wondering if I should laugh at my fate or……if I should just laugh at my fate!

Anyways, I got my facial done, paid the woman, and had to ask myself if I was in the Twilight Zone or something. I sure as hell did not get a very relaxing facial, but I did have an experience that I will never forget!

Remembering 26/11 – Black Wednesday

Yesterday, I was reminded by a friend that 26/11 was around the corner and I did not know how to respond: should I have been frightened?, should I have been anxious?, should I stay at home and play safe rather than exposing myself to any possible attacks? In many ways, I did not have any emotional response, mainly because I was not present in Mumbai when the terrorist attacks on Mumbai happened on November 26 in 2008. I was in the confines of safe and cozy San Francisco when I saw the CNN broadcast of the tragedy and annihilation that struck South Mumbai.

Today was the 3 year anniversary of 26/11 and I still do not seem to know how to respond. I know I feel immense sadness and despair when I think of all the hundreds of people that have been affected by the attack on Mumbai, which is an attack to India itself and her people; there also seems to be a sense of hopelessness, in many ways, when I look around me and I see the poverty, crime, and chaos that surrounds this city, as if she wore a dark mantle that she may never be able to shrug off. I do not know. There is a kind of numbness in me, and I think it’s mainly to do with the fact that, in some way, I have been divorced from Mumbai for a long, long time. However, things may change, as my new found courtship with this city is still very much in its infant stages.

This evening I was matching a movie at home and heard a lot of hullabaloo outside my window. My first instinct was to ignore it, as there is always something or the other happening in Mumbai. This really is a city that never sleeps. Believe you me! Anyhow, I continued to hear the commotion outside and my second instinct was that it was a bunch of real noisy kids just playing in the street. When I found that the outside noise was drowning the TV, I peered outside the window only to find hundreds of people walking in a procession, each one with candles in their hands, young and old, chanting in unison the following phrase, “Bharat mata ki jai!” (Victory to Mother India).  I managed to get a short video from my window, and although not very clear, it gives you an idea of what I am talking about:

I was touched by this march, people holding banners and placards, the police participating to provide order… definitely made me fell connected to the people of Mumbai on some level. I was glad that I did go out this morning to South Mumbai and spent my afternoon there, and I will say a prayer for all those whose lives were taken away in such a harsh and horrific manner.

A Tribute to the Vada Pav

OMG!!! Today I was a very bad girl. I was on my way home for lunch, from work, and I was beginning to get hungry. I had to stop by the electrical shop to get alight bulb for the kitchen. So I did so, reluctantly, because I was really getting hungry and just wanted to eat. As I was going toward the shop, I passed by the street vendor who sells vada pavs and thought to myself, “It would be nice to get something from him, but I know it’s loaded with oil.” So I continued on with my business, inquired about the bulb, and as I was paying for the goods, I just blurted out to the cashier the following question in Hindi, “Is the vada pav he sells there good?”, to which I got a response in the affirmative.

For some of you who do not know what a vada pav is, I shall attempt to explain: it is yummy! Just kidding. Vada is a short form for Batada Vada, which is essentially a ball of flavoured mashed potatoes mixed in with green chillies, mustard seeds, curry leaves, salt, and turmeric. This vada is then bathed in a rich, complex coating of a liquid mixture of gram flour and spices, and deep fried in oil.

Pav is the Hindi word for an unflavored bun. So, vada pav is a sandwich of sorts, wherein a vada is stuffed within a bun, and eaten with sweet and spicy chutneys. I have not eaten a vada pav in 10 years, people. Every time I would visit India, I would run to eat other kinds of fast food and street food, so much so, that I forgot what a good vada pav tasted like. Today, on sheer impulse, I brought a vada pav (VP) for all of Rs. 8 ($0.25), and almost ran home. I just couldn’t wait to get home, and when I did, I threw everything on the bed, took the vada pav wrapped in news paper, took a few pictures from my phone camera, said a quick prayer to god to save me from any illness or infection that I may be struck with, took the biggest bite off the VP, and took a sigh of relief. It was orgasmic!  Here is an image of the vada pav that I brought off the streets this afternoon:

Vada Pav - Fresh off the street of Mumbai

Vada Pav - Fresh off the streets of Mumbai

In this picture, notice the newspaper that is soaked in oil. Look for the big dark spots:


Yummy! Don't miss the Green Chillies that accompany it.

Now, people who sell VPs, also tend to sell other food stuff such as onion bhajias, aloo (potato) bhajias, fried green chillies, etc. So, I couldn’t resist the onion and aloo bhajias and bought 6 rupees worth of it. A bhajia is yet another fired snack and is known by various names all over India. It is one of those fast foods that is endemic to the Indian culture and menu, and is most savored and enjoyed with chai, on a rainy day. A bhajia is made by taking a single vegetable or a mixture of vegetables, such a eggplant, onion, spinach, cauliflower, and potato, and bathing them in the gram flour batter ad deep frying it in oil. The VP guy had some onion and aloo bhajias and I packed some of those as well and enjoyed it for lunch. Here is a picture of my street food fest:

Bhajias Galore!

Bhajias Galore!

Everytime I took a bit of the bhajia or the VP, I would eat a tempered green chilli – I was in heaven!! It was spicy, yet mouth watering…..that’s seldom a combination I come across when I think of green chillies in India. Here is another picture of the oil spills around the bhajias:

Oil Spill!

Oil Spill!

Now, some people would argue that eating off the streets is unhealthy and is inviting trouble for your health, and rightly so. Who knows what water the guy has used, how old this oil must be and how many times he may have re-used it for frying, how many and what kinds of insects have feasted on the food, where this guys hands have been before he has touched the batter….the list is endless. And, I am humbly reminded that thousands of people in Mumbai live and thrive off this food, making it a staple for their meals, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

There are days, where, a true Mumbaiker, has to sometimes just bite the bullet, say a prayer, and enjoy the delicacies of the street, cuz that’s definitely the only way one can ever enjoy this kind of food.

The commuter train has a life of its own

If there is one city, outside of Europe and within India, that is super-connected by the trains, it has to be Mumbai! People can get to any god forsaken part of this city by using trains. It is pretty incredible how even less populous parts of Mumbai can be accessed through the simple use of trains.

As I have been traveling by trains a lot, because it is the fastest way to get to any part of Mumbai, I have become more and more intrigued by the fact that the trains in Mumbai have a life of their own. I am sure this phenomena has been written about and explored a multitude times before, and I am going to also add my two cents to it, along with some pictures that I have taken over the last few months.

I have seen several bizarre and unusual situations on the local trains right from eunuchs coming in and asking for money, to invalids (they’re most likely not) contorting their bodies in all shapes and forms, to people selling all kinds of things like eatables, jewelery, phone covers, TV and microwave covers, and hair accessories, to people balancing tons of stuff on their heads and backs while trying to get on and off the train. Below are a couple of images of a lady transporting aluminium and steel vessels on her head and back, while also carrying her baby in her arms:

The Ultimate Balancing Act

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here is another picture of the lady getting ready to disembark the train.

In this picture, her baby is sitting at the entrance of the train in anticipation of being picked up by her mother later as she balances all her wares across and over her body (picture is a little blurry from the moving train):

Babe in train

Babe in train

The number of people that sell and buy goods in these compartments are incredible. It is also a lot of fun bargaining with the sellers, as well as watching how some of the passengers respond to the kinds of goodies that are being sold on board. This afternoon, my eyes lit up, as I saw a young boy walk through the compartment with an assortment of glass and metallic bangles, and earrings and necklaces. Feast your eyes on these goodies:

Racks of bangles and necklaces

Racks of bangles and necklaces

The Mumbai local trains certainly have a life of its own. In peak hours, you have to fight for a place in the compartment and be vary of people stepping on your toes or pushing you out of the train when you have not yet reached your destination (the sheer force of the crowd can land you much further than your intended destination sometimes). Sometimes, you will even hear folk singers and religious singers sing their way through their journey, mostly to my displeasure, because it is pretty stressful as it is with getting on and being in a crowded train. I could go on and share more observations regarding the train culture in Mumbai, but I will end with this last observation: of people crossing train tracks to get from one side of the station to another (from East to West and vice verse). It is not uncommon for men, women, and children to cross the railway tracks to get to the other side, despite the fact that there is a bridge that connects one side to another, and despite the reality that a train could be just around the corner. It is also not uncommon for hundreds of people a year to die from these fatal crossings. Here is first hand evidence of several people walking on and crossing the train tracks:

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychology, talked about the “Eros” or the life instinct and the “Thanatos” or the death instinct. I guess we all know which instinct these guys are following!

Black and Yellow…. and a HEARTY laugh!

Mumbai is famous for its “black and yellow” taxis or cabs. It is equally infamous for the lazy, stubborn drivers who mostly refuse to take passengers if they want to go short distances. I have had several bad experiences with the cab drivers in Mumbai, leaving me frustrated, angered, and upset by how worse this situation seems to get with each passing day. Any hope of avoiding the ownership of my own vehicle so as to reduce my carbon footprint on the environment and save myself the expense and grief of maintaining a car in Mumbai, as well as not having to stress about finding parking in this god damn city, is all out the window. Yes, completely out the window and now I have to orient myself, again,  to driving in Mumbai, because soon we will have to buy a car!

Mumbai Taxi

Mumbai Taxi

I have shouted at cab drivers, my husband has abused them real bad, I have filed a complaint with the traffic police (RTO) and have even banged the doors of these cabs (luckily, I haven’t hurt myself while doing any of these crazy things) in order to get my point across to them when they refuse me a ride. For instance, a few days ago, I wanted to get back home from Parel. I approached the cabbie and he said he wouldn’t take me because I was wanting to go in the opposite direction of where he was parked. In other words, because the idiotic cab driver did not want to drive a little ahead and make a u-turn and go in the direction I wanted to go, he directed me to cross the other side of the road and catch a cab from there. I almost wanted to smash his teeth! Yes, this city has made me aggressive and violent, sometimes to my own detriment.

OK – now to the hearty laugh. Sunday night my husband and I ended up in Bandra for dinner and drinks with another couple. We had a few of the Kingfisher Pitchers, that chilled, malty beer, on a balmy evening, enjoying the mild temperatures of November (yes, the weather is gradually changing). I highlight “gradual” because it is indeed a very slow process, I think a drop of 1/2 a degree each week, or at least it feels like that. Anyways, we get on the main road and wait for a cabbie. One passes us by on the opposite side of the road, slows down, the driver sticks his head out with the expectation that we will shout out our destination, and then he would decide and act accordingly. Of course, we did not tell him our destination, so he casually stops his cab at the end of the road, within our view, and hangs out there for a couple of minutes. My husband and I debate if we should go upto him and indulge in that same old song and dance of “we want to go here” and he says “no” and we say “what’s your problem” and he says some bullshit and we give up in search for another cab.

So, seeing that we were a couple of stubborn folks, the cabbie now makes another attempt to gain our attention without appearing like he wants it – it’s a game of cat and mouse. He now turns around and parks the cab just a few feet from us. My husband goes up to him and tells him our destination, and as expected, the driver came up with some excuse, this one being that he already has a cutomer. In a matter of seconds, my husband started abusing him in Hindi and got all fired up, but all of this excitement fell on deaf ears.

But, as they say, life has its ways of teaching us some valuable lessons. Just then, a huge police jeep pulled right behind the cab. My husband walked right up to it, while one of our friends was hesitant about us talking to the police, and his girlfriend (it’s always the women who have more guts) reminded my husband to pull out his Times of India “Press Card” (this card is taken very seriously in India, even by the police, to the point that if it gets lost, the owner of the card has to file a police report). I promptly followed my husband and we both started displaying our displeasure with the cab driver and demanding what the law enforcement agents were going to do about it.

What was interesting about this whole experience was the police’s response. It took the police about 30-45 seconds to decide if they were going to act on our complaint. Finally, one of the cops, in plain clothes, approached the taxi driver, poked his head in through the front passenger window, and said something which only he, the driver, and god will ever know. The cop then opened the back door, asked us to get in, instructed the driver to take us to our destination, and to return to Bandra. My husband and I were in a whirl!! We had no idea what just happened and we both wanted to laugh sooooo bad, because the driver was quiet all the way through and we knew the guy got a taste of his own medicine. It was really funny and all the while, we had to sit with a serious face in the cab, as if we just walked out of a mafia movie. Of course, we were shit scared for our lives, thinking that at 11 pm, this driver would take his revenge by either dropping us off in the middle of nowhere or taking us to a deserted area and hacking us to pieces. Who knows. Anything is possible in Mumbai!

In any case, we instructed the driver to drop us several feet away from our house, lest he knew where were lived and stalked us…..again, anything is possible. We got out of the car, into our flat, and burst out laughing and cracking up, delighted that for once, the cab driver was on the receving end of all this bogus. If they did their jobs and took passengers to their desired destinations, be it a long or short trip, the people of Mumbai would not have a bad taste in their mouth.

Of course, we will never know what actually prompted the police to take action: was it the Times of India press card or was it our aggressive complaints in public, where we caused a stinker? Who knows!

My First Bus Fine in Mumbai

Having lived in Mumbai for 4 years in the late nineties, I have traveled North to South and East to West by buses, going to various parts of the city. This time, however, I had the rare experience of taking the wrong bus, with a wrong ticket, and interacting with the Ticket Conductor (TC) on the BEST bus of Mumbai.

I was on my way to an appointment in Bandra – Linking Road and hopped on bus number 83, not realizing that this bus would take me to S V Road. I tried to explain to the conductor where I wanted to go, but obviously he did not understand, for reasons that will be more apparent later in this description. It was a relatively empty bus and I was content having a whole seat to myself and listening to the music off my phone. As the bus entered Bandra and got onto S V Road, I realized I had to get off the bus at some point. But I wasn’t sure when. Before I could even get off the bus the TC came in to check tickets. I showed him my ticket and he promptly informed me that i was traveling beyond my ticket and needed to get off the bus. I tried to argue a little, but in vain. I then had to get off the bus and was greeted by another TC.

I tried to tell the TC, yet again, that I had asked the conductor to give me a ticket to my destination and that obviously he did not understand. I also tried to play the “I am new to Mumbai” card, but none of it would fly with the two TCs who were adamant that I pay a fine. Then I also tried to play the “I was on the phone” card (which i was) and that’s probably why the conductor did not get where I really wanted to go. I really pissed the TC off with that comment because he immediately proceeded to lecture me on how “the public” is always either on the phone or listening to music or playing games and how the conductors are “fed up” with this behavior.  I really wanted to laugh because I was so amused by this whole incident and the fact that me, of all people, who has lived and traveled in Mumbai, got a freakin fine for exceeding the limit of my ticket.

The other TC took some pity on me and convinced the TC to give me a lesser fine. So, there I was, on the corner of SV road, being cited for all of Rs. 44 (less than $1). Here below is evidence of my stupidity (mind you, I made sure to exhibit the “Dr” before my name in the ticket, just for kicks):

BEST Citation

BEST Citation

While i was being cited, a lady pulls up in a car and asks the TC if she can park near the sign (right next to us) that clearly stated, “DO NOT PARK HERE. THIS IS A BUS STOP”. Even I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this well dressed woman ask the most ridiculous question. The TC looked flabbergasted, and with great patience, explained to this woman what the sign stated and what it meant and that nobody, in their right minds, would ask if they could park there. Again, I was really having a good chuckle and commented to the TC on how silly people could be. Once again, my comment was followed by yet another lecture by the TC on how “Bombay is not same any more” and how “people just do what they want.” Of course, i took the opportunty to share my two cents and vent about how people in bombay just do what they like, and blah, blah, bah.

On that note, I got my citation, payed the RS. 44, and went on my merry way, this time in the right direction. To this day, I have a hearty giggle every time I think of this incident!

Indian Hospitality

This evening I was invited to my great aunt’s house for a home cooked meal. She said it was going to be a simple, vegetarian meal, and my husband and I were looking forward to it. Thinking it was going to be about 2-3 dishes and a salad, I was looking forward to a light dinner. In the US, dinner at a friend’s house would generally be a very casual affair. In fact, the first time i was invited to someone’s house for dinner in the US, I was shocked when I was told to bring a dish of my own. Shocked! This was one of the many cultural shocks I had, because back in India, we would not even expect our guest to bring anything but their appetite to dinner. I learned the term “potluck” only in the US, where, over the 10 years of living there, I got accustomed to this ritual and it became second nature to me; second nature to the point that I felt comfortable asking my guests to bring a dish or desert or wine to dinner.

In any case, this evening, when dinner was served, I was reminded of how generous and warm Indian people are, especially when it comes to their guests. Let me share with you the menu and the sumptuous spread we were greeted to. Apart from the appetizers, we were fed the following: raita (yogurt salad), green salad, green chutney, pulav (rice dish), daal (yellow lentil curry), paneer tikka masala (cottage cheese in gravy), garbanzo beans in gravy,  Aloo Gobi (a dish from North India made with potatoes and cauliflowers), mixed vegetables with paneer (dry dish), and a traditional bread from Mangalore (a city in the state of Karnataka/ South India). That is 10 dishes in all!! Here is a feast for your eyes:

Feast for a Queen

Feast for a Queen

I felt like royalty, being treated to so many dishes which translated into love and affection from my hosts. And this is generally the trend amongst Indians: to really take care of their guests and make them feel at home, even if it is only through food. Of course, the desert stole the show: A decadent choice between Caramel- lychee Ice cream and Chocolate-Almond Ice cream. I so wanted to walk home and needed to walk home after such a heavy meal ( a 1 hour walk), but common sense prevailed at 9:30 pm and I decided to take a cab.

Feeling Deep Sadness

Having lived in Dubai for about 16 years, I always knew that Eidh was a major festival for the Muslims. I know that there are different types of Eid and, although I lived in a Muslim country for a very long time, I never really paid attention to Eid or its relevance. This was the same case in Mumbai, where i lived for 4 years and went to college. I knew there were a lot of Muslims in and around Mumbai, but then again, was too naive and nonchalant about Eidh and the way in which it is celebrated, especially Bakri Eid. Of course, I was in complete oblivion to all of this when I lived for 10 years in the USA , where for that matter, I was only clued into Christmas and Hanukkah, the two religious festivals that I found to be most popular in San Francisco.

This year round, I find myself extremely sad and helpless, as the Muslims around me have been gearing up for the last two weeks in preparation for Bakri Eidh. There are several kinds of Eidh celebrated in the Muslim calendar: Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Ada. Eid al-Ada, which is the main festival for Muslims worldwide, is also referred to as Bakri Eid. Bakri, in Hindi or Urdu, means “goat”. In essence, this is a festival where Muslims sacrifice an animal, such as a goat or an ox, in reverence to the almighty creator, Allah.

With all due respect to this religion and its people, I find it very disturbing to see (first hand) how these goats are reared for sacrifice. For the last few weeks I have been noticing all around me these beautiful, strong, peaceful animals being tied up and constantly being fed by its owner, in order to fatten them for the kill. I have been going to a client’s house for therapeutic work in the last several weeks and, every time I would pass by their home, I would see these two gorgeous goats tied up on a short rope and constantly fed greens.

All over the city, I see goats being tied up, while only a handful have the luxury of roaming around freely on the streets. I have also seen other instances where goats are being transported in taxis for the killing, where they have been pick up or purchased on the road side, where they have been taken from one location to another in private cars, where people walk with their goats with a big bunch of greens in their hands, so as to allure the goats to their destination, and so on. And what is the most saddening part is that these meek, gentle animals, willingly go with their owners, without any resistance, most likely not knowing that they are going to be slaughtered. It is a heart breaking sight when you know the truth.

Below is a link that explains the actual significance of Eid, where in the Old Testament of the biblical times, Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only son, and when he blindly obeyed, God rewarded him by stating that he could sacrifice a goat or ram instead of his own flesh and blood.

That story was meaningful in the Old testament, but this practice continues even now and in not the most humane ways. Here is a beautiful picture of a goat, an example of some of the many goats I have seen all around me in the last few weeks:

Sweet little one!

Sweet little one!

I really don’t understand, how so many animal sacrifices or celebrations are done where goats, cows, turkeys, lambs, and so on, are forced to give up their precious lives year after year. All I know is that when I go this week to my client’s house, the little backyard where those two goats sat for week after week, chewing away at their grass, will be empty and bare, leaving my heart a little more heavy than before.


Expats galore in Mumbai

This past Thursday, my (expat) friend and I visited a charity mela (Hindi word for Fair) hosted by the American’s Women Club. This mela was held at one of the prestigious hotels in Mumbai, The Trident, an exquisitely done up hotel with all the frills. I was very pleased and impressed to see the fresh Lillies in full bloom as the center piece of the hotel lobby. You may see for yourself:

Notice the Art Deco chandelier looming over the Lilies

Notice the Art Deco chandelier looming over the Lilies

Lovely Lillies

Lovely Lillies

 It was really amazing to see soooo many expats, both Indian and Caucasian, all under one roof, busy chatting with each other and buying handicrafts for the upcoming holiday season. This event took me down memory lane thinking of what it must be like in San Francisco right now, as people are getting ready for the holidays. With Halloween just gone by, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years, are all just around the corner and the city must be glittering, as it has always done all these years.

It made me smile thinking of the differences in the gifts and handicrafts that were being sold for the holidays in Mumbai versus what I was used to seeing in the US. There were a  lot of Indian handicrafts right from shawls, to jewelry, to Indian cushion covers and other house wares, as well as ceramic wares and other unusual items that were being sold at the mela. I picked up a few things, oe of which included a hand painted mini ceramic Ganesha, with a turban on. Below are a couple of pcitures I have to share:

Table filled with ceramic wares

Table filled with ceramic wares


At the mela

At the mela

It was fascinating to encounter expats who, because they are unable to work in the country, especially the expat wives and partners, were helping local non-profit organizations to develop and sell their products. Seeing the collaboration and partnership, as well as the cultural diversity of all kinds of women coming together to help one another, was refreshing and uplifting. I hope that I will be able to attend a lot more events such as this and meet people from various cultural backgrounds and from all walks of life!.

After this event, I was still in “shopping’ mode. And Mumbai is certainly a shopper’s paradise. So, without a doubt, my friend and I could not end with just shopping at the mela. We decided to treat our senses at one of Mumbai’s finest shopping malls – The Palladium – and I thought I was back home in the US! There were all branded goods such as Mango, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ferrari, Zara, Channel, as well as the Indian brand names. I was like a kid in a candy store, and I was amazed and in awe with how well this mall was designed and maintained. I am certainly coming back, and this time, with a whole lotta more cash!

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