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Monthly Archives: February 2012

I must say that this year’s – virtual – birthday presents were the best I’ve received in a long time.  Immaterial and yet so personal, unique and fun. Just what I needed.

Breakfast pictures dropped in from Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the US. Choosing the top three was honestly a difficult task…

However, here come the results of the grand jury….

The undisputed prize-winner is ‘breakfast on snow’ by ice-ice Paivi and her assistant Susko who must have frozen their behinds off while taking these appetizing pictures.  It is worth zooming in on the details. Congratulations! Your prize will arrive by post.

I also decided that I liked the breakfasts proposed by my sister and brother-in-law the same. So they get to share second place.

If I am allowed to fanticise a bit, I would first enjoy the crispy waffle/pancake made by sister, sip on the freshly mixed juice, drink my coffee and listen to her singing for me.

Then I would take a break to regain my appetite and devour the delicious and creamy Semla Magna with some freshly brewed Earl Grey.

On third place comes Gabby’s fruity yoghurt, accompanied by an aromatic cup of black coffee.

Last but not least, the special prize for most romantic breakfast in bed, goes to  Io&Lina.

All delicious breakfasts are available here.

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Celebrating your birthday away from home is really something I warmly recommend.

For me, as you may know by now, a really nice birthday involves breakfast in bed served by family and spending time with people I like.

Being away, essentially means two things: no plans, no preparations, no expectations. Ok, that was three things.

When you are outside your established network of friends and family, everything is open.

Luckily enough, the odds worked in my favour and I had an excellent birthday weekend…Not only did I get to celebrate with totally new people, I also got a very heart-warming response from family and old friends who sent me their wishes and birthday breakfasts by way of email. More about that in a separate post.

For my non virtual birthday breakfast I chose to have one of the best masala chai without sugar in town – at the Golden Plaza hotel, at Ellis Bridge, just opposite SEWA.

The brew that is true

After lunch, I got egg-less birthday cake and the SEWA girls made sure to smear my face with some of the sugary cream according to a local tradition probably as old as that of birthday cakes.

eggless, not edgeless

In the evening we had a small dinner party at my current home in a brand new constellation of friends. On the menu were homemade salads, take-away Lebanese and ice-cream….

papaya & tomato

On Sunday morning  I got some South Indian-style coffee by Nithya……

South Indian style coffee

After some self-indulgence at the Dax beauty parlour I could sport my fuchsia enamel at the Parimal garden.

Parimal garden

I went to the city museum and continued for a long walk around the old walled city, west of the Sabarmati riverbank, and tried some delicious vegetarian street-food, without spoiling my appetite…..

Vegetarian kebab

…so that I could enjoy the dokhla I was having for dinner at the Green House restaurant.

Dokhla @ Green House

Last but not least – a date with Brad Pitt:  Moneyball at the PVR movie theatre. Super comfortable soft seats and  lots of baseball.

This is the view from my room in my new, temporary home, an apartment shared with two female Indian architects working on an ambitious urban development project.

It’s only February, but temperatures already go beyond 30 °C during the day.

I have discovered that the morning, just a bit after nine, and certainly before ten, is the best time for walking around in the city. Traffic is still quite smooth and easy and some streets are almost empty.

This morning I took a rickshaw to the park for a walk and, for the first time, I could see people cleaning the streets. I had been wondering about that.

I could now see several employees of the Ahmedabad Municipal Council wearing their neon vests sweeping the pavements. And overall I could see people doing the same exercise. Sweeping the abundant litter, piling it and lighting it up. Which explains all the reeking pyres that you can  be seen and smelt a bit here and there and everywhere.

And the garden, oh the garden, I have a soft spot for the garden. In the morning it is even more lush and green, with frantic squirrels running around,  couples sitting on a bench cuddling, or studying on the lawn, brisk walkers, all in harmony. With  the honking, stress and dust  at a safe distance.

I so much appreciate the fact that people take some time to start their days with physical exercise, or just take the opportunity to be with each other in a haven of peace.

We, people of the cities, need more – easily accessible – gardens and parks, and less polluting and noisy motorised vehicles, don’t you think? City planning has often managed to ostracise all this magnificent greenery from our lives.

The mere fact of having taken a relaxing walk filled me with positive energy. How was your start of the day?

In just a few days it’s my birthday. To be precise, it’s on this very Saturday.

One thing I love for my birthday is to get breakfast in bed, preferably accompanied by singing happy birthday in Swedish, but I am not stringent about the latter.

The moral of the story is that I will obviously not be getting any breakfast in bed as nobody around here even KNOWS it’s my birthday on Saturday.

So I was thinking I should ask YOU, yes YOU, to BRING ME BREAKFAST IN BED!

It is easy, all you need to do is:

a) make nice breakfast and take a picture
b) write your wishes – if you wish
c) send me your picture & wishes by email, preferably by 26 February – a small delay is not the end of the world.

I will post all your breakfast pictures on my blog next week, with the best 3 on top!

WHY SHOULD YOU DO IT?

a) because you love me
b) because it’s a good excuse for making yourself yummy breakfast – obviously I cannot help you with the eating part 😉
c) the best breakfast will get a little smth from India

🙂 🙂 🙂 Just play along, pretty pleeeeaaase!

This Monday was a Hindu holiday – mahashivaratri – the great night of Lord Shiva.

There seem to be several legends behind the origin of this celebration and reading about it on Wikipedia did not help much…..

However, I was told by a local girl that celebrations include fasting, performing puja and offering prashad of bel patri leaves, potato, datura (a poisonous fruit), milk and bhang, a fermented drink.

I do not know anything about Hinduism, but something tells me it israther complicated.

I had some quite colourful experiences at the beginning of my stay here in Gujarat, when I still was  with ‘the group’.

First of all, I assisted to a fully-fledged Hindu wedding, a rather light-weight manifestation of religious customs.

Lord Ganesha was of course there, as the remover of obstacles and lord of beginnings, one of the most revered deities of the Hindu pantheon.

Some days after the wedding, we were the guests of honour at a ceremony of appeasement of the nine planets, especially organised for us.

Several Brahmins were there, chanting specific mantras for each  celestial body.

I had been feeling bad since the morning of the same day, my whole body was sore and I was extremely tired. Then, when we arrived at the small temple I felt sick and had to run to the bathroom… I was encouraged to take part. A mattress was laid down for me just in case I would need it.

For every planet the Brahmins chanted and prayed. For every planet we offered a different cereal, or staple, to the holy fire – agni.

Sesame seeds for  Saturn (they pop!), kidney beans for Venus, wheat for the Sun, etc.

We took a pause somewhere down the Milky Way and  together with another girl from the group, also sickish, I could get some  well-needed rest. Despite my aching limbs and my heavy eye-lids I endured.

The next day we were taken on a three-hour bus ride across the country-side to visit a Hanuman – deity with face of a monkey – temple where a local healer was giving his blessings to the devotees.

On our way there, we realised the need for a pause-pipi. There would be no such facilities at the temple. Our efficient hosts improvised and managed to find a decent place, which actually turned out to be an ashram…

This meant that while queuing for the loo, we had a chat with pilgrims on a 400 km walk from their town to a Maa-Kali festival. More mantras…

Back on the bus, and just a bit further down the road, we saw a group of Jain nuns in their typical white apparel walking and carrying an overweight fellow-nun. In no time, an other act of improvisation took place and we were ushered out of the bus to have a quick meeting with them.

Our local host, who did his best to give us a  taste of India, translated for us.

A very young and pretty girl who was accompanying the nuns was soon going to take her diksha – monastic vows. I don’t want to go into details, but for what I know, the process is a rather grim affair…

The nuns voiced a simple request to us: to eat vegetarian food as often as possible.  We promised and carried on.

Finally, we arrived at the Hanuman temple when it was already dark. The whole setting looked like that of a local, rural fair. The temple, a characterless, shabby building,  was full of people. Incense smoke was thick in the air.

We had to take off our shoes and walk on the grotty floors.

Musicians were playing loud, celebratory music.

The healer led us along one side of the building and down a narrow staircase to a claustrophobic, small room with a Hanuman statue, drenched in dripping coconut oil. The healer took our index and middle fingers, and placed them on the coco-nutty chest of the god.

We were all relieved to climb the stairs back up. We were taken to the main hall where we all sat down on mattresses around the ‘healer’. People would come, kneel in front of him, bow their heads and touch his feet. He would touch them softly on the head and then tie a ribbon around their wrist.

In the background I could see parents with infants in their arms, pausing in front of a Hanuman idol and showing them how to pay their respects. Just like parents do in a church, in front of an icon.

When that day was over, I had had an overload of spirituality and religious symbolism. I was relieved to wash my feet clean and do something more mundane.

Interestingly enough, just a day after the ambivalent experience of the Hanuman temple, we visited a  temple dedicated to Jalaram on our way to Jamnagar, a city in west Gujarat.

A beautiful temple, totally new, made out of stone in a pinkish hue, with shiny marble floors and doors to the four cardinal directions.

The serene beauty of the place was just what I needed to wash off the sticky oiliness of the Hanuman temple.

Overall, I cannot help being  impressed by the human need of performing rituals. How we meticulously intertwine religious feelings and faith with symbolism.

Does the divine really care about our fetisch for symbols, though ? Aren’t symbols mainly a token of a superstitious perception of the world? An expression of our need to understand a sometimes unfriendly universe? And can’t too many symbols and rituals just  kill the spirit?

Just my personal thoughts….

Book tip:

Nine lives’by William Dalrymple.

Dalrymple has compiled 9 independent stories, 9 tales that make up a mosaic of spiritualism in modern India. It is really worth reading. Having read the book, the above all  made more sense.

….I am drinking my masala tea and reading the news.

This is the first day of the weekend, which, mind you, normally starts on Sunday morning to end on Sunday night.

However, this Monday happens to be a holiday.

I am taking my time to note down  things I could entertain myself with today in my little notebook, taking no stress at all.

Birds are singing and the sun is shining.

Lunch for two days has just been delivered to me by Alka’s husband –  an angel on a scooter. Maybe I’ll take my lunch in the park.

Happy Sunday to all of you.

This is actually the slogan of an Indian coffee chain. Something like the sub-continent’s own Starbuck’s grinding and selling locally produced beans.

I sipped on my cappuccino that was rather good and browsed  the Ahmedabad Times. Apparently a young man was killed a couple of days ago by  peers after a fight that had taken place the same morning at a tea stall.

Seemingly  a lot can happen over a cup of chai too….

I paid 66 rupees for my morning caffeine-kick, concluding that I have now satisfied my curiosity and can happily revert to the more local habit of drinking milky tea.

One of the nice things here at the SEWA office is that a young man comes by in the morning and the afternoon to serve chai for the ridiculous sum of 5 INR per tiny cup.

Wouldn’t you love having a person like that in your office charging you something like 0.5 eurocents or half a buck for a nicely prepared hot drink?

There is also an old lady who will serve water in nice metal chalices and clean up. A leg injury makes her limp around in her pretty sari.

I decided to revolutionise my morning routine today and took a rickshaw to a nearby area. As you may have gathered by now, I started with a coffee. I then continued to the park. Got confused between two gardens and walked to what I thought was the Law Garden, only to realise half-way that I was actually heading towards Parimal Garden.

Never mind….

This wrong turn was actually a positive event because a) I walked and b) I was forced to cross the same busy crossing twice! I congratulated myself for succeeding in doing so alone for the second time since I arrived.

On my way between two gardens I saw roaming cows, dogs, a family of baboons crossing the street and a camel taking a nap on the sidewalk. Anyone said anything about going to the zoo?

I happily ended up at the Law Garden briskly walking around lap after lap, under the shade of leafy trees, filling my lungs up with somewhat cleaner air.

The park is full of the Indian version of Chip n’ Dale (much cuter) and frequented by people  of all ages: couples sitting on the grass while their children are playing, older couples strolling, determined walkers, young boys tossing a tennis ball to each other, etc.

In brief, this is definitively something to repeat.

Aavjo  (bye-bye in Gujarati) for now!

sofiawise

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

The Chick on a Pea

Clockwise, otherwise & likewise

Buttercupgoeswest

Buttercup is a newborn and we are taking her on a 5000 KM journey from Ahmedabad to Kanyakumari

Sadness Theory

Music with passion for the environment

zee pause café

taking a moment, having a coffee, writing down some thoughts