Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Indian names…

ahahahah…today i’m facing the same difficulties deciphering and remembering similar given names in India that I had when I first arrived in the United States.

When I arrived in the US meeting a lot of Johns, Bobs, Bills, Mikes, and Robs right of the bat, it was tricky for a french speaking Swiss to pick-up quickly these short surnames. They all blurred into a little small sound that did not resonate enough in my brain to make a deep enough mark. I was unable to repeat people’s name right after the first round around the room in official introductions ! Not good.

Anyhow, today I’m faced with the same feelings but in India. I have a hard time remembering who’s Vinod, Vishal, Vikram, Viral or Vikas. Too many V’s and my brain has not been wired to get all those in one go. At least not yet. They feel pretty different and varied for the locals of course and everybody looks at me, like if something was wrong with me, but I gurantee you that it’s not short of trying.

I’ve managed to get a special memory section to remember the Bills,Bobs and Mikes so time is on my side to do the same with the Vineeth, Vaibhav or Vinayak.

But don’t forget I sure would see you too getting at a party and being introduced around – “Bonjour je m’appelle Jean-Pierre, moi c’est Jean-Marc, moi c’est Jean-Paul, moi c’est Paul-Henri, moi c’est Jean-Philippe !”


I love it. Diversity is blessed.

Good to be alive.


Holi Festival of Colors

This week-end …ok ok …it was last week-end when I started this draft but now it’s more 3 weeks ago week-end kind of, anyhow, it was an big celebration week-end in India. All around the world actually this year. Easter for Christians, Eid ul-Adha for Persians, Spring Break for the United States and Holi for many Indians. Apologies for certainly forgetting to mention many many others. But for us it was Holi, here in Mumbai, India.

Holi known around the world for its festival of colors. You know, when everybody in the streets throw colors and water at everybody else with a big smile. You have probably seen pictures of this celebration already !

kids on our street that day !

It’s like our ‘Carnaval’ actually. A pretext for young people to have a lot of fun, and for ‘males’ to drink and dance a lot. I say that because many of my indian female colleagues advertised this amazing celebration to me, the foreigner, whilst quietly mentioning that they would not personally go out on that day! Potential abuses of drunk people were enough to keep a lot of people in, it seemed. We were warned.

Holi celebrates many things. The end of Winter and the beginning of the Harvest. But mainly it is attached to the story of Holika. A legend in the Hindu mythology where a particular King wanted to be worshiped by his people like a God. He had been granted a wish by Brahma who made him almost invincible. Everybody was looking up to this King except his own son. Prahlad who continued to worship Vishnu. The King wished to kill his own son and to do so asked his own daughter Holika to help him. Knowing she had a gift of not being affected and harmed by fire, he asked her to go sit in a bonfire with Prahlad on her lap. The story goes that Prahlad chanted Vishnu’s name and was not hurt while Holika burned to her death.

So on Holi night people put on a bonfire around 11pm or midnight and dance all around it. Holika is celebrated. All your past problems should now stay behind you and the next day should be a new beginning. That what’s Holi – the Festival of Colors is symbolizing on the next morning. People start the day by splashing colors at each others. I mean kids do! Adults prefer to apply pigments gently on your forehead while wishing you a Happy Holy.

Having a family staying with us with two young girls and their mother, we didn’t dare to go deep in Mumbai town to check things out. We only went down the street in our neighborhood and to the fishing village. We met our neighbors and it was a delightful day. First because no drunk were annoying enough to ruin our day and even everybody was really respectful and polite, asking us prior if we wanted to get splashed. Secondly, because like I said we met our neighbors. And I mean we are surrounded by all types of caste people and degrees of wealth. So coming down the hill from our Las vegas-like building and being greeted to come in and take the tea in the probably poorest family of the street was a wonderful and human experience. Since then they are the only people I salute and I share smiles and hand movements with every morning when I go down to get the bus.

Happy Holy !

A bitter-sweet week-end…

Let’s blog more about some everyday details of our life now !

Ok so this week-end was a bitter-sweet one. Yes !

On Saturday, we took the little ferry down from our house, crossed-over to Versova and took a rickshaw to Linking Road down in Bandra to go to its fashion street. We wanted to shop for some indian outfits for our little visiting girls, Bethany and Charline. So 5 of us in this little rickshaw was enough to keep you sweaty and concentrated on the driver’s skills. But we love our rickshaw times together. It’s our little bubble in the midst of the traffic. The driver worries and we just try to relax and absorb.

So yes, at destination 45 minutes later, I managed to forget my backpack in the BACK of that rickshaw when we unloaded. It completely went over my head. It’s only an hour later, wanting to stop for coffee, that I realized I had no backpack on me !

You know how it works then, right ?! Times takes suddenly another pace in your head and life turns into a slow motion act. Your brain sends you back the images of the steps you went through at the moment you actually threw that bag behind you instead of putting it down in-between your legs. But what were you thinking about ? Why ? Well I had a little girl on my lap, I couldn’t ..end of thought. Next.
You actually keep trying to find the other missing image, the moment where you picked up the bag again on your way out, but you can’t seem to find it. The electricity emitted by all your nerve ending trying hard, your synapses desperately exploring the remote areas of your memory is making your temperature rise. You start shivering. You can’t believe you are that stupid and that spoiled in life to possibly let go that many valuables at once!?

The thought process is changing and you are now trying to see how can you get the bag back by catching the rickshaw driver again. From slow motion things turn to full speed again. You are agitated. You want to cry and shout at the same time. Your mouth stays half open with little noise coming out of it, you can’t really talk. Your arms are going above your head, on your head and down again. You move quickly in the middle of the street. 20 rickshaws pass you by on your left and 15 more on your right. You are in the middle of traffic. You want to stop them all, they are wondering what is the white guy doing discomfited in the traffic. Your heart is pumping blood in all corners of your body in hope of keeping your oxygenated. Your despair is growing steadily.

You know, you know you lost your bag probably for ever, but your cortex cells are still trying to find a solution ! What was the driver’s face, name or plate number? Did you treat him right actually? Could he feel remorse for a nice guy and return the bag to you ? Silly. But you smile a little bit nervously because you realize you gave him a good tip and exchanged some cordial gestures and words with him. But would it be enough? You are still a perceived rich white guy for him. How could he find you even he wanted to, actually ? Go back where he dropped you or where he picked you up ? Does even anything in the bag shows your identification ? A surge of hope. Yes ! You have your work id card in the external pocket of the bag. On it is the address of your work with numbers and everything. If he has integrity you can hope for the best. But then you remember a little talk you had about him while he was driving and someone realized a had a head twitch every two seconds. He kept running his finger under his nose nervously and you remarked out loud that he could be an addict of some illegal substances. What made you sad for him back then is making you miserable right now. People are poor enough in India to not return your bag but being a possible addict on top of it is sealing your case.

Oh well, nobody died, no broken legs, not even hurt feelings. You lost some material belongings. Expensive ones for sure, but life goes on and somebody hopefully made some money selling your stuff to somebody else in this gigantic megalopolis.

Actually you know what ? This week-end I might even go wander around Thief Market in downtown. I was told between 5 and 6am everything gets sold to the street merchant in 15 minutes. I could potentially buy back my own camera and lenses from the local photo merchant if I’m lucky !

If not I’ll consider this forever the biggest gift I have given a little street man and I will take home the lesson again that the more stuff you have the more you can lose !! Ha !
But I love the take pictures, so I might still try to get another camera. Pardon this time, it will not but consumerism but only passion.

‘Til later.


What to pack for India ?!

Just pack :

-an open mind.

-a multi-pack of no fear or no apprehension ’cause even big cities here are safer than those in western europe.

-an empty container… allowing you to accumulate doses of kindness and smiles because you are going to receive a lot of them for no apparent reason other than pure joy sharing.

-a big tube of …realization that the West has not figured out THE way of living that everybody on the planet should follow to be happy. There are multiple ways to get there. And different is just different, neither worse nor better. You are not more happy with all your ‘stuff’ than them with not much.

-a bottle of….eyes wide open in case the camera has no battery left. And some memory in the left and right cortex as compact flashes.

-a no-worry-coz-you’ll-be-helped-and-embraced-by-locals-

more-than-you-could-ever-imagine-possible…big box . Putting our little sense of hospitality to shame !

-yes, a good book for the plane trip. It could also mean a book that rotates around India.
/Shantaram/ for a good indian story or /Maximum city/ for a more Bombay-centered reality check or just a simple /culture shock India/ collection book.

-and again long sleeves clothing to protect you from the sun or just plain megalopolis dirt and pollution but mostly against crazy air conditioned areas or cars !

now on the medic topic with some natural ways and NOT too pharmacology-chemically oriented solutions or hints :

-some Geranium essential oil to…yes…in the beginning…sometimes…put a few drop under you nose to get you through some drying fish areas or other smelly ones.

-some ‘China Cinammon’ essential oil – to get a tiny drop on some honey in a teaspoon in case of stomach upsets. (one drop. No more)

-some ‘Lemongrass’ essential oil against mosquitos. But no paranoia about them unless you go in the Jungle. Dress in light long sleeves clothing. That will do 90% of it.

Check with a homeopathy or essential oil, hydrolat knowledgeable pharmacist in your area, but don’t jump no the crazy chemicals and Malaria pills right away ! All depends on where are you going and mostly at what time of the year.

Looking forward to welcome you around here.

Jaipur – Rajasthan

Simply sweet !

We went for a long week-end to the North of India, in Rajasthan. To the colorful Jaipur like everybody says around here. It was just a good time to go and my boss kept pushing me to travel before we are too busy at work. So you don’t need to push me too hard with these things and so off we were.

In 4 days, I learned how to drive a rickshaw, had traffic jams with cars, camels and elephants mixed up together, drank street chais and samosas to make my belly hurt, saw how they hand-print the saris, how they polish and handcraft the gemstones jewels, hiked to places there are more monkeys than humans, wandered around palaces, forts and gardens that compel to amazement and meditative states, has inherited a new family member since Lucky, our rickshaw driver, has assured me he was my indian brother, tried to find fear and tension unsuccessfully in the tiniest street and dark corners of Jaipur, avoided a rush by 80’000 out-of-town’ers coming into the city to interview for government jobs, took photos and portrait of people with their complete acknowledgments and smiles with no hassle, bought some real kashmiree scarfs and accumulated blankets to keep us warm at night during those cold February desert nights and tasted good rajasthanee “thalies” (big plates containing various food for you to taste and discover) and their famous sweets !

All in all, 4 days that felt like 40, so intense and diverse the emotions were. Go to Jaipur in February ! Yes, It’s tourist season since the temperatures are nice but completely worth it. We loved each minute of it.

Ok back to work now !