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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Feasting in Matunga – Experience Udipi Indulgence

So… what did I do with my “Bonus time in Bombay“? Lots of things! For starters, finally made it to Ram Nayak – a favourite udipi joint to stuff myself silly on yummy South Indian vegetarian fare.

For literally years I’ve wanted to go back – a treat usually reserved for foreign guests who want a ‘real taste’ of food here. I shared this desire with more than one friend and finally last weekend a bunch of us decided “Yes let’s!” More miraculously – actually followed through on our enthusiasm – full credit to our ring leader not I!

Why is this place so memorable? (more…)


Welcome to Music Musings – RÁJ’s Ghost

The last time I listened to the radio was when my car CD player gave its last gasp and died. I was too lazy, traveling too much (insert plausible excuse) to get it fixed or replaced and found I actually enjoyed the new English Radio One station – especially Brian’s Sunday evening blues spotlight.

Then my partner decided to treat me by completely upgrading my car music system and voilà! Back to CDs plus I can now even plug-in my iPod – Yipee! (You can tell my car is old as it had a cassette player not an iPod plug)

Discovering & sharing music – “Old Style” (more…)

Convenience vs Cost – Calling for creative travel advice!!

I’m convinced there are far greater experts out there who can extract both value and convenience when planning international flights. As I plan my next trip back from Mumbai to Jakarta, would love to tap into the collective world wide WordPress wisdom for travel advice…

Where I was supposed to be today...

Where I want to book today…

So here is my criteria:

  • Avoid crappy cramped overnight flights. Appreciate overnight for long haul flights can’t be avoided but these 4 – 5 hour overnight flights are killers!
  • Stick with ‘preferred airline’ with access to business lounges, internet, khanna/pina (food/drink) as have ‘gold’ status (for now!)
  • As direct as possible so avoid spending extra day(s) in airports – yes the romance of exploring airports for hours long ago vanished!
  • Economy fare because, well, the client is covering the cost and for them – the cheaper the better! And we all like happy clients. 🙂

Seems pretty simple, right? (more…)

Glenturret, Auchentoshan, Kilchoman Machir Bay

This is part of a tasting notes series from a monthly private whisky club in Mumbai, India. This month, with Ganpati processions still clogging the streets of Bombay, we braved traffic snarls and celebrations to make it to our lovely hosts home in Sewri.

Tasting Notes from 19 September 2013

We continued our standard format and blind tasted before revealing the whisky. September featured: Glenturret 10 year, Auchentoshan 14 year Cooper’s Reserve and Kilchoman Machir Bay.

“It was worth the effort to come!”


Improbable Efficiency – The Lunchbox Love Story (take 2!)

I’m just so darn proud “The Lunchbox” did well in the festival circuit and opened this week in India  (with global domination around the corner!). And while “The Lunchbox” was passed over for the Indian Oscar entry, delighted it is finally reaching audiences. Congratulations to Ritesh’s deft writing & directing and the entire cast & crew that made it happen.

So here goes a repeat of my earlier post published 21 May 2013 – with ‘extra bonus’ movie trailer and image!

Photo: The Lunchbox FaceBook page

Photo: The Lunchbox FaceBook page

Improbable Efficiency – A Dabba Love Story (more…)

Bonus time in Bombay – Jakarta I’ll be back again soon!

Today I was supposed to be in transit to Jakarta… but I’m instead waking up in Bombay. What happened? Did I miss my flight? Was there some major life tragedy that derailed everything? Nope! Just a simple delay in the launch date for the project which means more time home rather than away. (more…)

“How come you don’t have an accent in Hindi?”

Just as my English has a “chameleon” quality (see “Can you drop the Indian accent?”), I’m often asked “How come you don’t have an accent in Hindi?”

I've got Hindi, what about you? (Photo: www.tattoodonkey.com)

I’ve got Hindi, what about you? (Photo: http://www.tattoodonkey.com)

Usually I explain that I have lived in India for more than a decade, studied Hindi in Delhi for a year augmented mid-way by a very helpful 6-week stint at the Landour Language School (near Mussourie).

What follows is generally “Aaah! That explains it!” type response. Because the ‘real’ Hindi is naturally from North India!

Yet I’m aware that my vocabulary has shifted between what is typically heard in Delhi to ‘Mumbaya’ words. And has deteriorated abysmally as my universe in Bombay is almost exclusively English.

When I lived in Delhi (1995-96, 2003-05) there were multiple daily opportunities to speak Hindi or at least ‘Hinglish‘ – in which one switches effortlessly between English, Hindi, blending words from each language. Today, I’m honest enough to know that when folks complement my Hindi, they are being terribly kind – even I can hear how badly I mess up!

However I have a few perspectives on this… and wonder if anyone else agrees? (more…)

Music Musings – Ask Your Sister

Music is something I enjoy immensely! I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see some amazing performances, jam sessions, festivals and more. Some dear friends also happen to be remarkably talented musicians and it’s no surprise that music is an integral part of our every day existence.

Credit clearly goes to our mother who inculcated a love of music from an early age – even if my sister and I groaned a bit as we practiced cello / tuba and viola / piano respectively. And if I gleefully abandoned western classical music for punk rock and folk as a teenager, the sheer unadulterated joy that comes from loosing oneself in truly good music – no matter the genre – was firmly entrenched.

Introducing "Ask Your Sister"

Introducing “Ask Your Sister” (Photo: Bruce Dienes)


Cracking open the cabinet

This post is from one of our more memorable sociable rather than formal early sampling sessions from a monthly private whisky club in Mumbai, India. 

Tasting Notes from 15 Sept 2011

We broke with tradition and merrily abandoned all pretense of blind tastings… instead settled down for a sampling of various bottles. It became a  popularity contest between different regions and geographies as small pegs of multiple whiskys were sniffed, swirled, swallowed, savoured and yes – much discussed! (more…)

‘Eve Teasing’ – The other side of my love affair with India

Let me start by sharing that I have yet to meet one single woman anywhere in the world who has NOT experienced sexual harassment in some form or the other.

I challenge you to have a serious conversation about it with any woman and ask if she has escaped – impossible. It simply is a question of the various circumstances, frequency or severity… not whether it has occurred.

A letter on CNN by an American student on her experience of harassment traveling in India sparked considerable debate recently:

It prompted me to reflect on some of my experiences as I too began my ‘love affair’ with India on a ‘study abroad’ program. I’ve also seen how complicated these programs are to organize from dear friend who used to lead such tours to India until they became just too challenging.

Ignorance isn't bliss (Photo taken in Bandra, Bombay)

Ignorance isn’t bliss (Photo taken in Bandra, Bombay)

First blush… flirting run amok (1990)

  • My first time in India was with a summer study abroad tour with Canadian university students – mostly MA and PhDs – coming to India with various backgrounds, ages, academic interests. The group was predominantly composed of women with two male leaders – one from Canada and one from India.
  • It was a remarkable experience with six weeks of jam-packed amazing activities that left us exhausted, overwhelmed and also deeply engaged.  It was a trip of a life-time and, though I didn’t realize it then, changed the course of my life irrevocably.
  • And while we had some mild ‘harassment’ from the ‘external’ environment, it was what happened ‘internally’ that was more disturbing with sexualized conduct by the team leaders whose ‘flirting’ went beyond what’s acceptable. From offers of ‘massage’ to needing to firmly shut the bedroom door in a persistent leader’s face, an element was thrown into the ‘masala’ which made an already charged atmosphere even more so.
  • One participant had a breakdown – the environment and her experiences in our travels triggered childhood memories of traumatic repeated rapes growing up in Canada.
  •  Years later one tour leader was charged with misconduct as his activities escalated in future programs. So while there were some marvellous moments, there were other times which alas were not.
  • Yet what stayed was positive and the incredible privilege of being introduced in such a dynamic way to a remarkable country.
You can't silence us! (Photo taken in Bandra, Mumbai)

You can’t silence us! (Photo taken in Bandra, Bombay)

Dancing with eve… learning to fight back (1995-1996)

  • Years later on a fellowship studying in Delhi, I learned first hand just how serious the innocuous sounding phrase ‘eve teasing’ truly is.
  • As I hopped on and off DTC buses and navigated the streets of Delhi, I quickly discovered this was very real and potentially dangerous.
  • On buses, ‘shoulder jacking’, for example, was quite popular and while primarily directed at seated women – guys were not immune either and would also find themselves being vigorously rubbed against in a situation where there was literally no room to move.
  • So I shed my polite Canadian veneer and learned to fight back! Practicing my basic Hindi hurling abuses, attempting to embarrass the perpetrators by shaming them loudly and, at times, drawing blood as I dug my fingernails into hands that were in places they had no business being.
  • I learned what to wear to reduce unwanted attentions, how to carry myself differently and never let down my guard when alone.
  • I also learned to always arrange a ‘male’ companion if going out at night – which generally just happened and was all good fun!
  • And it virtually stopped! The new ‘amour’ worked brilliantly and I could be comfortable as long as I worked within these lessons learned.
  • While there were challenges, these were few and far between. Overall, it was an exceptional time – full of discovery, growth and much more – one of the most positive experiences in my life. For every negative there was an even greater positive experience and I have no regrets.
Yo gurlz - listen up! (Photo taken in Bandra, Mumbai)

Yo gurlz – listen up! (Photo taken in Bandra, Bombay)

A match made in Mumbai (2003 to….?)

  • Fast forward to 2003 with a return to Delhi… there were signs of some improvements. However catching a bus or rickshaw after dark from work to home was still decidedly NOT a safe or pleasant experience.
  • With the purchase of a car, hiring a driver, I finally had respite and gained a freedom to move around that had earlier been impossible.
  • More significant was the move to Mumbai in 2005 which enabled me, for the first time, to take off the ‘armour’ I adopted to cope with life in North India.
  • It was suddenly acceptable to step out of home in the evening alone and hop on a rickshaw! What joy! What a relief!!
  • Defiantly I began to confidently wear clothes that I couldn’t conceive of decades ago – and revelled in how significantly what is considered ‘appropriate’ had changed.
  • And while I would never deliberately invite trouble, I do have age on my side. After 23+ years flirting with India, my love affair has evolved from being a young ‘didi’ (sister) to a maturing ‘aunty’ – respectable in a committed partnership with a lovely man.

Yet today in I see signs of the earlier blithe assumption of safely moving around as a woman in Mumbai in jeopardy. In dismay I watch my beloved ‘Bombay’ report repeated public cases of brutal rape and witness the environment shifting. Each day the newspaper brings further updates on the latest example of a woman or child being molested.

My love affair remains strong and true – I remain fortunate to construct a life where such challenges are minimal. However I’m equally aware this is something which can never be taken for granted. Eve teasing in India is not to be taken lightly. However India is by no means unique and no one is exempt either from the experience or responsibility for sexual harassment.

So how does it feel to be a woman in India? Frankly how does it feel to be a woman anywhere in the world? Or, for that matter, under certain circumstances a man too? Sexual harassment is unfortunately universal. Can you challenge this?

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