Thursday, March 03, 2011

On looking back....

It's a year now since I've moved out of Mumbai and how time flies!! As I look back on the year gone by I can't help but think about the many changes it has brought in my life. I look back and find myself nostalgic about the many things I miss about being away from my hometown.

  • Needless to say I miss my family. (Skype's a boon and I can see them when I want to. Sometimes though, I wish they were just a drive away)
  • I miss my budgies. (They live with my parents now and although I get to see them when I visit Mumbai I miss their constant, mindless chirping. I miss watching them tend to their fledglings and I miss watching the baby birds grow.)
  • I miss the stray dogs on the Mumbai streets and I miss feeding them. I actually miss them barking into the night; sometimes it was comforting to know that they patrolled the streets and would raise an alarm at the slightest suspicion.At the same time, here I love watching people walk their dogs. And I love how well behaved their pets are on the road and in the park, in restaurants and in trains & buses. I'm amused by the little chihuahuas being carried around in purses as much by the huge and gentle newfoundland's friendly demeanor.  
  • I miss Kelly, my baby turtle. (I had to give her away and it hurts that I'll probably never see her again or even know how she's doing.) 
  • I miss my friends and sometimes I feel like I'm losing touch with them. (Sometimes it's the distance and sometimes it's just the pace of life. Sometimes we're just too lazy to drop a line or send a text message.My trips back home seem too short to meet everybody...some friends understand and others don't. I wish there weren't misunderstandings and that good friends wouldn't drift apart.)
  • I miss the Mumbai monsoon and walking in the rain (it rains all the time here but it's too cold to walk in the rain). Nothing beats the good 'ol vada pav and rastewali cutting chai in the rain. And, I miss the spicy Manchow soup and the garam, roasted butta (corn). I miss the mochi who repairs my umbrella each year when the monsoon wind puts it to the rest. (We have a few broken umbrellas at home now and they lie in the junk section of the basement as there's no one here to fix them.) I miss the puddles of water ( I know you're going to say it's dirty!) and the school children sailing little paper boats in it. I miss the day off work in the middle of the week because the city turns into one big river on a few days every monsoon.
  • I miss the warm weather and the summer clothes. It rains incessantly in The Netherlands. It is perpetually cold, windy and the sunshine is a fortnightly affair.Summer seems all of ten days long.  
  •  I miss work! I'm learning the local language and hope to find a job again someday soon. Never thought I'd miss the client meetings, the travel, the assignments, the deadlines, painful feet after 9 long hours of standing in a classroom training, last minute stationery requests and printing........Well...looks like I do. 
  • I miss the entertaining strangers' conversations that you hear by chance as you travel in local trains and buses or when you sit at a restaurant or walk through a busy market. Here, most conversations around me seem like Greek and Latin....errrr....well..Dutch. A fews words here and there make sense but nothing engages me. I'd rather walk quietly with my own thoughts and with either my camera or my music for company. 
I sound like I'm complaining and I probably am. But nostalgia clears away like clouds on a sunny day. I still do wish that friends would keep in touch and that the Dutch would hire an English speaking professional(who is trying hard to learn their language). And for all the fuss about the weather and how I miss the deadlines at work, I still love my life here. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

No escape

Cracks and Crevices

Know not what lurks inside(or do I)

I turn a blind eye

I try to hide

It follows me and seeks me

And threatens to swallow me

Sticky and dark, secrets it holds

Give me just your ear

I ask not for more

I look within for courage

for things I have to face

A sigh, a shudder

Not today, I still need to run

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Once upon a Khari

While I'm waiting for my visa in Mumbai, my Mom seized the opportunity to get me to clean my shelves. As I reluctantly threw away old newspaper and magazine cuttings, tore old notebooks and diaries I found a very old notebook I used to maintain ten years ago. It was around the time I wrote for Free Press Journal and The Times of India. Many a times I'd scribble my articles in the notebook before typing them out and mailing them to the Editor. Most of them were published. Some of them were never sent to the newspapers.
My family, for most of my school and college going years, consisted of my grandparents and the numerous animals that had made our house their home. Most were rescued and lived with us until they recovered. Some of the rescued animals and birds continued to live with us for the rest of their lives. We tried releasing every single one of them after they got better but sometimes it didn't work.
As I flipped through the pages of the old notebook I found something I'd written and forgotten about. I probably intended to mail this one to Reader's Digest but for some reason never got down to doing it.
I'm going to put it on my blog because I think it's a story that deserves to be heard/read.

Here goes:

19th August 2000

Khari died today and it feels like a part of my family is gone.

Khari was a part of my family and as I write about her I know my words won't do justice to my memories of her. I can clearly remember the day I found her 5 years ago on a June afternoon. Helpless and tiny, a scared little fury creature that happily nestled in the palm of my hand for warmth and protection. I held the little squirrel close to my body and got her home in a BEST bus on my way back from college. Through the journey she made herself comfortable against my clothes and fell asleep.
Back home nobody was as surprised to see a baby squirrel because I always brought home injured birds and animals that needed tending. I was worried that my Mom/Grand Mom would be angry but one look at the baby squirrel and she'd already won a place in their hearts and in our house.
A squirrel in Marathi is called 'Khar' and since we hadn't thought of a name for her I referred to her as Khari. By the time I thought of a name for her we were so used to calling her Khari, that the name stuck on.
For the first few weeks, since she was too small to eat, we fed her milk with an ink dropper. Soon Khari was eating everything from varan bhat, which we fed her one tiny morsel of rice at a time, to fruits and her favourite - dry fruits. She'd hold little pieces of cashew nuts or almonds in her little hands and munch away.
As she got older, Khari got naughtier. She would run all over the house, climb curtains, crawl inside pillow covers, chase her own tail in circles!! She'd decided that socks were the perfect material for a cosy bed and would crawl inside my sock at night. My grandfather made her a little wooden box with a small circular entrance(like a bird box) and attached it inside a cage he made for her. We usually kept the cage open all day to allow her to move freely in the house and the terrace. At night we locked the cage door for her own safety. Snakes, rats and cats were very common around our house.
Khari readily accepted the box for her home and carried her bed(my sock) with her into the box.
Now she set upon herself the task of making her home cosier and began tearing little shreds off pillow covers, curtains, my grandfather's shirts and would scurry with them in her mouth. She would playfully tug at my grandmother's saree pallu and try to carry the whole thing back to her box. What a comical sight that was!!!
It was now time to keep Khari off limits from the bedrooms. I hoped to set her free and wondered if she could fend for herself or was she too tame to fear other humans who were a potential danger to her. We placed her cage in the balcony and left the door open all day. Khari didn't venture too far from her box. She would spend the day running about the terrace, climbing the potted plants and then retiring to the safely of her cage every evening.
Khari never outgrew milk and waited each morning for her little bowl. While my grandparents sat in the balcony and sipped on their tea, Khari licked her bowl of milk. She also relished chocolates(especially M & Ms and chocochips) and would lick her tiny fingers clean after a chocolate treat.
Gujarati Ganthias were her favourite and I'd insist that she shouldn't be fed with too many of those since she was already sporting a pot belly.
Khari loved having her head and back stroked and when I rubbed behind her little ears she'd stretch out with ecstasy.
Although she had a lot of opportunities to return to the wild, Khari never wandered away from home. Over the months and the years that followed our attachment for her grew. When you watch an animal grow and tend to it like it were your own baby you feel a sense of pride, fulfillment and satisfaction at giving it a good life.
Pets don't last your lifetime and you usually outlive them. You feel the pleasure when they're a part of your life and the terrible pain that stays for a long time after they pass away.
I know a lot of people who despite their love for animals don't want to keep a pet because the attachment is so much that dealing with their death is unbearable. Pets become like family members.
I think differently. It's true what they say about love(even in the case of a pet); it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Five years and two months from the time I found little Khari, she passed away quietly and suddenly without a warning. We shared an apple one afternoon and then I decided to read a book. I dozed off reading and when I woke up it was time for Khari's evening snack. As i reached her cage with some peanuts I saw Khari lying still on the floor of her cage. Khari hadn't suffered and was fortunately in good health until the end. She was just as playful and naughty as she was when she was a baby.
We buried her in our backyard and through my tears I thought about all my best memories of Khari.
As I write this I hope Khari lives on not just in my memory but also in the memories of people who read about her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Welkom lente!!!

Yesterday was Gudi Padwa, the first day of the Hindu calendar month of Chaitra. The festival heralds the beginning of Vasant Rutu or spring.
On a long walk yesterday through Eindhoven I noticed that spring was slowly drawing her curtains with coy bursts of purple, white and yellow lilies on lawn carpets and in gardens all over the city. Wood pigeons and turtle doves were cooing with delight and the numerous ducks and coots were sitting on the banks of the Dommel sunning themselves.
The weather is now turning warmer, the sights greener and suddenly people seem to be crawling out on the streets like insects crawling out of the woodwork after a good fumigation turning otherwise deserted afternoon streets abuzz with activity.
It was 15 degrees today in Eindhoven, the warmest day so far since I've moved here and I couldn't let such a sunny day pass without stepping outdoors.
While our basil and daffodils sunned themselves in our balcony and the mushrooms sweated over a warm bed of sauteed onions and garlic I wore my walking shoes and stepped out in the sun.
Dressed in my new skin(I traded my thermals & woolen jacket for a plain T-shirt & Jeans) I walked to the Philips Jongh park which is a 30 minute walk from home. I wasn't the only one with that plan. I crossed lovers on the park bench, old ladies with their terriers, the mommies with their children and old men in wheelchairs. Many dog owners with their pooches of myriad breeds played on the lawn. The dogs seemed to have caught a whiff of the change in weather and today they seemed a little more boisterous than usual.
I walked around for almost two hours listening to the birds, smelling the air, treading softly on the long-dead maple leaves under huge trees that wore the promise of their replacement.
Finally I decided to sit down on a park bench for just a while penning my thoughts before walking back home and in my very limited Dutch scribbled on a note pad 'Welkom lente'.
(Written yesterday sitting on a park bench at the Philips Jongh Park, Eindhoven)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My metamorphosis

It's official....I've undergone a metamorphosis of sorts!! I've gone from Miss to Missus and from Corporate trainer to Housewife!! And, I've flown half way across the globe to live in Holland with my better half.

I've transitioned from my trainer checklists to a Saturday market vegetable list, and client meetings and conference calls are now a thing of the past. I now find myself scheduling video chat sessions with my family on Skype instead.

I don't trek into the Sahyadris every weekend and what's more...I live in a country that's as flat as a pancake and mostly under sea level.

I don't hail an auto rickshaw every time I need to go to either the market or to shop, to the movies or for a drink...I hop on to my bicycle instead. Bicycles aren't those silly two-wheelers that wouldn't get a second glance from me anymore....a lot of them get a second glance and some even a stare!! Bicycles with baskets, bags, baby strollers and seats carry people, their friends, their children, their pets, their shopping. You see bicycles in all colours, shapes and sizes!!! Bicycles for the midget, the seven-footer, the eighty-year-old, the six-year-old, the quirky, the see them here.

I don't have a maid to cook, clean and make my bed. And there's no dhobi to iron my clothes. I've learnt to enjoy food I've cooked myself and to preferably wear clothes that don't need ironing( yes.....i'm super lazy and I actually do that!!).

Moving has made a big difference gastronomically too. My love for food has ensured that I miss my chatwala bhaiya and my vada pav corner, my tapri chai and chinese dosa, but it has also opened a whole new food window for me from the Turkish doner to the Dutch erwtensoep, from the Greek mousakas to the Indonesian rijsttafel.

My life's undergone a metamorphosis and it would be fair that my blog undergoes a metamorphosis of its own.
I spent some time thinking about possibility of starting a new blog with a new name but realised that somewhere deep down I'll always be a 'Mumbai Chi Mulgi'. So, despite all the change in my life and possibly newer arenas to explore with my blog, I have decided to continue to write right here!!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I rummaged through the shelves in my room today, looking for nothing in particular. Sometimes mindless activities can be quite therapeutic on days when your brain is working overtime on myriad thoughts that your mind can't cope with.
I found a whole bunch of old, useless things still lying on my shelf when they should have made their way into the dustbin years old, broken mouse, old visiting cards, a plastic bull(toy), cut-out articles from newspapers and magazines and a very old diary.
I let most of the things stay where I found them(I plan to clean my shelf and deal with them soon) and crawled into bed with my old diary. I'd forgotten its existence and as I flipped through the yellowed pages, I found myself smiling....the diary dated back to 1993 to a time when I regularly maintained a dairy and penned my thoughts before going to bed everyday....My diary was my confidant, and to it I would narrate stories about crushes and heartaches, disappointments and joy...all the little things on a 15 year old's mind. The diary was witness to the many poems I wrote about life, pets, friends....poems that I never shared with anyone barring my grandmother who patiently listened to every single one of them.

On 1st Dec '93, in a very pensive mood, I penned a poem I called 'Words'. Here it is...

Think before you say something
Think before you say anything
'cause the time can arise when you'll regret
your thoughtless words that made you lose a friend.

Words are powerful, words are strong.
They can build a wall, they can tear it down.
They can make you cry, they can make you smile.
They can build a bond, they can create a fight.

Careless words may wound the heart,
so every word must be given a thought.
A wound in the heart only words can heal.
So remember, words are a big deal!!
Choose your words with great choice
They will give you poise in life.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chicken Sanju Baba on my mind!!!!

Every year for the last 4 years we have visited the Mohammad Ali Road on one of the Saturdays during the Ramzan month. Come evening the street is abuzz with activity. Men, Women and Children dressed in all their finery take to the street to break their day-long fast. It difficult to walk on the footpaths as they are converted into extended sit-outs for the many restaurants. Some restaurants even have dinner tables and chairs laid out on the street. There is chaos- cars, bikers, blaring horns, crowds of people pushing you around, beggars grabbing you by the arm and asking for alms, hawkers and vendors yelling and selling their wares. Every year I tell myself that this is the last year I'll put myself through the torture of finding my way through the throngs of people. So many people, in such close proximity, packed like sardines makes me very uncomfortable.
Yet, it's worth it and every year I find myself going back again!!!

Noor Mohammadi is a well known restaurant on Mohammad Ali Road and well over a hundred years old. The food there is to die for!!!!! The lip-smacking Nalli Nihari, the Chicken Hakimi and the Chicken Sanju Baba leaves me licking my greasy fingertips even I've stuffed myself to the brim.

Here I am trying to get some office work done on a Sunday afternoon and my insatiable mind can't stop thinking about last night's dinner at Noor Mohammadi. I plan to visit again next week and until then I guess watching them make the famous dish on Video 18 will have to do.