Thursday, 28 February 2013

Change of visitors - arrival of the Norwegians

So dear reader, can you keep track of our visitors? Well, I barely can, so how can you? You see, the same night the Greeks left, our Norwegian friends arrived. And like my in-laws, it was their first visit to India. So how did my inlaws like it here? Well: their last words before they disappeared into the airport building was: "Well, 1 month was waaaay too short. We should have stayed longer!" So, it is always a kind of a good sign when your guests doesn't want to leave, right? Remember, I was telling you about how they liked it here, and what we did the last few days they were here?
Amongst other things we visited shoe-heaven... again...
Well, I was quite excited to see how my new-to-India-Norwegian-friends would find my new country, and what they would react to. Their first comment was on the traffic- they uttered a kind of a frightful nervous laugh of the honking, the noise, the never-ending-lines, the rickshaws that were everywhere, the colourful trucks! They came from their house on the countryside in Norway - flying out that morning from minus 20 degrees celcius and arrived late at night to +30 in Mumbai. Wow!

Colourful trucks

Rikshaws, people and traffic..
The next shock was the poverty. Even though they were well prepared: had read a lot about it before they came, had travelled elsewhere, it came as a shock. The kids knocking on you car window, the slumhuts, the people living on the street. And that in contrast to the fancy hotels, the restaurants, the skyscrapers, the new office buildings.

The other day, my friend went with me to the slumhut area where I work as a volunteer. She saw the area, the houses, and she was going to wait for me at the office for a short while I went with the kids. When I returned, I caught her sitting there crying her eyes out. " Ah, those kids" she managed to stutter inbetween her sobbing, "those kids".

You see, the impressions are just too hard to handle sometimes. And then later that same day, we went to spa and then to a fancy restaurant in the evening. And then the Guru came along. All in the same day! It's crazy, and they found it all very overwhelming. My friend described it as: "an endless line of strong impressions, and no time to digest them, before new ones comes along!"
Some people live up here..

...and here
And then after driving around the city, we can end up in a restaurant and being served delicious food, or go to a shopping mall, or a Gold cinema or a swimming pool or a spa. And it might be just right next door to a slumhut area.

You can have buffet at a fancy restaurant
Or relax at the spa (soooo cheap and very professional)
Well, after some intense days in Mumbai my friends have headed out for a 4days' trip to Japur, Agra- Taj Mahal. Even more experiences lined up for them in other words! Do not think that means that our guestroom is empty though. Oh, no! My son's school is hosting a volleyball tournament theese days, and we are hostfamily for teenage boys for four days. Good timing you might think... oh, my clever friends:-) Well, so far they are all enjoying it, and so am I:-)

Stay tuned dear reader, and have a wonderful evening. Bye from Mumbai!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

And so the Guru came

So, dear reader: have you ever had the police at your front gate - trying to organize a never-ending queues of happy, cheering people who would like to get in? Well, we have! Oh yes! Remember I told you we were waiting for the arrival of a Guru last night? Outside our house, in the hallway we had crowds of people carrying fresh flowers and fruit, waiting for hours. Hundreds of shoes parked outside our door. Because, -yes he came. We had a famous Guru right next door.

I guess it must be a bit like having a famous pop star visiting ( if you have ever been there..?) - crowds of cheering people throwing flowers and carrying posters with his picture. People lining up to get a glimpse of him, maybe to touch him while he pass by. Police, bodyguards, security, they were all there, with people, people and more people, waiting and waiting. The people - they who bursted out in laugh and applaud when he got out of the car. The ladies waving at him as he walked to the entrance. And then at the apartment. We were so lucky to be invited in to our neighbor next door, and got a close up look at the celebrations and of the guru himself. Very colourful and interesting to see:-)
The Guru was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, quite famous we were told. His vision is a stressfree and violence free world. He is the founder of Art of Living, an NGO foundation with UNESCO consultive status. I suppose writing about him would deserve a blogpost of its own, but you can read more about him and Art of Living on their webpages here.

So have a look at what happened at our house last night and this morning:

Our house is lit up- ready to welcome the guru.
The crowd is getting ready: the car is almost here.
The guru gets out of his car and the crowd is cheering.

From the celebrations at our neighbors' A puja and warm welcome.
Even this morning people were crowding up to wait to see the guru. Another memorable day in Mumbai in other words:-) And I think my husband will remember this birthday forever: cutting cake and chatting with a real Guru doesn't happen every year:-)
Have a wonderful evening dear reader! Stay tuned!  

Monday, 25 February 2013

While waiting for the Guru

Something is in the air. Something is going on. Something is about to happen - right here in our building. Oh yes, the guards, the cleaners, the guy in the elevator.... they are all walking around with broader smiles than usual. Excitement is in the air.

The biggest smile belongs to our neighbors who live right next door. She was so happy, excited and proud when she explained to us what all this is for. Because it is in their home it is going to happen.

And last night the lights came up. Hundreds and thousands of small bulbs decorating the entrance, the columns, the stairways, the hallways and all the trees and bushes in sight. And then the painting; carefully beautiful patterns on the floor. Colours everywhere; pink, blue, orange, yellow.. This morning they started to decorate with fresh flowers: on the floor, in every corner, on the wall. When we came home this afternoon there were lianas with flowers covering the walls, all over.

Well, you see, dear reader: we wait for the arrival of the Guru. Remember when we did a Puja in my home? That was a puja for the Guru of my friend. Having a Guru, a spiritual leader, a teacher, a holy person coming is an important event, and according to our neighbor this Guru .

I have no idea where it came from, but Waiting for Godot - was just there... Maybe because when I was younger, and was waiting for something - Santa Claus, the train to come, the bill or the favourite show on TV- I would sometimes hear What are you doing? Are you waiting for Godot or what? So I knew about Godot long before I heard about Samuel Beckett, to put it like that...

So here we are, waiting for the Guru. We have been invited to join the gathering tonight, so maybe you will hear some more about the actual arrival of the Guru? In the meantime- have a look at how it looked like outside our appartment today... ( It's my husbands birthday today, so we are also pretending that a little of this can be for him:-) Isn't it beautiful:
This is just outside the door of our appartment

The entrance to our building

Flowers decorating the walls all around:-)

Friday, 22 February 2013

Moussaka - recipe

Dear reader,
For our Greek Nights here in India, the moussaka has been a real hit by our guests. We (to an extent: easily) found all the ingredients as well. This is a large portion, but what is nice is, that it pretty much makes itself in the oven, and then it will be ok in the fridge for several days after. If you want a vegetarian version (pretty unknown in Greece - but ..) you can replace the meat with beans or tofu.

You need
1 kg minced meet ( we use half-and half minced beef and minced lamb)
2-3 large eggplants
1 kg tomatoes, chopped in small pieces
1 onion, chopped
1dl parsley and basil (and oregano if you like)
1/2 tsp clove powder
1 kg potatoes
salt and pepper

For bechamel sauce:
6 tsp butter
6 tsp flour (maida)
1 ltr milk
(1 tsp nutmeg powder)
grated cheese
2 eggs (you can replace the eggs with 2 tsp baking powder. dd in the end and whisk well.)

You do:
Clean the eggplants. Chop in slices, but leave half the skin on (in stripes) Add salt on them and set aside.

Clean and chop the potatoes in slices. Add a little oil in the pan and fry the potatoes a little bit and put them in the form.

Wash the slices of eggplants, dry them in kitchen paper and then fry them a little in oil until golden. Leave them to dry in a strainer.

Chop the onion and put in the pan. Add the meat and mix well until the meat is cooked. Add the tomatoes, parsley, basil, clove, and if necessary a little water. Let it boil together for at least 10 minutes. Add a little salt. Pour the meat sauce on top of the potatoes.
Make the bechamel sauce: Melt the butter in a pan, add flour. Whisk well and slowly add the milk, a little at the time, while you whisk (like crazy). Add salt and nutmeg. Set aside. When chilled, add the eggs while whisking well. 

Then on top of the sauce, you spread out the eggplant-slices.

On top of the eggplant slices, you pour the bechamel sauce. Spread over some grated cheese.

Cook in the oven at 180 degrees until light brown on the top ( about 20-30 minutes. )
We enjoy our moussaka with some salad, and maybe some bread. Hope you like it!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Change of visitors & shopping marathon

Dear visitor,
I have a night with change of visitors coming up. My inlaws have now been here for a month and today they are going back home to Greece. Things hasn't really changed a lot since I told you about their top-list on impressions here in Mumbai. They still think Gandhi's home deserves the top spot, and they still laugh long and hard of things they see along the road, and they still jump out of the car if they see an interesting flower-bush-tree-kind-of-thing.

Actually we have been so busy exploring and travelling all around Mumbai, that a few days ago we did a shocking discovery: the obligatory gifts from India for family and friends in Greece - they were not obtained yet! We needed to go shopping! Well, you might remember we did some shoe-shopping? And with our great bargain skills, enthusiasm, and the combination of Greek persistence and Scandinavian efficiency it was bound to be a success. And it was. 

I must add that my mum-in-law is still quite (pleasantly) surprised by the low prices, the colours and the wide selection of clothes, shoes (!), jewelry and small didsila-midsila gift stuff - perfect for kids. But not to ruin the surprise for the ones in Greece - I will now zziiip it - and show you some pictures instead from our shopping-for-gifts-for-the-loved-ones-in-Greece-marathon:
Small sets for little girls:-) Aren't they just wonderful?
A small guest-visit in shoe-heaven again:-)
And something for the boys- with a small parrot on the shoulder:-)
Bombay Beauty - Dresses- tailormade- if you have the time:-)
So, with stuffed suitcases my inlaws are ready to bid farewell to India - which they visited now for the first time. We will wave goodbye to them and at the same time give a warm welcome to our 2 very good friends from Norway who will also visit India for the first time. I can't wait to take them around and show them our city. I can't wait to see their reactions to it all. Stay tuned, dear reader - new tales coming up:-) Ta ta:-)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Priyanka and her dream

Dear reader,
Today my plan was to blog about Back to the 80's - The Paaarty and boogie with you down memory lane - in company with Wham, Limahl and Cindy Lauper. But then I have had something else on my mind day and night lately, and I just have this urge to introduce you to theese amazing ladies: Manisha, Clara, Sumati, Kirti and Priyanka. Each with a story to tell, each with a life full of challenges, each with pride and no matter what: with a huge smile to share. And you know where I am once a week and you might remember I told you about the visit we had from a NRK journalist? Well, yes, all of theese ladies live in the slumhut area where I work, and it has made a huge impression on me to slowly get to know them, slowly know more, slowly be a part of their lives and they a part of mine.

Clara for example. She has 3 daughters. Her husband was a rickshaw driver, but got ill, and can't work. Clara works from home - making plastic hair clips. For 1000 pieces she gets payed 20-25 rupees. 2 of her daughters dropped out of school after grade 10 to start to work to support the family. They are investing it all in the education of the youngest daughter Kirti who is 16. By making sure she finish the 12 grade and goes to study after, they know that at least 1 in the family can provide for the rest... Kirti's biggest dream is to be a bank manager.

One of the most dynamic ladies I have met in my life, is Manisha. She is a proud mother of 1 girl and 3 boys. She is a vegetable seller, a busy mum, leading a self-help group for women, and I get the feeling that she is the one really holding it all together. All her kids go to school, and she wants them all to finish their education and get good jobs. Her youngest daughter Tara who is 8, proudly announce that she is going to be a doctor when she grows up. Manisha has no doubt in her mind that her daughter will get there. 

And then there is Priyanka.

Priyanka is 17 years old. She is finishing 12 grade this year, and wants to be a dance choreographer. She goes to school six days a week. She gets up at 05.00 every day, and her last class finish at 21.00 in the evening. Her eyes shine when she talks about music and dancing. Her whole face lits up. That is her passion and her dream for herself and her life. Her mother Sumati is supporting her daughter 100% , and she has a story of her own. She used to work as a maid, but managed to study part time, and is now working as a social worker which is what she studied to be. She is very proud of herself and of her daughter.

All theese ladies and girls have in common that they have been sponsored, meaning that their expenses for education, clothes and nutricion has been covered. Clara says that her youngest daughter would have had to quit school to get a job too, if she had not been sponsored.

And what a thought, dear reader. For a small amount every month you can secure that Prianka or Tara or some other child will complete their education. The best investment there is, I would say.

Be the change you want to see in the world!

Check out:
Children's Future India
For sponsoring a child

Dynamic mums in the self-help group for women."> src="" alt="Blogglisten" />

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Butter chicken - recipe

Dear readers,
You have probably understood by now, that I have a thing for thali..? Another personal favourite of mine (which is perhaps easier to re-create at home) is Dal - remember I shared our recipe?

However the rest of my family has some other favorites. An Indian dish which is a really big hit in our house, especially with my teens, is butter chicken. A dish that for us is India, with the scents and the flavours which fills the kitchen. It is a bit time-consuming to make - but so totally worth it:-)

This is how we do it:

You need:
4-5 chicken breasts
5 onions, chopped
4 big tomatoes, chopped
garlic/garlic paste
ginger paste
garam masala
chicken masala
red chili powder
cinnamon sticks
coriander powder- and fresh coriander
(Some red/orange food colour)
1 box coconut milk
1-2 dl cashewnuts, chopped
2 dl fresh cream
2 dl yougurt
lemon juice
butter, oil

You do:
1. Evening before:
Chop the chicken in small pieces and marinate in fridge overnight in: 
4 ss yougurt
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
1 ss lemon juice
1 tsp chicken masala
You can also marinate the same day - leave for 2-3 hours at least.

2. Make the paste:
Fry the onions in a little oil untill golden. Add 1 tsp ginger paste and 1 tsp garlic paste and the chopped tomatoes. Mix. Add chili powder, 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp coriander powder and 1 tsp garam masala. Fry all together and mix well. Add a little salt and a little sugar. Add the coconut milk and let is boil together. Mix well- to get out most of the oil. Remove from heat and cool off. When chilled, pur in a blender and stir until it is an even paste. Set aside.

3. Add butter in a pan, add cinnamon sticks, a few curry leaves, 4 whole pepper corn and add the masala paste. Stir well to get most oil out.

4. Meanwhile in another pan, fry the chicken pieces and towards the end add the cashew nuts. When fried, add it all to the other paste mix. Add fresh cream and rest of the yougurt and let boil for a few minutes. If needed, add some water to make a more saucy butter chicken.
You enjoy!
Decorate with fresh coriander (the Indian parsley:-)) We eat butter chicken with boiled rice and/or shapata-bread and some fresh salad.  Yoummie:-) Hope you like it too:-)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Crawford market - at last!

Dear reader,
I have made a few halfhearted attempts before, but never really made it there. Once,  I was really close, but got caught up in X-mas decorations, and this delicious thali-place.  Another time I started out in the end where they sell the live animals and made a kind of hasty retreat - I guess you could call it. But today I made it! I made it to Crawford market!

The market is one of the most famous market places in South-Mumbai. It is named after the first Municipal Commissioner of the city, Arthur Crawford. The Crawford market building was designed by the British architect William Emerson, and it was completed in 1869. Interesting to find out also that the building was the first in India to be lit up by electricity, in 1882.

But for me, the Crawford market is more than the building in which you can find fruit, vegetables, and the animal market. The streets around the market building is also filled with small shops and stalls. Here are some moments from our day:
500 rupees, guys! And in any colour you would like:-)
Flower heaven- that is if you are the plastic-flower-lover-type:-)

Royal Spices- of course, what else?:-)
Sweets, dryfruits and spices:-) Inlaws tasting in the back:-)
Crawford market building in the back, mum-in-law in the front:-)
Strawberry yoummie:-.)
So, dear reader - another day full of impressions, and I now know where I can head out if I should need to get spices, fruits, vegetables, drynuts, party-stuff, stationary, baking products, kitchen-stuff, textile, clothes, plastic-flowers, make-up, cotton, saris, lamps, toys, sweets - and that was just the beginning... Puh!

With wishes for a wonderful evening - from Mumbai!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

So, why do we blog?

Dear reader,
Unlike my teens, I didn't grow up in a kind of digital world, you know? They don't really believe me when I say that we didn't have cell phones when I grew up: But mom, how did you communicate? And they look at me with disbelief when I tell them we didn't have computers, internet or mp3's (which is outdated now anyway right?). And we didn't blog. No blogs.

Before we set out for India, I dived into all the sources I could find- on the internet. Desperately seeking information. How was it to live in Mumbai? The schools? The housing? How would life be there with teens? How would it be for us Europeans? Life in general for foreigners?

I then discovered the diary of a white Indian housewife. She gives a pretty good pictures on how it was for her, moving to India, and for an information-seeking-maniac like me, her blog was wonderful! I still enjoy to follow her life in Mumbai through her well established blog.

Then I came across a nice blog which I also still follow - by Karsten, my fellow countryman: From Norway to India blog. Very well written and with loads of useful information about moving to, adjusting and living in India! The other day he posted an interesting piece about blogging and why we blog, and it made me think...  You see, like Karsten, I started to blog to share our India-experience with family and friends mainly in Norway and Greece. But like Karsten, I discovered that a lot of my readers were actually in India. I have received so many nice emails from Indian readers. They give me feedback, tips of places to see in Mumbai, and maybe they think it is a bit funny to view their city through the eyes of a foreigner. Anyway, I really appreciate the dialogue my blog is generating and the new contacts I make.

I enjoy reading blogs that has a bit of humor, and it is that indefinable nice atmosphere in the blog that makes me return as a reader again and again. Once in Mumbai I discovered Jerk Masala - also a friend and fellow school-mum. I am laughing so much of the way she describes her Indian experiences. Check it out if you haven't already:-) I also found BombayJules. She has some very good pieces about places to see and discover in Mumbai! Very helpful for a newcomer like me, and I love her style: well written and with a lot of humor. The kind of humor that I like. Just great!

So once in Mumbai, of course my additional source to information has been real people, wonderful new friends from all over the world. They who send me an sms if they suddenly discover Gouda cheese in a shop, or call me to have a coffee or hang out just to chat. This weekend has for us been about celebrating friendship and being social. From our own harmonic Greek-Turkish-Danish-Norwegian party on Friday, via Back to the 80's Party with fellow school parents and teachers, (I know, it is hillarious to party with your kids' teachers.. :-) ) on Saturday to Brunching with good Indian friends today. Thank you all for being our friends!

I also just realized this is my first ever photo-free blogpost... But I might blog about the 80's party later on.. Great pics from that one...So be warned -  all my fellow high-haired multicolored friends, Top Gun pilots, Cindy Lauper wannabees and Karate Kid copies:-) And for the rest: stay tuned for a trip down memory lane! Wake me up before you go-go!

Enjoy the good moments everybody!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

With NRK in the Mumbai slum

Dear reader,
When I sometime in the future will leave India, I think one of my most dear memory will be of the kids whom I meet with once a week in the slumhut area where I work as a volunteer. Remember, I told you about them? Today I was also there, but it was not just an ordinary day, because today I spent my time there with a radiojournalist from my home country Norway. (NRK = Norwegian National tv/radio). She is going to cover, amongst other themes, our project in the slumhut area with main focus on education.
She met with my co-workers at the office and I also told about my volunteer work. She talked to several mothers, met with pupils and students and visited the homes of some of the families. I think she enjoyed the open and honesty talks, and the friendlyness and interest she was met with. I was impressed with how she did her work; she really got the people to tell their stories, and with a gentle smile and genuine interest. And exiting stories it is! I'll try to let you know when it is on air, so we can share the stories with you too. Here are some moments from my day with NRK.

Talks with some of the mums - at the CFI office. 
Great talks on challenges,education, hopes and dreams for the future with teenage girls who are all studying in university/college.
She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
Then we all went for a tour in the neighborhood, to visit the homes of some families
Theese ladies are part of a self-help group for women in the community
Some of the houses in the community
Well, dear reader, a memorable day indeed. My hope is that publicity like this may lead to a rise in the number of sponsors from my home country. By going to this community every week I see how much the sponsorship can mean to some families, and it enables them to get their children through school. It can really make a difference. A good feeling.

Good evening from Mumbai dear reader!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Dining outside outdoors - part 2

The last few days has been hot, and today is yet another warm and sunny day here in Mumbai. People are talking about that summer is on the way... An Indian friend recently told me that we have only 2 seasons in Mumbai: Summer and Winter. Summers with 30-40 degrees and winters with 20-30 degrees roughly. And the monsoon season is from June-September, but even though it is raining it is still preeetty warm. So, living in this summerland, you might remember my passion for dining close to the sea and under the stars? And my persistent search for outdoor outside dining places? Well, after that post, I got some good tips about places to visit (thank you all:-) ). And yes, as someone pointed out to me: it might just be toooooo hot to dine outside in Mumbai in just some weeks or months (do you hear that over there in snowy Europe?) but until then (if I ever get to that point) I can still nurture my joy of dining under the stars and, if possible, close to the sea. I actually got all that in Aurus on Juhu beach, which we checked out some days ago. We didn't get there in time to see the sunset, but next time we will.

Because, yes, dear reader, this is a place we will come back to. Since my favourite Vie Lounge closed, this is another "on the sea" - spot which I really liked! The service was attentive and friendly, and the food was beautifully presented.  On Sundays they have an open grill and a barbeque menue, so we went for grilled fish, grilled chicken - and all the 6 in my company magically agreed that it was really tasty! (and here we are talking some fussy creatures amongst us...).

Aurus is open for dinner from 19.30 pm every day and from 17.00 pm on Sundays. It was quickly filled up, so book a table in advance. For me the best part of the evening was again to sit there with my raised glass and glance out over the ocean. Ahhhh, the joy of dining under the stars and close to the sea. It doesn't get better than that:-)

Bubbling starter of the meal.

Be early to secure your corner in this sofa. By the time we left it was all filled up.

Nice presentation of the food at Aurus:-)
PS! For the men: just remember to wear your pants (and not shorts) when visiting Aurus:-) We had a small discussion whether our teenager - with his half-on-the-lower-leg-pants - was wearing shorts or pants. Well, in the end we did agree it was more in the pants- than in the shorts-family.

That's all for now dear reader. Stay tuned:-)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The kolis in Worli

Dear reader,
Well, I told you about the smiling ladies and the smelly fish.
But our visit to Worli Fishing Village was so much more. The fun thing was, having looked at this area from the car window crossing sealink, I was not so impressed, but still a bit curious of this slumhut looking area. Well I was in for a surprise!

You see, for over two thousand years ago, Mumbai consisted of seven islands, and Worli was one of the seven. The kolis, the tribal fisherfolk, lived there and still they are the inhabitants in theese quite tightly knit community. There are fishing villages with kolis also elsewhere in Mumbai, but I was told that the 600-year-old Worli Fishing Village is one of the best one to visit to get a picture of how the passing centuries scarcely have touched theese communities and their original patterns. And I learned that it was designed the way it is on purpose to keep the inhabitants safe from pirates. So, off we went, my fellow explorer friends and I, and we had a colourful and exciting morning with the kolis.

This is an area where even the flower pots are boats..:-)
The most surprising thing to me was how grey and brown the houses looked from far away, but how wonderful colourful the area was, because of the bright and varied colours of the houses:

See what I mean?  - different vibrant colours wherever we looked. In the village there is also a small Portugese fort from the time before the Raj. Worli was then a strategic vantage point to counter attacks from the sea. So the Christian Portugese marked the community, but the kolis found their own way. So, yes, you can see crosses and hindu temples here, but the temples are in bright colours and Virgin Mary wears a bright pink Sari! 
A very colourful temple!

Virgin Mary in a pink Sari!
The fishing village is situated on a sliver land cutting in to the sea. We walked right to the end of it, where you stare right up on the modern sealink bridge and where all the fisherboats are gathered. That is also where the fishermen clean their nets. The air breeze was strong out there, the birds were sitting waiting and we had a close look at the fish and the work that they do.

Today's catch

The fisherboats and the modern sealink bridge

And the birds unpationately waiting..

We enjoyed the smiling faces, and (to a certain extent) the smelly fish, the colours and the seabreeze.

PS. And a funny thing. We met this funny captain with his green parrot. And when we asked what the parrot is called they said "pappou". Well, pappou in Greek means grand-father, and since he was walking along there with us on the tour this caused alot of laughter and giggling. Pappou and pappou! Have a wonderful Sunday dear reader, and stay tuned!