Saturday, 28 September 2013

The joy of presents

Dear reader,
When you are reading this, I am not in Mumbai! Because, finally my turn has come - after patiently (relatively speaking) listening to enthusiastic friends and their endless travel-India-stories, participating as active as I possibly could in other people's travel-plannings, sending out guinea-pigs to travel and drooling over pictures of temples, palaces, monkeys and beaches - we are off! Off to explore some parts of India where I have never been, and to where I always wanted to go! I am curious about new places - they are like small unknown presents that I look forward to open - who knows what I will find?  

I did some good discoveries in Mumbai lately though! I found Status. Well, to be honest, a good friend took me there (thanks sweetie!) - and oh joy: Their specialty is thali! - My all time favorite Indian dish so far. I wrote a hymn to the thali already, and I was not disappointed at Status either. These small bowl - each one like a tiny culinary present! Close your eyes and open each one by tasting it - one after the other. And a thali meal can last forever, you sit there; chat and laugh and there is an even stream of waiters - coming over to fill up your bowls. Yummy!! So, I am praising the exotic flavors and my Indian friend says to me: - But, next time, we go for Italian - that is exotic to me:-) So true!

So, speaking of presents - I celebrated my birthday, and my favorite part of the day was the kind, sweet, lovely messages I got from people in my life. From my loved ones here, from Greece, from Norway, from India. A dear friend surprised me with champagne and another brought me flowers. I was so grateful for each and one who remembered me. For me it is so important to always remember so tell someone that you appreciate them, that you care for them, that they mean something to you. To be generous with the kind words and with the smiles. To me that is some of the best presents in life.

Have a wonderful day, dear reader. And stay tuned - who knows from where I will pop up the next time:-)  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

India - discover your inner Divas!

Moving far away from my homeland to a new country on the other side of the world, meant moving out of my comfort sone. Living in India has opened up new challenges, new choices, and I have also discovered some new sides of myself that I had NO idea existed - before I came to India. Some not so pleasant sides, and some quuuuite pleasant and interesting sides - which are the ones we want to nurture, right?

For example - WHO could have known that I had a Designer Diva within me? Well, India brought her out! Tempted by all the colors, fabrics, glitter and glam, I guess! Designing my own clothes, dear reader, how cool is that? I did not do that in my pre-Indian life! And my wonderful partner in crime: my sweet tailor- remember I mentioned her before? When I go a bit wild she will shake her head: - No, that will not look nice! - No, that is too Bollywood! - and then with a supporting smile: - Yes, that will look nice! - Yes, that will be good- very Bollywood! And small kind suggestions: - Maybe green instead, and not bright orange AGAIN? - Maybe not gold lace with that one too?!

You see, my inner Designer Diva gets quite carried away now and then - thrilled to be set free, I guess - so she is very generous about bling bling, glitter and glam! Well, let's go with the flow- we are in India right?!

My sweet tailor has her own business- which she started - against all odds, and she was running on pure will power in the beginning. It is small and nothing fancy, but she works with her big passion in life, and that really shines through in her clothes. Oh, dear reader, she can do magic - you should see how she transfers my high-flying glittery ideas in to wonderful outfits. And she laughs with me when I tell her:  - You know, I was wearing the blue kurta you made yesterday, and a woman asked me - Oh, that is a nice top, where did you get it? I smiled and say: - Oh, it's tailor made! Not to be bought anywhere- sorry!

One of a kind, my lady, one of a kind - made by the Design Diva and her allies:-)  
New creations waiting to be picked up
And some fabric for the I-do-not-want-to-blend-in people out there - add one of these on the front of your dress:

Wonderful fabrics, - just waiting to be discovered by your inner Designer Diva:


And her Guru, Ganesha and other Hindu Gods are present in her shop - always close by:

So, nope, no more ready-made for me I think - and homeland:  watch out for a more bling-bling version of me the next time I see you:-)

All the best, dear reader!
Ta ta from Mumbai!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Some moments to remember

- All these days that just came and went .... little did I know that they were life itself..*

My beloved late grandfather was an enthusiastic collector of small wise quotes like this, and he showered them over us grandchildren whenever he had a chance. - Listen to people, he would say, there is something to learn from every person who comes in to your life. And the last few days has really been all about persons for me, dear reader.

So, nope - no big exploring excursions, no travels, no adventurous experimenting in the kitchen. It has been about people and moments - the small things which make your day - and by that - make life itself. I cherish those moments, I feel them and try to be in them. So, what have I really been up to lately?

Well, my oldest child just turned 18, so naturally I had my HUUGE -oh-I-am-so-proud-and-happy-but-oh-why-do-they-have-to-grow-up-so-quickly???- moment *sob*sob* But hipp hipp hurray!
Yes, I am a cake!
My I-feel-so-lucky-and-humble-to-be-part-of-this- moment appeared when I found myself sitting on the floor in a temple in the slum with 37 women who all want new knowledge, and I listen to stories about how their life has been and to what dreams they have for the future and for their children.
From the local newspaper about the self-help group for women
Today I met with the lovely ladies in my book club again, ready to discuss And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - a good read, I think - ( and the story also takes us to the Greek Island of Tinos:-)) But an emotional moment, because since the last time we met, one of our fellow book-lovers passed away very suddenly. She was with us when we met last month, and it is still hard to grasp that she is no more. We really miss her, and it felt good to share good moments we have had with her with each other.

Colorful flowers - how they fill me with joy! And I enjoy my everyday moments - with my morning coffee on the balcony, watching new flowers come up (PS -Europe: here in Mumbai, we use our balcony every day..:-)) Flowers are here and now, love it! A friend just told me about this white flower in India which blossoms only some hours once a year, and then in the night. Hm - must check out that one.

This week's -pinch-me-in-the-arm-I-am-living-in-India moments (moments which actually appear quite often, to be honest) came up driving around last week... Just seeing these HUGE Ganeshas on their way to - NOT a usual sight driving around in Europe, I assure you! Amazing moments!

And finally- a salute to friendship! My tearful I-feel-blessed-to-have-such-a-good-friend-in-my-life-sad-to-see-you-go-but-happy-that-you-are-going-to-move-where-you-wanted-to-move moment came when I was saying goodbye to one of my dearest friends who is now leaving Mumbai. We have shared laughter and tears, and I feel so grateful to have met her. The tears intensified when she gave me a necklace with the inscription:

A true friend reaches for your hand, but touches your heart.

So, no good-byes - just: see you again! To love and friendship! I hope you cherish your people and your moments, dear reader:-) I wish you the best. Good evening from Mumbai!

*By Swedish writer Stig Johansson. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Hindi - never ever giving up!

- So, what do you speak in Norway? My friend looks at me. - Norwegian, I say. - You have your own language? She is showing a mix of shock, impression, and amusement. - Yes, I respond, - but-it-is-quite-similar-to-Danish-and-Swedish. Why do I always say that? Like that can explain it. We love our language though - with all the different dialects and variations.

A luxury maybe, our very own language, for around 4 million native speakers, in Norway. Ok then - also for the Norwegianamericans and for a few more around the world - so spoken by around 5 million people.

Now, I live in India, a country with over 1,2 billion inhabitants, and over 1000 spoken languages. Over 400 million people speak Hindi, the official language for the Republic of India (together with English).  But the different states also have their official languages, and no - they do not necessarily understand each other!

Of the 1000 languages, 22 languages have more than one million native speakers each and 50 languages have more than 100.000 native speakers.  In our state, Maharastra, they speak Marathi, as do 90 million people in India. In Punjab they speak Punjabi, in Kerala they speak Malayalam and Gujarati is used in Gujarat. Just to mention a few.

So, is it confusing for a foreigner? Well... I am grateful that so many people speak English! And then I can spice it up with some Marathi or Hindi words. BUT - do not believe I have given up! Do you remember, I did a Hindi crash course? Well, I have been practicing a bit, but - it is really difficult... ( re-phrase: I get lazy, because I get by so well with English).

However, a funny thing happened when I was at a market, shopping for some garlands. I was looking around, and I overhear this lady next to me asking the seller: - Kitna he? Oh, joy - I understand - she is asking for the prize! He answers her: - (something) pachas (something).

- Aha, 50 rupees, I say to myself ( extremely pleased, I admit, both with the prize and with myself ) So, I look around some more, and find some (slightly different) garlands I like, so I ask the seller (in English, because-what-were-those-words-again..) - How much are these? He tells me: - 80 rupees. Hm, that was odd?! I look around a bit more, and take up one of the garlands the other lady had looked at: - and this? He nods at me: - also 80 rupees, mam

Ok. I could have walked away or maniac-bargained, but by then I had already started to giggle inside, so I could not help myself, dear reader. I turn around, smile at the seller and say - I am going to give you 200 rupees,  and you give me 4 garlands, so I have the same prize as the lady who just asked you about the prize and you said 50. Ok? 

He looks at me. Not sure what he is thinking. He wobbles his head - Ok, mam.

What? To funny - for a foreigner. And kind of encouraging. A curious mind like mine - I just can not give up right? Got to learn some more Hindi. Got to! Watch out, market sellers - I'll be back:-)

So, today's useful lesson:
KITNA HE? = How much is it?
GARLANDS KIA BHAAV HE? = How much for the garlands?
BHAAV KAM KIJIYE ( optional: KRIPYA)  = Reduce the prize (optional: please)
Well, today is the last day of the Ganesha festival, and I might head off to see the immersion of the huge  - really huge - Ganesha statues (we are talking 6,7 meters tall here!)

And, maybe I will practice some Hindi while I am out there - Ganpati Bappa Morya...  - wasn't it? See? There is hope! :-) Have a lovely evening, dear reader!

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Monday, 16 September 2013

And then the Greek Gods arrived

Bombay Times 15.9
- and with them - Mariketty, and we welcome her with open arms! Because Mariketty is Mariketty, and also because she brings along her Greek chef, a fabulous menu ( Greek food - what else?! ) - and her aura: warm welcoming Greek atmosphere. It is like coming home! The teens are thrilled, The Greek is beyond ecstatic, and I myself can barely control my enthusiasm!  Whoopa!

Because, remember our Great Dining-With-Greek-Gods-in-Goa feasts? The amazing taverna Thalassa has now come to Mumbai (with chef - owner Mariketty). They will have a Pop-Up restaurant in the localities of Olive for the next months. I think they want to test us out - Mumbai-people...:-)

As for me, you had me at the first olive, Mariketty!

I can only warmly recommend Thalassa to anyone who cares to listen to me. The only thing missing is the fabulous view to The Thalassa (=the sea), but, hey- I am not going to be picky:-) Check it out for yourself. Hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Kalamata olives
Yoummy yoummy...

The nice localities of Olive

teenage yoummy
And ladies- be sure to check out the small shop - put preferable before the meal....
Want to check it out? You find Thalassa at Olive Bar&Kitchen. Amateur Riders Club, Mahalaxmi Race Course. And the Olive in Bandra offers a Thalassa-dish or two, in addition to their regular menu.

Kali oreksi! 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Farewell Ganesha - see you again!

So, there I am, walking in the rain on a muddy path leading up to a lake. I am clinging to my umbrella, and try not to loose my bag and camera while I simultaneously attempt to:
- Take pictures
- Not loose sight of my family and friends
- Smile and thank the smiling strangers who offer me fruit, nuts and sweets
- Not slip and fall
- Shout Ganpati Bappa Morya... - and some more words

Around us there is a constant flow of small processions of people, following their Ganesh to the final journey for this year. Some are dancing to the drums. Most are shouting: Ganpati Bappa Morya, Purchya Varshi Laukariya ( O Father Ganesha, come again early next year) The atmosphere is electric. But let me begin with the beginning:

We had been invited to some friends' home, remember?  ( thank you so much again, Girish & family:-) to follow their Immersion. Last Monday was the beginning of the festival, and yesterday was a big immersion day for the Ganeshas in people's homes. The smaller ones. (which basically means that millions of people in Maharastra went to immerse their Ganesh yesterday).

So, first we gathered in our friends' home. They have done Pujas twice a day since Monday, and now it was time to do the last one. We joined in.

After we had done the last puja, it was time for Ganesha and His procession (including US) - to leave the house. By then it was raining a lot, so we decided to go by car. And no surprise who got the front seat..:-)

The car left us at a pretty chaotic spot. There were music playing, speakers on, drums, and all around us small Ganesha processions appeared - at foot, from rickshaws and from cars- and they all headed up the hill, towards the lake. So did we.  
Arriving with their Ganesha...
But hang on, before reaching the lake, we stopped (like all the other processions) to do one final offering for Ganesha. It included breaking a coconut, the symbol for human ego (a hard nut to crack). Only to use force and do your best - to break your ego, you will overcome obstacles and release your inner energy.

There were large tables set up on the hillside, and all around us, the other processions stopped, placed their Ganesha on the table to do the last offerings. People were walking around, offering each other fruit, nuts and sweets. - Ganesha is the God for everybody, and this is blessed by Him. Like one big street-party really, lovely! Except for the fact that they were there to say goodbye to Ganesha. Our friend said: - It feels a bit sad, because He has been part of our lives now, and the house will feel empty when He is gone.
Everybody gave each other sweets,nuts and fruit. Love the little guy's expression here... 

Final offerings - and many looked quite sad...

One of the bigger ones we saw today...

Final offerings to Ganesha- and rain is still pouring... 
After the final blessings, (and stuffing ourselves with goodies), we continued towards the lake. At one point the Ganesha-carryer had to go one way - and the rest of us another. He then had to give his idol to someone taking Him down to the water.
Last holding of Ganesha before seeing Him off..

The blue-t-shirt guys was the trusted people to take the Ganeshas down to the little lake. 
Then we gathered at a small temple. Our friends, who now had an empty tray, received a small piece of clay to take home, to place where Ganesha had been, to fill the void.

So, dear reader, Ganesha departed, but will for sure be welcomed next year with equal enthusiasm! 

And hey - that was only the small home - Ganeshas. More will be immersed tomorrow. As for the really huge community Ganeshas: we will bid farewell to them next week, at the end of the festival! 

So, my Ganesha tale might not have seen The End quite yet. Farewell for now, Ganesha, see you again! 


Friday, 13 September 2013

Festivals in India

- What do you miss the most from India, Poonam? I asked my good Indian friend this summer. She lives in Norway. - The Festivals! - she laughed, without a moment of hesitation. - The Festivals!!!!!!

No wonder! The festivals in India are amazing - and just as loud, cheerful and colorful as I had pictured them to be, before we moved here! And this year I am waaay more prepared for them! You see, last year, I could suddenly find myself in the middle of a crowd of drumming, cheering, dancing people and I had absolutely no idea what was going on! (Confused-newly-arrived-to-Mumbai-creature....)  But people were so including! Waiving hands and smiling faces welcomed us: - Come here! Go in the front so you can see better! Let the foreigners through! Join us! Try it! Come! Come! And we were pushed up front, a bit taken off guard, but joined in the best we could, a bit overwhelmed to put it mildly. Go with the flow, .....right? Eh, right!

And there are lots of festivals! Lots! Well, dear reader, this year I am more prepared. And I will understand why all the women suddenly wear green sarees one day. I know why they tie colorful bangles to each others arms. I get why a live pyramid of climbing people suddenly emerge in front of me ( but I still swallow hard-watching that little guy on the very top up there). And the giant Ganesha statues  --- well they do not make me freeeeeze:-) this year, and I understand why He receives such a warm welcome!.

And speaking of Ganesha. We are still in the middle of the Ganesha festival, and drumming, dancing, cheering and celebrating is going on non-stop! Today we are off to visit some friends and their Ganesha. I actually got quite moved to see how many have an almost personal relationship with their Gods. Ganesha has been treated as their dear guest. And just as when a dear guest has visited you and it is time to leave - well, it is a bit sad to say goodbye. However, we join in the prayers that Ganesha will come back early next year. So, it is not really a final goodbye - more a: See you again! That makes it easier..And that's the way it is when dear friends, family and guests leave, right? - Until we meet again:-) See you! 

So- to be continued.... more Ganesha tales are coming up....

I wish you a wonderful day,  dear reader!

PS: If you want to know more about the festivals in India, you can check out A list of the festivals in India.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tzatziki, raita and kolokithakia tiganita - recipe

Even before I moved to India, I knew about raita. It had been my lifesaver when the food was over the top spicy in Indian restaurants. Now, in India I have some new insight:

  • Raita can be made with a number of different delicious flavors: like cucumber, pineapple and pomegranate
  • The spicy in Indian restaurants in Europe, is NOT particulary spicy compared to spicy in India, so: 
  • I love my raita even more now than I did before. Nothing beats some cooling raita to put out the flames:-) 

In Greece we have tzatziki  - kind of like the Greek cousin of raita. Both of them are welcomed quests in our global expat cuisine. I have experimented a bit with raita, and tested out different recipes.

I found a very good raita recipe at Asmitas food blog Compulsive Foodie. I really love her blog- it is so delicate and with some great recipes! In this recipe, cucumber and yogurt are the main ingredients, just like in tzatziki, but the spices are quite different. You can find her yoummie raita recipe here.

I discovered another recipe - which looked quite intriguing at Kumar's Kitchen, another food blog which I like. You can check out their version with carrot, coconut and ginger here.

And now for the Greek cousin Tzatziki, which I know the best of course. We use tzatziki as a side dish, and it can go with anything: fish, meat or veggie dishes. When we have fried zucchini / kolokithakia tiganita - which my teens love - tzatziki is a must! This is how we do it: 


You need: 
2-3 cucumbers
2 cups of yogurt
3 cloves garlic, grated
salt, pepper 
3 tsp dill 
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice

You do:
Peel and grate the cucumber. Squeeze out the water. If you have time- leave it to drain (in a coffee filter) for a couple of hours. Do the same with the yogurt, if it has too much water in it. 
Put the grated cucumber in a bowl and add garlic, salt, pepper and dill. Add olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice. Mix well. I prefer to do it by hand, so we can still have the bits of cucumber in there. 
Cover up the bowl and leave it in the fridge for at least one hour. 

PS 1. Instead of grating the cucumber, you can cut it in small cubes. 2. Some also add 2 tsp mint. 


You need: 

2 large zucchinis
2-3 eggs
1-2 cups flour
salt, pepper

You do: 
Chop the zucchinis in slices ( about 1/2- 1 cm thick), and set aside. Prepare 2 bowls: In one you mix the eggs with 1-2 tsp vinegar. In the other bowl you mix flour with salt and pepper. Heat up oil in a frying pan. 
Dip the slices of zucchinis first in the bowl with egg-mix and then in the bowl with flour. (they need to be well covered
Fry the zucchinis slices until they are light brown. Put them on a plate covered with kitchen paper. 

I hope you enjoy your zucchinis with tzatziki! 
Fried zucchinis with tzatziki
In Greece, zucchinis with tzatziki will usually be a side dish, or a part of our big wonderful Greek meze- lots and lots of dishes- that just keep coming:-) Have a look at this post from last summer, if you want to see more.

Oh well, I will go for Kitchari with pineapple raita today myself! Love it!

Have a wonderful day, dear reader, and thank you for popping by!  

Monday, 9 September 2013

Welcome Lord Ganesha! - Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

Today it started - the festival for the beloved Lord Ganesha, the elephant - headed Hindu God. We celebrate His birthday. Families installed statues of Ganesha in their homes, and gigantic statues of Him was set up in neighborhoods. All over Mumbai today there have been processions with people carefully carrying their Ganesha home, - or driving him home. I have seen Ganeshas on anything from rikshaws to huge trucks today, accompanied by crowds of singing, dancing and drumming people. Ganesha has arrived, and he will stay for 1 1/2 or up to ten days! Dear reader, one of the biggest festivals in Mumbai is definitely on!

Ganesha is widely worshiped in India as the God of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune, and is invoked at the beginning of a new venture or at the start of a journey. He is the one you should pray to, to remove any obstacles that are in your way. He is seen as the most important Hindu God, and a God for everybody. During this week, he is worshiped, and then immersed in the sea, a lake or the river at the end of the festival.
Some families will immerse their Ganesha already tomorrow, but the big statues will not be immersed until the tenth day. So, for the next week, the neighborhoods will come to worship Ganesha in large beautifully decorated tents. They will bring flowers, fruit and sweets for offerings. And there will be a lot of celebration!
We had been invited to some good friends today (thank you, our sweethearts Mrudul and Kirti) - and this is what we saw:
This is the big Ganesha statue for the neighborhood. With drums and dancing they are bringing Him to the big tent, where He will be for the next ten days. People will come to worship Him there. 
Took some men to hold on to Him.... 

This is the Ganesha in our friends home. They will have Puja for Him again tonight and then 2 times tomorrow, before they will take Him to Juhu beach to be immersed in the sea. 

Some of the offerings..
They pray for Him bringing wisdom, fortune for the next year, and remove any obstacles which are in their spiritual path. 

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi, dear reader! All the best! Now, I'll check how the elections in Norway is turning out.. From one thing to the other today...! I hope you have had a wonderful day! Ta ta from me:-)  

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Happy elections, Norway!

Here I am, sitting on a dirty straw mat on an even dirtier floor. The painting is coming off the wall and there is mold and fungus in every corner -  and in front of me: 20 smiling 12 year olds. We are at school, in one of the big slum areas in Mumbai.

So, we talk about events around the world and I tell them that elections are coming up in Norway this Monday. They get curious. A shower of questions. Yes, we have hospitals and medicines. Yes, the roads are good (believe me- compared to Mumbai they are! ), Yes, most kids in Norway have some toys to play with.

Little Geeta looks at me: - You have schools in Norway? - I nod: Yes, all kids go to school. She giggles and bursts out: - The people in Norway must be sooo happy! Oh, dear reader, I swallow hard and barely manage to nod and smile back.

Later, when they have group work, I sit and watch them chat and laugh. I know that some of them have siblings who dropped out of school. One has a sick dad and they have no money for the expensive medicine he needs. One has to go home after class to cook for 4 younger siblings. One is the son of a single mum who travels 2,5 hours every day to work for 9 hours, and then 2,5 hours to get home again (if the traffic is ok). One is the daughter of a single mum who works from home, making plastic hair clips, and is payed 25 rupee (2,5 NOK) for every 1000 she makes. I know that some of these kids, who live in the roughest parts, can not play outside, and that their parents have to follow them to the public toilets - because it is not safe for them to be out alone.

After class, the group of mums who come to pick them up, greet me with big smiles and kind words. Always time for a happy moment. I come home, and read my Norwegian on-line newspapers. So sorry, Norway - but right now it feels absurd to read about the election campaign and some of the things you discuss back home. And from the sideline in India: - do not forget to appreciate what we have: hospitals, medicine and health insurance, schools for all children, freedom to speech and to study what you want. Make some time in your everyday life to enjoy the moments and give some thoughts to what you are grateful for. Somewhere else in the world there are people who think that you are so lucky! You must be so happy!!! Are you?

Happy elections, Norway! 

PS: Yes, of course I did my duty. I gave my vote when I was in Norway in June. Here we are giving our votes, and the staff is taking care that we do it the proper way:-)  

Yes, found my party. Ready to submit The Envelope:-) 

Done! Protecting my precious vote, I hope:-)