Friday, May 9, 2014

A Mumbai Wedding

Hello Masala-ites,

It looks as though I have been an absentee blogger as of late. My appologies. Let's get you caught up on the latest adventures.


Daddy G and I dumped our 2 darling daughters on his sister and went to Mumbai to celebrate the wedding of a friend of ours from New York. Aside from our Goa trip, Daddy G and I have never traveled alone, so I was excited to take a trip with him without the kids.

We had a straight forward flight to Mumbai (that of course started at an ungodly hour of the morning).  We spent the first day exploring South Bombay/Colaba. After much security and id producing, we checked into our nice, but small hotel room right behind the Taj.  We ate at Leopolds, and Cafe Mondegar, which are long standing institutions in Colaba. I had read about Leopolds in Shantaram (a book), so I was thrilled to try it. I had Akara, which is an egg/masala/tomato dish that I loved, but Daddy G found too heavy for breakfast. It's a Parsi (or originated) joint, and if you're good, you can spot some artwork on the walls corresponding to that. Akara is a Parsi dish by the way. Leopolds was unfortunately involved in a terrorist act on Mumbai in 2008, and number of people died there. The heaviness still hangs in the air, but it's a nice place to eat for tourism value. Cafe Mondegar is delightfully chaotic and kitschy. With about 2 inches of personal space between tables and walls COVERED in art and stuff, it's an experience. Food was good though. I'm still not sure how the very professional waiters got around that place.

Colaba is most definitely a tourist place. I accordingly dragged Daddy G all over just taking it all in. We had a pretty free itinerary without the kids and roamed all over South Mumbai. I did some shopping at fashion street for both my kids and myself. To my great disappointment, no one wanted to bargain 1 rupee. After all the stories, it was a bit disappointing, even though nothing was too expensive.

We met up with another college friend of Daddy G and ended up a bit drunk and eating sushi in a Japanese place. I LOVE sushi, but I never thought I would be eating in India. Pleasant surprise.

The next day we took a cab north to meet up with our friend. As decently well off Gujaratis in Mumbai, the wedding was a 3 day affair. This was day 1 in a sari all day for me. We had brunch. and hung out to watch the puja (religious ceremony) that came along with it. All the girls got mehndi done on their hands, which I absolutely loved. It looked a bit like the picture below, only mine stopped right under my palms and my finger tips were completely colored in.

I definitely want to do this again. it stayed on my hands FOREVER, although was quite faded after 3 days. It's India - you HAVE to wash your hands all the time. After the function, we went out with some friends to  a pub and hung out for an hour or two. SO great to go out at night and now worry about it turning 11 and everything shutting down. We stayed in the ISKON temple (they keep rooms for devotees, of which our friend's uncle was) which was beautiful. The rooms were spacious and beautiful. I ended up getting sick that evening, which I thought could possibly be attributed to too much Old Monk and cigarettes at the pub. Unfortunately this wasn't the case.

The next day was the Barat (in which everyone dances the groom down the street to the wedding venue) and the actual wedding. I woke up with a fever and Delhi Belly. I was in no condition to be attending, but could not really bow out and thought if I just hung in there, I could see most of it. I put on another sari and we left. I realized when I got there that standing up was absolutely exhausting. I tried hiding out on a couch corner, which lasted until we got in the car to go dance. In India you can't just sit down on the ground or lean on anything (everything is just dirty), so the wait was absolutely torture for me. I sat in the car for a while, which helped, but then Daddy G pulled me out to go dance with everyone. In case you don't know, I have the dancing skills of a spastic anteater. Seriously. I just cannot dance for beans. I sucked it up and participated - even though it was so hard. I enjoyed myself a lot though, spastic or not. I was exhausted by the time we got to the wedding hall, which was on a military base. A big, walled in courtyard was decorated with fabric, flowers, and tons of lights. It was pretty and we sat at tables. I was barely upright at this point, so Daddy G brought me back to the temple to sleep it off. The only thing I regret was not being able to join in the eating,  Daddy G told me it was truly impressive how many appetizers and dishes they had. 

I woke up feeling better the next day, which is pretty normal for me. We caught a play at Prithvi Theater - one of the oldest theater's in Mumbai. It's tucked back in a nice neighborhood in a small building. They have a mix of Hindi, Marati (local language in Maharashtra where Mumbai is located) and English plays. We saw Jungle Book, which was a mix of Hindi and Marati. I didn't understand everything, but the play was extremely well done, and not a kiddy play, even though there were lots of kids present. The actors obviously enjoy their craft and work very hard at it. You simply must go there if you are in Mumbai. 

We spent the afternoon on Juhu beach which was delightfully uncrowded and decently clean, but not for swimming.

The cocktail reception was that evening, so I finally decked up in Western clothes and we ate and drank a stupidly large amount and danced our butts off. It was amazing fun. Don't think stuffy cocktails, it's more like open bar, DJ, dance floor, and buffet with lots of drunk, partying people. We even got to see the Mumbai cops drop by at 3 am to try and shut the party down. I'm not sure how much money changed hands, but I'm sure some did.

The next day was free and we woke up very late - we were out til 5 am. We wandered around the northern section of Juhu and walked by the seaside. We ended up in the bandstand, which is a part type area with walkways and climbing near the sea. After a call from a friend, we ended up on the beach in the evening and explored all the Mumbai chats and street food.  We just hung out on the beach at night. We had lots of good conversation when we weren't being mobbed by ladies trying to give me henna - which I already had, or guys offering massages (which were surprisingly legit). The next morning we flew back home.

Overall, I LOVED Mumbai. We went in winter time and I heard it's quite hot and humid in summer time. I wouldn't necessarily want to live there, but I sure did enjoy visiting and seeing the Gujarati version of a Mumbai wedding.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Online Piano and Keyboard Classes

Hello Online Bloggy Friends, how's it hanging?

I have a proposition for all of you (Oh no. Definitely not that kind.) that I was hoping to get some feedback on.

So as I've harped on plenty enough, I teach piano. To be quite honest with the intertubes, I absolutely love teaching. Love it. 

As of now, I have around 27 students and am about topping off on capacity of students that I can teach in person. I also have noticed a decent population of working adults (at least in India) that would love to learn, but are completely overtaken with work and can only come on the weekends (of which lessons are currently full on Saturday A.M's for me). 

The idea goes that I will have video lessons (which students should work on about a week at a time) online, 1 day guarantee email support for questions, once weekly student/teacher Skype interactions for performance, level appropriate exams, and additional educational assistance/materials.

So here's where I need your feedback:
Would you take classes online?
What services/support would you need to be convinced to take classes in an online environment?

I also am looking for some fearless volunteers to go through 2 months worth of classes (on me!) a month or two from right now and give some feedback about the program. It's completely free for volunteers, unless I get completely bowled over by eager learners! Then we may need to limit numbers. 

The thing you would need to participate: 

  • A piano/keyboard to practice on - doesn't need to be yours, but it should play
  • The appropriate computer equipment to view videos and conduct skype sessions with sound, which I'm going to guess most of you will be equipped with
  • A willingness to try out playing the piano.
  • The time to commit to 4 (30 minute) Skype meetings per month (about once per week)
  • The ability to not be a troll. Sexual comments/innuendos/invitations are entertaining, but a waste of my time in this experiment. Just don't.
I've been told I'm a good teacher and that I have a great rapport with all different ages, but you can feel free to try it out and give your own feedback as needed.

Even if you choose not to participate, please do let me know your thoughts on the idea. I do need some idea as to whether there is any interest in this at all.

Becky

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Why Kerala is Awesome to Visit.

So the G family recently invaded Kerala for a visit. Overall, it was a nice trip. The people were for the most part friendly and polite. Here are the highlights:




1. Taking a non-night train is a long and tedious option - especially with kids. 12 hours type long. in one seat. The scenery was fabulous, but how long can you really watch scenery? That being said, it was a novelty and the kids liked the vendors being around all the time.
2. Cochin/Fort Kochi was fun to visit. I ironically got to appreciate some Dutch heritage and I'm a culture/history junkie. Our hotel was in a great location for wandering around. The architecture was very interesting to see.
The View Behind our Hotel



Crazy Mix of the Old, The New, and the Tragically Dirty Beach

Holla Dutch Folks!


3. Munnar was great. It doesn't have the same feel as the rest of India but the cooler weather and amazing views were much appreciated, especially after being in Fort Kochi.
Lots of waterfalls to be found.

The view from our hotel room back porch

From outside.


They had frikkin Emus. It was awesome.




This right here is just not right. I heard Gasolina in Kerala more than I have anywhere else. And not just in Munnar.

4. There's not much in Thekkady, but we did see a martial arts show that was very cool to watch. Do see one when you go to Kerala. Unless you plan to go on a big, expensive safari, there is absolutely no wildlife in the preserve. Even then, I have my doubts.


This is a squirrel, people. It was the size of an opossum.


Funniest thing ever - this monkey stole that bottle out of someone's hand, opened it, and drank it, relaxed as anything.

Seriously big spider.



5. Alleppy was absolutely one of the coolest places I have ever been. We stayed in a hotel so far out in the middle of no where that the road was barely big enough for one car. With a compound on one side and a canal on the other, it was a bit nerve wracking, but it was so quiet and peaceful, we loved it.

One of the infamous houseboats






6. Flying back was the best decision ever.
7. Unless you hate it, eat fish. Keralans know fish, especially in the backwaters.
8. Unless you LOVE elephants, try to stay away from the elephant traps. They're a bit sad.

The not so great:
1. Kerala is hot and humid - even in the middle of winter (unless you are up in the mountains). The hotels in Fort Kochi will have air, (if you take an AC room and it's not during a power cut) but no where else will. Open air dining is pretty much the only option here.
2. The mosquitoes have orgies every 2.3 seconds. Even inside during the day, the mosquitoes are completely out of control. Bring bug spray. And long sleeves/pants.
3. Don't plan to be unique if you're white in Fort Kochi. You cannot swing a chopstick there without hitting 4 different white people. Not only will you not be unique, you will be seen as a sales target and Keralans in tourist areas are a bit more pushy than in other places in India. They post signs about no pressure sales inside, but harass you outside.
4. Most of the handcrafts/art you will see will be generic Indian kitch and not Keralan art. Unfortunately, even in the areas that don't cater to white people.
5. Kerala is not so much an activity place as a relax and enjoy the scenery place. You may or may not enjoy this.
6. The possibility of Big Spiders - Very Big Spiders. I saw many with very large webs along the road in Munnar. Hand sized spiders people.

The One in Which I Admit that I’m a Horrible Blogger. And Lonely.


Alrighty then. So this should come as a surprise to actually no one. Hello, my name is Becky G and I’m a horrible blogger. I blog about as often as I call my mother or my friends, which I suppose makes me a terrible daughter and friend, but we’ll leave that for another post. I could give you all the excuses (I’m too busy!) but I’ll spare you even if they are true. Really, I suck at making myself write every day (or few days, or week or damn, how long has it been??).

One of the reasons I’ve been absent from writing is some of the things that have been going on in India lately. Trust me, I have a What the Hell India brewing in my mind and I have a lot to say on what’s been happening. I don’t want to get into this just yet though.
The G family has been in India for a year now. We’ve settled in for all practical purposes. Try not to fall over in surprise, but I have actually made my own friends and I have my own activities going on. I knew that I would probably be lonely before we settled in and I got used to things – anyone with 2 pickles worth of common sense would realize this. What I didn’t plan on was really, really missing my family and the US in general even after we had adjusted and started making friends.  I find myself day dreaming about my friends and the small town with a sense of loss and missing that I never ever had in the US, even though I left that town over 10 years ago and logically don’t want to move back there.

I find it difficult to admit this to people that I talk to from the US because so many told me it would happen. Everyone hates being told “I told you so”, even if it’s true and that person knew it was coming. I would hate for people to think that I’m miserable and pouty and so achinly homesick that I can’t function and I hate it here. That’s just the thing – I don’t. I love it here! As I mentioned, I have friends, I run a business, the weather is perfect right now, I get around and am able to do what I need to get done even with Daddy G travelling. But my Grandmother has been unwell recently. As I mentioned before, she is one of my favorite people on the entire earth. I actually wondered if I would see her alive again, which broke my heart. Even if I wanted to go to her town if she got sick (or god forbid died) I couldn’t, which is very different from living in New York. The fact that I can’t just jump on a plane every time I needed to and fly home is really doing a number on my psych.

We’re planning  a trip to the US in May and I’m super excited about it.  I have the feeling that I’ll be gob smacked  by the sense of not belonging (which happens EVERY time I wander back to the town I grew up in) which would be a good thing. Having this place reinforced as home will be good for my mind, even if I do miss my family. I’m used to seeing them every year for a month, so it will be good to spend the time with them. I have a sneaking suspicion that the US will be a bit alien to me since I’ve been gone so long. Folks, I haven’t driven a car in a year and I’m almost afraid to now. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it for a while. People can change a lot in the course of a year depending on the surroundings.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this feeling will go away any time soon and will just have to be one I learn to live with as long as we live far away from my family.
Becky

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Upcoming

Hello Spice Lovers,

Sorry for being a bit spotty with the writing as of late. Life has been tossing me around a bit and it's been hard to gather my thoughts up into a coherent, well, anything.

The G family is launching off to Kerala for a week to see what there is to be seen. Stay tuned for details and pictures. Oh yes, there will be pictures.

Becky

Friday, October 12, 2012

What the Hell India - Marrying off Children to Avoid Rape

Hello Folks.

My apologies for generally being absent from blogging as of late - life has indeed been busy for me. I'm currently teaching 13 students and planning a recital. It takes up WAY more time than you or I think.

So. Another installment of What the Hell India is on the agenda.

The state of Haryana (which houses Delhi FYI) has an absolutely horrid record when it comes to rape. This week, a case has come to the attention of the papers of a Dalit (lower economic class) woman who was gang raped by multiple young men coming from richer houses.

 Here is Haryana for your reference:


Because everything in India has a political undercurrent, the Dalit leader from Haryana felt it necessary to weigh in. His opinion was that we just need to change marriage laws to get children married in order to avoid rape.

Ok, what the Sam diddly hell???

1. The Dalit representative had no answers for why this happened to married women or why married men where often the culprits.

2. He also ignored the fact that being married young often leads to spousal abuse and is responsible for a great number of malnutrition cases.

3. This is not the 18th century.

4. Marrying young is a foolproof way to ensure that the woman will be much less likely to be educated or financially independent.


The problem here is not when young ladies get married - it is a problem involving a patriarchal society with way too few protections for women. As much as I love this country, I cannot ignore the fact that women of all ages and socioeconomic niches are generally left out in the open when it comes to making women equal. Unfortunately, rape is a reality in India, one far too many women have to face. In an ideal world, no woman should have to worry about being accosted by a group of men while walking to her grandmother's house during the day. She should not have to stay inside during the night if no male is there to escort her outside for whatever reason she needs to go out. Unfortunately, India is a society that holds far too many men accountable that this is still as big of a problem as it is. Non-accountability added to non action on the part of society marks this action as passively acceptable. We are not in the stone ages anymore. Rape is never ok, no matter what the circumstances are.

My own husband has urged me not to go walking in the outside ring of our compound late at night. In general, for a woman with a tiny bit of common sense, this is common knowledge. Rape has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with control. And India has a very poor record when it comes to allowing women to control themselves; it's almost a national ethos. Even the idea that a woman belongs in the kitchen adds to the general idea that a woman has no right to control her own life.

India, this is not modern country behavior. This nonsense has to stop. The UN pleaded with the entire country to not take this suggestion of child marriage seriously at all. It will NOT solve this problem, it will only set the country back a few hundred years and add to the burden of problems this country is already facing. For the love of everything holy, can we stop treating women like weak little idiots that can't possibly control themselves, their future or their sexuality and just start valuing them as the half of society that they are? This is definitely one issue that breaks my heart on a regular basis solely because it's not at all rare.

Knock it the heck off men. And everyone, let's not accept solutions that set us back a few hundred years instead of calling this problem as it really is.

Becky

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Mysterious Case of the Noisy Newspaper


Alright. So the kids are outside playing, I’m sufficiently caffeinated, and I’ve managed to avoid the never ending game of spider solitaire that usually gets in the way of writing. I have another fun India story for you. Hopefully you’ll find it as entertaining as I did.

I was reading my trusty Times of India paper and not The Hindu the other day (because the newspaper man must be asked at least 4 times before I get the correct paper on a consistent basis, but that’s a story for a different day) as I was sipping my morning coffee. This is quite the routine of mine and I do it pretty much every day, along with checking what blogs I can remember I used to follow. This day, however, I was behind on newspapers for 3 days. I settled in to plow through them all at once. My housekeeper Indira was here and was in the kitchen washing the dishes.

I was nicely reading some unimportant clip about Bollywood drama when the paper started buzzing. I’m not talking barely there vibrations from a fan or my imagination, I’m talking cell phone/adult toy type vibration level. I sat there for a moment dumbly looking at the paper thinking that papers are definitely NOT supposed to vibrate. Then the thought came to my mind that perhaps a rogue bee/wasp/hornet zilla had become stuck inside the paper somehow. We all know how much I love the bees.

I immediately did the most logical thing possible and threw the paper across the room. The vibrations stopped, so I went to investigate. I gingerly lifted one page at a time, ready to make my escape should an angry, sting-ey insect come out looking for vengeance. I found nothing, so I figured he had tumbled out of the paper and was waiting in some dark corner under a piece of furniture planning his next attack.

I grabbed the paper and sat down again to read. No one should be at all surprised that the paper started buzzing again. I of course let out a small shriek and threw the paper again. Indira came into the room concerned that there was something actually wrong with me. I of course was standing there like a cartoon with my hand over my mouth, embarrassed that I was screaming like a little girl about something I hadn’t even seen. I again, slowly sorted through the pages. When I got to the back, the paper started buzzing like mad on the floor. In the middle of the page long advertisement was a small black device. We figured out that it was light sensitive (which was why it turned on when I had the paper open, but not on the floor) but couldn’t really figure out why it was there. It seems like a super expensive, hassle worthy advertising trick, but I couldn’t figure out any other reason for it.

So. Indira had a good laugh about my imaginary bees and I sheepishly went back to enjoying my coffee.

Well played newspaper advertisement – you definitely got my attention, even if I didn’t buy that car.

 

Becky