Time Management

October 19, 2009


The Diwali madness is nearly over and I am coming out of hiding. Or rather, of my blogging exile.

Last week, I  enquired about the exact extent of the Diwali holidays. 

“Well – my workshop manager said. You see, on Friday is Choti Diwali.”

Choti Diwali, literally, “Little Diwali”, is the day before Diwali. It’s a holiday, and the craziest day of the year: people shop like mad. Clothes, sweets and firecrackers are being bought en masse. The traffic is total, loud, intense chaos.

“Then Saturday of course is Diwali. Sunday, it doesn’t matter because it’s a Sunday anyway, but it’s Govardhan Puja, very important puja.”

“Great. Does that mean we can work on Monday?” 

“Noooooooo! Monday is the brother-sister festival.”

“But that’s Rakhi, that’s in August!”

“No, not Rakhi. Rakhi is when sisters go to their brothers. On Monday, brothers go to their sisters. It’s called Bhai Duj.”

“And it’s a bank holiday.”

“But of course.”

“What about Tuesday?”

“Tuesday is a holiday too.”

“Oh, come on, I pleaded. what for?”

“Well, just to rest.”

Holiday Season

September 25, 2009



The reason, well one of the reasons why I was sulking is that Gossip Girl season 3 is out. And it sucks. 

The girls are wearing crap clothes, the intrigue is about as thrilling as a boiled potato and the overall urge to slap the characters has now taken over the outraged, confusing fascination seasons 1 & 2 managed to convey.

I want to cry.

To make up for it, I have bought books. Oh yes, lots of them. Because although I have a TV, you won’t be surprised to know that I don’t know how to use it. 

But why, will you ask, am I in desperate need of entertainment?

Because, my friends, Diwali is looming on the horizon. Diwali, the Hindu New Year, with its firecrackers, endless parties, extravagant gambling sessions, shopping frenzy, Las Vegas street lights, constant ringing bells and echoeing prayers, Diwali with its madness, its overwhelming spirituality and sickening materialism, Diwali, the one and only, is coming up.

On the 17th of October.

To my mild amusement, the workers have already disappeared. The Bengalis have gone en masse to celebrate Durga Puja. The Muslims have not come back from Eid. And the Hindus have switched the pre-holiday gear. For the next month, it will be very, very difficult to get any work done. 

Just about as difficult as getting me to watch TV.

Hence, I am stocking up on books.

Anyone for a mountain trip?


The other day as we were having lunch at the Anokhi Cafe, Victoria and I were accosted by a woman at the next table. Although clearly Indian, she spoke with an exaggerated American accent that instanltly gripped my good mood.

“Hey girls” she ventured.

Victoria dived into her tomato-mozza pizza, completely oblivious.

The woman wanted to invite us to her healing workshops (from the corner of my eye, I saw Victoria rolling her eyes at her fork). She gave me a leaflet and said she “would love to have [us] guys”. Whatever that meant.

I very very  very politely got rid of her and when she left the restaurant, I started examining the leaflet.

It showed a person of indistinct sex sitting in lotus position, looking up, its body possessed by a succession of colored waves. The waves originate from its (protruding) belly and climax on top of its head,  from where a tube light or a laser sword, I can’t decide, is coming out.

At the back of the leaflet was a list of “Transformative Workshop Modules” to choose from. Just like at university or in a salad bar, you could put together your own little formula. For example, if you were someone rather classic, you could pick, say, “Energy Healing” and “Self Hypnosis“: smooth, established stuff that you could practice in most upmarket gyms in NY anyway.

However, adventure-lovers, high-altitude jumpers and New Labour activists could also find their happiness. Some “modules”, indeed, sounded fabulously intriguing.

Rescripting your success” was one of them. I asked Victoria, a native of England, what the verb “rescript” meant but even she couldn’t enlighten me.

Radiant relationships“, yes, is the name of another module, and yes, I personnally find it wonderful.

Art of allowing to attract success and happiness” rubs me the wrong grammatical way, but maybe that’s precisely the point: keep an open mind.

But then, in a dizzying literary U-turn, after tens of long names full of “karmas”, “catharsis” and “hypnosis” the list ends with two unexpectedly simple but nonetheless fascinating “modules”.

One of them,  “Healing through angels“, simply cramps my soul with curiosity.

Autorickshaw Metaphysics

August 27, 2009


My rickshaw driver, Shashir, is trying to convert me to hinduism. Almost every day, he tries to take me to some temple or the other.

Years ago, he managed to drag Victoria and Bertie to his village temple to meet his guru. I shall never forget the story of the 2-hour drive on the highway, in the rickshaw shared with the whole family; how they waited another 2 hours in the village, being forcefed tons of food and liters of chai, and how they made a U-turn, one hour into the journey back, because they had just passed the Gurumobile, complete with megaphones and sirens. I will never forget Victoria’s face when she got back – that’s when I swore never to fall into the temple trap.

At first, I used to decline apologetically. I felt bad.

But to be honest, I am not remotely attracted to hinduism. There are too many gods, too many animals, too many stories, too many colors, smells, representations and contradictions to appeal to me. I can’t deal with the wars and betrayals and transformations. I can’t pray to idols. I need minimalism. I am, I have realized, monotheist to the core.

Now, I do feel bad. I probably sound awful and arrogant and snooty – after all, who am I to judge a religion?

I was thinking exactly this the other day when Shashir decided to take me, of all days: on Ganesh Chaturthi, of all places: to the Ganesh Temple. There would be a rough 100,000 devotees there.

I thought I’d elaborate my 8-billionth refusal:

“Sorry Shashir but no. I am a Catholic, I go to church.”

He turned to me he and, dead-serious, declared in hindi:

“But Madam, God is one.”

Grab the Deal

August 26, 2009



When you have an Indian prepaid mobile phone card you receive thousands of daily promotional text messages and calls. Drove me mad.

Now that I have a postpaid deal, I don’t get such a constant flow of beeps. But I get the odd one. Some, I don’t mind. Restaurants, nightlclubs, boutiques in Delhi and Bombay: they remind me that I used to live it up.

Some, on the other hand, depress me. Domino’s, for example. What it tells me, as if I wasn’t aware of it already, is that my diet now consists of peperoni pizza and beer.

I also receive daily invitations to “pool parties”, something I personally would consider when I was, say, 14, but nonetheless Jaipur’s hot new brazen concept which, in its ideal unfolding, consists in bikini clad foreign girls chatting with much married but wifeless local men gulping blended whisky. But I might be wrong as, to be honest, I never went.

We keep receiving such text messages and we keep deleting them. Luckily, last week Victoria read one before she deleted it. And I am glad she did, because here is what it said:

New Extravag. Formula @ Sheesh Mahal MI Rd – Get Bonanza Meal Order 1 Get 2 (Non Veg. 50% discount) on Food + New Offer Buy 3 Get 7 (Beer & Wine) – Enjoy Summer Discount Menu!!!!

Buy 3 get 7.

Buy 3 get freaking 7.

Now that’s a deal.

Prozac on Wheels

August 4, 2009



I often complain about using autorickshaws. It is backbreaking. Beggars can touch you. It is hot and dusty and all in all a frankly unpleasant experience – especially if, like me, autorickshaws have been your modus transportanti for the last four years. 

Autorickshaw drivers don’t help. I have written about them at length, and most of them are total douches, although there are a few glorious exceptions. One in particular, as you may remember, beat up my aggressors and earned my eternal adoration. 

My regular autorickshaw driver, Shashir, doesn’t behave with such panache. He is not very bright and certainly not remotely good-looking.

However, I do like him. He is devoted, patient, protecting and very very sweet. Every evening when he drops me home after yet another day of madness, dust and sweat, when I feel so worn off and dirty I would probably scare street dogs, my hair totally dishevelled, wearing some shapeless all-covering outfit, just when, numb from exhaustion, I just want to crawl in bed and forget everything, every day at this very moment, Shashir when I get out of his autorickshaw looks at me, his eyes wet with emotion, and tells me, in Hindi:

“You are beautiful.”


A lake in Sariska

A lake in Sariska

The monsoon is a very strange season.

When everyone in Europe is sunbathing, we don’t get any sun. The sky is an ode to Christian Dior: thousands of shades of grey glide over us.

It is hot, though not as hot as June: after flirting with the fourties, we have now gone back to a civilized 30ºC. Swimming, however, doesn’t really happen. The pools are dirty, courtesy the rains. Frogs have taken over, and although they are sweet, I don’t really enjoy their touch.

It is humid and hot and grey and the mango season is over, but there is one wonderful thing about the monsoon.

The green. 

Everywhere in the city and beyond, the color green has exploded. Jaipur, the Pink City, capital of a desert state, is fluorescent green. In the magical Ram Niwas gardens, gazing at Albert Hall, along the Old City’s arcades, or  creeping out of old ochre pink enclosures: trees, in full bloom, bright and lush.

In this balmy weather, the desert turned green, there is one place I long to visit.

Sariska Valley, the hidden gem of Rajasthan, with its eerie hills, millenary temples and breathtaking landscapes. 

Still untouched by tourism, Sariska is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. 

Chalo, before the rains go.