During our stay in India we have been quite surprised by the number of holidays in respect to the various religions, states or respected individuals. We have got a yearly schedule which makes it helpful in our planning for getaways.
The Hindi worship over 300 million gods and most of the festivals take place from September to November. Some of the gods include Krishna, (the incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu) and one of the highlights at this time is the building of the human pyramid, built to obtain a pot full of butter, but only to have it spilt on them. In turn many of the people fall down about 20 feet to the ground, often injuring themselves on the cement.
Diwali, the most popular Hindi festival also known as the Festival of Lights is celebrated at the end of autumn and signifies the importance of light over darkness. During this time, the streets are lit up and at night the sky is lit up with fireworks and the streets with fire crackers the size of small dynamite sticks. Thus while walking about at night your nerves tense with the random blasts of the noise followed by the popping of the lights. About a week after the holiday we finally settled into peaceful nights with cleaner air.
Now comes Eid Al Fitr and the Muslim faith finished their fasting. Again the neighbourhood transforms, water stations are set up throughout the streets and large gatherings of people hustle to celebrations where they are now able to feast on meat.
We are now into the wedding and Christmas season, the churches are lit up, nativity scenes are displayed and wallas cart their poinsettias throughout the streets. In regard to Jainism (for which there are lots in India) they seem to keep a low profile. They are the vegetarians who will not eat anything that grows below the ground such as potatoes, garlic, onions, carrots, etc. We’ve been at a few buffets where we’ve heard some local Indians say “I sure hope we don’t have Jain food tonight.” Religion is another kaleidoscope of Mumbai.
The variety and quality of service – some good and some bad – continues to amaze us. Gordon returned to Mumbai in early September with Deb following a few weeks later. Within a few hours of Gordon’s return the service providers were ringing the door bell looking for “mam” to buy fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, etc. Some of the other services are:
– Our New Zealand trained medical doctor came to the house a few times when we could not shake off coughing from a cold and allergy. Cost about $13 per visit. Prescriptions about $5.
– We had our apartment repainted after the rainy season. This was something to experience and we were fortunate to have our maid Celine, as she would relieve Deb from the flat so she could go about doing some of other things.
– We continue to have maid service three times a week.
– Our dehumidifier broke down so Deb loaded it up in the van and our driver Mr. Ram and her took it to a few places throughout the city, hoping it could be fixed. Another lesson learned in Mumbai is that no matter how useless the task you have, the small appliance repair person comes to your house to fix it – within three days if you are lucky.
– Then there were the internet repair guys who would not leave until we gave them a Diwali tip of about $2 each. We were forewarned to do this as it would save us in the long run future hassles. We were also told not to tip them too much because if you do you risk having them come a week later and cut your internet line so that they can repair it again.
– And the most useless job we’ve heard of so far – the clock winder. Yes, some people hire people who come when required to wind their clocks.
Although Deb was adamant about not having pets in the flat we did seem to acquire one for a while. A gecko. It would climb the walls and look for bugs and was quite entertaining to watch. We’re not sure if it left the place or whether our guests will find its shrivelled body underneath the covers in a spare bedroom.
One of the Deloitte UK guys that moved here at the same time as us lives on the fourteenth floor of a high rise tower. A few days ago a monkey climbed up the outside of the building, entered via a window, ate food and terrorized the cats. All we have had are belligerent crows come into our dining room table and eat the bananas in the fruit basket. Lesson learned – never leave the house without closing the windows!
Since our last newsletter we have enjoyed more travelling. October started off with a business trip to Macau (part of China, near Hong Kong). So we traveled to Hong Kong for a few days and then went to Macau. Macau is Las Vegas on steroids! It has about eight times the gambling revenue and the hotels are about double the size of the Venetian, although not much for non-gambling entertainment.
Gordon and the guys went on a golf weekend to Bangalore, a city about two hours away by air. Deb and another lady went along and toured the area. The city is known as the garden city and has an almost ideal climate year round.
The highlight of our tours over the past three months has been a trip to Kaziranga, a wildlife reserve in northeast India, located in the state of Assam. The park has over one-half of the remaining one horn white rhinos. In addition it has wild elephants, water buffalo, wild boars, different varieties of deer, flying foxes and an unbelievable variety of birds. In the mornings we would ride elephants amongst the rhinos and then spend the rest of the day in a jeep touring other parts of the park.
One afternoon the guides had decided to take everyone to a place where it was said a tiger was sited. We were allowed out of the jeeps and finally the moment arrived, far in the distance a tiger was spotted in pursuit of some deer.