Archive for the 'Bombay' Category



For the past two days Sam and I have been glued to the TV, watching the news of the hostage drama unfolding in south Bombay.  We have been so moved by the incredible suffering being experienced there- the hostages and their families, families mourning the loss of loved ones, and families that will learn of their losses in the coming hours.  But I must also remind myself of the suffering experienced by the hostage-takers and their families.  To dehumanize them is to perpetuate the isolation and ignorance that spawned their actions.  To advocate further violence against them does not fundamentally change what has occurred nor prevent similar activity in the future.  Violent retribution may provide a temporary release for our collective fear, vulnerability, powerlessness, insecurity, or sense of injustice.  But is does not relieve the true suffering.

So, what do we do?   

I say we because I do believe the solution lies in our collective efforts.  The world needs activists as well as scholars.  We need teachers and doctors, selfless service and financial commitment.  We need spiritual leaders who stand up and denounce terrorism and violence in its many forms.   

More than ever, we need compassion.

Yesterday Sam and I celebrated a non-traditional Thanksgiving with a quiet sushi dinner for two at a  local restaurant.  We needed a break from the constant news coverage, but sitting at  the dinner table we found we could think of nothing else.  We remembered everyone directly affected by the tragedy.  We speculated about a resolution to the stand-off.  We were grateful beyond words for the blessings in our own lives that are too numerous to count.  Our reflection certainly was a true Thanks-Giving.  

We also wondered aloud about our social responsibility.  What can we do to promote tolerance?  How can we work for social justice?  How can society be transformed?  Right now I have only questions, not answers.  I welcome your comments and suggestions.  How do you work for social justice?  What do you think needs to be changed?

 What is your vision for a better world?




ganesh chaturthi.

Once upon a time the god Shiva was called away from home for a very long time.  His wife Parvati became quite lonely in his absence and decided to create a child to keep her company.  Using her perspiration to moisten the earth, she fashioned a boy from the mixture.  Parvati and her son spent every moment together.  

One morning Parvati decided to go for a bath, and instructed her son to guard their home.  She told him not to allow anyone to enter.  Her son dutifully stood at the gate and watched over the home.  It was then that Shiva returned from his journey only.  Naturally he didn’t recognize his son, because he’s been created in Shiva’s absence.  When the boy refused to allow him to enter, Shiva severed the boy’s head.  

Parvati emerged and was horrified at what her husband had done.  She cried in grief and explained how she had created the boy from her own sweat.  Shiva was filled with regret.  He promised Parvati that he would restore the boy to life.  Shiva then went from the home, determined to bring back a head for his son.  The first creature he encountered was an elephant, so he killed the animal and brought the head home. He fused the elephant’s head to his son’s body, reanimating the boy.


The son of Parvati and Shiva was called Ganesh.  This beloved elephant-headed deity is the god of wisdom, good fortune, and auspicious beginnings.  His name is invoked at pujas before any new project.  The likeness of Ganesh adorns many Indian homes.  

This week marks the celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of Ganesh.  Many Hindus bring a statue of Ganesh (Ganpati) into their homes, a symbol of welcoming good fortune and wisdom.  Families perform daily pujas and welcome guests who come to acknowledge the presence of the god at home.  The puja period may last longer than a week, at the end of which the family releases the god by submerging the statue in the sea.  Many communities perform the puja and submersion in public spaces. 


shoe repair.


The strap on my favorite pair of sandals broke this afternoon. Fortunately, this stall fixes shoes on the spot for 10 rupees only.

Originally uploaded by mbdoctor



I have a small but glorious accomplishment to share with all of you today.  This afternoon I stopped at Pakeeza, my local dairy center where I go to buy fresh dahi (yogurt) and kulfi (ice cream).  After I placed the order, a man standing next to me complimented me on my Hindi!  He was pleasantly surprised to hear a foreigner ordering in Hindi and asked a few questions about my experience in Bombay.  This exchange was a pleasant reminder of how far I’ve come from my earlier attempts to communicate.  I walked home with a definite spring in my step.


india bargains.

One of the most daunting realities of life in India is bargaining.  The threat of having to haggle with people on the street haunted me before I moved here and well into my first month.  I avoided shopping on the street, taking to heart the words of caution from well-meaning friends and family members.  “You’ll be targeted because you’re white/a foreigner/don’t speak Hindi,” everyone warned me.  I frequented shops with fixed prices and promised myself I would learn to bargain at some point.  That day came much sooner than I expected when our local supermarket suddenly closed (temporarily- “due to domestic problems”).  I was forced to confront one of my biggest fears as I headed out to the corner to buy veggies from the local vendor.  Later that night I sent Sam out without me to find out how much Indians pay for the same items.  Guess what? Same price.  I tested it out when my father-in-law visited, too, and happily discovered that the men who work on my corner are extremely honest.

For the most part my experience in Bombay has been consistent.  Rickshawalas use the meter, veggie vendors quote the same prices to Indians and foreigners, and street hawkers will bargain down to a lower price than stores offer.  When my friend Laura visited in February we bought some souvenirs on the street.  I think the guy was so surprised to hear me speak Hindi (I know the numbers pretty well) that he gave me some kind of special discount on a few items.  When I checked out a local discount store that carries the same items I was shocked to see how little I’d paid on the street.

Having a series of such positive experiences has made me a little less vigilant when I’m out and about in Bombay.  Then, every once in a while, something happens that wakes me up again.  Yesterday I took a taxi from the American Consulate to a shop near Churchgate station.  Upon arriving at my destination the driver quoted 40 rupees, which was way too much.  Every driver carries a rate card that shows the charges according to the meter display.  When I asked him in Hindi to give me the rate card, he bargained himself down to 29 rupees.



Yesterday Sam and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary at Shiro, a “trendy and upscale lounge bar” in Bombay. It is by far the best sushi place we’ve found, after much exploration.   The meal was a sensual delight with exquisite food, soft lighting, and spicy music.  

We indulged in some of our favorite dishes as we reminisced about our two years as husband and wife.  Our wedding ceremony, which we wrote ourselves, remains one of our most precious memories.  It was truly a reflection of the love we share, and our families and friends were fully present through personal reflections and group vows.  My dad and I shared a fun father-daughter moment as we danced a polka together.  Bollywood hits blared from the speakers as our friend Brijesh encouraged everyone to join in with the classic move “turning the light bulb”. 

Memories of our two-week honeymoon are engraved in our hearts.  Affectionately nicknamed our “Temples, Tombs, and Forts Tour” we traveled through much of Rajasthan and some northern cities. Standing on a snow-covered ridge in the Himalayas I was overcome with awe, and the Taj Mahal brought me to tears.  We enjoyed dinner at a palace in a hilltop fort overlooking the city of Jaipur.  The trip culminated in a stay at the Taj Lake Palace, a hotel that is the former summer palace of the regional king.  It was at dinner one night that I overheard a tour guide proclaim to his group, “India will never surrender the cashew nut!”  Sam assured me he probably said “the Kashmir” not “cashew nut”, which I admit makes more sense.

I have learned so much about love and friendship from Sam in the last two years. He is generous and kind, smart and thoughtful.  He loves me all the time, in spite of myself.  Sam and I share a life that is full of adventure and travel, and face life’s ups and downs together.  As we look back on the days since our wedding, we also look forward to the years to come.   

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