Archive for December, 2007

Acronyms for restoring a sense of perspective

December 23, 2007

As usual, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster here. Two steps forwards, one backwards. So as all business dealings here seem to involve acronyms of some description, we’ve come up with some of our own to assuage the frustration.

Our current favourites are TII – this is India, MII – made in India (usually followed by the ubiquitous ‘where’s the araldite?’) and, our personal favourite, IWA – India wins again.

The Home Department continues to triumph in their campaign to stop us paying our visa fees. We’ve made the two hour round trip to Porvorim twice now. First it was a Saturday and they were closed. Then it was a public holiday to celebrate a Muslim feast. Attempt number three is pending for some time in the next week.

We’ve decided the only solution is to purchase a Goa government calender which will have on it all the official feast days and all the optional ones too. We will probably still get caught out by those that are determined by the phase of the moon, however TII.

The Chief Minister cometh

December 17, 2007

There is a very popular eye hospital opposite where we live and work and today was its inauguration, ‘felicitated’ as they say here in Goa by the Chief Minister Digamber Kamat. You couldn’t miss the fact that he’d arrived. One man had an entourage of at least five cars, accompanied by six police vehicles.

This being Goa they arrived with lots of noise – sirens etc. This also being Goa, most of the drivers then demonstrated their inability or otherwise to park. Meanwhile the hordes of police stood around misdirecting the traffic and generally causing more traffic chaos in the road than is normally the case.

In the interests of keeping the neighbours sweet, we think it would be preferable if we didn’t have an official opening. However if we get tempted to bring Margao to a halt, we’ll let you know.

The art of herding cats

December 14, 2007

Before we came to live in India, a good friend whose family are Indian told us that the thing he hated most about visiting them was that it was impossible to get from the door of their apartment to the lift without a change of plan.

We know how he feels. Because of our situation here – effectively working and living with the same family – we get invited to the family parties. Normally at the last minute! Last night it was Lenny’s birthday, which involved another venture into the Indian habit of not eating until 10.30pm.

When the food finally arrived, Lenny made a premature announcement that it was time to eat. All the Goans started milling around but no one was actually going to the table. So we led the way. We’d just started serving ourselves when the aforementioned ‘changes of plan’ began. First they decided they had to sing happy birthday. Then no one could find Nita (Lenny’s wife). Then Rafael (Lenny’s son) was missing. Once gathered (and once the music had been turned off), we sang Happy Birthday – twice (once in English, one in Konknni). While this was happening Martin and I were standing around with half filled plates. Then we had to have a cake cutting. Then there was grace …. you almost lose the will to eat.

A different take on ‘I do’

December 11, 2007

Still on the subject of celebrations, we’ve been to a Hindu wedding ceremony. Thank you Lee and Anu, and their families, for the invitation. For those unfamiliar with the formalities, here’s a brief introduction.

The Groom arrives on a white horse (Lee chickened out on this one) to be met by the bride’s parents. The priest invokes the blessing of God, before Agni Devta (God of fire and source of life). A prayer is said to Lord Ganesh to remove obstacles (always a good idea before any undertaking in India). Then comes the Navgarah Prayer – a prayer to the planetary forces to be in balance and for peace in mind and body. The bride arrives, and bride and groom greet each other with garlands (full of roses and jasmine, and very heavy). The parents of the bride then give their daughter away, passing full responsibility to the groom. A sacred fire is lit, to signify the illumination of the body and mind. A ribbon is then tied between the bride and groom, to symbolise permanent union. The bride and groom circle the fire seven times, offering pooja (rice) and promising to remain together forever.

Then comes the most important bit, where the bride and groom take seven steps together, making seven vows eg to love each other, grow in strength together, remain lifelong friends, and use their earnings wisely (including giving some to charity). Finally the groom adorns his wife’s forehead with Sindoor (vermillion) and water is sprinkled on the couple to symbolise peace and calmness.

All the above took place under a red canopy garlanded with lots of marigolds and jasmine, at sunset overlooking a bay in Goa. The closing prayer is ‘lokah samastah sukhinao bhavantu’ – happiness for all in all the worlds. Looking round the world, from Kosovo to Dafur, Iraq and Myanmar, that’s not a bad prayer for the coming Christmas season.

The Christmas countdown begins

December 8, 2007

As we were saying about festivals the other day, now it’s the Catholics turn with Christmas. If we were in any doubt that it is now December, our breakfast on Sunday was rudely interrupted by a medley of carols and Christmas songs coming from our next door neighbour. Ho hum – at least here it means lots of pretty lights, however we still find it incongrous to hear songs about snow and sleigh bells in this climate, never mind Santas and reindeer painted on shop fronts.

All we need now is Hark the Herald Angels on one side while Jingle Bells reverses down the street.

Divali over, but Dhindi week begins

December 2, 2007

There’s a constant stream of festivals until mid-Jan. Divali and it’s lights and fireworks is over and Dhindi (we haven’t quite figured out who, what,where or why) has started. One night this time last year at about 2.30 am we were woken by a thunderous bombardment with accompanying flashes. Intrigued we dressed and walked out to see where it was all happening. Amazed, we realised that the fireworks were going off about 5 kilometres away! Martin thought that afirework factory had gone up. Next day we were told that the celebration marked Dhindi Day… but Dhindi was not able to be explained.

At least this year we’ve been spared the St Francis Xavier novenas (death day) celebrations as the church down the road from us isn’t one of those that starts daily services at 5.30am. Last year, when we were living in Per-Seraulim, the local church operated as our alarm call.