Merry Christmas Everyone.....

Trip Start Nov 27, 2012
Trip End Feb 24, 2013

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Flag of India  , Maharashtra,
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A wonderful but rather bizarre Christmas Day in India spent with Raju and Shilpa and their family in Kalyan, Maharastra together with some of the street children who are currently living with them.     The most bizarre part of the day was when all the children from the community joined us (about 50 in total) for two rounds of festive "Housey Housey" (Bingo).  Raju was the caller using a very old and very large PA system with the echo on throughout.   Diana and I found it difficult to contain our laughter but the children were taking it all very seriously.   To make it even more surreal some of children were wearing very cheap plastic santa face masks which actually look rather creepy en masse.     Lunch was a very delicious Mutton Biryani but this was served after the festive cake which we were asked to bless and cut.   There was lots of singing and some rather active games and Diana was delighted to find out that Raju's sister in law does excellent henna body decorations.    A complete contrast to a Christmas in England but it has been a truly magical day so far.  Thank you Raju and Shilpa and all the children at Way True Life for including us in this very special day.   

Before heading back to Mumbai we spent three days in Varkala in Kerala.  We had visited Varkala once before about 7 years ago and remembered it as a beautiful bay with a few simple shacks and bars on the cliff top behind.  We were very disappointed to find it has now grown in to a sprawling mass of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops and has been taken over by all the hippies who seem to have moved on from Goa.  It was difficult not to be disappointed after our perfect stay at the Green Palm Home in the backwaters, however, the hotel was very comfortable and had a great pool.   I was also able to join a Yoga lesson each morning at 0800 (interesting Indian style class with lots of moves explained by way of a head wobble) and could take a treatment at the hotel’s Ayurvedic Centre.   This treatment included being covered in rather pungent oils and then put in a steam cabinet for 15 minutes.  It was great except once locked in to the cabinet three lovely Indian ladies then stood and just watched me sweat for the time I was in there – all rather unnerving.

Diana arrived in Mumbai the night before us and met us at the airport with a lovely sign reading “two old hippies (any two will do)”.     We have returned to the Residence Hotel near Powai Lake where we have stayed before.   

What we’re talking about :    One of the things we love about visiting India are the conversations that are sparked off by things that are happening here.   This is a country dealing with issues like access to clean water and sanitation and feeding the huge number of people living in extreme poverty whilst also addressing modern issues like freedom of speech on social networking sites.   We have been having strong debates around the death sentence.  Following the hanging of the one surviving terrorist from the Mumbai attacks the current outcry about the rape in Delhi has many protestors carrying banners saying “Hang the Rapists”.    Another topic has been sparked by a group of Eastern European men staying at our hotel who are obviously in same sex relationships and here to pick up their surrogate babies.  I was aware that surrogacy was still legal in India, some wealthy Americans I understand are paying Indian ladies to carry their babies as they are “too posh to push”.   There are such complex moral and human rights issues around this topic that it is leading to some juicy conversations over cocktails.

What’s in the News:     There have been riots in Delhi following the horrible gang rape of a young student Doctor.   There is such a contradiction in the attitude to women here.  Most Indian ladies dress in a very conservative way, even swimming in the sea fully clothed.   At the airports they have separate security check areas where ladies are searched behind a curtain. There are many very successful business women and politicians in India, however, a recent report suggests that 90% of women have been subject to some form of harassment whether that is being touched up on a packed train or being a victim of rape.  We watch with interest as things unfold.


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