Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Joans new flat! November 29, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 9:27 am

Yesterday, we were invited to my Indian friend Joan’s new flat in Borivali, one of the northern suburbs of Mumbai. She has finally managed to get away from her husband’s family and money from her mother’s sale of some land made it possible for her and her two sons to buy a new flat. The drive to Borivali took two hours, of course there comes a point where the driver has no clue about where to go. The mobile phone was, as usual, our lifeline!

We were surprised to see the flat, it was modern, a hall/dining room, modern kitchen, two bath rooms (one with western toilet) and two spacious bed rooms. We were tremendously happy on her behalf.  We had been to FabIndia to buy her a present, a nice single bedspread. She said it must have been costly, to us shockingly inexpensive.
Her sisters and husbands + mother started to arrive; June, Jackeline, Jessica and mother Mary.  We were quite a few people and everybody was talking – + the teenagers going in and out. Joan had ordered food from a catering company, when he arrived he had been stuck in the traffic for 2 hrs…

It was a lively “party”, and it also included a priest (!) who came to bless the house (they are catholics). Quite unfamiliar to us….
We wanted to go home at 10 30 pm, thinking of the long drive, but everybody convinced us that due to less traffic and if we chose the new Worli Sealink, it might take us only 40 minutes, maybe less…. Ha ha. Anyway, we were not close to two hours, and traffic was running smoothly.

When we came back to the hotel, my new outfit had been deliveres from the tailor. My designer kurta (tunika), churidar (trousers) and dupatta (shawl). I don’t really know how to wear the dupatta, but Iæm sure it will work very well as curtains….

And tonight is Rohan’s wedding!

Joan and me at the Taj on my birthday!

Designer Geeta Hardasani and her daughter Jharna.


Another busy day in Mumbai…. November 27, 2009

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 2:02 pm

For today we had ordered a car with a driver. We had certain things to do! First we went north to Khar (suburb) to visit Jharna’s shop; Fashions. I visited her the last time I came to Mumbai. Her mother is a designer, and they run a shop with her clothes. I wanted to get myself a kurta, trousers + a dupatta of her design + see what other things she had to sell. It was nice to see Jharna again, and to meet her mother. I didn’t leave empty handed. And tomorrow my new outfit will be ready stitched!

Then we went onwards to a shop that sell fabrics. It was like a fairy tale. The colors of India lined on the shelves in abundance. Beauty itself. Asbjørn’s sister Bjørg makes christening dresses for babies, and couldnt belive the huge selection af fabrics – to such a price. More bags in the car….

Further on the the Dhobi gats, the world’s biggest outdoor laundry. The thing here is to keep all the poor vendors away, you feel their hands all over all the time. – Only 100 rupies madam, two bags Madam, only 100 rupies…. please…

We were hungry and we wanted to find a Pizza Hut in order to grab a quick meal. But there is never a Pizza Hut when you need one. Just like a toilet… But a SubWay came into rescue!

Next on the agenda was the house where Gandhi used to live when he was visiting Mumbai. It has been turned into a museum. Nice, but at that time I was dead tired and a chair seemed like the best solution. Gandhi or not. But I did see some of it.

In between all this was a LOT of driving……………………………

I wanted to go to Chimanlals, a well known paper shop. It’s a dream world and a price level quite unbelieveable. I filled a plastic bag with paper, cards and more, not at all able to reach 100 kroner…
Last on the agenda was a new step counter for Asbjørn, and would you believe we found it in a sports shop. I don’t believe step counters are a big thing in India, at least according to our friends.

We were back at 5 30 pm sharp, as planned. We had a big A/C car and a driver for eight hrs, and paid 210 kroner. That is quite unbelieveable…. On top of it the driver was nice and polite, he told  us about the main sights and did his best to take us from A till B in a smooth way!

Back at the hotel all five of us collapsed on our beds…. Going around in Mumbai must be one of the most exhausting things one can do. But that I knew.

Tomorrow is a new day and our plan is to visit Joan in her new house – which means a lot of time spent in the car as she lives up north in Mumbai, in Borivali. Right now I dread to think about it, but a good night’s sleep and courage might be back!!


Birthday at the Taj Mahal hotel

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 1:36 pm
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26 November is a special day in Mumbai, at least since last year when the Taj was attacked by terrorists. It is also my birthday and a while before the terror I had decided to celebrate my 50th anniversary at the Taj. It was crowded outside, police, TV, jounalists… but we had a reservation at the Sea Lounge restaurant. I wanted to see the table before the guests, so one from the staff guided me upstairs. The atmosphere at the Taj is fantastic, everybody is greeted like kings and queens. Surroundings beyond beautiful…..

I had expected at table in the restaurant. Instead we were given our own dining room which was stunning…. All the textiles were a combination of brown and turqoise (my favourite color combination some of you happen to know…), and the view over the harbour and a beautifully lit Gate of India!
We were greeted with mocktails, and then our four course dinner could begin. The staff was there almost all the time, but you never noticed. So discreet and polite. I have never been served in such a manner. The head waiter told me that the hotel had been on the verge of closing the Sea Lounge on that particular evening, but after a short pre-meeting with the hotel manager they had decided to keep the restaurant open. There was after all a certain birthday oin the agenda….

When we ordered coffee after the dessert, suddenly the saxofonist from the band came in and played “Happy birthday to you…”, and I was presented with a cake with inscription and champage. All on the house….It was all very surprising.

To sum up, it was a fantastic evening and if you think dining at a 5 star famous hotel set you back terribly, it doesn’t………………


Mumbai good-to-back! November 26, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 11:34 am

We came back to Mumbai yesterday. Took almost 4 hrs from Pune, felt like most of them were spent in the Mumbai traffic jam. But at least it is entertaining! We had lunch right away, and me – of all people – had to guide my flock through the menu….ha ha. But I have stopped eating only butter nan, I’m now able to eat Indian food in a normal way and I even have a favourite or two. The three ladies have managed to do some shopping, the two men are in despair….

This morning we went to the famous Cafe Leopold that were hit on last November 26. TV cameras and journalist were all over the place, I guess we will appera both in the newspapers and on TV because we sat at a table in front of all the open doors. Or, maybe they came for my birthday, who knows 😉

We just came back from a wine shop now. There is no beer in the mini bar so we got some directions to the nearest shop. It was in a back lane and the stank of urine was so strong I was hardly able to perform my wish; ten bottles of Kingfisher. The shop was a hole in the wall, hardly any light. Next in the queue was an alchoholic with stained teeth, those who were left.

Tonight is the celebration at the Taj. Asbjørn has forgotten his “Sunday shoes” and a white shirt. So it has to be his Adidas shoes tonight. Well, shoes are kept under the table!

Oh my VISA card stopped working when I arrived in India, just great. After some phone calls to the bank I managed to get into the net bank and transfer money to another account. Lesson learned….. And it’s good to have a computer handy!


Vrushali gets a new dress November 25, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 5:08 pm

Anne-Trine and Vrushali's mother outside their home in the slums.

Vrushali, her mother, her sister Snali and sponsor.

Difficult to choose...

The dress has been chosen!


Pune revisited….

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 2:07 pm

Tuesday was another day with Childrens Future India and Sandeep. We were, among other things, to meet with our sponsored child Vrushali (10) – actually for the third time in three years. Her mum is a widow with two daughters and a foster child + her mother in the house. Well house, a sort of shed of approx 15 sq m. We we re taken ro one of CFI’s soup kitchens, where needy children get one hot meal pr day. It was good to see the family. Last year we gave them money to get a new roof and other maintenance on the house and we were glad to see that they house looked better. We took Vrushali and her mother, along with the social workers to a hotel for lunch – which was a really big thing for them. Afterwards we took Vrushali to a department store in order to buy her a new dress, and we also went to the Pune Fort. She probably had the day of her life, so far, coming from the slums and not really able to get anywhere.

In the evening everybody just longed for the bed. We had thought it wouild be a day without so much driving, still it was a lot of in and out of the car. Also we were ready for a different taste, so Pizza Hut was the sole option after a full Indian meal and several Kingfiskers the evening before….


Benjamuna in a sari… November 24, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 5:55 pm

On my way to become an Indian.... Mansi's mother and grandmother.Well... how do I feel?

Mansi and me!


Raigad/Pen revisited….

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 5:40 pm
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Yesterday was again very busy… Sandeep from Childrens Future India (CFI) came with the car to our hotel in Mumbai; Pen next… Of course we all + the luggage, didn’t fit into the car. We tried a million variations and everybody shifted place several times. Luggage up and down from the top of the car. The ususal India hullabaloo… End of story: Sandeep had to take a taxi with our luggage… hmmmmm. And we haven’t started shopping yet!!

But we arrived in CFI’s office only an hour after schedule and I met Dr Deshmuk who runs the CFI office in Raigad, and whom I met in Oslo some weeks ago. We were greeted with the usual flower garlands and then the rush started; presentations, tour of the office etc, before going out to meet my new sponsored child Seema and her family. They live in a small village, aprox 20 family members in the house. After a while I realised we were not only  people in the house, but two oxens as well…The family is very poor, Seema has three sisters and a brother. Father is not able to work because of something is wrong with his foot. The mother was so tiny I can’t understand she has been able to give birth to five children. Afterwards we visited Seema’s village school where we were placed on the ususal plastic chairs up front….

But what made the biggest impression on us, was the visit we made to a young widow with three children. Her brother had helped her buy a small house and CFI recently helped her get a door for the house so she would feel more secure. Widows in India lives a poor life. Her small house was without electricity and furniture, only some kitchen utensils and one kerosene lamp. We gave the soscial workers money so that the family could get groceries for approx 6 months. We were all very quiet when we left, the visit had made a great impact on us.

We had lunch at the CFI office, and afterwards we visited a small hospital. The head doctor came from the slums, she was once a poor child, sponsored from Norway through CFI. Now she is a doctor…

We all felt extremely tired when we set out for Pune, but traffic was not too bad so we reached before 8 pm. We felt drenched, and full of impressions. Food and Kingfisher was the only solution………


The ring ceremony and me in a saree.. November 23, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 2:18 pm

This might be a very busy holiday, although it cant be worse than Delhi ++ in Feb?!!? Yesterday was a rat race in Mumbai. Some sightseeing with Sandeep from Childrens Future India CFI in the morning (Juhu Beach, Bandra). Then head over heels to Mansi’s place in the afternoon. Of course one must allow 60-70 minutes for transport which makes every outing a small expedition.

The small flat was filled to the brim with mothers and fathers, grandparents, uncle, aunts – the usual Indian crowd. I left my flock in the sofa and headed for the women’s room where Mansi was in the middle of her make up and hair sesson. When she was all finished and dressed up she looked…. stunning! Myself, well I was dressed up by the grandmother, and the sari felt comfortable in the way a BUNAD feels comfy and just right for every occasion. Even more so, because most of the time the bunad makes you suffocate whereas the saree hangs loose around the boody and makes you breathe freely 🙂

The ceremony, the engagement party of Mansi and Kirang was an interesting experience. We met a lot of great people, among them Mansi’s mother and aunts, and some of my colleagues in Aker Solutions, Gaute among them.

But we were dead tired from the journey and lack of sleep made me call for our car at 9 30 pm. We drove over the new Worli Sea link, an impressive brand new bridge over the waters. Actually it took less than an hour to get home to, well, put on the alarm bell at 06 45 the nxt morning. Hello holiday!


Short-sighted luggage… November 21, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 9:20 am
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Do you know what it takes to be “short sighted extreme” when packing for holiday? One pair of contacts goes on my eyes, and one extra pair in that silly plastic bag in your hand luggage – along with contact lens solutions travel pack size cordially given me by the optician.  On top of that, approximately 20 pairs of day lenses in the luggage, for which ever reason because I never use day lenses. Well. That was the contacts. Over to the glasses. One pair of glasses that can step in for contacts in a crisis situation. Also known as my “from bathroom to bed-glasses”. Or “sleeping on the plane-glasses”. One pair of reading glasses needed on top of contacts, for reading. One pair of glasses needed for reading without contacts… Got it? Oh, and at least two pairs of sun glasses which will probably mutate in India. And the suitcase contains of course more and extra contacts solutions… I think I’m sure to see this time as well!