Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Elephant on my mind…. December 18, 2009

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 7:25 pm

I still don’t understand how I was able to see it, under three cushions and a hanging carpet. But a flap of it caught my attention: a wooden elephant.

We entered Mumbai Bazaar, Arthur Bunder Road in Colaba, knowing that this shop would probably sell what all other shops in this area sell; shawls, scarfs, carpets, a little bit of that – a little bit of that… But not all shops has two handsome shopkeepers as well…. Anyway, Mumbai Bazaar really had a lot to offer – even a tiny, tiny t-shirt with an embroidered elephant (guess for who…). But then there was this bigger one upstairs….

When we were about to leave, I had to bring it on the agenda. Material (rose tree). Cost (too too much). Transportation to Norway (not a problem). The elephant was relieved from its cushions and proved better than I thought. The shop assistants tried to get us into a discussion about price, but I said: Let it be till we come back fromPench (And under no circumstances sell it….). We will be back!

We came back, but went straight downstairs to have a look at some boxes Bjørg wanted to buy. Suddenly we heard some hullabaloo and two young men came actually downstairs – breathing heavily -with my heavy rosewood elephant. Asbjørn found it the right moment to sit down. I started talking about the price. Javeed came with a calculator. Asbjørn had to translate numbers, we had moved to dollars. Javeed could see that I was moving towards a transaction! And….SOLD!
Well that was after he had convinced me that the price included everything; transportation and VAT. Delivered on my doorstep! By FedEx.

The situation is as such: A box had to be built, Javed informed me by e-mail. And I have to be at home, which is not the case next week.

I’ll keep you posted………….


When Anne-Trine met Shantaram….. December 5, 2009

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 4:58 pm
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Our last night in Mumbai. A long day. Our plane was going to leave 03 45 in the morning… What to do. Never had I thought the day would end in such a fantastic way. In order to kill some hours, we went to Chowpatty Beach/Marine Drive by foot. And back again, to Colaba, after some Kingfishers. We had planned to eat our last meal at Cafe Leopold. No matter how many tourists who swarm the place, and no matter how many bullets on 26/11 last year, we love the place. It has a great atmosphere!

Leopold is made famous by Shantaram, the famous novel written by the Australian Gregory David Roberts. The book is set in Mumbai, and Leopold is the cafe where all the people in the book meet. We arrived at Leopold at around 8 pm, and suddenly I saw him; Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram himself, on his big motorbike outside Leo. I went straight to him and said (not: Dr Livingstone I presume) – Shantaram, is it really you? And we had this nice chat. He was extremely nice. He is famous, an icon. He told me that when he was in Oslo earlier this year, he had met Morten Harket and his bother, the publisher. Also, he hadn’t been in Mumbai in 9 months.

Asbjørn, Bjørg, Marit and Robert stood around understanding absolutely nothing. Who was this man with the long ponytail, on an enormous bike – talking to me like old friends…. Because that was how it all seemed.

Well, let the photo speak for itself. It was the best end of an holiday I could ever get!

Anne-Trine meets “Shantaram” outside Leopold in Colaba, Mumbai.


Shop till you absolutely drop…. December 4, 2009

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 3:48 am

Now the tine has come, I am about to pack the suitcases…..

Shopping in India is fabulous. It’s not only the price level, it’s the selection of… everything. If you like colours, warm and earthen colours, you’re done. All kinds of bed linens, bed covers, pillows, table cloths, clothes – all to a price you really don’t think would be possible – coming from Norway. Then there are the scarfs, in every possible quality, colour, colour combination. And “jewellery”, silver, bangles, fake gold, everything… You have to haggle on the street markets, the shops have a fixed price – although it’s possible to ask for a good price. Only for you, Madame…. ha ha

If you like clothes a little bit on the ethnical side, you’re also done. Kurtas (tunics) in 3 lengths are found everywhere. The clothes sold on INDISKA are poor copies compared to the beautiful clothes sold here. 

One can also go shopping at Benetton, Levis, Jack and Jones etc, but I didn’t really bother this time.
I have once more bought my favourite “attar” called Afrah (perfume oil). It’s great t sit down in front of the counter while the shop attendant takes down all the various bottles eager to find a fragrance to your absolute liking!

My aim is not to get any overweight this time, but the problem is – we have still a whole day to spend in Mumbai, still plenty of cash and I want that book about Indian trees………..

Beautiful fabricas at Saroj....

Walking on the counter.... not a problem!


A visit to Aker Solutions December 3, 2009

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 6:56 pm

We had a quiet morning before going to Aker Solutions. We went to the tailor (with the very appropriate name Smart and Hollywood) to pick up my kurta (the tailor work set me back 35 kroner – is it really possible??!??!). Anyway, in spite of the measurements, I was hardly able to put it over my head. These things can be very demanding when it’s hot…. -puh- So we agreed on some alterations, hopefully it will fit tomorrow!

The taxi came at 1 pm sharp, and it took one hour to get to Aker Solutions’ new premises. Girish and Mansi were there to greet us, and we really had a good couple of hours. I met friends from the 2006 Tampen group, new friends and colleagues from Stavanger: Arild Toft, Marit Bjørkhaug (who almost fainted when she saw me), Espen S Nilsen, Bente Kristensen. And Jens Smedegaard whos has come to stay for two years. The new offices were a great improvement from the old ones, nice to see!!! The HR manager took us to the management floor, and the course/training room – far better than ours!! (in Stavanger).

After some hrs spent, Girish took us to his home in his car. His daughter Gargi (3) was full of life, not a dull moment… she has the biggest eyes ever. And his beautiful wife Priya was there, of course.

We came back to the hotel at 8 pm as planned, picked up the other ones and went out for dinner. The restaurant was a bit funny, the guests were all men except from one woman. We had lots of food and beers and the price?? 50 kroner each.

When we walked back, we observed all the people who had gone to bed on the pavement. The only thing they have in life is a dirty rug. And there came we, newly fed and in high spirits – for 50 kroner. It’s difficult to digest.

We spent an hour at Leopold, a bit sad because this is our last night in Mumbai. Well not quite, our plane leaves at 3 30 tomorrow night/Saturday morning, and that means a very long day tomorrow. But I have been through some “negotiations” with the hotel so we will get a room for free tomorrow night in order to freshen up…. The Travel Manager can never rest….

By the way, I picked up my new reading glasses today. 600 kroner. Good value for moeny, and they look nice as well!


Pench Jungle camp

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — benjamuna @ 3:27 am

On Monday we had planned to go to Pench Jungle Camp in Madhya Pradesh. Our plane was schedules at 15 35, but was more than one hour delayed. Bad news…. we were early at the airport and now we had to wait even more – with only a snack bar as company! When we arrived in Nagpur, the driver was there to collect us. He seemed a bit shocked when he realised we were five people and five suitcases + a variety of rucksacks and bags. But one of the good things with India is that there is always a way out when the going gets tough! So there we were again, shifting the suitcases in and out of the car, up and down from the roof till we eventually found a suitable solution. When the driver told us it would take at least two hours tow Pench, morale sank…. And the continuos traffic jam out of Nagpur made things worse… In fact it lasted for miles and miles. But after nearly three hours we were there, a little before ten in the evening. The place was beautiful, even in the dark. And the silence a big relief. The only thing we could hear was the lovely sound of silence….

The big surprise was the temperature, it was freezing cold compared to Mumbai: + 8 degrees. Most of all we wanted to go to bed, but dinner was prepared for us in the dining room. The main house was fantastic; big rattan furniture, nice curtains, but cold everywhere.
The cottages were nice as well, and we jumped into bed before midninght because the safari was scheduled at six in the morning…..

We lay in bed and listened to the sounds of the jungle; birds and apes mostly. And the silence.

No problem really to get up in the morning, but it was cold. Only 6 degrees. We put on the warmest we had for the open jeep drive, we got blankets but it was very cold. It took some time for the sun to heat us up, when it arouse around 7 am. We didnt see any tigers, there are only 33 in that vast area. But we saw a lot of other animals, and it was great fun. We also saw several fresh tiger pug marks.

For the rest of the day we did absolutely nothing, we were simply enjoying the tranquility of the beautiful area. We sat around the pool, we were served lunch and dinner. The service was fantastic.

But again, we had to get up early, out plane was due at 8 30 in the morning so we had to start at 5. Settling the bill created a lot of locomotion. I had paid half the bill in advance, and now they couldn’t get any card machine to function… After a lot of “please sit down and wait”, I suggested we withdraw the money from an ATM in Nagpur the next morning to send back with the driver, so finally we could go to bed!

The early drive back to Nagpur next morning took less than 2 hrs. Traffic was sparse, but enough to wonder why lives aren’t lost all the time… The traffic system in India is beyond belief…

The plane back to Mumbai was half an hour late. It really was a shock to get out of the Mumbai airport to the honking horns and heat…. But the car was waiting and the driver was able to speak a little English so that I could get the recent updates on Indian politics and my “favourite” politician Lalu Prasad…

For the rest of the day there was rest…. we were all very tired and felt incredible hot, and I have started to fantasise about my home made pizza………………..

A deer in Pench!

Monkey business....


Rohan’s wedding December 2, 2009

Filed under: INDIA — benjamuna @ 2:18 pm

Rohan’s wedding ceremony was set for 5.58 pm in Andheri. We had ordered a car and thought we had all the time in the world, but of course there happend to be a closed road so we didn’t make it to the exact time. Not that that matters, because an Indian wedding is very far from a Norwegian one. The ceremony itself takes place on a stage and seems to be a matter for the bride and groom and close family. Lots of things are going on, far beyond our understanding. The guests either sit down and watch, chat or mingle. More people come all the time – and the ceremony goes on. After approx one hour, Rohan and Gargi seem to be married!

While we all wait for them to change their clothes, we go down to floors to have some food. The usual buffet. My flock enjoys the food very much, I’m as usual a bit more reluctant. I meet some colleagues from Aker Solutions, nd then it’s time to go up one floor where the newleyweds have placed themselves on yet another stage where they greet their guests and a million photos are taken! Rohan is now wearing a Western suit and Gargi a fabulous saree. I jump the queue and ask for a photo….

All the women are nicely dressed, but the men are wearing everyday clothes; trousers and a shirt. Makes no sense really, to us.
All in all an Indian wedding is absolutely nothing like a Norwegian wedding, but who had thought that…. This is more informal in many ways, you’re not “chained to a table” for hours – like in Norwegian weddings.

My new designer outfit - a kurta, churidar and a dupatta. And sandals Rajastan type....

Asbjørn, og en av mine kolleger i Stavanger; Zafar.