Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

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

Filed under: India November - December 2009 — 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. http://www.shantaram.com/ 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 November - December 2009 — 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....

 

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.

 

Birthday at the Taj Mahal hotel November 27, 2009

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!