Tag Archives: India

Sunsets in India

One of the nice things about visiting the state of Maharashtra in India in January is that when planning outings and activities you don’t have to think “we’ll see what the weather is like”. Likewise, if you want to see a beautiful sunset you’ve only got to choose the location. The sun will be there, for sure. We (Estrid and Andrew, Paul’s parents) have just returned from three glorious weeks in India. It was a very special family reunion as Jenny was able to join us from Germany for the first two weeks.

Paul was in great form and able to spend a lot of time travelling and exploring with us. In Pune we visited both new and familiar places and introduced Jenny to the wonders of the city, especially of course Deep Griha Society. The sunset from the hill above the Ranade Institute was beautiful and the noise from below barely audible.

The Hilltop station of Matheran can only be reached by train, taxi and – to get to the top – on horseback. It is well worth the effort and we spent a couple of days walking in the fresh air and enjoying the spectacular views. The sunset was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and only slightly marred by a monkey doing its best to nick my bag. I won the battle!

We had all wanted to visit the Konkan coast and were thrilled to find beautiful stretches of empty beaches, banana and coconut plantations (our huts were built right in the middle of one) and to observe a rural way of life. One day we found ourselves on a boat sailing to and from the spectacular Janjira Fort, together with around 20 children singing to us – magic. As expected later that day the sun set in spectacular fashion and painted the sky, the sea and the sand a dark orange.

Our final two days were spent being tourists in Mumbai. Paul knew his way around and guided us with great style and confidence (cocktails in the stylish open-air roof bar of the Intercontinental Hotel? Hmmm – make that three beers, please…). Not only did we get the by now almost taken for granted spectacular sunset but were also treated to an air display watched by thousands of people. They had probably waited for ages. We knew nothing about this but the show began just as we set foot on the beach. When in India, always expect the unexpected.

The most enduring memories, however, are of the people we met, both old friends from our last visit and new ones, easily made in the relaxed atmosphere of the Grand Hotel, Roopali’s restaurant, or even in welcoming Indian homes. Thank you Anjali, Pratik and Rujuta, Meeta and Navin, Neela and Bhaskar, and not least Mira who made us the loveliest cup of chai and told us about her life in the Tadiwala Road community. The hospitality and friendly welcome we had everywhere was so generous and wonderful. But the biggest thank you goes to Paul for sharing your life in India with us for three wonderful weeks. We look forward to our next family get-together!

Estrid and Andrew

Results declared

At last the elections are over. In our ward, Shakuntala finished behind the Congress candidate, who was re-elected.

India is proud to be the world’s largest democracy. And these local elections are taken seriously, especially in economically deprived areas like Tadiwala Road. While allegations of malpractice surface from time to time, the elections are generally expected to be ‘free and fair’. And despite dodgy voter inducements such as illegal cash payments, or even bizarre supposedly legal ‘incentive’ schemes, people generally accept the results once they have been announced.

The Congress party workers were certainly celebrating. They set up some huge loudspeakers and partied away with dancing, fireworks, paint-throwing and all that tamasha. I spotted a vehicle pulling up just near to the DGS office. Out jumped a couple of Congress workers, who soon unloaded bottles of Kingfisher Strong beer (‘strong is wrong’ – I know from painful experience) and several pegs of whisky. Time for a party. They must have spent a fair few rupees on hiring those speakers; the monotonous pounding music was driving us nuts. And then suddenly, it stopped.

Peace at last! Excellent.

It turns out that a fight had broken out. A few hooligans were chasing each other up the road wielding big sticks. Hence no more music. Things are back to normal now, and Tadiwala Road has reverted to its regular status of what I’d call ‘chaotic harmony’… There’s rarely a dull moment around here.

Election Time

The civic elections are taking place in Pune right now. It’s a big deal. Political rallies are taking place all over the city and Tadiwala Road is no exception. You can’t go two minutes without seeing (or hearing) an autorickshaw kitted out with loudspeakers, blaring out pre-recorded campaign slogans or giving a mobile platform for one party or other.

Shakuntala – one of the DISHA team – is standing as a candidate. I hope she wins. Her compaign HQ is set up just outside my building. Perhaps if she’s successful we can arrange an Evita-style reception from my balcony…

Many of the rallies pass along the path outside my flat. Of course, as soon as they see Shaku’s HQ they up the volume. This gets a little trying after a while.

All this excitement will continue until 1st February, when the voters go to the polls. Afterwards there’ll be a few celebrations, and then perhaps things will get back to normal. And believe me, ‘normal’ is still pretty interesting around here.

I was in Mumbai over the weekend and they’ve taken the dramatic step of banning liquor sales during the election period to try and cut campaign-related trouble. A newspaper report I read on Saturday quoted an anonymous political leader saying they’d prepared for this by stocking up on booze in advance in order to keep party workers going during the gruelling campaign. I wonder if they’ll win.