A Passion for Peace

Responsibility, respect and a loving connection with all beings and for this Earth we share.

A Bombay Holiday

Today was one of those perfect Bombay alone days. I got a good chunk of work done in the morning, wandered the streets to my personal one-eared ipod soundtrack (bought new headphones because one of my earbuds went out, and two weeks later one of the new ones has gone out too, so I think it's meant to be), browsed a bookstore for longer than I should admit, stopping myself when my books-to-buy pile hit five. I’ll need more for rural South Africa, and I’m such a nerd, they’re all non-fiction and mostly world-medicine-related tomes I can reread and study. Strange hobby, I know. That, and I want to work on my language learning. (Photos: look, look! I decorated the chair, since I can’t tape to the walls)
Speaking of strange, some friends and I attended Khai fest 2009, the local Hanukkah fest which was a cross between a community talent show, a Holi show and a fundraiser. I have never been to a Hanukkah fest, and certainly not with belly-dancing, Hindi comedians, Indian classical singing, bollywood dance, and even a tacky auction to light the menorahs that only some sucker white people in the audience participated in (insert Jewish money joke here). My favorite line was when one young man said he needs to find a good Jewish wife, but whenever he meets an Indian Jew he first asks, “Are we related?” To cap off Hanukkah, aka Jewish Diwali, I had a Hanukkah dinner (which I called my Jewish birthday so friends let me pay, because the birthday girl treats here instead of the other way around), where I taught the dreidel game, and we took turns lighting candles in little bowls as a makeshift menorah over Jewish/Lebanese/Greek snacks. (Videos: Jewish belly dancing and Indian dance)
Then I went to an expensive Western-priced mall (as in $40 tops expensive!) all decorated and lit for Christmas, although I have yet to hear any Christmas songs besides a few reggae ones on my computer a friend sent. As much as I grow weary of the same twenty songs in repetition for the month following Thanksgiving, it doesn’t feel like the holidays without them—nor in 90-degree heat at night. I’m pretty sure any nostalgia for cold weather could be quickly cured by one visit to India’s first ice bar. It’s just so expensive…well, $16, but I could travel by train across the country for (less than) that. Also, being white automatically merits me ‘Merry Christmas’ wishes, and people are very proud that they know Christmas is coming. Today I was invited to a midnight mass in a nearby garden. I’ve never been to a midnight mass, either, so I suppose I might as well. The most Christmas-y conversation I’ve had involved an argument that Santa is the best marketer in the world, which I suppose is fitting in a country where the business section of a bookstore is nearly as big as the fiction section. (Update: I am sitting in a Tea Leaf and Coffee Bean in South Bombay listening to a choir caroling with a guitar, keyboard and amp system, and half the choir appears to be Hare Krishna)
Now, a quick thank you to enteroquinol (which is banned in the West due to eyesight damage claims I shall ignore) for ridding me of whatever crazy dizziness-inducing bug I had. And the random observation of the day: TATA, a private Parsi conglomerate that’s in every industry from tea to steel to telecom to the Taj hotels (and began in the 1860’s in opium trade in Bombay), owns India. As I was marveling this to a friend, he informed me that actually, Reliance Industries is the second-largest private conglomerate in the world (started in just the 1960’s) and accounts for 3.5% of India’s GDP. So I guess I take it back. Reliance owns India, but Reliance, you need to advertise better. I didn’t know. (Photo: random Parsi architecture)
While Reliance and TATA duke it out, I for one am not a fan of conflict, and I am not a fan of blame. The instant response to conflict here (to generalize of course) seems to be to blame the other party, even if it’s something straightforward like a nurse telling me, “Go. Follow that woman.” I get up, follow, walk into a room I apparently shouldn’t be in, return to the waiting room, and the nurse says, “No, you didn’t understand me. Follow her in a few minutes. Sit now.” I sit for one second. “Follow her now.” We walk the other direction. Of course, my bad. As pushy as I find Indians (especially when disembarking from trains), Israelis I encounter are even more so. And I thought I was blunt. I can say directly, “I am not interested in dating. I feel uncomfortable,” and that doesn’t even end an Israeli’s pursuit. I don’t understand the Israel-India connection either, but tons of Israelis holiday here, and they even have special beach houses set up with Kosher food and everything. Israel is apparently the largest military supplier to India, and a study earlier this year found that Indians were more sympathetic to the Jewish state than even the US. Still, assertiveness is a tricky balance; I like how this article puts it: like salt in the sauce, if done well, no one notices it, and if too little or too much, it can wreck the balance. On the other hand, there’s Buddhism and yoga and meditation and so many beautiful and profound religions and philosophies about the meaning of life and how we are all "striving to join the infinite current,” and the immense comfort in the knowledge that “everything is nothing”... I have not even begun to scratch the spiritual surface of this country. If the temples and ashram retreats serve as the opposite to everyday aggression, then India (and Israel!), could work on spreading the salt around more evenly as it’s shaken. 

Posted byValerie at 1:40 AM  


Hanumanito & Sarah Yovovich said... December 27, 2009 at 9:47 AM  
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Malina said... January 5, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
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