Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The month of Muharram, the month of Noel

As some of the readers of this blog aren't Indians, I will start by declaiming that the accident of birth placed me firmly in the arms of Islam, and within the subsect of Dawoodi Bohra community, about which you can read here
The Bohras are a one million strong community with its diaspora all over the world. It is one of the few Islamic sects to be led by a leader, who is called the "dai". The present dai is Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin, and he is over 95 years old. Old age, illnesses and infirmity have curtailed his mobility significantly. During the month of Muharram, which Shia muslims observe to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husein A.S., the dai selects a particular city or town where he stays for 10-12 days to preach a daily sermon to his devout followers. Read the book shown alongside to understand the story of the martyrdom of Imam Husein A.S.

This year,  our dai chose to stay in Mumbai for the entire duration of 10 days, and will extend his stay to shower his blessings on Mumbai's Bohras for a longer time as well. The locality of Mumbai that becomes the center of attention is called Bhendi Bazaar. This is because this is the place where the tomb of the previous dai, Syedna Taher Saifuddin, the father of the present dai, is located; so also, right opposite this tomb is the biggest mosque of the Bohras, the Saifee Masjid, where the dai presides to give the sermons. These sermons are linked by internet and other modern technologies to not just the important mosques and congregation centers of Mumbai, and not just to similar structures all over India, but also to all similar centers to all the parts of the world. Thus, a Bohra sitting in a mosque in, say, Andheri, will see the same images and so on as one who is located in San Francisco, California, or elsewhere. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I am NOT a devout Bohra, and although I admire the systematic structure of my community, I do not love its leech-like tendency to extort money from its members, and I certainly don't endorse the fanaticism of the members who have elevated the dai to a station that is higher than where it is meant to be. I can understand it, I just cannot endorse it. So be it.

Now, this year will go down as the mother of all the years that I have seen Muharram, for the people who came down to observe the Muharram in Mumbai was easily over a hundred thousand, and the community's administration arranged stay, food, and all other means of hispitality for all of them. The response, as they say, was phenomenal. I have appended a few pictures of the Syedna, and his faithful followers below. Do take a look.
Going on to the next big festival, Noel, or Christmas. It is around the corner, and shopping and other forms of activity is picking up as it nears. Yesterday, Hannah, my younger daughter, attended a prom function organised by the cultural dept of her college (read "seniors"). She went dressed in a violet frock that looked stunning on her. I will try and post a photo of the same if possible. 

That's it for now. Take care.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Children's Day

Unlike other parts of the world, India celebrates Children's Day on the birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, independent India's first Prime Minister, and arguably, the most debonair political leader India has ever known. That day is this day, i.e. the 14th of November every year, and it fell on a Sunday this year. As a child specialist, my clinic gets a bling decor, usually sponsored and done by one or the other pharmaceutical company. And so, this year too, like the ones before, the clinic looks as if  there is a big occasion there: for the past few days, my patients have been getting goodies in the form of gifts, toffees, and so on. They are getting their consult too, of course, but they aren't minding their stint in my rooms, as the clinic looks so unlike a doctor's consulting room.

What else? Oh, yes, I stayed away on Saturday morning, as I was attending a medical conference. Otherwise, all things considered, the last week has been so unexciting. The kids are also enjoying their Diwali holidays. Nishrin, as usual, is busier now that the rest of her family is taking a breather. Whenever holidays "strike", weddings happen too, and this means more work for her in the salon. That's always the way it has been for her. 

A college friend, Sudhir Rao, was in India from the U.S. and left early last week. Rakesh Ghildiyal and I met with him and went out on one occasion. Sans Rakesh, but with some other class mates, I had an evening out on yet another evening. For those who are interested, you can read about this party here.

That's it, for now. Have a happy Sunday, guys and girls reading this!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Meeting old friends

The past few days have seen me arranging and then meeting an old friend from the medical college. The good doctor is an orthopedic surgeon who is settled with his family in the U.S. of A. He contacted me and a mutual friend the last time he came to India earlier this year, and this was his second visit in the same calendar year. 

The experiences we shared about the past, and the bonhomie we shared in the present set me thinking about how invaluable old friendships can be. Although we always had mutual respect for each other, the friend I am talking about wasn't all that close to me during our medical college years. For example, neither of us had visited each others' homes, or met each others' parents. I did not think of inviting him when I got married, and I suspect he never thought to inform me when he left India to study and make a life for himself abroad. 

However, now, after a gap of over 25 years,  he sought me out on both the occasions, and wanted us to meet over dinner and have a nice time. Naturally, I was pleasantly surprised for I had, during the college years, not considered myself as an equal to him - either financially or in any other social sense. He put it down to a need to interact with his "partners", and I was moved to appreciate his point of view. 

Our third friend and I have been in touch off and on, but for the last several years, both of us have been involved so deeply in our own lives that we have not met each other physically. Just a few phone conversations, and that's it. Thus, our America-settled friend has become a sort of catalyst and has brought the two of us together. Indeed, the situation has been a win-win one for all of us. 

Meeting friends does something innately wonderful to one's mind and senses. It makes us better humans, as it teaches us to forgive and forget all wounds or misunderstandings of the past and enables us to become great pals, never to forget each other. I guess you could call this happy feeling to be not unlike a feeling of euphoria, a feling of something that turns out successfully in the end.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Purchased a new car for Dussera

Yes, I got me a new car this year. It is a Swift Dzire, the longer version of the basic Maruti Suzuki Swift, that is all a rage in Mumbai this year. Its big selling point is the low price tag: my VXi version in petrol cost me, with accessories and all taxes, a tad under 6.5 lakhs! If you see the prices of all the other long cars, they are all over 8 lakhs, and some smaller cars too go beyond 7 lakhs, such as the Punto, VW Polo and the Jazz from Honda (which is, actually, more than 8 lakhs on the road minus the accessories!)

Having used the car for over 2 weeks, I am very happy with the choice. It drives much better than my earlier 800 cc Alto VXi, and it looks impressive on the road as well, considering that it looks just like an ordinary hatchback from the front. The silver colour wasn't my choice, but that of my younger daughter Hannah, but I like it now. I simply love the ease of driving, the reasonably small turning radius, the centrally locking doors and windows (a feature that Altos do not have), and the amazingly large boot! I haven't had the heart to remove the ribbon that was placed there by the distributors of the vehicle. It's beautiful.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monsoon ebbs, heat resumes.

Mumbai is an interesting city with even its climate forming an important aspect of day to day discussions of the Mumbaikar. If you want to learn more about the monsoon that graced the city this year, just go back a few posts on my blog and read all about it. This post, though, is about the heat and sweat that follow on the heels of a refreshing rainy season. Currently, I am reading the book shown alongside. Suketu Mehta is not your average Mumbaikar. He is one of the privileged ones who got to go abroad and stay in the US of A for several years. Educating himself in Mumbai and also abroad, Suketu has retained his ties with his parent city, and, through his infinite patience and sensitivity, has managed to get stories out of the most secretive souls of the city. When he talks about the riots that ravaged Mumbai in the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Mosque, he writes about real people who participated in these riots, including people who actually killed fellow-humans in the frenzy of the moment. If you can, you should try and get your hands on this book and read it. Suketu writes charmingly and with wit.

Going back to my favourite topic, the monsoon has almost disappeared, with the city staying dry since almost a week; in its place, the high humidity of over 80% has made comfort non-existent, and people are seen walking down the roads with lassitude and torpor.Even with the A/C on at 25 degrees, the rooms don't feel cool. Outside, it is a torture to walk. One can just about bear the heat if one is astride a two-wheeler or inside an air-conditioned car. The heat has come on almost suddenly over the last few days, and now, everyone is talking about how it is becoming more and more difficult to venture outside the house. The heat also cuts productivity and creativity. This is the main problem with the heat.

For those readers who wish to travel to Mumbai sometime, I strongly recommend the Lonely Planet Mumbai Guide. I have, for my India specific travels, always relied on the India tourist guide of the same publisher, and it has never failed me once. I used it to travel to Hyderabad, Jaipur, Bangalore/Mysore/Ooty, Chennai/Mamalapuram/Kodaikanal, Jammu and Kashmir, and even smaller places like Mahableshwar. It is one of the best resources for travel. Of course, now, with the internet making many more sources available, people are getting their info online, and even using these resources to print out illegally downloaded guides, such as the Egypt guide I downloaded a few months ago (see my Egypt tour post in an earlier blog here). Despite this, however, the LP guides are really satisfying and entertaining.

Ravi, who has commented on this entry, has suggested that I read the book shown  alongside ...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rains in Mumbai this year

It has been an eye-opener. This year, it poured torrentially in Mumbai. It took just a month for half of the entire season's average rainfall to fall upon the city. By now, we have had more rainfall than what we have had in the last over 35 years! By the end of August, all the seven lakes that supply water to this metropolis were full to the brim, or at least over the levels reached in the past several years. The water cuts imposed on the city last year were removed by the civic committees that look at the problem officially. Everyone seemed to be happy at this decision.

However, there is a flip side to this situation too. The heavy rains caused several accidents: tree branches that fell on unsuspecting citizens and either killing or maiming them, walls that fell on to sleeping dwellers and killing them there and then, landslides at construction sites, flooding, and above all, a very high incidence of malaria, typhoid, jaundice and other tropical diseases that filled up all the  beds in the various public as well as private hospitals. 

As I write this, I am filled with sadness at the various tragic occurrences, but, also, I am happy, for the busy season brought me a lot of professional satisfaction, and money too. I am happier, even, for the fact that no one in my own family - nuclear, joint, or extended, had any of the problems I listed above. For this, I can only thank the merciful and bountiful Allah, who continues to bless us.

It would be interesting to learn from you, dear reader, about your experiences with extremes of climate - whether rains, or heat, or cold. I know from Anna that she had to face extremes of cold where she lives. A comment by you would be welcome if you are reading this, my friend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hurt talk

I have always worried that someone listening to me or conversing with me will get hurt inadvertently. The reason for this is my unusually acerbic tongue that cannot resist taking a jab at someone's weakness or problem. I always seem to forget that when you point a finger at someone else, four of your own other fingers are pointing back at you. However, this post is not about knowingly taking a jab at someone; it is about not being sensitive about others while making normal conversation. The other day, for example, when I pointed out to someone his obvious faux pas, he merely smiled and let it go.  But, in reality, he did not. He commented about this to my daughter when they were away from me, and my daughter told me about this later on. In fact, she, too, is a bit like me, and often talks acidly to her acquaintances. Hence, she understood the import of what had happened in a flash, and related the thing to me. I felt very bad, but, as they say, words shot off the mouth are like arrows that are released from a tight-strung bow; once they are gone, they will hit the target they are meant to, and the damage is near-permanent, for even if you apologise, the hurt will remain, and there is a real chance that it will sour relations for ever.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Trip to Egypt -2 ... Day 1

Thanks to the readers who took out time from their busy schedules to read my first instalment on the above subject. Those who did not read it, may click HERE.

Let me continue.

The itinerary was planned by Medha, my travel agent from Creative Holidays. Her charges included most of the fees and moneys for all the locations that we were to visit while in Egypt. It also included a daily breakfast, 3 days' dinner in an Indian restaurant while in Cairo, 3 days' dinner on the Nile cruise, and dinner while in the desert. It included visa fees too. It did not include entry to the Mummies' room in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and it did not include out of pocket expenses and any upgrades if we took them. (We did not take any upgrades, and the single biggest out of pocket expenditure was the tips that we had to give to our local tour guides, waiters and stewards at the various hotels we stayed and on the Nile cruise, as well as tips to the porter who looked after us on the train from Cairo to Aswan ... but I am getting a bit ahead of things ... so please be patient while I carry on.)

Day 1 (6th June): Leave Mumbai for Cairo, arriving at the latter at about 3 in the afternoon. We travelled by Egypt Air, and the memory I will carry back with me is the beautiful but dour air hostess who looked after our catering and other needs on the flight. Also, I must say that the sights of the various artificial islands that we saw ... obviously the "palms" that Dubai is famous for ... were breath-taking.

While the Cairo Int. Airport is located far to the east of the Nile river , which, by the way, neatly bisects the metropolitan city of Cairo, our hotel, the Hotel Horizon Pyramids, is located far west of the same river at Giza, and is more than 25 miles from the airport. Looking at this problem, our local tourist agency, M/S Sunny Travels, represented at the airport by an ebullient, chain-smoking, innocent-faced Mostapha Hamdy, decided to take us to neighbouring areas of Coptic Cairo, part of  Old Cairo - before taking us to the hotel later in the evening. This is what then occurred: we took our bags from the airport carousel, went out, got into a spacious Honda SUV, and drove to Old Cairo.

While their official itinerary was to show us a Jewish synagogue and take us to two or three churches, I asked them to also take us to visit a few of the holy shrines where we could offer prayers. These included the shrines of Hazrat Iman Husein, Syeda Nafisa, Syeda Rukaiya, and a few more. There was a protest from them, as these places were not on the official agenda, but we negotiated a price for this, which they agreed upon - a sum of 90 U.S. greenbacks. While we visited the shrines of Syeda Nafisa, Syeda Aisha and Syeda Zainab, we did not find where the shrine of Syeda Rukaiya was, so we skipped it. The photos alongside show the shrines of Syeda Zainab, Syeda Nafisa and Syeda Aisha. 

We would see the shrine of Imam Husein at a later time, when we visited the Khan-el-Khalili market (see future blog posts).

To the non-Muslims, the above places are shrines of holy Muslims who were either prophets or other biggies of the religion. As per tradition, Bohras as well as other Muslims visit the graves of these people and pray there for salvation and other more earthly desires to be fulfilled.

However, before we visited these shrines, we took a trip into the heart of Old Cairo, where we were shown an old, very old Jewish synagogue (cameras not allowed), and a few churches, of which the Hanging Church was clearly the best. This church is built over the old course of the Nile river, which once flowed 40 feet below the church. The inside has a marvellous central podium with 13 pillars, each representing one of the apostles of the Christ, while the 13th represents the Christ Himself. Here are some pictures of this podium, as well as some more enchanting sights of this church:

 This church is supposed to have sheltered Jesus Christ when He was a small child, and the courtyard has a couple of date trees under which He is supposed to have played. The pictures show our family on the steps to the church, a view of the special podium (or pulpit), and a few stained glass windows.

It is obvious that this church is one of the prized heritages of this otherwise Islamic country. We did see some other churches, and we were also taken to St. Barpara Church  and  the Ben Azra synagogue, but we could not take any pictures, since cameras were not allowed inside. 

After the visits to the shrines, we were driven into the heart of commercial Cairo, where we were taken to the Bukhara Restaurant, the only Indian-food serving restaurant in this amazing city. The owner was a soft-spoken Muslim, who served us a-la-carte. We chose to have a chicken makhani, dal fry, special Egyptian "chapatis" and rice. A salad with large red and green chillis was also served, and we would see different versions of this salad at many places over the next week and a half that we spent in this country.

While the children and I took food heartily, Nishrin felt under the best of condition, and had a headache coming on, and so, did not eat anything. After dinner, which was quite nice, we drove to Giza, and checked in at the Hotel Horizon Pyramids at about 8.00 p.m. This is a good hotel, and from the upper floors, we are supposed to be able to see the Great Pyramids, but tonight, we were allotted rooms on the first floor, albeit adjoining ones, and we settled in for the night, eager to explore the country the next day.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Trip to Egypt - 1: Preparations

Today, on this rather wet Sunday, I have resolved to write about my trip to Egypt. Actually, I did begin to write the events as they occurred in a diary that I purchased expressly for the purpose, but never found the time to write every day as the trip was quite exhausting and left us with few opportunities to sit at a desk and write. Even so, I will, over the next several posts, begin to describe whatever happened over the 11 days that we were in that lovely country. By we, I mean my family, of course, and by the "11 days", I mean from 6th of June to the 16th of June, 2010.

To start at the very beginning, I started planning for the trip about 3 months before we actually undertook the trip. I wanted to do thorough background research so that we would not only do this trip with the least possible costs, but also individualise the trip with the travel agent so that nothing important was missed. This was important as I am quite sure I won't be able to visit this country again during this lifetime. I began with a search for a good Egypt travel guide,  and discovered, rather unhappily, that the Egypt -specific guide was not available in Mumbai. The one that was available had the entire Middle East region in it, and its cost was over Rs. 1300. I would have loved to get my hands on the book that is featured alongside.

In the circumstances, I began a search for a soft copy on various file sites, and came upon the ME book available for FREE DOWNLOAD at one of the locations. Dutifully, and with glee, I downloaded the entire book, and then printed out the Egypt pages off my clinic printer. The second image alongside, I presume, is the book that I downloaded, as there was no cover page.

When I had all the  required pages with me, I took them to a shop that does spiral binding of books, and voila! I had my handy guide.

The next thing I did was to go to www.egyptair.com and also www.makemytrip.com and look for the best flight deals. Eventually, and with some problems to boot, I managed to book 4 return tickets, Mumbai to Cairo and back on Egypt Air at a little over Rs. 21000/= per ticket. There was a way to book the exact seats too, and it gave me great comfort to book a pair each of window and center seats one behind the other somewhere in the mid-section of the aircraft, reasonably near to the mid-section emergency exits.

I also began to ask people about which travel agent to go with, and visited the biggies, namely, SOTC, Cox and Kings, and so on. Subair, my cousin and neighbour, recommended that I go with Creative Holidays (office just behind Metro Adlabs above Mayrose Restaurant) or Akbar Travels. He also provided me with the names of the persons to contact. I began the process of contacting both the travel agents. A Poorti Mulye was the person I saw at Akbar Travels, while Ms. Medha Deshmukh was the lady in charge of the ME section of Creative Holidays. Up until a month before the actual holiday, I was unable to decide which company would finally plan my trip, but, in the end, I chose to go with Creative as their offers were not only dramatically less expensive, but also, their itinerary was better planned. 

There was one more item on the agenda: convincing the rest of my family to agree on Egypt on this, our first overseas holiday. For me, it was Egypt all the way since the history of Egypt attracted me greatly; besides, trips to other, more exotic locations were also costly. I also considered that travelling through Egypt would involve stretches of walking and climbing (for example, on the Pyramids), and I, sure as the sun rises in the East, wasn't going to get younger as time passed. Inas was the first to agree, then Hannah, and finally, Nishrin, as she realised that she had no option. 

Did I have enough money to go abroad? Well, I managed it quite well, actually, and the entire trip cost us about 350,000 INR in all.

That's it, for now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Now in Ramadan

Ramadan is upon us, and most Muslims all around the world would be waking up early in the morning to eat some food and take a niyyat to fast from about an hour before sunrise until sunset. For the Dawoodi Bohra Shia Muslims )to which I belong - it being the sect that is headed by the Syedna, viz. Syedna Muhammad Burhanuddin (T.U.S.), today is the seventh fast, and I write this an hour and a half before the time that my family and I will perform the Maghrib prayers, inshallah, and then break the fast.

For the non-Muslims who want to know more about Ramadan, I came across this link of what looks like an  interesting book on its importance. Take a look at the link on the left of this write-up and browse the book if you wish to understand the pious nature of this holiest month of the Islamic calender. Personally, I haven't much of a religiosity tagged on to me, but during Ramadan, I change into a mellow and more spirited individual. :-) 

This year, both my daughters have been fasting, and it is a pleasure to fast with them. The elder one, Inas, even goes to the gymnasium after breaking her fast. The younger one, Hannah, is currently at home, awaiting the start of her college life. As such, she is also fasting. In addition, she has been a great help around the home, and I really like her for that. 

Is there anything else to report? The food, what else? In this month, we are all busy either buying, or processing, or making food, delicious, thrilling, enjoyable food. The home of every Muslim resonates with the sounds of vegetables being chopped, pressure cookers indicating that the food inside has been cooked adequately by the sound of the whistle letting off the steam, vessels and plates being cleaned, the cooked food being arranged artistically for the pleasure of the fasting people, fruit plates being created with diced and cut fruit, blenders whizzing - creating fruit juices, mock-tails, etc. ...

During the first six days, we have had vegetable sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, dosai, uthappam, bhajiyas, upama, sev-batata-puri, falooda, various fruit, orange juice, mango juice, lemon juice, chicken tikkas, and maybe one or two things that I forget now as I try to list the stuff. And all this is at the fast-breaking time. Dinner is another meal, at or after 10 p.m., and the third meal is the sehri, or the pre-sunrise meal, where you stock up for the day ahead! 

Apart from the food, praying the salaat, reading the Holy Qur^an, and donating money to charity is also something that every Muslim does ... more of it than during the other 11 months of the year. 

Finally, it is not only about praying and fasting. It is also about controlling your other body-senses, your mind and your sexual urge, during the day time when one is fasting. Thus, one abstains from watching, or doing anything pertaining to sex; one does not lose one's temper as far as possible; one does not hurt another person; one does not willingly do anything that would harm someone else; one eschews bad thought and bad action.

That is all for now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Monsoon meanderings

It is with glee that I observe huge fat raindrops outside my window. Rains played truant last year, but this year, they are back with a bang! In the first one and a quarter months of the rainy season (monsoon), it has already rained half of the season's annual rainfall in Mumbai. And, during the last week, the rains have continued to lash Mumbai, albeit not with the same fury as in previous years. Today, as I write this, we experienced about 15-20 minutes of really heavy rains, and they slowed down thereafter, but not before driving pedestrians off the roads and creating deep puddles at many places.

One of the main problems I face is that it always seems to rain as soon as I leave home and go on my 2-wheeler towards my clinic. It is uncanny, but the coincidence seems to occur a bit too often for my comfort. It - the rain, I mean - makes it impossible for me to remove my cell phone when it rings, and my patients are left wondering why I won't pick up the phone. How can I?  Someone suggested that I should use a bluetooth device, but even they get spoilt in the rains, and last year, I lost one such device while driving in the rains. So, no devices for me, thank you.

The way the rains fall in Mumbai, it causes a lot of sickness, and the rainy season is one of the best for medical practice. Almost all the hospitals are full, and I have had a tough time locating beds for my patients who need hospitalisation. A few days back, I called up four of the six hospitals that I visit, and got a negative answer from all of them, so I had to admit the patient in some smaller nursing homes. A heavy practice means poor sleep, mental tension, and a lot of other unrelated trouble, like not finding time to visit my parents, not remembering to get the urgent rations that the house needs, late arrival at home for the night, and so on. At the same time, it also means a lot more money flowing into the house, and saving for a non-rainy day when the practice can literally plummet (Talk about mixed metaphors, LOL :-))

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Several jottings

I have been remiss, and haven't posted anything for the past few months, and I apologise, dear blog, and my kind and patient followers, for the same. Well, things have certainly happened, and over the next half an hour or so, I plan to list most of the important stuff here.

As I had pointed out in my previous entry, we did have a misaaq function, and it was a hit. Almost all the invitees turned up, and the food, catered by one of the Mumbai Dilawers (Al Taam Caterers), was appreciated by all the guests. Hannah was dressed in a specially stitched gown in peach colour, and looked stunning. Inas and Nishrin also wore new dresses. The Punjabi relatives came in all their finery too, and had a gala time eating the sumptuous food. The function was held in Garden Hall in Mazgaon itself. Although this is a good enough place for up to 150 invitees, it did prove to be a bit small for the gregarious crowd that we were entertaining. All said and done, the function was an unprecedented success, though it did burn a much bigger hole in our pockets compared to the one we had a few years ago when Inas had undergone the misaaq. 

The food menu consisted of roasted almond ice cream, chicken legs, a soufflĂ© and a rice and tender lamb curry served on fire. There were the usual salads, a soup, mouth-fresheners and so on. Hannah received a lot of love, lots of money and some really delightful gifts, and I must post her thank you on this blog on her behalf. 

On to the next bit of news. We planned a holiday and finally succeeded in going, to Egypt, in the month of June. This holiday took place from the 6th of June and went on for the next 11 days. We did this holiday through "Creative Holidays" and it was an unique one, since we visited almost all the main attractions of this immensely developed and civilised country. I will write a log of this holiday and link the readers of this blog to it someday. I hope that this does not take a long time! If you want to see pictures of this holiday, check out this site.

Lastly, I must share with you that  Hannah's S.S.C. results came out last week, and she has got an amazing 89.1 per cent in the best five of the six subjects that she appeared in. Only her marks in English were a bit low, and kept out automatically by the board in its calculation.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Visitors at home, and spends to make them comfortable

While it is tempting to talk about the mandatory spending on food that occurs when one has visitors at home, I am going to talk about other forms of expenses that the host(s) must incur to make the stay of visitors to their home more comfortable. This includes, for example, expenses on carrying out repairs to the home: in my case, in anticipation of a visitor's arrival in March, we had to call the plumber to fix the toilet, the painter to paint selected portions of the home which had seen water seepage and disrepair, the electrician to start off those switches/appliances that weren't working perfectly, the carpenter to fix loose handles and doors of the various storage cupboards and almirahs, and the mason to fix loose tiles and marble platforms.

In addition, we had to purchase a new 4-burner stove in place of the old one that had worn out a bit, get all the air-conditioners serviced (we have three of these), get the pest control guys in to clear out the cockroaches, and buy extra provisions to fill the larder.

Now, imagine what would be the fate of a not so well-off host. How could they possibly meet all such expenses? And, if they did not carry out these "urgent" repairs, what would the guest think about them? More important, what would the host think about what the guest would think about their hospitality?

Such questions! This is no doubt a subject matter for debate. The overall discussion must also take into account what effect the extra expenses would have on the monthly budget of a family that depends on a single member's tight salary. Any comments?

In the coming days, we are expecting five guests - or six - to stay for about 5-6 days. I think we have already spent over 3000 rupees getting our home ready to receive them.

Some upcoming news

Okay, so we are finally set to invite close friends and relatives to a lunch to celebrate the "misaq" ceremony of our younger daughter Hannah on the coming Sunday, i.e. on the 25th of April 2010. "Misaq" refers to the initiation of a Bohra Muslim girl into adulthood and enjoins upon her the duties to be undertaken by a devout Bohra Muslim woman. The actual ceremony took place more than 1 1/2 years ago at the hands of a priest who is officially called the Daawat-e-Muqaasir saheb. We were to hold the function around the same time, but, unfortunately, one of our family members, Dr. Altaf Savliwala, a pediatrician based in Lonavala, died around the same time, so we had to cancel the function. This time around, we hope to have no further obstacles. I will certainly post pictures of the event in the week following the Sunday the event takes place.

In related news, some relatives of Nishrin, my wife, are coming over from Punjab. We will be hosting them in our house. We hope to be good, nay, very good hosts, to these (wo)men. Some of them are visiting Mumbai for the very first time in their lives!

Finally, a word about the function: as is customary, most of our guests will be eating out of a large round steel plate known as a "thali". However, we are having some guests who may not be very comfortable with this system, and we would be serving them on tables. In fact, we are having more than a dozen and a half people who are strict vegetarians.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Inas wins herself some medals and trophies

Readers of my blog, too few, I know, but treasured friends nevertheless, may already know my daughter Inas, who is now in her second year of the three year B.Sc. course in Tourism and Hotel Management at the Anjuman e Islam's A.K. Hafizka Institute located next to the Old Lady of Bori Bunder (a.k.a. the Times of India) H.O. 

Well, the good news is that she excelled in her first year's annual exams. She stood first from among the 300-odd students from her batch; not only that, she also got the highest marks in 2 of the 6 subjects for which she appeared. This was old news, of course, to us, but she finally received the prizes and awards at a glittering campus evening on Saturday, 6th of March 2010. 

In all, she received one gold medal for her first rank, and a rotating trophy and a certificate for the same, and two other medals for the two subjects, and a rotating trophy too, for one of those two subjects, and two certificates for the two subjects. My parents and my wife, along with me, were those who witnessed her triumph on the stage at the event. Presenting here, some pictures of the momentous event.

She really made us proud. Unfortunately, we, i.e. my wife Nishrin and I, could not stay back to enjoy the dinner, as we had to attend a wedding of a doctor friend of ours. My parents did, however, stay back, and informed us that the meal had indeed been a good one. 

Inas, congratulations to you from your entire family! Do continue to achieve high targets in the years to come!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A net friend comes home

I have known Anna Morawska, a Polish citizen living in Legionowo, a suburb of Warsaw, since the past several years. Or, have I? I must say that I had never met her; I had heard her voice but twice; and I had spoken to her just once over her mobile phone. Apart from this, we had exchanged a few SMSs and about a dozen-odd personal emails. Thus, I was to meet her for the very first time on her maiden trip to India. We interacted a few times on the chat module before planning and finalising. Finally, I decided that my family and I would host her when she came down to Mumbai, and help her out whenever she went to different parts of the country as a tourist.

Anna arrived in our society building on Monday morning at around half past eight, escorted by a doctor friend of hers (he is Dr. Sandeep Pendse, a non-practising MBBS doctor, who is now a teacher in "humanitites"). Lugging a large orange suitcase, and a smaller, softer bag and a hand bag, she arrived with a large - nay, huge smile. Chatting with her, I realised that she is a witty, soft-spoken, fit and intelligent person. Nishrin served her and the doctor "upma" and "gulab jamuns" for breakfast. Afterwards, while I went to my clinic, Nish took her to Fort for a little bit of shopping. She wanted some Indian dresses. I joined them at a store near Kala Ghoda, and Nish left for her parlour work. Eventually, she (i.e. Anna) and I went to the Gateway of India, took the harbour cruise, lunched at the Colaba Delhi Darbar, and returned home on my scooter - weaving this way and that, and scaring the day-lights out of her!

She vows to write about her experiences in the form of a novel!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A meeting of old friends, and a new blog is born

Around the end of December 09, old friends, classmates, actually, from our class in Medicine met at a 5-star hotel in Suburban Mumbai (the J W Marriott) for talk and dinner. The meeting was organised by Ketan Gundavda, Purvish Parikh and others, and was totally sponsored by two of our own class-mates, Dhiren and Akshay Shah. I attended the meeting with Nishrin, and so did about 30-odd class mates. From the proceedings of this meeting, it was decided that we would try and meet more often; also, I took upon myself the responsibility to create a blog and a Yahoo group for our class. Thus, the blog and the group have been created. I look hopefully to the future and wish that class-mates will participate in these two energetically.

Here is a photo of the group of classmates taken at the above meeting.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A New Year, and some new resolutions ...

I hereby resolve to try and cut down my intake of food ... glorious food, ravishing food, delicious food, energising food, food that creates happiness, ecstasy, joy, satiation, all-round satisfaction, merriness, a spring in the step, a dance in the waist, a rumble in the stomach, a pain in the heart, a gas in the colon, a stiffness in the knee .... okay, I know you know what I am driving at: It is a simple truth that the things that give us the most pleasure are often the things that also cause sickness, pain and suffering.

I also resolve to return to this blog at least once every 10-12 days and put in an entry. I thank the people who are following this blog despite my infrequent entries! I need to crystallise my thoughts and this blog is a good way of doing the same.

I also resolve to celebrate my 50th birthday in style, and to travel abroad with my family in the coming year. I hope I earn enough to sponsor this trip, and I urge the readers to pray for me in this regard.

Finally, I resolve to cut down on the time I currently spend on Facebook, playing games that are inane, useless, time-consuming, and full of tripe, and also fun, spirited, worth a lot more than the money that I earn (virtual money, of course) playing these games.

What resolutions have you all made? Do comment.