Thanksgiving In Mumbai

As Thanksgiving approached I was wondering if I could find a turkey dinner anywhere in Mumbai. I searched the newspaper and found several places offering the holiday meal.
Tonight I’ll be going out to Indigo Restaurant in the Colaba section of Mumbai for the evening treat. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully the bird won’t be spiced like masala…hahaha.
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I was pleasantly surprised tonight. I had an excellent meal, topped off with a glass of wine and a chocolate raspberry torte. The meal was baked turkey, dressing, small spiced potatoes, green beans and cranberries. There was a nice bread basket with assorted breads.
I was even more surprised to see large Indian families and friends coming together for Thanksgiving. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses they started the meal with a prayer of gratitude.
So many times we export the bad part of our culture. It’s lovely to see a good part of the American culture being honored in India too.

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Varanasi: The Holy City Alongside The Holy Ganga River

The city of Varanasi is also sometimes called Benaras or Kashi. It is the Hindus holiest of cities, situated on the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River. The name Varanasi comes from the convergence of the Varuna River (on the north) and the Assi River (on the south) with the Ganga.
Here you will find pilgrims from all over the world, coming together to pray, meditate, study and tour the city’s sights. Spend the afternoon wandering through the narrow lanes, passing the sounds of sitar music and saadhus (Hindu ascetics) of every variety. Stop at the market for offerings of fruit, flowers and tiny oil lamps to set afloat on the river.
This place is said to be the site where Lord Shiva appeared as a radiant column of light, splitting the Earth and extending into space. After a thousand years of trying to find the base and the source of the column, Shiva was acknowledged as preeminent here. Lord Shiva then shrank the column of light and it took the form of a small linga, which is still here to this day. The city has predominately Shiva temples, but all Hindus, Sikhs, and some Buddhists take pilgrimage here at least once in their lives.
Along the river are about 100 ghats, which are large stone stairs leading down to the water. These were constructed around 1700 AD.
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imagesThe best way to view these ghats is from a boat. Many boatmen line the river offering rides to pilgrims and tourists.
Some of the ghats are used for common things like bathing, swimming and washing clothes. Others are for holy dips in the water and for meditation. Other prominent ghats are the Manikarika Ghat and the Harishchandra Ghat, where about 80 cremations are performed every day. It is considered extremely auspicious to be cremated on the banks of the Ganga River, India’s holiest of rivers.
Every evening a group of priests perform a fire pooja at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. This is a worship of the whole universe, including the sun, this river, fire and a special dedication to Lord Shiva. This is really something to see! You must plan to attend this nightly event.

Jallianwala Bagh: A Peaceful Park Dedicated to Lost Lives

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Right in the midst of chaotic Amritsar is a peaceful enclave called Jallianwala Bagh. It wasn’t always peaceful. In April of 1919 Brigidier-General General Reginald Dyer of the British Army ordered his troops to open fire on thousands of unarmed and non-violent people, resulting in a massacre of up to 1000 people, most of them Sikhs.
Among the beautiful plants and paths of this park you will find areas that still have the bullet marks of the guns used to assassinate people as they were pinned against the brick walls and unable to escape. You’ll also see the well where 120 people jumped to their deaths in an attempt to avoid the bullets.
The park has a museum with photos of the people responsible for the massacre and pictures of the dead corpses strewn over the lawns, sometimes two or three deep. It makes me very sad to see such carnage. Each one of those people had a family. I am sure this massacre spread massive sorrow in Punjab.
It is said by many, that the massacre turned the general public against the British and was a catalyst for the end of British rule of India.
To see a reenactment, check this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE9_zB8k_lk

The Lotus Temple in Delhi

One of the moist beautiful temples in Delhi is the Lotus Temple of the Baha’i Faith. It is listed as one of the most visited buildings in the world, surpassing even the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal.

The structure has won many architectural awards for it’s design, which depicts a lotus flower. It is surrounded by nine pools of water and the interior is very cool, even on a hot day. Each Baha’i temple has nine sides and nine doors. The cavernous interior is 40 feet high and can hold up to 2500 worshipers. On Hindu holy days the attendance surpasses 150,000 per day.

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GEThe temple is closed on Mondays, so please plan your visit accordingly.

The Baha’i faith is from Persia and they welcome everyone into their meditation sanctuary.

Buying And Blessing A New Car In India

When my friends Nitin and Richa told me we were going to pick up their new Honda I had no idea if would be so different than buying a new car in the USA.

They were excited about the new car because it’s still a very big deal to purchase new vehicles in India, where most people don’t even own a car at all.

The dealership makes a very big deal out of the purchase. Upon arriving they presented Richa with a dozen roses and a box of chocolates. They put bows on all the doors and the hood, and covered the car with a red covering to be taken off when the customer is ready to drive away.

Photos are taken of the transfer of the keys and then a priest comes and spends almost an hour blessing the car, to ensure that no harm comes to those that occupy the vehicle and to offer gratitude to the Gods for the ability to buy a new car.

He draws a swastika on the hood with sindoor as a sign of auspiciousness, luck, and good fortune. Then he scatters marigold and flower petals all over the inside and outside of the car. He also blows incense smoke over the car to bless it. Finally he lays lemons under each of the tires so that when they are smashed they scare away bad spirits.

I think I was very lucky to be there to witness this very different delivery of a new car. Congratulations to my friends Nitin, Richa and Nitisha!

By the way, most cars here run on diesel fuel which gives them very good gas mileage, since petrol is more expensive here than in the States.

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Vaishno Devi Temple in Ahmedabad

By far the most unusual looking temple I have visited in Ahmedabad has to be the Vaishno Devi Temple. It is devoted to Maha Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi, and Maha Kali, the three incarnates of Goddess Vaishno Devi. Devotees from around the world visit this replica of the original shrine, located in Jammu-Kashmir.
The temple is built to resemble a stony mountain and represents the cave dwelling of the girl named Kumari, later known as Vaishnavi. Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, visited the forest and mountain where Vaishnavi lived, and she pleaded with him to allow her to merge with the Supreme Creator Lord Vishnu. Rama told her it was not the right time for her but directed her to set up an ashram at the base of the Trikuta Hills. That shrine is located in Jammu-Kashmir. She was instructed to elevate her level of spirituality and to bless mankind and alleviate the sufferings of the poor and destitute.
People came to receive her blessings and Bhairon Nath, a disciple of Tantrik Gorakh Nath, was sent to determine at what level of spirituality Vaishnavi had ascended to. He fell in love with her and attempted to steal her away for himself. The Goddess forgave him and told her followers that from now on they must have Darshan (worship) with Bairon after they had Darshan with the Goddess, in order to receive yatra (a Hindu pilgrimage). Vaishnavi then left her human form and fused with the rock and entered a meditative state eternally.
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Traffic and People Watching

I’m back in New Delhi. I’m staying at Arpit Palace in Karol Bagh. I’m near the Karol Bagh Metro station so there’s a lot of people outside, catching rides from cabs, auto rickshaws, and peddle rickshaws. I am just gazing out the window at the mid-afternoon traffic. In just ten minutes I have seen a little bit of everything!
I’ve seen families of 5 on motorbikes. Only the driver wearing a helmet. Oh, there’s a family of 4 on a bicycle rickshaw. That poor guy is struggling to peddle them. The traffic on the main road is quite heavy, but still I’ve seen oxcarts and an elephant being driven amongst the cars, motorbikes, scooters and auto rickshaws. An elephant in Delhi traffic? hahaha
The Sikhs won their right to ride their motorbikes without helmets, to accommodate their turbans. They look smashing in their lavender and pink shirts and matching turbans.
The delivery trucks are tiny, considering the massive population here. Some industrious fellows have converted auto rickshaws into delivery vehicles. Bicycle rickshaws are also being used for deliveries. Here comes one with 5 huge white bags piled high on it. There appears to be no regulations on what can carry loads on the highways here. There are also a lot of overloaded trucks, etc.
They’re supposed to drive on the left here but normally the streets look like they are one way with vehicles driving all over the road, attempting to pass. The best vehicle for this traffic is a government vehicle. They have a special horn and light that requires others to make way for them.
People don’t seem to worry too much about bumps and scratches on their vehicles. There’s a guy with a sign announcing “Bumper Repair” right below me and I’ve seen him repair about 4 bumpers today.
As chaotic as all of this is, they are still fiddling with their phones, just like back at home.
Stray dogs don’t seem to worry at all as they walk slowly across the street or lay down in the road to take a nap. It amazes me that animals are avoided so well in all of this traffic, while it becomes a real chore for a pedestrian to cross the road.
It’s also nice to see good friends of the same sex holding each other’s hands, arms draped around shoulders, and riding motorbikes together. Friends are like brothers here. If you grew up with them they always remain close to you.