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I had 3 days of holiday last week, which connected well with the weekend to give me 5 consecutive days. So we decided to go to Goa. No, don’t believe that this was an impetuous, spur of the moment thing. You can’t really do that sort of thing in India. If you want to travel by train, you need to book exactly 60 days in advance. They don’t issue tickets earlier. When they do, you are likely to get a confirmed reservation only if you get your turn at the window within about 20 minutes of opening time. So in India, we plan our holidays well in advance. As it was only 5 days, I couldn’t waste time in traveling and so opted to travel by the night train on the last day of work. The train starts from Bombay at 2250 hours and gets to my destination station, Thivim, at 0922 the next morning. As luck would have it, the train started only at 0030 hours, that is about an hour and 40 minutes late. It made up part of the time to get us to our destination at 1020. From Bombay you can also fly to Goa in less than an hour. As we were six of us going, the flying alternative was way too expensive for me. Economy class one way fares are roughly 40 pounds while the train fare is about 3.5 pounds. Goa lies on the west coast of India, south of Bombay. It covers an area of roughly 3700 sq. Kms. The population of 1.2 million is among the most laid back and easy going that you could imagine. Goans are NEVER in a hurry. That to me is the most charming part about the place. It gets irritating at times and then I learn to slow down too. When you are at a shop waiting to be served, neither the owner of the shop, nor the customer ahead of you seems to be even aware that you exist somewhere in the background. Don’t even think of going to a shop even to buy a loaf of bread between midday and about 4:00 PM. For every Goan this is siesta time after the hard work of eating a heavy lunch watered down with “Feni”. More about feni later. < br>Goa is divided into South Goa and North Goa for administrative purposes. 60% of Goans are Hindus and 35% are Christian. Most Christians are Roman Catholic. The language is Konkani. Goans use two different scripts for writing Konkani. In the north, people generally use the Indian script called Devnagiri, while in the south, they write Konkani like Portuguese. There is a strong Portuguese influence in Goa, the Portuguese having ruled Goa for 451 years. The Portuguese influence is also seen in the architecture of the beautiful churches of Goa. The most famous of these is the basilica of “Bom Jesus” in old Goa where the embalmed body of St. Francis Xavier lies and is exposed to public view every ten years. ********************ASIDE**************** There is a joke doing the rounds that a few years ago a group of Americans came for the exposition of the body of St. Francis Xavier. They went back and sued the travel agent because the body had clothes on. ****************************************** The 105 Km coastline is adorned by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. In fact many people think of Goa as synonymous with beaches and sun and golden sand. There are 6 rivers which run east to west and break up what might otherwise seem like one long, 105 Km beach. Calangute is the most well known beach in north Goa while in south Goa it is Colva. Between them they help Goa attract a large number of tourists. The winter months generally see a lot of tourists from western countries while the rest of the year it is mostly Indian tourists. For getting around in Goa you have several options. The first thing you do when you get there is to pick up a road map. The government has set up the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) with offices in all the major towns. They sell maps for Rs.(rupees) 12, which is roughly 17 pence. You can hire a motorbike at between Rs 100 to 150 a day. If you are white skinned you are lik ely to be charged more as you will stand out as an outsider for whom Rs 150 is only about 2 pounds. Another option is a network of buses both private and government run. This is where you really rub shoulders with Goa. And what a rubbing of shoulders it is. The motto of the private operators seems to be “Let nobody be left behind.” At the starting point they load the bus till it is bursting at the seams. The conductor climbs up to the windows of the bus from the outside to make sure that every inch of space is used. At this stage, when you wonder if there is any air left to breathe, the conductor signals to the driver not to start yet and picks up a few more. Mass packaging at its most impressive. Through all this, the extreme patience and tolerance of the Goan comes to the fore. Often the buses have just a single door for entry and exit. When a passenger trapped at the wrong end of the bus wants to get down, the bus waits without so much as a murmur from the driver, conductor or other passengers while the disembarker squeezes his way out of the bus. This is in marked contrast to the impatience one sees in Bombay. And finally you have the taxi. This is the most comfortable albeit expensive way of getting around. I suggest you should avoid this unless you are physically incapable of taking the rough and tumble of the bus. Taking a taxi isolates you from much of the real Goa. If you take a taxi, check with your hotel receptionist about the fair rate and negotiate with the cabbie before you start. Even better, get the help of an Indian tourist because the hotel staff and the cabbie could often be hand in glove. Remember the price of virtually everything is negotiable in Goa and remember that you will be quoted higher prices than someone who looks like a local. Please understand that they have nothing personal against you. It’s just that they feel you can afford to pay more. You have to keep this in mind constantly, whether you are buying fish or fruit at the market or negotiating for a taxi or autorikshaw (the three wheeler cab). In the case of the latter, you would do well to check with someone local what would be a fair fare. In case of packaged goods you do not have much to fear as Indian laws demand that an MRP (maximum retail price) be printed on all goods sold. The aforementioned GTDC organizes daily tours to north and south Goa. I took the north Goa tour this time. It costs Rs 120 (roughly 1.7 pounds) per head. Starting at 9:30 AM and finishing at 6:00 PM we were taken to a pottery factory, a hindu temple, Mayem lake, Vagator beach, Fort Aguada and Calangute beach. At the pottery factory there was a wide selection of earthenware items on sale. I picked up a beautiful wall hanging in the shape of a girl’s face with locks of curly hair falling to the shoulders, slightly smaller than life size. It cost only Rs 100 (roughly 1.4 pounds). Mayem lake offers you pedal boats at Rs 80 for a group of 4 for half an hour. Vagator beach is the second most popular beach after Calangute in north Goa. It is an attractive alternative because it is less crowded. Fort Aguada is on one side of the mouth of the Mandovi, the biggest river in Goa. It has two lighthouses, one old gas run lighthouse built by the Portuguese and a modern electric run lighthouse. From here also you can spot the house of Jimmy Guzder, a Bombay based businessman. This house is completely hewn out of the rock on which it stands, right down to the bar and bar stools inside. You don’t get to see the inside off course. The gentleman is reportedly a recluse and only entertains his closest (male) friends there. Calangute beach, the final leg of the tour is the icing on the cake. It is a really long beach with golden sand. There are boats which offer rides at Rs. 20 per head. Recently they have started offering para-gliding too. A parachute attached to a speedboat is hauled like a kite with u pto two riders hanging on. A colourful sight indeed. I didn’t sample it myself though. Near Calangute is the Baga beach which is less crowded. It is a beautiful place where the sea creates a sort of sheltered natural swimming pool when the tide comes in. On one side of this natural pool you have the sandy beach and on the other side is a rocky hill side. The tour does not take you to Baga though. One thing you should certainly not miss if you come to Goa is the river cruise. GTDC runs the “Santa Monica”. There are 2 one hour cruises, one at 6:00 PM called the sunset cruise and the other at 7:15 PM called the sundown cruise. After this there is a 2 hour cruise. In addition private operators run the “Royal” cruise and the “Paradise” cruise. All 3 are very similar. There is a live band playing a mix of Goan folk, Portuguese folk and English pop music. Groups of choreographed dancers dance to the folk music while the tourists are encouraged to dance to the pop stuff. There is also a bar and snack counter on board. Goa is a land flowing with milk and honey. Except that even milk and honey contain alcohol in Goa. Goans have a bit of blood running in their alcohol streams rather than the other way around. Goa offers the cheapest booze compared to anywhere else in India. People usually buy cartons of 12 600 ml bottles of beer at a time. Port wine is also very common. But most popular of all is the fiery drink called Feni. The most common version is brewed from the cashew fruit. Coconut feni, though available is not so popular. To get an idea of what it is like, think of tequila with a strong cashew smell thrown in for good measure. It is hot stuff. A couple of pegs of feni and you would be ready to walk naked over the south pole. The big trouble with feni is that you smell of it even the next day. Your sweat, your urine, everything smells of feni. To go with the feni the Goans have their fried or roasted mackerels or sardines. Another speciality of Goa are the pork sausages. Pieces of pork are dried, pickled in a pungent paste of toddy vinegar, red hot chilly peppers and some spices I don’t know anything about, stuffed into some thin membrane which could be pig’s gut and dried again. This can then be preserved for months. You cook the sausages before you eat them (after removing them from the gut off course). All I can say is I love the taste. There is plenty of accommodation for tourists in Goa. For those who are completely new to the place and don’t want to take chances, your best bet is GTDC again. Check out their website for location and tariff information. They run several hotels and resorts with double room rates starting at just Rs 350 to 750 (5 to 10 pounds) a day depending on the location. The one I checked out myself at Mapuca was pretty good at Rs 400 a day though I didn’t need to stay there (I had my in-laws house to live in). It was located a stones throw from the bus stand and market. Mapuca is the third major town in Goa after Panjim and Margao. It is the most important town in North Goa and provides easy access to all the places of interest in north Goa. There are several five star hotel chains that have resorts in Goa too. These would set you back in the region of 100 pounds a day. These usually have holiday packages of 3 nights and four days which turn out to be slightly more economical than the daily rate. Rates are seasonal the week from Christmas to New Year being the most expensive. If any of you dooyooers need any specific information before you actually plan or make the trip, I’ll try to help as much as I can. Type "goa tourism" into your search engine and you can enough of the low down yourself too. I am sure you would be delighted with a holiday in Goa.
This is all about my faith. I am not about to evangelize and bring “lost sheep” to the flock or anything. But I firmly believe that you can learn a lot of lessons here about life and living even if you continue to be an atheist. If you don’t want to read about miracles, you can skip the next 3 paragraphs and get to the practical side of my faith. Sorry I got carried away and wrote such a long op. ***************My Story***************** In my younger days I used to play a lot of football. Barefoot football. I didn’t want to impose on my parents the expense of buying boots and moreover most of my friends too played barefoot. My feet are therefore full of scars of old injuries. One injury, not noticeable, was a fracture of my right foot. Later, after my footballing days were over, I had minor accidents in which I twice more fractured the same foot. The last time was May 1999. Each time I went through the mandatory period of having a cast and got out of it as soon I possibly could. On the last occasion the doctor warned me that the earlier fracture, some 10-12 years previously, hadn’t quite healed right. But my life went on, carefree as ever. In the last few months, father time seems to have caught up with me and reminded me of my recklessness. I had a sharp pain in my right foot whenever I walked. I didn’t want my family to know because they would start the “I told you so” story. They would have also insisted I see a doctor. That is something I abhor. I am a practicing Roman Catholic. I have devout parents who brought us up in the faith. However, I must confess that our faith was ritualistic rather than convincing. I always said that I am a Christian because I happened to be born into a Christian family. A few years ago, I started attending prayer meetings of the Charismatic renewal. Before this I had always felt that Charismatics were half crazy. As a teenager I used to mock their style of wor ship. I first went for the prayer session to escort my wife. I enjoyed the catchy hymns. So I went again. Then again. I soon became a fixture every Wednesday. I started paying attention to the Word. I started seeing the healings. Then I actually started praying like “them”. It was always others I prayed for. Never myself. I had everything I wanted. I had no need for anything for myself. Last Wednesday, 3rd October, I was at the prayer meeting. The place was full. I got there late and had to stand at the back. My foot started to act up. Yes, there was something I wanted. Freedom from the pain. While the choir was singing, “How great Thou art” we were praying for our intentions. I prayed for my foot for the first time. Before the hymn was over my pain was gone. It hasn’t returned since. During the 3 years I have been in the renewal my family and I have benefited from many miracles. I shall not enumerate them here because they are not dramatic and the scpetics will offer alternate explanations. I have also personally witnessed many healings for others. Some of these were psychological and could be explained away in scientific terms but there were many physical healings too. I have seen paralyzed people walk. I have seen a child, unable to walk since birth, crawling up the aisle and then standing up. I have seen so many people healed. I have known people on the verge of surgery for cancer or bypass surgery who have been declared healed by their unbelieving doctors. I have heard the praise leader announcing the “word of knowledge” about healing of people whom I knew and he didn’t. Sometimes by name, sometimes by the colour they were wearing. Many of you will refuse to believe all this. Like the apostle Thomas, you will want to experience it yourselves before you believe. To do so, you have to have an open mind. I do understand that a lot of religious people have closed mind. But having a closed mind is not their monopoly. **************My Faith***************** I have learnt many things that could be of use to any citizen of this world. For those of you who criticize religion, please understand that religion is not evil. There are people I can only call semi-religious who do evil in the name of religion. Can you blame a knife that is used to stab someone? It is meant to be used in the kitchen and is most useful there. Can you blame an explosive for a terrorist attack killing many people? It was meant to clear the way for building roads or other human conveniences. Do you blame the aircrafts that crashed into the WTC that fateful Tuesday morning? Today we can’t imagine a world without air travel. Blame those who misuse religion. Tell me one bad thing that Jesus asked us to do? The Holy Spirit dwells in you and me. It doesn’t matter that you are not a Christian. The Holy Spirit was promised to the whole of humankind, not just Christians. I have seen the infilling of the Holy Spirit on people of other faiths, Hindus, Muslims, even before they were baptized. Therefore I believe that we Christians do not have a monopoly of heaven. Faith can move mountains. Do you believe that? Medical science is today convinced that a very large part of our illness is of psychological origin. Even if you don’t believe in God, half your cure is in believing you will be. Even bacterial or viral infections can be attributed to the psyche. The effect of such an infection largely depends on the state of your immune system. And you immune system is heavily influenced by your mental state. Particularly stress. The greatest gift I have got from the Charismatic renewal is the concept of inner healing. We are not much different from lower animals in many ways. Many of our acts and responses are influenced by our personal defense mechanism. We are all to some degree paranoid. In our day-to-day dealings with others, we often get upset about what someone said or did to us. Then we want to get back at the person. Revenge becomes the hub of our lives. For many people, they reach a stage where all their action and energy are directed by this motive alone. If ever we decided to talk heart-to-heart with the other, we would realize that our perceptions were largely unfounded. Sometimes we would find that the other person is defensive because of something we did without meaning to hurt. There are two aspects to inner healing. The first is forgive and forget. To do this effectively one should have the other present. Most often, this is not feasible. In that case visualize the person sitting with you and forgive the person unconditionally. The second and equally important part is to forgive yourself. Do not carry forward your guilt. I have often heard other people complaining about how Roman Catholics are kept guilt ridden to ensure they toe the religious line. This is not true in my experience. We have to believe that Jesus paid in full for our sins and they are forgiven when we are truly sorry. That helps us in a complete inner healing. *****General thoughts on God and Religion***** We read regularly about the horrors that can befall our planet if we upset the fine ecological balance. There is a lot of science to explain why life is possible on this earth, which is itself a tiny speck in the known universe. Is it an accident that all the forces are balanced in such a way as to make life possible here? Was it an accident that life forms appeared on this planet? I think not. There is a superior intelligence far above our own. We have to first recognize our own inadequacy before seeing this truth. Why do we need religion? Lets admit it. We human beings are basically selfish. This helps us to survive. Our selfishness would result in a world, which would be horrible to live in. What reduces our selfishness? Peer pressure can be quite effective. We don’t want oth ers to think badly of us. Apart from the fear of punishment, this would probably be the only way to make us behave. Religion is connected with our after life. Every religion believes in some form of afterlife. I believe the fear of punishment in the afterlife can be the strongest possible motivation for people to behave themselves here in their lifetime. Thus, even if I personally didn’t believe in God or an afterlife, I am convinced that if all humans believed in reward and punishment and had good religious guides, there would be no selfishness and the world would be a far better place to live in. God Bless.
I know a man, now in his sixties, who died of jaundice as a teenager. Being a Hindu, his body was being carried for cremation. While they were marching along, there was a drizzle. Our friend came back to life and has stayed alive ever since. A girl, a distant relative of mine, died in her teens. Her body was laid in a coffin. People gathered around the room and were praying the rosary. In the attendant chaos of too many people in one room, someone dropped hot wax from a burning candle on her bare hand. She got up like a ghost and is alive even today, almost 40 years hence. The above are real life examples of people I know. The cynical would rationalize these incidents and say the diagnosis was wrong. The person wasn’t dead but in a deep coma. Others would readily accept this as a supernatural phenomenon. There was a time in my life when I was very set in my beliefs. I rejected anything that could not be easily explained by science. I even ridiculed those who believed such stuff. I have changed. I still don’t readily believe anything that cannot be explained by science but science has become much broader now. More importantly I have the deepest respect for people who have opinions contrary to mine. Now what is the point of these two stories? In both cases, the “return from death” was unexpected. There wasn’t anyone around who said, “ wake up little girl”. You may belong to the school, which believe in the misdiagnosis and coma theory. If that is so, don’t you shudder to think there could be so many more people being buried or cremated without being actually dead? On the other hand, if you belong to the other school (resurrection), then you’ve got to see that the spirit of the person must have existed somewhere after the person’s body died. If that be the case, you already believe that there is life after death. For you, the people of the resurrection school, my c ase rests. Now let me take you back in time some 2000 years ago. This man was going around preaching love and goodness. Many didn’t accept him, not because he was wrong in what he preached. It just made them uncomfortable to give up their power, money, influence. One day a message came to him that his friend in another town was very sick and he should go there at once. He didn’t. People around thought he was cruel, unfeeling, hard-hearted. Only he knew what he was capable of. He didn’t hurry. He took his time. Business finished in the current place, he proceeded to go to his friend’s town. By this time he knew the friend was already dead. When he finally got there his friend had been dead 4 days. Misdiagnosis? He had also been buried a few days ago. By this time, even if there was a misdiagnosis, Lazarus would have been dead anyway. Moreover, if Jesus were just an ordinary man, he wouldn’t have known that there was a misdiagnosis and that Lazarus was still alive. When he asked for the tomb to be opened, the people around couldn’t believe it. The stink would have been worse than an Oval office full of Presidents and interns. He didn’t balk. Yes he knew what was coming. Lazarus walked out alive, still wrapped in bandages. Of all Jesus’ miracles I think this one is the clincher. There can be no doubt that Lazarus was dead and had been brought back to life. Unless you insist that the gospels are a complete concoction of falsehoods or the whole thing was a conspiracy. I believe. If Lazarus came back to life, he must have existed in some form outside his human body during those four days. I rest my case. ****** Updated later the same day******** I have read the early comments and decided to update this as many dooyooers did not quite get the point I was making. To believe something you don't need several bits of evidence. One important point is enough. Here's my p oint. What we term as death is the end of our earthly existence. While these people were dead in their earthly forms, something about them (call it soul or whatever) was still existing somewhere out there. To me, this alone is enough to convince me that death is not the end of our existence. Look at it logically. To my mind, the only argument against this is to not believe the Lazarus story. I appreciate many people will not believe the story. In fact one commentator has stated that everything in the Bible is made up. He is entitled to his opinion. However that is another argument altogether, for which my response is that it would take a whole lot of people over a vast number of generations to conspire and fabricate the Bible.
What has happened in America is a grievous sin against humanity. The perpetrators are insane in a kind of way. There is no reason in the world that can justify what has happened. The immediate reaction is shock, anger, loathing, resentment. Having said all that, I must also affirm that killing or harming other innocent people is not going to be the solution. It will only add a new dimension to the problem. The Americans are talking WAR. Against who? The Afghans? Should the innocent people of Afghanistan suffer becuase of some madmen operating from their soil? Aren't they victims themselves? I hear that people of Arab descent are under attack in America. In fact I’m just reading that Sikhs are under attack in New York although they have nothing to do with bin Laden in the mistaken belief that they are religiously linked with him. This misunderstanding is caused by the fact that they wear turbans and are bearded. It is rather harsh to say that any good can come out of a tragedy of this sort but there are lessons to be learnt by governments across the globe. There can be no better tribute to the innocents who died that day than to learn our lessons and act in accordance with them. The first lesson is that a committed terrorist can bring a super power down to its knees. Security is important but to secure anything from people with this level of commitment goes beyond traditional security measures. Intelligence seems to be the only viable option. The second and more important lesson is to eschew state sponsorship of terrorism no matter what. “castlebinn” here rightly said – One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. You sponsor terrorists in the guise of freedom fighters and you will pay for it sooner rather than later. Unfortunately the stupid decisions are taken by politically motivated, short sighted buffoons while the innocent pay for it. America at one time aided and abetted the Taleban fight ers when they were fighting the Soviets. Before that the Americans had already had a bitter lesson in Iran but apparently didn’t learn anything from it. These guys are unpredictable and consequently extremely dangerous to deal with, whether as friend or foe. Our own politicians have made the same mistake once upon a time. Indira Gandhi covertly supported the Sikh separatist movement when it was in its infancy as she wanted her party to rule the state of Punjab. Later this movement grew to unimaginable size and went well beyond her control, finally costing her her life. Admittedly this was an internal matter for India but the principle is the same. An old Chinese proverb which I just made up says, “The starving dog will turn around and bite his master.” Lastly, it is time the world community made common issue of terrorism. It is important to recognize terrorism for what it is irrespective of whether you support or oppose the underlying ideology. My country has been under attack from terrorists sponsored by neighbouring regimes and launched from their soil for over 20 years now. We have been crying ourselves hoarse that these states be declared terrorist for sponsoring terrorism. The US administration has constantly stonewalled these efforts. Now the same set of people seem to have struck at the heart of America. It is well known to intelligence agencies throughout the world that the problem in Kashmir is the handiwork of the Taleban and the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI – the Pakistani secret service) The serial bomb blasts in Bombay in March 1993 were executed by the same caucus. People of the world unite in this moment of grief and make sure you don’t forget it after a few days. The outrage at what has happened is one thing that can help unite us in this war against terrorism. Make no mistake – there will continue to be insane people out there. We can’t stop that. What we can and should do is to stand together in identifying and eliminating the threats they cause.
I am not the most appropriate example of a dooyoo member. Many of the subjects on which opinions are written on dooyoo are subjects on which I would either have little or no knowledge or those which have no relevance to me. Many of the products you get in the UK are not available in India. Of the products available, our brands are usually different. In the speakers’ corner, you have many interesting topics but I don’t write on these as I feel I have no right to. For instance, it would not be good form for me to join issue on the subject of the British monarchy. At this point you may be grumbling, “What does all this have to do with rating ops?” “A lot”, would be my reply. If I went strictly by the dooyoo guideline, there would be very few ops getting a VU. When I rate an op, I first have to make allowance for the fact that the writer and I are from different cultures, from a different environment. I once read an opinion about this subject on another site, which said that rating must be done in order to help a potential customer in making a decision. The writer advocated that your rating should therefore depend on whether you agreed with the writer or not. If the writer paid glowing tributes to a product you thought was bad, then give him the lowest possible rating. This will help others reading it to put the op in perspective before taking a decision. I DO NOT rate in this way. I do not have a well-documented and ready rating system. My way is much like Sexy Kay’s “Dalores“ way. There are many ops with which I strongly disagree. My disagreements are based on my own set of ethics and morals, which are a combination of my Roman Catholic upbringing and Indian culture (hypocrisy?) However, I try not to let my own opinion interfere with my ratings. My system is rather liberal. I rate on the following criteria. 1. Is the case well argued and presented? 2. Is there plenty of humour? 3. Is there good use of language? (Without babbling on aimlessly with impressive words randomly pulled out of a dictionary) 4. Is it a very interesting read? The op has to be excellent in one or more of the above areas to be rated VU. How useful it is does not happen to be a criterion at all for reasons already stated. For people like me, the term USEFUL in the ratings isn’t appropriate. A more appropriate adjective would be INTERESTING. Thus effectively when I rate VU, U, SU or NU, I actually mean VI, I, SI or NI. The op that falls short of excellence in any of the listed criteria gets a U if it is good in one or more areas, SU if it is so-so and NU if it is downright bad. I do not downrate if the op happens to be in the wrong category. This is because, as I have explained, for me the adjective is INTERESTING and not USEFUL. I am often tempted to downgrade an op when a Brit uses poor English but avoid doing so as I don’t know what are the circumstances of the writer. I do think it is carelessness to spell wrongly as your word processor will readily identify spelling errors. As for grammatical errors, Word certainly leaves a lot to be desired so these may be forgiven. COMMENTS Of all the op sites I have tried, I like dooyoo best. The main reason is the comments section. I find the comments section of dooyoo more interesting and vibrant than any other site I have written on. Often the commentary is more interesting than the op itself. There are times when this section becomes a battle ground but this is rare. I have always had the most wonderful and encouraging comments that compel me to keep coming back to dooyoo and checking the site everyday. We all want appreciation. If we all waited for others to come and appreciate us we would wait till kingdom come. Go ahead and appreciate others and we can make the dooyoo world a great place to be in. Comment positively or don’ t comment at all. Even criticism can be positive. Criticize objectively and without malice. I am glad to write on dooyoo and have so many friends. I am learning a lot and enjoying doing it. There are many great writers on dooyoo that I admire. MALU and Chris105 for such wonderful use of language that would put the Brits to shame. Jillmurphy for her very warm and homely style of writing. Sexy Kay and “uncle” sidneygee for a great sense of humour. Kenjohn for a very earthy style and interesting use of colloquialisms. Ashford for his extensive knowledge of people, places and cuisine. Leahslad for his honesty and down-to-earth realism. There is a host of others (lamorna, Scotgirl, jambutty, amonet, I could go on and on) but I must stop here otherwise this op will become too long. Cheers and happy rating.
Matheran is a beautiful hill station close to Bombay. It is at an altitude of 800m. This is the getaway that the people of Bombay think of when they want a break or when they just want to get away from Bombay’s humidity. Literature suggests that Matheran, established in 1850, is located 80 to 105 Km from Bombay. The ambiguity is because it depends on where in Bombay you are starting from. Before I start describing how you get there I will set the milestones and then show you the options. The milestones are: Bombay - Neral - Dastoori Naka - Matheran Next I’ll tell you the best thing about Matheran. NO MOTOR VEHICLES ARE ALLOWED INTO MATHERAN. To my mind this is reason enough to want to go there. Ironically, this was precisely why I did not visit Matheran till this May in spite of having lived all my life in Bombay. I had the impression that it is difficult to get there. HOW TO GET THERE You have the option of road or train. If you go by road, you can drive up to Dastoori Naka, which has a car park. That is as far as you are allowed to take the car. Read on find out what next. Train is the better option of the two. You can take either the Deccan Express or the Koyna Express from a couple of locations in Bombay to Neral or go by one of the Suburban local trains. If you opt for the former, you need to book your seat in advance. The latter option permits you to just go across to the nearest convenient station along the Central Railway and catch a Karjat local. Neral comes a couple of stations before the terminus. This leg of the journey could take upto 2 hours depending on where in Bombay you start from. The next part of the journey spoils you for choice. The most popular choice is a mini train which winds its way over 11 Km in over 2 hours. It takes you right up to Matheran over a most scenic route albeit at a leisurely pace. No, this is not irritatingly slow. When you board this mini train at Neral, yo ur holiday has already begun. Be warned however, that the train does not run during the monsoon months. If in the unlikely event, you are in a hurry, you could take a taxi from Neral station to Dastoori Naka, a 5 Km journey over a winding, narrow road at breakneck speed. Somehow it seems to me that the taxi is driven faster around blind corners than over the straight stretches. This journey shouldn’t take more than about 20 minutes. Try to keep your eyes closed if you get the feeling your driver is taking a shortcut to heaven. It costs about 75p per head or you pay about 3.5 pounds to have the whole taxi to yourself. The hiking type could take the 3 hour hike from Neral station to Matheran. Even if you did land up at Dastoori Naka, you still have to walk the last 2.5 Km (about 40 minutes) to reach Matheran. You can engage porters to carry your luggage if you like. You can avoid walking too as there are horses you could ride up the hill. Slightly more comfortable are the human pulled carts called RICKSHAWS. It does seem rather inhuman. It worried me too. To begin with you feel uncomfortable by the plight of the people who transport you. Think again. You are their source of livelihood, not a pain in the a**. ACCOMODATION Matheran has plenty of hotels. Search the web for Matheran and the result will be several hotel homepages. The one I stayed in, the Regal, cost approximately 35 pounds per day for a couple inclusive of all meals. With a child under 9 thrown in for free. (They don’t give the child off course. You’ve got to get your own.) They are little cottages with one room containing 2 double beds, a tiny dressing room, a bath and WC. There is also a small verandah to relax in the evenings. The meals here and with many hotels in this class are vegetarian. Specifically Gujarati. Gujarat is a neighbouring state from which there are several migrants in Bombay. The Gujarati community happens to be the mo st affluent so obviously they present a very lucrative market for the hoteliers of Matheran. You in the UK will be familiar with the Patels and Shahs who are members of this community. The Regal also has a swimming pool and a health club. Use of the swimming pool is included in the room tariff. However the health club is run on a pay per use basis. The pool is kept reasonably clean. They also provide you with freshly laundered towels at the pool. If you happen to go there without a swimsuit, they have a shop that sells swimsuits and trunks. Surprisingly these are sold at street prices and they don’t rip you off like is often done at tourist destinations. ****************A TIP************************ I didn’t have a problem here but at many tourist destinations you can get cheated when buying camera film. To be on the safe side in India do not buy your film at such places. Buy it in Bombay or wherever before you set out. ********************************************* GETTING AROUND IN MATHERAN As I said earlier, no motor vehicles are allowed in Matheran. You have three choices: you could ride a horse, take a rickshaw or you could walk. If you opt for a horse or a rickshaw, you have the advantage of a guide as the horse handlers and rickshaw pullers double as tourist guides. On the other hand, walking is pleasant but could be tiring if you are in poor physical shape. This being a hill station, it certainly isn’t flat ground you walk on. THE ATTRACTIONS Many places of tourist interest in India have a number of points designated to be seen. Matheran has 38. I wouldn’t recommend that you go ahead and see all 38. Doing that reminds me of the movie “If its Tuesday, this must be Belgium.” Several of the points would only look like repetitions and it would bore you. You would then need a list to tick off all those you’ve already seen. It is better to restrict yourself to a few, say a dozen. Your hotel staff can tell you which are the best places. You can pick up a map when you get there, and then plan your itinerary. Some of the “must see” places are: Panorama Point, Echo Point, Sunset Point, Sunrise Point Charlotte Lake, Porcupine Point, Louisa Point. Panorama point is arguably the place with among the best views in the world. It is truly breathtaking. Years ago, when I had visited the Grand Canyon, as much as I liked the place, I was amazed at the American ability to market their asset. We have amazingly beautiful places in India we haven’t told the world about. Near the Grand Canyon, the Americans have plaques marking stones as “100 million years old”. Here in India we have far more history but don’t appreciate it. Echo point is a meeting point of 3 hills giving it the ability to reflect sound. As may be expected, some points are best seen in the mornings and the others can be better viewed in the evenings. This shouldn’t be such an inconvenience as you can see the map and decide to do several points on the eastern side once and the western ones another time. Once again let me remind you not to turn your trip into a “If its Tuesday” type of expedition. Don’t measure the success of your visit by the number of points you have seen. Take time to relax rather than rushing around. The place is really good for idle relaxation and recharging your batteries. I remember a poem we had in school I think it was “Of leisure” by Wordsworth who said, “What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.” Matheran is not a place you come to for shopping but does have a decent leather industry. You could buy belts or shoes or even have a pair of shoes custom made for you. Another local specialty is a confection called the “Chikki”. This consists of a variety of pieces of nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, al monds, sesame, etc., bound by a sweet binder, either sugar or jaggery. BEST TIME TO VISIT Tourist information will tell you October to December is the best time. Some hotel sites will tell you that October to May is the best time. I suggest you avoid the second half of April and the whole of May as it can get really crowded. For the true nature lover I recommend the monsoon months of June to September. Lush greenery as you will ever see. Matheran is even more beautiful in this season. As a bonus, it is the off-season and you can negotiate pretty good discounts with the hotels. The down side is that you need to rough it out a little more than at other times. For example the little train doesn’t run in this season. The soil, which is red clay, can get your shoes in a pretty bad mess. WARNING Matheran is infested with monkeys. I thought of putting this under attractions but it remains an attraction only till the novelty wears off. Or till you are attacked, which will probably occur before the novelty wears off. Don’t leave a bag down in the open. Don’t pop snacks into your mouth while you are walking out in the open. They will make a quick dash for the bag and run off with it. On the other hand, this is a unique opportunity to observe our ancestors at close quarters. Their social manners, their family relationships, their actions. Sooo human. The little babies are absolutely cuddly cute. On second thoughts I admit the monkeys are an attraction. But be careful all the same. And enjoy your vacation. I give this place 4 stars because the hotel accomodation is below top class standards.
First of all get this: there are a huge number of us in the world today. The population of India is around 1 billion, almost one third of the world population. Now I’m not saying this with pride but with a bowed head. There in lies the root of our multitude of problems. I must also apologize because I find this op rather dry. However this time I have concentrated on giving information rather than entertainment. India has a federal system, a bit like the United States in the sense that we have a central government and a whole lot of states, which have their own state government. There are subjects for legislation by the center and by the states. Our founding fathers took the controversial decision to divide the states along linguistic boundaries. Most of the states have their own language. You might imagine that these are all very similar. Wrong. You might compare this variety with what you would have if the whole of Europe were one nation with each country being a state. Warm but still not quite there. At least most of Europe you have a similar script. Here even the scripts are completely different. With many a European language I can identify which language it is. Besides English, I can read and comprehend a bit of French and identify Spanish, German or Italian. But I cannot even identify many Indian languages. I don’t even know how many languages we have. Then each language has local dialects, which do not have a script of their own. And finally you have languages like Konkani, which is spoken in four states along the west coast but has no single script. In each of the four states a different script is used. For instance in most of Goa (except a small part of its North) this language is written in Portuguese. To a North Indian, all the South Indian languages sound as though you are rattling a tin box with stones inside. The North Indian languages are equally foreign to a South Indian. Even when we speak English each region has a dis tinctive accent. Often the sentence constructs will betray the fact that we think in another language and translate into English as we speak. *************Commercial break*************** On my first visit to the US for an international seminar, I got together with a few other delegates to see the Grand Canyon. There was an Englishman Derek and his wife – a Pole, 2 Norwegians a Swede and me. We traveled by the Interstate Highway from Tucson to Flagstaff. On the way back we decided to do it by a less traveled route. We ended up getting lost and having to ask directions. We stopped at a gas station to fill up and asked for directions. This attendant was very helpful and more so when Derek spoke to him. He was thrilled because he said his granddad had come there from Scotland and ……”I LOVE THAT BRITISH ACCENT.” Was Derek livid with rage after that? He kept a straight face there but as soon as we got out of the place he displayed his entire vocabulary about what he thought of Americans who said that the British had an accent. ************Back after the break************ The education system is normally based on a 3-language formula, English, Hindi (the national language) and the regional language, which is the state language. Obviously this puts a damper on migration while children are still in school. Often, if migration is unavoidable because of a transfer at your job, the man will relocate but leave his family behind so that the children can continue their education in the same state. Unemployment is rampant so one would usually not kick a job to avoid relocating. Again relocation seems to be an option only for the male of the species. For the married ladies it is invariably impractical. Across the country, there is a perceptible variation in race. While the North Indian is distinctively Aryan, South Indians are of the Dravidian race. The Eastern part of the country leans towards Mongo lian features. There is a gradual blurring as you move away from these extremes. Happily there is absolutely no polarization along racial lines. Religion ----------- Hinduism is the religion of 80% of the population while about 12% are Islamic. Several other significant religions, notably Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Christians (1%), Parsis, Jews, make up the balance. We are by nature a very religious people. It is very common among rich business families to rip off your customers, suppliers, etc. and then give alms to beggars outside your place of worship. You get the drift. Sin all you want, salvation awaits you at the temple gate. Given our religious disposition, there is surprisingly a remarkable degree of religious tolerance. This is probably due to traditional Hindu polytheism. It is not uncommon for Hindus to attend novenas to the Blessed Virgin Mary or a go to the precincts of a mosque in search of miracles. The recent surge in religious fundamentalism has political roots. In the hearts of the people there is no real religious divide. Lifestyle ----------- The urban lifestyle is very westernized while the rural people are more traditional. In the city we usually have nuclear families. However there are still many joint families in the city too. To some extent you are not completely free to choose. If the woman is career minded, a couple may prefer to stay at the husband’s parents’ place to ensure the grandparents look after their children. Another common problem is the cost of housing in a city like Bombay. You may not be able to afford to stay independently. On the subject of housing let me restrict myself to Bombay. Middle class and above housing is usually in apartment blocks. These are called flats. Most people have one or two bedroom flats. More than two bedrooms is not common. Lower middle class live in “chawls”, which are structures with several housing units. Each unit has just one room a nd a kitchen with a little wash area, which is often curtained off and used for bathing. Toilets are shared by several families. Still poorer folk live in slums. Sometimes the contrast is palpable when you have posh skyscraper complexes cheek-by-jowl with slums in the same area. ********This Story illustrates our attitude******** An aging Indian master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it. "How does it taste?" the master asked. "Horrible," spat the apprentice. The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take another handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water. The old man said, "Now drink from the lake." As the water dripped down the young man's chin, the master asked, "How does it taste?" "Fresh," remarked the apprentice. "Do you taste the salt?" asked the master. "No," said the young man. At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and taking his hands, said, "The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things. Stop being a glass. Become a lake." So learn to expand your horizons and things will look different... ***********Back after the break************ In the cities there is a growing attitude of isolation. In the villages, people are friendly. Hospitality has religious sanction. When you are offered a snack or a drink, you must customarily make a litt le fuss and finally accept what you are offered. I know that in the UK or elsewhere in the west, if I am offered a drink and I hesitate, the offer will not be repeated. In India, if you say no, it only means “I am saying NO to prove I am not a glutton but will have it when you insist.” Children stay with their parents well into their twenties and, as explained above, often ever after. We become economically independent very late as compared to you. Parents are given a great deal of respect. Morals are quite different from the west. Sex is never spoken about openly except as a joke or within a close, single sex peer group. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex is relatively uncommon and always very discrete. Live in relationships are almost unheard of. To an extent our society may tolerate these things by a male but a female would be tarred for life. She will find it virtually impossible to marry. Most marriages last a lifetime. Divorce is rare. Children feel very secure. Violent crimes by juveniles are rare. These are the reasons why a lot of Indians will rough it out in India rather than migrate. Many who do migrate to work return before their children have had a chance “to get spoilt.” As mentioned earlier, there is a greater western orientation in the cities today. The McDonalds and Coke and designer label culture has caught up with us. McD is also far too expensive and zilch value for money. A wholesome, tasty Indian meal for a family of four in a decent restaurant with table service will cost you less than snacking junk food at McDonalds. Yet the concept of status draws us to McD like bees to honey. Status -------- This seems to me a very Indian invention. Or did we acquire it from the Brits? We are very conscious of status. Office clerks think they are above the factory worker who has to get his hands dirty. It is immaterial that the plant engineer with grease on his hands is more educated and better paid than the clerk sitting in the air-conditioned office. Family status is also very important. Many children pursue higher education of their parents’ choice. It doesn’t matter what their aptitude or liking is. Caste is another important criterion for status. There is also a vast disparity in wages. For example a machine operator working in a small workshop could be earning less than a fifth of someone doing a similar job and probably less work hours in a well-known company. Likewise, there is huge wage disparity between different types of work. The level of education also determines the status. People with vocational training in fields like automobile or air-conditioner mechanics have a lower perceived status than a university graduate, although the vocational guy may land a job easily while the univ guy is languishing without one. Sports -------- India and sports? Our greatest sportsmen are the armchair variety who can dish out expert comments analyzing reasons when India loses at any game. For a country of 1 billion not to produce even one world beater is ridiculous. We armchair experts often put it down to the lack of killer instinct. Trite explanation. Turns a weakness into a virtue. But we have great thinkers who can make us champions. When we found we couldn’t win gold at the Olympics, we invented the Asian games. At first we won a lot. Then China, Japan and Korea went far ahead. Finally we ended up winning very few medals. So what’s the solution? We invent the SAF(South Asian Federation) games. Ah! Now we can win all those medals competing against Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc. What happens when they overtake us? Lets wait and see. We’ll find some tiny islands with a population of hundred whom we can beat and compete against them. Quality --------- Some years ago I attended a seminar on quality conducted by TMI of Denmark. By way of example they took the case of European cars. They stated that German cars are far ahead of British cars as far as quality perception goes. This, they explained, is because Germans demand quality in everything. The British are satisfied with poorer quality. What Claus Moller of TMI said that day is far truer of India than of Britain. Maybe he didn’t want to offend a 100% Indian audience. But it is true the quality of products here is appalling. Often a manufacturer advertises his product as export quality. What he is implying is that his product is too good to be sold locally yet he is doing us a favour. With our economy having opened out for global competition these last few years, things are getting better. We have increasingly started demanding quality. Time will separate the men from the boys. The strong will survive and prosper, the weak will fall by the wayside.
I have traveled to several countries. Most of my travels have been to the far east mainly Hong Kong, Taiwan, and S. Korea. I have been to the United States on a couple of occasions and to the UK once. I can assure you that there is a huge difference between the life you have there and what we have in India. There is so much I have observed that I cannot possibly cover it in a single op. (sshhh – why don’t I earn more dooyoo miles by splitting this into multiple ops?) The emphasis in this series will be on bringing out the contrast between here and the UK. In this part, I will enlighten you on our transport systems within the country. I will not harp too much on statistical information but will try to highlight the human experience. As I know Bombay better than any other place, there will be a Bombay bias in my ops. Rail Travel ----------- India has probably the world’s largest railway network. This is the most popular form of transport. About 75% of the railway lines are broad gauge (5’6”) and most of the rest are meter gauge (I won’t tell you the width). The number of people traveling is unimaginable. The peak of long distance travel is the summer vacation season, which extends from mid-April to early June. The main classes of travel are 1st class, 1st class A/C(that means air-conditioned in case you don’t use this abbreviation there), 2nd class, 2nd class A/C and A/C chair car. The first and second classes come with 2 or 3 tier sleeper for overnight journey trains. The fares are very low by UK standards. 1st A/C, the most expensive, costs about 30 pounds for a 1000 Km distance, while 2nd A/C, the next most expensive is around 15 pounds per 1000 Km. The 2nd class would cost less than 4 pounds per 1000 Km. Shocked? Don’t be. This is in line with the salary levels here. By the way a 1st class non air-conditioned will cost you less than a 2nd class air-conditioned. You can book your tic ket upto 60 days before your date of travel. In practice, you had better be there in the queue from early morning exactly 60 days before your travel date. Within 20 to 30 minutes of the opening of the window, the tickets will be all sold out for the popular classes like 2nd class A/c and non air-conditioned. If you are not among the lucky few, there are always the official travel agents and the illegal touts who can somehow get you the tickets; for a consideration off course. This situation is perennial, not just in the holiday season. From the point of view of comfort, UK residents will find it very hard to travel in a non air-conditioned train here. On the other hand, to see the real India, the non A/C class provides a better opportunity for both, the view of the country side as well as the variety of people you will rub shoulders with. Any one that thinks of India or Indians as one homogeneous entity is completely ignorant about the vastness of this country and the diversity of its people. I can’t even begin to count the number of languages in use in various parts of my country. But that’s for another later op. During the journey, apart from the railway catering service itself, there is a variety of stuff being peddled by hawkers who get in to and out of the trains along the way. Besides food, snacks and soft drinks you will also see newspapers, magazines, combs and brushes, sewing needles, etc. There are compartments for people holding reserved tickets and there are compartments for people who buy a ticket on the spot. There is no seat reservation for the latter. Then we have the local train travel. This is restricted to a few cities like Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Here you have a first class and a second class – no air-conditioning. There are also compartments reserved for ladies. Bombay is an island city which is North-South oriented. Most offices are at the south end of the city while most people live north of t heir place of work. Every morning there is a great big rush of people traveling from north to south and every evening the other way. The wooden seats are designed to carry 3 people in sufficient discomfort to be thankful when they get to their destination. However, in actual fact, there will be four people instead of 3 seated on each of these seats. The rest of the compartment will be a sea of humanity crushed together. No space is spared. The English language provides an apt description when you talk of a can of sardines but you guys generally use the term as a hyperbole. In Bombay it is very real. In fact people hang out of the doors (which do not close here), people hang on to window bars from the outside and some people even get atop the train. Once in a way we read about cases of a passenger sitting on the roof getting electrocuted. In all this crush of humanity it is often said that if you die, you will remain standing until the jostling starts at the next station. Position and timing is everything. If you are in the right place at the right time, you will be swept in or out of the train by a mass of humanity. For local train travel you can buy a monthly or quarterly pass, buy a one way or return ticket or a book of coupons, which you validate at coupon validating machines. Most people buy a quarterly pass as it works out very economical and requires you to stand in a queue only once in 3 months. Road Travel ----------- First of all, like you in the UK, we drive on the left side of the road. At least that is what we are supposed to do. City traffic in Bombay is complete chaos. Minor things like rules do not intimidate us. We sort of make them up as we go along. As elsewhere in the world, the green light indicates go while the red one indicates stop. The amber one however is somewhat ambiguous. For most drivers here it indicates :”Drive like hell and get across the intersection before the other traffic starts.” One thing th at impressed me in London was that cars would stop at an intersection even if the light was green unless they knew they had the space to cross the intersection. Here it isn’t like that. If we manage to squeeze into an intersection while the light is still green we consider that quite OK. Thus often an intersection is blocked by traffic pointing across your path when you have the green light. The horn is probably the most frequently used part of the car. Once during a business trip to India, an English associate of my company was traveling with my colleague in New Delhi by Taxi. He was pretty worried about whether he would reach his destination in one piece. The friendly Sikh driver assured him not to worry. All that was needed he said was, “Good horn, good brakes and good luck.” I must add that this did nothing to reduce the tension in the mind of our guest. (I'd love kenjohn to read this part) Besides our taxis, we have little 3 wheelers fitted with 150 CC engines called autorickshaws. These little monsters are the most notorious for breaking traffic rules. With a single wheel in front they have a very small turn radius and constantly try to beat the record for the sharpest turn to cut lanes. Unfortunately their center of gravity is usually higher than their driver’s intelligence and they often end up on their side. Bombay is a city that receives heavy rains during the 4 monsoon months June to September. During this time the roads develop huge potholes. A typical Bombay road would not be too different from the lunar surface. This is further reason for drivers to often drive on the right side of the road seeking the path of least resistance. If NASA wanted to fake those pictures of the moonscape, Bombay would be the place, except that there would be people everywhere. Most major roads are being converted to concrete so things are hopefully going to get better. On the other hand some years ago I read a survey th at said Bombay had about 440 cars per km of road, which was more than twice that of the city with the second highest density. In the years since then, the cars have certainly increased as more people have been able to buy cars, thanks to the availability of easy and cheap loans. Cars are expensive by our salary standards. The cheapest cars, which are the no frills, tiny 800 CC Maruti Suzukis, cost over 3000 ponds, which is typically more than a year’s pretax salary. A car like the Ford Icon or Hyundai Accent or Suzuki Swift(called the Esteem here) costs around 9000 pounds while a Honda City or Mitsubishi Lancer would be over 12000 pounds. Ok this op is too long already so I’d better stop here. I won't say anything about air travel because the contrast is not significant enough to make it interesting. If after reading this op you wonder why we continue to stay in this hellhole, I would like to assure you that being part 1, this is only part of the whole story. Many of the problems I have presented here can become bearable. For example, if you are an occasional traveler by local train you can’t bear the crush but if you do it day after day, you become immune to it. There is a lot of camaraderie, jokes, witty verbal jousting and exchange of information. The crowding does cause tempers to flare sometimes but friction is dissipated with a few choice pieces of wit and wisdom from a third party. Women gain a lot by exchanging ideas about their regional cuisine, kitchen tips and the like. In that crush of humanity there are no strangers. Everybody is a friend. There is lots to love in my country as you will see in the later parts of this series.
Yesterday, my wife and I were given an assignment to write an article about Parents’ Day for the July issue of our Parish monthly bulletin. Oh no! Not another one of those "DAYs". By now, the gift and greeting card companies have managed to turn every one of the 365 days of the year into something-or-the-other-day. It amuses us to see youngsters these days 'celebrating' occasions like Valentine's Day when the occasion means nothing more than an excuse for flirting in the Indian context. St. Valentine would be a non-starter in India if not for this. Be that as it may, Parents Day for us is a time for introspection; time to reflect and look back at what we have done right and where we have gone wrong. Parenting is an occupation for which no University offers degree courses at least in India. Trial and error is the name of the game - mostly error to be honest. When our first baby is born, there is a great deal of euphoria. Oh great! Here she is, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones. What shall we name her? Stephanie? OK. Unanimous choice. Then we have to change her nappy. Oh? I've never done this before. Mothers are intuitively good at this. For the father it is a mini nightmare. And it does occur at night too. For some parents, it is negotiating time. "My part of the baby is waist up. The lower reaches of humanity belong to you." We get over this first hurdle expecting it to be the last, even congratulating ourselves on our excellent parenting. Through all this, the pleasure of having a little bundle of joy in the house is incomparable. We wait for the infant to utter her first words like "mamma" or "dadda". I prompt her when her mum is not around, hoping she’ll say “dada” first. I’m sure Jenny is doing the same behind my back. When she utters incomprehensible gibberish we beam with pleasure thinking how intelligent she is for knowing “e is equal to mc squ are” at the age of 1 month. We can decipher meanings where there were none. We love it when guests comment about how cute she is or how intelligent she seems. We love the way she looks at us with complete trust and admiration. Enjoy this. It won’t last long. Who else could she trust anyway? She doesn't even know anyone yet. We go through this phase with mixed feelings. We want her to grow out of what we mistakenly imagine is the most difficult phase of child rearing. At the same time we want her to remain the same cherubic infant forever. Control. Yes, this is the only time in her life she will be almost completely in our control apart from her regular bowel movement. A few years go by. She is ready for school. We have fun assembling together her school uniform, bag, and raincoat. She is enthusiastic till she actually has to go into her class without us. Then she bawls. We smile broadly and encourage her to go in. Inside ourselves, we are crying too. She comes home from school full of stories. Many happy ones, a few complaints. We are in no mood to listen to the complaints. "How many times must we tell you? If you can't get along with Jo, stop playing with her." Most often she doesn't really want or need our advice. Just a patient, listening ear will do nicely thank you. Plus a bonus of a few sympathetic clucking sounds. Eventually she will work out the relationships herself. She falls and gets a few bruises. Does she need another lecture on how to walk or climb or carry herself? Nothing will take away that pain better than, "My poor baby. Where is that naughty stone that hurt you? Come let mummy/daddy kiss your bubu and you will be fine." Now she is getting lonely. All her friends have a brother or sister. She has none. Her friends won't let her dominate the group. At least a younger sibling will be under her thumb. We understand the lonely part. We don’t know anything yet abo ut her hidden agenda of wanting someone to dominate over. We prepare her for the new arrival. The arrival of the new baby is a recipe for disaster. In these 5 or 6 years we have forgotten all the tricks we learnt the first time. Baby2 requires a lot of attention. Baby1 is most helpful but cannot help feeling that baby2 is getting all the attention. She creates situation to get attention. Soon we keep hearing the refrain, "You love her more than me." There's not a thing we can do to prevent this happening. Just make sure our response doesn't reinforce her accusation. Be consistent. Be prepared that, no matter what we say, this is going to be repeated ad nauseam as long as we live. Most often, this is said to gain psychological advantage the next time we need to share time or something else between them. As baby2 grows older there will be a lot of happy family times. Oh make no mistake, they will continue to fight. But there will be moments of close bonding, which will bring tears of joy to your eyes. Their fights are only a symbol of jockeying for space in the big, bad, real world. There is a vast difference between child-rearing today and a few decades ago. The official policy then was spare the rod and spoil the child. In fact our parents rarely needed to use the rod, the mere sight of which was enough to make us fall in line with the latest home ministry notification. Today a parent using the rod, even for mere visual effect, is made to seem like a maladjusted freak of modern times. Do not be swayed by today's politically correct expectation. Use the rod very sparingly but do retain the option of using it. Overuse is counter-productive. Our children today are exposed to far more information than we were. They are convinced that they are also much smarter than us. This usually affects their willingness to obey their parents. When children get into their teens, this can become a major cause for friction. Try to keep t he rules to the bare minimum. Be firm on important issues and let minor issues be. Don't ever threaten children with punishment, which you will not be able to mete out. If they call your bluff you will fall flat on your face. Teach by example rather than preaching. We tell them to always tell the truth. Then when Aunt Rosie calls up and we want to avoid her because she talks too long, we tell them to tell her we have gone out. We talk about honesty. Then we bring home pencils or erasers or sharpeners from the office. Why do we have different rules for them and for ourselves? Our children are bound to be confused about right and wrong. Even worse, they will be convinced that the means justify the end. Last but not the least don't forget the family prayer. Make it a daily habit. Nobody in the family should be exempted. Decide on a time preferably before dinner. At our house we spend some time reading the bible followed by praying the rosary with spontaneous petitions for each decade. It is also nice to have a short family prayer in the morning before anyone leaves the house. We see those football teams congregating in a tight circle before a match. This is meant to be a unifying factor. We pray this way in a brief morning prayer before anyone leaves the house. Prayer is the best way to keep your family together. Stephanie is now close to 17 and Beverley is just 11. I’m not saying there have been no difficult times, no friction in our relationship with our daughters. But on the whole, we are like friends. There are a lot of good times we share together. Our world revolves round them and we don’t feel tied down. We are glad of it.
This is my debut review here and I would appreciate any suggestions to improve. P.G. Wodehouse (hereinafter called PGW) is a humorist par excellence. I started reading his books while I was in school about 3 decades ago. The Jeeves series used to have me in splits. I once remember traveling in a crowded bus (its almost always crowded) in Bombay; another fellow commuter was reading a book. Every now and then his face would break out into a wide grin. The other commuters thought he was crazy but, having spotted the cover page of the book he was reading, I was not the least bit surprised. It was, as you may have guessed, a PGW. They say the British are reputed to have a stiff upper lip but I have always admired their ability to laugh at their own foibles. See BBC’s “Yes Minister” as a case in point. PGW epitomizes this characteristic most emphatically. Off course I must add here that PGW lived most of his life in the US. If you’re looking for reverence to British aristocracy, you had better look elsewhere. Coming to this book, the plot is the usual convoluted situation where A loves B while B loves anyone but A. Adding to the complication is the fact that there are several As and Bs in a single plot. The central character here is Lady Maud, the pretty 20 year old daughter of Lord Marshmoreton. She loves an American called Geoffrey Raymond(GR), who is for the most part, absent from the scene. Her family (read “A Dominating Aunt”) would have none of this rubbish and confines her to the house. She has no business loving a commoner and more so a supposedly impoverished American. Enter another American, George Bevan a music composer who, meeting Maud in rather fortuitous circumstances at her vulnerable best, instantly falls for her. The family, not ever having met GR, thinks George is the guy Maud is after and desperately strives to keep her away from him. Maud meanwhile, unaware of George̵ 7;s love for her, conscripts him as an ally to help her to reach GR. While this is happening, Lady Caroline Byng, the scheming, dominating elder sister of Lord Marshmoreton is keen that her son, Reggie Byng sign on the dotted line with Maud. Off course it goes without saying that Reggie loves someone else; namely Alice Faraday, the young secretary of Lord Marshmoreton. Reggie is your typical Bertie Wooster type and I would have liked a little more of him to liven up the story. His role however, is only peripheral to the main proceedings and he flits in and out of the story. Then there is the staff on the estate that take bets and throw their considerable weight behind one or other candidate for the prize of Maud. Chief among these are the butler Kegg and pageboy Albert. I wouldn’t like to reveal more of the plot lest I spoil your fun. PGW contrives to have plenty of comic situations throughout the book. The situation where George visits the estate for the first time and mistakes Lord M as the gardener is pretty hilarious. To make matters worse, he enlists Lord M’s help to get a note across to Maud. Above all else PGW is a master of the language. He has the ability to be funny even with a completely non-existent plot or devoid of comic situations. I feel I am smiling through every sentence of his books. He can describe even the most mundane in a style that can make me laugh. I would happily have appended a few samples here but they may not seem so enjoyable when read out of context. Forget your worries, pick up a copy of this book and laugh your guts out.