Friday, December 30, 2011

In India - Thoughts As 2012 Begins - December 31, 2011

I find myself so far from home,
As I wait for New Year's day,
Yet the magic of technology,
Makes no place far away.

I'll raise my glass at midnight,
And toast to all I see,
For here in crowded India,
I've fulfilled my destiny.

Last New Year's eve I told myself,
I'd made a dream come true,
To return to far off India,
To see beloved cruise ship crew.

People thought me crazy,
It's not for one your age,
That trip is for a youngster,
You're way beyond that stage.

I felt just more determined,
Though I suffered from self doubt,
Each time there was an obstacle,
I, somehow, worked it out.

With the blessing of my sons,
I boarded that long flight,
And the rest, of course, is history,
As I celebrate tonight.

I embrace the New Year,
From this land so dear to me,
And pray it showers blessings,
To every land and sea.

I always pray for peace,
To reign upon the earth,
To follow every little child,
From the moment of their birth.

From this land of many gods,
I wish for all mankind,
Prosperity in the coming year,
May happiness you find.

Carmen Henesy
 Copyright (c) December  31, 2011 by Carmen Henesy 
All rights reserved

Why Am I In India? December 30, 2011

Why Am I in India?

I came for many reasons,
To see friends dear to me,
In search of new adventure,
In a land of mystery.

I came to see the temples,
With carvings so sublime,
Left by master craftsmen,
From a far and distant time.

I came to share a way of life,
So different from my own,
To see the wealth that lies beyond,
My personal comfort zone.

I came to eat such wondrous foods,
With spices most divine,
I hope to garner cooking tips,
To make these secrets mine.

I came to feel amazement,
At everything I see,
From the struggles faced by many,
To the harmonious diversity.

I came to know the joy,
Village life bestows on me.
And the thrill when a little boy,
Waves and yells, "Hello, aunty".

I came to see the cities,
And the small towns by the seas,
I came to see all that I can,
To fill me with memories.

I hadn't any idea, though,
On that December day,
That when I got to India,
I'd give my heart away.

Carmen Henesy
Copyright (c) December 2011 by Carmen Henesy 
All rights reserved.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in Mumbai - December 26, 2011

Aside from a brief bit of melancholy which was quickly eliminated with phone
calls to my three sons, my Christmas in Mumbai was a very special time.
I was all caught up in the real sense of family felt everywhere.  Of course,
practically everyone in this village is either a Santos or a Pereira so it's all
about family.  And everyone was gracious enough to make me feel
included in it all.

For days, my "sister", Lorna, was making sweets from dawn to dusk - every
sort of confection, many familiar cookies and cakes, some I'd never had,
like guava candy.  I am a big fan of guava and quickly laid claim to that
entire tray of tidbits.  When we visited other houses, that's the first thing
for which I searched.

We went to Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Health Church in an
outdoor setting in the village.  It was a nice warm night, brilliant with
stars, and I let my mind wander as I sat beneath the palm fronds,
bedazzled by all the ladies in the most splendid bejeweled and colored

When the choir began to sing, I was totally in awe, not having expected
such vocal perfection.  Their rendition of "Mary, Did You Know?"
moved me to tears.

Beautiful Lorna Santos...I couldn't believe the length of this 
sari fabric and the work it takes to get it wrapped so beautifully.

Ode and Lorna Santos and their son, Nick, who is about to celebrate
his 21st birthday.  Jake, the other son, was absent for our photography 
session.  Santos is the first person I met and became friends with when
 I began cruising with Royal Caribbean...he's the one who nurtured my
love of India and Indians!!!

The church setting was packed and most of us were standing out by the 
graveyard where you could still see the altar.  I had my walker with me so
I was able to sit....and I must admit, from time to time, my mind wandered.
I happened to be glancing down when I spotted a mouse scurrying a couple 
of rows behind me, over the feet of the men standing there.  A couple of 
men spotted it but none of the ladies did.  It ran back and forth for a little 
while which really made me giggle.  I kept imagining the ruckus that would 
ensue if even one lady had seen it - colorful saris flying, and screams
competing with the choir.  Fortunately, the mouse finally headed out into
the graveyard and disaster was averted.

At communion time, the priest came out toward where our crowd was 
standing and I was surprised to see this tall, handsome young man who 
looked like he should have been a Bollywood star instead of wearing a
priest's vestments.  During my church going days, all the priests I ever had
were ancient!

After Midnight Mass, we all went home where we made the rounds of
each other's houses, eating and drinking till the wee small hours of the
morning.  After a bit of a nap, the Christmas day round of visits began
again, with platefuls of sweets being exchanged among households 
and another nap to ready ourselves for the evenings festivities.

Boy, do these Indians know how to party!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Thoughts from India - December 24, 2011


As Christmas dawns,  I'm far from home,
Boats ply the Arabian Sea,
I've traded the clanging cable car bells,
And coffee for fragrant chai tea.

This ancient land of India,
Opened up its arms,
Exotic and mysterious,
Seductive with its charms.

Over a billion people dwell,
In relative love and peace,
Giving worship to their different gods, 
Will wonders never cease!

Of course, I miss my family,
But I feel much love right here,
My Indian family and good friends,
Share infectious holiday cheer.

It matters not where you travel,
Next door or a distant clime,
Just keep the spirit of friendship,
Foremost in your heart all the time.

For that is what Christmas is all about,
Not tinsel upon a tree,
It's peace on earth, good will toward men,
Friendship between you and me.

Carmen Henesy

Copyright (c) December 2011 by Carmen Henesy
All rights reserved.

To my family, my friends worldwide, old and new,
the followers of my blog, all who
have made me so welcome here in India -
I wish you joy and peace this holiday season, and
a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.
Perhaps, with the help of all our gods, we might find that elusive world peace we are seeking.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Market I Will Go - December 22, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even so far from home.  All over
in my Indian village, one smells sweets cooking and, since I have "family"
everywhere ( it seems like half the village is of the Santos clan ), I am being
offered tidbits by everyone.

The other day, I went with Kamlah, the lady who comes twice daily to help
Lorna with household chores, do laundry, and run to the market.  I wanted
to buy myself some more Odomos cream, my weapon in the war against
the mosquitoes.

Outside, in the large compound next to the house, I found a vigorous game
of cricket under way.  I stopped to cheer the lads who, initially were a bit
shy.  I asked if I could take pictures and they agreed and began to ham
it up.  I told them I was from California and no one seemed to know
where that was until I said, "it's the home of Disneyland."

Aren't these the cutest guys you've ever seen?  One of them
may well be a cricket star someday.  From what I've observed,
it's a bit like American baseball.

I love papaya, especially the small Hawaiian variety.  These look more
like the ones I've had in Mexico.  I pass them going to the market.

Village shrine honoring the deceased members of the Santos family

We stopped at the chemist so I could replenish my Odomos.  It seems that
they only had one large tube and one small tube left so I took both and 
asked them to order more.  I know I'll need it.  I finally had my face nearly
cleared up but, somehow, last night, I guess I didn't apply enough and I, 
once again, have red splotches everywhere....VERY EMBARRASSING,
as blogger friend, Deepak Amembal is picking me up tomorrow for a
luncheon meeting with Indian bloggers.

Here's the fish lady showing me "bombay duck" - a fish I enjoy very much.  I always
wondered how it got that name since it certainly isn't a duck and I turned to
the ever trusty Wikipedia for information.  It is actually bummalo ( Harpadon
nehereus ), a lizardfish.  It's native to the waters between Mumbai and Kutch 
in the Arabian Sea.  Once the fish is dried and salted, it has a most powerful
smell and is usually transported in air-tight containers.  

While the acquisition of the term "Bombay duck" is debatable, one answer
is that, when rail service was started,because of its strong smell, it was 
relegated to the mail train - the Bombay Mail or  Bombay Dak.  People,
strongly scented, were accused of smelling like Bombay Dak, a term used
in the days of the British Raj.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

There are about a dozen feral cats that hang out under this 
table waiting for scraps to fall.

Lulu Santos getting her fish for dinner!

Hard work, cleaning and cutting the fish

Sweet Lulu, with a friendly wave

At one point, a man in the crowd asked me to take his picture.  When I
hesitated, he grabbed up a stay dog and said, "How about now?"  I couldn't
refuse so here he is:

On the way home from the market, we passed a lassi, chai stand and I told
Kamlah I wanted a lassi.  She suggested we get it to go but I wanted to sit and
drink it there.  I plopped myself down and ordered and it wasn't till I was 
sipping my delicious lassi, equivalent $.40 US.  I looked around and realized
there were about 15 men seated and I was the only woman.  I looked at
Kamlah, waiting in front.  "Why am I the only woman," I asked.  "Women 
don't usually sit here."  I laughed and asked the man who served me, "Have
I made some sort of horrible mistake... are the women all home working and
the men are all goofing off?  Should I leave?"  They all looked at me, smiling
and told me, "No, stay."  I did, of course - but I did, then feel very out of

More to come in the adventures of Carmen and Sahar Village in Mumbai.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mumbai Mosquitoes - December 19, 2011

Mumbai Mosquitoes

They seem to be unending,
These soaring hoardes on high,
Dive bombing innocent victims,
Like warring samurai.

I try to circumvent them,
With pharmacy and such,
But the nasty little buggers,
Like foreign flesh too much.

Especially in the shower,
They seem to make a pass,
They seem to concentrate, it seems,
On my expanse of a@%*!

You may think I have the measles,
I know I look a sight,
A legion of those critters
Had their way with me last night.

While they are irritating,
I take it all in stride,
With my daily doxycycline,
And the CDC, my guide!

Carmen Henesy

Copyright (c) December 2011 by Carmen Henesy 
All rights reserved. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another Year Has Passed - Happy 41st, Shawn - December 17, 2011

Boy, the years are certainly racing by.  Last year, I posted a blog in honor of
my son, Shawn's 40th birthday which you can check out at:

There have been quite a few changes since then - not so much in terms of
Shawn's life but, certainly, for me.  Shawn is still that same terrific young man
he was last year, perhaps a bit grayer at the temples but still a George
Clooney look-alike and still a son of whom any mother would be pround.  He's
not even nearby so we can celebrate together.  He's off playing Air Force in
Texas for five months and I've moved from the home we had for 14 years and
am in India, of all places.  I'm fulfilling a dream and, Shawn, like his other
two brothers, told me to "go for it".  They've always been my best supporters.

So, my beloved first born, even though I can't be there with you today to share
a fine glass of shiraz or zin or pinot, my heart is with you in spirit.  It's ben a
great ride and I love you and am as proud as a mother can be to call you son.

Namaste from India.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Mumbai Thoughts and Scenes - December 16, 2011

Well, it is amazing at how fast time is flying here in India. I am well into my
second week already and I am a bit behind on my list of things I want to
accomplish. However, I guess I really don't need a fixed agenda. My main
purpose in being here is to reconnect with Indian friends that are special to
me and I have certainly been working on that. I had a really wonderful
surprise, shortly after I got to Mumbai, when a Royal Caribbean friend, I
hadn't seen in almost a decade, with business in Mumbai, from his home
in another part of India, came over to see me. I cannot believe I didn't get
a picture!

I've been so warmly greeted by folks I met in this village fourteen years ago
when I spent a week before heading on to Bangkok and a southeast Asian
cruise. I have been moved to tears, really. There is so much laughter and
talk as people stop by after work and dinner and we sit up late into the
night. Conversation goes back and forth from English into Hindi ( sometimes,
folks forget I am limited by not speaking any of the other Indian languages ) -
I just smile and feel so happy, just to be with everyone.

For all practical purposes, by American standards, life seems difficult here.
My friend, Lorna, won't let me do a thing which, I'm sure, adds to her work
load. She is up at 7AM, preparing chai, seeing her two sons off, one to work
for Jet India, the other to school. Though I normally don't eat breakfast,
she won't head to work herself without leaving something for me for
breakfast, no ifs, ands or buts. She also leaves something prepared for
lunch. If I ate all she fixed, my pre-trip fifteen pound weight loss would be
all for naught.

There is a servant lady that comes in morning and night to do major cleaning
and to wash clothes ( by hand ) and hang them on the terrace upstairs.

My friend, Santos, who is F & B manager at a small hotel not far from home,
normally works the evening shift and leaves about 1PM, returning by midnight.
Food is ready and waiting when he arrives. He and the oldest boy, Nick,
travel by motorbike. There is no car. Thankfully, Mumbai passed a helmet
law but, as far as I can see, most of the population chooses to ignore it.

Traffic here is terrifying. Nothing in the U.S., in my opinion, even the likes of
Los Angeles or New York, can compare. Mumbai doesn't seem to know
what traffic lanes are. People don't signal at all and five rows of traffic try to
occupy one lane, especially fearful if you are riding in an open auto rickshaw.

There are so many religions and many holidays to celebrate all of them. For
the most part, it seems that there is religious tolerance and people get along
quite well. I hear there is a great deal of corruption ( from my friends who are
Indian ) and, often, bribery is uitlized to get things done ( in business, govern-
ment, etc ). Yet, it is such an enchanting country, where such honor is given
to one's elders, Bollywood outdoes Hollywood in sheer number of films
produced and the colors of saris and beautiful attire rival that of the glories
of nature.

I'm afraid my time here will go much too fast and I will shed many tears as I
say goodbye to India. I can't bear to think about it now.

Out shopping with my "nephews", Nick and Jake Santos

There auto rickshaws, which are open on each side, are one of the main means 
of transport.  They get so close to each other, you can reach out and touch the
people in the one next to you.  I always feel like I should have on a helmet and
pads when I'm riding in them!!!

This might be a better way to go...above the traffic a bit!

Here's a better side view of the auto rickshaw.

The little girl in yellow, oblivious of traffic, was doing a happy dance in the street

People carry such heavy loads

Home in Sahar Village, near the international airport, Mumbai

The sky seen through lazy palm fronds

Coconuts and curry sandwiches....yummy.

Spraying for mosquitoes is a necessary evil.

While 85 - 90% of malaria fatalities occur in sub-Saharan Africa, it is endemic
in a broad band around the equator.  Sadly, one million deaths occur annually. 
I was quick to follow CDC guidelines for anti-malaria drugs, which I began a
week before departure and will continue for a month after I return home.  My
Indian friends sleep under mosquito nets and CDC recommends the ones that
are pretreated with an insecticide.  Regardless, I looked like I had the measles
after the first few days until my friend bought, Odomos, a nicely rose 
scented mosquito repellant.

Apartment building along the road into downtown Mumbai

Some things are the same the world over!

Difficult decisions



Out to see the Gateway of India

City of Lights

The Bandra-Worli Sea Link

Though it presented major engineering challenges, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link.
opened all eight lanes of its spans in March of 2010.  It links Bandra and the
western suburbs of Mumbai with Worli, curtting that travel time from about
an hour to fifteen minutes.  

Whirling by the lights of the city

Psychedelic lights of a Victoria carriage near the Gateway of India

The day of the Victoria carriage in Mumbai is drawing to a close, after 130 
years. Animal rights activists have deplored the conditions of the facilities 
where horses are stabled and legislation has been passed to eliminate this 
symbol of Mumbai.Tourists will have to find some other way to see the area 
around the Gateway

The lunar eclipse from the harbor at the Gateway of India

Some of my wonderful Indian family with the Gateway of India in the background

The Gateway of India, an example of  both Hindu and Muslim architecture,
was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and and Queen Mary
to Bombay, in December 1911. It seems fitting that the last British troops
leaving India exited through this gateway, as well - in a ceremony on
on February 28, 1948.

The Taj Palace Hotel at the Harbor in Mumbai has received many famous
guest including the Beatles and the Obamas.  It was the scene of the 2008
terrorist attacks that killed at least 167 people.

Having a drink at the Harbor Bar in the Taj Palace

With sisters, Lorna Santos and Alma D'Souza, at the Taj Harbor Bar

Good things to eat