Friday, 29 August 2014


Ganesha is widely worshipped as the god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune and traditionally invoked at the beginning of any new venture or undertaking.
Vinayaka Chavithi is a Hindu festival celebrated on the rebirth of Lord Ganesha, Shiva and Parvati's son. Indians celebrate this festival with great fervour since they believe that Lord Ganesh bestows his presence on earth for all his devotees during this festival.

The festival begins on the fourth day of the waxing moon in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada and it lasts 10 days. Weeks or even months before, artistic clay models of Lord Ganesha are made for sale by specially skilled artisans. They are ostentatiously decorated. People place these idols of Ganesha on raised platforms in colourfully decorated homes or in purposefully erected temporary outdoors tents for people to view and pay their homage. These structures, called pandals, are decorated with flower garlands, lights or theme based decorations which depict religious or current events. For 10 days devotees offer Ganesh coconuts, jaggery or sweets such as karanji, vada and laddoo, which the women of the house prepare laborously. And the priest, with the chanting of mantras, invokes the presence of Ganesha. On the eleventh day, the image is taken through the streets in a procession accompanied with dancing, singing and boozing to be immersed in a river or the sea symbolizing the see-off of the Lord in his journey towards his abode, while taking away everybody's misfortunes with him.


In my case, as I was a neophyte, I was taken from house to house and from temple to temple. My pupils and their families showed me all the poojas and traditions and fed me with all the sweets you can think of. I witnessed a snake pooja with Rundha;
I visited a little temple with some of the inhabitants of Marlapalle (where I was given rice and fruits and my face was 'made up');

I attended another pooja in Bharath's house (he chanted a kind of mantra while her mother offered Ganesh food and flowers);

I saw the sweet preparation at Bavith's house; I viewed a street pooja with Anuradha and Navya Sree;

And I finally saw the immersion in the river in Singirigunta;
Everywhere I went I ate, ate and ate, so imagine the stomachache I had and how many kilos I had put on when the festival finished!
They also told me two stories about Ganesh's creation. I'll tell you both.

The first one goes:

Once, while goddess Parvati wanted to take a bath, there were no attendants around to guard her and stop anyone from accidentally entering the house. Hence she created an image of a boy out of paste and infused life into it, and thus Ganesha was born. Parvati ordered Ganesha not to allow anybody to enter the house, and he obediently followed his mother's orders. After a while Shiva returned from outside, and as he tried to enter the house, Ganesha stopped him. Shiva was furious at this strange little boy who dared to challenge him. He told Ganesha that he was Parvati's husband, and demanded that he let him go in. But Ganesha refused to hear him. Shiva lost his patience and had a fierce battle with Ganesha. At least he severed Ganesha's head with his trishula. When Parvati came out and saw her son's lifeless body, she was very angry and sad. She demanded that Shiva restore Ganesha's life at once. Unfortunately, Shiva's trishula was so powerful that it had hurled Ganesha's head very far off. All attempts to find the head were in vain. As a last resort, Shiva approached Brahma, who suggested that he replace Ganesha's head with the first living being that came his way which lay with its head facing north. Shiva then sent his disciples to do so. They found a dying elephant which slept in this manner, and took its head, attaching the elephant's head to Ganesha's body and bringing him back to life.

The second one, my favourite, is:

On the insistence of Shiva, Parvati fasted for a year to propitiate Vishnu so that he would grant her a son. Lord Vishnu, after the completion of the sacrifice, announced that he would incarnate himself as her son. Accordingly, Krishna was born to Parvati as a charming infant. This event was celebrated with great enthusiasm and all the gods were invited to take a look at the baby. However, Shani hesitated to look at the baby since Shani was cursed with the gaze of destruction. Parvati insisted that he look at the baby, which he did, and immediately the infant's head fell off. Seeing Shiva and Parvati grief stricken, Vishnu mounted on his divine eagle and rushed to the banks of a river, from where he brought back the head of a young elephant. It was joined with the headless body of Parvati's son, thus reviving him. The infant was named Ganesha and all the gods blessed him and wished him power and prosperity.  

You choose the one you like best, but, anyway, may the blessings of Sri Ganesha be upon you all! May he remove all the obstacles that stand in your spiritual path! May he bestow on you all material prosperity as well as liberation!

And if you fancy, watch this Goodness Gracious Me video on a 'miracle':


Friday, 15 August 2014


Today, August 15th, Indians celebrate their Independence Day. They commemorate they awoke to life and freedom. As Jawaharlal Nehru said, they stepped out from the old to the new. After more than two hundred years of British rule, India finally won back its freedom in 1947.
All the patriotic hearts rejoiced at seeing India becoming a sovereign nation. It was a birth of a new nation and a new beginning. The only fact that marred the happiness was the fact that the country was divided into India and Pakistan and the violent riots took away a  number of lives.
Everybody, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, does something or the other to mark the birth of the world's biggest democracy. All the schools and colleges across the nation hoist the national flag on the rooftops and the buildings to symbolize the stature of the national flag as nation's pride. Also offices and businesses celebrate this day. Since it is declared a national holiday by the government of india, all the institutions, government or otherwise, have holiday. People only go to their offices to attend the flag hoisting ceremony.
Today they are jubilating the 68th anniversary. I celebrated the 66th. At the school I, as a newcomer, wore my first saree. I borrowed it from a teacher who is, at least, 40 pounds thinner than me. But they managed to stuff me into it. It was another matter to be able to breathe, but...
Everybody brought me anklets, bangles, earrings, flowers, necklaces,... so that I was pretty enough for the occasion. Bindhi (red dot on the forehead) included. I felt a little funny. A mixture of feelings. I felt like a geek, but at the same time I felt flattered since I sensed I was merging with them.
Everyone wanted to take a picture of me. That is the day when I lost my fear (or better said, allergy) of having my pic taken.
All the students at the school had prepared dances and songs.
Afterwards we played games and there was also a parade. It was a great way of breaking the ice. From that moment on I felt I was part of the institution.

Sunday, 10 August 2014


In a year you have time to get used to things and to get fed up with them. You also have time to miss others. It's not my case. I didn't really miss anyone or anything, but Spanish food was always welcomed. 

Sometimes, when my friend and I got really bored, we began fantasizing about having a Western dinner. We had a craving for pizza and paella, respectively. Sometimes we dreamed up a whole menu. It didn't sate our hunger; it only made our mouths water. 

After some months in India, my friend brought me a little can of olive oil. I remember having some toast with it as my Christmas lunch. I couldn't imagine a better delicacy than that! Every now and then I poured a few drops on a tomato and cucumber salad. Yummy! I made it last as if it were black gold! 

On another occasion he told me on the phone he had bought some ham for me. More than ever I was longing for his coming back. My surprise was when I opened the packet. It was not the famous Spanish Serrano ham but the boiled version; which is nice, but not that inviting. Don't get me wrong! I ate it with pleasure. 

Finally, the real ham came. It was the best present ever. I was about to set up an altar for it as Indians do for their gods. Moreover I know it was an odyssey to get it, so I appreciated it even more. My friend had to run like a maniac in the supermarket and nearly missed the bus. It's a pity I'd run out of oil by then. 

Although I am a fussy person, I was determined to try everything I was offered. Indians are not that way, though. 

They are not really fond of fungi. Once I was walking in the country and I saw some mushrooms, similar to the oyster mushrooms we eat in Spain. I decided to cook them for me and for the boarding school workers. I've got to admit that the dish left a lot to be desired, but the fact is that they didn't even make the effort to try them. Only one of them tasted the mushrooms, and, using Indian absence of sincerity, said they were OK, but he didn't have a second helping. 

Another day, taking advantage of the fact that the 'bosses' were away, I prepared a paella. Well, sort of! It had all its ingredients (adapted to the Indian market) but it was tasteless. Being an expert in rice dishes as I am, I guess it's the kind of rice used there, which doesn't absorb flavours. Everybody tried it, but as it was not hot, they didn't like it. Only when they added pickle or any other hot sauce, did they eat it.

And the same happened with another rice dish I prepared (tuna rice). Everyone added any available pungent sauce. My friend and I had two helpings, though. It was a time when we were a bit weary of the repetitive Indian cuisine. 

And the same old story when my mother came to visit me, and so to show the cooks some Spanish cooking, she sautéed some chicken livers (which were delicious, by the way). Six of one and half a dozen of the other! It was not hot. Translated into 'Indian', it was waste. 

But all in all, I love Indian food. And I missed it when I was in the Dominican Republic. The spices prevent you from sweating, which would have been great in such humid weather. 

The idea of opening a Spanish restaurant somewhere has crossed my mind. Now, taking full account of my fiasco, I know it can't be in India. 

P.S.: The awesome paella at the beginning of this post is not the one I cooked!