Big Fat Indian Wedding in Mumbai

When I say I was overwhelmed by the wedding in December, it is an understatement. After we settled in, there was constant activity at my cousins house for the wedding preparations. Every day there was activity, more family visiting, more ceremonies, more rehearsals for the the festivities (Pre-wedding and wedding).

For 5 days we didn’t even leave the general vicinity of the house we were staying in. Shopping, eating, shopping, eating, dance rehearsals, wedding preparations and daily evening festivities were the order of the week. For these days passed so quickly, that I felt like I was living in a different world. So this was what it meant to have a real Indian wedding!

We were fortunate that we had purchased a cell phone with totally “free” service so we could communicate with the outside world. Keep in mind as a foreigner this kind of purchase has to be done by a native. For approximately $80 I got a phone which had dual Sims and unlimited data, voice and text messaging. Outstanding!

We were able to get currency exchange at the local market (thankfully), so we were able to spend cash freely. Keep in mind, the de-monitization issues were still visible everywhere. No money at ATMs and getting change when you do spend money was not easy.

With every day wedding activities and shopping, by end of day, we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep. Keep in mind of the first day or so we were both having jet lag issues, so sleep was a commodity!

Anyway.. we survived and back to the wedding preparations:

The love within the family for each other and their togetherness was absolutely genuine. What I realized is that family is family no matter if you are in India or outside the country. First and second generation cousins who had never met each other were spending hours upon hours and days together and enjoying each others company! Every day was a blast! When you have a large family like mine (I have like 17 first cousins), and of course these cousins have their kids!

Generation 1 (me and my cousins) and Generation 2 (the kids of my cousins) were so amazing and so in tune with what needed to get done for the wedding. There were three major event preparations happening simultaneously.

  1. My aunt’s 80th birthday celebration and the wedding preparations. Two nights before the wedding was my Aunt’s 80th birthday celebration. This was  a dual event as in addition the the birthday celebration, there were simultaneous Henna being applied to all the women and girls that were part of the wedding celebration!
  2. Dance Rehearsals for the Dance party (Sangeet) the day before the wedding ‘
  3. Wedding preparations (including all Hindu religious pooja’s  and food preparations on a daily basis

All of the above was going on in the same house we were staying!

My Aunt’s birthday celebration was a huge success. She had no idea about the party and she was absolutely overjoyed. For me it back fond memories of my mother and how great it would have been to see her here enjoying her younger sister’s 80th birthday party!

The night before the wedding was the Sangeet (singing and dances) celebration at a hotel near to where we stayed. OMG, the preparations, the dance rehearsals (your’s truly did perform a dance – which we will not discuss further), and the performances at this event were a sight to be seen. Let’s just say the alcohol was flowing and and everyone was having a great time!

The next day was the wedding! This wedding was an all day affair that included wedding and reception. There must have easily been a combined of about 500 to 750 people at both events. Of course my cousins and our huge family out staged everyone at the wedding and reception. We are absolutely a loud bunch of people! Someone called me their ring leader,  yet I do resemble that remark!

To see a wedding like this is kind of overwhelming! To see cousins and family you have not seen in years is such a joy and you get a sense of belonging. This is something I absolutely feel at times here. I really don’t have any close relatives that are in NJ and my cousin in California is quite a distance away.

Pre-wedding  shopping that my daughter and I did was endless. My daughter and I had to buy our wedding outfits and even though it was pretty straight forward, the choices were amazing. As I had said in my other posting, everything was just a taxi ride away at the local market area in Vile Parle East. Even after converting into dollars the purchases were a tremendous bargain!

By the time we got home from the wedding reception, we were exhausted!

The day after the wedding, my daughter and I took a taxi tour of Mumbai.. This was amazing! The crowds, traffic and the sights and sound of Mumbai was visual and audio overload! Let me leave details on this for another post!

The wedding celebration my daughter and I experienced, is something that neither one of us will forget for a long long time. It was exhilarating to spend time with family and to see the love that my family showed towards each other was something I have NEVER experienced.

To say that this wedding was “A big fat Indian Wedding” is an understatement, but from what I understand, most weddings in India are like this!

 

 

 

 

 

India Trip- Mumbai Airport

When we went to India, we arrived in Mumbai Airport (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport). This airport is really impressive. Be prepared to walk, this is truly an impressive airport.

When I came here 6 years ago, the airport used to be called Sahar Airport, and it was un-impressive. The design and architecture of this airport now is very impressive. The airport is spacious  and comfortable but let me warn you.. you will walk and walk and walk a substantial distance from the gate to the Immigration area.  I estimated that I had to walk at least a 1/4 of a mile..

Immigration is where the fun starts.

If you don’t know what you are doing (and I’m one of those people), you are guaranteed to go to the wrong lines. In India, you have Indian Nationals, OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) and Visa Holders (me!).

Each of the above has a separate line and you can easily spend an hour on each of these lines as I had to do on two of the lines. The OCI Line for my daughter and the Visa line for me. Of course her line was pretty efficient, but the fun was on my line. I was redirected to the “special” line for Visa Holders.

BTW, you should make sure you print out your e-Visa as this paperwork is absolutely essential.. Otherwise you will not be able to enter India! We almost lost this paper copy of my e-Visa in Newark, as it fell out of our passport folder.. Luckily, I picked it up from the floor at Newark Airport!

In each of the visa lines, there are plenty of stations for visa processing, BUT only a few are  actually manned.. Maybe this was a slow work day?

On my e-visa line, after waiting 45 minutes for the 2 manned stations, I finally got to the counter. My visa was in order.. but of course, they wanted to take retinal scans as well as fingerprint me. Security is a great thing when things work well. I realized quickly that the fingerprint scanner was not working well at all. I was asked to put wax on my fingers to get a better read.. of course the container that the agent gave me didn’t have any wax!

After about 10 minutes of sweat (mine), somehow, I was stamped on my paper e-Visa and allowed to enter India! Both hands were fingerprinted and a retinal scan was done as well.

To get to your baggage, you nave to exit thru the Duty Free Shop. Onward to Baggage Claim!

We get our bags, and I decide to get some local currency.. Bad Idea! Remember the word de-monitization. There were limits on how much US Currency I could convert. I could only convert $40.

Finally we get out and we need to two floor up to get our ride.. Elevators  are a commodity. It took us about 45 minutes as we had to wait among my fellow traveler’s as we patiently waited for the two elevators.

In retrospect, I was really impressed with the size and comfort level of the airport. The inefficiency of the immigration lines need to be addressed. When you see this airport you see the efforts that the Indian Government has made in making the Airport comfortable.

Just make sure you are wearing your walking shoes!

 

India 2017- A Trip in Review

First in a series of posts on my Big fat Indian Wedding in India and random thoughts of my trip to India in December of 2016

In the last month of 2016, My daughter and I went to India for the first time in o
ver6 years. We went for an Indian wedding and to say we had the time of our lives would be an understament.

India
India 

To see India as a native is also an experience that was eye opening. There is no country that is more diverse and has sense of pride than India. This country is a super power and you see this everywhere!

As many of my readers know, my writing is infused with a sense of humor. Over the next few postings, I’ll convey to you my views on what I saw during my vacation in Mumbai, Goa, Pune and back to Mumbai. Many of my opinions will invoke responses (hopefully). Much of what I saw and my thoughts should be just considered my views and treated with the humor and realism, I try to inject into my postings.

When I go to India, I am a foreigner.

  • I’m what they refer to as an IBCD (Indian Born confused Desi (slang term for a person of Indian Origin)). This year when I went to India with my beautiful 24 year old daughter, I went with an open mind and went without the normal prejudices I bring to the table when I visit India.

My experience in India was amazing! The changes in the lifestyle of the people that call India home (regardless of whether they live there or are NRI’s like myself), has progressed tremendously.

Some ramblings to start:

  • Be prepared to walk – When you get off the plane, the huge rebuilt terminals are just that.. huge and spacious.. your walk from your plane to immigration and customs will be at least 10 to 20 minutes. The vastness of the international airport in India is a sight to behold. The same holds true for the aiport in Goa.  What you experience in these terminals is for another posting.
  • Your Dollar goes further – If you are coming from United States, you are already at an advantage as you are getting a favorable return on currency. One dollar equals $67 Rupees. This number might make you feel rich, but the fact is that even with this favorable returns on currency exchange, it is quite expensive to get around (be it by taxi or other mode of transportation).
  • Currency and De-Monitization: 2016 was the year of demonitization of the 500 and 1000 rupee note.. this made getting money via ATM, via currency exchange an adventure. Empty ATM machines and Limitations on how much you can exchange for currency for me was quite restrictive. At the airport, I could only exchange $40 for local currency!
  • Change Anyone? Make sure you have plenty of cash on hand and change. Due to de-monitization and the basics how things run in India.. Don’t expect to get change easily.. So everytime you get change for currency you are using for payments, treasure it. You will need it!
  • Rules of the Road: There are none.Forget the concept of normalacy and organized traffic patterns  when it comes to automotive traffic and travel. The law of the land is “If u are in a car, Look Forward only, and lane indications are just for sake of having them“.  Remember that when you cross the streets.. you need to always look “right-left-right” and if you are an NRI, for the first few days, you are always looking the wrong direction when crossing ANY street!
  • Traffic is a mess, but rarely do you see any car that has dents or has been damaged due to an accident. The patience and skills that drivers in India show is amazing.. I have to applaud the patience of every single driver that is in a car, motorcycle, scooter, bus, taxi, rickshaw… and any other vehicle that is on the road!
  • Technology in India is at par with what we see in the US. In certain thing we have been left in the dust. Can you get a dual Sim phone in the US for less than $80?
  • Travel is divided into multiple categories: Pedestrian, Car, Public Transport, or Taxi (can be rickshaw, or taxi). Yes there is even Uber in most cities in India!
  • Travel Light: You can literally go to India with a carry on and get everything you need within 24 hours! With Malls and markets readily available buying d Clothes is not a big deal.. be they Indian or western (for me that’s Jeans, shorts and short sleeves).. So my suggestion is pack light and leave lots of room for souvenirs and clothes that you MUST buy!
  • Family is family – For me I met I attended my first real “Big Fat Indian Wedding”. The size of my family is huge and to meet them in one fell swoop is not only overwhelming, it’s touching. Considering I have 17 first cousins and each of them have a few kids, the family in attendance at the wedding was huge!
  • Curb your apppetite – With India comes food. You get the best variety of food in the world. Be it vegetarian or non-vegetarian. If you are looking for beef you are out of luck! Cows are sacred in Hindu religion, so you will not get any beef (or at least I didn’t find any) in Mumbai). Friendly advice… if your stomach is weak, make sure you take enough meds to settle your stomach, otherwise you will be making constant trips to the bathroom.. Most of these will not be pleasant as you will be running there! I was lucky.. I only had only 24 hours of this unpleasantness, but the symptoms were around constantly!
  • Security – India is very secure. With all the threats of terrorism, you will see plenty of armed military from the time you land to the time you leave. You will not feel insecure when it comes to this. At times this is overwhelming, but you will see that this is absolutely necessary with the world we live in.

There is so much more that I can write about my trip. I’ll use the next few postings over the next few days to give you my spin on my trip. 

 

I’m thankful for

As another holiday season approaches, I’m on annual staycation during Thanksgiving week and have had a chance to reflect on things. I know I ramble and I don’t necessarily stay on point on my postings, but today, as a I sit here listening to some great music on my Echo device, I am truly thankful for many things in my life

What am I thankful for today and every day of my life?

  • My Family – My kids and my brother. They are the ultimate barometer of me as a parent and as how I’ve influenced their lives. As they have grown up, they continue to showcase everyday their independence and their ability to persevere.
    • The last few years have been difficult for them, but yet both my girls have thrived and become the young ladies I always wanted them to be. Resourceful and successful each in their own rights.
    • Over the past few years, I’ve started to see life through their eyes not only as my children, but as young ladies growing up in today’s society. My girls are truly my pride and joy.
    • My brother has been my rock for the past few years. For many years, we didn’t get along, but over the past few years, we have healed our relationship and become not just true brothers, but really good friends. Over the past few years, he has gone out of his way to support me emotionally as I rode my roller coaster of emotions. Spending time with my brother and his family in Texas (yes it is hot in Texas!), I’ve managed to maintain my sanity, and at the same time realize that blood is always thicker than water.
  • My Life – My life over the past few years has been chaotic to say the least. Many don’t know that I’ve been working on version 2.0 of me. Why? Well when you don’t truly appreciate what you have and fight to keep it, you tend to lose it. Well that’s what happened to me.
    • Many don’t know that I become a divorced dad over 2 years ago. After almost 24 years of marriage, my married life ended. The cause for the disintegration of my marriage was multi-dimensional. I won’t go into it here. Yet let’s say, that relationships will either fail or succeed with communications and compromise. If you and your partner are not are not able  work together on both, you will end up a part of the divorce rate which now exceeds 50%!
  • Rebirth – Divorce is like death and rebirth of the individual. Even as you are going through the various stages of grief for the loss of a relationship, you are always walking forwards and looking for that light at the end of the tunnel where the sun will shine through once again.   Oh yes,  I  have spent the past two years plus in various stages of grief (anger is the one stage that is pervasive and a consistent formula in my daily life). I’ve learned to cope with my situation with various mechanisms for introspection and several parts humor (mostly sarcasm which is my forte).
  • My friends – I have very few friends, but the friends I do have have shown me over and over again what the meaning of true friendship is. These friends have now seen the best of times in my life and been and the worst of times.  There are only a handful of friends that can be honest with me and stand by me in my times of need. My friends helped me to keep my sanity when I felt totally isolated and didn’t know when it would stop raining and the sun would come out again for my life.
  • Tennis – Playing tennis has enabled me to re-direct my negative energy into a positive force on the courts. I found that the more negative emotions I had, I focused more on the game to be a better player and focus on the game as a “safe place” for me to be in my darkest hours. At times, I entered into a Zen state when went on the court and all the grief, anger and the overwhelming angst was left on the court. I actually became a better player over the past few years!

As 2016 draws to a close, I’ve turned the corner into a new sense of individuality and purpose. Perhaps its just that I’m getting older, but perhaps being retrospective allows me some gain some perspective on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.. Be sure to tell your loved ones, how grateful you are that they are in your life and be thankful for everything you have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Justice for Caylee Anthony – Justice is Blind

Is Casey Anthony’s acquittal on Murder Charges an example of an OJ trial without the fame?

As a parent and as an American, I was appalled yesterday at the justice that wasn’t dished out in the Casey Anthony trial. To see a mother walk away free after killing her 2 year old daughter is without doubt (and as the jurors had “reasonable doubt“) is truly an amazing act of cowardice that can be acted on by any jury in any state, but of course this travesty of justice occurred in Florida.

I guess when they say that “justice is blind”, in this case, justice was deaf too to the inconsistencies of the story that was presented by the defense and which the prosecutors could not refute “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Yes, the “burden of proof” lies with the prosecutors, but come on people, would you see this same verdict if the mother was a minority and could not hire a good lawyer that could convolute the trial with lies and just imaginary avenues of logic (see  Yahoo News).

So Casey Anthony, lied, lied and lied, but for that her time in court,  she will get time served (for her 3 years of incarceration) and walk out of prison within a day or two.  Tell me how many many similar cases of extreme child abuse occur in NYC to the poor and the minority children by their caregivers and parents and  and how caregivers will have the opportunity to have their trial televised literally every day,  to garner the “show” that this trial turned out to be. Personally, I was not riveted to the screen nor the papers when it came to this trial. I just casually observed the progression of this trial as an parent of two girls who was just appalled at the direction that these proceedings went and the end result.

The lack-of-evidence syndrome that is easily played out in today’s courts for the defendants that can show that they have the know how and the resources to play the card of “reasonable doubt” just gets under my skin.

Let’s take this scenario: You have a poor, destitute “person of color” mother who kills her 2 year old, hides her in her car, lies about how her child died, lies about where she worked, and on an on..do yo uthink this woman will get away with Murder??

Extracted from Yahoo News!

She lied about being employed at Universal Studios. She lied about leaving Caylee with a baby-sitter, then again when she recounted to investigators that she had told two imaginary people that Caylee was missing. She also lied about receiving a phone call from Caylee the day before she was reported missing.

I almost forget… With this fame, Casey once freed will make the talk show circuit and gain more fame and wealth with her silly “smirk”. Casey will of course proclaim her  innocence and tell the world how she was molested as a child, and how this caused irreparable damage on her poor fragile psyche.. oh please!

I can hardly wait for the book and the movie to come out! Oh wait.. I think that’s been done already!