Moving On

Posted on March 31, 2017 under Storytelling with 16 comments

 

In a few days time, I will be heading to North India for a vacation. I won’t have my laptop computer with me, so I am going to try and publish my stories on my iPhone.

This is a test to see if I can do this efficiently and accurately. Now don’t go all haywire on me if this post doesn’t come out perfectly.

Do me a favor, and send me a short note to let me know that you have received this message.

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on March 30, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with 5 comments

 

“ Misty, water colored mem’ries, of the way we were.”

The Way We Were . Barbra Streisand

Memories accumulate over the years and one hopes when all is said and done, that the good outweigh the bad. The brain seems to have an infinite number of gigabytes and from time to time, will instantly recall events from 50 years ago. For me, hearing an old tune will evoke vivid memories. “ Hey Jude” or “Whiter Shade of Pale” instantly takes me back to high school dances at the Parish Center…. waiting for the last waltz.

So what, pray tell, does this have to do with my second ayurvedic massage? Those of you who read this column regularly will recall that my first massage in India ended up in bloodshed. http://www.week45.com/a-well-oiled-machine/

The Bed and Breakfast at Stella Maris now offers massages as a value added proposition. A man with 13 years of experience has joined the staff to provide comfort for weary travelers. The B@B is owned by the Daughters of Mary and virtually everything they do, is centered around spirituality. So it was no surprise that Sister Archana volunteered me (!) to be the recipient of the first massage, accompanied by a prayer offering, to officially open the massage room.

The ceremony took place just after dusk and before supper was served. I expected a blessing followed by a photo op of me ( partially clothed ! ) lying on the massage table. I reckoned that 15 minutes should do it nicely. I arrived a few minutes early to chat with Shaji. The room had a few religious symbols and candles… and incense. I looked at the massage table and my jaw dropped slightly as I saw a cotton loincloth.

At 7:00, four Sisters arrived plus a handful of the staff, who all crowded in to a small space. It was 29 degrees. No air conditioning. I immediately started to perspire and it wasn’t because of the oppressive heat. I was wondering about the photo op… and the loincloth.

Prayers commenced. “The First Sorrowful Mystery.” Everyone dropped to their knees. And just like that, I was transported back in time to 39 Hillcrest Street fifty or more years ago when the ten of us hit the hardwoods every noon hour to say a decade or two of the rosary. Because of our proximity to Morrison School and Antigonish High, we were able to go home for a full dinner at midday. Once the meal was dispatched, we would gather in the living room and grab prayer beads.

At 7:40 prayers ended. Beads of sweat took on a whole new meaning. My stomach was rumbling and I was anxious to get the photo done so that I could eat supper. I soon found out that there would be no photo taken but that I would have the first “ ceremonial massage” to officially mark the opening of the massage center. To my enormous relief, the Sisters and the rest of the entourage left the small “ easy bake oven.” It was more like Dante’s “Inferno.”

At 8:45 it was over. “ You need to let the oil sink in for another hour “ said Shaji. He told me to get dressed ( shorts and a t-shirt ) and to go and eat my supper…lathered in oil. I entered the small dining area and the four Sisters were just finishing their dinner. I looked like some zombie from a horror movie. “ Sorrowful Mystery” took on a whole new meaning.

I am happy to report that the massage was excellent and that I didn’t receive any injuries to my body!

Have a great day.

P.S. Help build an indoor washroom for 25 orphan boys. We need $700 more to start the work. To donate go to http://www.week45.com/supporting-the-daughters-of-mary-in-india/

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 27, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 2 comments

Master mixologist

 

 

“ It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or how you feel… there’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.” Gabriel Ba.

On Saturday afternoon, my Irish friends asked me to join them for a walk. We usually don’t walk together as we always like to have someone minding the Bed and Breakfast. However, with the imminent departure from India by the three of us, the Sisters are starting to bring in replacements.

In every village, town and city in India, the tea shops are ubiquitous. It’s hard to go fifty feet without someone beckoning you for a “ chai.” Most, if not all of these, are family run businesses and are often multi generational. India is famous for its tea but make no mistake, there are many coffee lovers as well.

Despite the fact that I was able to secure a reliable source of fair trade coffee a few months ago and now make my own,  there’s still something sociable about visiting one of these small shops and having a coffee or two.

When I arrived in India last October, I remember the first time that I asked for a black coffee at one of these shops. I thought it was a language barrier thing that the proprietor had a puzzled look on his face. I found out later that “ filtered” coffee is quite rare unless one goes to a higher end restaurant. So, I accepted the coffee that I was given. It was served in a shot glass. And so began my love affair with drinking coffee…. Indian style. It is made with boiled milk, a scoop full of coffee and some sugar. It is expertly prepared,  the hot liquid being poured from one vessel to another to make sure the concoction is mixed properly.

As mentioned, there are hundreds of these shops. Early on in my time in Kanyakumari, I found one place that was fairly new. It is partially outdoors and exposed to the elements. There are no tables or chairs. All of the patrons simply stand. Because the serving size is small, there is hardly time to carry on a long conversation unless of course, you decide to have more than one. I immediately liked the feel of the place and decided that this would be my “ go to” place. I have gone there just about everyday since I discovered it.

Did I mention their treats? Sri Devi ( named for the goddess Lakshmi ) , the name of the establishment, also serves goodies both sweet and savory. Cookies, pieces of cake and assorted Indian delicacies are placed in large glass jars with lids. The jars are conveniently located on the counter and once you become “ a regular,” you just help yourself.

The owners are in their fifties and they have several sons who serve the customers. They don’t know a word of English. They smile and gesture. This doesn’t require language skills.

On one of my first walks with Ninian, he told me about his favorite coffee spot. Obviously great minds think alike .

My routine is well rehearsed. I show up at Sri Devi wearing my Tilley hat, perspiring profusely. After all, it has been in the 30’s every day since my arrival in December. I doff my hat, placing it on top of a large pile of bottled water encased in plastic. I waltz over to the counter and once eye contact is made with any member of the staff, the person making coffee swings into action, making my coffee with care and precision… with just the right amount of sugar. A hot shot glass full of steaming coffee is placed on the counter. I dip my hand into one of the large glass jars and extricate a cookie. Depending on the day, this may be repeated two or three times.

You know this is a well run business as there are always people walking up to the counter to get their daily fix. Coffee, tea and treats are not the only items for sale. You can buy cigarettes but these are typically dispensed one smoke at a time. In this part of India, smoking doesn’t seem to be prevalent.

I usually have both cell phones with me: one to tether and the other to check mail etc. One day, while I was looking at some photos, one of the staff came over to look. It was a quiet time of the day and the next thing, I had the whole extended family craning their necks to see pictures of my family and my hometown. A picture is worth a thousand words… more if you don’t speak Tamil.

It’s a wonderful place to spend a few minutes and watch the world pass by. They asked me through an interpreter about opening a shop in Canada. Once I described February, they didn’t think franchising to Canada would be a great idea!

They always give a big wave when I`m leaving. And I wave back.

New friends.

 Worlds apart but closer than one might think.

Have a great week.

 

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