Diwali Dhamaka (Bang)

Diwali is the don(well I think so) of the Hindu festival calendar, but also important for Sikhs and Jains. In the UK we know it as the Festival of Lights.

It celebrates the victory of good over evil , light over dark (hence the name) and knowledge over ignorance. It also commemorates the return of the banished Lord God Rama (bit of a hero) and his wife Sita ( traumatised and a patient lady) to Ayodhya after 14years. I’ll fill you in on their story another time (Ramayana) – trust me we don’t have enough time now.

Having grown up in Southall from the age of about 12 I can confidently say that I have had many happy Diwalis here. I would like to share bits of the past and tell you about this one. Southall Diwalis are special!! Not saying yours’ aren’t … but Southall ones are the best.😜

There are some key ingredients that make a great Diwali. Like any good dish everyone has their own spin and favourite element. Adjust accordingly to your taste.

1. Getting the house ready: mum always said to make sure it was clean. I can confidently say that my house is clean, thanks to Rosa. And tidy .. well it’s better than last week and that’s enough of an achievement for me. No Rangolis (a decorative pattern outside the house – both for good luck and decoration)for me. Of course rse I would have done one but the rain stopped me. 😉. Next year for sure .

2. Diwali cards: interestingly I seem to have got worse. Having gone from being the queen of cards. If you sneezed you’d get a card from me. I’ve lost my patience with Diwali cards. If you buy them from Clintons it’s like a furtive operation. Excuse me do you have anything at the back or behind the counter? And they had better be printed on gold parchment for that price. And why is it that India can create silk sarees with a multitude of sparkly,shiny,colourful embellishments and patterns, make gold jewellery in a wonderful array of intricate designs (if you’re that way inclined, me I’m more for the silver). But we/they can’t make decent cards, unless of course they are the wedding variety. Are we just not meant to send them – will a text do? Or how about something radical like a phone call? Hang on one more , a personal visit (don’t please be rolling your eyes. I know that many family and friends are living away- I’m just illustrating a point by exaggerating).

3. Lights : not particularly green you may say and you’d be right. Lights on . Then as darkness descends we’re all out putting candles on the windowsills and walls. And those that are more retro have the beautiful clay divas . Poor simple candles – long forgotten. Who has, like me spent ridiculous amount of time lighting and relighting divas/candles in Oct/Nov in England? What are the chances of them staying alight for more than a few minutes 🤔.

4. Puja (prayers):My way today was to go to the gurdwara (Sikh temple) early and experience some peace and do some seva (service). Then my attempt at doing the aarti both at my Bedford house and my parent’s house in Southall. It’s ok I have everything on my phone 🙏🏽. If this isn’t your thing just be at peace and be kind.

5. Buying of mithai & Giving of Mithai (Indian sweets): this is another interactive tradition that will involve queues at Ambala or Royal in Southall .Or Bala in Bedford. I mixed it up this year – Bedford sweets for Londoners and Southall sweets for Bedfordians. Always helping to broaden the experiences 😂. Unless you know what they like always go for the mixed box- but make sure there’s is some Badam Barfi and Gulab Jamun and Gajrela and laddoos (besan and boondi) .. see what I mean, mixed is best and now you know what I like too. The closer the people the bigger the box (not really !🙄).

6. Wearing something new: that’s like the simplest instruction !

7. Family and Friends: to give you juppis and puppis (hugs and kisses). To be able to share this special time. And don’t forget those that may not have anyone.

8. Fireworks (at all times follow the health and safety rules). – Don’t let off fireworks within residential areas – – Don’t let off fireworks by parked cars.- -Don’t allow industrial grade rockets to be let off by a teenagers. Forgot all of that. And note to self don’t park your car near the house. It was a “firework” fight between the roads. It was the longest display ever. Craning our necks and praying that there were no incidents! One wonders if they should actually be sold to joe public. My nephew found great joy in just playing with Snapits . What happened to the Catherine Wheel and The Fountain: just not big and brash enough for 2018! No need to contact Ealing Council just yet – we are good citizens that clear up our fireworks debris.

9. Food: The most important item is The Food… well I’m sure we won’t need to eat again till Christmas after today. My day started off with breakfast at the gurdwara which consisted of puris / kaale chane/ yoghurt/ laddoo/halwa . I admit I had to take the laddoo away . For lunch I had a samosa and the laddoo wrapped in my handbag! Dinner one in my mum’s house and Dinner two at our family friend’s house , across the road. Of course the gaps were filled with anything fried and sweet – anything else is just rejected.More food is left over than was eaten. All those storage dubbas (boxes) have come in handy.I think we’ll be eating this for days… Nom Nom. Thank goodness for work colleagues.

This is how the community built … in and out of each other’s houses , sharing food, good & bad times. Watching us kids grow and escape only wishing to be back in the homes full of memory treasures.

Southall Broadway was showing off in its full glory of noise , colour and light. The hustle bustle of locals and outsiders who come to get a fix of “India”. Stalls filled with all you need to make your Diwali tip top. Queues in the sweet shops. Jalebis being fried and being eaten – “garam garam” (hot and fresh). Lights from the decorations and the fireworks going off in all directions.Music blasting from cars, stalls, restaurants and we were adding to this on our road by having our normal street party. Come early otherwise you’ll get sucked into Southall traffic chaos and the inner Diwali peace and love may not last.

This year was unusual as no mummy and papa as they are in India. But in their place Simon experienced his first Southall Diwali. “You’re all the same… feeders”! And copes admirably with the “just one more small gulab jamun” routine 🙄. He’s also still not got the obligatory present 🤷🏽‍♀️.

Before I end …my most traumatic event over last 24 hours remains being called called aunty in Bala!!! 😂 it happened at roughly 2.00pm and the offender should have know better. He was bald and built like a brick house. I said did you just call me aunty!!!😡 He was taken aback and apologised. Said he was going to say sister and just wanted to be respectful 🤦🏽‍♀️. I said Happy Diwali and moved on with my life.

Saal Mubarak (Happy New Year) to you all . Whatever you have hoped for this coming year I hope you get it and more.

I delight in the drama of life …..that’s what my affirmation card said today. How well they know me …

🙏🏽

Seema

( don’t worry it will be Christmas shortly)

Fun Friday and Super Saturday 💃

What a weekend and it’s only Sunday morning (I may just be getting too old for these shenanigans or masti🤷🏽‍♀️. But my FOMO won’t let it stop). And anyway I still need to use up all these Indian outfits and not forgetting the wardrobe full of long black dresses and some short ones .

Bedford is such a happening town these days !! We are so lucky to live here. There are diverse communities who just get on with their lives. There are further sub groups within these groups – how are you meant to keep up. The trick is to remember we are all just human beings. Simples.💕The borough has a great Mayor (David Hodgson) and Bedford has a hard working MP (Mohammad Yasin). The latter is bit like the Scarlet Pimpernel- but in his case we do actually find him everywhere.

We have good health and roofs over our heads. And most of us lead a reasonably charmed life and we know that. I’ve seen some of you at Waitrose 👀 (local gossip – Lidl are opening next to Waitrose- how pissed off must they be?!?! )And our wonderful FB posts from all corners of the world. However there are many who are not so lucky and need our help. It’s what makes us human .. the ability to help others and following through with action. That ACTION can be a 10p contribution in a rattling collection tin, a monthly donation, your time , a donor card and the list goes on… Here ends the sermon on this Sunday morning. Have another ☕️ but I’m hoping you’re smiling and not rolling your eyes.

So this blog is about two events. One on Friday evening and the other on Saturday and my silly Saturday day !😂Let me tell you what went down and how yours truly survived.

The SMART Prebend Jazz Ball

Our lovely friend Chantal Thomas (Book Club Chantal ) is one of the trustees for the Prebend Day Centre in Bedford. They help the homeless (365 days of the year)with food , clothes , support and basics such as facilities to shower. To feel normal. We can’t judge anybody- we haven’t lived their lives. We have to just accept their “now” and help. The centre held a Jazz Ball at Sharnbrook Hotel on Friday night. Love the naming of these events – if we call it a dinner and dance, we can add £5 to ticket and £10 if we call it a ball. Fantastic marketing 👍🏽.

What to wear – not Indian (that’s for Saturday).Black dress. One that fits. One that has easy underwear options – you all know what I mean. Those VPL issues, do you dare go commando 😱, clear bra straps , strapless bras – it’s just pants!! Heels that you can dance in and work with the dress 🙄. Accessories that convey the look you are trying for – elegant I think today!!

So get to event having picked up Susan and Nitasha . My driver (Simon) was somewhat delayed by our not so close or good friend the M25. The dress code memo was obviously lost in translation.I’m in a long sexy black dress (let me believe it), Susan is in evening trousers and blouse. Nitasha is in her antique flapper dress and has a feather headband in her hair! She looks every inch a 20’s star. Poonam has also seen the same memo as me and was sporting a sexy long black shimmery dress. Chantal having only just got back from South Africa was in a short purple number but with ankle boots – it worked! This is know as comfort. It was a wonderful fun evening where all the men and ladies tried on the feather headdresses – we have photos. Roz packed up the extra meat for the dogs and then went onto to win a personal training session in the raffle. As with all charity events the auction then started. I bid for a salon appointment and got it – it’s for charity but I need all the help I can get. But us girls had our beady eyes on a villa in Paxos. Quick negotiation as to what would be the limit so we didn’t get too excited .. can you imagine trying to explain that to organisers “no we didn’t mean to bid £5000. We got the 000 wrong”. We got it. Another holiday for 2019? Poor Roz she’s going to have to spend time with a Vegetarian and Vegan!! The rest of the book club will be in an adjoining villa we hope 📚.

The evening was supported by the Mayor and Chief Sheriff . The Prebend Team were a high energy bunch and had pulled off their first ball with great success.

———————————————————

My Saturday of grrrrrrs

I am very proud to announce that I made it to the gym for a 9am Body Combat class. I am too discreet (😉) to say who I was kicking and punching. And Ofcourse I had smashed avo on toast for breakfast. I may even have had cracked black pepper. And there ends the smooth Saturday

1. Take shoes for resoling to Timpsons . Machine out of order.

2. We go to currency’s booth to get some Yen for Simon. None available. Looks like only he’s the only one going to Japan from Bedford. I didn’t roll my eyes at my husband!!

3. Go to Bubbly’s to pick up my outfits for the evening. Not ready. Need to come back . 🤦🏽‍♀️

4. Go to Waitrose to collect some makeup. Love the click and collect service. Order not recognised. Madam could you recheck your email. Ground swallow me up now ! Yours truly has sent it to John Lewis at St Pancras. Apologies all round – from me only and I retreat.

5. I go back to Bubbly’s and finally collect my outfit. Thanks Vinita for the authentic Baroda ghagra.

Simon comments what a lovely drive around Bedford we’ve had.😡

——————————————————

BIC (Bedford Indian Community)DIWALI EVENT @ BUNYAN SPORTS CENTRE

Bedford Indian Community = everyone from North to South ; East to West (of Bedford – what did you think I meant?)

The first part of the evening was being the

DKMS pouncer – official role now! Poonam and Bali had been the proverbial Germans (stereotyping) and got the DKMS tables by the entrance. My job is to get anyone between 17-55years of age to come and join the stem cell register. This as you can image can be a bit tricky sometimes. One doesn’t want to offend.The huge number of volunteers do the hard work of form filling and swabbing and explaining the whole process. Yesterday we had Sharon, Nicky, Dips, Vrinda, Swarupa, Manasi and Arundithi and not forgetting our youngest volunteer Ira.

So yesterday’s guests were great and smiled once they knew I wasn’t selling anything and on the whole were very generous. I did have a few that looked horrified when I mentioned ‘blood’. No seriously I am not going to turn vampire and suck it out of you now. I had to push away the auntijis -no you’re too old. I was happy to try and recruit the firemen😜. Swarupa the things I do for you !! One lady had actually looked after Anthony Nolan and was so happy to see us there. This was my highlight. We were delighted with the response from the youngsters who wanted to register -parents be proud.

The next part of the evening was to become a guest, a Bandhan Babe pushing our NYE party, a Ghoomar girl with my fellow dancers. And enjoy some of the entertainment and food that has been laid on by the BIC team.

So changed from normal clothes (not so normal really – black Indian suit) dance outfit in one of the studios upstairs with Poonam and Swarupa with Ripal’s help. Will we never escape from safety pins and hairpins!!!! No one would recognise us now for sure. We look so Indian.It was so sweet to be called “pretty”. We will take that!

Noreen Khan did a great job hosting – it takes great skill to keep fresh when announcing sooooooo many raffle prizes consisting of Celebrations chocolate tubs. 😂Dancers of differing genres and ages, similarly singers did a great job in keeping the large crowd entertained all evening. Stand outs have to be Parvati’s girls, Ladies in red with Satyam Shivam Sunderam (could hear you Apana from the back – just beautiful) and young Saloni. Not only beautiful and sassy but a fabulous singer.

But of course the main events were the Bandhan Dance Groups. I know where my loyalty lies So many husbands appeared to support us ; in charge of cameras in the front row. We are spoilt for videos!

⁃ The Giddha Girls: strutting your stuff and getting the crowd going. The expressions from you all were perfect.

⁃ The Bengali Babes- effortlessly elegant. I want to be one. You pulled it off with great aplomb.

⁃ The Ghoomar Girls: twirling and swirling and managing to smile all the way through. A special mention to Mayaji; although the oldest member of the group she rocks the accessories far better then the rest of us. Always committed.

You’re never too old for anything or learning something new and the above demonstrates that perfectly.

It was wonderful to see so many new friends again and meet children, husbands and other family members of Bandhan ladies. We are not a cult honestly but beware we are a bit funny and addictive. The BABA boys were in town too and it was good to see them. Family and friends meeting and greeting each other in the run upto Diwali. Just perfect.

The food stalls were yummy! I came away with takeout of both South (Idli, Vadha and Sambhar and North Indian (chole bhaturas) food . No I don’t discriminate. I love all Indian food. What better way to spend Saturday night – takeout and Indian Idol. So it’s out there I watch Indian Idol. 😉

Thanks to Ramprasad, Sudesh and the rest of the team for a well organised free community event. Thankyou again to the Mayor, Chief Sheriff and our MP for supporting it. Thanks BIC for giving both DKMS and Bandhan space and time.

🙏🏽

Seema

Bye for now !

Onto the next events .Whatever type of diary you use please book these dates out .

💕NYE at Park Inn hosted by Bandhan Bedford

💕March 1st Empire Bedford hosted by DKMS Bedford Hub

I love storage … yes storage !

Everyone does – right? What’s not to love? It appeals to my sense of order and helps me to find things quickly.Well, that’s the general idea. It’s the physical extension of a list. And I love a list or two or three.

As an Indian I became aware of the importance of storage and the variety available to us quite early in life . Other nationalities also use storage … ofcourse they do. Everyone loves storage. Wonder which nationality is the most OCD? 🙄.. There were three categories of goods that seemed to dominate our house.

1.Clothes

Only suitcases would do. The yards and yards of materials involved in creating just one saree meant a simple wardrobe just didn’t cut it ! Not forgetting the punjabi suits and the matching chunnis and the beautiful shawls. Suitcases were the way – which also meant most women were able to casually hide numerous outfits!! 😂. My mum was no exception. It’s at this point you think how efficient a black dress is as an item of clothing😱. And where do you put all these suitcases I hear you ask? Within easy reach and out of sight I’d say. No no no they go on top of wardrobes which then needs a technical team to gain access.But at least their presence up there adds to the decor. And who can honestly remember where the green sari with the gold border is in the pile of cases. No labelling going on here which makes me shake with irritation. Slowly the fitted wardrobe craze hid these cases for good. Not in our house , suitcases were piled up on the sideboard – for easy access you understand 😉. I’ve graduated from these old fashioned ways and hide the suitcases in the eaves and play Tetris with them once in a while. I haven’t gone to the extreme of vacuum packing yet 😂.

2.Cooked Food

All Indian households cook too much food. It’s because we are always planning for unexpected guests. A jumble of empty yoghurt pots and butter/margarine tubs 😂would always be hiding in a cupboard somewhere. These robust quality containers would be washed carefully, dried and stored. We were never allowed to throw them away. They were used to store away left over sabjis (curries) and anything else in the fridge. They always leaked if transported. But we kept using them and even used rubber bands to make them secure – silly people.Then there was the constant drama going on in the fridge of opening several butter tubs to find the real butter!! How we were in need of these fancy leak-free, easy lock, secure food storage items that can be labelled !!They migrate from house to house, these carriers of love , which really means home made food.

3. Dry goods

Spices, Lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans … no one used tins in those days. I remember deep wide units with big jars (sweet shop style) filled with every variety of daal you can imagine / there are more than just tarka daal and daal makhni 😂. My dad even did a chart with a layout on the inside of the cupboard door because he thought he was helping . I thought it was genius (I have inherited several amazing traits from him 👍🏽) but my mum couldn’t understand why he had wasted his time 🤦🏽‍♀️. We seemed to store food for the whole street ! Big bags of chappati flour and basmati rice. Now I feel embarrassed buying the smallest size that’s available. Herbs and spices from the Indian subcontinent, some that were probably only used on a rare occasion but you knew they were in there… somewhere.

I love storage ideas and space and am taking over as much as possible within the house. That may also be connected to my shopping addiction. 🤷🏽‍♀️👠👢👡👜🎒👗

When Simon returned from his recent trip to Japan he discovered he had lost some of his space- you snooze you lose!! My need was greater. SO many ways to utilise under the stairs. What a clever space.Flat dwellers you are missing out. In the old days it used to be the only place the atta (chappati flour) drum could fit. This space has created an industry that was made for me. How many ways to utilise the under stairs …..wow!

So if you want to make me happy please come and create more storage in my kitchen. I accept this is a #first world problem but I dream of a clear counter.

But for now you’ll occasionally find me in the utility room opening one cupboard in particular where the tubs seem to go down in numbers but the lids seem to multiply and pairing requires patience. And if I didn’t know better I’d think they were trying to escape 🤔….

Think storage has become an art form with the likes of Muji et al. I have a funny feeling that this is for people who actually have nothing to store 🙄.

🙏🏽

Seema

29.10.18

Karva Chauth- moon hunt

(Hindu festival where a wife fasts for her husband’s wellbeing.) I do try to educate as well … with my little knowledge as a Brit Asian🤔🤷🏽‍♀️.

Within India there are so many festivals and religious days; so many of these suggest/insist/incorporate fasting. There are weird and wonderful combos that go from eating no salt, only fruit, drinking only water and eating specified foods. Only mums, aunties and the pandit (Hindu priest) and not forgetting Mr Google know the form. And so many are undertaken by women. Wonder which man thought that up that little gem? 👏🏾 Please ladies this is not another diet advert.

That brings me nicely onto Karva Chauth one of the main ones in the calendar. After waking before sunrise to eat something sensible you then don’t eat or drink until you see the moon that night. From my understanding it’s mainly a North Indian affair. It may just be linked to women coming together or related to harvest time. Unmarried women can fast too for their husbands to be !! I remember fasting even before being married – it was just a thing that you did. I must have been good because I got two husbands 😱.I did it for my first husband and now doing it for my second husband 🙄. I am consistent if nothing else. Your mini sacrifice is to protect them from harm and give them long life. As a fairly staunch feminist and independent women I have followed some debates where many say this is old hat and it’s not fair to the women. I am all for choice and nothing should be forced. So ladies if you don’t want to fast – just don’t.

You must be thinking what’s in it for the woman. Well the husband is supposed to shower them with gifts. I have educated Simon on this fact and we are currently negotiating the value of a day’s fast. We’ve established quite early on that it’s not quite a handbag. The negotiations continue. We are not supposed to do any housework and rest our under nourished bodies. We are supposed to dress up and newlyweds can actually wear their bridal gear again – that improves the cost/wear ratio somewhat. Then the icing on the cake is that you meet up with other women .All this may be sounding a little shallow 🤔. But seriously those who live near a temple will go and take part in prayers or gather together with family/friends. Southall temple comes alive at Karva Chauth. There are soooo many women looking beautiful in red shiny sparkly outfits with gold jewellery dripping and bindis adorning their foreheads. Doing the pooja and connecting with other women and the ceremony ofcourse is being conducted by male priests. I always had a chuckle over this.

Then as night approaches the women are thinking thank goodness 😅 and the search for the moon starts. We’ve all seen the beautiful moon this week in clear bright skies but oh no not on Karva Chauth. I think he intentionally plays hide and seek just to tease us. You silly women I’m just messing with you but not for too long. Phone calls are being made “have you seen it yet”. The next phase is to just walk up and down your street. The hangry point is “right we are getting in the car and searching further afield”. 🧐. Then on spotting the moon a pooja/prayer is done and you finally break your fast . At this point you also give your mother in law a gift.

So my day went something like this ..

5.30: alarm goes off . On Saturday morning ??

5.40: I am boiling milk and adding feni (vermicelli) so I can eat ! (For those of you that are wondering , I did indeed roast them the night before. )Although I am so stuffed from the night before that I struggle to do this justice.

6.00: I am back in bed

10.00: I finally get out of bed. My throat is parched but I remember I can’t drink.

10.15: I go downstairs and watch Simon and our house guest wolf their way through porridge/ croissants/coffee and fruit. I pretend not to care.

11.00: I feel the first rumblings

The next few hours pass by. I feel so weak that I stay on the sofa 😅.

4.00: I get ready. Not in a saree but dress and boots to get to the smoke for dinner.

6.15: arrive at the bar. No I don’t want anything thankyou.

8.00: get to Indian restaurant. Don’t they know what day it is? Why are they even serving food before the moon is out!!!

Official notification from temple is that 8pm is the go live time. I add on another few minutes for safe measure. Simon thanks me and we get on with dinner. The hunger pangs are all forgotten within seconds .

On a serious note as someone recently said let’s not forget the women who don’t have husbands for whatever reasons and are excluded from the celebrations. We salute you on this day where you may feel excluded.

Traditions are wonderful – even random ones that involve hunting for the moon!! Adapt and improvise- so although in town I ensured we were eating at an Indian.

It’s what’s in your heart that counts … right ? And as far as I’m concerned anything that brings women together , allows a bit of dressing up, gifts and then food can’t be bad. And who says that the men can’t join in?

And Simon know how I love eating and what a huge sacrifice this is for me 😉.

🙏🏽

Seema

(Source: someone who knows more than me 👍🏽Karva Chauth is a one-day festival that falls on the fourth day after the full moon.Karva is a word for a type of clay pot while chauth means four. )

I am vegetarian 🌱

For those who know me … you know that food is my number one love. Sorry Simon.💕

I’m a vegetarian. I’m the variety that doesn’t eat meat or fish. I’m not a vegan because I eat paneer (Indian cheese and I’m not giving that up for anyone), have milk in my tea, eat ice cream,have rice pudding and butter my toast. I am not at the stage where I can invest the energy to find replacements. Actually I think I’m just too lazy but have given up eggs 👊🏾. I’m not a pescatarian because I don’t eat fish, I couldn’t cope with the smell or those eyes even if did want to eat “seafood”🐠🦀🦐. And I’m definitely not the vegetarian that just eats chicken 🐓🤔. I have managed to be a vegetarian for my entire life but I’m not looking for a medal. It’s really not a big deal and it’s not because I am Hindu. But I thank my lucky stars I’m Indian with a love for spicy and flavoursome food.

My mother used to keep separate pots for cooking the meat for my brother and father. However this pot division slowly faded – not sure what changed. Perhaps we got better at cleaning? I’m married to a man who eats anything that moves and I’m pretty sure there is nothing that he wouldn’t eat. And at the other end my daughter is a vegan. So our fridge is constantly confused. All this translates into expensive shopping baskets that are filled with weird and wonderful ingredients and brands along with brightly coloured fruit and veg. I still find random ingredients in the cupboards that were bought with care, love and lots of money but were used just once. Who knew you could make butter out of so many things? And chia seeds can be sprinkled onto oh so many things. There is always an abundance of avocados 🥑 and hummus 👍🏽 and my fave vegetable the aubergine 🍆 here.

It pays to like fruit and veg when you are a vegetarian. Seems pretty basic right but there are some out there for whom this is not the case. Along with a strange fascination for some vegetarian foods to mimic meat. Is it just me or is that all a bit weird. Anyway if it makes you happy who am I to comment 🙄. Confession time – I gag at the thought of fresh tomatoes and celery. I can’t explain it and please don’t judge me.

Let me share some of the more ludicrous situations that I have endured as a vegetarian 🌱….

⁃ There was the time in France when I was given spaghetti and olive oil for dinner. Just yum 😋.

⁃ There was the time , oh in France again where the chicken on the rice came back without the chicken. Yes, of course the same plate.

⁃ And oh it’s my French friends again.. imagine two boiled eggs rolling around on a plate for lunch; they could at least have sliced them🤦🏽‍♀️. (I wonder why I rarely go to France).

⁃ And then there was the Paella in Madrid.

“Sorry I ordered a vegetarian paella .”

No problem I will just stand over there

(so you can see me 👀) and slowly

take out all the good juicy yummy

meaty bits. And bring it back.

⁃ yes I will be happy with just a plate of beetroot , who wouldn’t be? Why do you ask ?

When I say I’m vegetarian I expect you not to serve me with the same spoon you’ve just used to serve meat or fish! When I say I’m vegetarian please don’t say “it’s just chicken”🙄. Not having beef doesn’t make you vegetarian.When I say I’m vegetarian don’t worry about the lack of protein in my diet. When I say I’m vegetarian don’t assume that I don’t have a healthy appetite. Stop giving us such paltry portions. When I say I’m vegetarian don’t give me bland tasteless food (or get used to me asking for extra chilli). When I say I’m vegetarian don’t go into a meltdown when you’ve invited me for dinner. When I say I’m vegetarian don’t assume that I’m super healthy – chips and samosas and pani puris are all vege foods👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽. When I say I’m vegetarian don’t think I’m trying to convert you… it’s not a cult you know.🤦🏽‍♀️. And I really don’t mind if you eat meat and don’t need to hear “it was bacon that made me come back”. Jeez you haven’t been into outer space.

Happy eating people whatever your orientation 😂. I salute the restaurants’ guide to vegetarian signage ;Vs and 🌱. So you know what to avoid. And how they’ve matured from a diet of cous cous and goats cheese. Some even let us have our own menu; we’re all grown up now.

Me , I choose to be vegetarian. I survived those years of nut roasts and omelettes. I have done my penance. I cannot be turned. 🥦🥑🍆

🙏🏽

Seema

Downward Dog in Tuscany 🧘🏽‍♀️

Come to Italy 🇮🇹she said…it’s a retreat she said….all that pasta and pizza I thought. It’s Italy I thought. I’m vegetarian I thought. What could go wrong I thought. Just forgot that four letter word YOGA. ..thanks Nitasha !!!🙄

Here you go my list …Yes just a list ….in no particular order of my memories.

🔹6 nights

🔹Many places

⁃ the intellect of Pisa, the brides of Pisa, the babies of Pisa, the virgin mojito of Pisa and lets not forget our friends the mosquitoes. The yoga may stop the tower leaning ? Let’s get Professor Brian Cox on it🤔 (those who know just know ).

⁃ the hot springs of Bogna Vignoni in unspoilt Tuscan hills. Forget you read that – we want to keep this gem to ourselves. Those sexy swim hats for the spa. Fab dinners with food that kept coming😉

⁃ the handbags of Pienza … sorry the walled Renaissance town of Pienza where old talents of sketching were reawakened and pecorino cheese was tasted.

⁃ Tower of Tentennano …on top of the world (knee and thigh breaker). An adventure all the way there anyway. Coming back was more interesting , Italian farmland and google maps a bad combo and throw in 2 engineers that speak no English =lost numpties🤔. All hills and villas start looking the same in the hot sun.

⁃ Volterra … a city for prisoners and torture and hidden ruins .A city with yummy food. Who knew about this incredible place. Is it ok to do yoga in a monastery? We did🤔.

🔹Not enough hours of 🧘🏽‍♀️ . Some may argue that 5 hours/day is plenty 🤔.

🔹Too many cases of water bottles

🔹5 km walk (whoops it’s now a 16km walk….only the strong and sensible shoes survived )

🔹4 red wines🍷🍷🍷🍷

🔹Numerous cappuccinos and double espressos

🔹?? Mosquito bites 🤢

🔹1 doctor 💉

🔹1 put out local yoga teacher

🔹1 random couple wanting to befriend us

🔹Several stolen figs

🔹Kilos of grapes picked 🍇

🔹2 Prickly pears

🔹Italian Methi

🔹Verbina

🔹A few sour apples 🍏

🔹3 hitch-hikers

🔹Many tight shoulders and knobbly knees

🔹Several litres of balsamic

🔹Several litres++ of olive oil

🔹Long lingering breakfasts in the sun

🔹Tonnes of Healthy minerals

🔹Hours of sunshine

🔹Minutes of rain

But most of all a group of beautiful people who cared and shared and laughed together. We let each other be and not make judgements. And if we did it was only to observe and support. Come and meet the gang ..

The Guruji 🎓👢

I’ve only done 7miles uphill, my yoga, some emails, talked to some friends and it’s only 5am… anyone want to go for a walk? This guruji is a hard task master but a rather stylish one in Yellow boots.

Don’t mess with her or eat those dreaded chips or you’ll get the look! Did you get it? I did 🤫. Who knows where we I’ll find her in a few months time but hopefully still helping us to be the best we can be. Drop your pin on WhatsApp  Nitasha so we can find you !

Segolene – the assistant!

Be grateful that you can get to your mats and after little sleep. Little does she know that we were all scared of her or was it because we wanted to hear her say nice/beautiful/gorgeous in her French accent. So young,wise and natural -especially when she laughed with gusto. A guru in the making.

The high achiever but scatty one 🙄. 95% only-but in my world it’s at least a ‘shabaash’ (translation =well done). Her routine was I’ve lost my swim cap, I’ve left my sunglasses , I’ve left my pyjamas at the hotel, I lost my earring during my fall (but no tears!!)…Oh and by the way  I’ve broken the safe but it’s ok just passports in there. Don’t panic everyone I’m going to smile through it all and sketch our way out. That’s her … doing everything at a pace to squeeze the most out of life. 💕

The Queen of Deet 👑

Short but sweet and kind. Our entertainer for the week. Even the mosquitoes wanted a part of her or was it the wine. And then they told their friends the ants who chased her too. We know she came on the wrong holiday … thinking she’d bump into old Montelbano. No such luck…watch out Sicily!! Psssst…make sure you take me.😉

The next Yoga teacher ..🧘🏽‍♀️

Interpol are searching for a storm of ninja mosquitoes who attacked this British lady in a quiet courtyard in Pisa. It is unclear why they chose her  ….we have inside information  that it may have been her gentle kind blood. How rude of them.Brave lady kept her calm and showed us how classy an umbrella looks in the sun.Nitasha and Segolene may have created another asset for Bedford.

The Glam One 🕶

What was she worried about! She had all the gear – Sweaty Betty now have a stock shortage! Always looking glam even during a bloody downward dog. With those fabulous support pads she worked through the pain. Not missing any eye candy even in a monastery- 20 Hail Mary(s) for you!!

The engineer 📈💻

Do we have a process for this week?Have you timed the distance between the bedroom and the spa…what is the most efficient way?If not I will create one. We have to be prepared for everything everyone. Is the angle on this stretch correct ?

The one at peace “all you need is stylish love”💕lady and her delightful husband.

The patience of a saint as he became our professional and nominated photographer. A proud family man that was always jolly and ready with witty one liners.A great walking partner and hunter of sticks. Full of wonderful anecdotes that made non-yoga time more enjoyable. She was just too cool and we all wanted to be her. The living example of “in giving we receive”.

The English 🌹

She’s saying she can’t do this but has her leg around her neck and is sketching at the same time 😳.Cool,calm and collected during yoga whilst outstretching us all. She can’t accept her talents but is actually terrible at decision making 🙄. Beautiful inside and out. A new friendship – she can’t hide from me now!

Me well… I just love eating whilst shopping 👠👜

Packets of dried mangoes/nuts/any snack type you may wish for appear from my bags at regular intervals. A bikini for each day … it’s Italy.

My job is done.

My thighs need a holiday now.

My shoulders are grateful.

The parathas are calling. What no Indian good for a week. I’m surprised I’m still alive. 🤦🏽‍♀️

See you all soon.

Namaste🙏🏽

The Sari or The Saree

(A traditional garment worn by Indian women that showcases the midriff.)

Is it sari or saree? Does it really matter; after all it’s just a piece of long cloth.Well not quite. Good thing too otherwise this would be very short. 🙄

Let’s deconstruct this item of clothing.

⁃ firstly a saree is nothing without the petticoat. A tad impossible actually😉. The key point to note here is that the petticoat must be tied so tight that it nearly winds you and causes a deep indent around your tummy. The sari will cling onto the petticoat.

⁃ The blouse does what it says ; keeps you decent. But be prepared to go short,backless,sleeveless but try not to opt for the back closing ones. I can’t keep warning you.

⁃ the saree can be anything from 5-9yards in length and 2-4feet in drop (source Wiki and mum’s collection). However to a newbie wearer it can feel like a 100yards😂.It can be available in anything from cotton to chiffon to silk. Most regions of India 🇮🇳 have a type. I can think of Bandini and Benarsi 🤔.

⁃ The ‘fall’ is a protective border that gets sewn onto the bottom and underside to protect the sari and give to some weight. Many an hour was spent following mum around looking just for the right shade to match the sari. Let’s also not forget the fabric quality of the fall. And then the sewing on of fall onto the sari. It was a ritual that went on and on and on.

⁃ The palla is the glamorous element. The section thrown over your right shoulder(in most cases other than if you choose to wear it Gujrati style…don’t try this at home without a Gujrati friend). It is often the most decorated section as it swishes behind your exposed sexy back.

⁃ The pleats . These are the gathered bits at the front that make you look fatter than you are! But look wonderfully elegant if straight and even (fat chance unless you’re an expert or have had them sewn in!). This is also the part where the first safety pin is applied , if you have any sense.

I thought I would remind you (well some of you) of the first time you put on this item of clothing. In brief the sari is going to get tucked into the petticoat and then wrapped around once; followed by making some pleats;these will get tucked in around your bellybutton(Safety Pin 1);the remaining fabric will get casually thrown over your right shoulder (expert wearer) or get secured onto blouse (Safety Pin 2).

There are three scenarios that can take place.

The first is that all the above happens in about 5 minutes and you’re off to the long awaited function.

More likely the second scenario features you and your partner (how very modern of me not to say husband)standing about 6 feet away and the dialogue goes something like this …..”

Don’t move .. I’ll come towards you… no just hold the fabric taught… I’m trying to hold the sari carefullly between fingers and thumb and creating folds 🤷🏽‍♀️shit…that’s not enough pleats …carefully move back just one step. Got it. Now give me the fattest safety pin – yes the one I gave you earlier for safe keeping 🤦🏽‍♀️. Ouch no I didn’t mean to stab myself. Now to hide the tummy and throw the palla over. Right now for other safety pin , no not a big one. Yes I can walk in this, but just pigeon steps though. Let’s go before it all comes undone “.

And the final scenario would be with an expert Draper( normally mum, aunty or smartass friend who knew everything 🙄). This scenario would involve you standing like a statue with your arms up whilst you were dressed – holding safety pins.

Mum and so many women made/make it look so easy as an everyday item of clothing and not saving it for parties and special events. I am that person,but I would like to turn up to the next Sales & Marketing Meeting in one 😉. Wedding red and widow’s white will forever be in our minds. It’s the garment that gave us Mahabharata (those who know just know) and the amazingly beautiful Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sunderam (who cares about the first kiss).

Wanna try … come along and we can explore my collection. The beauty of this garment …. it’s one size.

🙏🏽

Seema