Monday, November 12, 2007


I was in Calcutta during the Kali Puja. In a brief visit I got to see my friend Ruchira and her husband Mallar so that made my visit to this badly reputed city a lot more enjoyable. I dont know if it was the fact that I had local hosts or the fact that I could only stay 2 days because of the call for a general strike (I had to get out soon or get stuck there for many days), but I didn't see people dying in the streets or hundreds of beggars as we tend to picture the city because of what has been written about it. What I did see and plenty of is Kali altars EVERYWHERE, since I was there during this Pooja.

According to Hindu mythology Goddess Kali is the first of the ten incarnations of Goddess Durga. Depicted with a fierce face and terrifying look Goddess Kali is regarded as the more aggressive form of Goddess Durga. The image of Kali usually shows her foot on Lord Shiva’s chest, a severed head in one hand, her sword in the other and wearing a garland of skulls. Kali is worshiped as the Mother Goddess who is known to destroy all evil and is a fierce fighter for the cause of justice.

According to legends once the demons named Shambhu and Nishambhu grew in force and pose a challenge to Indra, King of Gods, and his Kingdom of Heaven. Gods sought protection from Mahamaya Durga, the Goddess of Shakti or Power. At this stage Goddess Kali was born from Durga's forehead as Kal Bhoi Nashini to save heaven and earth from the growing cruelty of the demons.

After slaughtering the demons, Kali made a garland of their heads and wore it around her neck. In the bloodbath, she lost control and started killing anyone who came her way. There was chaos all around. To stop her, Lord Shiva threw himself under her feet. Shocked at this sight, Kali stuck out her tongue in astonishment, and put an end to her killing spree. The well-known picture of Kali Ma shown with her tongue hanging out, actually depicts the moment when she steps on Lord Shiva and repents.

That day is celebrated ever since as Kali Pooja. Performing the Puja with faith devotees seek protection against drought and war and blessings of general happiness, health and prosperity.

It is fun to see all of these Kalis, ranging from the ostentatious golden ones to the really gory-kitschy ones.

Here you can also see some pics from Puri in the state of Orissa. Puri is a fishermen's village and a small tourist destination, and has an ancient temple to worship Lord Jagarnath, another name for Lord Krishna (the reincarnation of Brahma the creator). Honestly I don't really understand most of the gods and the rituals but I find the little depictions of Jagarnath to be quite funny.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Despues de mas de un ano de no ver chayotes ahora me los encontre en todos lados en Sikkim (Noreste de India). Crecen en los pueblos, en las ciudades, en la calle y el cableado, y sirven tambien para hacer techos y paredes para pequenos establos (para cabras, cerdos, vacas). Ademas, nunca habia visto un chayote fuera del mercado o el super, la planta es hermosa y crece con mucha facilidad.

Ver tanto chayote me hizo acordarme de mi mama, a quien le gusta mucho y que lo prepara de muchas maneras (todos platillos deliciosos). Yo ya no me aciradaba bien a bien cuanto me gusta pero despues de comerlo y verlo todos los dias durante las ultimas dos semanas decidi que si, SI ME GUSTA EL CHAYOTE.

En esta foto ademas del chayote con especias pueden ver el pan de sikkim (hecho a base de maiz y huevo, ahi haciendole la competencia a la tortilla) con huevo estrellado, mi desayuno durante los dias que pasamos en Kachuperi lake.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sikkim, small but beautiful

This is just one of the many slogans you can find along the sikkimese roads. India's 22nd state, shares borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. We also found thank you signs randomly along trails and roads and others:

"Be kind to my curves"

"Drive like hell and you will be there"

"Speed has 5 letters, just like death. Slow has 4 letters, just like life".

Sikkim is a bit less touristy than other destinations in India and its different ethnic compostion gives it a completely distinct character.

People are from the Lepcha and Bhutia groups, and there is also many nepalis and some bengalis. The children could not be cutest, the landscape is beautiful and the people are extremely kind and humble. Tibetan bhuddism is widely practiced so there are many many monasteries.

There are also great hikes through the clud forest hills with waterfalls, streams, rivers, ferns, flowers, lots of moss and lots of leeches (you can see our wounded feet in the pic). Sadly I remembered I am not the greatest hiker (I walk slow, I'm way to careful going downhill and want to pee and/or take a picture every 5 minutes). I nevertheless make it (slowly but surely), we hiked around and walked to another town (yuksam) and back.

At Yuksam's grocery store you can find anything from biscuits to hiking boots.

We were lucky to get a tip that led us to a wonderful place above Kacheperi Lake. A small, simple, magical village with the kindest hosts and the lovliest children, who we had loads of fun teaching english to. They are the kind of children that are really fun to play with but also know when to leave you alone and can be easily entertained by climbing a tree, playing with a machete, hiting each other, teasing the cows, etc. Very different from city kids with playstation and TV.

There we met Pala, a former chef for the Dalai Lama and just a very cool old man. He can speak little english and yet he manages to win the hearts of all of his guests. He has 11 children, of which 4 live in the village.

After a 10 day stay, we taught one last lesson to the children and their last words (as instructed by Pala) were: "Next time coming miss".