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The chicken festival!

I am always surprised by the propensity of Indians to spend their little money in extravagant parties (I speak here of the Indians who live in the slums at the foot of my building). And since they are poor, they do their party in the street (at the foot of my building) or in the courtyard of the temple (adjacent to my building). This happens at least three times a week, a circus in those lines:

You never know what they are celebrating! A wedding, elections, a God – watching the Sai Baba procession (a giant picture being carried on a truck) with a huge crowd of Indian women shaking their asses to the sound of a vaguely lewd Bollywood song is priceless. Everything is an excuse to make noise! You’ll tell me, if they are happy and you are not, you can always move out! Yes but welllll... 


At times I get to see funny stuff, like the chicken festival! One evening, you go home and find a chicken head at the grid. You wonder how the thing has possibly landed there and why none of the three watchmen who have nothing to do have left it there. But you don’t overthink it; it is, after all, a chicken head. It happens!  

And then you look down from your window and you see a truck stuffed to bursting with chickens parking (at the foot of your building), and hundreds of people jostling to buy a chicken. Even your maid is late that day because she had to go to the chicken festival... 

In the meantime, if there is one chicken I would have gladly slaughtered, it is definitely the one screaming in the video!


Chicken day, Mumbai - April 2014


The Indian Wedding for Dummies - 8.All that to say that...



Searching for the lost turtle...

When Indians ask for a leave, they always give you an explanation; this is pretty funny... They have to attend the naming ceremony of a newborn, take their wife to get an MRI of her arm etc. That’s how, one fine day (it was a Wednesday I remember), one of my direct reports asked me if he could take a day off to... go see turtles hatching! Turtles!! Not only did I give him a day off and my blessings, I also tagged along!

We left Mumbai early (very early), towards the village of Velas on the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Very quickly a foul odor – which had already disturbed us a few weeks earlier – spread in the car. Incredibly brave, my favorite Indian opened the bonnet and discovered the corpse of a cat. As it was early (very early), he took the bull by the horns (or rather the cat by the legs) and removed it himself – ignoring my advice of delegating the task to any guy against twenty rupees...

Later on we found a place to clean the car but the pressure washer hardly helped, death smell is tenacious. So I spent a good amount of the journey playing with incense stick, to the tune of One Republic:

Seven hours later, we arrived in Velas, a village blessed with no network coverage (in brief, a village like I like them!). Our local guide had set sail for Mumbai without informing anyone and our small group found refuge in a random house, where we tried to call him (with a landline). An hour later we finally touched base with our host cum lunch provider.

After a micro-siesta we were off to the beach to meet the turtles!

A beautiful beach, without a human soul nor a... turtle! We learned then that the turtles come to lay their eggs at night only and the NGO involved in their preservation doesn’t let people walk on the beach at night to avoid disturbing them – annoying but fair... Anyway, we were also told that the previous night, only one turtle (according to fin prints) had visited the premises. Plus at night it was so pitch dark that the chances to spot that brave turtle were close to nothing! Still we woke up at 5 AM the next morning to go track down turtle prints – who knows?? Well we do now… Luck was not with us!!

As for eggs hatching, well, let’s say it wasn’t the right period...

Nevertheless, we saw a turtle! A river turtle (or tortoise) caught by a fisherman...

But we didn’t come home empty-handed since we got the information that it is on the beaches of Orissa (on the other side of the country) that turtles come by the thousands to nest...

And we could witness the work that an NGO can make  by empowering local communities in the preservation of endangered species: stop hunting turtles, protect the eggs from predators, and take on the path of turtle tourism, becoming a "turtle village" with a "turtle festival" (website). Quite smart! There is just a bit of work so that tourists can actually see turtles. Or so that white-bellied Eagles spend a little more time in their nest and tourists can see them also! 

Anyway, we spent a great weekend in the countryside! In a very quiet village with old-style houses, their floors covered with cow dung to prevent vermin, with cats in every house (which is pretty rare in India) to give warning of ophidian intrusions, with skinny chickens everywhere. We slept at a home-stay: very simple (very thin mattresses on the floor, Indian toilet in the garden (or more exactly in the palm grove behind the house) but clean!

The road from Mumbai is beautiful, especially when you leave the highway (well, the highway... the word is big) and the road gets empty...

And then we managed to defeat the dead cat smell by taking in a hitchhiking India: he was a Pandit (priest) who had come to perform a puja for a baby whose stars were not a birth (especially Venus) and who smelled of wood fire!

Velas, Maharashtra - Feb 2014