Monthly Archives: June 2012

Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok: Holy Rats and Sacred Cows…

There are a lot of things to do in the area of Bikaner. You can take a jeep and go watching the rising sun and the does in the desert! You can also visit a typical village or a camel farm. There is also Karni Mata Temple in Deshnok, and a few steps farther, the Shri Karni Goshala.

Before going to India I declared: NEVER! I will NEVER walk bare-foot among rats even in a Hindu temple! But when we arrived at Karni Mata Temple, I let myself go with the flow and the ambiance!

To be sincere, I did not find this temple really beautiful except a few marble carvings at the entrance offered by Maharaja Ganga Singh from Bikaner who wanted Karni Mata’s protection. I had the feeling of getting into a huge hamster cage! It smelt like a petshop! The only thing I liked was the floor which was made of black and white marble. The rats, also called Kabbas when sacred, were everywhere. They were actually little brown mice. Some of them were prostrate and looked sad, (Yeah, I am a rat psychologist during my spare time!). Worshipers had come with holy food called prasad. The place was less frightening than expected but it had no magic to me who does not worship Karni Mata.

Our guide told us that if we saw a white kabbas, we could make a wish and it would come true. I did not see any white rats but a brown rat saw my white foot (I cheated a little, I had kept my socks on) but I do not know what wish the rat made. Maybe it was a wish about bananas or laddu. Rats have little ambition!

Or maybe the rat wished he could become a bard again! Indeed the origin of this temple is based on a legend! Actually, Karni Mata really existed in the 15th century. She had miraculous cured her haunt so people thought she was the incarnation of goddess Durga. One day, the son of her bards died. She wanted to revive him but Yama, the god of Death said « No way! » because he had already been réincarnated. So, Karni Mata asked Yama to reincarnate all the people from her clan into rats so that she could keep them under her protection. And Yama agreed because it is always difficult to refuse something to a goddess.

Please, make a link to my blog if you use my pictures on yours!


Once we got our shoes back, my socks would be stained with kabbas poo for ever, we walked behind the site to visit a cow shelter called goshala (गौशाला). Go (गो) means cow  and shala (शाला) house or school. There are goshalas everywhere in India. There, volunteers look after ill, wounded or abandoned cows. Orphan calves are bred and bulls are trained to work.

This place was well-organized and really moving. Our guide did not forget to tell us once again that his name, Gopal, meant cowherd (I didnt say cowboy!) and that it was the second name of Krishna because he looked after the cows. You can see him (him is Krishna, not my guide!), drawn on the sign below, with his flute and his white cow. Actually, Krishna is not really a gopal, he is the son of a Prince but he had to be protected from an evil called Kamsa, so he was sent to live in the countryside and he was surrounded of plenty of pretty gopinis.



Categories: India in pictures, Voyages | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuk Tuk

I love it!

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Make some Noise for the Desi Boyz!

I am almost on holiday! I mean, the pupils have left school. I still have to invigilate the exams and other boring things for a week.

But, I feel I am on holiday, especially today. I got up at 9.20 am, I hung about the flat in pyjamas, having a loooonng breakfast and surfing on Youtube. And then, I do not remember how I got to this video, but I discovered them: The Desi Boyz…yes, with Z instead of S!

In there, you can find all the ingredients to get the perfect tacky hindi music video; I-got-the-beat-baby-discotheque music, sexy dance routines, half-naked western girls, clingy pants, purple shirts, torn shirts, no shirts at all, swollen muscles, and under the swollen muscles: Akshay Kumar and John Abraham!

And today, ladies and gentlemen, I am publicly asking this question to Akshay Kumar: But WHY???

Of course, I have not seen this film which went out last year, -it is so complicated to see Hindi films in Paris, I will talk to you about it one day- so I cannot express my puzzlement any further; it would be unfair. One cannot judge a Hindi film by its music videos. The story is about two friends who have to become sorts of gigolos to make ends meet in a society in financial crisis. Serious subject, as a matter of fact!

It reminds me of Om Shanti Om, in which Shahrukh Khan wears horrible checked blazers and danses among scantily clad blondes whereas the film also deals with serious subjects like reincarnation and bride-burning.

But let’s return to our two gigolos. According to my friend Wiki, this film was forbidden to children and has been considered by journalist Subhash K Jha on Today’s News of India as « smart, sassy and sexy » Read this article, it is quite interesting.

But by the way, what does « desi » mean? Actually, this word refers to people from Southern Asia. It is from the Hindi word « desh », which means « country ». It is often used by Indian people who live abroad as a kind of leitmotiv to express their mutual origins. The two guys in the film live in London, so, quod erat demonstrandum! Between you and me, have you ever noticed that when Bollywood film protagonists do bad things like having sex without being married or dancing with white women in mini-skirts, it always happens in England, in the country of temptation! In India, all this would not happen, of course!

So, I have nothing more to say. So unplug your brain and have fun!

Categories: Cinema, Fun! | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who is the Greatest Indian after Mahatma Gandhi?

Salman is everywhere!That is the terrible question you are asked on this site. This historical poll (they say it is historical, by the way, their slogan is: « Cast your vote, Make History! » Hou! Hou! What a responsability!), is organised by Reliance Mobile and TV channels CNN-IBN and History-TV18.

That is the Gordian knot! Which man or woman in India can compete with Gandhi? The Mahatma has influenced so many great men like Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela! Which sportsman or artist can stand on the second step of the podium? Rabindranath Tagore, maybe? Oups! The Greatest Indian must have lived after the independence!

This vote was all the more difficult for me as, of course, I did not know most of the Great Indians from the list. Dev Anand, Kapil Dev, RK Laxman…who are those people? Sometimes, the names themselves did not ring a bell to me but once I read the short biographies provided by the site, it was like « Oh, yes, this guy! I see.. » So, my choices have been really subjective.

First of all, I won’t vote for yogis or gurus because, well, I am a Paris dweller, my only religion is shopping and my only practise of yoga is when I strech my arm to turn the TV on…to be short, these people may have many qualities, they are not my cup of chai.

Secondly, I will avoid voting for someone like Indira Gandhi. She is fascinating but she did so many controversial things! But, after all, does the greatest Indian have to be morally perfect? In that case, what should one think about Sainte Mother Teresa who has been highly criticized for refusing birth control and, still according to critics, providing inadequate treatment to her protégés?

I could have voted for painter Maqbool Fida Hussainwho was chased from India and who died in exile because he had personified her as a naked woman but I do not really like the paintings I have seen so far and which are a bit like a poor mixture of Matisse and Picasso to me. It is the same about MS Subbulakshmi, a carnatic singer who got the Bharat Ratna, but whose way of singing freaks me out.

I could have voted for Amithab Bachchan too, but could I seriously vote for a man who played the Genie in the film Aladin? Yes, I could. I love this classy actor!

But, I had to make three choices, like in Aladin ( Well, actually I didn’t have to but I did it!):

So, Marilay’s Greatest Indians are:

Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhai Tata: To me, he is the symbol of modern and wealthy India; he was one of the first Indian pilots and I like old pilots like Charles Lindbergh. He is the name you can see on lorries in traffic jams, he is Nano’s daddy and I want a pink one, and he has been praised for considerably improving his employees’ work conditions. In addition, he was born in Paris, and his mommy was French, I know, that is not a good argument but I indulge myself this shameful and chauvinistic little pleasure! Oh, yes, and I have read on Wiki he was buried at the Père Lachaise Cimetery! If one day I feel like having a walk among graves, I will go and take a few pictures to show them to you on the blog!

Satyajit Ray: This Bengali director is one of the most famous Indian artists ever. He is extremely admired in the cinema industry. In short, he is a Master. I have not seen all his films yet, since French TV programmers always prefer broadcasting The City of Joy and Slumdog Millionnaire again and again but I love the perfect beauty of The Chess Players and Hirak Rajar Deshe made me die laughing.

Bhimrao Ambedkar: He is not very popular outside India but he is the father of India constitution and Indian democracy. He himself was an « outcaste » and got over it thanks to education. He was against the Hindu Caste System and is often considered by Indian people to be even greater than Mahatma Gandhi.

Voilà! And you, who are you going to vote for?

Click on the photo to see where they are from.

Categories: Media, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On the Road to Delhi…

On the road to Delhi, our air-conditioned coach had to slow down because two shepherds were trying to take their flock of ewes to the verge. I was not surprised at the ewes on the motorway because in my childhood’s area, goats, cows and even pigs frequently wander here and there on the roads and in villages. But I will never forget the wrath in the two shepherds’ eyes while I was taking pictures of them from inside the coach. One of them even  brandished his stick at me before turning back…

February, 2011


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On my Bookshelves: Desperate Housewives

In Europe, it is Wedding time! That is a good opportunity to talk about novels dealing with marriage. Everybody knows that marriage, looking for the right match, is a national sport in India! There are so many books about marriage! I think I am just going to talk to you about two novels I have read and liked.

Madras on Rainy Days by Samina Ali.

This book, as far as I can remember, is one of the first books about India I have read. I read it in French, (Jours de Pluie à Madras), which I do not like doing but, well, you cannot always do everything you want to!

Layla is Indian and muslim. She studied in the USA where she lost her virginity. She agrees to return to India and to get married. Although it is an arranged marriage, Layla does her best to be tender to her husband and ends up feeling something like a sort of love to him. However, her husband is not the man he seems to be. The disclosing of his own secret will be a real shock!

Layla’s story is a story about today’s India, a society which sways between tradition and modernity. I loved this novel! I liked the long descriptions of the different stages of a muslim wedding in India. I liked the suspens the author managed to sustain. I liked Layla who was so real, so sincere and so mature, so sensible and thoughtful. I liked the sensuality which was never dirty. I read this novel a few years ago but it is a really good memory!

 A web review at random:

extract from a review by

At one point in the novel, Layla gripes: “Growing up, it was always so confusing to be in both places. I would go to school there and all the kids would point and say, ‘Hey, look, the Indian girl is back.’ Then I’d suddenly be dropped into school here, and the girls would say, ‘The American is back.’ I never fit in.” This complaint might be standard issue immigrant angst, but Ali’s prose does a good job of detailing lives that are bent over by many societal expectations. It is to Ali’s credit that by novel’s end, we can see that Layla and her husband Sameer are products of their unique, individual circumstances. One begins to feel sorry for both of them.

The Immigrant by Manju Kapur

 I promise, I will stop saying « I loved this book » but what can I say else?  

Nina arrives in Canada after an arranged marriage with Ananda, aka Andy, a dentist who immigrated like her a few years ago. Although she is rather optimistic in India, the change of country does not fit her and her relationship with her husband is not what she expected. She feels as a stranger, which is what she is, and she fits nowhere. Andy does not seem to bother about her; he is so absessed with his own problem of premature ejaculation and his attraction to blond-haired girls. Nina’s marriage is doomed to fail.

The Immigrant is about uprooting and boredom. Nina is a kind of Emma Bovary who does not really expect anything and who lives her depression in a kind of melancholic submission, contrary to Flaubert’s heroine whose unfulfilled dreams took her to the worst. Manju Kapur knows how to tell stories of common people, in a down-to-earth way but softly and tenderly, without ever manhandling her reader.

Instead of trying to find an extract to make you read, I show you this review from Youtube. The girl seems quite funny with her side poney tail, her comic tee-shirt and her loud voice but she really talks about this book very well. She didn’t like the book because she found there was no emotion and the different events were set coldly one after the other. For my part, I think that is what makes this book so charming and special. Manju Kapur’s style creates the atmosphere in the story, the coldness between a wife and her husband who are strangers in the country where they live, and strangers in their marriage.

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Satyamev Jayate: Aamir Khan makes the truth triumph…

There is a real TV world-wide phenomenon, currently. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan is producing and presenting a talk show on TV. But it is not just a talk show, it is a programme which deals with sensitive issues in the Indian society. It is called: Satyamev Jayate.

Satyamev Jayate, a meaningful title:

Satyamev Jayate means « The Truth only triumphs ». It is India’s motto that you can read on India’s national emblem. This emblem mainly represents four lions back to back and the Ashoka Chakra at the base. This chakra is familiar to you because it is drawn on the Indian flag. The original sculpture was at the top of a pillar in Sarnath (near Varanasi); it is now in Sarnath museum but you can see this emblem everywhere especially on Indian currency.

Consequently, it is easy to understand how difficult it must have been to make this excerpt of a matra the title of a TV show. Satyamev Jayate motto belongs to India like a kind of intellectual property which cannot be used for business. (Imagine if someone gave the name « Liberté Egalité Fraternité » or « God Save the Queen » to a sportshoe brandmark or a sort of lowfat butter!)

So, Aamir Khan and his team decided to borrow the motto from India; this TV show represents, talks about and belongs to the Indian people so, this choice was considered as an evidence.

(The article continues after the photo…)

A sensationalist TV show?

The format of this show is quite simple. It lasts for one hour but the timing has a good ryhtm and there is no tedious part. On the set; a large sofa, a screen at the back, a small audience around. People come and simply tell their story, make you cry, but always keep their dignity. There are very short films, -maybe too short-, to introduce the guests. Then, people who daily struggle against those problems come and explain what they do to make things improve and the obstacles they meet. At the end of the show, Aamir Khan sums up the situation and tries to find solutions, asking the viewers to support him by signing petitions or making phone calls.

But this apparently simple series of talk shows has been prepared like a new TV drama! During the shooting the secret about the contents of the programme has been kept carefully. Songs have been written, one song for each of the 16 episodes; these songs are broadcast on TV, on the Web and even in cinema theatres as if it was the soundtrack of a new blockbuster. Many sponsors like Coca-Cola have joined the project, the amount of money used to promote this talk show has been more tremendous than ever!

As far as the social issues are concerned some critics could say they are a bit too sensationalist, too easy and that they call pity. But this criticism turns out to be rather limited considering the importance of these topics in a country like India. Indeed, subjects like dowry, child abuse or honour killings are real issues which directly or indirectly touch the whole Indian society. They have nothing to do with some talk shows we can sometime watch on French TV like « I have slept with my brother » or « I left my husband for my son-in-law »!

A charismatic leader:

Other more sceptical journalists considered that as obstinate and famous the actor can be, this is not Aamir Khan who will change the world and make people better. I beg to differ a little. I think it is a good thing that a Bollywood star involve himself in that kind of projects. It is terrible to say that but nowadays people tend to trust superstars more than brilliant scientists. Great causes always need a charismatic leader to draw people’s attention like Tibet has Dalai Lama or the Black Americans had Martin Luther King, if I can allow myself this daring comparison! Anyway, doing nothing is not really effective either!

The viewers themselves quickly realised that Khan was not just a glamourous character; he is sincere and very motivated in his search for the truth. He travels through the country; he uses surveys and investigation results, he puts a lot in that job, he laughs, he cries. He is simple, he is himself, he is no longer a Bollywood star.

For all these reasons, Satyamev Jayate is one of the most successful programmes ever telecast. It is shown in more than 100 countries, on two different channels; it is shot in Hindi but dubbed in different Indian languages so that everybody in India can understand. Every-one is concerned about the issues treated. Even though one usually says that India can’t be considered as ONE, it seems that the whole country is totally united when Satyamev Jayate is on.

 (The article continues after the photo…)

An Indian debate for the Indians and by the Indians:

It is always very delicate for foreigners to talk to Indians about India’s problems. Indians are very sensitive about issues like corruption, dowry, education, sanitation, especially when they are raised by foreigners like me. Imagine you are visiting someone, it is a bit tactless to say to your host: « Well, you should do something about your ceiling! It is covered with damp patches!» Of course, it is the same for every country, but as an India lover, I feel sometimes a bit frustrated not to be allowed to exchange opinions and feelings about this country I am so interested in.

So, I was very happy when I discovered this series of TV shows in which Aamir Khan and his guests come to tell their stories and run through things. It enables me to get more information about serious but sensitive issues and I feel less guilty.

But the success of this programme proves that I am not the only one to be satisfied with it! When I surf the web, I realise how Indian people or people of Indian origin need to talk about these subjects and how they are proud of their representative Aamir Khan. This Bollywood actor has become a real Indian hero. Lots of net surfer gets into discussions on forums or Facebook groups and many of them want to do something to help the situation improve.

Of course, this show has its opponents too. The Indian Medical Association, for instance, accused Aamir Khan of diffamation after the episode dealing with medical malpractices and asked him for apology, which the actor refused.

 How far will Aamir Khan go?

The question I ask now is: Will Aamir Khan dare to deal with even more controversial subjects? Among the 90,000 comments left on Satyamev Jayate web site, a man has asked for a show about caste-based reservation in the Indian education system which is a really controversial topic today. If corruption, girl foeticide or illiteracy are subjects that most of people agree to consider as harmful, what about topics that bring about more debates and devides people?

An episode among the others: Female Foeeticide

The episode I have decided to show you is about the problem of Female Foeticide.

People do not want to have baby girls for two main reasons:

Having a girl is a financial burden. It is « like watering your neighbours’ garden ». When your daughter gets married, on one hand, the parents have to pay a dowry to the groom’s family, on the other hand, the daughter leaves her own family to go to her husband’s, which means that she will not be alble to take care of her parents when they are older. I think the third reason might be a kind of unexplained traditional and social obsession helped for the worst by ultrasound.

I will not comment on this episode too much because it is very pleasant to watch though very sad. It is well-made and the explanations are simple so that everybody from every social class can understand it. I also like the way Aamir Khan talks to the viewers and to the guests, his honesty and his sobriety. The introduction on the beach is really moving without being ridiculous nor overacted.

This issue was rather familiar to me as I had heard and read a lot about Indian girls’ doom. But the stories told made me thrill all the same and I was very impressed by the courage of these women who came on the set without excessive pathos and without sunglasses. Some had been forced to have an abortion by their in-laws, others had been beaten by their husband until miscarriage. I remember this short candid camera report where a female doctor agrees to carry out an abortion and says to the mother: « Ok, she will be born alive but she won’t survive. You can bury her behind… »

Strangely enough, most of the people who get rid off female foetuses are wealthy and well-educated like professors, doctors, since they have access to the ultra sound and have the money to achieve the aim.

Despite all this sadness, I laughed at this satellite connexion between the set and a little village in Rajasthan where lots of men cannot find a wife because there is a girl shortage. One of village people says: « Aamir, why don’t you ask Salman to join us! He has difficulties finding a woman too! He could be our captain! » Aamir Khan laughs and answers « Yes, but Salman has another kind of problem! He’s got too many girls around him so he can’t make a choice. » I don’t know if this joke had been prepared, but I found it funny and so representative of the differences between people’s lives.

 If you want to watch more episodes, go to Youtube and specify “English” or “English subtitles”. The videos don’t work on the official website or maybe it is only on my computer.

Categories: Society | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bollywood Quiz: Yes, you Khan!

Are you a Bollywood specialist? Answer these 20 questions about actors called Khan by writing the answers a, b or c on a piece of paper. 

I have been struggling to find a site to make my own quiz but that was too complex or impossible to publish on my blog. After all, it is just for fun!

You can find the results just after the photo showing the three Khans.

1- Who is the youngest one among these Khan actors?

a- Shahrukh Khan

b- Aamir Khan

c- Irrfan Khan

2- What is Shahrukh Khan’s nickname?

a- King Khan

b- Kind Khan

c- King Kong

3- Who has never acted in a film by Sanjay Leela Bhansali?

a- Salman Khan

b- Shahrukh Khan

c- Aamir Khan

4- It is the slogan of a famous American president:

a- Do it if you can!

b- Yes, we can!

c- It’s in the can!

5- What is the right hindi spelling for « Khan »?

a- खान

b- खन

c- कान

6- Choose the right sentence:

a- My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist.

b- My name is Khan and I’m not an actor.

c- My name is Khan and I’m not there.

7- Who is not a daddy’s boy?

a- Salman Khan

b- Shahrukh Khan

c- Aamir Khan

8- He is Kareena Kapoor’s fiancé but one day, he will leave her for Marilay. Who is he?

a- Zayed Khan

b- Aamir Khan

c- Saif Ali Khan

9- What can you read on Salman Khan’s tee shirt?

a- « Being human »

b- « Be a man »

c- I don’t know, he is always stripped to the waist!

10- He has not acted in Devdas:

a- Sharukh Khan

b- Salman Khan

c- Sakib Khan

11- Who is always freshly shaven?

a- Sharukh Khan

b- Fardeen Khan

c- Irrfan Khan

12- It is the name of a famous diet:

a- Dukan

b- Makkhan

c- Duncan

13- She is the French wife of the duck:

a- La canne

b- La cane

c- La poule

14- What is the name of the tiger in the Jungle Book?

a- Sher Khan

b- Chair Khan

c- Tiger Khan

15- Who founded the Khan Academy?

a- Salman Khan

b- Fardeen Khan

c- Sharukh Khan

16- Which Khan actors can you find in the film New-York Masala (= Kal ho naa ho)?

a- Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan

b- Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan

c- Shahrukh Khan and Zayed Khan

17- He was a bank manager and a patron.

a- Dominique Strauss Kahn

b- Albert Kahn

b- Sarba Khan

18- Who was Genghis Khan?

a- The man who founded the Moghol Empire.

b- The man who founded the Mongol Empire

c- The man who founded Bollywood

19- Who presents the TV show called Satyamev Jayate?

a- Sharukh Khan

b- Amitabh Bachchan

c- Aamir Khan

20- He was involved in a sex scandal in a New York hotel. Who is he?

a- Aamir Khan

b- Salman Khan

c- Dominique Strauss Kahn

Check your points: You win 1 point for each good answer!

1/c  2/a  3/c  4/b  5/a  6/a  7/b  8/c  9/a or c  10/b

11/c  12/a or c  13/b  14/a  15/a  16/b  17/b  18/b  19/c  20/c

Look what you have won!  If your number of points is:

20: Bravo! You are a real bollywood fan! You have won a whole night with Shahrukh Khan doing, well, whatever you want! Don’t forget to take photos and send an article to A Message To India!

17-19: Good job! Yes, you Khan! You have won a weight-lifting session in a gym with Salman Khan. Houlala! Sweating with Salman on torture machines! You’re so lucky! Don’t forget your sneakers!

14-16: Not bad! You have won a pile of bootlegged Bollywood DVDs subtitled in Turkish! Very useful to prepare your next holiday!

10-13: That is alright but, really, the questions were easy, and so stupid too! You have won your weight in Mango Chutney! Bon appétit!

Under 10: Houuu! You have won nothing! Down to work!

Categories: Fun! | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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