About Nagpur

I think it was the third time I flew to India, I was about to step on the plane when the woman checking boarding passes (who worked for Air India) asked if Nagpur was in India. I think she had to check that everyone on the flight had a valid Indian visa if India was their final destination. Nagpur is rarely in the news and I guess it is kind of small. Many people I know have never heard of the place. Seeing as I write about my life in Nagpur, I think it’s about time I dedicated a post to the orange city, so you can become better acquainted.

city of orangesNagpur is the geographical center of India, it’s smack bang in the middle, and famous for it’s sweet oranges and extreme summers. The biggest disadvantage of living in Nagpur (in my mind) is the debilitating heat from April to June. Whenever I mention Nagpur to anyone who does know the place, this is what they usually bring up… the sweltering temperatures!

I have heard Nagpur be described as a city sized village on several occasions. I guess there must be a bit of truth to it, McDonald’s hasn’t descended yet, it’s pretty quiet and everyone seems to know each other. The majority of women wear a saree everyday, most people prefer to buy food from the market over the supermarket and foreigners are a rare sight. I assume Nagpur hasn’t changed very much in the last couple of years, which I find charming (and, sometimes frustrating).

vegetable wallah

lotus lake inspiration

horse-on-its-way-to-a-wedding

There are not many obvious tourist attractions here, but the city is very green, has several lakes and hundreds of beautiful temples to discover. If I wake up early and take a walk, I see ladies drawing rangoli on freshly washed doorsteps, cows being milked and children holding hands as they walk to school. There is a strong feeling of community, the entire city comes out to celebrate festivals together, it feels like everyone gets involved.

funny ganesh

Nagpur Ganesh

Due to the central location of the city, there are people settled here from across India, so there are many cultures, many festivals and many tongues. Most people speak Marathi, even if their roots are in another state. It wasn’t long until I started to recognise the different districts. The British built government building of Civil lines, the artisan workshops of Chitaroli, the bustling market of Birdi and the jungles of Seminary Hills.

If you step out of the city, you are greeted by rural Maharashtra; bullocks pulling ploughs, orange groves and jungles where tigers dwell. Nagpur is also known as the tiger capital of India, there are a couple of beautiful nature reserves close by, where we were lucky enough to see a tiger along with many other beautiful creatures.

This is my home, a small city with a lot of sunshine.

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The Svayambhu Ganesh in Adasa

adasa ganpati bappa

We arrived at Adasa as dusk was starting to settle and the sun was setting behind the clouds. I wanted to show my sister the huge orange Lord Ganesh, up high, on the side of a mountain, above the sweeping blanket of rural Maharashtra. I had … Continue reading

Our First Christmas Day in India

Every Christmas morning since I can remember has started in the same way, I have woken up with a stocking stuffed with small presents from Father Christmas sat on the end of my bed. I wake up confused, what is that weighing down on the duvet (?), then I realise it’s Christmas!! My first Christmas day in India, I still woke up confused. Why after her five-day holiday earlier in the month has the woman who comes to do the washing up had not turned up for the second day in a row without calling? Meanwhile, my husband was woken up by Father Christmas licking his face…

Christmas pug

My first Christmas in India began with soap and dish water before I fired up the oven and started to make my as-close-as-possible British Vegetarian Christmas dinner of nut roast, roast potatoes, mint chilli peas (because we are in India, we need some spice), garlic butter carrots, cauliflower cheese, stuffing (sent from England) and gravy! I also made a chocolate and cherry cake for after!

I don’t know why but even though we call it a Christmas dinner, but we have eat it during lunchtime. We had our foreign wife, Indian husband friends for lunch (dinner?) and after tucking in with Christmas songs playing in the background, in true British Christmas style, we played the board game monopoly! I haven’t cooked anything on this scale for months so I was pretty proud of myself and it felt so good to have a plate of somewhat British food in front of me!

merry Christmas cake trees

In the evening we went to a Cathedral designed by an Englishman, built in the same style as the churches I would visit in England and well over one hundred years old! I wish I had taken my camera because it was so beautiful! The British built Cathedral celebrated Christmas with Indian style, covered in fairy lights with music exploding from speakers (temples are sometimes decorated with outside lights and play music during Hindu festivals). Hundreds of people from all faiths had come to celebrate Christmas (and take selfies…), so many in fact it was hard to even enter the church and once inside we had to shuffle down the aisle at a snail’s pace. Another Indian twist, everyone took their shoes off before entering the church (as one would do when visiting a temple)! The fusion of British and Indian was surreal.

Whilst walking back to the car, looking at the Cathedral from distance, I saw a scene that could have come straight from an Indian Christmas card. Below the huge and rare full moon low in the night’s sky, nestled between the dark shadows of giant trees, the Cathedral dripping with fairy lights with a warm glow coming from the tall, wooden open doors.

That night my husband and I spoke to my family via skype and I remembered how my Christmas day used to look (and sound!). I hope next Christmas we will all be together, whether in India or England. Christmas away from ‘home’ was never going to be the same, but I am so happy we chose to celebrate and I enjoyed myself thanks to being around lovely people and eating lovely (if I say so myself) food!

christmas skype 2

christmas skype 1

(If you fancy seeing some photos of the Cathedral, you can find some great ones here)

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India’s Heat wave

Britain starts screaming ‘heat wave’ as soon as the temperature rises over twenty-five degrees celsius. If the sun decides to grace Britain with its presence, hysteria ensues, it really is a wonderful feeling. People try to get as much sun as possible, spending their days  lying in their gardens or on the nearest seaside, hoping to get a beautiful golden tan. Picnics, camping, ice cream vans, music festivals and paddling pools. Summer in England is an exciting time, which is understandable as the weather during the rest of the year is pretty persistently miserable.

Summer in India, however, is dangerous and brutal.  I can see only two advantages of an Indian summer; the mangoes are delicious and the mosquitoes are dead. A strong sun gives summer’s seasonal fruit its exquisite taste, and I can confirm the mangoes and lychees this summer have been superb.  The break from mosquito bites and the best fruit of the year fades into insignificance when you read that over one thousand people have lost their lives as a result of this heat wave. Devastating and understandable, I cannot put into words how hot it is here in India.

Nagpur is famous for its harsh summers. When I am not in Nagpur and I tell someone where I live, either they have never heard of the place or the first thing that comes to their minds is how awful Nagpurian summers are, followed by advice and extreme caution! Thankfully, Mr. Breeze the water cooler has worked well in Nagpur’s dry heat. Nevertheless, most days I get through about sixty ice cubes and have several showers (with boiling hot water because the pipes are blistering hot, but even then it’s better than nothing). It’s been a nightmare and it’s been distressing but I am lucky, I have a home and a cooler.

When I look out of my window I can see a small nomadic community, they keep goats and they have made simple tents out of sticks and plastic sheets. They have no plumbing, no electricity and the temperature has hit forty-eight degrees celsius this month. I assume they have some methods to keep cool but we simply cannot imagine how this heat wave has been for them.

A couple of days ago, there was a blissful pre-monsoon shower. A five minute downpour of cool and refreshing rain, a small taster of what is to come in the next couple of weeks. I ran outside to my terrace and danced in the rain, singing “I am Woman” at the top of my lungs as Alfonso stood at the doorway looking very confused. Why that song? I don’t know, but it seemed appropriate for that moment of liberation from the heat. I felt so much happiness singing (some may say I was shrieking, I cannot sing very well) and dancing. That happiness overflowed when I looked across to the nomadic community and saw the children were also dancing in the rain, the only way children can, with pure joy. 

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