Ah... the Raheem Residency and much more

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December 23rd 2006
Published: February 11th 2007
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The train was full of students returning home for the holidays and totally packed, it reminded me of the long haul back from Aberdeen with just pennies to your name and sharing BLT’s. We almost missed our stop and had to make a made rush through the crowds to the exit until one gentleman politely mentioned that “Madames the train will wait’

The station was like a ghost town, I think we were the only people to disembark and any minute I expected a tumble weed to roll past, eerie… This time we had booked ahead and made our way to the heritage hotel. Unfortunately we weren’t staying in the actual old house with wooden structures, lime washed walls and cement floors but had a whole flat to ourselves; 2 double A/c rooms with ensuites, a huge sitting room and even our own dining room, with a balcony overlooking the peaceful street below and surprisingly odour free canal. It really is a backwater.

‘Mad dogs and English women go out in the midday sun”. Yup the saying is true, the next day after a delicious supper of prawns and pina colada’s, we decided to walk into the center of town, a pleasant hot past the hustle and bustle of this charming small market town built along a series of canals, not yet spoiled with the usual tourist shops and restaurants. It’s a mixture of old and new with some lovely old style houses, very friendly people, beautifully painted trunks which reminded me of Thomas the Tank Engine and friends and fabulous Christmas decorations; paper stars, lights in doorways and windows and tinsel covering some streets.

We settled down in the Indian coffee house for great dosas but rubbish coffee with waiters decked out in full Indian Raj outfits, white suits and turbans, to plan our houseboat trip. It’s all rather hit and miss especially over Christmas and prices seem to vary extensively that is if they are available, so after a quick attempt we decided to opt for the hotel offer, a wise option as it turned out the were one of the main dealers and saved us lots of hassle.

Leaving the girls to go off in search of a pool, I went Christmas shopping (and a quick jewel scout) it had rather crept up on me but the real life Santa, who had a disturbing white mask, brought it home. I managed to find the one and only English bookshop in town at the local hotel and after calling out the owner from his siesta, left with my Indian cookery books as presents - so if you want a decent homemade India food you know where to go. Snacks to Sue, Curries to Gill and Puds to Jess. It was a close think when we returned that evening for supper at the hotel and I was praying that my cover wouldn’t be blown.

Before the day ended I had one of my most amusing experiences of our time in India, actually it rates high up life list. Having convinced Jess of the benefits of our yoga experience with Alan we arranged for a session in our flat. We should have known that we were in for an experience when she arrived and stated that from now on “She was our yogi’, the ‘preliminaries” were exchanged which extended to a brief history of her family and cookery business , we changed into our tracksuits and prepared for the session actually not sure if we were about to do sun salutations or learn how to make chapatis.

Cross-legged we sat on the floor and proceeded under strict formal guidance… she had a scary face… to clear our nasal passages of any substance. It basically involved using various fingers to block of one nostril or another and either inhale or exhale at varying rates. Sue, Gill and I fought to suppress our rising hysteria but Jess, the uninitiated and main focus of our yogi’s attention - she was under the impression that Jess was ill as she hadn’t been practicing, was seriously contributing and even took to showing Sue the proper finger posture.

This went on for 45 mins (not 30 - Sue!) and was accompanied by an extended history of her illness, her husband’s illness, her father’s illness, daughter’s exams and desire to meet the English and her Indian cooking. Not one sun salutation or even forward bend was attempted and to top it off when we had finished I turned around to hear her asking for help to get up from the floor. Still in shock we managed to avoid the 4.00am call to the temple but did arrange for her to come again at 7.00am for a proper session. Unfortunately she could make no later due to biryiani and chapati commitments! It shall forever be known as “snot yoga”

Note; I know breathing is important to yoga and there is more to it than just the physical exercise!.

Sunday 24th December
My birthday - what a loverley day!

Waking up at 6.30am in preparation for our yogi session, we were left waiting until 8am and decided that it was too late really... plus I had already been through my usual 'dawn chorus', so not without a little guilt on my part we cancelled and the celebrations began.

From no-where balloons (those girls have got some puff!) and presents arrived accompanied by our breakfast. I was overwhelmed by my gifts especially when I unwrapped the backgammon set. I'd been longing for a game had been rather miffed why, everytime I saw a set the girls just walked on, but then all let loose when I unwrapped my second set. So much for being a women of mystery!.

After a few games of Backgammon with Sue, Jess and I left for the Raheem Residency, a luxury hotel with pool side waiter service, whilst the girls popped into town for supplies, joining us later. We settled down for a day of lazing by the beautiful pool under the blue skies and palm trees, taking turns to have ayurvedic massages on a dark wooden teak bed in the luxury spa and ordering drinks from our loungers.

More surprises to come, a huge birthday with my name iced ontop, afternoon tea and then it was time to get ready for our dinner back at the Raheem. The evening was full of lots of fun and laughter, live Indian music, delicious food - a prawn starter (uum), cashnew nut soup (umm), seafood platter (double umm) and coconut and chocolate pud and much to my excitment WINE (umm, umm, umm) - my first glass in so many weeks and then to top it off the local church group laid on a nativity play with all the costumes and dances. Very amusing even if we didn't understand a word!

Wandering back we were accosted along the way with men calling "Merry Christmas" - I don't know where all the women were, fireworks and singing but it was nothing compared to the the noise from the Christmas Eve mass across the road - the Indian Catholic really know how to party! I lay awake till the early hours of the morning listening to the Indian version of Silent night followed by fireworks that in my dozy state sounded and felt like bombs exploding in the room.

A fabulous time and huge thank you to all for organising the day and all my lovely presents, texts, emails and cards.


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