Yugadi Habbada Shubhashayagalu! (Kannada for “Greetings for the festival of Ugadi”)

What is Ugadi?

Ugadi is New Years Day and falls on 18th March (in 2018) and is a public holiday. Ugadi literally means “the beginning of a new age”. It falls on a different day every year because the Hindu calendar is a lunisolar calendar so signifies a change in the moon’s orbit.

How is it celebrated?

It is celebrated with gatherings of the extended family with lots of food and feasting. The day begins with a ritual shower or ‘oil bath’ followed by prayers. Mantras are chanted and predictions are made for the new year.

What are the preparations for the festival?

Preparations begin a week before the festival with houses given a thorough wash, shopping for new clothes and buying other festival items. On the morning of Ugadi people wake up before dawn and take a head bath after which their house door / entrance is decorated with fresh mango leaves (to signify good crops and general well being). People also splash fresh cow dung water on the ground in front of their house (can you imagine the smell!) as well as drawing colourful floral designs.

On the day of Ugadi

People perform the ritual worship to god invoking his blessings before they start off the new year. They pray for health, wealth and prosperity and success in business -it’s a good time to start new businesses.

There is a symbolic eating of a dish with six tastes called ‘Bevu-Bella’. It symbolises that life is a different mix of different experiences: sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise. These experiences should all be accepted equally throughout the new year. The six tastes are: sour (tamarind juice), sweet (jaggery), salt, bitter (Neem buds), astringent (unripened mango) and spicy hot (green chilli) or pungent and are called Ugadi Pachhadi. It is only served during this festival.

In Karnataka (the state in which Bangalore is) there is a special dish called Obbattu (or Holige) which is a filling of jaggery and boiled sugar to make a paste which is stuffed inside a roti. It is eaten with ghee, milk or coconut milk and can be eaten hot or cold.


International Women’s Day 2018

When is it?

It is held on 8th March every year.

What is it?

International Women’s Day (‘IWD’) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

IWD 2018

The UN theme for IWD in 2018 is “The Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives

They say:

“This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.

International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.

Echoing the priority theme of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, International Women’s Day will also draw attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population and majority of the 43 per cent of women in the global agricultural labour force.

They till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations, ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, on almost every measure of development, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women. For instance, less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stand at 23 per cent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 per cent. They lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.

On 8 March, join activists around the world and UN Women to seize the moment, celebrate, take action and transform women’s lives everywhere. The time is NOW.”


In Bangalore there was a silent protest to draw attention towards obtaining justice for rape victims. The New India Charitable Trust founded by Vijay and Amrita Tata asked women to wear black (I am and so are my neighbours) and also join a march in the city centre to demand that the judiciary expedite judgement in rape trials. 90% of rapes in India go unreported. Of the 10% that are reported (and that was 34,651 in 2017) only 30% (2017: 10,395) of those go to trial. Of those that go to trial only one third (2017: 3,500) result in an imprisonment. The statistics are horrifying enough but the personal tragedies and lives destroyed behind those stats is even worse.

Indira Canteens (subsidised food canteens) across the city will serve meals for free to women tomorrow as a gift from the BBMP (city council effectively). It includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Various hotels are holding special lunches today for women too.

Messages are circulating on Whatsapp supposedly supporting women but the majority I have received are patronising and concentrate on how to be a lady and not how to be a strong woman. For everyone I have received I have responded with the following (which was sent to me by my German neighbour):

Women are not delicate flowers to be protected. We want to be treated as the equals we are.

Wherever in the world you are, enjoy celebrating mighty women everywhere.

Holi Festival 2018

What is it?

Holi is the Festival of Colours. This is when people spray and throw colours (powder and coloured water) on each other, dance, party and eat festival delicacies. It is the time when everyone puts the gloom of winter behind them and celebrate the colours and life of Spring.

When is it?

It is the Hindu spring festival at the full moon (Phalgun Purnima) and is on Friday 2nd March in 2018. The parties started on Friday and carried on throughout the weekend.

How is it celebrated?

With a lot of coloured powder, water guns and a lot of fun!

It’s a party atmosphere and people party with friends and family. People who don’t normally drink will have one or two. People partake of ‘bhaang’ (made from cannabis leaves) – although I’ve not seen this myself so I’m guessing it’s kept away from expats. Non veg people have a great and eat mutton and chicken curry whilst the veg eat spicy ‘katahal’ jackfruit.

The night before is Holika Bonfire with religious rituals in front of the bonfire and pray that their internal evil is destroyed on the bonfire.

We just had a big powder and water throwing party. It’s was such fun.


There is a still a water crisis here but that has not deterred a lot of Holi parties being planned. There was a formal program arranged in our complex but we just a got together on the street with the children – powders and water guns at the ready for a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun in front of the house then we went in search of others celebrating. We knocked on one of our neighbours door on the way and wished him a Happy Holi with a lot of colours too! He took it in good humour (thankfully!) and then joined in the fun. We moved on in a group and then we went in search of our other neighbours to get them. We also encountered other groups we took full part in their celebrations with a lot of water bombs, water pistols and powders being liberally shared. It was such fun and a great atmosphere.


After enjoying the colours and water (a welcome relief to have a water gun fight in 36C), we headed for the shower and the clothes to the washing machine. The dye had gone through everything and has dyed my skin. Scrubbing hard has only faded the colours. I am going to be technicolour for some time. The pink and purple is particularly difficult to remove and I have a purple back and pink chest!

Happy Holi everyone!

Women of Destiny Conference 2018

When was it?

Saturday 3rd February 2018 from 9:30am to 5pm. At 9:30am there were less than 10 people at the conference. Nobody arrives on time here, not even for God it seems!

Where was it?

The First Assembly of God Church, Bangalore. Right next to the highway flyover so difficult to see from the road. Lovely building with an underground car park.


How much was it?

INR 150 which included tea and biscuits and a hot lunch. We also received a beautiful blue scarf at the end of the day.

Some pictures from the day

The ladies receiving the blue scarves (or mantles) at the end of the day.

The dance troop interpreting a hymn.

The start of the conference at 9:30am.

A coat stand put to alternative use.

Who were the speakers?

As we were not given a conference agenda or timetable or speaker notes, this was a bit tricky. There were several ladies speaking and leading the worship and one man, Pastor Gavin Cunningham of the First AG Church, at the end of the day. The main speaker of the day was Pastor Peggy Kennedy from Canada who talked on 1 Kings 19 and who was followed by Pastor Sharon talking on the book of Ruth. Both were extremely good speakers.

Jack & Peggy Kennedy have been serving the Lord and His Church in many capacities over 35 years. Their journey of obedience has taken them from the west coast ministry among First Nations (Jack is a member of the Tsimpshian First Nation of northern B.C.) to ministry at large among the Body of Christ across Canada and to the nations. Their “assignments” have been varied: pastoring in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, coordinating Aboriginal Ministries for the PAOC British Columbia & Yukon District, leadership of the Canadian Native Bible College, Vancouver, B.C. and more!

Thoughts on the day

It was my first time at a women only conference in India so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Registration and payment took place outside at the front of the church. We were welcomed in by several ladies before I had rewatched the top of the steps for the church itself. It was lovely be greeted by so many happy ladies.

The worship was great and the speakers, and subjects, both interesting and inspiring. I learnt a lot.

There were no morning breaks at all and tea and coffee were brought to everyone at their seats as they listened to the speakers. Lunch was served downstairs in the underground car park and there was plenty of food; I avoided the spicy stuff!

The prayer time at the end with the distribution of the scarves was new and unusual for me, so I watched and waited until near the end so I could take in the process.

Tea and biscuits was also served outside at the end of the conference.

In some ways it was very similar to christian conferences in the UK but some of the practicalities were completely different. I thoroughly enjoyed my day and despite it being a long day I came out refreshed.

A Bandh in Bangalore

What is a Bandh?

A Bandh is a general strike.

When is it?

The Karnataka state (which includes Bangalore) shut down on Thursday 25th January. Bangalore will also shut down again on Sunday 4th February.

Why is there a Bandh?

Pro Kannada groups and farmers call Bandhs to pressurise parties and the centre to resolve the Mahadayi river dispute.

The Bandh on 4th Feb is to coincide with Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Bangalore to attend the BJP’s Parivarthana rally. Thousands of farmers plan to gherao* PM Modi in Bangalore. It’s a tactic used by labour activists and union leaders in India and is similar to picketing. Usually a group of people surround a politician or government building until their demands are met or answers given.

What is the Mahadayi River dispute?

The 77 km long Mahadayi or Mandovi river originates in the Western Ghats in the Belagavi district of North Karnataka and flows into the neighbouring Goa where it eventually joins the Arabian Sea.

Karnataka plans to build two canals to divert the river water to supply four drought prone districts. This is being opposed by Goa as they state that there is already a water deficit. PM Modi’s visit to Karnataka has led to escalating tensions. The pro Kannada groups have asked PM Modi to intervene. Farmers leaders have argued that the dispute should have been resolved much earlier as the BJP is in power at the centre.

The issue is pending before the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal in Dehli and is expected to be held between 6th – 22nd February.

What happens during a Bandh?

Generally speaking everything is shut between 6am to 6pm. Schools and Universities close as staff may not be able to reach work and also for the safety and security of children. It is exam time in Bangalore so this means revised exam schedules are being hastily arranged.

Buses will only run if it is safe to do so and there is no threat to safety. (During the last Bandh over 30 buses were destroyed by fire.)

The civil service here will be shut for the day so anything that involves a government employee will be closed. They are all also donating their day’s wage to the cause.

Zahra’s School is closed and operate on the virtual learning platform on Bandh days so disruption is kept to a minimum.

Basically it’s a stay at home day and enjoy the time with your family and neighbours in the winter sun. It also creates a long weekend as Friday is a National Holiday for Republic Day.

Let’s hope the day passes off peacefully.

Update at 12 Noon

Peaceful protests are occurring across the city and some at Manyatta Tech Park. The police have deployed additional forces in two major hubs for protesters. Helicopters fly overhead regularly (but we are in the north near the airfields). 170 battalions of state reserve police, 220 platoons of armed reserves and 63,000 law and order personnel have been deployed. In addition the Deccan Herald has reported that “120 habitual trouble makers have been taken into preventative custody across the state”.

*gherao is derived from Hindi and means encirclement.

Manifesting the Gifts of the Spirit – Christian Leaders Conference 2018

What is it?

Manifesting the Gifts of the Spirit (‘GOTS’) was the title for the 2018 Christian Leaders Conference held by All People’s Church (‘ APC’) in Bangalore. It ran from Wednesday 17th to Friday 19th January from 9:30am to 5:30pm, with a morning coffee break, lunch and afternoon tea break ( food and beverages provided). The cost was INR 500 (£6) for all three days.

Pre Conference

I am at the APC Bible College in Bangalore studying for a Theology Diploma. All students were required to attend the conference and there would be no classes at Bible College for the duration of the Conference. Boarding students were required to serve and assist at the conference.

Bible college is usually from 9:30am to 1pm and in Hennur, around 30 minutes journey in the morning traffic. The conference was being held centrally at the United Theological College in Benson Town. That’s a 45 min to an hour journey in the morning. Logistically its a nightmare as we have one car. Thankfully we have carpooling arrangements with our friends and neighbours for the School run (drop off and pick up for those of you not from the UK!). The easy part was arranging for Zahra (and the other children) to be collected and looked after whilst I was at the Conference.Rez goes to work at 7am but our driver could not take him and get back for me to get me to the conference on time (the usual crappy Bangalore traffic prohibits this). Thankfully a neighbour lent me her car and driver to get me there on time. (We have super expat neighbours in this complex – they’re all fabulous and kind.)

The initial logistical nightmare dealt with, I could think about the Conference. The first thing that struck me was how incredibly cheap it was. INR 500 is roughly a days wage here for the upper working or lower middle class. So actually quite expensive for local wage earners. The accountant in me still can’t get me head around how the church can hold such a huge conference, fully catered, for such a small fee. Obviously it is heavily subsidised by the church, but even so, APC has about 470 adults in 5 congregations spread over all of Bangalore. It’s a huge amount of money coming in from the congregation to subsidise this and make it accessible.

As the conference approached I wondered what it would be like. I have never been to a conference here. How big would it be? What would the facilities be like? (They are very basic a Bible College). Are the toilets useable (it’s like playing Russian roulette using toilets in Bangalore! Always have tissues and hand sanitiser with me.)

Conference Day 1

After arranging for Zahra’s forgotten locker keys to be delivered to school by our helpful neighbour, I set off with her car and driver to find the conference. It’s at the United Theological College in Benson Town in the city. Google maps was rubbish. It took us 30 mins of driving around the area to find it. We stopped several times and asked for directions- the final time we were actually outside the college. It was across the road from where we had stopped. Both me and the driver looked around to see the smallest sign ever for a large college which could only be viewed if you are driving in the right direction. Useful. (And that’s British sarcasm in case you don’t recognise it!)

I was dropped off outside the hall at 9:15am and was pleased we had left plenty of time for the journey as I was able to register, find the wash room (more on that later) and settle in before the conference started at 9:30am.

9:30am and the conference is a quarter full. The band played and we sang worship songs as the rest of the delegates drifted in on Indian time (ie always late).

The conference is on the UTC grounds in a building which is truly an old style church hall. The entrance has the washrooms and where the registration desk and (free) book stall was. The hall itself sloped down to the front of the stage. The floor is tiled in beige with a strip of maroon carpet running down the centre. Each side has plastic garden chairs for seats. (These are used widely in India as chairs- they are lightweight and easy to clean and transport).

I sat with my college colleagues. After some very short announcements Pastor Ashish took to the lecture to deliver the first session on Supernatural Ministry. At 11am we had a tea break and at 11:30 Pastor Ashish continued with Introducing the person of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1pm was a lunch break with rice, roti, chicken curry and curd served. At 2pm we reconvened for a short time of praise in Hindi and English. Then Pastor Jeyakumar jumped from the stage from playing guitar to talk to us about Concerning Spiritual Gifts. Pastor Ashish continued with The Love of God our Motivation and How the Holy Spirit Initiates the release of the gifts. 3pm was afternoon coffee and the final session at 3:30pm was a practical session. This is were the pastors of APC gave a practical demonstration of listening to the Holy Spirit and delivering what they heard to the congregation. People were also immediately healed of ailments. It is amazing to see God at work. Seeing really is believing.


There are a few hundred people at this conference and the Building has two toilets for women, one western and one Indian. They were basic and dated but usable, (unless the previous occupant decided to shower with the toilet hose and wet the floor, walls and toilet seat – I’ll never understand this behaviour). The western toilet had a tree growing through the open window and was constantly wet, due to the dripping tap at calf height. The church provided toilet roll and hand wash. There was a filthy dirty mop (no bucket) and a sink that was dirty and falling apart but useable. A dirty curtain covered the entrance to the washrooms which also had a filthy cloth mat. At least they didn’t smell but the church had also provided a can of air freshener just in case. (I provided a towel and some soap the next day.) Now this is a conference facility which is paid for – why are the toilets so basic and dirty? I just don’t get it. Why did the church have to provide toilet roll and hand wash? Another #IncredibleIndia moment.

Day 2

This was a bit of a blur as the speakers were great, good practical sessions and really demystifying the gifts and work of the Holy Spirit. Pastors Nancy, Ashish and Brian spoke today. The lectures were on words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing and working of miracles.

The practical practice session at the end of the day was working miracles and the gift of healing. We prayed for several individuals, all of whom had physical ailments needing treatment. All were healed. Now I know the majority of readers will scoff at that statement and ask for evidence. Seeing really is believing. I won’t be able to convince anyone who wasn’t there that physical healing actually took place, but it did. It was miraculous and it was unbelievable but it happened.


Lunch was provided for the delegates each day, outside. Lunch was chicken, rice, roti and curds with biryani served on Friday. Everyone who had registered and paid for the conference was given a meal voucher each day to collect our meal. There was an orderly queue (surprising for India) and people sat and chatted whilst eating.

This is when I was cornered each day by a couple of elderly gentlemen preachers telling me about their ministry and asking me to pray for them. They did this at the tea and coffee breaks to and never left my side. It was quite unnerving. On the last day I was given a business card and a medical report. Both wanted contributions. I was an easy target being white. The assumption being that every white person is loaded. I was saddened and disheartened that this happened at a Christian Conference when there was ample opportunity to seek assistance from the many other delegates in attendance.

Day 3

I arrive early and sit in the gardens drinking my flask of tea (how British!) listening to the variety of birds singing and chirping and squawking whilst the band practice “Come now is the time for worship”, one of my favourite songs.

As usual, the conference started with a period of worship promptly at 9:30am and allowed those adhering to Indian Standard Time to drift in. Expectations were high after yesterday’s miracles; God was really moving in this place.

Pastor Ashish and Pastor Brian lectured today on the gift of faith (rather than ‘normal’ faith), developing the gifts of the Spirit, proper foundation for releasing the gifts, being a channel for the spirit’s power, flowing with the anointing (and what ‘anointing’ actually means) and unusual manifestations and how to respond. All the lectures were super useful, plain speaking and again demystifying the terminology.

The last practice session today was letting the spirit flow through us to hear from God. Pastor Ashish requested that those who heard from God to go to the front and validate it i.e. tell everyone what you heard and see if anyone could relate to it or if it was about them. This is a very scary and risky thing if you have never done it before, but that was the point – getting us all to practice in a safe non judgmental environment where mistakes could be made. As it happened all those who spoke had their words and pictures confirmed by someone else in the room. It was fascinating to watch.

Then it happened. I was sat quietly concentrating and praying, when words flashed into my mind clear and strong. I picked up my notebook and pen and wrote them down, closed my eyes and it happened again. Then again and again and again. I had a poem. I showed my college colleagues who insisted I go up to the front with it. With a pounding heart and shaking hands I picked up the mike and sat down on the chair (so no one could see me) and read the poem. I delivered it and scurried back to my seat.

Others continued with words and pictures. At the end of the session Pastor Ashish asked us to explain how it happened and what we saw so others could benefit. How do you explain that these words just popped into your head? So that’s what I said – I can’t explain it, the words came and I wrote them down.


This was the end of the conference. There was a final tea break and those requiring prayer from the pastoral team queued and queued. There was a lot of delegates requesting prayer.

I was asked to record ‘my testimony’ for the conference. This means a different thing from the UK – they were asking me to give feedback on the conference and what I enjoyed about it. I was filmed telling the audience about my first Indian Conference and my experience. They then asked me to read the poem to the camera too, which I did. I have no idea what it is going to be used for.

It was such a good conference and I learnt so much about the Gifts of the Spirit and practising using them. It really did demystify things. Now I need to practice, and keep practising.

The Poem

My heart is leaping

Bowing down to you

You made me new

You made me new.

You are God

You are Lord overall

You shine anew

You shine anew.

Your gifts are free

Free gifts for me

Accept and see

What I can do, in you.

You are God

You are Lord overall

You make me new

Anew in you.

Some of my Bible College colleagues


The APC website has loads of free resources – books, sermons, videos, tv programs – take a look:

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal

Makar Sankranti, Lohri or Pongal is the harvest festival celebration. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India on 13th, 14th and 15th January this year.

What is it?

Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means movement. It traditionally coincides with the beginning of the sun’s northward journey when it enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to the sun, which coincides with the completion of the harvest season and is celebrated with much joy – usually.


Pongal is the three day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in honour of the rain god Indra as well as the sun god and the holy cow. ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is the first day of Pongal and the lord Indra is worshipped. Sisters also pray for the welfare of their brothers. On the second day the sun god is worshipped for imparting heat and energy to the fields. The third day is Mattul Pongal and cattle is worshipped. A portion of pudding is kept aside in the open to feed birds and insects. A special dish called Pongal is prepared by ladies to commemorate the festival.


Jallikatu is a bullfight organised by every town and village on the third and last day of Pongal. This ‘game’ is traditionally ‘played’ by young men who try to grab the money tied to the horns of the bull. It is a centuries old tradition. It is a bull taming event which is supposed to preserve the indigenous breeds of cattle such as the Jellicut. The untamed bull is used for breeding. The event can be traced as far back as 400-100BC.


Lohri is the North Indian harvest festival on 13th January each year, usually observed in Punjab and Haryana. It is celebrated to bring good luck to celebrate to obtain a better harvest and to prepare for the next sowing season. During the day children fly kites. Mainly though it is an evening festival with bonfires upon which sugar cane and parched rice goods are thrown. Both men and women wear bright clothes and dance around the bonfire. The men perform Bhangra and the ladies perform Gidda. Everyone exchanges gifts of peanuts, popcorn, prodded rice and other sweets.