Hosting Events like Birthday Parties and Kitty Parties at Ammaji’s – 2 May 16

I have taken not only the task of serving at our restaurant in the evenings but also one more: I am the one managing the waiting list! With a current sitting capacity of 42 people, we are again and again running out of space and people have to wait for a table. I write down their names and call them once their table is free and prepared. The fact that I now do this daily makes one thing very clear: we have to open our first floor as soon as possible!

Yes, now even the afternoons are often getting full: we have a lot of inquiries for ‘Kitty Parties’. For those who don’t know what that is, I will give a quick explanation. As far as I have understood the concept, it is a club of ladies – mostly about twenty of them – who can be friends or just acquaintances, with one or two having the leading role. They make a small monthly contribution to the financial funding of their meetings. At these, they visit a restaurant of their choice, which is obviously now Ammaji’s for many of them, and get together, have snacks or a meal and play a variation of bingo with often hand-made bingo cards.

These parties take place in the afternoons. After that, we now often get reservations for birthday parties or wedding anniversaries! People already know that they cannot just turn up with a group of twenty people and expect to find empty tables! So they call before and reserve their seats, which is nice for us, too. It gives us the possibility to plan in the kitchen and to make the required setting for the amount of people beforehand!

We even got an inquiry by students of the biggest university of the area for catering at their farewell party but we politely declined – we are already involved in so many different activities and have enough to do just at the restaurant without having to worry about how we will get warm food to another place and serve it nicely there! Maybe we will do that another time!

What we do plan already is to have buffet-style options for meals as well, once we have a bigger space for it. There are anyway more plans already, to use a part of our garden for sitting in nature and eating there, for example. With the pathway in the middle removed, it could be a beautiful place that will allow us to host some of those bigger parties that people were already asking for, too!

All of this and all of our plans for the future will work out not only with our own effort and love in this project but also with the great work of our staff! That is something which we always know and that’s how we regularly have meetings with everyone, talking about the events at the restaurant, everything positive and what didn’t go as well – and we feel we are thus on the way to create something really special!

Apra’s fourth Birthday Party – 10 Jan 16

Yesterday was Apra’s fourth birthday! Just like every year, we had a blast at a wonderful birthday party with all school children, lots of guests and delicious food!

The day started in the morning with preparing for the decoration. The only thing we were planning on doing was putting up balloons – but a few thousand of them! For this purpose we had bought balloons and a machine that electrically fills air in them. Otherwise we would have needed to start blowing them up by mouth a few days before! A few experienced people started blowing air into the balloons in the early morning hours and then made colourful gates and beautiful balloon garlands out of them.

A bit later than expected, the cooks also started working. Well, I guess the fault is with our expectation and not with the cooks who excused themselves saying ‘It is so cold, nobody wants to get up so early in the morning! But anyway, they finally did get up and started preparing all the delicious food we were going to have.

At ten o’clock our main guests had nearly all arrived: our school children! Apart from them there were some other, very cherished friends who were slowly arriving – and soon we started the party off with some dance and music. It is always the greatest of times when the children start dancing wildly and everyone around forgets their shyness as well!

Apra had become hungry in the meantime – after all she had been up for several hours already, helping in preparations, receiving gifts and eating chocolate! So while everyone was dancing, Ramona sneaked away with her towards the food stalls, where noodles, potato pancakes, snacks and sweets were being prepared and got the very first bowl of noodles for Apra and the first potato pancake for her German grandfather. Sitting in the back, behind everyone, they had a delicious first taste of the party food!

It had been a good idea to feed Apra first because once the meal officially started, the school children rushed to the stalls and for a long time it was difficult to get anywhere near the food because of the children in front of the stalls, waiting to get their meal. For a good while after, they were busy stuffing all of those tasty items into their mouths, filling their bellies and enjoying the party with so delicious free food.

Some more dancing was done before we had the cake. Apra made the first cut and later everyone got a piece of the incredibly delicious chocolate cake. When she had had her share, she joined the people on the dance floor and even did a little performance – a dance she had learned during the past week.

Finally, when the children and some of our guests had left, Apra opened her gifts: beautiful dresses, colour Pencils and games!

In the end we had a calm, relaxing and delicious dinner and spent the rest of the evening in nice talks with friends who stayed over night.

It was a great birthday, a beautiful memory of Apra's birth and a nice chance to reconnect with old friends.

You can see pictures of the big party here

Diwali at the Ashram with Lights, Sweets, Friends and Fun! – 11 Nov 15

Today is the day of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights! It is, with Holi, one of the two biggest celebrations of the year and of course everyone has been looking forward to it. Also our German guests who have especially planned their journey for this time of the year so that they can be part of it!

Over the past days, our friends could already feel the atmosphere in town changing. The children of all schools had free and families were out and about, going for shopping, visiting relatives and preparing for the festive days. Bit by bit, chains of lights appeared at the house fronts around town.

Two days ago, our electrician started decorating the Ashram as well and yesterday evening we could already marvel in the beauty of our lighted garden, Ashram building, school and restaurant!

At the same time, the Ashram kitchen was going full speed on preparing Diwali sweets! The whole day yesterday, our cooks and some extra helpers from outside were busy rolling, mixing, cutting, turning, frying and baking the most delicious sweets! The whole Ashram was smelling wonderfully, our German group already had a first taste with their chai and we all enjoyed the results as a desert after dinner!

Since this morning, a lot of cleaning is going on and everybody is getting his good clothes sorted for the evening. We are now just about to start taking out the oil lamps. They have to be set up, we need the cotton wicks into the lamps and then fill them all up with oil before lighting them. It will be enough work for the complete Ashram family and our guests to fill the afternoon – and it will be a truly delightful task!

Finally, we will enjoy the beauty of our work together in the lighted Ashram, probably all in beautiful clothing, feeling special on this wonderful day with great company! A great dinner, maybe some dance and a lot of fun!

And even though our smallest one, Apra, has a cold and is coughing, she is in the middle of it all!

I wish all of you just as much fun as we are having, a beautiful Diwali if you are celebrating and simply a wonderful time of your life!

Much love to all!

Here you can see pictures of our Diwali celebration

Dance Star Apra gives spontaneous performance – 9 Nov 15

Once a year, there is a fair in our town which people started organizing when I was a teenager. It is called ‘Bal Mela’ and schools of the whole town participate to have art competitions, performances of dance and theater and more things which make a beautiful show.

When I was in school, we also participated and I remember that I have several times performed on that stage. Adolescents were also encouraged to make stalls at the side of the grounds. One year I sold chai and snacks which my mother had prepared at home. Another year, I had my camera with me, took photos of people against an advance and sold them, bringing them by their homes once they were developed.

As I mentioned, our friend Melanie from France is here at the Ashram as well and she has come to stay for a long time. In the evenings, she has been contributing to the entertainment of our guests and us by performing her fire dance, with burning poi that she swings all around her. It is spectacular to watch and knowing that the Bal Mela was coming up, Purnendu talked to one of his friends who happens to be the organizer to this event. Wouldn’t it be a great start for the evening program?

Additionally, we have our group here and wanted to show them a bit something of our town! So Purnendu went and took them all along – Melanie, our guests and of course the Ashram children including Apra.

Once there, everybody had a great time! As usual in India, the dance program started much later than previously announced but the audience was rewarded for their patience with Melanie’s amazing fire dance on the big stage. When she saw this, Apra immediately also wanted to come on stage and perform as well!

Spontaneously, Purnendu talked to his friend once more and soon it was time: the anchor announced our little dance star! She came out onto the stage and danced to one of her favourite songs which she had already learned a dance for this summer. She got enourmous applause and came home proudly with a medal and a cup which she had won by participation!

Before they left, the organizers asked all of our guests to come to the stage as well. We had a lot of fun still this morning at the breakfast table when they told how they all walked up the stage as honour guests of the event!

Oh, and now here we are, two proud parents who cannot help but admire their daughter who gets up on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers, performing a dance without previous preparation for this occasion, in the clothes her mother had quickly dressed her in before leaving! She had great fun and I am proud to say she is my daughter, the daughter of a performer as I have myself already been in young age.

Busy in Preparations for a lot of Events! – 8 Nov 15

I know I have mentioned several times that we are very busy at the moment – and that has just increased another level yesterday! A beautiful group of ten lovely people from Germany has arrived to enjoy one to two weeks of program at our Ashram! We’ve got our hands full – and love it!

We have been up to our necks in our usual work and of course additionally in the preparations for this group. It consists of several men and women, two of whom have been at our Ashram already twice. They have become friends and we knew we would have a wonderful time together with them and the people they brought along.

After their arrival yesterday, they were welcomed with an evening fire show by our French friend Melanie who is here with us and will stay for a long time. Today in the morning, they enjoyed a yoga class and are right now out in the market, getting their first impressions of Vrindavan!

In the next days, they will have an Ayurvedic Cooking Class, sightseeing tours in Vrindavan, Mathura and Agra and of course they will join the celebrations of Diwali, which is now only three days away!

The group and our Diwali celebrations are not the only events we were preparing for though! Directly after Diwali, on 13th November, Apra, Ramona and I will start from the Ashram and drive to the airport in Delhi, our suitcase with us, on the way to Germany!

It has been nearly one and a half years now and we cannot wait to get back and have Apra once more experience the country of her mother, meet our lovely friends and family and have more fun than ever before! In summer, we were too busy with the progress of our restaurant to go but we didn’t want to miss a complete year. That’s how two months ago, we checked our calendar and realized we only had these three weeks now, in between groups, which we could spend in Germany!

We especially took out a day’s time to be able to go shopping in Delhi so that we would have some warm clothes for the cold weather in Germany. We will show Apra snow for the first time in her life, we will go to see Christmas markets, drink hot chocolate and eat strawberry ice cream.

I will keep you posted about our adventures – can’t wait!

Join us for the Colour Madness at Holi 2016! – 22 Oct 15

If you get our newsletter, you have already received an invitation to the retreat we planned next: the Holi Retreat 2016! While in the past years we just loosely invited everyone with a special offer for the time of the colour festival, we now have a complete program ready for a first-hand experience of India, the Ashram and of course the colour madness of the Holi celebration!

Holi, for all who don’t know it, is one of India’s two biggest festivals of the year! It is a huge colour celebration and while the rest of India celebrates it on one day in spring, the town of Vrindavan hurls itself into colours a whole week long!

It is an exceptional time of the year during which you can really feel like a child again! You can play tricks on each other, paint with colours without worrying about your clothes and throw colours onto one another as well!

With our Holi Retreat program, you will have the possibility to enjoy Indian culture from within, starting with a welcome-party at the Ashram followed by a guided tour through Vrindavan so that you know the city you will spend the next one or two weeks in. Next, you will get to see how Holi is celebrated inside the main temple of Vrindavan, how we prepare fresh colours ourselves and then take part in the big Holi celebration at the Ashram on the climax day of Holi. In the safe environment of our private party, we will get crazy with the colours!

After Holi is over, your holiday will continue a bit calmer but not any less interesting! You get to visit our school and the school children, have time for a question and answer round with Yashendu where you can ask whatever you want and of course you will make a trip to see the Taj Mahal in Agra! In a presentation of Indian spices, you’ll get to know what creates the wonderful taste of the Ashram’s food and in an Ayurvedic Cooking Workshop you will learn how to prepare these dishes yourself. With a walk around the town and a stop at the evening fire ceremony at the river, we will conclude the program – and after a farewell party, you will be on your way back home with the most beautiful memories on your mind.

There will be daily yoga classes and enough time to explore the surroundings yourself, relax at the Ashram, take Ayurvedic massages and treatments, play with the children or go shopping in Vrindavan’s colourful bazaars!

With this Holi Retreat we want to combine the fun of the Holi celebration with the feeling of being taken care of in your experience of incredible India – and we are already looking forward to getting coloured together with you!

Here you can get all details for the Holi Retreat 2016!

And here you can see pictures of previous Holi celebrations

Another Celebration and a Surprise for the Children – 19 Oct 15

Yesterday I told you about my birthday party on Saturday. Actually, this party was supposed to start in the morning already with a big lunch of the children and a surprise for them. On Saturday however, there were local elections in an area of Vrindavan and as a lot of our children come from that part of town, they got a holiday on Saturday. This is how we got another chance to celebrate again and in this way we even could celebrate another occasion: Thomas and Iris’ 10th Indian wedding anniversary!

The children arrived this morning, thinking it would be another usual day of school. They we surprised when they were called for lunch and we and our guests were sitting there already, waiting for them to join us and start the meal! We all ate together with them and afterwards, when all were full, we got together once more for the surprise: all children got new school bags!

This was my family and friends’ birthday gift for me! They had a bag made for each child which we could now distribute. The biggest gift are the beautiful smiles of our school children! How they took their bags, turned them in their hands, examining them carefully and opening each zipper to check how much space they had in the new bags!

My birthday was not the only thing we celebrated like this however! Today is another very special day: it is Thomas and Iris’ 10th Indian wedding anniversary! We can hardly believe that it has already been so long but really, ten years ago, Thomas and Iris came to our Ashram for the very first time. It was in 2005 that we got to know each other in Germany and they then travelled to India and came to us. Here, they had their Indian wedding ceremony – and of course we had to celebrate that as well!

So it was like a third birthday party and an anniversary celebration which we shared with the children!

I am happy to have such a wonderful family and beautiful friends – and it is great that I can share this all with you in this way as well! I hope someday you will join us for one of our celebrations, too!

Celebrating my Birthday, forgetting the Count of Years and loving my Life! – 14 Oct 15

Today is the day again on which I change the count of my years. It is my birthday, the 14th October. And before you even ask: I don’t feel any older today than I did yesterday!

I know I have mentioned it before and probably on my birthday as well: this figure with which you tell other people your age is not of much importance to me. Ramona laughed the other day when she told guests about this. ‘You ask him about his age and he will think two minutes about how old he actually is!’

I really feel young enough to be as busy as I am and old enough to have made the experiences I have made. Why would I let this figure dictate how I should feel or behave? Nothing changes by that. I also don’t compare myself in my age to others. If I started, it would be very confusing: some of my former classmates are grandparents already while I have other friends of my age who are studying, at the beginning of a relationship or at a similar point of life that I have already crossed! So why start comparing?

No, I am very happy with the point that I am at in my life. I usually am. I have my family, wonderful friends, I am very busy with my work which is progressing well and I enjoy a good health, too. Right now while Ramona and I are writing this, I have to smile because my daughter is laughing behind me, joking with her uncle. With this sunshine in my life, I cannot even think about feeling old!

This morning she woke up, excited and happy that it is my birthday. She told Ramona that she would eat lots of cake – just to hear from Ramona that we wanted to have the party at the weekend, when our friends Thomas and Iris as well as some more friends would be here as well! Oh, Apra was upset then, complaining immediately that the party should be today, not on Saturday. Ramona tried to explain her that our friends wanted to join the fun as well but Apra objected: ‘They can come to my birthday party!’

Ramona gave in: ‘Okay, we can have a small party today and a big one on Saturday!’ Wrong strategy! That gave a big protest: ‘No! We have to have a big party today, there has to be a big cake ON the birthday!’ Oh well, so we will have one party today and one on Saturday!

We are not the ones to say no to a party anyway. And I am looking forward to many more!

Holi at the Ashram – crazy but safe Fun – 8 Mar 15

Holi is over! We once again had a special, wonderful, incredibly colourful celebration for this colour festival!

I already told you that Apra was in a kind of Holi fever the whole time. She was playing every single day with colours, asking different people to give her colour and even convincing some staff members to go out with her and buy coloured powder for her! She had a blast!

On the last day of Holi, the 6th March this year, we had our biggest celebration, not only with powder but also with coloured water, water pistols and lots of different colours! Yashendu and the Ashram staff had spent half of the night before boiling flowers to make coloured water and so the water was nicely warm as well. Apra decided that she would rather stick to dry colours and played along on the side, without getting wet.

Our guests however got right into the colours along with us! They enjoyed just as much as we did and just like last year, ended up being coloured at different body parts. After the big celebration, we were all just tired and exhausted – still yesterday, everyone was hanging around, just enjoying a day with less to no movement and of course the tasty sweets and snacks of a festive time!

Yesterday, a German woman came by at the Ashram to inquire about retreats in the next months. She had spent Holi in Vrindavan – but had not left the hotel room on the main day, the sixth March, after some bad experiences on the fifth. She had gone out of the hotel and in the big crowd, she was not only coloured but also groped and harassed. In a crowd like this, crazy in Holi madness, unfortunately such things happen – and a woman experiencing that cannot do much about it except than staying in. It’s a huge pity and a big shame!

That is how travel agencies and online travel forums already started telling women to stay inside on the main day or to only celebrate with a small group of friends, the guesthouse family or another closed party, not out on the road.

We are happy that at our Ashram, we can give people from abroad the opportunity to experience the whole craziness of Holi, and especially in Vrindavan, in a safe environment. Yes, we all get crazy, we run one behind the other and we all are like children looking forward to colouring the other one – but however crazy it gets, we all know to treat the other one with respect. We are our staff, our friends, our guests, our kids and our family. It is quite a crowd but even while rubbing colour powder on another person’s neck, we all know that we are doing this because we all want to have fun!

And it stays fun for everybody who takes part! Now, after the celebration, we have wonderful memories of being like children again and not caring about colour on our bodies or hair! It is the best time of the year – and we love sharing this experience with friends from all over the world!

We are looking forward to celebrating with you next year!

Here you can see pictures of this year’s Holi celebration

Having more Fun every Year – Apra’s Holi Celebration – 5 Mar 15

I already told you that Holi has started here in Vrindavan. And as you can guess, Apra is in the middle of it! She loves it – and we love it even more!

She has been looking forward to the Holi celebration for weeks, if not months. In the past weeks, the excitement increased. She started watching videos of popular Holi songs, danced to them and told us all how she would put colour all over us in Holi time.

Now, finally, it is Holi! When I watch Apra, I have those incredible memories coming up and when asking my brothers, they feel the same. She wakes up in the morning and asks ‘Is today Holi?’ and when we said, last week, that it would be in three days, she would ask ‘Is today in three days?’ In the evening of the first Holi day, she looked at me in shock when a thought came into her mind: ‘Is Holi over now?’

I remember how it was when we children! In the morning, the first thing we did was to go out onto the road and play Holi! Our house was close to the main temple, where there was always a crowd, always colour and always someone on whom we could spray coloured water or on whom we could throw coloured powder. We only returned home to eat and otherwise spent the whole day on the road, out in the streets.

In the evening, when we went to bed, we held our water pistols in our hands, refusing to place them aside even for the night!

Since the very first day, when Holi started in Vrindavan, Apra has been playing with colours! She started with powder out on the road. The next day, we had a little colour fight here in the Ashram – and not only Apra and the boys but also Ramona, Yashendu and I got coloured. The day after, we decided to fill her water pistol with warm water for the first time – and it was even more fun! Yesterday, her uncle Purnendu had finally returned and could join the game as well as several of our guests. I am just looking forward to today’s colour madness and tomorrow’s climax!

I also remembered how sad I always was when Holi was over – but that we will face when it is time to! For now, we will just throw ourselves into the colours with our baby girl. Wait, no, not baby – she is now big enough to play so much herself! Last year, she enjoyed it, too, but she was still quite small. This year, she understands it much better – and every year, this joy will increase!