Sunday, February 27, 2011

Nandi Hills Part 1

This in some ways was a landmark weekend away for us. It marked our "3 month" anniversary - we left the US on 19th November and I see this as a turning point. Now we have our heads above water, we have a good idea of what life will be like for the next couple of years but also how fast the time may fly by and how much we want to do. I could spend a long time reflecting on the last few months in their totality but for now the Nandi Hills.  Situated about 60km from Bangalore one of Tipu Sultan's forts perched on top of a hill - Nandi Hills. On the drive Karthik told us that this was place for lovers and students which along with hundred's of monkeys seemed to be the case!

The fort is in ruins but some of the temples remain. Wills is in the doorway of the  Brahmashram Temple, built into the rock for meditation and here we all are looking suitable calm!
The British built a guest house up here (to escape the summer heat) which was in use from the 1830's. It is now used as a guest house.
The gardens are still up kept. The guy showing us around (official job - "keep the monkey's off the cars" for which he had a long stick - but showing foreigeners round for tips was his lucrative sideline!) insisted on taking lots of posed family pictures of us - but this was the only one in focus.
There is a huge rock ledge to the side of the hilltop, on which perched several small temples like the one below. Unfortunately the day was overcast and hence my pics of the view are just varying shades of gray.
Adam was once again required as a model by these young turks. They also wanted me to pose with them - which would have been a compliment if the request had not been to "aunty". Where have the years gone - these young men are nearer Adam's age than mine!!

Gotta shop 'til you drop, or 'til you need lunch!!!

India is, of course, a shopper's paradise and here even I, previously a "shopper only when absolutely necessary" have taken to this national pass time!! Maybe because everything is so exotically different, the service is great without being pushy, I have more time (no cleaning, ironing, washing up etc. frees up a bit of time!), I don't have to drive or find a parking spot and then inch my way into it!, for whatever reason I am now enjoying shopping.
As a novice shopper I am more comfortable in "fixed" price stores - going to work on my negotiation skills another day....with I'm sure another story!
Not having an indian shaped body - being too tall and long bodied is not a problem - if it doesn't fit either have it made or get it altered. Most of the clothes stores have tailors to do alterations in an hour or so (just time to grab a cup of coffee or fresh lime soda - my latest favorite!).
With Shubha, as our fashion consultant, guide and leader, Lisa and I managed to buy some fabric (only cotton this time round) and then leave it with a tailor, Lisa's with a pattern (in the broadest sense of the word - sketch and measurements maybe more accurate), and mine with my favorite kurta to copy. In a couple of weeks we return to collect!!! You can buy fabrics in co-ordinating colors and designs, in a sort of pack, all ready to be stitched into a "suit" (salwar kameez), being tunic, pants and scarf or for those in the know: kurta, churidar and dupatta.
The fabrics are amazing. Before we leave here I will try a sari, or similar but using these fantastic materials and beadings.
Look at the beading detail on these models - so beautiful, intricate and exotic and all the more incredibly done by hand! These guys sit at the back of the store with beads, cottons and hand tools and from under their hands appear these amazing designs.

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's raining, It's pouring!!

And by golly it can rain!!
 In 20 minutes the water was as high as the speed bump outside the house. When Simon got home with the car, he went to rescue Wills from his friend's Villa.
 I'm sure once the monsoon season starts, this will seem like a little shower in comparison but for today it was most impressive.
 The good news is that this heralds the start of the mango season, Ads has been waiting and is now drooling!!
So, our first real rain in India!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chickpete, we went, we saw and we want more.....

 Chickpet (pete -means market) is in the oldest part of Bangalore and these market streets date back to the 16th century when they were originally ploughed by oxen. The wares sold on these streets were bought by royalty and exported all over the world - it was the central hub of the city. Words can't do justice to these wonderful shops and sellers and life in all its glories happening there on the street, in front of your eyes, in your ears and under your nostrils. This epitomizes all I love about India but also all that can drive you crazy!

It may seem exaggerated to describe this as an adventure but it certainly felt like one - we didn't see any other palefaces, but anyone who bothered to look at us either wanted their pic taken or just probably thought we were a trifle eccentric or weird but not worth a second look (sorry Lisa!)
There were a phenomenal number of tiny little shops, all crammed together, bursting at the seams with everything you could imagine - but all in order. We walked through the electrical section, the pots and pans, the silks and fabrics.......
Not to mention the wonderful colours of the flowers strung into garlands.
The streets abounded with the sublime and the ridiculous, the sensible and the incongruous and the old and the new:
This guy is laughing himself silly (probably looking at us!), next to a very pale dummy in punjabi dress with turban, next to a white sequined, red big collared, highly blinged Saturday Night Fever shirt and jacket........go figure!!
This pic was taken on one of the street corners - people live up there behind the billboards -see the laundry hanging and the rain collection tubs, talk about keeping your eye on your business.
Every so often the most beautifully, intricately carved temple would appear as if from nowhere, cheek by jowl
with the crazy commerce on either side.
So many of these little side streets, seemingly disappearing into a warren of more and more shops. Too much for us to cope with on one trip, but we will be back....
Being, only expats after all, on one of our maiden voyages, we had to retreat into the clam of UB city, to a french sandwich bar, to recharge and refresh!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who needs an engine?

This week I went to Chickpete, one of the oldest market streets in Bangalore, which was such a vibrant, in ya face combination of sights, smells and noises it warrants another blog. But editing my - "far too many pics", into a more manageable collection I noticed just how many pics I had of people transporting their wares under their own steam! So I had to share just a few!
The "on the head" was the most popular and in some cases the bag was nearly as big as the carrier:
The"on the head" is used equally by women:
There was then the "slightly slipped from the head", aka the "on the shoulder"
Also, the more technologically advanced the "wobbly bike"
And of course the more stable "testesterone pushed cart", which comes in standard sized
and extra large!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Functioning Chaos!

This article was in The India Times yesterday. This really sums why this amazing place with all it's contradictions and dichotomies actually works.

"Its often said that India is functioning chaos.That seeming contradiction in terms is,in fact,not a contradiction at all.On the contrary,it is a confirmation of the truth about India and Indians : we,can only function because we're chaotic.
The dictionary defines chaos as a state of disorder, a condition where no rules apply.This is certainly true of India, at almost all levels.Wherever you look, there is not a vestige of what more ordered societies call discipline, an adherence to regulations, norms and codes of behaviour.
Indians,all Indians, literally do their own thing.Take traffic. India's road traffic (where there is the luxury of a road ) is among the most chaotic in the world. It has to be in order to function. At any given time, a typical urban thoroughfare can simultaneously have on it some 17 very different types of transportation, from buses to bullock-carts, limousines to elephants. If all these various modes of transport, moving at different velocities and in different directions, were to follow some abstract, codified rules of the road instead of their own basic instincts,no one would ever get anywhere.
Out of apparent chaos emerges progress : in the end,they all BMW s and bullock-carts,elephants and autorickshaws get to their respective destinations with,generally speaking,the minimum of mishap,considering the sheer volume and diversity of the numbers involved.
Democracy and the art of negotiating traffic find a perfect parallel in India. Both involve extempore adjustments in order to traverse a common space (be it a road or the larger community of the nation ) where often conflicting interests BMW s-bullocks,SEZs-farmers must negotiate with each other without colliding head-on.One step forward and three steps sideways Perhaps.But its better than terminal gridlock.Or fatal collision.
Other societies go by the inflexible exactitude of rules.We,all of us,write our own rule books as we go along.We function by that uniquely Indian concept called andaz,approximation.Other cooks use exact recipes;we use inexact,and creative,andaz.A pinch of this,and a dash of that.How much precisely?,  Arre, use your andaz,bhai.Other musicians use written score sheets;our music is based on constant improvisation on basic ragas,on andaz and all that jazz. So are we forever doomed (or redeemed,take your pick ) to be a thoroughly undisciplined,chaotic lot? Certainly not.We do follow discipline; you follow your discipline,and let me follow mine. Except we mightn't call it discipline.We might prefer to call it dharma,which is the other name we give to chaos."

Great article!!


"Tower - Ghost Rider requesting a fly by!"

Maverick and Iceman eat your hearts out!
Well maybe not!
The Bangalore Airshow is in town and yes, I am a Top Gun fan!
India is very proud, and rightly so, of this huge event where planes from over 30 countries strut their stuff - loops, spins, tailslides, dives, wingovers and hammerheads to name but a few, in solo or formation, leaving their signatures in the sky. The main business, behind the scenes, is trying to win the billions of crore the Indian Govt will spend on air defense in the next decade.
However getting tickets for this event proved a little tricky. The newspapers and internet detailed shopping Malls and banks where the tickets could be bought provided one had the correct ID. So, last weekend, we went to Garuda Mall. There was a table set out with some beautiful billboards showing photos of the wonders we would see on the day........but no-one selling tickets. Following day (Sunday - so no driver), Adam and I took a rick, a dusty bumpy bounce, to another Mall and guess what - same story!!
We left it a couple of days and then Karthik and I tried again. We went back to the first Mall to said table, where there were some people standing in line but there was a huge clue, the posters had gone. So Karthik walked the couple of feet to security and was told that now the airshow is open they are no-longer selling tickets. I ask Karthik, "Uhhh,  why don't the security guys tell the people in line?". Karthik looks at me in all seriousness, "Ma'am, they need to ask if they want to know." I couldn't think where to go next with this conversation!
We then tried a bank, which had moved location, but we eventually tracked down and got the same story.
We tried online but luckily gave that up as a bad job, uploading jpeg pics was only the start, it got more complicated.

We could have quit, but decided to go Indian and just turn up on the day, take it calmly and if we get in great, if not, no worries. However, also in true indian style, it's who you know..., we came by (thanks Shubha) some free passes. On arriving at the entrance, the line for cash payers was non-existant but the line for the poor organized souls who had waded through all the online questions etc, was 1/2 mile long as they had to clarify the information they had provided was indeed correct. And the moral of the story is.........

There was only one thing left to do this Top Gun for the nth time!
"I feel the need"........."the need for speed"

Monday, February 7, 2011

3 haircuts, a dentist, and a doctor! can even get bogged down with the mundane everywhere in the world, again all the same but still a bit different.

The boys all got their haircut -
 - Ad's vertically growing hair is apparently "very unusual" (polite I think for plain weird!) and it is recommended he wears a cap as much as possible to try and flatten it - Ads wasn't having this and said he likes to be "unique".
 - Wills hair was cut by a younger guy - hence he has a sort of mini forward mohawk - on which he has used copious amount of gel already.
 - Simon declined the "free 10 minute head massage" - I think he was a bit nervous as to what this entailed!

I took Wills to the doctor for a cough, low grade fever and for him, lack of appetite and low energy, for which I thought we may get anti-boitics, and in any case, we needed to register with a pediatrician. However it transpires he has asthma (fortunately the pediatrician I went to is an asthma man!) Wills was nebulized  for a couple of minutes - I think he quite enjoyed the mask - a sort of Star Wars thing! We left with inhaler, spacer, allergy meds and capol. Total including seeing the doctor, nebulization (we got to bring the mask home!) and the rest of the meds - less than $20. Makes you think what the mark-up on meds is in the US!

Asthma is apparently reasonably common in those new arrivals to Bangalore who are that way inclined - change in climate, dust, pollution..... Wills had a bit of excema when he was younger - same "family" as asthma. Hopefully once his body gets used to it here the asthma will subside. Thirty minutes after the nebulizer he was hungry and terrorizing Kathik and Sweetie! Just returned from our follow-up appointment (a wopping $5!) and he's doing fine - we just need to use the inhaler on an "as and when" basis and if he gets a cold.

Saturday afternoon, yes Saturday, Simon went to the dentist for a regular appointment - not an emergency. The dentist just works evenings and weekends.

This week have one more doctor (Wills follow-up), desperate need of the remaining haircut, and need to make the other 3 dental appointments!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Surely you just bang a nail into the wall.....

We thought it was time to hang some pictures to make our temporary home more homely, and that's when I thought, "Surely, you just bang a nail into the wall...."
Not that simple.....
First you need a carpenter, so you call the maintenance office, "carpenter, yes ma'am, coming today" - transpires there is no carpenter coming that day, so following day you call the maintenance office, "carpenter, yes ma'am coming today" and carpenter did come, complete with his bag of tricks.

First, out came the drill, which was duly plugged, as you can see from the picture, I use that term loosely!!!

Then for every picture I wanted hanging - measurements were taken up from the floor and in from the sides, a hole drilled, a wooden wall plug hammered in and then forced open with a chisel and only then the nail. Also, he did put newspaper on the floor to catch the dust.
It's a cross between the sublime and the ridiculous - this wonderful crazy country. My pictures are all the same distance from the floor, exactly midway between the doors or windows on either side of them, but.... there are huge irregular holes in the walls - luckily in the most part hidden by the pictures. Simon had better not decide they are in the wrong place!!
And of course the carpenter ran out of time so tomorrow I call the maintenance office again............
You got to live it and and love it!!!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Old Mac India had a farm............

Both kids have had field trips in the last week.

Adam's to leadership camp - where he had a blast, didn't seem to want to come home. Roughing it for 5 nights under canvas must suit him - or was it not having to have a shower or change his clothes that appealed to him. Well, whatever he can't wait to go next year!, had lots of adventures and exciting leadership type activities.

 Wills' kinder class, on the other hand had a trip to a farm (or small-holding!), which he and his class seemed to enjoy but quite frankly in a land where cows, goats, dogs, ducks and hens can be seen roaming on the streets, taking the kids on a bus trip to see same but tied up seemed a bit feeble!
All the kids actually seemed to listen to the guy at the zoo more quietly than they listened to their teachers! However, the talk was all about behavior and I can't say they learnt anything about the animals. Blue was the color of the day, we were the only school there, so I guess the "blue" helped the teachers differentiate the kids from the livestock!
Wills did seem to have fun and it was nice seeing him interact with his classmates. I took refuge in the shade but Karthik, our driver, managed to show a bit of interest and enthusiasm for the few motley looking turtles - which were the "special treat" at the end of the trip!
The playground was definitely the highlight of the trip - but whether swinging in a tyre was worth the bus ride????
Wills thought so!! - but in this land of so much, this farm trip seemed to represent so little!!

Just had to add this - Ads came home from school saying his teacher had told him his hair was getting a bit long and needed a cut! As Ads' hair continues to grow vertically, I think it is more the problem that it looks potentially rebellious (not that anyone could describe Ads as that!) and it is school picture day next week - so I will get a pic of Adam in his formals - which he is still avoiding here at home, and I will post it!!!