Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Holi and the Hospital

 Holi, the biggest paint fest ever!! Wills t-shirt was white! Holi kicked off the afternoon before the family color wars with a Rangoli competition.
This was my favorite:

Cricket is huge at the moment - I feel I am almost on first name terms with Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and the rest. After India beat Australia the firecrackers were popping 3 minutes later and on into the night. Semi-final against Pakistan.....can't wait. To be in India, when Indian hosts and India could happen!!

So Sunday morning armed with paint powder, buckets and water guns, attired in old clothes, young and old headed for the clubhouse and in the nicest possible way, game on!!
As I wasn't actually there, more on that later, so have borrowed someone else's pics. So, to see my boys you have to look carefully! With hands full of paint powder you greet your neighbors, wipe their faces with color and wish them "Happy Holi" - bindi's gone wild!!, or you fill your buckets and water guns with your favorite non-washable color and go for it!!
So how did I miss Holi... My Dad visiting from the UK was taken sick. He arrived with a cold and then got a bit of a chesty cough and then what we thought was conjunctivitis. However, after the antibiotics were taking no effect, the eye situation deteriorating, we decided we need further attention. Shubha got on the case and via her doctor (also the niece of our landlord) got us an urgent appointment at the Manipal hospital with a consultant. On registering at the hospital we were told Dr Ravi was not available - asked Shubha's doctor to speak to registration and "Sorry Mam, Dr Ravi is available", same story at the desk in his department. Dr Ravi returns mid-rounds to see us and refers us to the eye consultant. Again a cell phone call and we are being called in, feeling guilty by-passing a full waiting room. It's all who you know in India, and luckily we know people who know!! Then, my Dad is admitted with acute Glaucoma. Next stop customer relations to pick our room (based on payment, of course) and then up to the plush 11th floor.  After, we leave my Dad that evening, there is some drama when he either falls out of bed, tumbles on the way to bathroom in the dark, or......... but ends up butting his head on the lower rails of the bed when he's trying to find the bell. Result - black eyes, cut nose and bruised forehead.
Either lack of sleep, loss of confidence (he is 80), poor appetite, or original cough renders him very weak. I spend one night at the hospital, Sweetie the next and then we are released. Due to his weakened state I enlist the help of the customer relations lady on the 11th floor and one of the boys (aids/orderly) who has been helping my Dad get to the bathroom etc., comes home with us for 60 hours -for the princely sum of $16 every 24 hours. So the household has temporarily increased!
So now we are 6 people by night (the 4 of us, my Dad and Kodappa) and 8 by day (incl. Sweetie and Karthik, and the kids who are on spring break). My Dad is set up with a bell and Kodappa sleeping on a bedpad outside the bedroom door. With Kodappa having very little English there was a lot of gesturing, but we managed very well (charades here I come!)
The one night Kodappa had to go back to the hospital, we had a problem finding another boy for the night shift (by this time more for my peace of mind than for my Dad) -apparently none of the possible boys could get off shift (this was the night India played Australia.....) After numerous texts - Kodappa to Karthik, Karthik having translated to me, at about 9.30pm Manju is on his way in a rick. Phone rings - rick driver no english, so I run in the dark up to security so they can translate. Run back home, phone rings again, rick driver no english, this time I see Surya on his balcony across the street and call him down to help. At about 10.00pm, Manju arrives. With gestures, I convey what he needs to do (which is very little). He lies down on the bedpad. At 5.50am, I wake him up, pay him, send him back to the hospital for his shift, without a spoken word passing between us.......what a pantomine!!!
However, we are now a week on from the hospital, had a checkup - all good and my Dad has picked up strength and appetite.
I have to say the Manipal and its Doctors, nurses, infact all the staff couldn't have been better. If we need to go there again, which I sincerely hope we don't, I will have some idea what to expect and how to make it work!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

No more hit and hope, aim and fire, or point and shoot!

Photography "Nuts and Bolts" course - time to leave "auto" behind! My new "grown up" camera arrived only 2 days before we left the US and I've used it lots since we arrived....but only on auto!! I've always enjoyed taking photos but I've always done my creative (??) bits on photoshop, after the fact, if you like!

Having been very efficient and put my camera battery on charge the previous evening - I left it there! Luckily, day 1 was mainly theory in the classroom and Hema, our teacher had a spare battery. That day we learnt all about aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, metering, white balance, silhouettes and composition and more........ I'm feeling it'll take me so long to prepare to take a pic the subject will have long since left the scene by the time I'm ready to click - but time will tell!

As we know, the proof of the pudding......... so the second part of the course was practical. We met at Lalbaugh, the botanical gardens, in Bangalore at 7.00am. Apparently the "magical hours" to take good pics are 2 hours after sunrise and 2 hours before sunset. So,  early, if not bright, we met up with our assignment sheets and for 2 hours clicked and clicked.

I managed a silhouette, of which I'm very proud!! - so I'm bragging here.

This was my best flower shot (note the burring background)
The gardens are very busy in the early morn with dogs, health addicts, yogi's, contortionists and fervent chanters. In fact all those searching for their early morning equilibrium. I thought this guy and his dog had the same expressions - they say dogs start to look like their owners, or is it the other way round!?!?!?

Part 3 of the course is to upload for Hema to review - decided to blog before that part!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

And I thought I'd escaped..........

Cup cakes, goodie bags and my role as soccer/football Mom.....

Well, cupcakes have attacked twice already. We are talking about baking cup cakes in my toaster oven - so 10 at a time max!

First was for Wills birthday:
 I was specifically told I needed 29 cupcakes (25 kids, plus 3 teachers, plus maid). The teachers obviously want to make sure they don't miss out!! They sang Happy Birthday to Wills and it was much the same as it would have been in Mrs Gate's Kinder class at Graystone. When the teacher asked Wills what he wanted for his Birthday.... instead of asking for a big gift, he said he only wanted for the class to be quiet for a day. Apparently they tried but Wills said it hadn't made a difference! Now we are a month down the line, Wills voice has definitely got louder and his accent more piercing..seems to be a case of if you can't beat 'em..........
We also had the compulsory gift bags, full of junk, as in the US, to hand out!

Second cup cake attack was Valentines day (I have to confess I was happy that at least we didn't have to produce 25 Valentines cards and junk candy to Will's entire class) but in the 'hood there was a little Valentines fair at the clubhouse and I couldn't think of an excuse fast enough as to why I couldn't make cup cakes. So the toaster oven was back in multi-shift mode!!
Introducing the sales team of "Decorate your own Valentines Cup Cake", complete with imported sprinkles and neon pink frosting/icing (not sure what language I should be speaking these days!) It was a sell-out and Calvin, Ads, Pranav and Wills pooled the takings - not quite sure what happened to my share!
And yes, I am still a soccer/football Mom.......but have to confess I haven't been to a single practice to drop or pick and don't even know where it is! Football Moms can either send their drivers or as its a weekend thing, their husbands!! Now, that is a bit different!!
Wills is taking Karate but as he walk/bikes himself down to the clubhouse for his Saturday and Sunday early morning lessons, I can't really call myself a Karate Mom!!! I have not asked Sweetie to make the cupcakes or I truly will be redundant!!

What costs more - a trip to the Doctors or Black Swan at the Movies?

After a week of weighing up whether leading a more peaceful life with restricted hearing and blocked ears was the way to go, I decided against and determined to summon the energy for a trip to the clinic. My first attempt was a disaster - clinic open from 8.00am to 8.00pm, so arriving at 2.00pm would seem reasonable. However, on walking into an empty waiting room and check in desk, I sensed something was amiss. "Yes Mam - the clinic is open .... but no doctor here until 5.00pm - at lunch"

So at the next available opportunity I decided to try again, after calling to confirm a doctor would be available. On arriving at the checkin one pays the consultancy fee of about $5.50 (less than my co-pay in the US!!) and takes a coupon with a number on it - a bit like the deli counter. I get to see the doctor - very quickly and efficiently and proceed to the pharmacy - same building - and get my prescription, antibiotics, eardrops, cough syrup and aspirin  - for the sum of $4.00.

So a total of less than 10 bucks and I'm hopefully on the return to full health and a noisier life.
Earlier last week, Shubha and I decide to take a day off (from what you may well ask....and I'm not going to answer...) to go and see Black Swan. However when we get to the Mall, and asked for our tickets we got referred to the smarter end of the movie theatre and at the end had to decide whether to go "Gold" (for 750 rupees) or bail. We decided to stump up and pay!!

We were greeted in the foyer with complimentary lime juice in a champagne class and escorted into the very small but plush theatre. The seats were like big leather lazee-boys and we were also given big granny shawls, wrapped in airplane plastic, to protect us against the cold or incase we needed a nap (who pays 750 to see a movie and then takes a nap!!)
We then got a menu to select our 150 rupees of free food, waiter service at the chair.  I guess a bit like traveling first class!!
Movie was great -was it enhanced by the comfort of our surroundings? - I'm not sure!!

So in answer to my initial question the doctor and medications came in cheaper than the movie visit...but did the doctor's visit do the trick ...too soon to tell!!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Playing Hooky in Hogenakkal

Wednesday was Shivrati, Simon had the day off work so we decided to pull the boys out of school and play hooky!! Shivrati is the great night of the Goddess Shiva. It is the night in the year when pure consciousness is most available on earth, one minute of spiritual practice on this night is worth 1,000 minutes at any other time. Translated into practicalities this means all the temples, especially those dedicated to Shiva are decorated in lights, the local Hindu's are decked out in their most colorful beautiful clothes, with garlands of flowers in their hair, there are queues outside the temples, processions and chanting all night, not to mention the fireworks, a real pooja party! Poor Karthik had a sleepless night - he lives in the middle such a village which Simon drives through on the way to work - tho' this morning, there is not a lot of driving, it is gridlocked as the processions go on!!

Hogenakkal is a 3 hour drive from Bangalore. After heading South you turn off the main highway and through several small villages to enter the jungle/forest for which you pay an entrance. We then wound our way down (Karthik felt the need to tell us that a school bus had once gone over the side, killing all 68 kids on board - not sure if this was in some way supposed to reassure us.....). On entering the village we had to pay another fee, then a parking fee and then when we were approached for another parking fee "but sir, this is for security with parking.......", I could feel Simon's hackles beginning to rise!

To see the falls you take a coracle, a small circular woven basket with tar on the underside propelled along by a guy kneeling at the front with one oar. The falls were amazing - apparently they are more both in number and force after the rains but then the waters are too high for the coracles.
In order to ensure his tip the guy decided we needed a bit of entertainment and proceeded to spin the coracle without warning at odd intervals - good job no-one gets sea sick. Kathik also managed to keep up a dead pan patter about crocodiles so I'm not sure if any of us was 100% sure if he was joking or not!
Along the way we saw fishermen and a floating shop. A guy in a coracle was selling snacks and drinks! In the streets of the village there are people on the sidewalks cooking these fresh fish to order.
In some places, due to the water level and so we could get above the waterfalls and see the view (which was most impressive) we had to walk, across streams and rocks - which saw Adam and Pranav sitting in the water more than once! And how do you carry your coracle, why on your head of course!!
We then arrived at the beach area where we stopped for picnic and play. The kids had a blast. I decided there was no point worrying whether the water was clean or not (I think definately not) - but all still seem healthy!
Apparently the crocs sleep during the day and with the boats and people splashing it is too noisy for them - did we believe this or just ignore it...but in any case returned with all our limbs!
Before we drove home we visited a Crocodile Rehab center. The crocs were plentiful but either in a deep sleep or expired. Some had definitely had some sort of mishap and were in need of rehab....the one with half a mouth was a bit too gory for me and I decided to exit...but for 1 rupee a head (45 rupee to $ ) one can't expect too much!

Well kids are back at school - I've never let them play hooky before - but there's too much to see and experience here in the school of life! Ads definitely caught the sun a touch yesterday, I've left it to him what he tells his teacher if anyone comments!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nandi Hills Part2

We spent the night at Silver Oak Farm which is run by a most delightful couple who retired to a bare plot of land on which they built this organic, almost self sufficient guest house. This was a really beautiful respite from the city. The kids roamed around the premises with the farm's 3 dogs. Ads who will not go near soup at home - ate the homemade sweet potato soup and Wills ate the shrimp with relish but still will not eat mine! Conclusion the food was sooooo good and that's before we talk about the home made lime and ginger cordial and home made jams and jellies! I could have set on the veranda for hours, the view to the hills was so peaceful.

One of the highlights of the trip was the walk down to the local village to get the milk for the guest house. We followed one of the girls who worked at the farm, through fields with women toiling, down small pathways and into a courtyard.
As the guest house was busy, the one cow did not produce sufficient milk, so there was a delay while another suitably milk laden cow was located. In the meantime, we waited watching village life as it watched us! We were definitely a source of curiosity. A couple of the little kids seemed to find us terrifying - to the delight and laughter of their older siblings. Ads & Wills were a little uncomfortable!
Look at these kids, have you ever seen any more natural and more beautiful! They were all so gorgeous - so happy, friendly and sincere.  Compared with our kids materially they have so little but the looks in their faces had so much more!!
The next morning, after a goodbye, but we will see you again, to Praveen at the guest house we visited a local pottery. Ads tried his hand somewhat successfully on the manually driven (a stick to propel the wheel) pottery wheel. We won't go into Simon's attempt - but determined he should stick to computers!
As in everything we have experienced here everyone was very hospital and were quite happy for us to interrupt their daily work. We also visited a small silk factory where the silk cocoons are washed, sorted and spun into thread.
We then visited Bohga Nandishwara Temple - which was pretty busy with a sophisticated crowd as apparently they were scoping the patch for a forthcoming Bollywood epic.
These sisters could have taken the leading roles. They were both decked out in their holiday best and I thought this was actually a pretty good pic!
Altho' we are still being cautious about what we eat we are not quite so fastidious. Here we are buying grapes at the side of the road. If you look carefully you'll see Adam & Simon are actually tasting them!!- but no ill effects!