Monday, April 25, 2011

Gotta get out town and head for the ..................


After thinking we were gaining traction here and able to negotiate the little twists and turns life presents with some sort of aplomb, I was proved wrong!!!

Last week won the prize for patience developement or frustration - depending on whivch way you look at it.

Due to our lengthy, protracted dealing with the bank to get our debit cards, we were taking a rest before girding ourselves up for project credit card and had being surviving quite nicely with debit cards and internet banking until..................

I was trying to book flights to Shimla in June with Kingfisher Airlines. After several attempts - power cuts, servers down etc., all the run of the mill stuff I deal with on a daily basis, I thought I'd miss out the middle man (or computer!) - and go direct to the Kingfisher offices to pay for my reserved tickets. After an hour in the car, I arrive at the Kingfisher Offices (which are incidentally being refurbished), only to find,over the refurb noises and through the dust, I can't use my debit card as the amount for the flights is above my daily limit and they dont take checks. So after an even longer ride home (factory change of shift - buses galore!!) amazingly there are no power or server issues, so I make payment. Well, the payment out of my bank account is very efficient but no money arrives with Kingfisher, so I have no tickets and my money is apparently floating arround in cyberspace!

Then, due to severe rain, the power cuts built up in frequency and the battery on my mac decided it couldn't stand the pace and blews itself up. It did actually physically blow up - bursting open. The other mac joined the protest in a different form by becoming laid low by a virus.

Then we move onto driver difficulties.....Karthik altho' a great guy has a complicated and full life which means he has timing difficultites (he's usually late!) - kids turn off alarm clocks, snakes inhabit his roof, cows charge his bike, he gets sick, his wife gets sick, some one borrowed his bike and lost the keys, he bought gas for his bike which he put in his water bottle and then drank it by mistake etc.etc. All of these are certainly plausible - he and many many families here live life on the edge and any little thing can send them over.This we understand but our lives are to some degree dependent on his reliability. On Wednesday he is not here because a friend of his, another driver, was sadly in a bike accident on his way home from work and died. As this guy was an only child and a childhood friend of Karthik's he stays all night at the hospital and receives the body and carries out the rituals. This we understand, Simon drives to work and I am homebound. Thursday Karthik still does not appear. Simon drives to work. We get a text from Karthik; he didn't wake up. Thursday, I need to get to Indus for School Earth Day, run various errands, then we are supposed to be leaving for a weekend away. Simon fires Karthik!! (However, after a good sob story, much pleading and promising, he is re-instated, 4 days later).

It has also been a week of a/c unit breakdown, a ceilling fan no longer rotating, multiple light bulb failure (where do you buy replacements in india?), earth day at Indus for Wills, DEAR week for Adam  (costume required (Thanks Lisa!)) etc.etc. Also, my Dad's first eye surgery was on Monday. Thankfully, all went well and  luckily, as this is India - I have people to take over my nusring duties while we are gone for 2 nights. Someone's nurse is coming to give him eye drops (6 times a day), someone's driver taking him to the doctors for his check up and Sweetie cooking more than he can eat and staying over night.

One forgets that the UK and the west have been ramping up for the technological explosion of the last 30 years since the industrial revolution, while India has almost had to come too far too fast. Everything is still out of sync here as some sectors have bounded forth, while others are struggling to catch up.  The infrastructure is struggling.

So on Friday morning at 4.00am, (the planned Thurday afternoon get away didn't happen) with Simon at the wheel we head for Kabini Jungle Lodge. When my mac is back in action and I have access to my pics I will blog!!

It's now Monday afternoon and dare I say it - but so far I've bought light bulbs amonst other errands, been grocery shopping and NOTHING untoward has occured.........................

Is it a head wobble, bobble or shake??

...and what does it mean?

Karthik stops the car, asks a passerby if we are going the right way, the passerby wobbles, Karthik wobbles and off we go......communication had passed between them but as far as I was concerned it might as well have been Hindi, or for that matter Japanese!!

When Sweetie brought her little daughter to visit, she wobbled, begging Wills to ask, "Are Indian babies born able to do that?", by that time I was beginning to think maybe they are!

In India there are hundreds of local languages, so when North meets South, sometimes, the only common ground is the wobble and hand gestures. Having, now, studied the wobble for some time - it gets more confusing - it seems there are different versions - the meaning to some extent dependent on degree of tilt, speed of rotation and accompanying facial expression.

Essentially, it is a positive expression of goodwill, the faster the rotation, the bigger the tilt and the wider the smile, the more goodwill. It doesn't however always mean yes, which sounds confusing but is actually quite useful. If someone offers you something (Indians are very hospitable) but you are not sure whether its actually convenient or putting them out - if you wobble - their response can be "oh OK another time then" or "great, do come in" and everyone is happy!

Wobbling can also be an informal greeting - you can wobble to someone across the street, when you wouldn't be heard above the traffic. It can also mean "thank-you." I was asking Karthik to teach me some basic words in Kanada (the local language). When I asked what the words for thank-you and sorry were, he said I wouldn't need them. I thought this very strange but then I realized you don't need them, you wobble!!

Beware - the wobble is we wobble or bobble? - I'm not sure but we definitely do something. When someone comes to the door (there is always someone at the door) who doesn't have English - I wonder why they are smiling at me, when last time they came round they just looked coldly at me - and then I'd realized I had wobbled, or made some head gesture that looked somewhat like a wobble!! and was therefore saying "hi, welcome, can I help you",  in a langauge we could all understand!

The forcefulness of the wobble also indicates to what degree the wobbler understands what I'm saying. If I"m asking in a store for something and the wobble is slow and unsteady it means no-one has a clue what this crazy lady is on about - however if my request is met with several violent wobbles it means the wobbler thinks they know what I want  -whether we are actually on the same wave length or not is another matter!!

So, when we return to the US if I start inclining my head from side to side, you'll know I've not developped some tropical disease with strange tics but am just saying "hows it going" or "have a good day".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bet the view from my tennis court is different from yours!!!

Firstly the tennis court here does have a view - it is roof top!!, on top of the party hall and ironing guy's shop.

Out of these tiny little houses, there are several in a row, come the most immaculately turned out kids in their school uniforms (putting my reprobates to shame), hair shining and braided and I know they clean their teeth as they do that outside. Also spot the satellite dishes!

  There are also some bigger apartment blocks - where wielding my tennis racket I am on a level with drying washing, daily stretching, morning chai being imbibed, teeth cleaning and hair brushing - life is out there, if there's not room to do it inside, do it under the blue skies!

Just to add a bit of a boast here - I was on court at 7.30am!!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marvelous, Magnificent....its Mango Mania!!

So we had our first fresh mango. Adam had been salivating and drooling for some time - so the first one was his.
First though, as a mango novice, I had to ask Sweetie what to look for in a ripe mango. Then once I got my mango (yes it was a good fresh one - I'd got that bit right), I had to ask Sweetie how to cut it. Where upon she looked at me, "Maam????" - not believing her ears. I repeated myself. At which point she looked at me and smiled, (that special smile she and Karthik save for when we have done or said something particularly incongruous by Indian standards  - but usually sane by western) and showed me how to get the best from my mango in the most efficient fashion. I think I was too overwhelmed by that heady fresh mango smell to take it all in. But I'm going to get plenty of practise in the next few months!!!

After Ads had grab and devoured, I asked him whether this mango was better than the ones from Trader Joe (the ready sliced) or Costco and he looked at me, with one of those "duh mom, are you sure I am really related to you" expressions. So, I guess it was good!!!

Anyway, apparently the best is yet to come, the mangoes will get sweeter and after the first rains they reach their peak. So our house will be smelling of mangoes for weeks to come.

At the end of the season:
 Will I know my Alphonso from my Langra and my  Fazli from my Neelam?
 Will Adam be fully saturated or anxiously waiting for next year?
Will I know 101 different ways to serve a mango......

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A New Twist on Snow White!

Will's school play was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - but instead of "who's the Fairest of us all", Indus went very p.c. and the Bad Queen's question in the mirror evolved to "who's the kindest of us all?"

It was determined Wills was too tall to be a dwarf (he towers above some of his Indian classmates), so he was a guard. Still not quite sure why Snow White had a couple of guards but Wills enjoyed it and did a good job. In fact the whole performance was very good (they'd been practicing daily for the passed month). The one practice I had seen, while at school one day, was such chaos I was expecting the worst, so was pleasantly surprised.

In a very un-Indian way the evening actually got ahead of schedule and some of the Dads (who were trying to avoid all the preliminary introductions, speeches and younger kids acts) missed the whole thing!

The evening ended with the school song and the Indian National Anthem - luckily there was a recorded version as I don't think many in the audience knew the words of either.

Ads doesn't have a school play or anything, about which he is relieved!

Pictures in Pottery Town

Off to Pottery Town with, hopefully my newly found photography skills, a few other fotography fanatics and our teacher!

Pottery Town came into being when the State government gave 60 potters a 30 - year lease on a piece of land. On this piece of land the artists have grown their art, their homes and their lives. They produce pots, urulis (flower/petal baskets), diyas (lamps), water pots, idols of Ganesh and more......
Hey -ho, hey-ho, it off to work we go......... well thats what these statues reminded me off but they are Idols of Lord Ganesh, being made for the Ganesh festival later in the year, when they will be consigned to the bottom of a river!
Except for the Ganesh's, everything else was made on a wheel, with incredible speed. As one little diyas was made, it was sliced off the top of the mound of clay on the wheel and put aside, the next one already under way:
Thousands of lamps, pots etc. were lined up in the sun to dry before they made it to be fired in the old stone kiln.
This guy made 1,000 pots a day. He was in a tiny upstairs room and our taking pics didn't seem to disturb his concentration in the slightest. We saw the whole cycle from the clay being made form dirt and water, being mixed by hand or tread by bare feet (a bit like grapes I guess!) to the completed pots for sale. Some in our group tried their hand on the wheel and their feet in the clay. I stayed behind the camera.
I bought a couple of urulis, one of which is now on our front door step with petals floating in. The smell as you walk into the house is gorgeous. The one I bought is the one in the pic below.
Now, I just have to upload my pics for review and critique!!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bleeding Blue..........

For a few weeks now, it feels like we have lived and breathed cricket!! First we sat on the edge of our seats as the Brit boys bowled dot balls and wides, dropped as many as they caught, got injured and depressed. They tied with India - then lost to Bangladesh! Made it through the group stage but then got sent home.

We then cheered our hosts, the world cup hosts India and bled blue (the Nike advert). I now know, not only more about cricket but also the lives and personas of the Indian team. The God of cricket, the elder statesman, the magic Sachin Tendulkar - would he make his 100th 100!, Mr Cool- captain Dhoni -ex-ticket collector struggling to find form until the final, the fiery spinner turbaned Harbhujan Singh, brilliant but wild opening batsman - Sehwag etc.etc. The ups and downs of the Indian team have been on the front pages, the back page and every page in between of our daily newspaper. Their faces are on billboards for any conceivable and inconceivable reason.

The semi against Pakistan was wild for personal and political reasons, which resonate deep in every Indian's soul. As the later wickets fell, fire-crackers were working up to a frenzy. Even in the relative civilized street of Vista -cars were driving up and down pushing their horns.

But the final. The streets were quiet, shops were shut, groups of people were outside anywhere a TV could be seen glued, others waving flags from cars and motorbikes, wearing blue, the gold, green and white of the Indian flags on their faces. Suspense was building. We were in a bar/restaurant with friends and a huge screen. It was a great match with all the twists and turns, changes in momentum, drama you can imagine. India finally won with a huge 6 from their captain and the country erupted! This is Indian at its best - crazy, wild and unfettered exuberance, emotional chaos and national pride in the boyz in blue!

Driving home was an experience, impromptu parties in the streets, firecrackers, flags, cars, ricks, bikes stopping - people hugging each other, cheering, banging on our car windows in sheer joy of the moment!
To be in India, not only hosting but winning it's national sport - the passions and emotions!!! Maybe if England host and the three lions win the footie............but that is a distant dream...........

But boyz in blue there is competition waiting in the wings...........
Not only can he bowl - but fielding when he's in the crease is quite a work out!