Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tailors have the eye!

As we all know, whatever your shape and size, sometimes you just can't find clothes to fit, or the things you like are just not in your size. In India not a problem! There are many, many incredibly talented tailors hard at work, tucked away in the little streets and alley ways.
I was out shopping with the bad influence across the street (lol), and saw a couple of tunics - one fit great, the other was a size too big but I bought it anyway and a trip to the tailor was in order. Sometimes you get great bargains of good US/UK brands which were maybe made in India but never made it back across the waters for sale.

Anyway Shubha and I headed for her favorite tailors near Commercial Street.  A tailor for making up designs and another for alterations.

The tailor who makes up designs is very impressive. Shubha arrives with a rough outline of what she wants and the requisite silks, he makes an even scratchier looking picture, takes a few measurements which he jots down in an unintelligible fashion and then drops the silks and sketches on a pile of other orders in a sort of random heap and we take our leave.
The evolution of the sari blouse is quite amazing - you can get the traditional but also ties and lacings, piping and borders, transparent overlays, built in support, halter necks, shorter bikini or a longer corset types....its quite a fashion item by itself!!
Next week Shubha will return and I can guarantee (as I have seen this process before) that she will collect a couple of beautiful blouses for her sari's which will fit like a glove and be beautifully finished and styled.

We then move on to the alteration tailor - down another little backstreet, in the back of an arcade and set up in a tiny little cubicle, with his assistant, both behind their sewing machines. For me, its relatively easy, I have taken in the tunic that fits so he has a template. Shubha, meanwhile who has been working out big time and is now very toned and trim needed a couple of pairs of jeans/pants taken in. Given how hard it is to get a pair of jeans to fit I find it a bit incongruous that hardly any measuring seems to be required. We are told to return in 30 mins - very dangerous, plenty of time to do some damage to the wallet! We return and alterations are done. We then have to go for fitting - as the tailor doesn't have a trial (fitting) room we are taken out of the little arcade and into a clothes shop where they have the tiniest changing room - not much room to wriggle out and in ones clothing- in the back.

My tunic fits a treat but to my amazement Shubha's pants fit so well - not too tight, but tight enough!, a perfect fit. Incredible given the scanty use of the tape measure. These tailors definitely have the eye!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Medical Matters

We've been here over a year so decided it was time for us "not so young ones" to get our annual medicals done - just a few month over due!

Simon signs up for the all-in physical at our local hospital. The Manipal is a strange contradiction of the chaotic and the cutting edge - again a juxtaposition of the old and the new. The doctors are excellent - trained all over the world and some experts in their field. They could have chosen a much simpler, easier, materialistic life in the western world but instead choose to give back and ply their trade in their home country.  Simon's physical started at 7.30am on a Saturday morning and he wasn't home until 2.00pm. Apparently his time was fully scheduled from x-rays, treadmills, headphones and of course breakfast and lunch.

I took a less regulated route. I first visited Cloud Nine a 'Womens' newly opened clinic which was spacious, peaceful and all hues of purple and pink. I had a timely, pleasant almost leisurely appointment with a lovely obygn. The whole experience was US plus some. Then I had to go elsewhere for blood tests, mammogram and ultrasounds to make up the annual performance. I elected the Manipal - I knew where it was, been there before and thought I knew how it worked!

Included in the blood test were the lipids which means fasting - not putting me in the best frame of mind, especially as I had to meet the OWC auditor in his dickensean chambers (must be subject of another blog sometime!!) first thing. Meaning it was 11.00am by the time I arrived at the hospital -by now salivating at the thought of a cup of tea and some breakfast, but it transpired any sort of refreshment other than water was some hours off!

The Manipal is awash with people. Whole families arrive en mass - the support systems incredible. Aged fathers in wheelchairs waiting for tests/procedures surrounded by their middle aged sons/in laws, wives and pre-school age grandkids - all wanting to go in to the consulting cubicles and talk to the doctors. By the end of my visit I was feeling quite lonely! However it does give a false impression of how busy the hospital as maybe only 1 person in 5 is a patient in waiting, the other 4 just in attendance!

I had a day of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong piece of paper. The Xeroxing experience was one less than efficient part of my day. The xerox machine was operated by at least 2 guys in what can't really be called a room, more like a cupboard. I waited patiently to have one piece of paper copied, behind several nurses requiring lots of documents, all of irregular sizes to be duplicated. At last my turn....."ma'am - have to get tea" -what both of the xerox guys?....apparently so. A while later, my paper is copied, "1 rupee ma'am." I hand over my smallest coin and signal to him to keep the change. "No ma'am - records not good" - so I wait again while one of the guys disappears to find my change, while the other is insistent I don't escape.

I do feel a sense of humor failure coming on as not only am I now very hungry but also very full bladdered as I wait for my abdominal ultrasound. At last I am called but apparently my entrails are not yet sufficiently pushed to the fore by my ballooning bladder and I have to wait longer. Beginning to feel a little less calm than normal I have hustled from blood draw to ultrasound from ultrasound to x-ray and back again. Everything, when you get your turn is very fast and very business like, a bit like being on a conveyor belt. No-one asks if you are comfortable, the implement is too cold...., I wait behind a curtain for my ultrasound so I can jump onto the bed post haste as the poor lady currently on film struggles off and as I can hear the doctor and technician discussing her condition I know she will be struggling......However, as I was merely there for a check up and a lot of my fellow patients probably don't have the resources for such preventative precautions and were there because they had an altogether more serious issue I sat and waited and watched. A people watching mecca. Life is so out there - in the open - the folks on gurneys waiting for ultrasounds, wheeled from their wards and left to wait. I was getting my blood test results printed out next to a young guy whose HIV test results were being printed at the same time, he grabbed them, sunk down on a chair and I hope was shedding tears of relief.......

Now I did find another apparent cultural difference. The mammogram seemed a little rougher (understatement) than usual and the technician a tad confused as she tried to push and squish me into the required position. Obviously feeling she had to give some explanation for this apparent inefficiency on her behalf, justified her need to use brute force  on the fact that 'Indian breasts more fatty/flabby ma'am - better" I took this as a back handed compliment!!

After 5 hours, now 4.00pm without anything other than water since the previous evening, I was finally free to go. Exhausted, shaking around in a rick (car having had to go to pick Simon from work), I could reflect on how in the west we seem to think the 'icing on the cake', the luxurious waiting rooms, the privacy, the comforts, are necessities. The actual procedures and doctors here are up to scratch, all is clean.....there are just no frills.  However, what this does mean is the costs are way lower and more people can afford the healthcare they need. For that I think I can go without the finishing touches!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Race against the bus!

Our mornings are a slick, smooth running machine.......if only!!!

As the yellow (actually most school buses in India are yellow) Indus school bus has a scheduled time of departure at 7.20AM, actual time of departure 7.30ish we have a lot to do in a short time, as altho' I am happy getting up at 7.00am, to me 6.59am is still the middle of the night!

One of the determining factors for the wake up call is the 20 minutes the geezer in each bathroom takes to heat the water, pre-shower. Adam gets up independently to drag himself through his ablutions. I just meet him when he's loitering near the kitchen, hoping I'll ask him what he wants for breakfast, he'll get lucky and gets an omelet. Yes, he could have a perfectly good breakfast at school but he seems to prefer to use that time for social matters. Then come the reminders - which have got longer as he gets older -the 'have you done your teeth?' has now expanded to 'teeth, face wash, deodorant!' He slouches off to grab his backpack - shirt untucked, top button undone, shoes half on -heels squished down, tie at least 6 inches from his collar.....all of which is apparently sorted out by the time he arrives at school. Apparently the 'powers that be' of the Indus middle school can sight even a missed belt loop in a melee of kids a mile off.

Is he really ready?
No.......forgot something!

It is also quite interesting how, even within the confines of the strict uniform regime, the 'cool' kids and those at the other end of the spectrum still manage to differentiate themselves. Pants belted tightly at the waist finishing at ankle level versus those sagging at the hips and perilously close to a major reveal.

Wills, if he can be persuaded, showers at night, and if he can't we give it a miss! The stress of his early mornings depends whether it's Mon, Tues or Thurs (formal uniform day) or the more relaxed and a damm site easier in the mornings PE kit. I wake Wills up at 7.00am (funny how at weekends he is awake by 7 without fail!) and then if it's formals invariably at least one of shirt/pants/tie or belt is Adam's put in the wrong closet, and one item has gone AWOL. I shouldn't really mention the time Adam put on Wills' pants (sort of capri length on him) and didn't notice until he was half out the door.....

Wills then eats his breakfast - now he does eat a full breakfast at school but apparently needs something to keep him going until then.

I meanwhile scramble round the kitchen like a dervish, to make Adam ham and cheese rolls (he usually has some logical reason why he needs these to supplement school lunch at some time during the day) and Wills a snack for recess (which can't be junk food or he gets into bother - but strangely enough Oreo's are OK as they contain milk.....) and a snack for the way home. He now prefers PB & N (nutella) to PB & J. Today I'm shouting from the kitchen 'half', 'hour' as its spell test Tuesday, another day and there's always some other last minute something.

We then tie ties and those terrible formal shoes are laced. Off to the bus stop. Why I go to the bus stop as I can see it from the house I'm not sure..from habit or to chat, as neither kid takes any notice of us, once they're chatting with their own buddies.

Wills and his cronies
Ads and some of the bigger kids

The Indus bus can eventually be heard squeaking round the corner, the new bus driver parks up across the road bringing the other early morning Vista traffic to a halt as the kids slowly clamber on and the usual laggards lumber up the street. Horns start blowing and neighbors try directing traffic.

Kids on board, bus pulls off and I return home to peace, a cup of tea...............

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The wells have run dry!!

There seems some confusion over the cause of the problem but the bottom line is the taps have been drippless, the toilets flushless, the washing machine still....from 9.00am this morning to 6.30pm this evening. This is the fourth day out of four we have had some sort of water issue, and the third day with a day long enforced drought. This being Saturday is the first we are all home all day with no running water....interesting!

At 7.30am the warning email is sent and the maintenance boys sent running from Villa to Villa to spread the news. An hour and a half to shower, wash-up, clean the bathrooms, run the washing machine........ Sweetie has had a few easy days as she arrives post the water flow!

A catalogue of events seems to have attributed to the drought 'a la Vista'. It's a very localized drought, the rest of Bangalore not currently smelly and unwashed.

February or March, when the temperatures are hotting up and we have been without rains for some months is the time the water tanker mafia hit hard. There seem to be areas quenched by Bangalore Water Authority and others not. Bangalore Water does not currently get enough water from the Cauvery (major river over 90 km away) to supply all the city so it doesn't -and we are one of the don't gets. So we rely on bore wells (holes in the ground which reach the water bed and are pumped), which have a tendency to run dry as the summer progresses. At that point the water tanker guys have us over a barrel, or should I say tanker!! The price then takes a hike, our builders don't want to pay and we have a problem. Also as the nearby bore well has apparently run dry, our water has to come from further a field and therefore gas costs, Bangalore traffic..and you get the picture.

However, 3 bore wells have been dug in Vista and there is water....but first we need the requisite pumps and secondly the water has to be tested, all which takes meanwhile we are rationed. This is the first bore well marked to go into action. Looks strangely primitive -but then I guess the procedure is relatively straight forward, dig and pump!
Some part of the pump and deliver process involves large quantities of pipe and how else to transport about the 'hood than to roll.

The Vista yahoo group has been on overload. There have been emails of reported 'hoardings', dictionary definitions of the term 'hoarding', determination if filling a few buckets is hoarding (not) or bathtubs and barrels (maybe) or huge tanks (guilty). Altho' our time with water is rationed, usage has apparently not significantly dropped as folks just cram in washing machines runs, showers etc.etc. when water is available and also siphon off enough to try and stay the "honorable" side of the hoarding divide!! So we seem to have mass inconvenience without much conservation!!

Altho a real pain in the neck, this whole situation is very humbling - to think to how many people in the world ample flowing water for even 6 hours a day would be a blessing and all we can do is moan and groan. Also, how hard we find it to conserve and sacrifice our daily shower, gleaming clean bathrooms, to having all our bulging closets of clothes clean...... for the common good!

I wrote in one of my last blogs about the 'walls' in India but I guess sometimes the walls we try to hide behind and pretend, for a little while that we are not living in the developing world with its many unsolved issues can be permeated.

What we have here is temporary problem but it reflects a serious issue here in Bangalore - the growing population's demand for water is outstripping the dwindling supply. Next blog looks at RWH (rain water harvesting).

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ladies who lunch or was it laugh......

anyway .......these ladies laugh, laugh loud and laugh long!!!
I didn't have any pics which did justice to the sheer exuberant enthusiasm/or just plain rowdy racusness of the event or the yummy food so I have stuck with the handbag parking lot and even that was not my idea for an original pic but a borrowed one!

Anyway, this was seriously the noisiest (in the best possible way!) lunch affair I have ever been too. Give these ladies a few stiff drinks and I'm not sure I could have stood the pace!!

There were perhaps 20 of us, dressed from pretty summer dresses and heels to jeans, flats and flowing tops. This was the most beautiful house I have been in in India, so spacious, light and strangely tranquil even with this invasion of giggling gurlz!

We played some organized (well maybe that is to strong a word -tho' not for lack of trying!!) games including 2 trues and a lie. The statements ran from sporting achievements to the risqué and the totally outrageous. Mine were pretty boring.... so glad I went early on before the bar got too high (or should it have been low!?!?!?)

- My blog has over 20,000 page views (well that's quite bizarrely true!)
- I have a tattoo
- I once died my hair blue.

So which was my tatt!!

Anyway a great afternoon was had by all, huge thanks to my bff across the street for introducing me to these wild women, to our hostess - interior designer extroadinaire and chef of the most amazing trifle I have ever eaten (on a par with my Grandma's - and that is praise indeed!).........

My Indian friends in San Jose also have an incredible joie de vivre and can always find something to laugh about. So what gives these Indian lasses this high giggle factor - is it in their bones, an ability to take themselves and their lives less seriously and live in the moment....I have no idea but I want some!!!

Though saying that, I laughed till I cried with my tennis four, yesterday afternoon after a hard hitting set - which we won in a tie break (sorry had to put that in!!) over cold coffee, as my tennis partner regaled us with how she explained to a newbie to Bangalore how to use an Indian toilet - hilarious!!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Going International in Bangalore!

Since we have been here, I have felt compelled to try and do as much as possible the "Indian" way. I feel guilty when we order take out pizza as we should really be eating some Indian delicacy to make the most of our time here..right? In the US do we just eat American food? No. We have our favourite Italian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, French and of course Indian restaurants. So, why not in Bangalore?

So it is time for me to start embracing India, both it's historic authentic side but also the developing international and cosmopolitan. So with a couple of families from the 'hood we went for dinner to a newly opened Mexican restaurant, Habaneros, and boy was it good!

Along with the Margaritas, the mock-pina coladas
and the Tequila shots (complete with salt and lime)
came the Nachos and salsa, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas and chimichanga ...Maybe not the best mexican restaurant we have ever been to (but then we do come from California), but definitely made me think we can eat more international food here without compromising our experience!! In all an excellent evening out - thanks guys!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The power it's supplying, it's electrifying .........

We are mid-mosquito season here. The little perishers that were relatively small, slow and stupid in January are now bigger, braver and bite (or whatever they do) with more ferocity and greed. That whirring, buzzing, droning sound in the middle of the night has graduated from being a "oh not again" roll over and go back to sleep, to a grab the sheets, mummify oneself and hope for the best.

Actually its not really that bad. I think they had their fill of me (were never so excited about Ads, Wills or Simon) last year and this year I only have the odd red raised splodge,  usually on my feet as they don't seem to like being shrouded in sheets at night and escape.
But the mossies are still nasty little critters and when I saw the chance to upgrade my flimsy fly swatter and choke inducing spray for the latest all-singing, all dancing anti-mosquito warfare I jumped at it....

And I have had such fun...when the mossies hit the net they sizzle and crack big time! I am getting my revenge. Instead of avoiding these little devils I have been stalking and baiting...another one bites the dust! I am sooooo getting in touch with my dark side - light saber to the the ready!

Not only does my new toy have a on/off switch, it has an incorporated flash light so I can hunt at night and..wait for it, it is rechargeable. When its electric powers fail to send my mossie friends twitching to their doom - I just plug it in and then, power restored, am ready for more.

So all you mossies out there, at villa 25 lives an automated killing machine - think 007, think Rambo, think Hanibal Lechter with a machete, Jekyll and's game on and I'm winning.

........And it only cost 180 rupees (that's about $4)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The walls come tumbling down....

or will they in India?

But first I must transgress. The title of this blog is, of course, a song by The Style Council led by Paul Weller, previously of The Jam. Paul Weller was my working class hero, songs of class struggles in the UK back in the day. So what of Mr Weller today? I had to investigate -  still fighting for the cause? No, he has had a complex personal life, 7 kids to 4 different ladies - his most recent offspring at age 53, twins with his 25 year old squeeze. The google image I came upon -  he and his latest, fallen prostrate in a drunken heap on a street corner in Praque.. Maybe at twenty odd, but at fifty plus, please..... How the mighty fall or how one's childhood idols can disappoint. But I guess I still have Bono.....

India has seemed to us a myriad of walls both physical and invisible (social, economic, educational) - around our complex, around Infosys, partitioning the haves and have nots, the calm and the chaotic, the finished and the half undone. The biggest yet around Bangalore's newest, biggest, finest and most western looking shopping mall - Pheonix Market Mall.

Shopping being an national Indian pastime, the Malls being air conditioned and clean, disposable income in urban areas sky rocketing, the influx of western fashion, the increase of women in the work place (women being more prolific shoppers and spenders than men!!) ........and shopping Malls seem to be opening all over Bangalore. The latest, the Pheonix Market Mall recently opened in Whitefield, a very up market ex-pat area in Bangalore.

Last weekend Simon, Ads and I went to check it out. The first thing we noticed was not the deluge of western stores but the lack of people. By Indian standards the place was a ghost town! The western stores having brought with them western plus import duty prices!!

This whole place was so spacious and up market - even by American standards. It sort of felt very strange, familiar yes, but not in the right place - if that makes sense! Lots of entertainment for the kids, places to eat (even CPK). To me, somehow these western influxes of wealth, excess and convenience seem sort of unnecessarily flashy, building yet  more economic and social walls - but I guess they also provide jobs and bring money into the country.

After we had had our fill, with Ads and Simon in a shopping mall that didn't take very long we returned to India! A few pics (not very good as the short cut Simon decided to take was a rather adventurous long cut!!) from our drive home. I'm sure you can spot a few differences from those taken inside the Mall walls!
 Yes - this is the temporary road while the flyover is being built.

Bit of a jumbled blog but the in your face comparisons in India between the "haves" and "have nots" does not sit well. Some times its a hard place to live. Maybe that's what drove Paul Weller to drink and debauchery! I have just down loaded some Style Council songs I haven't listened for years and they still tell a story.