Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mysore and "Make My Trip Impossible".com

Last weekend being a holiday (Ugadi) we decided to make the most of the long weekend and go resort style (Thank-you Infosys) to Mysore. No site seeing, no heritage, no culture...a lazy weekend.

Simon drove down and the roads were relatively empty. When Simon is driving we are all banished to the back seat, so he can concentrate. The boys i-podding, i-padding and i-phoning and me looking out of the window. I don't think I'll ever tire of watching India and the thing I'll miss most when we leave here is the people, all one billion of them!  The crazy incongruity of life here, the 15 people, dressed in their holiday best, squished in and hanging out of a rick, the guy on his old bicycle with a load bigger than him, the mother washing her baby in a bucket on the road side, the truck loaded up with coconuts perilously balanced on top of which a couple of guys perch fast asleep, the herder with his goats, the two motorcyclists driving side by side chatting without a care in the world as buses blare their horns trying to get past, the guy riding pillion water falling out of a bottle as his driver weaves between the traffic not spilling a drop.

We stopped at the halfway point. The first time we drove down here last year there was a solitary Cafe Coffee Day. This has now been joined by KFC - for better or worse a sign of the times! The boys head to KFC, me to Cafe Coffee Day for my favorite cold coffee -which it has to be said is just as good if not better than my Starbucks, tall skinny vanilla! I sit in the shade under the Cafe Coffee Day umbrella which reads "Eat, Sip, Munch, Gossip. Burp - a lot" - now that is a culture difference!!

Once at the Infosys resort - sorry I sometimes forget for the students it's all hard work...."Infosys Corporate University" its time to relax - table tennis,  bowling, tennis, soccer, swimming and the pick and drop bikes to get from one activity to another. I even managed to buy and read a book -true sign of a relaxing break! Though the security getting into the campus is pretty thorough. Adam and his laptop had to be parted for the duration of our stay, probably a good thing - tho I did sense some separation anxiety on his behalf!

Just outside the Infy campus we found the best Tandori chicken and butter naan ever. We had lunch there both days it was soooo good. Seated in our little indian style booths with a cold beer and such delicious food.......

It would have been a weekend of wonderful peace and calm if not for Make my Trip. Having booked our flights, using said booking agent, for next week's school spring break to Rajastan back in January I assumed all was set. Our first trip without a travel agent, everything booked by me! But no - a scheduling change by the airlines. It now appears we fly out of Delhi before we fly in!! say this is just tough and I have to deal with - not their problem, once the tickets are booked, they get their commission and bale! The airline takes a while to realize that this is in fact a problem. They then suggest I can be wait listed on a flight that leaves Bangalore approximately when the original flight did. This as we don't leave for a week they think is fine, there will miraculously be seats available on this already over-booked flight. In the Indian way all will come right in the end. However I have not been in India long enough to be this laid back. So I insist on other options - the only one presented to me means leaving Bangalore in the middle of the night and then a combination of a few hops and a few layovers arriving in Delhi just in time. I guess that would be the scenic route!!

Numerous phone calls later.....all the effects of my relaxing weekend long faded..we get a very early flight (but at least 6.40am can be described as morning and not middle of the night) and only one layover. However our luggage cannot be checked all the way, and with less than an hour and a half in Delhi, not time to claim and recheck, we will only have hand luggage. So be-warned, photos of Rajasthan will see us in a very sparse wardrobe! and of course no liquids over 100ml so will have to shop up there for toilettres  but at least we don't have time travel backwards to make our connection!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Indus Day Performance

The kids have been practising since January, the later few weeks full time I think! Wills started in the choir, then progressed to the water dance as one of the girls needed a taller partner and lastly to Noah, as the first Noah either wanted to bale or was pushed and Wills stepped into his sandals.

Wills never really wanted to talk about his role, save telling me that in dance he had to roll his arms, which he didn't think was a particularly cool move, and his beard itched! He talked more about what his buddies were doing so I never fully engaged that this, admittedly in the small context of a 1st grade performance, was actually a big deal. 

As is customary at Indus performances, the Indus VIP (seated in huge arm chairs in the front few rows which look pretty incongruous on the sports field) give pretty good speeches but it's never really the time or the place.... One thing I did pick up on is 29 nationalities are represented at Indus which I guess does make it qualify as a truely International school!

As the younger kids (pre-school) presented a silent movie they had made, Charlie Chaplin style, focusing on the Indus values of love, respect, empathy and discipline which was actually pretty good, followed by a very cute but somewhat rather confusing ballet about Jelly Beans (sort of tele tubby style) and fairies, I was getting stressed about the huge audience, 4 TV screens onto which all was projected) and Wills.......

I crept up nearer the stage in order to get better pics and was amazed as he stepped confidently onto the stage! He looked totally confident and comfortable. This is the kid that a few years ago wouldn't even go on the soccer field!

Noah in various poses listening to God......
 Onto the ark and the rains come.....

The dove comes back with his olive leaf and the animals come off the ark.

Taking a bow and getting the pesky beard off!

And my fav pic!

"To celebrate the Birthday of HM Queen Liz"

The British Deputy High Commission in Bangalore is fairly active and invites the British subjects resident in Bangalore to smart hotels with free food and booze to mark noteworthy British events.

When I received the envelope, resplendent with royal crest "to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth 11" and I found a couple of my Brit girl friends here in Bangers were also temporarily husbandless it sounded like an opportunity not to be missed. I remain a tad curious as to the March date. The Queen's birthdays are in April (natural) and June (official) - and this is March, but then Brit High Commission or not, this is also India!!

We turned up at the venue, very aptly on the Prince of Wales Gardens at The Taj West End, a little late and the formalities were under way. There must have been a couple of hundred guests, mainly Brits but also a few other nationalities - not quite sure how they slipped in!

The invite had clearly printed the dress code as 'lounge suit, office attire or national dress.' National dress I assumed was for the British Indians (not meaning morris dancing costumes). But as to most people's dress, I have to conclude the offices of Bangalore are awash with Brits in ball gowns and cocktail wear. I was feeling somewhat underdressed!

There was a tribute to the recently deceased King of Tonga. I had to have a delayed google here, not being up to speed on events in Tonga, and apparently King George Tupou V did pass away at the weekend and the Queen was suitably saddened. I couldn't find out much about him, save he used to drive round his country in a London Taxi cab. The speaker then talked about how delighted the Brits are to be so fortunate to have such a good relationship with India - a bit of a contrast from what I imagine was said on similar occasions 60 years ago!

Speeches over, good ole Brit pop songs blaring, champers and smoked salmon nibbles. Not a bad way to spend an evening. And Happy Birthday, your Majesty, even if it is next month!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Still trying to take a good photo!!

Like everything, the deeper you get into it, the more there seems to be to learn. Definitely true in the world of photography. I went on another photography course with Hema. I have so many pictures of Indian faces already, I tried to adhere to what she was talking about and to concentrate on details or abstracts.

We started in the Ghandi Bazaar with my favorite food, masala dosa and chai, our class a mixed bag of nationalities, camera experience and time to date in B'lore. We spent some time taking pics in the bazaar and them moved on to a couple of temples. At the end of the day we each upload 6 pics for Hema to critique. Mine will, maybe be some of these.

This was inside the Bull Temple. I thought this captured the calm and holy mood in the temple with the focus on the candle but also showed the money for a prayer and bindi business!.
No street in Bangers is complete without at least one coconut water seller.  It's supposed to be an acquired taste and I'm not there yet! But full of electrolytes on a hot day it's what you need. I love watching the guys with their knives slicing off the top of the coconut, never seen any blood to date!
 Onward and upward - the colors of this little girls dress against the stone.
The cool whites of the arches through to the little courtyard, parked up bike. An oasis in the chaos and noise of Bangalore.
Stray dogs - one of the many thousands in Bangalore that seem to sleep all day.... anywhere. I thought this one looked pretty comfortable with his head resting on the step, half in the shade, with a bit of color added by the old blue door.
Flower sellers and garlands abound in Ghandi Bazaar. This lady, her flowers matching her sari seemed to tell the story. But maybe the sari matches the flowers too well and you can't really see them!
This, to me, invokes typical India. It was a very hot day at mid-day, the parked bike, the slippers on the floor, the hint of the green door and a cool white stone house. Or maybe I was just feeling it was time for a rest!
This, I hope was maybe a slightly different view of the temple, using the sub roof to frame but also to imply height.

Trouble with photography is it's so easy to see what you want to see in a picture not what one can really see. Pictures I take mean something to me as they invoke some experience from my memory which probably doesn't work for anyone else!! Also, I'm now too far along memory lane to consider the technical content of said pic. Anyway it was a good day out. I won't tell you how many pics I took, or how many I have deleted! Looking back at those, I'll probably go back through and select another lot to submit for review!!

Sweetie's Sister's engagement

 Following on from previous blogs.............

Sweetie is all excited and all of a quiver when I get home on Friday. Her mother is at the door and wants to invite us to her younger daughter's engagement party on Sunday. Sweetie's mother, Mariya, works for a neighbor of mine in Vista. In fact I got her the job!! It appears our acceptance to the celebration was a mere formality as Sweetie's family obviously know that our driver doesn't work Sundays but Mariya's Ma'am's driver does, so it has already been arranged for us to ride with Villa 33.

Sweetie then explains. The marriage that had been arranged was called off as it transpired that once the marriage was celebrated, Sweetie's sister would have been swept off to Tamil Nadu, the next state. This was all too much for Sweetie's Dad to contemplate so that potential groom was canned and within a week a new groom had been identified, terms and conditions agreed and game on!! New groom is Sweetie's husband's younger brother! Talk about keeping it in the family. So although obviously an arranged marriage, the potential groom has been known to all concerned almost since birth as the families live in the same village. My question would be why wasn't this match, under everyone's noses, considered some time ago - but then I'd have missed out on some fun blogs!!

I'm sure part of the reason we are invited is in anticipation of nice fat engagement gift, but maybe I am being sceptical and in any case who cares?.  It's a new experience and we're (well me and my camera) are looking forward to it. The prospect of having to look even remotely smart takes the gloss off any activity for the boys!

Sunday evening, after a 30 minute drive we are met on the side of the road by Sweetie's mom. It is obvious that we are sorta VIP's at this do. We are ushered through the yard area which has been canopied and carpeted for the evening and will obviously be the centre of the evening activities into the house, which is pretty small and sufficient seats are squished in to seat us. We are introduced to all of Sweetie's family which is pretty confusing as she has cousins (which she refers to as sisters) the same age as Vidya (her 5 year old daughter). Judging the age and international savvy of the relative determines whether I shake hands or do the hands together, nod the head and namaste. Most of the time I get it right!! The would be bride, I have met before, is looking suitably gorgeous in the first new sari of the evening. As part of the ceremony she is given another new sari from the grooms family - which Sweetie left work early Saturday to help the groom (her brother-in-law) and her mother-in-law choose. The blouse was made up by a tailor that evening and ready the next day!

My photos aren't so good, as the kids here are a rambunctious lot and I let them try out my camera - which like any good toy they don't tire of it very quickly so I don't get a very long turn!! In fact the kids have a blast between the frequent scoldings! Vidya, Sweetie's daughter is quite a live wire on home turf!
The groom's family then arrive and I meet Sweetie's husband who is as skinny as she is!
The groom, very handsome, arrives in a shirt and jeans, as do all his friends. The couple are then seated facing the direction the sun rises (altho' there seems to be some confusion here as partway through the proceedings the chairs are moved round 90 degrees). Each close member of the family places a bindi on the soon to be happy couple.
Mostly this passes off smoothly except when Sweetie drops the whole bowl of red powder over her brother -in-law!
The actual ceremony is pretty low key and simple, flower garlands are placed over the couple and they then exchange these three times and groom to be gives bride to be a ring. 
There are 9 plates of food/flowers which are given by one family to the other which symbolize the marriage agreements and then photo time.  If your phone rings during the ceremony you can of course answer it - even if you are the groom in waiting!!
At last food -which we have been sitting in front of and it smells delicious! The tables appear quickly and luckily we are on first shift. This is an eat and go performance. Banana leaves are placed in front of us and laden with different delicaices and no silver ware in site. But by now we are proficient eating even rice and gravy with the fingers of our right hands and I really think for tastes better this way. These something earthy and sensual eating with your fingers - cutting out the metal middle men - fork and knife. Anyway once we are done, time to move out for the next shift. Wills munching away - this really is his preferred food of choice -  seems most dischuffed, apparently he could have squeezed down another puri!

An excellent evening - I love these real Indian events, always that little touch touch of chaos and spontaneity. The hospitality to these weird foreigners is always so welcoming and so genuine.

The wedding date is fixed, hopefully we will be invited!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The biggest, messiest, best game ever - Holi!!!

I love Holi!!! The fun, the laughter, the color. Its wet, its wild, its wonderful. When else can you get covered in paint and celebrate the mess! Get in touch with your inner child and believe me, its not far from the surface itching to get out and get dirty!

But why? The easiest answer is a farewell to winter and a welcome to the colors of spring. The calendar date of Holi depends on the moon, so its a moving fest. Apparently, Holi is celebrated more ferosiously in Northern India - tho' this was pretty fierce a la Vista!

The morning starts of with greeting and wishing all your neighbors  "happy Holi" but instead of shaking hands/cheek kissing/hugging you wipe colored powder on each others faces and hair.
Once the water arrives, protocol seems to fall by the way and the real fun starts. Powder gets poured in to the water and the guns are loaded!
The usual good manners are gone - the kids in Vista are generally well mannered - "yes Aunty, no Aunty".........but not today, everyone is fair game ......

 And today, of course, real men can wear pink!!
Did we have the best, unfettered, care-free fun, you betcha!
And was the biggest mess - I think I won that one!
Cleaning up - not so easy. We all have, what is no longer bright fushia but definately a rose tinge in places.
This festival is so India - wild, exuberant, enthusiastic, colorful, smiling, laughing and a big celebration of just being!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Where did we go on our Honeymoon!?!?!?!?!?!

Dorset or Devon?????

We don't know!!

How embarrassing is that!

We were at a great birthday party here in Vista. Many thanks to our hosts, a great evening was had by all!

As part of the celebrations we played a few games. One was the old, but still as good as ever memory game where I managed to come in second!!

Then we played the 'how well do you know your husband?' - aka 'how to embarrass yourself' or 'how to get into big trouble at home!' There were some pretty hilarious responses to most of the seemingly innocuous questions. We did pretty well except on the honeymoon question.

Our honeymoon was arranged at very short notice and we were only there for 3 nights but still should be able to remember where we went, right? I said Devon, Simon Dorset.

Well at least we had the right continent, right country and right end of the of the country! But even so..... Our photos (pre-digital age) are back int he attic in SJ so theres no hoping for a clue there in the immediate future!!

So for the foreseeable we will avoid all parties where such games may be played!!!

Lending a helping foot!

When Simon leaves on a biz trip usually all the electronic devices in the house, flip out, blow up or just get extremely temperamental. So far all are behaving very well but Shankar 's bike had a run in with a car on his way here on Saturday morning, no injuries but no Shankar for the weekend either.

First we needed to get to Indus for Adam's PTM's (parent teachers meetings) which are held on Saturdays.  Sweetie calls a city taxi for us and requests a driver who can speak English. Taxi came right on time....big surprise but driver's English not so good. Luckily friends across the street gave detailed directions (in Hindi) and I also called Shankar to speak to the driver in 'driver's Hindi', which while not an official dialect seems to be an accepted derivative of the main stream.

So in the non a/c, non suspension vehicle we bump with windows open to Indus, arriving to see Adam's teachers very wind swept and still varying shades of pink from the mornings activities (see next blog!!). Ads had worked hard for his mid-terms, marks were very good, so there was not a lot to say, so we were soon bumping home.

In the evening we had arranged to eat Mexican and go bowling with M, D and the two A's, friends from Seattle. Being driverless it crossed my mind to bale but I decided to keep the non English speaking driver, and the non a/c bone shaker for a few more hours. These days I refuse to be thwarted from my days activities by such minor inconveniences as an absent driver! If the car was smaller and not a shift stick I'd have grabbed the keys myself and taken on the Bangalore traffic. Whenever I voice this opinion Adam turns pale! Being so dependent on someone else - driver - can be so frustrating at times.

Sunday morning, and off to church. This trip we opt for a rick. Plenty of ricks and price negotiated (I am beginning to enjoy this!!) and off we go. We don't get very far when our rick is flagged down by another rick driver. Not entirely sure what is going on but it appears rick driver number 2's rick is not functioning well, if at all and he needs a push...

           So we continue on our journey with our rick's driver's barefoot on the back of the broken rick and off we go in tandem for some time. As we approach the main road (Old Airport Road for those in the know), which we need to cross, we build up speed, to give broken rick some momentum and propel the broken rick across, through on coming traffic. At which point I take a deep breath and our rick traverses the main road more stealthily. Broken rick has somehow survived and we foot up again..........., only in India!!!!