Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nationwide "Bandh"....what????

Today a nationwide 'Bandh' was declared.

Bandh is a Hindi word which means closed. The term is used to mean a protest or civil disobedience. Today's Bandh was called to protest last weeks hike in petrol prices, which was the steepest ever sanctioned by the national government. Karnataka's ruling party the BJP had supported the Bandh, so it was likely to be extensive in Bangalore.

The boys school was declared shut earlier in the week and events originally scheduled for today were pre/postponed. I'd never heard the term preponed before and am still not sure if it is part of the English language or an Indianism!

Infosys held out until this morning when it belatedly declared the day a holiday.

According to the news (I have not ventured out) protesters have burnt and vandalised some state run buses that were trying to run early this morning and persuaded those trying to open their shops to keep them closed. Other parts of the country seem to have been more active. Delhi, apparently had the most protesters and civil action but in Delhi they were also protesting against some tax, as well as the gas hike.

But what has it meant to us........Simon gets a day off, Ads who'd have been home revising for two exams (Geo and English) tomorrow anyway - not much, and Wills has a few friends here laughing and screaming happily as they play "rolling sausages" on Wills bed!!

The bandh lasts only 12 hours so by 6.00pm this evening all should be back to normal. We are off to Sweetie's sisters wedding so I hope all is returned to calm (now in India that's a relative term!!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Swimming for silver (well 3 actually and a bronze!)

Another year, another Indus swim meet. Last year (kindergarten) everyone got a medal. This year winners take all - gold, silver and bronze take the podium and the medals. Last year there were kids with floats to help them, coaches jumping in to propel the exhausted to the finish and some who didn't even get in the water. Full credit to the coaches at Indus - these kids can now swim and swim with style and speed.

The first grade kids had 5 races - 25m freestyle, 25m breast stroke, 16m backstroke, 16m breast stroke and 16m freestyle which at top speed is quite a lot of swimming as most did all 5 races. Not being a good swimmer, hating getting splashed or putting my head under water I thought all the kids did an amazing job.

Wills, his strength and stamina making up for a less than perfect stroke got a collection of medals - 3 silver and a bronze of which he was suitably proud!

It was a truly international event. Above Italy takes gold, US silver and Finland bronze. Could be the Olympics.
Above is Wills with one of his best buds, sadly returning to Finland this summer. The downsides of the ex-pat life - people come and people go! Interesting to note, throughout the whole swim meet the european boys wear the speedos and the Yanks the board shorts, not sure what that said, if anything, about the different countries and their cultures!
The teachers also had a swim race. The wonderful Miss Shreya, Will's first grade teacher is on the left in blue. At the other side is Miss Monita the equally wonderful head of PYP (Primary year program).

But has Wills changed since this time last year - in personality? yes, in looks? I'm not so sure. Green swim shorts last year, brown this.

But sometimes I catch a look which maybe gives a flash of what he may look like in the years to come. Here, waiting and watching.

Mustn't forget Ads, poor soul, taking a math exam while Wills was in the water. The other day he dragged from his backpack a certificate for taking first place in the 7th grade Indus math olympiad and another for 100% in an International Science standard for private schools. Wills picking up medals, Ads certificates - good job boys!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If you go down to Lalbaugh today.........

Yes - it was picnic time - no teddy bears but great company and yummy food. (Simon and I obviously had different upbringings as he didn't get the Teddy's Bear's picnic reference...or maybe it's a bit obscure!!)

This being the age of social networking - invites, directions etc. all came to us via Facebook. A huge thanks to K and S for the inspiration, the organization, not to mention the quiche and custard.....

This was our first 'Indian' style picnic in India.  Essentially means a higher quantity and quality of food  than picnics we have experienced in both the UK  (soggy cheese and tomato sandwiches with a limp lettuce leaf if you are lucky!) or the US (take out from Subway). But everything from biryani to home-made quiche, choley to chocolate, fresh fruit and custard (yeah!!!!!) - you get the picture! In UK/US we as a family, rarely seem to picnic for picnics sake. We may picnic while we are listening to music (fond memories of Music in Graystone park), because we are camping or  because we are somewhere where there is no alternative - out geocaching etc. but not since I was a kid have I been picnicking for the pleasure of picnicking.

As Wills was at a Birthday bowling party and had to be picked up and either join us at the picnic or go home, it seemed quite reasonable to ask at what time Indian picnics finish. But it transpired that was not a sensible question drawing both raised eyebrows and incredulous looks! It'll finish when it finishes. But of course!!

Lots of chat and laughter, with both established friends and new folks. To watch the guys and gals at play is quite a study in gender differences.

The guys put the world to rights (what is in those paper cups?!?!?!)
and then had to do something with all that testosterone and pretend to work off those calories, soccer ball and cricket bats at the ready.
The little menfolk either joined in with the big guys or did likewise close by:

And as for the girls - the big ones talked and talked,
And then we talked some more.....
The beautiful younger set of females followed suit:
So, that's my study of the difference between the sexes - it starts at an early age!! Girls will be girls and boys will be boys!!!

As to picnicking, we now know how to do it in style!

Had to add this pic of Ads and Shubha - 2 of my best people!!

Cricket Crazy

The 2012 IPL season was drawing to a close and we hadn't yet been to see the man!! Chris Gayle had been regularly hitting sixes into the skies, the stadium erupting with cheers and fireworks. RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) had just beaten top of the league Delhi Daredevils, Chris Gayle having hit 13 sixes! We thought RCB were guaranteed a place in the playoffs, one of which was to be played in our Bangalore Chinnawasmy stadium. We bought tickets.
However, RCB went out with a whimper to bottom placed Declan Chargers and that was the end of them. But we still had our tickets and off we went to see the Mumbai Indians (MI) bat it out with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the first eliminator.
Getting there an hour before the start - and this is India where time has a curiously elastic quality - we assumed the stadium would be deserted and we'd have the pick of the seats in our area. Not to be, the stadium must have already been at least two-thirds full.

The atmosphere was already electric. We were sat between yellow (CSK) and blue (MI) shirts. Flags were flying, posters waving and the match hadn't even started!
The noise was phenomenal - but all in good cheer. CSK batted first. The guys in front of us leapt up to cheer, high five, dance, yell and celebrate every six and every four. True CSK supporters we thought. But then they did the exact same when MI were batting - confused or just enjoying the moment!
Strangely and wonderfully - when Sachin (MI) and M.S.Dohni (CSK) came out to bat (both hero's of Indian cricket) both groups of supporters united. "Sachin, Sachin" and "MSD, MSD" were chanted from the yellows and the blues.

The level of excitement and fervor never fell. This audience of all ages from babies to their grandparents seemed to have unflagging energy until the least ball was hit, just the early side of midnight.

Admittedly, the view is nowhere near as good as that on the TV, even with the big screens, and the commentators do help when one is seated comfortably in one's arm chair - but the atmosphere and experience of just being there in that melee of exuberance and energy is priceless!

The cricketers, on the field, lead such a good example - no red cards, no smashed rackets, no even querying an umpire's decision save by a rolling of the eyes. They also seem to have a respect for their opposition's abilites and if they are bowled by a superb yorker/spinner etc.etc they will acknowledge. In this packed stadium that mood permutates and there is no obvious inter-supporter aggression. Following the British Premiership with its 12 match bans, racial slurs, fouls resulting in broken limbs etc.etc. maybe the footie players could take a leaf out of the cricket players books.

Off the field there have sadly been "instances" this IPL season, but I'm going to remember the sheer goodwill and exuberance at the stadium, even if RCB didn't make the cut and I didn't get to see the man after all!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OWC women at work - re-using, recycling and raising money!!

Despite the incredible amount of trash one sees in the streets of Bangalore, India is the country of repairing, recycling and re-using. In some part this is obviously due to the levels of poverty. There are not people rummaging through my trash bin for any scrap of anything that could have any further possible use in the U.S. But it's also because it's so easy to get things fixed - there is abundant labour and therefore abundant little shops who will fix anything and everything - on the spot or in an hour at most. In the US, the cost of getting a pair of shoes reheeled is crazy in proportion to the cost of buying a new pair and seems to take at least a week - not so in India.

The OWC Pink Elephant sales are a great example of reusing/recycling but also raising funds for charity - a real win-win!! During the year, members donate their 'gently' worn (or in some cases not worn at all) clothes, books, household goods etc. These are then sorted and the Annual Pink Ele series kicks off. First, a preliminary round of sales for members set up in houses around the city. Some Bangalore ex-pats are definitely clothes aficionado's and donate last years designer duds which look like they have hardly seen the light of day and are in tip-top condition. Novels are also great buys - keeping Ads in books is becoming expensive!

Once these warm-up Pink Ele's have run their course its time for the biggie. This time open to OWC members and their staff - maids, drivers etc. This one is held in a hall and in the early morn boxes and boxes of donated goods arrive!
Then descends the OWC ladies - and in a jiffy these boxes are gone, the contents laid out in type, clothes segregated as to gender/age/type and we are set. I don't know if its grown up girl power, volunteers with a mission..but like little red ants there is hustle, bustle and then order and calm.....
The door opens and business commences.
The Indian ladies clothes and kids clothes sell like hotcakes. I pick up some clothes for Vidya (Sweetie's daughter) - one of the rare chances I get to buy pink. Shankar does well enough from us as he has two boys but today is Sweetie's day! At each table purchases are bagged and tied and the price written on the outside of each bag.
Having browsed, perused and made decisions, it's time to head to the cashier me!! Now this was fun! Firstly the mental math. Indians are generally shopaholics and these folks no exception. They arrived at the cash desk with up to 10 or 15 little bags to be put into big blue bags, totaled and paid for. Was I up to it! I think my math only got queried once and I was right!! There were also a fair share of the canny, cheeky or sneaky customers, which ever way you want to look at it. The ones who whatever the price, just don't have enough cash and hand over a little bit short, and then, when you stand your ground and say they'll have to give something back, miraculously always seem to be able to find that extra rupee note in a different pocket! The ones who are quite sure the 300Rs should really read 30Rs. and so on. What I love about this 'trying it on' is that it is all seemingly done in good humor. You catch them out and it's a 'fair cop' - no shame and no-one is abashed, it's as if it's just an integral part of doing business!!
So we raised lots of money for our charities, prolonged the live span of some of our used togs while socializing and having some fun. How to pass a better morning?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Blues are alive in Bangalore.

I'd never really even considered a masala of India and the Blues. At first thought it seems an unlikely, even incongruos pairing. But at CounterCulture on Saturday night I was proved wrong!

CounterCulture was a great venue. It's a converted warehouse behind the posher malls and restaurants of Whitefield. It is essentially a bar, restaurant and an open space. The restaurant is pretty basic, though the food was good, and definitely not the star of the show!   The aim is to highlight art, music and culture by inviting artists from the renowned to the local to come show their stuff.

Saturday night was "An Ode to the Blues". The past week has apparently been "Blues around Town week" and various Blues bands have been appearing at various venues around Bangers. This was the finale.
 The black board at the entry reminded me of college days - don't think you can read it but it includes such lines as "Persons caught with ready mix peg bottles will be subject to a cover charge and their possesions taken away," details of the after closing bus back to town 
and a reminder that "illegal substances remain illegal."

We were here, sans kids, with a group of friends from the 'hood, one of whom is a true blues aficionado. The music was truly great and the atmosphere so relaxed and sorta 'bluesy', in fitting with the melancholy strains of the bands. The light drizzle just added to the mood and being India, it was warm rain. The outdoor setting for the bands was perfect. We spread our meal from appetizers at 7.30pm through to ice cream (the ice-cream with Chillis was a tad weird for me!) at 11.00pm, getting up to go outside to sway to the music in-between.  
There were people here of all ages - as the bands played traditional and more recent blues. So the Blues are alive in Bangers - but the Indian accents of the vocalists as they announced the next song, between crooning New Orleans/African American music took a bit of getting used to. I'll definately be back to CounterCulture and would thoroughly recommend it to fellow Bangaloreans as a great place, away from the hustle and bustle of the city to chill. By the way - kids and dogs (yes - dogs!) are welcome. 
Wills had been spending the evening a the house of one of the couples we were with, the parents of one of his good mates, with a sitter. Ads, meantime, had been home alone for the later part of the evening (after his friend had been picked up) and was found in bed, fast asleep, with a hammer beside him. When questioned about this in the morning, he said he'd been watching an episode of Castle and had decided to sleep with hammer.....No, he hadn't been scared, next time definitely would prefer a hammer to a babysitter and by the way did this mean he'd get the money we would have paid a sitter? 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Counting our blessings..

Earlier this week, we had our first really serious rain in daylight hours this wet season. We have had dark grey skies which have looked powerfully ominous but only resulted in a pathetic little drizzle - total anti-climax. But the other night we got real heavy, soaking, splashing, steaming rain, complete with grumbling thunder and illuminating lightening. The works!!

It's beautiful. The temperature drops and there's a real sense of excitement in the air. Its a bit like the UK in reverse - the same feeling you get in the Mother-country when the sun comes out!! The kids re-appear having got soaked and sodden in the few minutes it takes them to scurry home. People are coming and going with all sorts of protective headgear - palm leaves, and plastic bags are the solution for the brolly-less.
Time to rescue the washing, sadly forgotten, adandoned to the elements and now wetter than it was when it finished its spin cycle.
We sit down to dinner, safe and dry with only a couple of buckets to catch the odd invasive drops, listening to the rumbles of distant thunder and sweet pounding of the dropping rain on glass and tarmac.
Poor Shankar will be on his bike, heading homeward, facing the Bangalore traffic, even more unpredictable in the dark and wet than usual. After the long dry season the sudden onslaught of water can't find anywhere to drain quick enough and the roads are soon muddy, slippery and a maize of puddles. Here, where we are so close to the slums, currently becoming mud ridden and flooded, and sadly aware of those with no shelter at all, we are not going to get too excited about the odd leak, grumpy about a play date cut short by rain, or miserable about a longer than a normal dreary, dark and wet, commute home from work......we are going to sit and count our blessings!!!

Leadership Summit for Wills

Indus and I have an up and down relationship. The "downs" mainly being niggles - Adam's enforced frequent haircuts and the big yellow beast (aka the bus) which is invariably late or I get a call from the bus parent, "Wills is noising Ma'am", never sure what he wants me to do, he is on the bus with the kids not me.... One of the "ups" is the way Wills' learning programs (math, english etc.etc) are encapsulated in "UOI"s - Units of Inquiry. Their UOI this year have included light, environmental issues, traffic and vehicles, the five senses (Will's favorite - lots of tasting experiments!) and now leadership. His homework has been tied into these topics. For one homework he had to pick a leader in his family (Adam????), his class, his community (soccer coach) and the world (Obama) and write why he thought they were good leaders. Each UOI ends with some sort of project/activity which has to be presented to the class.

The culmination of this project was a "Leadership Summit" given by first grade, to which parents were invited. Simon went along to see Wills in action. Various kids gave speeches about different aspects of Leadership. Then it was Leadership by demonstration. Various kids explained and then led the parents in one of three games. Wills explained/managed the balloon game. Although Simon was not originally allocated to Will's balloon game he managed to swop with another parent (thanks Glynns) to see Wills perform.

Simon said he was clear and confident. It's amazing how over the last eighteen months or so he has now become so comfortable standing up and presenting. When we arrived here, he hardly opened his mouth in class at all.
Each kid had to come up with their own personal mission statement. Wills is sat next to his. It's too small to read but here it is : "To be a good sportsman and a role model to students at Indus." I imagine the second half was teacher inspired/dictated!! The one above Wills' is that of one of his good mates, Jacob, which said "I want to protect people and keep them safe", which I thought was pretty cool for a seven year old.
At the end of the year, he gets to bring home his own 'Leadership Book' which he is proudly holding above.

The current UOI is music. This afternoon they get to do a Zumba class led by one of the first grade Moms who teaches it!! I asked Wills if I could come along - but got a distinct thumbs down!  Mom jumping around out of sync - way too embarrassing! During this UOI, for one homework, he had to ask each of us our favorite song and we had to listen to it with him and then he had to write why we liked it and why he did or did not like it.  I'm not sure if our choices are predictable or not. Mine was MJ's Black or White, Ads some electronic remix by Levels and Simon, Adele - Rolling in the Deep. He's also had to make a collage portraying his favorite type of music - apparently Rap! So as well as the standard reading, math and writing he seems to be getting quite an interesting education.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Speeding Ticket for Simon!!

As I have the family record for speeding violations I have to have some fun when Simon picks one up. It is safe to say he will have the most tickets (even if it is just 1) from our time in India as I don't drive! So I am going to enjoy this!!

On Sunday mornings the roads are relatively clear in Bangalore so it is just about possible to speed. As in all countries, the experienced speed police find the best point to ply their trade. This one just round a bend on a very rare for Bangalore -  three lane, non speed bump, non pothole strip of road. These uniformed guys are definitely having a bonanza as once we have parked to pay up we are almost boxed in by the other offenders as they are pulled over.

Anyway, we pull over, the police officer comes over and Simon produces the necessary paperwork.

Surprisingly the process is a model of efficiency. India is such a melee of the ultra efficient and the "takes forever and is never done properly" syndrome, we are pleasantly surprised when we come across the former.

The police officer plugs our car license plate number into a little hand held, the size of an i-phone, and up comes our car's past history of brush ins with the law (one parking ticket and two speeding fines courtesy of our first driver). Simon then asks for evidence of his speeding. 'Camera Sir,' policeman said. 'Evidence' Simon replies. 'One minute,' policeman said as he disappears. To our amazement he reappears promptly with a printed pic of our car with details of time, location and speed. All of 66km/h in a 60km/h zone! Anyway we cough up our fine, 300Rs ($7) and are on our way.

Pretty impressive!

Weekend in Bangers!

Have been here nearly 18 months and we still don't really have a 'normal' weekend in Bangalore. This is probably because our weekend are not punctuated by kids sporting activities. Neither kid is currently in any extra curricula as its far too hot and the Indian schools are on summer break, so most sports coaches are also taking a break.

At least 3 weeks have elapsed so it was time.....the school orders another haircut.
Return walk home....Ads is not normally phased by stationary or moving cows but this one was apparently giving him an 'odd' look, so I think he gave it one back!
It seems to be sleep-over season and our most frequent nocturnal visitor is 'brother from another mother' from across the street. Breakfast is always on order! Its Saturday morning and my boys are still in their school PE kits - I guess this means they slept in them....
And tis the mango season, so no meal is complete without...
Simon meanwhile has left Vista with his bike to meet up with another Simon, not only origonally from the UK, but also a long term resident of California- small world!
The Simons bike round some of the local villages on this their virgin ride, returning all smiles and mud!

Wills meanwhile disappears for most of the day. Ads has a friend arrive from outside the hood and several arrive from inside and a huge game of tag seems to ensue, followed by computer games until it's time for the daily Vista teen soccer pick up game. Simon and I head out for a civilized cup of coffee (me) and a very uncivilized, unhealthy, huge sort of ice-cream, choc sauce, fruit thing (him). Wills returns for an unscheduled nap (he did change out of yesterday's clothes later - promise!

Our evening has already been documented on FB -but here we go again!! Shubha and I, in our sister clothing are cooking Thai.

Shopped together, both wanted THE dress, so we both bought!! We had a great fun evening. I made Thai chicken curry (thanks AM) and Shubha a vegetable Thai dish. Shubha's banana fritters took the prize.

Sunday, driving out from church, the road is blocked. Something is going on involving paint, floats and statues. Never got to the bottom of this one. Bangalore is series of villages, each of which hangs onto its festivals and celebrations as it becomes incorporated into the city. There is always someone celebrating something - with exuberance and enthusiasm!

Then follows homework....I hate school projects, completely and utterly detest them. I thought Ad's Mission project in 4th grade was the pinnacle of pain. The Mission had to be modeled on an actual Mission in California. It was our first family experience of a hot glue was not pretty! Until recently projects at Indus have been pretty sensible but no longer. Group projects were fine when they could be divided up...But private school equals kids living far and wide and Banger's traffic...yuck. We have had the castle project (3 kids here for a sleepover - they didn't seem to sleep but neither did they finish the castle), the lego house showing 3 types of radiation and 3 types of convection (just afternoon visitors this time) and so on......  This weekend just the french orals to rehearse for. I tested and retested Ads. (Update - transpires french orals are next week!)
Wills projects for the weekend comprise making a musical instrument (overdue) and something to wear for mufti day - which is to celebrate earth day - so something recycled. So with newspaper, cardboard, scissors and tape - tantrums start. Wills is Mr Perfection and image conscious too (if he knew I took this pic he would be furious) so this is not an easy task - too long, too short, too silly, too fragile....... In the end we just cut up a recyclable bag from the grocery store and turn it into a waistcoat and off he goes with backpack and drums (musical instrument project) in bag. So project has turned recyclable bag into non-recycleable bag!?!?!!? Anyway, I was not wise here...power to the moms who had their kids wear hand me downs. Wills has plenty, why didn't I think of that!! Reuse, reduce, recycle!!

Its been pointed out, that as I started this blog last week and finished this, I have muddled my weekends up...but never mind!!