Monday, September 24, 2012

Disruptions to school, work and life!!!

These last two weeks have been disrupted to the point where I haven't known what day of the week it is!

We started with a state wide public bus strike. Apparently, this all stems from India's credit rating being down graded by the international banks. In order to reduce the national debt the government increase the tax on fuel. In a hand to mouth economy this has a major impact. If fuel goes up, bus fares go up (40% of the population get to work by bus) and also food and water prices will go up as both reach their destination by truck, tanker or train.

Parundar only lives 10 minutes away from Vista and travels back and forth by motorbike so he is not troubled by this. Sweetie takes the first day off work but the second day I decide I need her as we are headed for the weekend when she only wrks half a day and I hate washing up in cold water. I tell her I'll pay for her to get a rick.  The rick drivers are a canny lot. The bus strike acts in their favour. Not only do they up their fares by 300% but then double/tripe/quadruple up and charge each person on board the inflated fare. For her homeward journey we decided Parundar would take her in the car. Sweetie is all a quiver - this is a major excitement.

As well as public government buses (the ones on strike) there are private red volvo buses on the roads, which charge a bit more and have a/c. These are normally not as crowded as the public buses, but not the case on strike days........  Simon saw many buses with people on bus roofs, hanging on for dear life! For most of these folks a lost days work is a lost day's pay.... Apparently about 6,000 buses were off the road in Bangalore.

The following week not only do we have Ganesh holiday (Wednesday) but a national strike/close down (Thursday) Also caused by the fuel price hike. Simon gets told that Infosys will be closed for the day....hurrah!! but Saturday will be a work!! Indus holds out until the evening before to determine whether it will be closed or not. The kids are happy when we get the 'no school tomorow' e-mail!! Simon and I take a walk out of the neighborhood and it is sooooo quiet. It is very eery. India is never this or night. Our street is normally a hub of activity. Its always full of people, of traffic, of noise of dust. It was a ghost town. The manager of Niligris, our small neighborhood grocery was one of the few out and about and asks me if I need anything from his closed up shop. I say no but am so impressed he offered. 

We are registered with the American embassy and get emails warning us of possible disturbances or anti US sentiment in our part of the world. Its a courtesy service for citizens. The French families here have a similar service and were emailed by the french commission that the following day, Friday was also high risk, Friday being the Muslim holy day, in the light of the recent muslim activity and reprisals. However, I decided 3 non-functional days last week would be too much and I took no heed, Friday being my weekly tennis day.

Usually post our couple of sets of really good fun tennis, as Parunder has left for Infy to pick Simon, friend C gives me a lift half way back home and then I get a rick. However Parunder thinks a) I am generally overcharged by the rick drivers - which seems to be a consequence of my lily white - I do negotiate the price down and am usually quite happy with the final price and b) in any case the volvo bus is not only way cheaper but has a/c and the one mile walk home from the bus stop is nothing for me as I am always running or at the gym. So point taken I get the bus.

Yes, I am the only white person on the bus and the only person with a tennis racket - not sure which is the most unusual on volvo bus 355!! The fare is a massive 10rs, so a considerable savings in percentage terms over the rick fare, tho' in absolute terms not much!! And the mile walk home is mainly a bike and pedestrian only path so actually very pleasant.  And most of all, I feel very proud of myself. I get fed up of being in my ex-pat grey Innova chauffeured about so bit of independence by bus and by foot is all for the good.

Saturday, poor Simon is off to work but does leave late and return early and then for the moment we are back to normal. More upheaval in the not too distant is threatened both due to these fuel increases but also in Karnataka about precious water from the Kauvery river being used by a neighboring state. 

But for now I know today is Monday and Simon is at work and the kids at school!!

Ganesh cometh and Ganesh goeth!

Having been totally excited about Ganesh and his comings and goings last year, not so much this year. Mainly as I came to realize that all the wild dancing, drum beating and party like behavior accompanying Ganesh on his last journey to his watery grave was not a manifestation of religious fervor but alcohol!!!

Ganesh arrived to Vista and was seated in his brightly decorated temporary home made from palm leaves, festooned with streamers and lights. He sat in glory for 3 days and nights.
 What I love so much in India is the constant contrasts, life out in the open. In the afternoon, on this national holiday by the Vista clubhouse there are folks dressed in their best, stopping to pay homage to Ganesh on his birthday, making offerings and pooja. Also at least 15 Vista teens engaged in a huge game of cops and robbers haring this way and that as they try to either catch or dodge one another. The younger kids in the pool screaming and laughing as they splash and play. And me the victim of Anand my trainer.

There's none of this behind closed doors, in the semi darkness, in a shadowy church type praying. This is in the open in front of all and sundry. A lot can be learnt here!!

So Ganesh gets a birthday feast of fruits, sweets and other delicious snacks.....
So do we............ Each day of Ganesh stay in Vista there is prasad on offer. Sweet or savory.....Wills doesn't's all pretty yummy!
 Talking a stroll out of Vista, Simon and I came across this Ganesh. A pandal had just been erected across a street. It's a holiday so not much why not indeed???? These kids were mighty proud of their Ganesh and insisted of being in the photo.

And then the parade to take Ganesh to his resting place under water. This was the procession at Palm Meadows where I was playing tennis. Did the beating of drums, chanting and music put me off my game??? That's for J, J and C to conclude!!! I was taking these pics on my i-phone from the tennis court, hence the bit of fence!

When I got back to Vista, Ganesh exit was underway. It's a very slow business, the truck has to pause every 100 yards for a spot of drumming and drunken dancing and revelry. As we approached 5.00pm, would the yellow Indus bus get into Vista before Ganesh and his party got to the main drag and blocked the entrance? Just!! But the bus did get stuck on it's way out - luckily we are the end of the line and no more stops!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting geared up for Ganesha Chaturthi

Tomorrow is Ganesh Chaturthi. The roads were lined by buyers and sellers. This rick looked like it was about to take off and fly carrying the balloon sellers and their wares.
 These are all taken by my i-phone from the car so not best quality but give you an idea of the pre-festivities. Flowers galore for decorating Ganesha's temporary pandel and for offers during pooja.
 The street were lined with banana leaves being sold at what Parundar considered exorbitant prices. On sale today and tomorrow. Left overs trashed.
And of course the politicians offering everyone a Happy Ganesha Festival - after votes.......
 Ganesha in all sizes have long left pottery town (see previous blog for pictures of the most glitzy, groovy and glam) and now line the streets. Again in a variety of sizes for those of all means.

Tomorrow the Ganesha pooja party begins!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Glamorous and glorious, gorgeous and gaudy....Ganesh!

It's that time of year again. Ganesha in all shapes and sizes, the brighter and bigger..... the better. It's a show case of color, an expression of exuberance and enthusiasm, it's loud and it's brash........

Did I mention they could be larger than life.......

It all happens at pottery town, from the mud being kneaded by foot. This looked so squelchy and gooey, friend C and I could hardly restrain ourselves from ripping of our shoes and having a go!
The Ganesha are actually hollow, otherwise these big beasts would not be portable! The larger ones have a sort of framework inside and the smaller ones are just made in molds. Then Ganesherella is dressed for the ball. The spray painters were amazing. It was not like our attempts at home...when however much newspaper you cover the surrounding area and people with...the paint still escapes onto and into areas it shouldn't be. These guys could even spray paint within the lines!!!
Then comes the detailed work....

and finally the application of glitter and bling..

The attention to detail is incredible and some of the eyes are worth a closer look. They are quite beautiful.

 I wish I had this guys eye lashes!!!
And there we have it rows upon rows of Ganesha in all his short lived glory. Enjoy him for this week, until he meets his doom by drowning, but thats another blog!

 As Ganesh is by definition pretty fragile we did find the street of broken Ganesha, spare body parts and a couple of Ganesh doctors clagging them back together!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Phantom Paper Jam and all for 2 rupees!

Our printer thinks it has a paper jam but there is no tiny scrap of paper anywhere. I have followed the advice on all the relevant help groups -HP official and otherwise, sworn at it and slapped it but to no avail.

So having bribed Adam (price - a sliced Kiwi) I borrow his pen drive and head to the nearest print shop  to print out the necessary paperwork for my up coming OWC meeting.

Our local print shop is not exactly Kinkos! It's a very small dimly lit shop in which I am led to the back where there is a very dusty looking computer and printer. The computer expels a confusion of multiple wires - like a bowl of spaghetti. After several attempts in various pen drive docking stations and into various orrifices of the computer itself, it appears my pen drive is being read. The computer and printer seem to have a mutual distaste for each other and need to be reconnected and rebooted more than once.

As I am waiting two tall sari wearing badly made up, extremely camp transgenders come waltzing in. They totally ignored me. In these small shops, not usually frequented by white foreigners that is very unusual. Maybe we will only be overlooked by the more unusual!

As I have no solution to my printer problem, I may well become a frequent visitor at the little print shop!  I could find a more westernized print shop but would it be worth an hour round trip in the car to Staples? I'm sure Staples would cost more - can't beat 2 rupees a sheet!

Talking of 2 rupees. Last week friend C and I set out to find a little (and I mean little) craft store in Whitefield, our end of Bangalore. We did have an address (but not a name) and set off with Parunder at the wheel. Sounds like a straightforward mission. Not at all!!! You cant just plug an address into your GPS/Sat Nav  - it doesn't work that way, and in any case where is the fun in that!! Finding an address somewhat off the beaten is an interesting experience. First you arrive in the general location, then it feels like you sort of circle and slowly spiral inwards until hopefully you hit the bulls eye. It's all about landmarks. Street can stop and start, be renamed....and numbering of street and houses can be a tad ad hoc. Landmarks are the name of the game. If directing anyone to Vista I now know my landmarks - from a long way out HAL, Old Airport,  as we get nearer - Basavanagar bus station and then Shell Petrol.

Anyway it transpires this craft shop is in a layout Parunder knows so we get to the general vicinity pretty easily. Then we need 'B' block. We can find C and D blocks but B seems strangely elusive.  I then call friend L who has been to the little treasure trove we are striving to find and puts her driver on the phone to speak with Parundar. Conversation is conducted in hindi, so C and I have no idea what is being said. We drive on, not really feeling we are penetrating 'B' block - sounds like a prison!! Parundar then decides to ask some locals and we turn round and head off in a different direction and soon find not only the block but also the road 3rd Main. Now should be easy, right? No exactly. While we have a building number, we don't have the name of the craft shop. At this point I think C and I are thinking craft shop as in craft shops we have known and loved in our respective home towns. So when we breeze past a whole in the wall stationers we don't blink. To the western eye there are distinct numbering irregularities in 3rd Main, AECS layout "B" block but I"m sure there is a curiously, in some dimension even logical rationale here. Such is India!!!

Anyway to cut a long story short, or less long than it would otherwise have been, we realize 'Sundarshan Stationery Mart' is what we have been looking for. If Parundar thinks it a little strange that we have been driving around in circles to find a hole in the wall pokey little shop, he is far too polite to say anything.

Inside this little shop is a myriad of crafty and stationery stuff! Piled high in tiny little boxes. The lady at the desk seems to know where everything is and C gets her little piece of thin elastic for the princely sum of 2 rupees. Realizing the total ludicrousness of the situation -we have spent an entire morning, or so it feels, driving around to spend 2 rupees (about 4 US cent), we dissolve into giggles and head off for lunch!!!

Happy Paint-Balling Birthday Adam

So we have a teenager in our midst. And have had for a week. I can currently report that there have, as yet, been no discernible character changes for the worse!

His actual birthday meant no school uniform and he could go in civvies. It was actually a full formal uniform day so he scored, big time! For his family (plus brother from another mother from across the street who has an uncanny knack of appearing at feeding time!!) birthday cake, he elected pumpkin scones with candles on them. Pumpkin puree was brought back from the US on Simon's last visit. Thirteen candles (after a quick repair job on several which came out of the box broken) spelt out the words 'Happy Birthday'.

Party time was the following Saturday. Last year I didn't get to go to Adam's party as there wasn't sufficient room in the car and I wasn't going to go this year either. However Parunder, our driver, seemed to think I was being a bit feeble and yes, we could easily fit 10 folks in the Innova. After spending a prolonged period of time, bumping along the streets of Bangalore, squished under an ever growing Wills, while we picked up kids from hither and thither, I'm not sure it was such a good plan!

The actual paint balling didn't seem to involve me but watching it gave me a taster and I have since suggested it as an OWC activity. Not sure that it will fly with the ladies, but time will tell and if it does, I will be there!!

The boys plus Simon had a great time as Wills and I watched jealously on the sidelines!

We then had the cafe lunch provided and cake, this time shop bought. Anyway here we got Indian!! First Parunder told Adam that the first slices should be given to his parents and the very first to me!!! Then Ads got cake smeared:
He took it in good spirits. Only down side here was no-one had pre-warned Wills who thought this was the start of a glorious food fight and lobbed a piece of cake which luckily missed the intended, before the situation was explained -NO food fight!!

 And yes ..... Ads did get stuck with those re-ignighting candles, so it needed a team effort to blow them out.

It was a really good time, with a great group of boys. The kids both have made some truely wonderful friends over here.
Enough adrenalin to keep it exciting, but no injuries this year!
 And yes the birthday boy did get shot (orange paint on his mask!!) No prisoners even if it is your birthday!!