Monday, November 26, 2012

Deccan Herald 26th November!!

Yes, anything can happen here in Bangers, from the bizarre to the totally unbelievable!! Last week I was contacted by a journalist form the Deccan Herald, she and her photographer came round to do their stuff and this the result in today's paper!! I couldn't seem to get it in here in readable format but it's just me burbling on as usual!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Birthday BICF

For the last year or so we have been going to BICF (Bangalore International Christian Fellowship) church. It's been great to find a church here that all 4 of us are happy to attend regularly. Unlike a traditional church we don't have a pastor as such, but a lay pastoral committee who share the responsibilities and the preaching. This seems to bring a humility and connection that sometimes I have found missing in bigger and more traditional churches. Church meets in a hotel which is an easy (not many turns!!) and relatively short drive from home so Simon takes the wheel as is Purander's day off.

The congregation is literally from all corners of the world, for a variety of reasons finding a temporary home in Bangers. Downside of this is the word "temporary," I love meeting the new arrivals but am not so fond of the farewells!! This was BCIF 12th birthday and as last year we attended an away day celebration at a resort in north Bangalore. Both kids were involved in the action so there was no dropping out at the thought of the long drive. Even on an early Sunday morning there doesn't seem to be much of a reprieve in the number of, I was going to say vehicles, but that needs to be expanded to cover everything that travels on the Bangers road system.

As we turned off the main road heading to the airport, and started driving through the small villages the whole smell changes. It's possible to wind down the windows and breathe without inhaling large amounts of dust and pollution. Fresh air....a luxury!!

Wills and his contemporaries sang with gusto. Though having uploaded the songs on my phone so he could practice on route I felt I knew the words as well as they did!! Wills is back row, blue and white stripes.

Ads was part of the 'youth' ensemble which comprised a few teens and the college students who are a wonderfully lively group of mainly African students studying in Bangers. They are a lot of fun and really insert some rhythm and oomph into our worship sessions. The one who can play the recorder with his nose is a real cool dude in Will's eyes! They performed an excellent skit, that was both funny  and moving with a powerful message.  Such a good idea to have the teens perform with the 'youth' and not the little ones. Ads was representing hell and as such fully masked up so no pics (all taken by Wills as I was too far back and only had my phone with me) can be even remotely embarrassing for him!! He's the white mask on the left.

The afternoon was spent chatting, eating and and adults alike. I love to watch my kids interact in different scenarios, Wills taking an enthusiastic role in the little kid activities and Ads equally at home with adults, the youth and other teens. And I got to chat to and catch up with folks I too often just see in passing, meet the husbands of the wives I see regularly during the week, and generally have a peaceful day with this great group.....

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Festival of Lights....bangs and booms!!

We came into Diwali  2012 with elder son not going within spitting distance of even a sparkler after an incident on his first trip to India in 2008, younger son running terrified when he heard even a distant boom, oh and me not able to take photos of fireworks.

We have come out of Diwali 2012 with 2 pyromaniacs and me who still can't take pics of fireworks, despite plenty of tries!!

First to the crux of the matter... Diwali signifies the victory of good over evil, light over dark. Each Diwali, lights illuminate homes and hearts. This simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness unto light — light  empowers commitment to good deeds, clarity of thought which brings one closer to divinity. During Diwali, lights illuminate every corner of India, the scent of incense hangs in the air, mingled with the sounds of fire-crackers, joy, togetherness and hope. 

Onto firecrackers - serious business..........the temporary road side shops are set up and packed to the rafters with explosives. Under protest form Wills, who at this stage wanted nothing to do with fireworks, I asked Purander to stop at one of these so I could buy some very tame sparklers. Day before Diwali shop is moderately busy but not heaving. Big debate seems to be where you get the biggest discounts, MRP less 60%, 70%......Not a big deal on a couple of pack of sparklers but when it comes to some of these fireworks it sure is. People were buying bags and carts full of booms, bangs and sizzles. Our meagre purchase looked pretty pathetic!!

That evening when dusk had fallen the streets round vista were hotting up.....
Wills and I took a stroll around the lanes on the warm up to the big day, the dress rehearsal!  Diwali is a five day festival but one day is specifically highlighted for major ignitions! We are now familiar with chukkras, flower pots and bombs!! Wills by now was getting a little interested and more than keen to break open the sparklers.......
And fire paint...........
 Ads still kept in the background.

By dawn the crackers were gaining frequency, power and amplitude and the general excitement was mounting. Daylight is all about pooja, sweets and new clothes. The sweets........I love indian sweets and we were given a few yummy parcels to devour.

Simon was despatched back to the fire cracker shop to this time buy some actual crackers......the day of, the place was seriously busy: discounts up, buyers up, and quantity of purchases up.....again we probably seemed a little feeble in our participation.

Safety....felt a bit guilty this morning about the lack there of, especially when reading in the morning paper about the number of kids hospitalized with eye injuries in Bangers last night. Ads seemed to make an instant recovery from his 2008 mishap and headed off into the night with bro' from across the street and was not seen for several hours and had stories I didn't really need to hear this morning.

The skies were full of glitz, dazzle and smoke.....
and our ears rang from the boom, boom, bang. One of the Vista lanes had a 10,000 bomb. Essentially a role of 10,000 explosions rolled out to cover a hundred meters or so, one bullet igniting the next.....we didn't see it but we heard it, heard it, heard it!!!

We were happy with our smaller fireworks.......
which Wills was more than happy to light...

Once again, such a blessing to be able to share in this Indian Festival, to greet and wish our Indian neighbors here in Vista a Happy Diwali and to join them in hoping for eternal light over dark, good over evil, peace and joy..................

We retired leaving our lights still shining on the outside porch, a glimmer of hope in the dark..............

Indiana Towers and friend.........

Obama might have taken back the White House on Wednesday (Indian time) but friend C and I got a public bus all the way back from Commercial Street and we definitely felt very proud of our adventure. Maybe not on a par with Mr Obama's days achievements but even so!

It's hard to explain how getting a bus can possibly constitute an adventure! But for us ex-apts in India  such a burst of independence, to be out alone, without a driver a quick call away, definitely gives one a rush a freedom, excitement and an Indiana Jones sort of thrill.

C and I have caught buses before but only a few stops on routes we know well. This was on a different scale.

We accomplish our shopping, both intended and unintended (such are the attractions of Commercial Street), have our customary dosa and sweet lime soda and head off for the bus station, unchartered territory.

Purander gave us a careful briefing when he dropped us off. Well actually he gave C the briefing. She does speak a little Kannada and Purander seems to think she is therefore eminently capable and competent, which she is. However, I don't think he applies the same characteristics to me!

Our walk to Shivaji Nagar bus depot takes us through some interesting streets. Even during the time we have lived here Commercials has sprouted more brand stores and fast food outlets. The back streets definitely have more character and some missed photo opps.

Anyway we soon find the bus station which is hustling and bustling but not in an overwhelming sort of way. We actually spy a huge map which seems to imply that the bus we need to locate is 330. We are actually looking for a red volvo bus, the AC marginally more expensive and in Purander's view therefore safer and full of more wholesome types of folk. All goes remarkably to plan, a red, bus 330 comes into view:

And on we get!
The bus was really quiet - a few school kids dozing of to sleep after a hard day and a few ladies, like C and I, returning from shopping, only with a lot more shopping bags than we had! It was so good to feel relatively "normal" as opposed to "ex-pat with driver in a grey toyota innova", if only for a short while. Goes without saying we were the only white folks on the bus, so I guess we didn't really blend in at all! A real bus conductor, manually giving us our tickets for ......

.... a massive Rs15 each!! That's 30 cents (US) to take us a 30 minute bus ride. Less than the cost of parking at Commercial Street!!
I get off before C, at HAL police station bus stop, and walk the mile back home. It's a nice walk as most of it is up a "pedestrianized" road....... well anything that can squeeze thro' the gate can take advantage. Includes two wheelers and as are everywhere, our four legged friends:
Otherwise a very quiet promenade. For a street in Bangalore this was almost scary quiet! I strolled along little stretches when there was not a person to be seen - believe you me that is very unusual in Bangers!

So, I now get my thrills from catching buses - sounds a little sad, since at age 12, I was managing to get the public bus to and from school by myself, day in, day out, but that was in the confines of middle class suburban Sutton Coldfield. But it seriously this trip did feel like a real adventure and C and I are now planning our next trip on the wild-side in Bangers!

While in India I have taken an amazing number of different types of transport......elephants, camels, overnight bus, public bus, coracle, ferry boat, rowing boats, jeeps, scooters, planes, auto rick, pedal power ricks, train....but not yet the overnight train.....but the tickets are booked!!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I did it......I bought a sari!!!

Having said no, no no, I sort of gave in to the power of the beautiful fabrics.  Indian ladies wear it so well, with grace and finesse. I don't know if it's the way they walk or the confidence in that little bit of warm brown belly showing, in contrast to our embarrassment at our pasty white flabby bits being on display. But I always thought, why do something you can't do as well as the people who own it. It's not as if I'd ever wear it back home in SJ as the Almaden ladies look far too gorgeous shimmering in their silks for me to feel comfortable alongside similarly sari'd.

The OWC India Night is fast approaching and last year I was one of the few who didn't sari-up. I was pretty fancy in my kurta with bling but as I also had a clipboard to support my treasury function and  obviously appeared like an admin type person, everybody and anybody with a problem sought me out. This year I am still the treasury function but with lots of help from my friends and will be sans clipboard and in sari, so someone else will hopefully get the whiners to deal with.

Friends G and C were on the sari hunt and I decided to join them.  A spot of shopping, great company and lunch in Woody's - I wasn't going to turn that down, even though I wasn't sure I was going to buy.

First sari shop was beautiful tho' a tad on the expensive side. I did get draped (kept having to remind friend G the term is draped not wrapped) in a rather nice orangey green, autumnal number. However I wasn't convinced.

We then moved onto MSU adjacent to Commercial Street. This is where I fell off the straight and narrow and made my purchase. I wasn't going for silk as though the most beautiful, I'm inherently a messy sort of person and silk seemed to me an accident waiting to happen. I was also drawn to fabrics  not too bulky, not too heavy and easy to wear. As if I bought, said item, it was not getting to get a lot of wear I wanted to head for the cheaper end. I spied this totally not traditionally Indian, red and black sari, got draped and for the one who wasn't going to buy was extremely decisive and made my purchase.

However said item was not in my hands for very long as next step was the tailor to get the blouse and petticoat stitched. Sari blouses vary from the traditional to the Bollywood. The material for mine (attached to the sari) is black and black stripes - pretty subtle. The blouse is going to be sleeveless - but very plain. I also tried to insist on a very straight petticoat, slit if necessary so I can walk but I really dont want bulk.

Meanwhile G and C were torn. C between a lovely warm brocaded burnt peach number and a very elegant petrol blue and contrasting turquoise and G between one she had already bought and a beautiful sari in a variety of pinky colors.

Decisions were made over the next days and sari blouses are being stitched.

Meanwhile we had a get Simon kitted out.......which was relatively straight forward. To those who know my husband shopping is not his most favorite activity and any shopping of a non-tech variety he is persuaded to do has to be short, very short!! There are many men's Indian wear shops around but we decided to ask Purander's advice, who given our current geographical location (we'd just dropped Wills at a birthday party) and the fact we knew Simon wouldn't be wearing this on a regular basis directed us to Big Bazaar, a sort of Indian cash and carry. Anyway we were in and out within 20 minutes and Simon ready to go. If only the finale of my story would be so easy!

On the allocated day we returned to the tailors full of optimism. On arrival G and C's blouses were quickly located and produced. With one or two adjustments they fit OK, not perfect but OK. I think some of the problem is we, westerners, are coming at the sari blouse from a western angle...the physical attributes we went accentuated and those we want hidden are different from the traditional sari blouse requirements.

Anyway my blouse was no where to be found. Eventually the material, unaltered from drop off was located and the tailor said he'd whip up my blouse in the time it took us to have lunch. So we went to lunch and he whipped up something.........but not a blouse that fit me. I have a distinctly non-indian body and this blouse did not take the length of my torso into account. The finished article was too short, way too short, indecently too short, incorrect-ably too short....

So back to square one!! We go back to MSU and I bought a piece of plain black chiffony material.  To another tailor, more expensive but used the peculiarities  of the western form.  And my problem now is not my body but the approaching holidays. Tailors are very busy. I spin my sob story, this is my only sari, my one indian party to go to and I don't have a blouse.  Success, Cinderella may get to the ball on time!! Numerous measurements are taken, questions asked and all is quiet for a week. It's the day before India Night and I go to pick up!!!

All is well and Simon and I are dressed to...............


Halloween - Indian style!

Did I ever think we'd be having a really cool Halloween in way!! Did I ever think Halloween in India would be wet, wet, wet? No!!

But I was oh so wrong on both counts!

This is one thing to love about this country - they celebrate the Indian festivals with gusto but also are happy to celebrate other countries traditions with equal enthusiasm! Maybe Indians just like to party....especially if there is music and food!

Vista does not have a high proportion of resident Americans, where Halloween is unarguably celebrated with the most aplomb, although it is growing in Europe. But our resident yanks put on a Halloween party as good as I have ever seen and the haunted house in one of the Villa's was superb by American standards but to have got this together in India is above and beyond and superlatives!!!

Wills was Harry Potter - costumes picked up in the US this summer. After spending last Halloween on the overnight bus on route back from Goa I had to get back into his good books this year!! There were several Hermiones but no way was I going to be allowed to take his pic surrounded by girls - so I had to make do with him solo!

Ads, now too big to do the costume thing, was put to work running one of the games for the little kids. From bits and pieces we had deliberately and inadvertently brought from the US he put together the "throw the body parts into the cauldron" challenge

It wasn't only the little kids who had a go....Dads had a try, whether he won a candy or not, I'm not sure...
The party was complete with lots of games and crafts, can't trick or treat without a decorated bag to hold all that candy...unfortunately due to the rain, beautifully decorated bag was a ball of mush by the end of the evening.
And the evening wouldn't be complete without a good dose of sugar....both slurppies and candy floss firmly settled in the sub-continent!!!

As regards the haunted villa - everything that shouldn't move did and everything that should be breathing and moving didn't. It was both scary and fun....rock on to the dancing wear wolf.  In fact the sign above the door said it all!!!
In all congrats Adarsh Vista, it was a party and a half!!!