Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Republic Day India

This is amazingly our third Republican Day here in India.

This one got off to an energetic start. The first (that I know of) Adarsh Vista Republican Day run. A 5k early morning run/walk/cycle round the lanes of our complex. The route had been carefully measured out and only involved taking one lane twice.

The emails from the Vista MC did encourage participants to wear the tricolor of the Indian flag (saffron, white and green). However compared with our Indian counterparts the boys and I put up an excellent show.....maybe our t-shirts were more Dutch orange than Indian saffron but we had tried! We definitely sacrificed style for color - me in Ad's green footie socks and the boys in their Indus shorts, looking black in this pic but really dark green.

Participants, probably about 75 in number, of all ages and athletic prowess took off, some waving flags. Ads and I took it pretty seriously and finished our circuit with the front pack. Wills sprinted, walked, short cutted and had a great time with his buddies.

Later, we were back at the clubhouse for the flag hoisting, which happened so promptly I nearly missed it...and breakfast -well deserved after the early morning activity.

I've always liked the Indian National Anthem, Jaana Gaana Maana, as it sounds sort of haunting, more like a prayer and less like a battle cry or statement of sovereignty than some other national anthems,  but never bothered to find out what it means in English. This is the English translation the boys sing at school. The words are a poem written by Tagore.

O! Dispenser of India's destiny
Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Thy name rouses the hearts of the Punjab,
Sind, Gujarat, and Maratha,
Of the Dravid, and Orissa and Bengal.
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,

It mingles in the rhapsodies of the pure waters of the
Yamuna and the Ganges.

They seek only thy auspicious blessings.
They sing only the glory of thy victory
The salvation of all people waits in thy hands.
O! Dispenser of India's destiny.

However, it could change....the following clause is in the Indian Constitution:
"The composition consisting of words and music known as Janaganamana is the National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations as the Government may authorize as occasion arises, ..."

Anyway, to the current words the flag was hoisted and saluted.

Happy Republican Day to all our Indian neighbors and friends, who make us feel so welcome in their country.

When I grow up ........

........I want to be an old woman!!

A few or more years back Kaiser healthcare in the US ran a commercial with some really cool old ladies laughing and dancing to the above song (when I grow up I want to be an old woman) Yes, they were heavier, more wrinkled and grey than in their prime but still beautiful old biddies having fun. There was joy in their faces and a spring in their step. Most noticeably these old gals seemed happy in their own skins.

I'm not advocating letting yourself go, getting unhealthy, turning frumpy, going grey.......but........enjoying each phase of life for what it is, not wishing to be somewhere else on the time line. To be the best 40 something, 50 something you can be......not a 40 something trying and wishing to be a 20 something.....

 To be happy to be where you are in life, to embrace each stage. Not easy in our western world today.

Over the last week I have seen the most gorgeous older ladies and want to celebrate their natural beauty!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How to buy a coconut - HAL market

Earlier this week I spent a wonderful "didn't cross anything off the to do list" sort of day. Went to Bible Study, a long chatty lunch and then to HAL market which I have passed so many times in the car but never got out. This time friend Carla and I did stop, armed with our cameras.

The people here from the old to the young were so friendly, eager to pose and try out their English of which they were duly proud, especially the school kids. I don't know if the market was quiet that day or we were late, but no one seemed in any rush to do business.

Even buying one coconut seemed a very protracted, complex and serious business.

First the milk has to be removed - so little old, but sinewy lady, smashes the coconut on the curb. First strike and the coconut is cracked, the milk bursting forth. Years of practice and hidden muscle power.

 Then, so as not to waste the remaining inner juice of the fruit, she swigs it down:

And on to the hard bargaining - convincing the customer this is the best coconut ever......

Yes, really .........

The negotiating goes on until finally...................

 We have a deal, monies are handed over (all of 10 rupees), seller is happy and buyer moves on to the next stall for another round!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"On yer bike" @ proVision Asia

Back in 1988 a 14 year old boy, his legs unable to carry him after an attack of polio as a baby, is propelling himself along a dusty road sat on a rough wooden board with four wheels attached. An American couple passing by see him and the rest, as they say, is history. And what an awe inspiring history the story of proVision is!

That 14 year old boy now fully grown, works at proVision and smiles and smiles. I took so many pictures of Muni and I don't have one where his beauteous smile is not illuminating the whole room and some. Muni now has a modified wheel chair - this is one of the services the charity performs. That American couple, who have been resident in Bangalore off and on since that time, set up this incredible organization which lifts up and empowers some of the Bangalore-disabled to escape the rigors of extreme poverty, find employment and support themselves and their families. Its is a hand up rather than a hand out approach. Chip not only set up ProVision but also was a founding member of BICF, our church here.

What strikes you here, as well as the incredible services the charity performs, is also the feeling of possibility, of options, of giving, of's a place you want to stay -  to feed off the joys, the spirit and the wonders.

Old retired wheelchairs are collected overseas through friends of proVision and arrive in India. They are then repaired by inmates at one of the Bangalore prisons in a rehabilitation program and then modified to the specific customers needs. This little on-site workshop is presided over by apparently the best and most sought after wheel chair modifier in Bangalore who is himself hearing impaired. He has two kids, one of whom is also hearing impaired, but the other son is a high performer and a rank student. He won one of the scholarships proVision offers via the OWC. Its all about lifting up, transcending.

As well as wheel chairs, the charity has a physiotherapy center with one full time member of staff and soon a couple of interns from a college will also be stationed here. The physiotherapist is kept busy. There are a lot of polio victims but also a lot of cerebral palsy sufferers. The marriages within the extended family contribute to the high instances of CP. She has some wonderful stories of instances where proVision has helped families in extreme need pick themselves up. Not only do the prescribed treatments and exercises help the atrophied muscles of the kids, but the parents get some much needed socialization with other CP parents, to empathize, compare notes..... These CP kids can't afford hospital treatment; so, often quite treatable problems go untreated. For example, the boy with mild CP who could only walk on his toes, couldn't run or play because he was so unstable. The physio prescribed some exercises to stretch and build up his hamstrings and achilles and within a couple of weeks he could walk/stand with his heels on the floor and his life was changed.

Or this little guy....

 Life got off to a tough start. Born with CP, his Dad committed suicide and his mom left him. His view of the world was not only one of abandonment and sorrow but also one at shoe level as he couldn't stand and had no apparatus to help him do so. But luckily for him he is a neighbor of the smiling Muni to whom he smiled and waved to from his home on the floor.  Muni brought him into proVision. He now can stand and with his calipers and walking frame can get about. He dances. In fact, wheel chair dancing is quite an art. He attends the Mithra Special School also run by ProVision for special needs kids. They have 15 kids who attend lessons as well as visit the physio. We were only too happy to dredge our brains for the not quite forgotten words of "The Wheels on the Bus" to sing along with them.

The purpose of our visit was to witness the handing over of specially modified three wheel vehicles/bikes to some proVision clients. Some of the money is raised by the bike's owners and the modifications are done by the charity, sponsored by the OWC. This is really special: can you imagine the difference these bikes make for these guys.  The independence to get to work, take their families out, go shopping, carry things........... just to be able to zip about like an able-bodied guy. The sheer joy on their faces, and everyone else's faces. when these guys were handed the keys to their freedom was beyond words.

We were taken out for a spin. It was all laughter and fun. Joking that the disabled bikers' wives would be shown the pics of their hubbies taking other women (us) out for a ride! The guy driving me had one artificial leg which was still shorter than his other leg, but once he arrived somewhere on his bike he could dismount and hobble about a bit. Others could transport their crutches etc. on the bike so they could not only get on and off but also get to and from their new bike. Some bikes had various velcro straps attached to help their riders stay stable in the saddle. All were modified with the needs of the specific owner in mind.

We met so many of the world's unsung heroes today. The people who do so much for others, without a song and dance and a hullabaloo but with humility and huge all encompassing smiles. We also met so many of the world's heroic, those who deal with so much in their lives, more hardship and sorrow than we can contemplate, but still with smiles of joy to share.....

It was an incredibly special day and one I was so honored and privileged to be able to share.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Off road biking....

Simon did not think my bike route of two blogs ago was the most efficient way to by pass the dirty lake. So with Simon clutching google maps, we had another go, Ads and Simon on bike and me on foot to pick up my bike form Connie's place around the dirty lake.

This ride (for Simon & Ads), jog for me was a lot quicker and a lot less traffic than the route I took......mainly as we are talking dirt roads.

We started off on tiny little streets like these below, hardly room for a car and very quiet on a
Saturday morning.

Before long we turned off road. Ads is the flash of green in the distance.  To think we have been here over 2 years and haven't discovered bike trails literally outside our back door.  These trails do hug the back of Vista, although we can't get out that way but have to go out the front gate and go round to the backside street.

All we past was slum housing. We sort of get used to the fact that people live in these tents just outside our back wall, but sometimes you need to just stop and think....
It was a really nice ride, well on the way back, when I had my bike and wasn't trying to keep up with the boys by foot.

 White folks on bikes aren't that we did have a few spectators.........
Simon and Ads go biking with some friends from their complex but that involves a 45 min car ride first, so it'll be fun to find some bike trails closer to home. Have to get Wills on his bike as well.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Happy 8th Birthday Wills

Another birthday, his third in Bangers. Although we have been here just over 2 years, Wills has now had three-eigths of his birthdays here in India.
But the birthday still followed what seems to be a world wide formula. The cup cakes (three batches in my tiny oven to feed a class of 20!) got taken to school and consumed with gusto.

For his birthday Wills decided he wanted to go bowling. Something I think to do with the fact that when we went bowling a few weeks ago en famille, he beat Adam!!

We had a party of 12 bowlers from school and the neighborhood dropped off into our charge at the bowling alley. Wills appropriately, as he was the birthday boy, got the high score of the day. The kids are definitely growing up - doesnt seem so long ago that they could hardly lift the balls and had lost interest before the end of game one. Now 2 games are played competitively and they high five each other when they get stikes or spares - its all in such good humor.

Post bowling we head downstairs in the mall for ice-cream. Swensons being a world wide phenomena! The boys choose their two scoops and toppings, a variety of interesting combinations and we sing Happy Birthday. This is the whole motley crew - not looking their best.

Wills had fun determinedly opening his presents.
Best gift so far Grandpa's....the tennis swing ball. Trouble being overseas is relatives give us money to spend on the kids which uses up all my good ideas. 

After the party, kids are picked up by parents or drivers (now there's a difference!) and the Vista kids come back here for pizza, movie and popcorn.

Wills agrees it was a great birthday. Parents also had a calm time!
But another parents day today as Wills heads out to some friends birthday this afternoon. Three kids out of twenty in his class had birthdays this weekend so its been quite a party weekend for class 2A!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bike, buses and metro.....all in one day!!!

Simon has the car all day and I want to go out. In fact, specifically I want to get to friend Connie's house which is 2 buses away or a good twenty minutes by car (not an option today) or only 15 minutes by bike as on 2-wheels I can take pathways inaccessible to four wheelers. I toss my biking plan out in front of Purander, who seems to think if I don't get lost or fall off I may arrive at my destination in one piece. O yea of little faith in my abilities!

Connie's complex is tantalizingly close, almost visible to the naked eye from Vista, just the other side of Doddanekundi lake. Lake is a little optimistic a name - I'm sure it once was a place of blue waters and quite beautiful, but is now sadly a sign of the times...polluted, full of weeds and mosquitos but still impassable and huge. There are plans a foot to rescue the 'lake' so maybe one day it will return to its former glories, hopefully for both the aesthetics but also our environment and the water levels in Bangers and India as a whole. Anyway, as the crow flies all that separates me and Connie is the lake but by road we have to go a long way south to pass the lake before returning north up the other side of the lake. By bike the journey is at least halved.

So with google maps all set on my phone, my bike wheels pumped, helmet on (puts me firmly in the minority of cyclists here), I set off. There was not a lot of traffic and I felt quite safe. At least half of my ride is on "no car" little roads which were very quiet. Even cycling up through Connie's village where they was a bit more action I felt quite confident, there are so many two wheelers. Soon I am turning into Connie's security gate - a much easier less eventful experience than I had imagined!

Once I had been refreshed with a glass of cold water and basked in the glory of my successful venture it was time to hit the buses. Aim to get the metro.....which has been open in Bangers for over a year but has not been hugely successful. The metro stops are slightly off the road and the buses are so good and the non a/c exceptionally cheap so a lot of folks have not changed their morning commute to factor in the bright shiny metro. The metro route is currently only 6 stops so maybe once it is at full strength or length it will attract more custom.

Connie is a real bus guru so I just follow along. We jump on the first bus which is our most expensive transport of the morning at 20 rupees each (less than 50 cents). I have no real idea where we are going but have full faith in my guide. It's by now mid morning and the buses are relatively quiet. Second bus is also easily negotiated. Hardest part of the morning is crossing the street to the metro!

Entering the metro station is like entering another world. It s hard to explain but India is so noisy, dusty, action packed.........the metro station is a little's new, it's clean, its shiny, its enetering a vacuum where the sound, smells and sights have been sucked out. Its seriously eerily empty. It feels really weird -  like going into the City of London on a Sunday - or going to a shopping mall in the middle of the night, or a party on the wrong day. But this is a week day, it is India but there are no people....really odd!!!

Really we could almost be in any metro in the world. Its almost too bland.

 Little signs do give our geographical position away.......the lady with baby and the pregnant lady wearing sari's..on the please give your seat to....sign.

 We took the metro all 5 or 6 stops to MG Road where we did a spot of shopping. In Blossoms, the best second hand book stall we were relatively restrained. Then we stopped at a european food hall where Connie indulged in some rather pricey After Eights and me some other foreign delicacies. We grabbed some lunch in a little Indian Hotel - yummy yummy chats before returning on the metro. As we felt we had taken sufficient public transport (and of course my bike ride) to quell our need for adventure for one day we returned to our expat side of life and Connie's driver picked us up from the metro. Which means of course my bike is still chez Connie so will work out how to reclaim it another day!!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On the spot, sorta wedding invite.....

Clicking away at rocks and ruins in Hampi, not expecting to be pointing and shooting at anyone's nuptuals. But this is India.... so expect the unexpected.........

Simon and I are innocently ambling round and are beckoned by some passing guy to follow him. What else to do? So we do exactly that and before we know it we are being pushed into a hall which is packed and rice is flying hard. Very hard in all directions. Usually being tall has it's advantages for vision purposes but today just seems to add to the target area! We are pelted with rice, thrown at close range and with force!! Its such a melee its impossible to photo. Its friendly, it's fun but it stings..... I was trailing rice all my way home to bed and then some......

This was trying to leave the proceedings, against the flow...not quite the wedding etiquette we are used to!!

   Simon and I beat a retreat. Glynns and I thinking photos, beautiful ladies in wonderful colors, exotic Indian wedding, re-group and re-enter through another door....the ladies door not the rice chucking guy side door...and we are not disappointed.

This time we are ushered up to the front of the hall, to the very very front, through rows and rows of friends and many people does this couple and their family know? We end up next to the stage and the real photographers (who engage G in a long technical discussion.....) and we can now see but not understand the complex rituals that presumably end with this couple embarking on a life of married bliss.  No-one seems to mind us pushing (or being pushed) to the front).

But under the never ending stream of rice, the pushing and shoving well wishers, the heat and lights they are not looking too happy just yet!!
On our final exit we have the never ending stream of folks wanting their pics taken...screaming babies are held out for their big moment. Mama looks at the LCD, smiles and is happy. What they think if anything will happen to the pic I have no idea but to see sobbing little one on digital seems to be all that is required.

We are invited to sit and eat but decide we need to find the rest of our party including the kids who have now dispersed over quite a distance.

You never know quite what to expect here - but it will be friendly, it will be noisy, there will be music, there will be smiles, there will be no personal space and odds on there will be food!!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Hampi pt 3 - the kids (ours and others!) and the logistics!

There are somethings no trip in India is complete without and that is kids........our kids and a few of the millions of Indian kids smiling, posing and laughing with us and at us!!!! These kids are so open and their eyes so brights, so curious and such here are some pics of ours and some of theirs....

We travelled in a convoy of three auto ricks. The drivers acted as a guides. We had a very sketchy knowledge of what we wanted to see and how the whole Hampi experience fitted together but our drivers were up to the task. They also did a spot of baby sitting. When the kids were templed out and decided to stay a la rick they kept them under control! They also let the kids have a go at driving....really....our drivers hands were both visible when Wills was at the wheel.
 The teachers propelling these kids round the various sites seemed to have as little control over their charges as we did!

Our kids had so much fun and got on really well together which made for an easy trip and happy parents!!
We stayed in the Hampi Shanti which was is the other side of the river from the main historical interest points. Crossing the river took a couple of minutes and cost a few rupees on a local boat. But we saw many sights of Indian life on the ghats and in the river, bath time for bodies and clothes...

The Shanti Hampi was a collection of little huts each complete with a swing to laze, relax....well if you are a kid maybe not so much r and r!!
 The guest house over looked the paddy fields where we could watch the buffalo at work:

and just enjoy the sunset.....

 All in all a great weekend away, thoroughly recommended! As the sun set we had a last meal in Hampi, a last rick drive to the station and another night on board train, before pulling into Bangalore in the early hours the next morning.