Saturday, May 31, 2008

When it Rains, it Pours... and Drips

Sometimes you just have days where you have to drive around the city and take care of things. Saturday was one of those days. We had to go to the hospital to get our final Hep B vaccination, we had to go to the furniture rental place to arrange for a bed for our "Summer guest season", (eldest daughter Isha arrives in less than three weeks!!!) and then we had to go to Thom's Super Market and Bakery. Thom's is one of the older expat haven type grocery stores in Bangalore. We can get Corn Flakes there (if we wanted), we can get meat there (even beef), we can get baking cocoa and Betty Crocker baking mixes there (I can smell baking brownies as I type!). Bryan can even get decaf coffee there. As far as we know this is the only place in Bangalore that has decaf, even if it is only Nescafe... but sadly they were out of stock (Monday after 3 it shall be there!) Anyway, Anna came with us today and she was so happy to find these:

I believe that they are actually made in Thailand, but still, to her they are a taste from home!

Here is another interesting sight from the streets of Bangalore.

You often see trucks like these around. This truck is actually being used as a bus. It transports people into and out of the city from the villages. This bus appears to be a little on the empty side as sometimes you will see a full batch of heads inside and a full row of bottoms off the back. As you see they have a rope to hang on to and handles on the side. I think sitting on the back would be a fun view, although I would want to hang on real well through all the bumps on the city streets!
I also saw a guy on the back of a two-wheeler carrying a goat across his lap. A LIVE goat! Sadly I did not get a picture of this one but it was one of those "oh yeah, I'm in India" sights. They were probably headed to a barbeque or something.

We then dropped the daughter off on Brigade road (she was meeting a "friend") and Bryan and I headed home. It wasn't long before it started to get a little dark. Then it got even darker. Soon it was 4:00 p.m. and I was turning lights on inside because it was so dark. Glancing outside I saw this:

I really had the feeling that IT was coming.
Yup, I think I can safely say that The Monsoon started today.

Aaaannnd, we still have a few leaks. Nothing torrential, quite. But the rain is really something to behold. About 20 minutes after the above picture was taken, things looked like this:

and this:
At the top left of the above photo you can see a little shack (click if you would like to see it bigger). This is where the construction workers for the site next to us are living. I think there are four of them, probably all under the age of 25 - if that. Some time later they were out in the downpour trying to fix a leak that they have in one of the corners.

This was after about 30 minutes:

Did you notice how much water is around the motorcycle tire? He's not going anywhere soon!

That's a lot of water. And as mentioned, we had our leaks to contend with as well. Oh, and marble floors, when wet, are really slippery. All things considered we are lucky that more does not come in the house!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Catch the Bullets

It is inevitable that once in a while it is necessary to do a "catch-up" post.
This is such a post.

  1. I bought the Charkha. I told my husband it is art. It is beautiful.
  2. With the help of a like minded knitter (really she is spear-heading it!), we have started a craft group. Knitters, crocheters, sewers, scrapbookers... Yippee! We have met twice and are meeting a third time at my house on Friday.
  3. I am tired of knitting socks. I'm sure it's just like a short term virus or something. I will get over it.
  4. I have too many knitting projects in an "in-between, need to think about the next stage" stage. This leads to me wandering around the house wondering what the heck to do. Not pretty.
  5. We celebrated Mother's Day, along with a group of Aussie/Kiwi friends, with a brunch at Leela Palace.
  6. I am a little tired of going to fancy expat functions. Can't we just meet for cheap Masala Dosa, idli, and coffee?
  7. We were invited to and my husband was introduced (and garlanded) as an honored guest at this ceremonial function.
  8. I have realized that I am more familiar with and communicate more with the workers in my area than any of the residents in my neighborhood.
  9. I found an organic food store 5 minutes from my house. It is the only ISO certified organic store in India. Had no clue it was there. How cool is that?
  10. Speaking of cool, last week it was cooler here in Bangalore than it was back home in Silly-con Valley. Who'd a thunk it?
  11. The bombings in Jaipur last week were incredibly sad and senseless.
  12. We are planning a trip to Singapore and Malaysia next month.
  13. There are yarn stores in Singapore.
  14. Monsoon Season is coming soon.
We are close to the "June 5" area

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Stop, Children, What's that Sound?

Do you hear that?

No, not the buzzing saw from the construction site.
No, no- not the train in the distance.
Nope not the auto rickshaw putt-putting down the road, nor any of the honking cars.

Don't you hear? The loudspeaker?
What is it saying? No clue, still haven't learned Kannada.

So, I think just about everyone in the world is aware that this year will see a presidential election in the United States. Can't miss it. But did you know that it is election season in Bangalore? Yup. If you live here you can't miss it either. There are the processional trucks with the loudspeakers, the gatherings of white clad politicians and supporters that meander in large groups around neighborhoods or just loiter on corners, sidewalks or streets. There are the occasional tents that have sprung up, which may or may not be used for serving lavish feasts in an effort to woo voters. (It's illegal, but they are there and I have heard that it happens.)

It wasn't long ago when Bangalore received a visit from the young, the dashing, Rahul Gandhi.
Despite his seeming discomfort with it, he is India's political poster boy in a Tiger Beat kind of way, being the heir apparent to the Gandhi political dynasty and head of the Indian Youth Congress. His visit was accompanied by large banners, posters, flags and lots of traffic tie-ups.

It can appear that Sonia Gandhi's Indian National Congress party (INC) is in an election battle with The Bharatiya Janata (BJP) and the other major player in Karnataka politics, Janata Dal Secular (JDS) but truth be told- I really have no clue! Election day is on the 10th of May, and while I will state again that I in NO WAY have any in depth understanding of Indian politics, I do think that this is a pretty big election. Since October, the government of Karnataka (the state that Bangalore is in) has been governed by "President's Rule". I believe that this was an effort to cool things down after there had been some political turmoil between BJP and JDS and disagreements about the coalition government that they were supposed to be running.

Don't ask me what the different parties represent, stand for, or any of that. Again, I have no clue. I did see one ad in the newspaper that had been taken out by BJP that listed all of the woes that are affecting India (and the rest of the world) at present such as higher prices for food stuffs, grains, petrol and gas, and implied that the Congress party was to blame since they have been in power for such a long time here. It is surely a simplistic explanation, although I know that this sort of thing happens in politics all over the world. Of course, luckily for Indian politicians, Bush has stuck his foot in his mouth again and they think that the US is now blaming India for higher food prices world wide. So nice to have a diversion.

Political campaigners parading and handing out leaflets

It is interesting to see all that is going on here though and yet also feel a bit isolated from all of the politicking in the US. Yes, we hear about it in the news, but it is always the after-effect, the reporting of the event that we hear about. We are not able to participate in such an intimate way. So I am trying to at least understand the process here. It does seem that people are passionate about voting and elections in Bangalore. Lalitha, my housekeeper came late the other day so that she could get her voter ID card and she reported that there was a huge line and crowd with people jumping line and the police had to come to control the crowd. When did you last hear about that happening in the US?

Campaigners and candidates

Well, I just hope for a peaceful election. No strikes, no riots, no trouble. But maybe the US could take a lesson from Indians and at least DO something if things don't turn out the way they should. It would be nice if we were able to actually elect our next president. For real this time.

In the meantime, I am just hoping that the local politicians will address the trouble with sidewalks.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mysore and Mayo

I told you that the 1st was a holiday, right? So both my husband and daughter had Thursday and Friday off. We had actually intended to get away for the weekend, but tried to make plans too late- so instead we decided to head to Mysore for the day! Mysore is .... (below out take from Wikipedia)

"Mysore (pronounced /maɪˈsɔɚ/ in English (listen); to be renamed Mysuru) (Kannada: ಮೈಸೂರು) is the second largest city in the state of Karnataka, India. It is the headquarters of the Mysore district and the Mysore division and lies about 140 km (87 mi) southwest of Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. The name Mysore is an anglicised version of Mahishūru, which means the abode of Mahisha. Mahisha stands for Mahishasura, a demon from the Hindu mythology. The city is spread across an area of 128.42 km² (50 sq mi) and is situated at the base of the Chamundi Hills."

Manju arrived at about 7 am and we headed off...

Mysore is, according to all of the guidebooks that I have read, approximately four hours from Bangalore. Well. Hah- what do they know! We arrived in 2 1/2 hours on the button. Of course, part of this improved time may have been the new 4 lane (meaning they could fit six cars across if needed!) road between Bangalore and Mysore. This is easily the nicest road I have been on thus far in India! We did share the road with vehicles of all kinds, including ox carts loaded up with sugar cane, but we made good time and arrived in Mysore nice and early.

We decided to start with the Palace since they are actually open early. I had heard from a friend that they have guides inside and have their rates pre-printed on a card for all to see (of course there is nothing to prevent them from having more than one card in their pocket with multiple price sets!) Whatever- we found a guide and began our journey- oh but first stop- the toilet. Now, I am sure that you have all heard about squat toilets, right? Well, believe it or not, I have thus far been able to avoid using one. Bangalore is pretty "Westernized" for good or bad- and I have never been faced with a squat toilet being the only option. Well- not here. Squat toilets they be. Not too clean, but not too dirty either, and I had to go. I do actually have a picture ( No! Not of it in use! geez...) but decided against posting it here out of respect for those of you who are "squeemish". But I came, I went, and I survived. Really, it's not bad. Now, on to the Palace!

Mysore Palace

The palace really is pretty magnificent and I wish, oh how I wish, that they would have allowed me to take pictures inside. But it is not allowed. The Mysore Palace was the abode of the Mysore Royal Family (the Wodeyar family) and seat of the Kingdom of Mysore. They have lived in the area for many hundreds of years. The current royal family (king I think?) still has a private area of the palace for his use, but if I understood correctly the Mysore Royals actually live in Bangalore. It sounds like the Mysore Royals were pretty good - they sponsored many social projects and seem to be well respected to this day- of course this is all according to our guide! There is far too much for me to describe here. The palace contains some beautiful stained glass, spectacular mosaic floors, and incredible halls with ornate colonnades. I was really saddened to see graffiti in some of the areas though. The palace could do with a bit of a face lift as the Indian weather and moisture takes a heavy toll on the best of constructions. Well worth seeing though!

After the palace we were all ready for a bite to eat. When we said to Manju that we needed some lunch, he immediately took us to a local nice hotel. It wasn't exactly what we had in mind, but we really can't blame him as most of the time when he drives us somewhere to eat in Bangalore it is usually located at one of the many nice hotels in town. We do actually eat at other places- it's just that he isn't with us at those times! Anyway, we had an okay but overpriced meal and then decided to head to the local market area. We really didn't want to do a lot of shopping this trip, but we were curious to see the market area. So we roamed around, were offered lots of fruit (which I would have been tempted by if we had had a cooler or something) and I think I saw more bananas than I have ever seen in my life. We did find and stop by Guru Sweets, supposedly the place to get Mysore Pak (good stuff that!) and bought far too much as I am still figuring out that 1 kilogram is actually a good amount of something.

Well- we were soon done with the market and Anna really wanted to see Saint Philomena's Church. It is a Gothic style church and really is not what you expect to see in the middle of Southern India!

We were dutiful Christians and wandered around. Bryan quizzing me on just who exactly is St. Philomena. When my memory of Catholic saints and their iconography came up blank he had to resort to other methods...

Anna posed in St. Philomena's Grotto while Bryan is trying to look her up on the web. Here is the Wiki page if you are interested... Apparently she was dropped from the list of "celebrated saints" on the liturgical calendar in 1961. That must be why I didn't know who she was.

But enough about that. Today is Cinco de Mayo! I have to say that I have been craving isolated Mexican foods lately. The one thing that you just can not find anywhere in Bangalore is real corn tortillas- nor can you get Masa Harina that would enable you to make your own! I absolutely love corn tortillas. I grew up in a very Mexican neighborhood you see, so the things that bring back memories of my childhood are Mexican pastries, (not only the fluffy pink ones, but also the molasses flavored ones that are shaped like pigs! Yummmm) Mexican folkloric dancing, (always loved the endings where the man leans down over the woman with his sombrero covering the two of them- always wanted to know which ones were really kissing!) and fresh corn tortillas. Many an afternoon of my childhood was spent enjoying these tortillas, made by my friend Mark Gonzales' grandmother. We could eat them as fast as she could make them and to this day there are few foods that can compare.

But here we have to make do:

Yes, a taco kit. We ate them all up and they were really quite good. No, we didn't have sour cream. No, we didn't have guacamole (no "butter fruit" in the store these days- butter fruit=avocado) But we did have tacos in real corn tortilla taco shells and they were yummy.

And yup. That's Fosters.