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12/2003 - December in a nutshellAs you'll know if you caught the tail end of November, there was something of a hiatus at Brits Eye View during December and January. As a result I've got out of the habit of living my life in a goldfish bowl. In some way's it was pleasant. Having to come up with something every day can be taxing - also, reporting on the doings of your spouse can be taxing to a relationship, particularly when her perception of the doings differs substantially from yours. On the other hand I think it was doing something for my writing skills, and I really quite missed it.
So, what went wrong? Well initially there was a problem with our Internet connection. For reasons I never understood, it suddenly stopped allowing me to FTP files bigger than about 16k to the web server. Then it stopped working altogether. Thus may have had something to do with the fact that I didn't pay the bill because it was not working properly.
Taken in isolation, this would not have been a problem. I could have got connected over the TV cable. But then my laptop took to blue-screening at rather regular intervals. It turned out that it needed a new hard drive, and that took a few weeks to get sorted out - this is India, and nothing happens particularly quickly. However once I'd found out where the Toshiba service centre was, and found the time to get off work to take the laptop there, I have to say that it was dealt with in an efficient manner, and for what seemed to me to be quite a reasonable price.
Anyway, that's enough of the hard-luck story. So what else happened? Well, for one thing, Lavanya happened. Terry and I were at the Watchman one Friday evening, and I took a picture of this couple who were sitting at a table opposite us. This was agreed by hand signals. Shortly afterwards, the girl - Lavanya - came across to talk to Terry, and later, they dragged us off to a new place called Purple Haze. It was OK. On the top floor they have a big video screen where they play nothing but 70s super groups - right up my street! For whatever reason they ended up back at the apartment, staying in the spare room. The next week, the boy friend got Lavanya kicked out of the place she was living, and she turned up at our apartment looking for somewhere to stay. Terry and I, being a soft touch, said she could come and stay for a bit, which soon turned into indefinitely.
There was a nasty cold/flu thing going round Bangalore at that point, and Lavanya brought it with her. Terry escaped, but I got it, and had a pretty miserable two to three weeks trying to get rid of it. I went to work through it, but was exhausted in the evenings. The boy friend came round a few times, but eventually there was a crisis in the relationship. Terry and I thought he was actually living with another woman, and didn't like him much. Eventually he got a job in Dubai, and went off there. Unfortunately it's only a short contract so he'll probably be back before she's had chance to get over him. At the weekends, to take her mind off this, Lavanya introduced us to a broader spectrum of Bangalore night-life - Club X, Spin, and Hypnos. We liked Spin best but I don't have a useful photo.
Work was not wonderful. I was working my way through a long list of test scripts, revising them for use in the India context. They are quite complex, and it felt like the task was neverending. I settled to a routine where I got there about 9:30, worked a straight 8 hours then came home, except for Tuesdays. On that day we had a conference call with NY, so the day went on until about eight in the evening. The testing was to start in earnest at the beginning of January, so there was time pressure too.
About half way through the month, when the worst of the cold was over, I finally got fed up of pleading with auto rickshaw drivers to take me to work, and bought myself a bicycle. This was one of my better decisions. I could get to work almost as quickly - maybe quicker if the traffic was bad, since you can do things with a bike you can't with an auto, like get on to the sidewalk, or pick it up and carry it over a traffic jam. It also provides much needed exercise. It's an Indian bike, a simple thing with a single gear, and cost the princely sum of Rs 1975 - about $44. I seem to remember paying a similar price for a bicycle pump in New York.
I was just patting myself on the back about this when, out of the blue, my boss called me into his office and handed me a letter he'd got from the Raheja Residence Ebony block Residents Association. The letter said that he (my boss that is, since it was his name on the lease) had behaved improperly, and was therefore to get out of the apartment by the 15th of January. In fact, it was my dear wife who was the guilty party. We'd had a tiff about something a week before, and she'd gone out, got somewhat sloshed, then got into a slanging match with the security guards on the main gate of the compound. Although the letter didn't say so, I think we had also offended the conservative residents of Raheja by moving a young single Indian woman into our apartment, and by being generally too foreign in our behavior. Sushanth, my boss, was not pleased, and I felt like a worm standing there staring at the letter and mumbling excuses. I had visions of being packed off back to the USA, followed by vision of packing Terry off back to the USA.
Fortunately, I got a reprieve, and was told I could go and find another apartment. Suresh, the proprietor at the Watchman put us on to an agent, and he came up with something almost immediately. The first place he showed us was a dump, but the same day he showed us another place that was as different as you could wish - more of that later.
A period of negotiation followed, interrupted by Christmas and the New Year. These did not add up to much. On Christmas Day Terry and I went for a buffet Christmas lunch at the Windsor-Sheraton - known locally by it's previous name, the Windsor Manor - which is one of Bangalore's quite large selection of five star hotels. The lunch was quite pleasant, with lots of decadent western food like turkey and pork, and accompanied by liberal quantities of champagne. Lavanya missed out because she'd gone out somewhere and didn't get back before we set off. Other than for the lunch it was an uneventful day - we went to the Watchman to say Merry Christmas to our expat friends and the staff there.
On Boxing Day morning I was entertained by the India and Australia cricket teams. In the afternoon we did belated Christmas shopping - Terry got a necklace, and Lavanya got clothes.
On New Years Eve we went back to the same place, but that was a disaster. The food was tepid, you had to fight to get to the bar to get the free beer, all the other drinks were extortionately priced, and they played loud and repetitive dance music all night. We ended up sitting in the bar, and went home shortly after it turned 2004.
The weather in Bangalore behaved as advertised. It's was still around 25C during the day, and warm enough at night so you're usually OK in just a T shirt. We finally found somewhere to buy cat litter and decent cat food. Cali had been more or less on hunger strike over the cat food we'd been able to get at supermarkets, but she seems to like the imported stuff we found very well.
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