December 2004 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman -   Contact  Current Month  Previous  Next  Index  Software

Boxed in
Boxed in.
31/12/2004 - Home, Not-so-Sweet Home

In got home one day this week to find that Terry had bought a large expensive futon, and put it out on the paved part of the balcony, without a word of discussion. So now the dining area is dark because the thing blocks out the light that would otherwise have illuminated the marble floor, you can only open one of the four french windows - the one furthest from anything at that, and the paved area of the balcony is gone. This so the smokers have somewhere to sit.

You can't see the bit of grass and the new plants from the dining area, you can't get any ventilation and sunlight in the dining area when you're having your breakfast, and you can't communicate with anyone who is out on the balcony. The first time we have a squally thunderstorm, the thing will get soaked, then it will get mildew. Also the grass will now get destroyed because the only openable door leads directly on to it.

I objected, and was told that if I paid her the $400 she'd squandered on it, I could do what I liked with it. Consequently I feel like I've got no say over the contents of the apartment that I go to work to pay for, and to put it mildly, I'm pissed. But I guess I should watch what I'm thinking. Here I am in Bangalore, 1000m above sea level with food and drink in the fridge, clothes in the closet, and furniture to sit on and eat off - paradise in relative terms.

A Happy New Year to all my readers.

27/12/2004 - Levity Aside

Levity aside, the tsunami disaster around the Indian Ocean is a really bad business. Most of the people affected probably had next to nothing anyway, but they had some basics. Some sort of roof over their head, a few pots to cook in and a gas ring, maybe a radio or a cheap TV, and odds and ends of personal possessions. Now there's nothing, and they're in with a good chance of having lost their children too. Just imagine! Everything that you could possibly think of as a terrifying or disastrous thing that could happen to you, all come true in 20 minutes.

It's to be hoped that the worst predictions of ensuing disease outbreaks don't come true as well, though god knows, it's a forlorn hope. Many of the people affected didn't have much, or anything, in the way of sanitary systems, so a lot of them had no choice in their daily routine but to to shit behind some convenient bush. Now that's all spread about and mixed with the drinking water supplies - mostly wells. This is the classic recipe for epidemics of Cholera, Typhoid Fever, and Dysentery. Cholera can kill you in a few hours if you don't get body fluids replaced, and it's not a dignified death. Basically you shit and vomit yourself to death.

Mr Ethnic Dress 2004
Mr Ethnic Dress 2004.

27/12/2004 - As Advertised

As promised, here's me in the farmer suit, flat cap, and shirt without collar, complete with winner's ribbon and tiara! And, I should probably also add, looking like one of the sheep I should have been in town selling in this getup. The short beard is a very high maintenance hair style, and I'm definitely due for a shearing in this picture.

I've always thought that an unacceptable proportion of the social scene pictures I take are badly out of focus, but having seen the pictures Sushanth took of the pre-Christmas bash at work, I guess I should revise my opinion. I use the viewfinder rather than the little LCD screen on the back, and it looks to me like that may be a good policy. Holding the camera steady at arms length would appear to be more difficult than having it braced against your head.

So anyway, That's Christmas over with, and without too much angst. Now we've just got to get through the New Year. More later.


25/12/2004 - Philosophically Speaking

Here's the Ganesha I finally chose. The original was a carved wood one, with a good deal more detail, but I found it somewhat austere compared to the carved wood painted versions, particularly the reclining one. This guy is much more laid-back, only has two arms, and is not displaying any of his traditional implements or gestures.

He is the Lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. Often he carries an elephant goad to spur us on to greater efforts. Other examples display the characteristic hand gestures - warding off fear (right hand upright with palm outward), and granting a boon (left hand downward palm outward, as if you were rolling a ball).

The Indian deities are somewhat more earthy than they might have been taught to be by the Buddha. Sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are definitely on the cards. They would probably tell us that rather than avoiding anything that disrupts the stillness of the mind, to find a point of awareness within ourselves from which to observe our own activities, even when subjected the greatest degree of excitement, intoxication, lust, or fear. It is such inner awareness that allows us to discriminate between the real and the unreal. Therefore another of Ganesha's implements is a noose, with which he can trap our illusions. Nooses have other purposes though, so it may also be to remind us that life is short, and that we should get on with it!

The turkey - yes here too
The turkey.

25/12/2004 - The Christmas Feast

Our Christmas lunch was not fully attended. Lavanya had to work, and Nisha promised to show, but didn't turn up. So it was Terry and me and Z and X.

As usual, the Mosaic Restaurant at the Taj was groaning with food of all sorts, and we got our normal warm welcome. It's like eating at home. Everybody knows you, and they all seem genuinely pleased that you came.

I treated myself to a bottle of Indian red wine - a Cabernet, which was really good. The best bottle of wine I've had here. Then I proceeded to slowly work my way through five courses. First the antipasti, always good and varied at the Taj - baby new potatoes, some chicken, pickled carrot and cold beef. Then seafood, baked salmon wrapped in bacon, grilled prawns, and fish biryani. Then turkey with chipolatas, and vegetables I dredged out of the bottom of the vegetable stew on the vegetarian counter. Then grilled beefsteak and half a bratwurst, with new potatoes cooked in a light masala. For desert, Christmas cake and cheese, and stollen with stollen ice-cream. As you can imagine, I was absolutely pogged. Not bad for about $16 a head.

The Christmas tree
The Christmas tree.

25/12/2004 - Merry Christmas

One of the characteristics of Christmas as it's struck me in my lifetime, is that if things can go wrong, they will. I believe that the origins of this are in childhood. When you're young, your inculcated with these tremendous expectations, and although in theory you grow older and wiser, this never really wears off.

Anyway, Terry and I had arranged by an exchange of SMS messages that when she and X got back from Mumbai at 7:30 on Christmas eve, we would eat at TGIF. I'd spent part of the day looking at Ganeshas in the various cottage industry shops along MG Road. I'd determined some time ago that I would get a household deity, and settled on Ganesha. I'm not turning Hindu or anything, but in India it just seems a natural thing to do. I'd found one, carved wood, painted, of a reclining Ganesha, and was hoping Terry would get it for me as my Christmas present. For my part I would get her the mobile phone she'd been coveting if that was what she wanted. With this in mind, so as to have something to put under the tree, I'd bought her a simple lapis lazuli on silver necklace and earrings.

I finished with all that, and turned up at TGIF about 7:00. Terry phoned at about 7:30 to say they'd arrived, then phoned again to say they were going home first to unload the luggage because Z didn't want to leave it in the car. I waited, and two hours later they arrived. We stayed until 10:30 or so, then set off home. To my surprise the car was still stacked with luggage. Having had a few at that point, I wanted to know where the two hours had gone. It transpired that Terry had gone and bought a Ganesha, one that Id looked at a couple of times in an expensive shop on MG Road. That's where the Christmas disappointment kicked in. I threw a wobbler because all my plans had gone wrong, and naturally Terry was upset, and the evening descended into acrimony. I'm an idiot!

Ethnic dress day - my colleagues at work in festive mood
Ethnic dress day.

24/12/2004 - Almost Christmas

The way it works in India is that if Christmas falls on the weekend, you get Friday off rather than Monday. So Thursday was our last day at work before Christmas. Roopa, our HR person, had declared it to be an ethnic-dress day, and Sushanth got us an an extra spiffy lunch with chicken, and ice cream, and such, instead of the usual vegetarian fare.

I decided to interpret ethnic in my own way, and wore what I call my farmer suit, and my flat cap, to give an impression of a North Yorkshire farmer in town to sell a few sheep at the auction mart. Sadly I don't have any wellies here, otherwise I'd have worn them and tucked the trousers in. There were pictures taken, and I'll probably acquire one next week. The Indians thought this was hilarious, and I was declared best dressed man of the day.

Today, I've just pottered. In the morning I went to the Taj to see what they had planned for Christmas day. They're doing a special brunch, so I booked a table.

In the afternoon I went into town to pay the phone bills, and stopped by the Watchman for dal and chips, my favourite weekend lunch snack. I had intended to get street-daughter and her family a large bunch of bananas. I don't think a diet composed entirely of chicken can be regarded as balanced. But she must have magically detected this possibility, and wasn't around.

Random Girl - I can't resist a pretty face
Random Girl.

22/12/2004 - The Bachelor Life

That is, I have little to report. The most striking thing was that Monday night we had quite a pronounced meteorological inversion coinciding with evening rush hour. Now the atmosphere is nothing to write home about in Bangalore at the best of times. But when you get a layer of stagnant cold air trapped under a layer of warmer air, and no wind, it becomes spectacularly bad. It was like a fog, but consisted primarily of exhaust fumes - a real treat.

Other than that, I've been to work, and to the pub to eat in the evenings, and watered the new turf and plants. Cali the cat has been a real pest. Although she's been spayed she still has heats, and the last two days she's been howling half the night. Just what you need.

I picked up the camera from the repair shop this evening, and it looks like they've done a decent job on it. I think they must have another one that they cannibalised for spares, since the state of the slide groove in the repaired version is distinctly better than it was when I took it in, but certainly not as-new. It seems to work though, so I'll settle for it for now.

In Terry's absence I have become responsible for feeding our street daughter. There's a beggar girl who hangs around outside the Watchman. When we're there, Terry usually buys her chicken, or something else to eat. This week she's latched on to me - chicken, chicken, uncle. She taunts me about my beer belly, grabs me by the hand, and drags me off to the roast chicken counter across the road, disappearing as quickly as she appeared once the chicken is forthcoming.

19/12/2004 - Left to my own devices

Surprise, surprise, an actual entry for Sunday! The reason's simple, Terry is off with X today to Ahmenabad and Mumbai, back on Christmas Eve. So I got kicked out of bed early this morning by a flurry of packing and other getting-ready activities. I made myself some breakfast, and cleaned up the kitchen, and now I'm just keeping out of the way. It's doubly hectic because the men are here laying Terry's new turf.

The turf looks pretty good - no weeds, and nice consistent fine grass. I guess there's a fair demand for it in Bangalore, since there are lots of civic buildings, and lots of army officers mess's and private schools, and the latter two generally have cricket grounds. However, Terry killed the other stuff pretty quickly, by treating it as if it had the durability of concrete, so it remains to be seen how the new lot will do. The guy who brought it did his best to explain that it isn't astro-turf.

Hazy Goa sunset with a distant ship
Hazy Goa sunset.

Fort Aguarda - at the mouth of the estuary near Sinquerim
Fort Aguarda.

18/12/2004 - No Improvement

OK, so I did no more last weekend than the weekend before. Must do better. You'll also notice that I'm using old pictures of GOA this week. The Olympus C50 has finally given up the ghost. The slide that opens to extend the lens has a metal pin that runs in a plastic groove. So after a couple of years of pretty heavy use, the plastic has worn away, and the slide now opens at an angle, and doesn't reliably operate the switch that extends the lens, and generally turns things on. A design fault I'd say, metal rubbing on plastic is bound to be an uneven contest.

It actually got to that point last Saturday, and I took it in to a camera repair shop to see if they could do anything with it. I went back this morning to see what they'd concluded. They say they think they can get it going again, and it will be ready tomorrow. I'll believe that when I see it. Failing that, I'm going to be really scraping around for cash to buy a cheap replacement, even though they have got much cheaper in the two years I've had the current one.

Terry has been gardening again, or at least employing gardeners. Some potted trees have appeared, and the small lawn on our balcony is being replaced with new turf. The cat now lives out there, and wakes you up in the morning to be let out. I don't suppose it will be long before she discovers that with a bit of agility she can escape and visit all the other balconies on this floor.

Last night we went to the Watchman to say goodnight to Mick. His stint here with Thames Water is over and he's going back to England, where he'll be on "garden leave" for six months or so while the company attempt to come up with a roughly equivalent posting. What a number! That leaves only the other Steve out of the original bunch of Englishmen who frequented the place when we first arrived. He's leaving in February, so then I'll be senior Englishman.

Tis the season - strangely enough the fruit here peaks in the winter
Tis the season.

Contented cat - Cali has taken to the balcony.
Contented cat.

11/12/2004 - Stressed Out

Well, it's the precious weekend again, and last week I got no further than Friday. So, what's been up?

On Saturday, it was was more apartment fixing activities. Top on the list were curtains, and a bed for the second bedroom so that Nisha had somewhere to sleep other than the double chaise-lounge. The bed was relatively straightforward. I found one that I quite liked at a decent price in the first place I looked. Of course, I felt the need to shop around, and wasted some time discovering that everywhere else was more expensive and worse. The curtain material was more difficult to track down. We toured many shops on Dispensary road before we found one that had a decent selection. Eventually we settled on some quite heavy net material with a woven pattern reminiscent of palm trees for the large area of window in the living room. For the bedrooms. we got some creamy white, more opaque material.

Terry took the material to the tailor, while I went back to the bed shop to make the arrangements. The bed was supposed to arrive between six and seven, but of course, in true India style it didn't appear until eight.

On Sunday we went for brunch at the Taj. I invited another Terry - actually a Thierry. Thierry was over here from NY doing some training. He'd been over before a couple of months ago, but we missed out on any social activity that time, so I thought I'd make amends. As usual, brunch at the Taj was good, and the company was most pleasant.

As for the week, it's probably best forgotten. Work was really stressful, especially given my dressing down of the Friday before. Krishna was at our place most of the week, and consequently Terry was sloshed when I got home from work - they encourage each other. There was a lot of arguing, and Terry got herself into another fight with one of the African girls. Nisha was so pissed of with the week that she's left, talking about returning to Hyderabad. I got into a petty row with Terry last night about overpaying an auto driver of all things, and we ended-up in separate beds. Yea, forget it!

Our balcony/terrace - the hanging gardens of Bangalore
Our balcony/terrace.

03/12/2004 - Carpeted

Tonight at 7:30 in the evening I got a dressing down from my boss in New York - a good tone-setter for the weekend. Apparently I'm perceived as stubborn, uncooperative, unwilling to work sufficient extra hours, and temprementally unsuited to acting in a managerial capacity. This is cool to know when you've recently liquidated all your presence back in the US, and spent what money you had on furniture for a new apartment in India. I suppose it's all true, so I guess I'll have to try and mend my ways for three years if I don't want to end up in an Indian jail for being here illegally. Alternatively I must increase my efforts to persuade Terry to get a job - that'll be the day! Ah well.

To compound the Friday evening, Krishna had been over in the afternoon to see Nisha and the new apartment, and he and Terry had been boozing and playing cards and chess all afternoon. They were both legless, Terry more noticeably so, since Krishna apparently has an innate capability to drink an infinite quantity of wodka without falling over.

As it turned out, the evening passed reasonably peacefully. I was hell bent on going out, even though it was 9:00pm by the time I'd finished with my NY call, and had a bite to eat - Krishna had cooked chicken. So Terry and I went to TGIF for an hour or so. Terry ate something - a good idea - and then decided she'd had enough and went home. I had another pint and followed her.

The new apartment - still somewhat bare, and not really as pink as it looks here
The new apartment.

The dining area - actually used now
The dining area.

02/12/2004 - Shifted

Well we got moved over the weekend, or in Indian parlance, shifted. On Sunday and Monday mornings my legs were really stiff from walking up and down the steps a thousand times. It's an adage that you never realize how much stuff you've accumulated until you have to move it. Internet connectivity and the phone reappeared by stages yesterday. We have cooking gas, and the new fridge-freezer and washing machine both seem to do their respective thing OK. So we're pretty well back in business.

We still have to achieve curtains, and mosquito nets over some of the windows so we can keep them open. That might happen this weekend.

So far, we like the place. It's somewhat more overlooked, since it faces into the inner courtyard, and without the curtains you have to be a bit more cautious about wandering around in the buff. Nisha's here at the moment, so I have to watch that anyway.

On Monday night, TGIF introduced a new menu. You can now actually get a proper burger and a steak. They have a bit of work to do on presentation, but otherwise they weren't bad. I had a fillet mignon, which turned out to be strip steak, and Terry had the burger. Tuesday and Wednesday we ate at home - yes we do sometimes - at the new dining table. We never used the one at the other apartment, for a start it was falling to pieces, and to compound this, it was positioned where you couldn't see the TV - a fatal flaw. Now the table is in a sensible place, and you're not risking getting a large slab of glass in your lap, so it will probably get used.

I'm running around like a headless chicken at work this week. Yet another deadline looms this weekend. Tomorrow is likely to be quite a long day. The new development manager who's going to take over the project when I've finished with the design arrived on Monday, and seems to be raring to go. I'm sure I can oblige him.
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