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

31/3/2004 - Honking

It occurred to me this morning that I have not done justice to Indian driving manners. I have got used to them, but never really described them here. There are some basic rules:
  • If you're bored, or angry, or in a hurry, or if you simply haven't done so for a few moments, honk!
  • The other guy's journey is always much less important than yours.
  • It's bad form to look either way at a road junction or to look behind you or in your mirror when you pull out.
  • If there's a patch of road that your vehicle might fit on which is a few centimeters closer to your destination than where you are now, you are honour bound to occupy it.
  • Corners were made to be cut.
  • It's OK to drive on the wrong side of the road as long as you get out of the way of other traffic just in time.
  • Cyclists don't count, they aren't travelling particularly fast, so if you force them into the gutter they'll probably survive.
  • Don't mess with the buses, they run to a schedule, and are usually overloaded, so they probably couldn't stop quickly if they wanted to.
The honking is particularly fascinating. The best example I can come up with off the top of my head is the guy who's driving on the wrong side of the road. He's done it to try to get the jump on heavy traffic, and is now out on a limb because he cant get back into the traffic stream on the right side of the road.

A vehicle on the right side of the road is heading toward him resolutely (it's bad form to chicken out). So what does he do, he honks. The other driver will honk later when both drivers have had to stop, and while the one on the right side of the road is waiting for the offender to force his way back into the traffic stream. This isn't easy, because even if some other car or truck driver should see fit to let him in, and pause momentarily, the space created will immediately fill with motor cycles and scooters.


Honking - some practical tips

Fountains of gold - well, if the sun is at exactly the right angle

Fountains of gold.


21/3/2004 - Late day.

I have a teleconference with NY on Tuesday evenings, so this morning I'm going to go in a bit later, and get there around 10:15.

Last light we went out to eat at 'The Only Place' where I can get half-decent fish and chips, and Terry can get a beef burger. I met Terry at the Watchman where we also met an Australian girl called Elena, who was on her way to the airport, and busy getting seriously anaesthetized for her trip back to Melbourne.

She'd been working with elephants on a university project at some national park south of Mysore, but had been pulled because of local unrest down there. She was clearly very sad to be leaving her elephants.

29/3/2004 - Monday Morning

Yes I am still alive - sorry I've been remiss in updating the page. I've got my head into a new software project, and that has had my attention over the weekend. Terry is going to put together a collection of her favourite pictures from the last week, and we'll post those tonight. That might provoke me into having something to say from a rather quiet week and weekend.

Lavanya turned up at the door at about 1:30 last Sunday morning. I told her she was welcome to stay the night, but inexplicably she went away, and we haven't seen anything of her since. Nisha has been conspicuous by her absence also.

We narrowly escaped getting a new girl last Monday or Tuesday. Anthony, who used to be the DJ at the Night Watchman, turned up with his 'sister', who Terry had foolishly said at some point could stay for a couple of days. However, later the same day, her aunt discovered she was in town, and said she should go and stay with her. The girl reluctantly agreed. I suspect her freedom will be somewhat curtailed at her aunt's.

Of course, India won the one day series against Pakistan on Wednesday, and TGIF was bedlam again. Also I gather, France beat England in the Six Nations yesterday. How are the mighty fallen - I'm rather glad I didn't watch!

Barkeepers - Prim and Sachin
Barkeepers.

A group on the cricket night. As an American I know nothing about cricket. To me it is poor baseball - but not to these fans. I felt like cheering Pakistan!

A group on the cricket night.

Me and Cali - once in awhile I try to assimilate

Terry and Cali.

All dressed up
All dressed up.

Suresh and family

Suresh and family.

Bass guitarist - on Wednesday and Friday's TGIF has a band, and they do take their music seriously

Bass guitarist - .

29/3/2004 - As Promised

Here is Terry's selection, with her captions. I'm sorry, but none of these got me into writing mode, however, the girl at the right hand side of the middle picture of the top row is pretty cute!

I have no idea what caused the blue blob on my right shoulder. The camera seems to do it sometimes - probably something on the lens.

Another cricket match

Another cricket match.

21/3/2004 - And now for something completely different ...

So now it's even. India won the first, Pakistan the second and third, and today India won the fourth. So the last match remains a real event.

It was another quite close match today. To start with it looked as if India were going to hold Pakistan down to a low score, but Inzi (the Pakistan captain - Inzamam ul-Haq) did his usual thorough job and destroyed that prospect. India needed 294 to win.

I'd had enough beer for a Sunday at that point (as you can probably tell), so we went home to eat, and watched India's innings there. It looked like India were all going to get out before they made the runs - 94 for 4 at one point, even though they were scoring at a good rate. But Dravid and Kaif got stuck in and at the end gave India a comfortable victory by 5 wickets.

Bangalore by night - a small herd of two wheelers waiting for prey
Bangalore by night.

The opposite direction - Oblivion

The opposite direction.

Nisha being naughty in schoolgirl costume

Nisha being naughty.

This little symbol has been taboo in the west for some time - here it's a symbol of good fortune

Taboo Symbol.

The barber and his boy

The barber and his boy.

20/3/2004 - Saturday Morning

As I sat getting my hair cut this morning, I was admiring the rather fine pair of wood framed mirrors the barber has. He says they're 80 or 90 years old, and the actual mirrors came from Belgium. I also noticed for the first time that they had marquetry inlays. A design that would surprise many in Europe and the USA, where is has rather a bad reputation.

However, Hitler didn't invent this symbol of the 3rd Reich, he stole it. In Hindu tradition, the swastik as it's called, is a symbol of good fortune. I'd known this for a long time, but nonetheless, the barber was at pains to point it out to me.

Before the barber, I'd been to take my bike in to the repair shop for a dose of maintenance, and to the bank. Last week, the chain had come off the back sprocket a couple of times, and Thursday it came off completely. With an exposed chain this is no big deal. But my bike has a fairly comprehensive chain guard, and with one of those, it becomes quite difficult to get the chain back on. I'd made several futile attempts, and succeeded in getting it jammed a couple of times when I was eventually rescued by an Indian teenager who appeared to have done it before. It took him a while too.

As it happened, there was a man on the corner about half a kilometer further on who does bike repairs. He tightened it some for me to stop me losing it again before I got home, but it still wasn't right. On Friday I went to work ignominiously in an auto.

The trip to CitiBank was to try to get a new Internet banking password. I have the CitiBank account because the company insists on paying your salary into an account there. In previous months I'd just written a check/cheque to myself, and paid it into HSBC. The last couple of paydays though we haven't got our pay slips until several days after the end of the month, so this month I checked my CitiBank balance on line, and I've been using their debit card. Unfortunately when I was on line, the system could not issue me with a user name and let me change the password. It must have got part way through the process, because next time I tried to log on it bounced me. Really the Internet access is all I want with them. Next month I'll revert to paying the money into HSBC - I prefer the Visa card you get from them, since you can use it like a regular credit card.

 

19/3/2004 - Waking Dream?

I held at the exit to the end,
after all those years of non-violence.
The weapon hot beyond its limit,
my body damaged beyond repair.

The air-lock behind me finally blew,
and I was thrown out into the vacuum,
along with the bandsmen and waiters
who had sheltered there.

No chance of survival, no air at first,
too much as I moved toward the planet.
Doomed to suffocate or burn up,
somehow I fell to Earth.

She was there - a surreal echo.
Was this the bizarre reality of death?
I thought of how we made love, reflected
in the walls of infinite mirrors.

So long ago, how could this be?
She looked at my shattered body,
calmly, as if it happened every day,
urging my dumb lips to quiet.

 

Then came the small craft of the enemy,
cutting her fragile humanity down.
From pain and love came infinite rage,
I broke my oath and interfered.

Focussed on my remaining hand, I grew,
becoming at last the final Brahma,
Grasping the alien ship, I crushed it,
and pulled it to my centre.

Then the collapse of anger into grief
compressed everything into a singularity,
the ship, the earth, all things we knew,
lost in one small black hole.

A random wormhole took me back
to some space-time I vaguely knew.
Brushing my teeth in a suburban home,
memories fading with each stroke.

So now I guess, I'll get along.
Another ten thousand years perhaps,
before we two shall meet again.
But will she know? Will I?


Sachin, the little god - back on form today

Sachin.

16/3/2004 - More Cricket

Readers in the US are excused. Please skip this section. However you should be aware that Terry is getting quite savvy about this strange sport, and gets quite involved in some of the games. These are strange times!

So, the second India/Pakistan ODI (one day international) was played in Rawalpindi today. Of course I didn't see much of it during the day, since I was at work. But it was a part-floodlit match, and I saw quite a bit of the Indian innings in the evening.

We went to TGIF to see the last half hour or so of the game. It was frenzied there; much fuller and noisier than it had been on Saturday, with lots of chanting and banging on the bar and tables, but then Saturday was a daytime match.

Tendulkar made 141, with considerable style, and looked much more like 'the little god' than he's seemed in a few matches recently. Unfortunately, he didn't manage quite enough to give India a win. Chasing 330, they were all out 12 runs short of the target - close enough so that it was another very exciting match.

The dhobi walla and his brother

The dhobi walla.

Mrs DW - despite the face, she seemed quite willing to be photographed

Mrs DW.

15/3/2004 - Near and Far

Yesterday, Terry sent me out to get a coat of hers ironed. We had an iron, but it has conked out, and we haven't got round to taking it back to the shop yet. So instead, we use the local facilities. There's a dhobi walla at the corner of our block, about 30 feet from the entrance to the apartments. I should explain. A "dhobi walla" is a man who does laundry. In this case he, and his wife, do ironing. Their business consists of a cart, on bicycle wheels, which has side walls and a roof, and shutters at the front and back, and remains parked at the same spot all the time. Their equipment consists of some clean cloths to do the ironing on, a pot of water to damped the clothes or whatever, and charcoal powered irons. These seem to do the job pretty well, are cheap to run, and are not subject to the varagies of the Indian power supply system. In addition, there are the small accoutrements of a workplace; a calendar, pictures, small ornaments, and a figurine of one of the Indian deities.

Their son, and his brother's daughter play quite happily in the sandy soil under and around the cart, and the whole business enjoys the shade of the large gourd tree that grows on the corner.

This is a common sight in the Indian suburbs, and in many ways typical of Indian micro-business. Terry's cobbler, who I should also say did a good job heeling and soling my cowboy boots, has a small hut - about twice the size of a phone booth - down on Cambridge Road. Slightly further down the scale there's the man who pushes a small cart of tomatoes and garlic round the streets of our neighborhood. The activities of these businesses constitute the living, or a significant part of the living of the associated families.

At a considerable distance up the social scale comes the dentist we both went to see today. He also has a practice at 34th and 2nd in NY, and in all fairness, once you were inside his Bangalore premises, you'd have had a hard time guessing if you were in the one, or in the other.

Of course, this confusion would have been dispelled when the receptionist handed you your bill. Last time I had my teeth cleaned, checked over, and X-rayed in NY, I seem to remember the tab was about $150. In Bangalore, it was Rs 1000 - around $20. There's a similar difference in the price of caps, implants and so on here, so I'll probably be getting all my serious dental work done in India.

Economical packaging - Terry's watermelon juice in plastic bags

Economical packaging.

14/3/2004 - A Year

Today was our first wedding anniversary. We treated ourselves by going to the Taj Residency for a posh breakfast. They do the whole thing there, fruit, breads, full English breakfast, South Indian specialities, cheeses, and so on. And it's quite reasonably priced.

Terry had me another shirt made as an anniversary present. The same pattern as the others, but in spiffy black raw silk - very sexy. She's got her eye on some piece of jewelry, so we'll be going into town later to get that sorted out.

After breakfast I went to get my hair cut, which should have happened yesterday but for the cricket. Unfortunately he had no power, so I have to go back after 2:30.

The pictures below were things that caught my attention while walking back. At the same time, Terry got fruit juice, and picked up a pair of her shoes from the cobbler. I've mentioned the fruit juice packaging before, but never showed it, so here it is.

The fruit juice shop - Terry can order from the other side of the road now by holding up an appropriate number of fingers

The fruit juice shop.

The blue tree again - the flowers are starting to fall now.
The blue tree again.

Quite a hedge - this tree is quite common, and manages to stay very green considering the lack of rain

Quite a hedge.

Another office block, and no rest for the workers on a hot Sunday morning

Another office block.

A damn close run thing - as Wellington said of Waterloo - this is me in a state of uncontrolled involvement

A damn close run thing.

Bored spectators - of course not everyone enjoys . . .

Bored spectators.

13/3/2004 - Obsession

Ok, ok, so India is obsessed with cricket, and I have joined in. For you people in the non-cricket world, I have to tell you that this was a very significant day. India and Pakistan have not played each other at cricket on each other's soil for about 15 years. Today they did.

I'm not going to give you the potted description of cricket. If you know, you know, and if you don't, you don't. But it's a world class game. To my knowledge, the participating countries (in approximate order of world ranking) are:
  • Australia (they rule it)
  • South Africa
  • India
  • Pakistan
  • England (we invented the game - and they're probably out of order from now on)
  • West Indies (various Caribbean countries)
  • New Zealand
  • Sri Lanka
  • Bangladesh
  • Zimbabwe
This game was an absolute cliffhanger. India batted first - at Pakistan's invitation, since they won the toss, and beat their all-time record for one-day cricket against Pakistan by scoring 349 runs. For one-day cricket, this was a big score, and it looked like they were comfortable. But Pakistan pushed it right to the limit. At the last ball of their allotted 50 overs, they needed 6 runs to win, and lost a wicket, so India won by 5 runs. We were at TGIF, and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. I think that if I had not got my statutory 40 minutes of exercise a day riding to work and back, I might have had a heart attack!

Of course, not everyone appreciated this - not all Indians, and certainly not all foreigners, are obsessed with cricket, and Nisha's face tells all.

Politically speaking though, this was about as good a conclusion as you could have wished, providing of course that Pakistan win the next game by a similarly small margin. It's time these two neighbors learned to sublimate their problems in a way that doesn't involve enormous standing armies, and nuclear weapons. But for now, India rules, OK!

Lavanya turned up briefly this morning, with a new friend Noella, but she had to go to work for half a day, and we haven't seen her since.

Mickie, Arpena, Vidia, and the little one

Mickie, Arpena, Vidia, and the little one.

12/3/2004 - A Goodbye

Tomorrow, Mickie is to fly back to Mumbai after a years stay in Bangalore. There was an appropriate gathering at TGIF, champagne flowed, and tears were shed.

She managed OK until someone made the DJ play "Leaving on a jet plane". That did it. She'd told Terry that she deliberately didn't wear any make up - obviously a woman who knows herself.

It's clear that she'll miss Bangalore and her friends here, and it would not surprise me much to see her back.

Lavanya had been supposed to return from boot camp and stay with us for the weekend, but we haven't seen hide or hair of her yet. One suspects that there might have been a post-boot-camp party.

The art of scaffolding as practised in India wooden poles and rope.

The art of scaffolding.

12/3/2004 - An Afternoon Off

I gave myself a little treat today, and had a half day off. Terry was going to go to the main Reliance phone shop, to get her international calling sorted out, and I thought I'd go with her to make sure mine worked too. In any case I just felt like it.

We went to Koramangala first, to get a dress Terry has just had made altered. However it turned out that the tailor had gone to his brother's wedding, so that was a wasted trip. The visit to the Reliance shop may have done better, but we won't know for 24 hours, which is how long it is supposed to take to permeate through the system.

On the way we passed a couple of building sites - hence the construction theme. I nearly had a much better picture of another rubble-carrying girl, but just as I was about to press the button, a large man on a motor scooter appeared in the way, and then the lights changed and the opportunity was lost.

Moving rubble India style - a badly focussed long shot, but I thought it was worth it for the smile

Moving rubble India style.

Another excuse for a party - one of the innumerable Indian festivals.

Another excuse for a party.

Out of town girls?

Out of town girls?

7/3/2004 - A Touch of Colour

Today was another Indian festival, apparently one more celebrated in Mumbai. The streets were full of young men who had dyed their skin and clothes in rather garish colours. Suresh, the proprietor at the Watchman, comes from Mumbai, and said he'd probably have felt compelled to join in had he been there. Purple seemed to be favourite.

I narrowly escaped becoming purple myself when I'd taken the photo of these guys. Not that they objected, they just felt I should join in. I'm told it takes about two days for the dye to wash off your skin, though I'm not sure your clothes would ever recover - perhaps next year. A friend of theirs turned up shortly after, and he'd neglected to properly prepare himself. Within minutes he was purple too.

On the same general subject, without the dye, people here come in every shade of skin colour. The three girls in TGIF were a good example. We got the impression that they were visitors to Bangalore. Time will tell. If they live here we're certain to bump into them again. It seems to be that sort of place. Terry usually extracts all personal details from everyone we meet, but on this occasion she must have been slacking.

Cambridge Road near to where we live on a Sunday morning

Cambridge Road.

Sir Clive, not a happy camper - courtesy of the BBC.

Sir Clive.

6/3/2004 - Thrashed

I struggled with the grill last night, having determined to make pork loin kebabs. For some reason - probably because the pieces were too small, and blocked the air holes - I had a terrible time getting it going. In the process, I was in and out so often that we acquired a good collection of mosquitos that proceeded to eat us later in the night. I got vengeance on four of them, but I think there's one still lurking somewhere. The kebabs, eventually, were good, but cooking them was a pain.

Later we went to TGIF, and I watched with stunned disbelief as Ireland took England apart in the 6 nations rugby. To be blunt, I think they took themselves apart. Struggling at the line-outs, and dropping balls left right and centre. Sir Clive's face says it all!

There was a private party in the back room that had a significant proportion of Brits. The match was on in there too, and I think it had more of the character of a wake than of a party.

Meanwhile everyone else in the bar got on with their more normal trivial pursuits. We met Mickey there a couple of weeks ago. She and Terry seem to get along, and she came for dinner with us on Friday night. She's been in Bangalore for a year, but she's off back to Mumbai next weekend, so it will probably be an e-mail friendship.

The culprits - Mickey, her friend, and friend's daughter.
Sillyness in bars - culprits.

Balancing glass - yes, it is actually free-standing, with the aid of a litttle heap of salt.

Balancing glass.

Regional variations on the TGIF theme.

Regional variations.
 

Transported

I'll take him home, and see you there,
should take the scooter anyway.
She rolls it back and pays the man.
I'm well contented with my fate.

I don't need clubbing in mid week.
The morning comes round soon enough!
A ride home with a pretty girl
will round the day off very well.

Apart from regular pedal bikes,
two-wheeler's never were my thing.
Don't put your feet down! Hold on tight,
and leave the balancing to me.

 

I relax and let her do the work.
The four-stroke engine purrs along,
a contrast to the two-stroke bikes
with their petulant, metallic snarl.

Transported, with the girl between my thighs,
and a cool breeze blowing in my face.
Together, in a private moving space,
I wish the drive were twice as long.

We soon reach home, and I dismount.
She doffs her helmet for a kiss.
Goodnight, I'll see you, then she's off,
vanishing quickly in the night.


A different block of flats - there are a whole mass of these on my way to work. Check out the three digit block number.

A different block of flats.

Away in a manger.

Away in a manger.

6/3/2004 - On a Similar Theme

That is, places I probably wouldn't want to live. I did a picture of some of them before, where they were the background to the blue tarpaulin tent encampment. Here's a full frontal. You're lucky here if you have windows, and although I can't speak from first-hand experience, the same probably applies to running water and electricity. You can't see it on the web-page sized picture, but the block number is three digits. There's a slew of these places in north Koramangala.

Slightly further down the road to work, I pass a very traditional manger, complete with hay and tethered cows. It's straight out of a nativity scene, and gives a good picture of the sort of accommodation that particular innkeeper was able to offer.

Today I moved my first hard earned rupees from my HSBC account in India to my HSBC account in New York. I don't have a lot of expenses there, but there are still some residual monthly bills that have to be paid. This turned out to be surprisingly easy. I just had to go to the foreign exchange counter, and fill in and sign a relatively simple form. Since Saturday isn't a real banking day, it's actually scheduled to happen on Monday. I shall observe the transaction with interest on the Internet. The next thing will be to discover how to remotely move funds from NY HSBC to the US Fleet bank account where I need the money to be.

I also made my ritual Saturday morning visit to get my hair - what little there is left - cut. There's a tiny one-man barbers shop just round the corner on Cambridge Road. He knows me now, and knows exactly what I want done. The whole thing takes about 10 minutes, and costs less than a dollar, though I always give him more. I like the quality of service.

Later, as promised I went and got my mobile phone from the egg and bread shop. That was pleasantly simple too, though for some reason they want ID, in this case my passport, and proof of residency. For the latter I have an official looking letter from work that seems to do the trick. So now Terry and I have identical phones. We'll have to mark one of them in some way or we'll never pick up the right one. 6:06:22 My contact list is modest. At the moment it consists of Terry and Nisha. She has her father from Hyderabad visiting this week, and has given due notice that if we happen to bump into each other, she will pretend she's never met us. I hadn't realized we were that bad!

Spring is still at it - these flowers, a rather subtle pink, just came out this week
Spring is still at it.

Here's one with white flowers - the photo doesn't really do it justice

White flowers.

I could not resist the coconut palm as a background to this rather striking bush

Flowering bush and coconut palm.

A  monster block of flats - and I thought Raheja was big!.

A monster block of flats.

1/3/2004 - Not for Me

At some point on Sunday, KJ - the real estate agent - showed us a flat (an apartment) that he'd just found for someone. For Terry and me, this was something of a Raheja deja-vu experience, but on a magnified scale. The block, or blocks was/were big enough that it would have taken me several days to have learned my way in and out. The ground floor level was typically tacky, and the elevators reminded me of the projects in the Bronx.

The flat was a huge split-level affair, with four or five bedrooms, and vast amounts of balcony space on both levels. Unfortunately, it was completely devoid of character. It might have looked decent if it had been copiously supplied with plants in the outside spaces, but I'm guessing that I could have spent half my salary on maintaining such a forest.

There was a pool complex that looked pretty cute from 500 feet up, but nonetheless, I came out of the place profoundly glad that we'd found the Good Earth.

Also on the "Not for Me" topic, tonight we went out for a late drink at the Watchman. We really are going to have to give the place the heave-ho. It's a sad thing, because we've made a lot of friends there, but as far as I can see they're voting with their feet too. The problem is the music, if you can call it that. The DJ's Suresh has working there seem to think they are working in a dance club. They play the typical mono-culture dance music. All the same speed, drum machines, no base line, little or no lyrics, and too loud. It's almost impossible to have a civilized conversation.
Index
Top of Page