May 2005 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman -  Contact  Current Month  Previous  Next  Index  Software


Jungle cat - Cali lurking on the balcony
Jungle cat.
31/5/2005 - Peeling Mangoes with a Samurai Sword

Another month has flown by. I seem to be no nearer to the end of the project at work than I was at the beginning of the month. It still stretches to a hazy horizon. Neither am I any closer to getting my visa situation sorted out. So I remain unable to leave India with any certainty of being able to get back in, with mum's 90th birthday only a month away.

Nothing much else happened to round off the month. There have been no sightings of the elusive Dravid. Perhaps the apartment is rented for 'occasional' use rather than regular occupation.

The samurai sword bit is, of course, a lie. I don't possess one. Though I have to say there's one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY City, dating from the 12th century, that I lust after. The peeling mangoes part has more substance. It's a seasonal occupation.

For some reason I've always had a morbid fear of peeling mangoes. In the past I've often finished up with a few unsatisfactory slices of mango, and a handful of mango pulp. It always seemed to go wrong. The job of late has been farmed out onto Terry. So I've been practicing, and may have finally got the hang of it. The trick is to use a really sharp knife, and since I recently acquired a sharpening stone, I'm now properly equipped.

With the really sharp knife, the blade passes through the flesh under its skin so sneakily that the mango doesn't realize it's mortal peril until too late. It never gets the chance to react and disintegrate into the handful of pulp. Of course, the second half is still a bit tricky, since by then it has tumbled, and know's what your up to. But I'm working on it.

Terry, Danny, and friend
Terry, Danny, and Augustin.

Our leather elephant - currently living under the end of the kitchen worktop
Our leather elephant.
28/5/2005 - Postscript

So then, the evening? Well, Terry had invited Olive and Nisha to come to eat. But it was raining, and this is a great inhibitor of travel for those of us who restrict ourselves to the auto-rickshaw. Danny and his friend came instead, in a more waterproof vehicle.

After supper, I spent some time trying to finally kill the Mason & Dixon book. But it's a bit like the frog and the well. The closer your get to the end, the more difficult it becomes to read a chapter, and on giving up, I'd still got one or two to go, with nothing much like an ending in sight. Tomorrow should do it.

Right now, we're Taika bound. Well, I say right now, actually I mean when Terry is ready. This is one of those mysterious measures of time. One minute she's ready, then the next she's back in the bathroom starting from scratch - but anyway, sooner or later.

When we get there, they are only admitting couples. So we had to wait until a bunch of girls came out, then I persuaded two of them to go back in briefly with Danny and Augustin.

Sherin, and Sharmilla and her husband were there, but otherwise it was hardly worth bothering. It was the usual ordeal getting a drink, the music was boring, and to put icing on the cake, the police arrived at about 1:00am to chuck everybody out. Ostensibly they were closing the place down because their license only permits them to be open until 12:30. However, since they've been staying open until four on Saturday nights for many months now, everyone there was convinced that there were darker motives.

The staff at the Taj have been telling us for some weeks now that they have quite a lively scene on Saturday nights. So we all went there to see if there was any substance to it. But no, it was just your average middle of the night coffee shop. The I Bar next door was closed, so we gave in and came home.

The elephant has nothing much to do with anything. He was just standing there, where Terry had moved him during the week, when I had the camera open. Later, there was an empty space on the page.

Mangoes galore
Mangoes galore.

Avenue Road - isn't that one of those oxymoron things?
Avenue Road.
28/5/2005 - A Whole Saturday

No work this morning, so I got to sleep in until 9:00. Terry was still sleeping, so I went to get my hair cut, having failed to do so the previous week, and consequently looking somewhat sheep-like. On the way there, I noticed that my bike tires were a bit flat, so after getting sheared, I rode the wrong way up bazaar street, which is one way, to get them pumped up. Cyclists can generally get away with this here, as long as you're prepared to bale out and get on the pavement pronto if an oncoming driver decides he wants that bit of road. Having got there, I went to interrogate another barber about where to buy a hair clipper in Bangalore, and on the way back I bought mangoes and coffee.

It's probably about the peak of the Mango season at the moment, and the street vendor's carts are groaning with them. This year they seem to be good. I certainly enjoyed mine this morning. The one I ate was just short of full ripe, so it still had a bit of acidic bite to go with the sweetness. Along with it I had mandarin orange segments, and a chopped up banana. To round of breakfast I made myself a bacon sandwich with fried tomato, and a cup of strong coffee - the first for three days, since we ran out.

Terry being still asleep, I then took myself off to the City Market area - Avenue Road to be precise - to look for the hair clipper. The whole district around City Market is one big bazaar. You can find almost anything you might want if you look round the mass of small shops and traders carefully. Apparently it's about to be demolished, as I saw a number of posters objecting to the loss of this heritage. I agree with the posters.

The barber had told me that if I went there, anyone would tell me where I could buy one. This was not quite the case. I had to interrogate a number of reluctant shopkeepers, policemen, and passers by before I finally discovered the shop. The one I got was a "Moser" - a German brand name for Whal, the same as used by my barber, and the barber I had consulted. I took it home, applied oil as per the instructions, and then discovered that as you turned it on, it was fine, but if you twisted it round in your hand, it started to vibrate alarmingly. So I made the trip back to the shop, and was gratified to find that they replaced it with no fuss for one that seems to work fine.

While I was out the second time, I paid the mobile phone bills, and bought exotic food items - cheddar cheese, Nutella, olive oil, canned meats, and rum-raisin chocolate - at Nilgiris. By that time I was lathered, so I gravitated toward the Night Watchman for a beer. Terry arrived shortly after.

I'll bet you really wanted to know all that! The evening remains undetermined. I may or may not report on it later.

Our new neighbor
Our new neighbor.
23/5/2005 - Gossip

There was some excitement as I arived home tonight, a definite tremble amongst the security guards at our building. Security guards? OK, I'll get back to that later.

It turned out, as Terry informed me as I walked through the door, that we have a new neighbour. Rahul Dravid, the current acting captain of the India cricket team, has apparently taken an apartment in our building. We have achieved fame at last!

The security guard thing, well most, if not all apartment blocks that I know of in Bangalore, have security guards. I'm not entirely sure what purpose they serve, since total strangers - to me at least - constantly lean on our doorbell. Obviously there's no significant screening process going on. I think basically it's just a selling feature on the apartment block's list of 'positive' attributes.

Their primary purpose in life seems to be as a source of gossip. Terry grills them regularly, and comes back with numerous interesting titbits of information on what the other residents are up to, and what they think we're up to.

Low rise - city centre Bangalore
Low rise.

Gnarly - the tree with the red flowers is often quite gnarled and distorted
Gnarly.

My favorite subject
My favorite subject".
15/5/2005 - Late Again

Nothing, you might suspect, must have happened in our lives. A full two weeks into the month, and I've had not a word to say. Partly, I'll blame work. It's very intense at present, and when I get home I'm pretty drained and have a great desire to do nothing.

Well actually plenty happened, but mostly stuff that I'd get censored on if I put it up. Not by any external censors, the Internet is pretty tolerant, but by my wife, friends, and colleagues. The list of things I can't talk about is somewhat inhibiting:
  • Terry and alchohol,
  • Nisha's private life,
  • Lavanya's private life,
  • The sexual mores and activities of other Indian women,
  • My work,
  • Any evil thoughts I have about other women.
I'm sure there's more, but these alone are enough to blank out a big area of commentary on day to day life.

Well I had a mini birthday party on May first. Unfortunately, the weekend was some sort of Hindu religious festival in Ulsoor, the area of Bangalore where we live. Consequently we arrived at the Taj Residency to find it was dry for the day, and we had to relocate to the Taj West End. The brunch there was OK, but we didn't like it as well as the usual one, and they snook in some extra charges on us that made it much more expensive. Nisha came with Krishna. This was not an enormous surprise, and it was good to see him - it's been a while. But Terry and I did see it as a bad omen for the following weekend, when Thierry was due to fly back to India. We like Thierry, and didn't want to see him get hurt.

On the Thursday, Lavanya's boy friend Fred came to the quiz at the Night Watchman, and his ex girl friend Rita turned up. Later in the evening, we got a phone call from Lavanya to say she didn't feel well, and had come home from work, and was Fred there. I missed the exact details, went home and went to bed. Next thing I knew, there was a load of banging and crashing in the living room. I found some shorts, pulled them on, and got out to find Fred about to clout Rita over the head with the large glass vase that Terry uses for a display of silk flowers. He thought better of it when I appeared, and left hastily - amazingly followed by Rita. Apparently, Fred had come to see if Lavanya was OK, and Rita had followed him to the apartment, so he beat her up quite badly, in our house. Terry and I were not pleased. Fred is now banned from our place, and I've made it as clear as I can to him that his behaviour has diminished him very severely in my estimation.

Last Saturday Thierry duly arrived. It was also Lavanya's birthday, so we all - me, Terry, Thierry, Nisha, and Lavanya - had lunch at Tiger Bay on MG Road. Nisha had spent the previous weeks producing a musical comedy built around the works of Tina Turner, and entitled, not surprisingly, "What's love got to do with it." It was due to be performed the next day, so she was flying pretty high worrying about publicity and sponsorship, and so on. But Thierry seemed happy. We agreed to meet again for brunch the next day.

In the afternoon, I took Lavanya to buy her birthday present. This turned out, after an hour or so trying on everything at Fashion Flash, to comprise a mini skirt, and a pair of shoes. When we got home, Terry was asleep, quite possibly a result of mixing wine and vodka at lunch. I took my book to TGIF, and read for a couple of hours.

We saw nothing of Thierry or Nisha the next day, which Terry and I both interpreted as a bad sign. We were supposed to attend Nisha's event, but we saw Sherin and her mother, and her other sister Sheena again at brunch, and somehow we got distracted.

Thierry and Nisha eventually turned up at TGIF on Tuesday night. It turned out that the weekend had been a complete disaster. Nisha lost her shirt on the production, because the sponsor didn't come through, and the attendance was dismal. Thierry had walked straight into a Nisha, Thierry, Krishna triangle, and was obviously gutted. He told me he was going to fly back to the US the next day because he'd had enough of it, and indeed he did.

I guess that in the above, I've succeeded in breaking all the rules a bit, so you might expect to see this passage mysteriously shrink over the next few days.

So what have the pictures got to do with all this? Absolutely nothing. I'd been waiting at the lights at MG Road and Brigade Road one day one day and it struck me how strange it was that at this point - quite possible the centre of the city in practice - had only two storey buildings. The tree I pass every day, and it displays the characteristic buttressed roots of this species.
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