October 2003 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman -  Contact  Current Month  Previous  Next  Index  Software


Our local area

Our local area

30-31/10/2003 - More of the Same

I don't have a single picture to show for these two days, so I'm resorting to a map of our local area, courtesy of koramangala.com. All work and no play makes Steve a dull boy. But the work's going OK. The road junction marked 80ft Peripheral Road is where our local shops are. I can go north along that road to get to work, though That involves a busy intersection where you sit for ages in traffic fumes, so I usually take a route to the west along the road past Raheja Residency.

Thursday evening was quiz night at the Watchman. Mick had to leave before it started, as he had to do some night work trying to identify a cross connection between a military water supply line and the city water supply. As a result we did abysmally, since we had nobody on our team of two who knew anything about sport. We got a ride back to Koramangala with the quizmaster, who lives quite close to us.

By Friday I was feeling like a sheep again, so in the evening I went back to the same barber's shop, and got sheared.

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Breakfast still life

Breakfast still life

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29/10/2003 - More of the Same

Today was the day to make a new fruit salad. Pineapple, banana, apple, orange, and grapes. I got fresh butter too, and of course the inevitable eggs.

Work was a continuation of the same intensity, but we are making satisfying progress.

The high spot of the day was when I got home. We'd found a tiny tailor's shop down the road, and he'd said he would make me a shirt from one I already had as a pattern. I bought some cloth - it takes about 2.25m to make a shirt, and we'd taken it there Friday. Today, Terry went and picked it up.

It's raw cotton, and a kind of natural light beige color, though it looks almost white in the flash photo. I really like it, so I'll probably get more. Terry's going to wash it tomorrow to see how much it shrinks, and whether we have to make them a bit bigger to start with - fingers crossed.

The shirt

The shirt

A sucker for palm trees

A sucker for palm trees

De-stoning black-eyed peas

De-stoning black-eyed peas

28/10/2003 - Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Since I'm from the north, I have this fascination with palm trees. It doesn't seem to matter how many I see, they're always exciting and exotic. This one is in my face every time I leave the apartment, but it was in a particularly good light this morning. The other picture is typical of activities that go on outside the corner store down the road. There's nearly always someone there cleaning, sorting, or grading some sort of produce. This woman is making sure you don't break a tooth by biting on a small stone while eating your beans.

It was both-ended meetings at work today. Satak and I went in at 7:30 for a phone call with one of the guys in New York at 9:00pm his time, at home. I actually got there at 7:00 to get my questions together. After the early meeting I went home to get some breakfast, then returned to work at the usual time.

The project seems to be going OK. Of course I'm keen that it should go well since it's the first one I've been involved with here. I have to resist the temptation to do the whole thing myself. In the evening we had a regular weekly status meeting that started at 6:45pm India time, and ran till 8:00. These things take longer than they should because the phone line will intermittently get bad, or mysteriously disconnect itself. Then we have to redial, and get everybody else conferenced back in. There's also more repetition than would be necessary at a face to face meeting, because of the general quality of the communications.

Terry had said that since I was going to be late, she'd meet me at the Watchman. The usual suspects were there. Anthony, the DJ, wants me to make him a simple web page, which I will if I can find the time. He's a pleasant lad, and Terry seems to have adopted him. I had some Aloo Gobi Masala (potato and cauliflower curry), and Roti for my supper, Terry had chicken of some sort, with vegetable bhajis. All in all, it was a pleasant evening.

The nearby restaurant

The nearby restaurant (name to follow)

27/10/2003 - Serious Work

I'm getting paranoid about the rickshaw ride to and from work. It seemed to go all right at first, but lately it seems that none of the drivers want to go there, or want to give me a quote for the ride, rather than turning the meter on. Maybe I've got bad breath, or body odor - but I think Terry would have told me. In New York, a taxi driver can lose his license if he refuses a ride - I'll have to campaign for a law.

We started a new project at work today. It's in the nature of things with the software services industry these days that everything is on a tight budget and a tight time scale. So I may be conspicuous by my brevity during the week for a time.

After work we went to a restaurant along the 80ft Peripheral Road. There's a 'wine' shop downstairs where I buy our Kingfisher. We'd been there before to have a drink (the chess session), and thought we'd give the food a try. It was pretty good, and a good price. That's it - a plain old Monday.

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Our neighbor's Diwali decorations

Our neighbor's Diwali decorations

Yours truly at work on the page

Yours truly at work on the page

26/10/2003 - Another Lazy Sunday

I've probably already done it, but regardless, let me harp on about the virtues of the produce here. Before breakfast I walked down to the shops. I got a pineapple, some apples, and bananas, for about a dollar, and half a dozen fresh eggs, complete with dirt, for another 20 cents. We made a fruit salad, hard boiled eggs, and buttered toast. The taste of the fruit can be almost startling. Like the fruit you knew, but with the volume turned up. The butter is more like dense clotted cream, and the eggs are as fresh as you could wish. Washed down with a cup of tea it made a great start to the day.

Terry was still somewhat immobile. The grazes are healing up OK, but we think she has some fluid on the knee she banged hardest. I wasn't fussed. There was more cricket on the TV, so I vegetated until about 1:30pm before I went out in search of a pot in which I could cook rice, and a cast iron skillet. My search was abortive. I came home with some cheap glasses (drinking) in rather green and old fashioned looking glass, because I liked them, and a potato masher, and some plastic containers with lids to keep things in the fridge.

Later on Terry got going, and we went into the city so she could buy some more reading material - Steinbeck's East of Eden. After a visit to the Watchman, we came home, and I cooked a dry shrimp and vegetable curry that I was quite pleased with. And that's about it.

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An afternoon off

An afternoon off

No such luck

No such luck

25/10/2003 - Diwali 2

It's a peaceful day in the neighborhood today. There's not much traffic about, and clearly a lot of people are off work, though most of the shops are still open. First thing in the morning, there was a load of debris lying round the complex from the fireworks, but this was soon removed by the inexorable sweepers. The oxen were working earlier in the day moving earth from the building site outside Raheja. But when I saw them again they were contentedly eating grass under a shady tree. No such luck for the stonemasons. They were banging away in the hot sun. The guy in the picture was a graybeard, like me, but if he can wield that hammer all day, I'll bet he has a mean right hook, and I wouldn't want to arm wrestle him.

It was fascinating to watch. The team was reducing large blocks of granite to neatly squared-up building blocks, the hard way. One man would drill a line if holes into the large block with a hammer and chisel. I don't know whether that was enough to split it, since I didn't see that happen, but it looked that way since I saw no other implements. The the other guys would chip away at the split-off pieces, gradually reducing them to regularity, completely by eye - the way the pyramids were built I guess.

I got iodine and Savlon for Terry' scrapes, and she was reasonably brave about it. We got some Cipro back in the US, so I've got her taking that too, just to stave off any possibility of infection. If the knee still hurts on Monday I'll make her see a doctor. So far today she's hardly moved from the sofa, and I can't see her being particularly mobile for the rest of the day. Tonight though, we're to go to Balbir's house for their Diwali celebration, so she'll have to move herself for that.

In the late morning and early afternoon I watched England beat Bangladesh in the first test at Dhaka. By all accounts it was a tougher match than they'd expected, though in the end they won by a safe margin. I have to say though that the Bangladeshi spin bowlers looked distinctly dangerous. The cable TV here carries CNN, BBC World, Fox News, the Discovery channel, and lots of sport channels that show cricket and soccer. There are also some movie channels, and at the moment we're watching "Bend it Like Beckham".

We spent a pleasant evening at Balbir and Mona's house, once again surrounded by a cacophony of firecrackers. Balbir definitely doesn't approve of them as a way of celebrating Diwali. He's not alone. There were ads on the TV trying to persuade people to celebrate with lamps in the old fashioned way, rather than with explosives. Their two sons, Deepak and Roshun joined us later in the evening. The form for an Indian evening is drinks and snacks followed by the meal, which comes at the end of the event. We talked about Indian history, and our backgrounds, and the state of Bangalore. Deepak and Roshun gave us a ride home.

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Musclepower

Musclepower

Womanpower

Womanpower

24/10/2003 - Diwali 1

Today is a holiday, for the festival of Diwali, so we had a day off work. This didn't apply to everyone, as you can see - the construction workers, shopkeepers, cleaners, rickshaw drivers, etc. were functioning as normal. I was fascinated by the construction crew. The men stood in a line on scaffolding of lashed wooden poles arranged like a large staircase, the next mans feet at the level of the first's shoulders. They passed a succession of - I'm guessing - quite heavy bowls of concrete up the line, one every few seconds, with clockwork precision.

At the bottom, a team of young women carried aggregate, sand, and cement to the mixer on their heads. The girl with the gravel had to wait until the mixer was emptied, so she obligingly posed for her picture.

At lunch time, we walked down to the south end of 80ft Peripheral Road, where there's a pleasant "family restaurant". That doesn't appear to have the same meaning here as it usually does in the US, where it generally indicates that the place doesn't have a liquor license. We had a couple of beers, and Indian snack food - pakoras and chicken tikka. There were two men sitting at the next table, who Terry rapidly engaged in conversation. She cajoled one of them into playing a game of chess, for which purpose the pair of them went off and returned shortly with a chess board and set. The chess game turned into several. I talked to the other - Vincent - about life, wives, children, and travel.

On the way back, Terry discovered a pool hall. Her eyes lit up, and I knew there was no entertainment I could offer that would compete. So I carried our shopping home, and took an afternoon nap, while she beat up the locals.

As soon as it got dark, and in fact intermittently for the last week after dark, the night was punctuated by a growing crescendo of firecrackers. By about seven o'clock it sounded like an artillery barrage. The fireworks were all the ones by Standard Fireworks that I knew at bonfire night in my childhood. In particular, the bangers were quite powerful. In the UK they were emasculated to mere squibs years ago because of the number of children who used to blow their hands off playing with them.

Curious as to the form of the celebration, we took a rickshaw into the city centre at about 9:00pm. As it turned out, there was more activity out in the suburbs. So we went to the Watchman briefly. Suresh, the owner, was there, and Satish - another software person - who we see there regularly. He'd been out on some sort of tech support emergency. But the pub was basically quiet, with most people presumably at home celebrating the festival.

As we neared home, Terry practiced the ancient Indian martial art of getting out of a moving rickshaw. She grazed her knees, and ruined a good pair of pants. I washed the knees with boiled water when we got home. They'll need to be checked in the morning, and might need some good old fashioned iodine. I remember that seemed to do the trick on my knees whenever I did something similar as a kid.

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The view from our apartment on a bright day

The view from our apartment on a bright day

Rush hour obstruction

Rush hour obstruction

23/10/2003 - Quiz Night

Today was mostly a regular work day. I'm working on a design that needs to be finished by Monday night, so it was pretty intense. In the afternoon I had to take a break to go back into the city centre to pick up our registration. By that time, having been a bright morning, it was tipping it down, with thunder and lightening to boot. But I dodged the raindrops, and got there reasonably dry.

I had expected to get a card of some sort, but it turned out to be yet another sheet of paper each. As Satak remarked dryly back at work, plastic is not a common commodity in India. I must remember to put the papers somewhere safe.

After work I went to a doctor's office to try to get a prescription for some more doxicycline. This didn't work out since the doctor was one of those who was against overusing antibiotics, and thought that this particular medication wasn't much good as a preventative for malaria anyway. I'll have to try somewhere else on Monday, or take her advice, and just cover up. I'm going to get some light long sleeve shirts anyway, it isn't particularly pleasant constantly being bitten.

I then met Terry at the Chinese restaurant where she'd had lunch the day before. It was a really nice place - China Pearl on 60ft Road in Koramangala 5/6th block. The food was excellent, genuinely fresh and piping hot. There was no letup in the rain, so after we'd eaten, it took us forever to get a rickshaw. Just like New York, try getting a cab when it's raining. When we did, it was a damp ride in a vehicle with no sides.

It was quiz night at the Watchman. The guy who does the quizzes gets most of his questions from the current news, which gives it a different feel than your average trivia quiz. Our team, Mick, Terry, and me came in fourth. We'd have done better if we'd taken Terry's opinion on the country of origin of the ukelele (Portugal). We got a pitcher of beer as a consolation prize.

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The view from our apartment on a bright day

Monkeys in a coconut tree

Squarebashing

Squarebashing

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22/10/2003 - Registration Day 2

You'll be pushed to see the monkeys - there's one on top of the topmost bunch of coconuts, partly hidden behind the palm frond. I can see it, but it's pretty well camouflaged, and I know where to look. They weren't an easy subject to photograph. The digital camera has too much delay from when you press the button to when it shoots, it was on full telephoto, and the monkeys weren't posing. So you'll have to take my word for it. There were two of them, quite large ones, and they were breaking off coconuts and throwing them down from the tree.

The square bashing happens every day. A bunch of the security guards from the complex do their drill on a small area close to the main gate. They're pretty good too, I'd guess most, if not all of them have done time in the army.

I got Terry out of the house by about 11:00 to go back to the police commissioner's office to do our foreigner registration. We had to get some papers from Sushanth, so we went to work first to find he had been delayed. I worked for a while, and Terry read her book, and went out to get some lunch.

When Sushanth arrived we finally got together a full set of papers. The requirement was:
  • A form describing each of us - where we were from, where we were staying etc. - 1 copy.
  • Another form with the same information laid out in a different way - 4 copies.
  • Photocopies of the main and visa pages of our passports - 2 copies.
  • A letter from my employer stating the period of my employment - 2 copies.
  • My appointment letter - 2 copies.
  • An financial guarantee affidavit from an Indian citizen or company - 2 notarized copies.
  • Proof of residence (another letter from my employer) - 2 copies.
  • Passport sized photos - 5 copies.
Terry's list was similar, excluding the employment things, but requiring further copies of my forms. So, next we went to the courthouse on MG Road to get the affidavits notarized. In the US this takes 5 minutes, in India, about half an hour. Then we got everything copied allowing an extra copy or two of everything.

We took our bundles of papers to the police commissioner's office. The man we had seen before first gave us some paste and sent us off to stick four pictures on the form with four copies. He gave us some paste, which was a close approximation to water. Finally we managed to make them stick on, juggling papers on a narrow sloping shelf. Then we got back in line. At our turn the man went through our heaps of papers at length. Everything seemed to be OK, except for one date that Terry had in US mm/dd/yy form, and which he had her change. Then he marked them as validated, and signed them, and sent us to another man in another room, who went through them again. To be fair, he was a little quicker, and he signed them as an authorization. Then we went to a counter close to the first man and handed them in. After a short wait we were given receipts which we had to sign. One of us would have to return the next day to pick up our papers.

By the time we were through, it was rush hour, and the journey back was horrendous. I had to go back to work for another tele-conference that started at 6:00, and went on until 7:45. As a result, the rest of the evening turned into a carbon copy of the day before, except that this time Terry abandoned our rickshaw in Austintown - a particularly rough area, and got a rickshaw of her own. C'est la vie!

The B block mascot

The B block mascot

Open for business

Open for business

21/10/2003 - Running late

The dog spends most of its time sleeping curled up on the doormat on wide the top step of our apartment block entrance. It opens its eyes, smiles, and wags its tail as you approach - well for me at least, I don't know if this is universal. But otherwise he doesn't budge an inch. I guess he must belong to someone, since it has a collar - a yuppie dog in fact.

When I got into work today there was a slew of email waiting. Apparently there had been connection difficulties over the weekend, so it all arrived in a heap. I discovered that I was required on two conference calls with New York that evening, and the next day. At the moment, there's a 10.5 hours time difference between India time and US east coast time, so the way these work out is that the NY people get in early, like 7:30am, and we talk to them starting at about 6:00pm. It was going to be 9:00pm before I got out.

I phoned Terry to let her know. She'd had yet another visit from the little guy from the Internet connection company. The first time he came and said he'd come to check that everything was working OK, which I thought was slightly OTT - we'd have phoned them if there'd been anything wrong. But then he turns up the next day, so he's obviously just visiting. I'll have to phone the company today to tell them to call him off, though he'll probably get short shrift from Terry if he tries it again.

As to the late finish, I told her that when she got terminally bored she should go to the Watchman, and I'd meet her there. The owner there, Suresh, seems like a steady fellow, and Mick (another Brit) is usually there. She said she'd go about 8:00pm.

I escaped at 9:15. Of course, at that time there wasn't a rickshaw in sight outside the office - commuting time was long gone. I walked on to 7th Cross, which is more of a thoroughfare, and got one there at about 9:20. By the time I got to the pub, it was about 9:45. I was hungry, and ordered some alternate form of tandoori chicken - Terry had mixed vegetable bhajis. By the time I'd eaten, and had an appropriate short conversation with everybody, it was around 11:00. By that time Terry had managed to sneak in a couple more drinks than she should have had, so the trip home was mildly exciting. She spent some time packing her bags, but finally gave up on it, and came to bed.

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A tree limb down on the road outside

A tree limb down on the road outside

Knife grinder

Knife grinder

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20/10/2003 - Registration, part one

As I said, we have to register with the Foreigners Registration Office by the end of this week, so this morning I'd arranged to take some time off work, and we went to the police commissioner's office to start this process. It had rained heavily overnight, and when I went out early to get bread for breakfast it was to find a large tree limb down on 7th Cross Road outside, hanging on the electricity cables. The traffic and the flow of pedestrians were all organizing itself through the small gap that was left. There was a good deal of hooting, but it worked quite well.

When our rickshaw driver had asked directions, and eventually found the police commissioners office, there was a good deal of scrutiny of our passports. Then we were presented with a set of forms to be filled out, and a checklist of things to bring. The office is in the government buildings area north of the cricket stadium. There the streets are much better maintained, and the city looks quite posh.

At least one of the forms had to be filled in by the company employing me, so we took that one to Sushanth on the way, then I took Terry home, and went back to work.

When I got home at 6:30, Terry had obtained a cable connection for the new TV, and was busy making a salad. We were to have shrimp and noodles also. First though we had two missions. Number one, I desperately needed to get my hair cut, since I was starting to look like a sheep. The guy at the Raheja complex shop had told us to go up 7th Cross to the "BDA" centre, and I would find a barber there. After a short wait there, I got a much better job done on it than I ever achieve myself for RS 50. So although the guy who did the cutting used electric clippers, with a spacer, just like the way I'm used to doing it, and although we learned where we might get them, the idea of clippers is now abandoned. Maybe it's worth it in NY, where the same haircut will cost you $10 plus, but not here.

Second was that Terry had had a phone call from an English guy we'd met at the pub. He had a friend who wanted to meet me, so we were to go back to the Watchman - surprise, surprise. The guy was from Wigan - about 50 miles from where I grew up. It really is a very small world. There didn't seem to be any particular point to the introduction, other than the northern English connection. I had a sneaky suspicion that Terry might have exaggerated a bit because she fancied the trip out. I also suspect that the Scottish Pub has now had it in terms of our patronage. We now seem to be 'regulars' at the watchman, since we've reached the stage where the staff and other customers greet us with "evening Terry, evening Steve", and give us what we want to drink without asking. The snack food is pretty good too. Its a bit of a haul onto the city centre, but that's where all the pubs are.

It was a pleasant enough visit. When we got back I worked on the page, and Terry cooked the shrimp and noodles with the sauce she'd made for the mussels. With theis combo it was just right - rich and spicy.

The Sunday crowd at the Watchman

The Sunday crowd at the Watchman

It's a cow thing

It's a cow thing

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19/10/2003 - Throwback

The original plan was to try to find a stand of some sort to put the TV on. I'd just feel so bad about it standing for 10 months on top of the upturned box. Balbir had suggested a place where we should look, but it turned out that it wasn't open on Sunday. We told the rickshaw driver to press on and went back to Church Street, with me still hoping to find a hair clipper, and mug shots still to be got, since we have to register as aliens within 14 days.

The rickshaw drivers take one of two basic routes into the city. They either head for the NW corner of Koramangala, then take the main Hosur and Bannirghata roads, or they take off through the NE, and take a series of back roads up though various working class and very poor areas east of the city. You also cross the main creek or river that runs through the city, and by there, where it's most of the way across, it really stinks. As we passed a butchers shop in Austin Town, we passed a very white and rather young lamb tethered outside meekly awaiting its fate. It would be easy to become a vegetarian here.

We got the mug shots taken, but they weren't instant in the sense that we knew them from New York. They were taken at about 1:00pm, but wouldn't be ready by 4:00pm - digital pictures, needed printing out as opposed to Polaroids. Finding the clippers was no more successful than the day before. Inevitably we arrived back at the Watchman. It has to be said that in many senses this was a Brit's ideal Sunday afternoon, decent beer, and a surfeit of cricket on the TV - India v. New Zealand. I sat mesmerized watching the endgame of a test match draw. I can hardly remember watching that tense but dry spectacle since I was a boy. Of course, I wasn't keeping count, just drifting, so by the time we left, Terry had had a couple too many, and the rest of the day was pretty much a write-off.

We passed the cows on the way back, they were exercising their divinity by blocking the complete northbound lane. Everyone followed meekly - what else can you do. Just before, I'd seen one walking the wrong way against a heavy traffic stream. Maybe they're not as stupid as they look, and have an ironic sense of humor. We also passed the butcher's shop. The lamb was gone.

Back home, I cooked something bland for a change - fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and green beans. Terry went out and played chess over at the club house with a bright nine year old. I gave the day best and went to bed early.

Church Street in central Bangalore

Church Street in central Bangalore

Terry's gym

The ride home

18/10/2003 - Shopping

The chief mission of the day was to acquire a TV, and something to play CDs on. So we got up early, had some breakfast, then took a rickshaw ride into the city centre. We'd been told that MG (as in Mahatma Ghandi) Road is the place to buy electronics, and were therefore quite surprised to find that consumer electronics shops were like hens teeth - few and far between. We finally settled on a Sony TV, and a Phillips DVD player. This turned out to be the cheapest way to play CDs, with the TV providing the sound system. In the course of cogitating about this, we wandered round the corner into Church Street, and had a beer at "The New Night Watchman", a pleasant pub at the west end of the street. Terry acquired an admirer - this seems to happen in most places.

My secondary task was to get some hair clippers. This proved more difficult. It seems that hair cutting here gets done mostly with scissors. I should have brought mine from New York, and got a voltage convertor, but I thought it would be cheaper to get a new clipper - wrong. I'll have to find and train a barber.

The TV was delivered about an hour after the time promised, which is about par for the course here. Everything happens a bit later than promised. Everything worked just fine, so as I'm typing this, I'm listening to act 2 of Meistersingers, and the apartment seems more like a home. We can get some very basic channels via the cable that comes into the apartment, but it clearly needs to be turned on. I presume somebody will want to be paid for this.

Once the TV had arrived we had a late afternoon nap, then at 8:00pm, Balbir and his wife Mona arrived to take us to the club. It was busy, and it took us a while to find a table under cover, since the weather was threatening rain. My picture of the club didn't turn out, I was too far away for the flash. I'll catch it another time.

After the club we went to the Bay Leaf restaurant at Raheja Arcade, where we were joined by Balbir's two sons. Once again it was a very pleasant evening. Mona and Terry got on famously.

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The sun emerging from the mist

The sun emerging from the mist

Terry's gym

Terry's gym

17/10/2003 - Bangalore Belly

Well whether it was the mussels, or water melon juice, or just the water, we'll probably never know. Whichever, Terry developed a stomach ache shortly after she got up this morning, and has taken herself off back to bed. I've had some minor intestinal disruption since the change of surrounding and food, but nothing to take seriously.

The mosquitos have generally done a number on me, but I think I'm reacting less now than I was earlier, so I may have got immunized to some extent - we'll see. In any case they're no worse than the ones in NY in that respect, and we had quite a few there this summer. Both of us take a Doxycycline capsule once a day to fend off malaria and dengue fever. That reminds me, I must find us a doctor soon to get some more, as the US healthcare system only dispensed us enough for 15 days.

It was a very hazy morning today, as you can see from the picture. It's brighter now so I'll probably go for a short walk by myself before I shower and go to work. That done, I'm now in a hurry. I walked round a block I hadn't navigated before and saw the local high school, which was an impressive size. Needless to say, the camera's memory card was in the reader attached to my laptop, so photographs didn't work very well!

After work, the man came round to fix up an Internet connection. The par-for-the-course DSL speed here seems to be 64Kbits/sec. This is something of a comedown from the DSL connection in New York, which used to regularly manage download speeds of around 1Mbit/sec. I guess I'll live with it, it runs at the US equivalent of $20 per month.

We're going out with Balbir again tomorrow, as a result of an email conversation today. So tonight was a change of plans. We'd thought of going to a restaurant, but went instead to the bar at the Park Plaza, which is western style, and correspondingly priced. The trip there was a nightmare. The place is out on the airport road, and there are road works just before you get there, with a detour that's a complete bottleneck. We sat in intense traffic fumes for half an hour to get through. I'd forgotten my glasses, so I couldn't read the menu and the food I got consisted entirely of tandoori meats - not a vegetable in sight. I think I'm getting mashed potato withdrawal symptoms. I must do something about that on Sunday.

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Cravings satisfied

Cravings satisfied

Koramangala street cleaner

Koramangala street cleaner

Street dogs - generally good natured

Street dogs - generally good natured

16/10/2003 - Cravings, and Expanding Horizons

Among the things we acquired while shopping yesterday were bacon, and coffee, so this mornings breakfast was something of a reversion. I don't have a frying pan that I'd attempt to fry eggs in yet - we're looking for a cast iron one - so it was a bit pseudo in some respects. But I enjoyed it. As it turned out, the fried tomatoes on fried bread were probably the best part of the meal. The tomatoes here taste excellent. I can't put my finger on the difference - could be it's just because they are a more natural size, and have a lower water content. I suspect they're much fresher too.

It's strange how you perceive distances when you first come to a new place. I remember when I first moved in with Terry in New York, I thought I was getting out of our neighborhood if I walked down to 92nd Street. Well it's the same here. Today we ventured further down the road past the vegetable shop on the corner, and past the coconuts. The first useful thing we found was a squeaky-clean brand-new 24hr ATM station. I offered it a card with trepidation. It asked me for my PIN, and duly presented me with RS 5000 in RS 500 bills and, interestingly with 500 in RS 100 bills. That's quite thoughtful. If you'd truly run out of money, it would give you something to pay a rickshaw with. Apparently they all do that here.

We also found a Gym tucked away around a corner beyond the ATM, we went upstairs to check it out. It was pleasant, and the people were friendly - as everywhere. So Terry joined, and now she's got at least one place to go during the day other than the shops, and it has music and TV too. This is good, because I think she's starting to get cabin fever!

On the way back Terry told me about an amusing sight she'd seen the day before. A cow had been standing outside the vegetable shop, apparently minding its own business. When the proprietor and his wife both went inside, the cow stepped smartly onto the sidewalk, grabbed a mouthful of tomatoes, and made off. Sacred but sly!

The UPS at work went down at about 11:30am, so we were all stood about twiddling our thumbs for some time. This wasn't a city event, it was something evil in the main fuse box. Everyone was very philosophical about it.

Once again, by the time I got home from work I was pretty tired. Terry had made mussels and a hot tomato based sauce, and we ate them with samosas and salad. I wasn't taken with the mussels, but the samosas were good.

Terry wanted to get out of the apartment for a while, so after dinner we took an autorickshaw up to St Marks Road, and went to the Scottish Pub. The traffic and hence the pollution on the way was horrid. At busy intersections you have second thoughts about breathing. Terry's favourite barman wasn't there, and I was zonked enough not to be very good company, so we didn't stay long. As is currently usual we went to bed early.

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Tranquility at the Raheja

Tranquility at the Raheja

15/10/2003 - Hump Day

Terry discovered yesterday that the shop on the corner gets fresh vegetables Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at the weekend. We think the ones during the week are brought in by someone from the countryside - they always look very fresh, and they don't all arrive at the same time. So our morning walk mission this morning is to be early birds, and get the best of the bunch. I also want to get some bananas, and a fresh coconut, just for the milk. We'll be going out shortly to do that. For breakfast we had boiled eggs and toast, and finished off everything to eat in the house. I dropped an egg, but broke its fall with my foot, so when it hit the floor it wasn't that badly damaged. Like a true westerner though, I picked it up and put it in the trash. The aliens must have done a good job - Terry retrieved it and told me if I was going to boil it then it would be perfectly OK.

For some reason, when I got home from work, I was totally exhausted. Jet lag is a strange thing - seems to come in waves. Terry had cooked a fish called Black Pomfret, a turbot shaped thing, with potatoes in a sauce, carrots, and fried brinjal (eggplant). I had a Kingfisher with it then immediately went to sleep on the sofa, which wasn't very popular, since Terry had nobody to talk to all day. But I guess she was tired too, we both went to bed at about 10:00pm, and knew nothing else before we were woken by the daylight through the bedroom window.

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Misty morning

Misty morning

Compulsory walking

Compulsory walking

Coconuts in our backyard

Coconuts in our backyard

14/10/2003 - Making Friends

Last night we went out with Balbir to the Koramangala Club. Balbir and his wife run a web site called koramangala.com, and I had got in touch with him in the course of my early attempts to find accommodation in Bangalore. The evening was most enjoyable. We sat and talked, and drank, and ate chicken tikka until about 11:00pm. I would join the club in a heartbeat, it's quite close, and has all the amenities you'd want for a social gathering place, but apparently it's constitution requires you to be an Indian citizen.

We rose early again this morning. There was quite a heavy mist looking out over the countryside to the east, reminiscent of pictures of tropical rain forest - it probably was one once. The tree in the foreground covered with the orange coloured blossom is quite common. You see the fallen flowers on the streets everywhere - quite festive. We went for a morning walk at about 7:30 and weren't the only ones - the soldiers, possibly new recruits, were out on some training march, and proceeding at the double. The shops weren't open at that time, so there was less than usual to see, and maybe in future we'll walk a little later. On the way back we saw two cats - the first we'd seen. We'd been under the the impression that it was relatively unusual to keep a cat as a pet here, but maybe not.

I'm a big boy now, and can find my way to work on my own, or at least direct an autorickshaw driver. It's pretty close to where we live. I didn't time it, but I'd say not more than a 10 minute ride, and there's only one light on the way where you have to sit and inhale undiluted exhaust fumes for a few minutes. My attempts to capture a still photograph that embodies the complexity of Bangalore traffic have been futile. The auto-focus, etc. on the digital camera don't react quickly enough.

After work I purchased our domestic beer supply for the rest of the week. I got a case of 12 650ml Kingfishers. These are getting on for twice the size of a conventional US 12oz bottle, and they cost RS 48 each (around $1.10). It doesn't seem like you get a deal anywhere for buying the case, it's just something to carry them in. The bottles get recycled, so they tend to be somewhat scratched and worn, and not of a consistent color. However the part you'd want to drink out of is covered with a decorative foil, so I'm guessing they're reasonably hygienic. As in most of the world, you need an opener - they don't have twist tops.

Terry had food ready when I got home - I think the aliens must have come and done something to her. Actually it was by arrangement, since I'd phoned and said I was hungry. Dinner was grilled chicken pieces over spinach, tomato and cucumber salad. You can get lettuce here in the posh shops, but palak (spinach) is available everywhere. Terry had done the chicken coated with tamarind paste and spices, and it was excellent.

When we'd eaten, we caught an autorickshaw to the Big Bazaar, a shop halfway toward the city centre that sells just about everything. I'd found it on Sunday, but Terry hadn't been there yet. She bought some leather sandals, and a pumice stone to grind her feet with, and I bought an adaptor so I can plug my laptop into the power supply at the apartment - it's OK at work because they have dual purpose sockets.

Then since we were half way there, we went and had a couple of beers at the Scottish Pub, a bar in the city centre on St Marks Road, with no discernible Scottish connections. We like it though, it's cosy, down-to-earth, and friendly. On the way back we got a really good driver. I asked him the name of a road just after we started, and from that point on he gave us a blow-by-blow account of the route as well as driving quickly and (relatively speaking) safely.

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Monday morning rush hour

Monday morning rush hour

Look, no chains!

Look, no chains!

Young construction worker

Young construction worker

13/10/2003 - A change of Venue

So, it's an October Monday morning in Bangalore. The sun rises and sets more or less evenly (we're only 12 degrees north of the equator), and it gets light at about 6:00am, and gets dark at about 6:00pm. Since our body clocks were totally phased by the 24 hour journey spanning three days, they seem to be re-synchronizing to the sun. This morning Terry woke me, and we got up and made breakfast at 6:30am.

We've made quite a bit of progress on domestic arrangements since we arrived. Last evening I was able to cook a meal - curried chicken would you believe. It had taken most of two days to find and acquire the household supplies and utensils you take for granted in everyday life. There are still lots of things missing, but at least we can eat.

India is all I was told to expect. Bangalore is a large city, with a population of around 4,500,000. It's known as the "Garden City", and I can understand why - there are trees everywhere. But beyond that, the garden analogy falters. The atmospheric pollution is scary, particularly when you're in heavy traffic, and every creek or river you see looks like an open sewer. There are masses of poor people living in tenements, shacks, and under blue plastic tarpaulins in conditions any westerner would immediately classify as squalor. Right next door there'll be some posh house or office building. The city has grown like Topsy, and the infrastructure is groaning.

On the plus side, you don't see piles of garbage bags all over the streets waiting to be picked up, and you do see people making positive attempts to keep the streets clean. Everyone is polite and friendly, and everyone seems to get along. You see bicycles and motor bikes parked in the streets without being chained and locked to some immovable object. Of course there's crime - it's a major city - but it doesn't feel at all threatening.

The traffic is wild, the busier routes are jammed with pedestrians, holy cows, bicycles, motor bikes and scooters, autorickshaws, cars and trucks. Driving is definitely an art form. There's a lot of honking and hand signaling, but for the most part it's amazing how well drivers cooperate at junctions and such. Traffic streams cross without stopping - the timing is quite amazing.

My preferred mode of transport is now the autorickshaw. These three-wheeler beasties are powered by a two-stroke lawnmower engine. They are highly maneuverable, and can stop on a dime. The clock starts at RS 10 (ten rupees - about 20c), which counts toward your total distance. They're cheap and plentiful, and most of the drivers know their way around pretty well, though I met two noticeable exceptions yesterday.

The journey here was really quite uneventful, though long and tedious. Both of us managed to sleep quite a lot. There were two stopovers, first in Paris, then in Mumbai, and we got into Bangalore at 2:30am on Saturday morning. Our cat Cali was waiting for us in the baggage claim area. She, or the baggage handlers - yes, pets go as excess baggage - had made quite a mess in her crate, with a mixture of her drinking water and cat litter from her tray. She seemed mildly inconvenienced rather than angry, and after a quick rinse she was fine.

My new boss here had booked us into a hotel for the night because of the late arrival. We juggled two taxis to get our luggage to the hotel, one of us in each. In the morning he picked us up and took us to our new apartment.

We like the apartment. By New York standards its enormous - a large living area, two big bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room. It's also got a balcony, and the view is great.

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