September 2006 in Bangalore through the eyes of an Englishman

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Wasted.

30/9/2006 - Seven Days

Well the first seven days of Ramadan have passed - only twenty three more to go. Ramadan is pretty much as Adia promised. Expressing only my own point of view, or possibly more accurately, my emotions; I am dispossessed; I am marginalized; and I am gutted. I have been so upset that half the time I feel nauseous, and I can barely eat. Last night I went out to TGIF as is my Friday night custom - Adia won't go because it's Ramadan. I didn't eat anything because I couldn't deal with the idea of food, and proceeded to drink four 650ml bottles of Kingfisher on an empty stomach.

We had been getting the runaround during the week from the college placement tout who had fixed Adia up with a course for her masters degree. I say fixed up, actually is was more like stitched up. All we'd got for our money was a dubious bona fide letter to say that Adia was enrolled on a course at the National Law School, and a receipt for RS 7000 for payment of the course fees for that college's distance learning MBA course. Adia doesn't want to do a correspondence course, she wants to go to proper classes, and I entirely agree with her. Consequently I was at the point where I seriously wanted my money back from the guy, and had messaged Krishna who seems to know about all things legal, to ask him for his advice. Krishna phoned me while I was at TGIF, and said I should go over to his place to talk.

I must have been reasonably compus menti at that stage, since I got myself into an auto, and navigated into the depths of Indiranagar to the apartment where he and Nisha live. Krishna was sitting over a bottle of Old Monk - a dark rum popular here - and of course I joined him. We talked for a while, and he asked me questions about the deal and made some suggestions. But that's about as far as I go. Apparently I staggered back into our apartment at about 23:30 pretty legless, and was not good company until I passed out. Adia took the picture of me - I think it's one of the better pieces of candid photography that she's done.



Florence with hair au naturelle.

23/9/2006 - Time Flies

The week before Ramadan has of course sped past; it will start tomorrow. Adia has spent much of the week at home and the apartment is now tidy and spotless. Possibly this was a preparation. Certainly, as far as she is concerned cleanliness is pretty closely associated with godliness.

I have spent some time trying to get my head round the basics of Swahili grammar. It's quite complicated. Not only do you have the usual range of tenses and modes for verbs plus a few that are new to me, but also the nouns are divided into about 15 classes that differentiate how their singular and plural forms are constructed. The construction is by prefix in either case, as in mpenzi - lover, and wapenzi - lovers (class 1 m/wa). These prefixes are then also applied to adjectives that qualify the nouns. Each class of noun also has a pair of prefixes that are applied to pronouns, and where appropriate to verbs of which they are the object. Some of these prefixes are nasal stops.

To be fair, in compensation, there are no gender considerations. Instead of I, you, he, she, it, you (plural), and they, there are just prefixes that bind to verbs - ni, u, a , m(u), wa. So he is singing, she is singing and it is singing are each just anaimba. That's a - third party singular, na - present continuous, imb - the root "sing", and a - a suffix to indicate the normal mode of the verb as opposed to the subjunctive or some other mode. You can make pretty complex sentences out of a single verb word in Swahili. For example awaimbishe means "he should direct their singing". And all I was trying to do was ask for a cup of tea!

Adia is jealous of my new Nokia phone. It has finally dawned on her that the Motorola flip is ten a penny - everybody and his wife has one. She's going to try and trade it in: I've hidden the Nokia.



The Mosque by Bazaar Street.

19/9/2006 - Shadows of Islam

Things here were just peachy until the spectre of Ramadan appeared on the near horizon.

Adia isn't noticeably Muslim at first sight. She does not respond automatically to the calls to prayer, or go to the mosque, and she wears western clothes. But at the weekend she announced that she does observe Ramadan, and that consequently, as from 24 September, there would be no nookie for 30 days.

As you might imagine, I was gobstruck, and immediately got my knickers into a considerable twist. Initially I just didn't believe her, and immediately searched the web to see what the hell she was talking about. The first five web pages I read all seemed to say the same thing. In Ramadan, fasting - no eating, drinking, or sex - lasts between sunrise and sunset. I instantly felt better. She must have got things wrong, and that I could deal with. But when I said so to Adia, she told me I was misunderstanding it. Yes, it was permissible during Ramadan to have sex with your spouse during the night hours, but we aren't married, so to have sex would invalidate her fasting. It also turned out that sex in this context has a rather broad meaning - essentially no body contact. My knickers instantly became twisted again.

I admit that I am not a particularly patient man, but I've done 30 days without nookie plenty of times in my life - though never by choice. What bothers me is the other stuff that I just can't think of as sinful - kissing each other goodbye and hello, snuggling up in bed, and so on. I burst into tears. Adia got cross with me because I was upset - like it's only 30 days man surely ...

Various possibilities were discussed. Adia volunteered to leave for the month. That didn't sit well with me since she's just come back from being away for three weeks anyway. Florence suggested we simply get married in the Islamic sense. We'd go to an Immam, I'd say the magic words about Allah being the true god and Mohammed his prophet, and he'd marry us with no fuss - wife number two, no problem sir. I said that would work for me as long as Adia realized that what I said about believing in god would be a complete lie. Those of you who know me well will also know that I've had a bit of a vendetta going with god since my first daughter Helen died of leukaemia when she was six years old.

Adia of course responded that if that was the case then the marriage would be a sham also, so we might as well not bother. Florence said we should compromise, but Adia's a bit like Maggie Thatcher when it comes to turning. The only compromise available seemed to be the one where I would put up and shut up. I told her that if there was no compromise then I was going to get pretty upset over the course of 30 days, and that since she'd be getting her way she had at least to promise not get angry with me (try that after you've had nothing to eat all day).

The prospect fills me with dread. I'd had her figured in my romantic dream of the future as the woman I'd been searching for all my life, who would give me unconditional love, and to who I could give back the same. The silly old bugger believed in fairy tales - so that was that illusion shattered. Then there's the prospect of walking out the door in the morning with a peremptory "good morning love, have a nice day", and coming home the same way. Worst of all there's waking up in the middle of the night, snuggling up to her and putting my arm round her and being told to go away! I've a feeling that after a month of that it won't just be my fairy-tale illusions that are in tatters.

When we'd finished the conversation she and Florence proceeded to take me out shopping for new bedroom curtains. Women - you've got to love them! We ate at the Only Place afterwards, and Harroon the elder there confirmed that what she was saying made Islamic sense. Sense or not, Adia is very clear that she abides by Islam in a way that conforms to her own conscience, so maybe I'll live in hope. Later still we went home and made the most passionate love I can remember - such is life.

I'm going to England to visit my family for a week in October, so that will cover some of the time. I presume that she'll also have her period at the beginning of Ramadan. That will prohibit her from fasting anyway so I might get a quick cuddle then. We'll see how it goes. I'm still desperately in love with her.



The new hair.

16/9/2006 - The Heroine Returns

The Air India flight from Mumbai was bang on time, however, Adia was about the last person to appear from the international arrivals immigration/customs line, so it was getting on for 08:30 when we headed for a taxi.

Back home we got our priorities sorted out and spent some quality time together before I cycled off to get some bread so we could have our breakfast. It appears that the magic has survived the three weeks separation completely unscathed, and I'm chuffed as a dog with two dicks to have her back.

The new hair is quite striking - and it's quite difficult to see the join! Just how durable and manageable it's going to be, remains to be seen. I'm sure we'll get Florence's opinion some time over the weekend, and she's the expert.

She got no sleep on the plane, so currently she's napping, and I'm doing this.

Later I felt compelled to take Adia to TGIF - I guess basically I'm a show-off. Florence came and the hair was duly blessed - it was pronounced truly African. Florence herself was wearing a wig - probably truly Chinese, and looked even more exotic than usual.


The daily routine.


Monkeys on the churchyard wall at Trinity Church.


Fred with obnoxious cigar.
15/9/2006 - Alone Again

Well, tomorrow is airport day again. Adia should get back into Bangalore from Dar-es-Salaam at 07:30 tomorrow morning. She has had her hair braided while she was in her home town Bukoba, so I probably won't recognise her when she arrives, or at least, that's what I told her.

Now that the almost three weeks have passed it doesn't feel all that long, but two weeks ago it felt like forever. Isn't that always the way when you're waiting for something - I really miss her.

So what have I been up to, well not a lot really. The weekdays have been somewhat stereotyped, like:
  • Get up at 07:40,
  • Prepare fruit for breakfast,
  • Make coffee and toast,
  • Apply substances to toast,
  • Eat breakfast,
  • Shower and dress,
  • Go to work,
  • Message Adia,
  • Work as hard as possible to pass the day as quickly as possible,
  • Call Adia,
  • Eat at Watchman/Only Place/TGIF,
  • Go home,
  • Check e-mail, maybe watch TV for 30 minutes,
  • Call Adia,
  • Go to bed.
Exciting, or what! The weekends have not been that much different except that I've mostly spent the daytime writing. Aha, yes, a secret writing project.

Voice conversations to Tanzania from India appear to be over a satellite link. There's that annoying pause after you've said something before the other party gets to hear it. As a result you spend most of the time both talking at the same time, or both waiting for the other person to say something. Toward the end of the three weeks we'd just about got it down. But there's a lot to be said for SMS under those circumstances.

I took a little time off work during the first week in September to sort out how to send Terry's clothes and shoes back to the USA. Needless to say I got it wrong. I had worked out how much it would cost using India Post Office Speedpost service for 40kg, and then I asked DHL the same question, and got an answer that was slightly lower. So I concluded I might as well use DHL. They provide packing boxes, so eventually when they'd got some in stock, I got one and packed the first batch of stuff.
The box weighed 18kg, but somehow the price managed to be 11,500RS, which was getting on for what they'd quoted be for 40kg. Of course by the time I'd dragged the box to their offices and filled out the paperwork, I wasn't inclined to take it back home, get a box and repack it, so I went along with it. The second box was the same weight, and went the same way simply on inertia. The third box was lighter, and it was only at that point that I discovered that if you use their box, it's a fixed price job with the assumption of a weight of 25kg. A fool and his money are soon parted!

My old Benq cell phone gave up the ghost. You'd charge it, and it would appear to be fully charged, but five minutes later it would be showing the battery was down. Possibly I could have got a new battery, but I don't know anywhere in Bangalore that sells them now, and in any case it was getting somewhat long in the tooth.

So I've got myself a new Nokia 6131, the first Nokia flip phone that's ever appealed to me. It has a camera, so you'll be seeing some pictures taken with that, though like most mobile phone cameras it has severe limitations. I can't really blame it for the blurred monkeys. A handheld camera and a moving subject 10m away is always going to be a problem in that respect. Its actually not too bad considering that it's a small area cropped out of a much larger picture. The picture of Fred doing his bad-boy act is more characteristic. Just not enough light.

The thing now has a 1Gb memory card, which means it makes quite a decent MP3 player. I have "Busy Doing Nothing" (Bing Crosby and friends, circa 1947) as my default ring tone, and the introduction to act two of Die Walküre as my Adia ring tone. That will probably change, it's a bit on the heavy side.
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