Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Walk Down the Street

It's amazing how a simple Sunday afternoon walk can turn into something so wild. As soon as we came to the village (10 min from our house) we noticed a house decorated with flower garlands and palm branches. People were streaming in and out. We thought it might be a wedding or a birth. But as we continued our walk we followed the sound of drums to where we came upon a group of men making a stretcher out of bamboo poles, decorated with flowers and woven palm leaves. Now we understood - a funeral.
We carried on down a side street where a man came out to chat with us and invited us in for tea. We declined on the tea part but had a nice talk with him.

A little further on we heard more drums and saw a tractor pulling a big Ganesh. A rickshaw with three huge megaphones blared music as drummers and villagers followed along.

The group stopped outside a small temple and we watched from a shady spot as they formed a circle and danced. But then they spotted us and a couple guys came over. I thought they might tell us to leave - maybe this was another funeral. But their hands were outstretched and they beckoned us over saying, "You are most welcome to join us, you can take photos if you wish."
We were over there in a split second and it soon became an impromptu photo session. Kids and adults wanted us to take their photos and some of them took ours as well. One little lady with a toothless grin stuck right by me, pinning flowers in my hair, talking to me in Hindi and posing for pictures - but no matter how many I took she wouldn't smile for the camera!

Then the drummers started again and the men wanted Michael to dance with them. He smiled but wouldn't, so they started dancing around him. Next the drummers formed a circle and one guy crouched down in the middle. He looked possessed or like a snake and did some strange facial and body movements. This went on for awhile with the crazy loud music and hypnotic drumming. Then a bunch of men jumped in the circle and they all danced wildly.

Eventually they stopped and the rickshaw and the tractor started to move down the street. The villagers followed and we waved goodbye. But they went no more than 100 meters and they stopped and started the music and dancing all over again. We have no idea what this was all about. Perhaps we'll go back next week and try to find out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Just Another Week...(last week)

It's been a busy week of socializing, ticked some things off the to-do list and the usual mishaps.

First, our spare bedroom mattress arrived and it was even the right size! Our guests can rest easy and so can we - we won't have to share beds with them!

Last Thursday I went to a lunch organized by the OWC (Overseas Women's Club) at Khansama Restaurant in UB City Mall. We were greeted with the traditional bindi on the forehead, sandlewood paste rubbed on the hand and flowers. Ambiance was great with big copper plates and goblets, and large Indian paintings on the walls. We were able to taste an array of Indian food and came away stuffed. A mehndi artist came around and "painted" designs on our hands - it only took ten minutes each. A nice way to meet some people and sample some great food.

Friday was very busy. I dropped Michael off at work at 8:00am and an hour later was at a Charity function at the Windsor Hotel. Most of the 25 charities that the OWC helps fund were there and had set up information booths. It was an excellent way for me to talk to a lot of people from different charities and see what kind of work they do. They are all passionate and dedicated.

Right after that I had to go out to the school for the primary Parent/Teacher day. It was more of a "fun" day with games and booths set up. Craig and I did the 3-legged race and tug-of-war and then we were so hot and sweaty we decided to duck out early.

Saturday night Michael and I went to a Wine Dinner at Paul Hotel. It was a five course Kerala Indian style dinner paired with wines from Big Banyan Winery. We had no expectations as far as the wine went which was lucky because it wasn't very good. The food was good though, and again we were able to taste many different dishes.

Sat with an interesting couple from UK who have been here 4 1/2 yrs. They told lots of "India" stories. Told us about an ashram they went to - getting up at 5:00am everyday and mandatory laughing sessions for 1/2 hr. They were at the Maldives when the tsunami hit (spoiler- they lived).

Tuesday was Michael's birthday and unfortunately it didn't start off too well. I noticed a black mark on one of our pictures in the living room and when I went to wipe it off, realized that mold was growing on the inside of the glass. Don't worry, it gets worse. I took the picture off the wall, thinking I could clean it but the whole back of the picture and the wall had become one heck of a science experiment. It was alive and growing! The picture is gone, the mold is cleaned up but we're waiting to see if it's really gone before fixing the wall. The owners and the management company would have just painted over it if we had let them - uhg!

The day got better as I got to go to a cooking class at Caperberry Restaurant which was fun and got some good tips and recipes...and lunch. In the evening the kids and I took Michael out for dinner to Toscana's. This restaurant is in the Forum Value Mall and is within walking distance. It has excellent non-Indian food: thin crust pizza's just like Italy, excellent caesar salad, bruschetta, steak, grilled fish and more.

Another week of ups and downs...but mostly ups.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Here we are at the start of another ten day festival - Navrati - which means the nine divine nights. It's all a little complicated as it's also called Dasara which means ten days. Here's the "Coles's notes" version: three goddesses are worshipped over the first nine days (for three days each): Goddess Durga, Goddess Lakhsmi and Goddess Saraswati. The tenth day, Dasara, is a big celebration marking the victory of Lord Rama over Ravina.
So where does Dandiya fit in? Dandiya is the dance that is featured on the nights of Navrati, using Dandiya sticks.
Everyone in our neighbourhood got together last night to celebrate at the soccer field. Alanna and I got mehndi on our hands (the photo above is Alanna's hands) and people got dressed up in their Dandiya outfits, sari's, and kurta's.
They set up food stalls and games. The only problem - it started to rain just as we were going out the door at 6:30pm. Got our umbrellas and off we went anyway. Had some good Indian food, samosas and chaat. It seemed the rain was not going to ease off so at 8:00pm we moved to the clubhouse for puja and dancing.
Everyone gathered around a small table with a picture (of the Goddess Durga?), flames, and offerings of food for puja. People took turns lifting the plate with the flames and offerings and moving them in circular motion while everyone else clapped or hit their Dandiya sticks together in a rhythmic motion.
The DJ started up the music and people danced in a rotating circle with children running and dancing in the middle. Some of the outfits were elaborate and it was mesmorizing to watch them go round and round, with scarves and sarees flowing.
Then came Dandiya and everyone had fun learning and playing with the Dandiya sticks. I had watched some video's of Dandiya on the internet and it seemed to be a group dance but here they did it more with partners or small impromptu groups.
Next week we are going to Mysore for the Dasara festival, the tenth day of the celebrations. It is to be a grand occassion of elephant processions, a torchlight parade and fireworks. And we have relatives flying in the day before - talk about stimulating the senses right away!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I had two revelations last night. One, that Bali and India are both Hindu - they derive from the same culture. Bali is one of our favorite places in the world. We spent about four months on the island of Bali over three visits. Bali is all about family, religion and culture. Now, I knew that Bali was Hindu but until last night I never thought of it as part of the Indian culture - it's in Indonesia.

Last night Michael and I went to a wine dinner at Paul Hotel, put on by the OWC wine club. Before dinner, there was a cultural dance - one woman wearing a traditional dance costume. As soon as she started dancing Michael and I looked at each other surprised and said, "Bali." The movements were similar, as were the facial expressions and foot movements. It wasn't identical, but similar. It was a moment where a lightbulb went on and I saw the connection between India and Bali, which I hadn't even thought about.

The second revelation was on the drive home - it took a mere 20 minutes at 11:30pm! I've driven that route so many times during the day and it always takes about an hour. I never realized how close it is. The average speed in Bangalore is 15 km/hr - it's maddening to think how quick we would get around if there was less traffic AND if people would drive in the lanes!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Feast of St. Mary

If you want to experience the cultural mosaic of India, head down to Russell Market near Commercial Street. You'll find Muslims, Hindus and Christians living and worshipping all within a block of each other...peacefully.

Yesterday, I went down to Commercial Street to exchange some curtains (fourth trip),and yes they are the right size this time, and the color is ok too. Luckily I love this area for shopping and people watching. Within two blocks there are at least two mosques, multiple hindu temples and St. Mary's Basillica.

It's such an exotic area - the muslim women wear the full burka and everyone else wears sarees (the ladies that is). Yesterday I could sense something exciting was going on - the streets were packed and the area around Russell Market was blocked off from vehicles.

Families wore their best clothes, women wore flower garlands in their hair, loud Indian music was blaring from loudspeakers and streetsellers sold balloons, shiny pinwheels and flutes. As it turned out this was the final day of the Feast of St. Mary.

It's been quite the month for religious celebrations. The Hindus had 11 days of Ganesh Chaturthi, the Muslims are in the midst of ramzan (ramadan), and this was the tenth day of the Feast of St. Mary celebrations.

Statues of St. Mary were erected all around the area, some adorned with flowers, others standing admidst waterfalls. People gave offerings and said individual prayers. It was chaotic, noisy, festive and crowded. Just another day in India.
Apparently the real festivities started that evening when 2 lakh, or 200,000 people descended on the area. A chariot with the image of Mother Mary was taken in a procession around the downtown streets and everyone followed, ending up at St. Mary's Basillica.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Next?

Does it surprise me that I'm still waiting for the mattress for the spare room to be delivered? No. They said it would take ten days at the most. It's been a month. Although I have to admit they did deliver one after 2 1/2 weeks but it was the wrong one.

The cable is not working. He said he would deliver a new cable box last week. Still waiting.

Let's see, we've lived in this house almost two months. Just when we think we are settled..."What next?" That's our favorite saying.

I guess it started with the mattresses on the first night that we moved in - they were all too long for the beds. Then the internet took about three weeks to get installed. We've had to have the dishwasher serviced, as well as the hot water tank for the kitchen, a curtain rod needed reattaching to the wall, a curtain rod replaced, two shower heads needed cleaning out (hard water). The kitchen table top had to be replaced because it was scratched upon delivery.

Of course there was the flood and the ensuing mosquitos and small bugs that came in with it and so we had pest control come in so we could start anew and feel clean.

Then our driver dropped us off at a restaurant and was gone when we came out. He answered after about the 3rd call and said something about "I made a mistake" and "accident." He said he'd pick us up in five minutes. He didn't show up and so we got a rickshaw home. Later we found out that he was in an accident and the van ended up in the shop for a week. The driver is ok.

Did I mention the curtains? I ordered them for the bedrooms and living room. First they called to say they couldn't get the shade that I ordered for our bedroom. "OK," I said, "a shade darker will be fine."

The next week I phone to see if they are all ready. The woman tells me "yes." I'm half way downtown (45 min.) when they call me to say, "No, the bedroom ones are still not ready." I go anyway to pick up the rest and they agree to courier others out to me.

That night Michael and I start hanging the curtains - they are all tab curtains so it is easy to do. Alanna's look great. Craig's - hmmm, about 5" too short. Living room - four curtains, all slightly different sizes, and two are definitely too short.

Four days later I receive our bedroom curtains by courier. They are fine. I go back to the shop and return Craigs' curtains as well as two for the living room. They agree to make completely new ones. Two weeks later I phone them to see if they are ready. Yes, but they didn't have an exact match for the living room so they went a shade lighter. Awkward silence. But they have made all four new ones so they will all match. That's where we stand now and hopefully tomorrow I will go down and pick them up.

Wow, all this in only two months. What next? The next twenty-two months should be quite entertaining, that's for sure. As for the mattress for the spare room - let's just hope it gets here before our guests at the end of the month.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reclining at the Movies

Who would have thought that going to the movies could be so luxurious? In India there are different classes of theaters to choose from when you want to see a movie: Classic, Europa and Gold.

Classic is much like the movies in Canada - a seat and a drink holder. Europa has wider, plush seats with a drink holder. Both of these are comfortable and adequate. But if you want luxury and service - go for the Gold! Huge, wide reclining leather seats. And when I say reclining I mean flat out on your back reclining.

The experience starts once you have purchased your ticket and go into the Gold lounge area to preorder food (popcorn, drinks, candy, chicken burgers, nachos etc.). The theater itself is small, with a limited number of preassigned seats. The kids were pretty excited when they saw the seats (we didn't realize we were going for Gold) and how far back they reclined. We got nice and comfy in our chairs and waited for the popcorn and drinks to arrive and the movie to start.

The screen lit up with the words, "Please stand for the Indian National Anthem." Darn, we all had to find the controls to upright the chairs, put shoes back on and stand up. It was actually a lovely rendition. Check it out:

Back to the supine position and the movie started. A few minutes later the food was brought in and served on our individual tables. All in all a nice treat. Cost was about Rs 600 ($13) each, which included Rs 100 each for food. Comparable to western prices if you include food.

If you don't want to pay as much and don't need the luxury, Classic cinema is Rs 150 and Europa is Rs 175. So far we've been to PVR Cinema at Forum mall, Koramangala which has 11 theaters, and Fame Theater at the new Forum Value Mall in Whitefield, with five theaters. Oh, and it's always a good idea to check online and see what language the movie is playing in.