Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's in the News?

Here's what is in the news:

INDIA THREATENS TO RETALIATE AGAINST CANADA (Front page headline)
It appears the Indians are angered after some visa applications to Canada have been denied. Members of the BSF (Border Security Force) and IB (Intelligence Bureau) have had their visa's rejected due to "human rights violation" or because the group is "notoriously violent" and they may "endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada." India is threatening to deal with Canadian citizens in a similar fashion if they do not apologize.
Does that mean if we leave the country they won't let us back in? Or maybe...they won't let us leave.

BANGALORE BEST FOR EXPATS (Front page)
Bangalore is the best Indian city for expats according to a global list of cities compiled by Mercer for 2010. Number 1 in India but number 140th/221 overall. They did an Eco-city Ranking also and Bangalore was the top Indian city again but number 198th/221 overall. The Eco ranking was based on water availability, waste removal, air pollution and traffic congestion. Hmm, not so good. I think we'll check out the best ranked cities for expats next time: Vienna, Zurich and Geneva. Looks like we are better off than last place Baghdad though.

STOLEN ATM FOUND ABANDONED NEAR LAKE
Yesterday an ATM was stolen from a bank without disturbing the security guards who were sound asleep. The ATM was not fixed to the wall or floor which made the burglars' job easy. The article today states the ATM has been found but they aren't sure if any money was stolen...gee, I wonder?

THE CRASH OF AIR INDIA EXPRESS IX-812
This is the flight from Dubai to Mangalore that crashed on landing. 158 of about 164 people died. Air India staff called off a two-day strike after management fired 17 leaders and suspended 15 engineers. The company had announced a gag order which prompted the flash stike. Previously there were many accusations of lax maintenance and not enough staff to safely maintain all the Air India planes.

RISE OF OLD AGE HOMES IS A DISTURBING TREND
Tradionally Indian parents stay with their children when they get old. On one hand the trend of "dumping" parents in old age homes exists only in a limited way. Children may not have the time to take care of their parents at home and parents feel neglected. Sometimes the parents prefer to be in an old age home and the stigma attached to institutional facilities appears to be fading. Still many believe this is the minority and agree that homes that take in elders who are left alone are doing a great service.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Books set in India

Book list last updated April 25, 2013

2 States
the story of my marriage
by Chetan Bhagat
3 stars
An easy read recommended by Indian friends because "it is so real." It is a somewhat humorous tale of a north indian boy and a south indian girl who fall in love and then have to convince their families that they are a worthy match. An interesting and sometimes unbelievable look into the world of Indian marriages.

A Fine Balance
by Rohinton Mistry
5 Stars
One of the best books ever written: follows a group of Indians during the 1970's during political turmoil. We experience their dreams, hopes and realities through Mistry's incredible gift of words.

City of Joy
by Dominique Lapierre
4 Stars
I read this book the first time I was in India in 1990. The descriptions of street scenes, smells and sounds were so vivid and accurate. Tells the tale of life in a Calcutta slum; the people who live there and people who give tirelessly to help them. Uplifting.

Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
4 Stars
A divorced woman travels for a year in Italy, India and Bali. Humorous, spiritual. Based on a true story.

The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
4 1/2 Stars
This book is all about the writing style - the author has a unique style and has meticulously scrutinized every sentence...every word. One must take the time to truly read this book - skimming is not an option. A simple story written in a complicated way that revolves around three children: "two egg twins" and one who dies. Family dynamics, race and caste all play a part in this intriquing story that shifts back and forth in time - finally coming together in the end.

Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure
by Sara Macdonald
3 Stars
Australian expat describes two years living in Delhi and her travels around India sampling the different religions. Easy read, humorous. Based on a true story.

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found
by Suketu Mehta
I found this book difficult to get into but well worth the effort. Mehta moves back to Bombay after living in New York for many years. He interviews people from all walks of life: hitmen, policemen, politicians; Jains, Hindus, Bollywood stars and bar girls; people who will do anything to get rich, and those who give it all away. Real stories about real people: absolutely intriguing.

Secret Daughter: A Novel
by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
3 Stars
Two parellel stories are told. One starts off in an small Indian village, where a young woman gives birth to a baby girl. Her husband killed the last girl she gave birth to; they cannot afford to raise a girl. This time Kavita steals away and leaves the baby at an orphange. The second part of the story tells of the American woman and her Indian husband who go to Mumbai and adopt the baby girl. Decisions and consequences. A simple read that leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

Shantaram
by Gregory David Roberts
3 1/2 Stars
An Australian prison escapee lands in Mumbai and shares an unbelievable set of experiences: living in the slums and setting up a free health clinic, ending up in jail, working for the mafia, and even fighting with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. Based on a true story.

Toss of a Lemon
by Padma Viswanathan
3 1/2 Stars
Insight into the life of a Brahmin widow and life within the family. Based on a true story.

The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga
The story is told from the perspective of a driver of an expat couple living in India. Well written, humorous and insightful. Apt to cause expats to be a bit paranoid.

On My List to Read

A Suitable Boy
by Vikram Seth

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wonderla

We spent a day at Wonderla this past weekend. It is an amusement park with water slides and dry rides as well. We had a lot of fun, starting off with a few dry rides. I must say the Indian people do like to have a good time. We went on one sort of "haunted house" style ride called the Dungeon Ride - the four of us were in the front of the "car" and then two more rows of locals (adults) behind us. They hooted and hollered the whole time. It was hilarious.

We spent most of our time at the water slides. There was one little glitch that I had not forseen. The Indian women don't wear bathing suits. They either sit on the side and watch or they go in the water fully clothed, usually wearing a salwaar kameez (knee-length top over loose pants). I was quite perturbed at first because I had my bathing suit on, with a skirt and top over. There was no way I could just wear my bathing suit and there was no way I could wear my skirt on the slides.

Luckily Alanna was wearing shorts, so I stole them from her. Well, she's twelve and a lot smaller than me. At least I could get them on but I couldn't do them up. Luckily (again), I had a long enough top to hide the top of the shorts. Alanna is young enough that she could get away just wearing a top over her bathing suit. Actually, even a lot of the men wore their clothes in the water.

The waterslides were a lot of fun, some straight down, some where you lie down and then some where you can go on tubes. The last one we went on was the funnest: the log ride. When you hit the water, water shoots up all around you...and you get soaked!

Unlike other water parks there was no where to lie down and sun bath. It was more a Disneyland type of park; line up, go on a ride and then go to the next ride. There were lots of slides and rides that we didn't have time to go on. I'm sure we'll be back again some time soon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Andaman Tragedy

Just found out that a 25-year-old woman from the USA was killed by a saltwater crocodile just off Neil's Cove on Havelock Island on April 28th. It is so sad and such a creepy feeling knowing that we were just there in March. We snorkelled and swam right there at Neil's Cove. Anyway, just wanted to mention it, apparently there have been 24 croc attacks in 25 years. This article doesn't mention the location but I did read it in another article: Here is the link:

http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/world/crocodile-attack-kills-us-student_100361046.html

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The "Two Wheeler"

The "two wheeler," also known as the motorbike or scooter can be used for many things...in India. Technically it may have only two seats - but there's so much room. And technically you are supposed to wear a helmet - well the driver usually, well sometimes does. Have a look at some common sites and uses for the two wheeler:







I thought this guy was putting on his helmet, but nope, he left it like that as he drove down the street.








And my brother's favorite - the classic Royal Enfield - this ones for you Steve! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yoga

“Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” B.K.S. Iyengar


Initially, when we moved to India last June, I didn’t want to join anything. I didn’t want to feel like I had to be somewhere at a certain time. I wanted to be free to go here or there on a whim and not be chained to a schedule.

But then after Christmas I realized the impossible had happened – weight gain in India! So I started to go to the gym once in a while. Friends of mine had started taking yoga and raved about it. I still put it off but in February I decided the gym wasn’t all that fun, maybe I should give yoga a try.

I called up the yoga instructor and she said she had an opening for an 8:00am class.

“How about 9:30 I asked?” I didn’t mention that I'd rather have my coffee and read the paper or watch Friends reruns at 8:00am. But, no luck. So I told her to call if she had any openings for later classes.

Well, she didn’t call. So a few weeks later I called again and said I would try it, even at the earlier time. I went and I haven’t looked back. In fact the early classes are much better. You are supposed to wait three hours after a meal to do yoga or an hour after a snack. Thus, the earlier the better otherwise you starve. And it’s true, with all the twisting and turning it doesn’t feel good to do yoga on a full stomach.

Now, I’m totally on the yoga bandwagon. I’ve bought two books on yoga and I’m doing it at home, as well as classes twice a week (1 ½ hours each). I think it is such good way to keep fit. It strengthens every part of your body and it feels good. Unlike going to the gym where you feel exhausted at the end of it, with yoga you feel rejuvenated, like you are doing something really good for the body.

Problem: my yoga instructor is leaving in July! I’m so disappointed. I’ll have to find someone else but so far I haven’t found anyone that teachers the type of yoga I am doing: Iyengar Yoga. The closest teacher seems to be in Jayanagar, an hour from my house. Not only that but the class is Sunday mornings at 8:00am. So far Sunday morning coffee looks like it is going to win out, but you never know…

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Yahoo Groups

Until I moved to Bangalore I was never a member of any yahoo group. Now I'm linked to four: one for the OWC, one for our gated community, and one for parents to communicate for each grade at the school. The idea is to communicate events or concerns. Of course it can turn into more than that.

The Gr. 7 group is pretty non vocal but the Gr. 5 parents are another story. Next year our kids go from PYP (primary) to MYP (middle school) which means they move to a different building (with evil big kids, grade 6-8) and will get different teachers for different subjects. Well, the emails from parents - "how will our children handle this?" Concern that they will get "too much homework," or "they will not get enough homework" and the biggest concern seemed to be about choosing second lanquages and how they are taught.

That settled down and now the big issue is a program that the school is implementing OLPC (one laptop per child). Of course the group has been in an uproar, "it will be too heavy to carry," "will the children still be taught to write?" (seriously?) "my child will be on the computer too much." (not if you monitor them).

As for our "gated community" the Yahoo issue has been regarding clubhouse fees - owners feel they are too high and have banded together not to pay the fees until certain measures have been taken: decrease in fees, more lounge chairs at the pool (that seems to be a big issue), and better pool maintenance. Good for them for sticking together and fighting for what they want.

But now that memberships are past due, some people who haven't paid are trying to sneak in anyway and then it becomes a show down when they get caught and security forces them to leave. Well, you know, if you are trying to take a stand - don't try and get the service for free. We, on the otherhand have the fees included in our rent so I guess we are going to "cross the picket line" and enjoy the facilities.

Most often the groups are informative about upcoming events, items for sale, and even warnings to keep doors closed due to snake sightings. The biggest problem is those that "reply" instead of posting a "new message" as the thread becomes nauseatingly long.