Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Updates

More Updates

1) I have updated my Bangalore Restaurant Guide and Book Recommendations.

2) I had my first yoga class with  my original teacher. She had moved back to her home country in July but miraculously she is back!One and a half hours of torture - wow - this is not hoity toity relaxation, deep breathing yoga (not that there is anything wrong with that). This is serious Iyengar Yoga and you must work every muscle and every part of your body. It's one of those "if it hurts so bad, it must be good for you" things. And it is. You know that you are doing each asana properly as she spends time with each of us (3 in the class today) making sure each body part is in proper alignment. So the "hurt" is from doing it properly, not from doing it "wrong."

3) Today the headlines scream "Ayodhya verdict will end six-decade-long wait. It's tomorrow @ 3:30pm." They have declared Thursday and Friday school "holidays" so the kids will be home. I really hope they do proceed and give the verdict this time because my kids have mid-term exams next week. At least they now have a four day weekend to study - that's not a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update on Posts

1) Yesterday my post was in regards to the Ayodhya verdict. I really didn't think the verdict would come in today but around 1:45pm we heard that the verdict would be announced at 2:00pm. And the verdict is..."likely to be pronounced by the High Court on September 30th."

So once again people cancelled events and worried about religious conflict - and nothing happened. We had an OWC charity event this morning and I am so glad that we did not cancel it. And certainly they will not announce on Thursday, right before the Commonwealth Games start - especially now that Camilla and Charles are in the country (see #2).

2) A few weeks ago Michael and I spent two days at Soukya Holistic Health Centre. Guess who's staying there now -  Camilla Parker Bowles, (Prince Charles wife). Other famous people have stayed there as well: Sting, Tina Turner and Sarah, the Duchess of York to name a few.

3) And the most exciting update of them all - my yoga teacher Osnat is back - and she is starting classes again tomorrow! Can't wait!

Monday, September 27, 2010


The ongoing Ayodhya debate here in India is making my head spin. The judgement from the courts was supposed to be made last Friday. Since this is a religious disagreement between the Hindus and Muslims, outbreaks of violence were anticipated. Last Wed., two days before the decision was to be made, the government declared Friday and Saturday a "holiday" for schools.

The children would be staying home on Friday. Not a big deal but we also had plans to do a Habitat for Humanity build (as a family) on the Saturday. We worried that it would be cancelled now too.

However, late Thursday afternoon (come on, keep up with me now) the courts decided to postpone judgement until Tuesday, Sept. 28th. Shortly after that we received an email from the school saying, "school is back on." The kids weren't thrilled, but off they went to school and we looked forward to Habitat on Saturday.

However, Friday night much to our disappointment, we received an email cancelling Habitat because the organizers felt there still might be some unrest in the village. They didn't want to risk 45 foreigners getting in the middle of a religious confrontation.

I guess I should quickly mention what the Ayodhya debate is. The main issues (and we're going back centuries here) revolve around a temple built at the birthplace of the Hindu God Lord Ram. When a Muslim emporer defeated the Hindu King in 1527, the temple was torn down, and the Babri Mosque was built on the same site. Fast forward to 1992 when the mosque was demolished by Hindu radicals who believe it is a sacred Hindu site.

Hindu or Muslim? The courts are supposed decide tomorrow. But no "holiday" has been declared for the children, in fact there has been almost no news about it at all. We suspect that the decision will continue to be delayed - with the Commonwealth Games next week and then Obama's in India, and then it's Diwali - just too much going on. I don't think they can risk anymore bad press right now.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Commonwealth Games

"Sheila Dikshit made the Canadian news!"
Yes, my husband felt it necessary to tell me this - at 5:30am this morning as he scrolled through the Canadian news on his phone - while lying in bed.
The only thing I asked was, "How did they spell her name?"

Sheila Dikshit is Chief Minister of Delhi, but we've noticed that the papers sometimes spell her name Dixit. Split personality? A bit of a complex?

As it turns out Sheila Dikshit has been brought in to clean up the mess at the Commonwealth Games. Have you seen the pictures of the Athletes Village?

Oh, I know the feeling. The day before we moved into our house I came to see how it looked - it looked like a war zone. Paint was everywhere, dirt was everywhere, it was a mess. The painters were frantically rolling - the ceilings, the walls - with nothing to protect the floors or windows or anything else for that matter. Paint was being flung everywhere, including on themselves. The cleanup team (which consisted of one or two cleaning ladies) was busy scraping paint off the floors, the windows etc. and washing everything down.

I've seen the pictures of the bathrooms in the athletes village - it doesn't surprise me in the least. And it doesn't surprise me that the Indian people (in charge) see this as a minor problem - along with a roof and a bridge falling down. IT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS.

India is India. There are 1.2 billion people living here, a good portion of whom don't sleep on mattresses, but floors. Some have toilets, but many use squat toilets and many still use nothing but the great outdoors. People eat to live and they work their butts off to send their children to hole-in-the-wall public schools.

Progress is being made in a snails pace. India has been doing things their way for thousands of years. Things don't get things done ahead of time. Yes, yes, the politicians would have told the International Organizing Committee that everything would be done ahead of time, but anyone who knows the "Indian way" would know that it was all talk and the bobbing of heads. In other words the IOC should have spent more time here learning how things are done. Instead of having the requisite "three cups of tea," they obviously only had one.

Now that push comes to shove, Sheila Dikshit has come in with 1000 workers (probably paid $1/day) and 5 star hotel managers to get the place up to international standards - with one day to go!  And they'll probably get it done, to the best of their ability, in the little time they have. 

As for the athletes - good luck with the air conditioning, the electricity, the hot water and so on and so on. This will be an experience of a lifetime for the them. Sport is about endurance, and this surely will be about who can endure what. However, I have a feeling no one is going to remember these games for the sports - but for the life experience - which is what life in India is all about, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ganesh Festival - The Life Cycle of a Ganesh Statue

The Ganesh Festival is one of my favorites and this year I have seen it from beginning to end. Here's the low down on the life cycle of a Ganesh statue:

It all starts with mud.

In Pottery Town potters start making Ganesh statues six months in advance. They churn out fingers and toes, bellies and trunks and heads.

Eventually all the parts are put together: big and small, painted and unpainted, simple and ornate. Some are funny, some are happy, some are scary.

Ganesh is one of the most popular Hindu Gods: the God of wisdom and good fortune; the destroyer of sorrows and the remover of obstacles.

Every family carefully chooses a Ganesh statue to take home. Villages build "pandals," small tentlike structures, to house a larger Ganesh - where everyone can go and worship Ganesh together. It is very much a festival-like atmosphere. Impromptu dancing and music are very much part of the celebration.

The festival carries on for eleven days. During that time everyone chooses a day (certain days are more auspicious than others of course) to gather together - whether it be a small family or the entire village - and take the revered statue to a lake, ocean, river and immerse the statue in water. Sometimes it becomes a procession with drums and singing and Ganesh's pulled along the city streets on tractors. Sometimes it is a small Ganesh carried in a plastic bag.

At the lake puja usually occurs: some chanting, clapping of hands, ringing of bells and lighting of a flame. A coconut is cracked open and an offering of food and flowers is given.

Finally the statue, be it big or small, painted or unpainted, simple or ornate, is dunked into the water three times and then completely immersed and let go under the water...

where it eventually disolves...

...and becomes mud...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Soukya Holistic Health Centre

Michael and I spent a night at Soukya Holistic Health Centre. I blogged about it a few weeks ago when I went there on a tour with the OWC. I was impressed with the entire facility and intrigued enough to want to try it out. Whereas most people go there for a minimum of two weeks, we only went for two days. Still it was an interesting experience into a different way of looking at preventitive and acute health care.

We arrived at 7:15am and were each given a gorgeous flower garland, quickly shown to our room and then whisked off to the yoga hall for an hour of "loosening of the joints" and asanas led by a Naturopathic Doctor.

Breakfast was followed by a Dr.'s consult and an ayurvedic massage. Since we were there for such a short time and we are relatively healthy there was not much feedback from the Dr.

Many of the other people staying at the Centre were there for medical/wellness reasons: MS, chronic backpain, arthritis, digestive problems. Some were on a "medical tourism package" and had surgery in Bangalore and then were at the centre to recover and take advantage of holistic post op treatments. They were staying anywhere from two to five weeks and many had been there before. Those staying for long periods would have a full holistic workup done and treatments specific to their condition.

Being an OR Nurse, I found it fascinating and couldn't help compare this highly individual treatment to our western highly impersonal treatment. In the west a patient is commonly known as "an appendectomy", cancer of the stomach or "the gallbladder." Patients wait all day to see the Dr. and are given as little time as possible because there are so many others the Dr. must see.

Here at Soukya, Dr.s know your name, they teach yoga.. Oils and herbs and treatments are made to suit the individual and time is given to each person on a daily basis.

Diet is also important. No meat, no alcohol, no coffee. Michael may have found this a little difficult as he asked me if I had packed any chips or cookies, and talked about steak and coffee far too much. One would have thought he was going through the DT's...and that was just the first day.

Yoga meditation at 4:30 - 5:30 was different. We sat cross legged for the entire hour and did breathing and eye exercises. Michael lasted 1/2 hr and left feeling neaseous and unable to sit in that position so long. Even I had a difficult time and my right leg fell asleep - I had to keep crossing and uncrossing.

The second day was a similar routine but our treatment was reflexology and mud packs to the eyes (for the eye muscles?)and abdomen (for digestion). I must say Michael enjoyed the treatments more than the yoga and infact he didn't go to yoga the second day. Too bad because I know he would have loved the afternoon meditation session which turned out to be yogic sleeping!

We lied down the entire time and did breathing and visualization. One is not actually supposed to sleep, but in this state when done properly, it is supposed to be the equivalent of six hours of deep sleep - it was wonderful!

All in all a really unique experience, highly recommended for anyone who has a medical condition or has a family history of a particular disease (they also treat eating disorders etc. etc.). For those who want to try a different type of health care - preventitive or acute.

The rooms are lovely, it is calm and relaxed atmosphere. The grounds are well kept with lots of flowers and trees. Food is limited in choice but vegetarian and healthy: they grow all their own organic herbs and vegetables. The ayurvedic oils are made on site as well. Two thumbs up from both of us.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bangalore Pottery Town

Click for the most recent version: Bangalore Pottery Town

Last week a group of us went to Pottery Town for a photography course. The last time I really took photos manually was with my old Contax. Since the days of film are long gone, that camera sits back in Canada in a storage locker. Up until last Christmas I had resorted to 'point and shoot' cameras, but here in India where I take so many photos, I wanted more options and the ability to take manual photos again.

For Christmas last year Michael got me my Nikon 5000 and although I like the feel of it, I've been rather lazy, using mostly the automatic setting - basically 'point and shoot.' So when I heard about this photography course to Pottery Town, I jumped at it. Then I sat down and quickly reviewed appeture, shutter and other manual settings.

The course was just what I needed and Pottery Town was such a great little place to take photos. At any time of the year the potters can be found molding their wares but right now it is particularly exciting. Elephant-headed Ganesh statues of all sizes and colors are sculpted in time for Ganesh Chaturthi, the 10-day festival that begins this week.

Every family will buy a Ganesh statue, worship it for the ten days and then at the end they immerse it in a body of water - a lake or the ocean.

We walked around the small village, trying out different settings, trying to get some depth and movement in the photos. All year round the potters make clay cups for drinking, clay pots, masks, and for Diwali - diyas, which are small candleholders. Their wares are on their balconies, in front of homes and on the sidewalks waiting to be sold.

This young man goes to college until 2:00pm and then comes homes and churns out about 500 small diyas a day. He was nice enough to let us take photos of him at work and then even let us get our hands dirty and  have a try - it's not as easy as it looks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Last Day at Hampi

On our last morning we got up to go to Anegondi but when got to the river (about 9:00am) the coracles hadn't started running yet. Disappointed but we ended up going for an excellent walk from the Vittala Temple to the Virupaksa Temple.

It is an easy 45 minute walk through temple ruins and boulders and then along the river.


From the river the path leads up to Hampi Bazaar near the Nandi Statue. So we had an excellent breakfast of banana, chocolate, coconut pancakes in the town and then back to our hotel to ready ourselves (mentally) for the drive home.


We went a different route home, near the town of Bellary, and the road was more of a country road but very little traffic. So it was an uneventful drive and took about 7 hrs to get home. Lesson learned (from the 11hr drive to Hampi) - don't travel at night and we probably won't be driving anywhere further than Mysore (3 hrs).

All in all Hampi was a really good trip, lots of ruins, lots of boulders to climb and a nice laid back feel to the town of Hampi Bazaar. A couple notable and casual restaurants:
  • Mango Tree has terraced seating overlooking the river - good thali's.
  • New Shanti

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hampi (Day 3)

On the third day we spent quite a bit of time at the Vittala Temple, a sprawling set of carved pavillions, gateways and towers. The 'piece de resistance' is the stone chariot made from granite blocks.

Outside the temple gates is a rectangular pond surrounded by ancient pillars where we had a little time to relax and find some shade.

And the boulders in this area begged climbing and were the perfect place for Craig to try out his new slingshot. We climbed up here for sunset.

We spent the day visiting many smaller temples, so many stories to tell in the carvings.

We planned to get a coracle (circular boat) over to Anegondi and followed some sadhus (wandering Indian holy men) down to the river. Here we watched two men put their motorbikes in the coracle, then they got on and sat on the bikes. Next the four sadhus got in, a bunch of other passengers and the two rowers.

I know, I know, we could have fit in too but of course I wanted to get a shot of them sailing away. We were hot and tired and decided to leave Anegondi for the next day.