Sunday, December 10, 2006

Typos Explained

Anyone who has ever worked with me will tell you I'm a stickler for punctuation and typos. As I've blogged about previously, India is the land of typos. Today, we saw a great one; a safety sign telling us that 'joy walking is dangerous'..... I guess if you're too happy, you may stumble into the road and get hit by a passing rickshaw. And the newspapers here continue to be full of them, which is why this quote on my google page today really made me laugh: "Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren't distracted by the total lack of content in your writing". - Randy K. Milholland That explains it all!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Strawberry Fields Forever

It was 26 years ago today, Mark David Chapman blew John Lennon away... many people remember where they were when the two Johns were assassinated - JFK and Lennon. I only remember the latter, being at school in Leeds, sitting next to a girl in class who was a huge Lennon fan, complete with glasses and CND symbols on her schoolbag. I can't remember her name, but I certainly remember her pain, as it was only years later I too was to become a fan of the man who was taken from us that day. This time last year, on the 25th anniversary of his death, we were still living just steps from the scene of the crime, the Dakota Building, and from Strawberry Fields, the part of Central Park dedicated to him with its iconic Imagine mosaic that hundreds, and thousands last year, would flock to commemorating his passing. I had no idea on that dark day in Leeds in 1980 that I would be so close to where it all happened years later.

Living on the Upper West Side, Tom and I enjoyed Strawberry Fields immensely, having breakfast there and just watching the world go by, although he would joke that it was where all the freaks would hang out. But he would indulge me at times of sadness, like the anniversary of Lennon's death, and five years ago when George Harrison died, when our good friends Kerry and Maurice were also in town to witness the outpouring of grief from Beatles fans around the city. It was so close to our apartment that any walk/run into the park would necessitate a trip through there. In fact, so special is Strawberry Fields that Tom chose it as the place to propose to me four years ago last July, on the bench dedicated to Thom Hunter.

As I think about Strawberry Fields and John Lennon, it seems odd that in five years living in that neighbourhood we never once bumped into Yoko, who still lives in numerous apartments in the Dakota. That is until the day we were in the most obvious setting - on Broadway, my birthday, two years ago, with tickets to the ill-fated Ono produced musical, Lennon. There she was, diminutive and demure in her trademark white pant suit and floppy felt hat, just a few rows behind us. Behind us. Can't believe Yoko had worse seats than us! But it was the one and only time we saw her, despite sharing the same dry-cleaner on 72nd Street and the same deli for cigarettes! I loved our time in New York, for many reasons, but one was to be able to share this wonderful neighbourhood knowing that one of my heroes, John Lennon, had spent some of the happiest years of his life there. My local cafe, pharmacy, and bar, were all frequent haunts of his and despite me missing him by, oh, 20 years, his presence was still felt and shared by everyone there.

Had he still been alive today, I wonder what Lennon would have made of his neighbourhood, his adopted city, the US, the UK, and the state of the world. And how would he have been perceived: would he have been labelled anarchist, activist, or aging hippy? The more time passes after his death, the more his messages of peace and love seem to ring true, and the more they seem needed. He was the ultimate working class hero and let's hope his life and works will be remembered for another 26 years ... at least.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Weevils Wobble....

A friend of ours recently shared her horror at finding weevils in the weetabix (yes, you can get Weetabix here - lovely when mushed up with hot milk and sugar!) and since hearing that news, I've frequently found weevils in our jars of rice. If you've never come across a weevil, here's one, looking particularly menacing close-up. Upon googling 'weevil' they are apparently quite harmless. Or they spread e-coli. All depends which site you look at. Good news is that they don't live in the cupboard, they are actually already in the grain of rice, growing, before you even get it home from the supermarket. In fact, I picked up a bag of rice in our local supermarket the other day and it already had large weevils crawling in it! Free weevils with every purchase. Bargain. Bad news is that as it takes a while for them to come out of the grain, you and I probably cannot, or don't want to, count how many weevil pupae we've eaten over the years in their formative state. Marvelous. In Eastern folk medicine, weevils are believed to be capable of curing or relieving cancer, diabetes and AIDS amongst other diseases, by eating them. Surprisingly, there is no scientific background to back up this claim, but given that I have none of the preceding diseases, maybe it's preventative! Apparently, there is also an Indietronic (?!) band from Yorkshire, God's own county, going by the name of The Weevils too. Who knew? So, as tonight's weevil discovery are languishing in a trash bag well outside the apartment, I am adapting dinner from chilli con carne with rice to a spicy pasta dish. Last I heard weevils don't live in pasta, but I may just have to google and find out... after dinner!

A Christmas Mail Miracle

The mail in India is an interesting thing: letters from one end of the country to the other can take weeks, if they ever get there, while letters from the US to India can take mere days. And packages are a big problem: will they get here unopened, contents intact, or will they be opened, bits missing, and taxes due (depending on the contents, and the day of the week, it seems you can be taxed different amounts!) So imagine my surprise today when a Christmas card, mailed in the US a few days ago, arrived despite it bearing only the first line of our address, the suburb spelled completely incorrectly, no mention of Bangalore or the zip/post code, and India handwritten on the label as an after thought. It's sad to say, but this small mail miracle made my day!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

You're Never Too Old...

... to sit on Santa's lap! No, I didn't go specifically to see him - I spent this morning photographing kids on his lap at the Overseas Women's Club Christmas Bazaar, so I popped myself on there too! It was interesting to see the kids' reactions - some smiles, some tears, some terror. My mum tells me she once pulled Santa's beard off and I have memories of wanting to do the same. In fact, my sister-in-law Lauren told me that she was instructed to 'reverse her child' towards him so that he didn't get too scared! Is it really worth it? If he's that bad, and kids are that scared, don't go see him. In fact, just mail him a letter - or better still, email him. I did, and here's his reply...

Merrrryyyy Christmas Julie!!

Thank you for sending me your email all the way from Bangalore! The Net sure is wonderful because now I can get emails from Bangalore and around the world in the blink of an eye. Even Rudolph gets emails... from pets! Why, here's Rudolph right now! HO!! Ho!! ho!! He just asked me to say 'Hi!' to you!

Rudolph put this on personally, just for you Julie!Jumping Jingle Bells, Julie! Are you fibbing to ol' Santa Claus?!? You can't possibly be 40 years old already! Why it seems like only yesterday that I was leaving presents for a certain little girl and here you are now, practically one of Santa's elves! (*grin*)

Sorry the presents the last little while probably haven't been quite as exciting as they were when you were a little girl but, well, you know how these things go (*wink*). Anyway, Santa's glad to see some of the 'older kids' (not to mention anyone in particular!) still take the time to write. I also hear you've been a REALLY REALLY good girl. (Of course, you won't mind if I do a little checking, will you? HO!! Ho!! ho!!).

Let's see what you put in your letter for Christmas wishes: 1. horse; 2. diamond earrings and; 3. video camera. May all your Christmas wishes come true!HO!! Ho!! ho!! I see you'd like a special little friend for Christmas! Whether you want a real horse or just a pretend one, caring for a horse takes a lot of work and love! Santa and Rudolph want to make sure all pets are loved and cared for (just like you!) so, just to be sure, we'll have to check with your family to make sure its ok with everyone. I hope you'll talk to your family about getting a horse too. But remember, just because I can't bring you a horse this year doesn't mean you don't deserve one. Sometimes the horse you want needs extra special care or pets aren't allowed where you live. Of course, if you do get a horse for Christmas, the two of you will have to email Rudolph every year to let him know how you're doing!

Oops! I guess I shouldn't have had that last cookie because a button just popped right off my suit. I better go see if Mrs. Claus has any thread left! ho!! Ho!! HO!! Take care Julie and don't forget to come back and visit me here at on Christmas Eve!! And remember... only 30 more sleeps until Christmas!!

Forever and Always Your Friend,
Santa Claus

Thank you Julie for thinking of me!P.S. The reindeer say "Thank You!" for the nice treats! I hope you don't mind, but I had a bit of carrot and celery too. After all, even Santa eats his veggies!

P.P.S. I've attached a special postmarked copy of your email below so you can print it off and show it to all your friends or put it on your fridge.

Friday, November 24, 2006

If It Seems Too Good To Be True 2

So while we're on the subject of so-called bargains, here was the worst crime so far in India, and sacrilege, it involved alcohol! Sopexa, promoters of French food and wine, were in town to help educate the masses, and restaurant and hotel wait staff, about the joys of French wine. Of course, it's all about selling more French wine, but who cares about the marketing ploy when a glass of 'real' champagne (hard to get here and bloody expensive) was just Rs. 600 per glass (approx. $15). Quelle bargain! Excitedly, we ordered our wine and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually the champagne was carried into the restaurant like a newborn baby; waiters gathered round, oohing and aahing, but no-one daring to open it. The Sopexa rep cautiously carried the bottle to our table but to our horreur, instead of popping and pouring, she went onto show the fledgling cork-poppers how to open the bottle - complete with Q&A's! While I don't disagree that education is needed (how many times have we watched our champagne cork being 'popped' out of the bottle by the waiter's thumb, and at least a glass full of fizz go flying onto the floor) just don't do it in front of the punters! Eventually after protestation from the thirsty punters, they poured. Little by little, the fizz dripped into the champagne flute. Then it abruptly stopped. Not just an inch short of the top of the glass, but a good half glass short. Why? Because the promotion, we were told, was for a tasting size, not a full glass. Now, call me old fashioned, but I like to taste a full glass, sometimes a bottle, when I'm drinking fizz, but moreover, nothing in the promotional materials or wine list indicated that it would be a mouthful vs. a flute full. And how did the staff, then restaurant manager, handle our complaints? By telling us something could be done tomorrow - maybe. Not good enough! We recommended the simple solution of pouring a full glass to shut us up and then change their materials to avoid other misunderstandings. It worked, but after 40 minutes, I'm afraid the offer had lost some of its sparkle for us. If Sopexa is coming to a town near you, Bon Chance!

If It Seems Too Good To Be True...

... it probably is! Thank you Dr. Phil for reminding me of this as I succumbed to another great "Indian bargain". This deal was from a local salon offering the 'exclusive services' of hairdresser to the stars, Barney Martin from Australia. I booked my 'appointment and consultation' and, as someone who enjoys going to the hairdressers as much as getting my teeth pulled, was excited that a) I was getting my 'western' hair cut by a 'western' hairdresser and b) that it was a snip at $20 vs. the price at his Australian salon (I am from Yorkshire, remember!)

I was soon reminded of Dr. Phil's salient comment when I learned that Barney wasn't actually cutting hair but 'overseeing' the Indian hairdressers. Every pun intended, I wigged out. No matter how much the lovely Barney reassured me that all would be well, I wasn't happy being a 'guinea pig'. A young hairdresser fiddled and snipped at my hair while the maestro moved from chair to chair supervising his students, and enough was enough. After a little chat with Barney (who, by the way is as Australian as me, i.e., from Yorkshire) he took over and gave me the best haircut I've had in India. Suffice to say I am booking in with Barney at his Sydney salon when we visit in 2007 and am looking forward to a not-so hair-raising experience!

Bucket Bath and Beyond

Here I am again, talking about baths. But this time it's not the long, luxurious soak, but the kind you can have everyday in India, courtesy of a simple plastic bucket and jug. It took me a while to figure out why there's always a bucket and a jug in every bathroom here, but there's no bathtub, or even a shower to step into; the bathroom floor is completely tiled and flat, with maybe a small one inch step down into the immediate shower area to stop mass flooding! My friends talk very matter of fact about taking a bucket bath; in fact, Aussie Fiona is ALWAYS preparing a bucket bath when we're on the phone, think she lives in one! And every time I go shopping I get a free bucket with something or other - I've never had so many, last count eight! So finally last week I took the plunge; after a couple of hours of gruelling riding needed more than a shower. I filled up the bucket with hot water, added a little Space NK bath oil (from my friend Sue last Christmas, not Bangalore!), and jug full by jug full, doused myself in the hot scented water. When I could finally scoop no more from the bucket, I poured that last remaining water over me from head to toe. What a treat! It felt (almost) as good as an hour soak in the tub at The Imperial. I was hooked! This is one of those things that you 'must try at home', even if you have a fabulous bathtub to wallow in. Three cheers for the humble bucket bath!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Welcome to our new home! Call it user error if you like, but our old blogspot was giving me nightmares, so we shifted home to here! Hope you like it. You can subscribe at the bottom of the page. Hope to read your comments soon!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Horse of the Year Show 2006

While you may be forgiven for thinking that this annual extravaganza takes place in England, this year was an exception: it actually took place this weekend in Bangalore when the adorable Slim Shady**, ridden by yours truly, scooped not one, but two, first place rosettes - and a medal - as Best Turned Out Horse and winner of the Adult Walk/Trot Dressage Test.

Tensions were high at the Embassy International Riding School as competitors from around the globe preened, plaited, and pampered their horses and ponies, preparing for tests like the Handy Pony, won by 9-year old Henry from Australia, and Adult Advanced Dressage Test, won by Equestrian and Bollywood Dancer, Eva from Sweden. Slim and I were entered in the beginner's dressage test and 'best turned out horse and rider' and despite my advancing years, it was my first competition in the horsey world. Mr. McGuire ably assisted in much of the grooming the day /night/morning before the test, with me focusing on the front end (plaiting of mane) and him bringing up the rear brushing the tail! All that brushing is actually very therapeutic. I'd prescribe it to anyone who's had a stressful day on the mean streets of Bangalore as your mind totally switches off and you are completely focused on the task in hand: there's a lot of horse to be brushed!

Slim looked amazing - shiny as hell and with a hair-do that any New York salon would be proud of! The day was great fun, shared with lots of friends, and it was truly a thrill to be rewarded for doing something I love: my first rosettes, medal, and certificates will form the start of my 'winning wall' which I hope will grow as my skills progress. Bravo Slim Shady, thanks to Tara my wonderful teacher, and here's to the next show!

** p.s. Slim Shady was NOT so adorable a few weeks ago when he flung me unceremoniously onto a fence, scraping and gashing my arm - but all is forgiven now!!! It was all my fault, I am sure!

Help The Aged

Forgive me if this is old news to people in the US, but I just discovered the site that helps you determine your real age. After a lengthy questionnaire and a wait of about one hour, I was horrified to learn that despite my vigorous horse riding, vitamin taking, and yoga nidra, I am three years older than my biological age!!! But not to worry, I am sure that the company has 1001 things to help me reduce my age AND reduce the size of my wallet! Take the test yourself; if nothing else, it makes you think about what you eat and do - or don't do - every day. Would love to hear your results!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Full Mary

I stared in amazement at my inbox today; news of the world's first pubic hair colouring kit just arrived via email. It was only a question of time before your "collars and cuffs" could match, but what really intrigued me was the name: Betty Beauty. You can have a blonde betty, a brown betty, a black betty, and a fun betty - that's hot pink - but why a Betty? Apparently, the company's founders used it because it was a pet name for a girl that college guys found attractive, so sadly it wasn't named after my mum, or Liz's daughter. In these parts we call it a Mary. It's a term that I've heard used for many years, but one which has taken on new meaning given that the top bikini waxer in Bangalore is called Mary. Her work is the Bangalore equivalent to the J.Sisters in New York at a mere fraction of the cost and globe trotting women from as far afield as Australia, the UK, and the US, make a beeline for Mary when they're in town. Who knows, perhaps one day "The Full Mary" will do for Bangalore what "The Full Monty" did for Sheffield!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's A Dirty Job...

There are some jobs that you just wouldn't wish on your worst enemy .... garbage collector, undertaker, pedicurist (I hate feet!), plumber (back to my blog on bathtubs), and even tax collector. It can't be a satisfying job: everyone thinks their taxes are too high, no-one wants to pay them, the minute you mention taxes everyone's eyes glaze over, the taxman is generally reviled, whichever country they are in, so how can someone enjoy this job? So on that topic, I was impressed this week by the way the Indian government is tackling the issue of non-payment of taxes and employing a new kind of tax collector: The Eunuchs. What a stroke of genius! Eunuchs, like the taxman, are feared and reviled in India, and going from door to door collecting money is one of those jobs that takes someone with real balls..... or not, I guess, in this case!!! Good luck to them - maybe the money they collect will help provide much needed infrastructure, more sanitary waste disposal, and homes and education for the poor. Go Eunuchs!

Tax authorities in one Indian state are attempting to persuade debtors to paying their bills - by serenading them with a delegation of singing eunuchs.

Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers.

Often unable to gain regular employment, the eunuchs have become successful at persuading people to part with their cash.

The eunuchs will get a commission of 4% of any taxes collected.

In Bihar's capital, Patna, officials felt deploying the eunuchs was the only way to prompt people to pay up.

We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy
Bharat Sharma
Patna official

"We are collecting taxes for the municipal corporation, collecting money from those who have not paid their taxes for years," said Saira, one of the eunuchs on the streets of Patna.

"Tax payment is necessary. When the corporation won't have any money how will they look after the people?"

Accompanied by police officers, the eunuchs approached shopkeepers and large defaulters on their first foray into tax collection.

"Pay the tax, pay the Patna Municipal Corporation tax," the eunuchs sang as they approached Ram Sagar Singh, who owed 100,000 rupees (£1,180), the AFP news agency reported.

Mortified by the commotion, Mr Singh reportedly agreed to pay up within a week.

The eunuchs collected about 400,000 rupees on their first day of work, authorities said, sharing 16,000 rupees (£188) amongst themselves.

Bharat Sharma, a revenue officer, told the Associated Press agency he was pleased with the eunuchs' work.

"We are confident that their reputation and persuasive skills will come in handy," he said.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Five Things I Miss About Home

We have just returned from a wonderful dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in town where we bumped into a dozen or so of our lovely ex-pat friends; it's so nice to feel familiar in a place that we have only been living for 11 months, and have only recently started calling 'home'. So with all this familiarity, what are the things we're missing about 'home' (for us, US/UK)? Aside from the obvious family and friends, and day-to-day culture, here's my rough list of things that spring to mind, in no particular order:

1. Kitchen Roll - In a country renowned for beautiful handmade paper, the Indians can't get this kind of paper right: it tears apart, dissolves, disintegrates, to the point that even our Indian maid complained about the Indian stuff we've got right now; 'good stuff' is available sporadically at the Dollar Store on Commercial Street (where bizarrely, everything costs $2, but who are we to argue?) or when your mum mails you some from the UK!

2. Nail Salons - Walk right in, sit in those lovely vibrating big chairs, pop your feet in the bubbly jacuzzi water, and get a mani pedi no hassle; all the best nail polish colours are there - Ador-a-ball, Geranium, Ballet Slippers - and the 'nail technicians' are the fastest in the west. Yes, you can get a good mani pedi here, at about a fifth of the cost BUT bring your own polish, put your feet in a plastic bowl, and be prepared for a sloooooower process than Manhattan.

3. Fresh Fruit and Veg - After years of not eating my greens, now is the time I want them but can't have them! Fresh fruit and veg is limited here, albeit a little more unusual - chow-chow is my latest find, a kind of gourd, I think, but tastes a bit like potato - and wonderfully priced - I pay just a couple of cents/pence for a big bunch of fresh herbs. But lettuce? Forget about it, it's not great, unless you're in a restaurant. Avocado? Bizarrely large and not quite what you're used to.

4. Great Wine at Good Prices - I was spoiled in New York; not only did I have the finest restaurants and wine bars on my doorstep, I worked for a wine company, with a fully stocked fridge in my office. Indian wine is fine, in fact, Grover's (the local vineyard) Red La Reserve is great - at just $10 a bottle at home, it's a bargain. And the Sula Sparkling is adequate. But even the lamest American wines (if you can get them) cost a pretty penny here, as a result of the government's 260% tax on wine. And that's the wines they are allowed to sell; there are so many restrictions on what is sold in which state, that restaurants have a hard time fulfilling and replenishing their wine list, resulting in you getting (fairly) good wine at great big prices. Shame on you, India!

5. Driving Miss Julie - So, I was never the best driver, but rarely had an accident (apart from the time I collided with a girl dressed as Santa - I think she had too much sherry!), and did get lost a little (Shorthills Mall to Princeton via Pennsylvania = not good!) but I miss driving! As anyone who's had the pleasure of driving with me will tell you, I can do 17 things at once - eating, smoking (those were the days), talking, singing, map reading, discussing meeting, changing gear, overtaking, thinking about next glass of wine... etc. Here, it's different. I spend more time in the car than ever before, but I'm not driving because of the crazy screwed up traffic system, what system, that makes it dangerous for anyone to even try. Our wonderful driver, Manoj, takes the traffic in his stride and is trained not to 'sound horn', despite the requests painted on every vehicle from a rickshaw to a truck to a car - to cattle! I cannot read in the car - blurgh - so try to use the time to make phone calls, relax, ponder my navel, or my favourite thing, sleep!!!

So, these are just five things, off the top of my head that I miss. I can think of 55 reasons to be here - and more - and will pen those soon. In the meantime, if anyone has wine, kitchen roll, and a Korean nail salon they can transport here - free of government restrictions - please feel free to do so!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grow Your Own

India is the land of typo's - not a day, nay an hour, goes by without you see a typo - in newspapers, on billboards, on shop signs, in marketing materials - it's relentless. My favourite of the day is this:

It comes hot on the heels of Tom and I spending a day looking a Bassett Hound puppies in Bangalore, courtesy of the lovely Priya at Winters Hill Bassetts Maybe we don't need a breeder, we can just grow our own???

Storm in a Bathtub

I love to stay in hotels. One of the best things when checking into a fabulous hotel is running a hot bubbly bath for myself. I have a bathtub phobia. It's weird, don't know why, or where it came from, but there are some bathtubs I can get in, and some I can barely look at. Our bathtub in Manhattan, for example, was a no-no: no matter how many times Tom scrubbed it, I barely took three baths in the three years we lived there. I did shower in it though, you'll be relieved to know. There is no tub in our apartment in Bangalore BUT it did take me a few days to get used to my own bathroom and its little quirks. So, when I go to a hotel, I look forward to a pristine white bathtub that I can while away a good half hour in. Some of the best bathtubs I have wallowed in were the marble tubs at The Imperial in Delhi or, very different, The Tabacon Spa in Arenal, Costa Rica, whose bathroom windows fully opened onto the jungle exposing the whole room so you felt like you were bathing outdoors. Both hotels cost under $200 per night at the time of travelling and are billed as luxury. Which leads me to the last 'luxury' hotel I stayed in, the 5-star Ashok in Delhi at $220 per night. The bathroom was so bad, that I was tempted to not even stand in the shower, let alone sit in the tub. The plastic bathtub was stained yellow, the plug was rusted, and the plastic curtain had seen better days. The rest of the bathroom lived up to the tub - the mirrors were tarnished, the toilet seat - which was 'sealed for hygiene' - was once white, I believe, although muddied by years of fingerprints, and even the light switches had been flicked by grubby fingers too many times. Click here for my full account of The Ashok. According to the Ashok website, "they don't build hotels of such grandeur any more". Thank goodness!

Living in India? That Won't Do Nicely!

I've been an American Express cardholder for many years, maybe even 15; I have a blue one, a gold one, a green one, and one that even gives you money, called a One. I am even told that I am pre-approved for a platinum one. But not a black one. That's a secret that not a lot of people know about. Anyway, the point is, that my gold card just expired and, as we're now on secondment in Bangalore, we asked for the card to be sent here. That'll do nicely? No, it won't. Apparently, India is an 'unsafe' country, according to Amex Customer Services, and they will not ship your card here, even though UPS (whom they use in the US to deliver cards) offers a very reliable service to and from Bangalore, as does FedEx, Blue Dart, TNT, etc. etc., nor will they transfer the card for pick up at an office even thought they appear to have one in all the major cities. What would happen, I asked, if I was travelling here and lost my cards, isn't there an Amex 'we'll replace your card and get you out of there in five minutes' policy? Sort of. They wouldn't send me a replacement card - India is 'unsafe' remember - BUT they would allow me ONE emergency payment. Who would I pay? The airline to get me home, the hotel to check out, the boutique selling that fabulous sequinned sari??? It seems ludicrous that a company like American Express, whose card is quite widely accepted here (as much as anywhere else, that is) and who have offices all over the country, cannot do a simple thing like ship a card here??? Presumably they are happy for their employees in India to work in an 'unsafe' country, and for all their cardholders to shop til they drop in an 'unsafe' country? Suffice to say, we had to make our own arrangements to get the cards here using UPS at a cost of $50. Will American Express reimburse me? I'm sure they won't do that nicely.

Let Sleeping Ex-Pats Lie

This week, I am learning Yoga Nidra - or 'psychic sleeping'. I am an excellent sleeper, as anyone who's ever lived with me, worked with me, or had to get me up in the morning, will testify, so why do this? The thing is, that you're not meant to go to sleep, you're meant to get somewhere inbetween. Herein lies the challenge. I am being taught the Swami Satyananda method by an interesting Australian woman called YogaRatna who spent many years in an Ashram and is now teaching all over the world. Yoga Nidra involves lying on your back, palms up, and relaxing (I'm good at this so far); in rotations, you tightly clench and relax your arms, legs, face, and entire body (going well so far) to show how relaxed they should be; then comes 'externalising' where you focus on the noises outside the room and body (in Bangalore, that's dogs barking, rickshaws honking, trucks revving up, construction clanking). So far so good, but here's the tricky bit: in rotation, you start to focus on the inside of all your different body parts. YogaRatna talks you through it, but the minute I start to focus on each little finger, toe, joint, etc., I fall asleep! There are about 18 people in the class and they were commenting yesterday on how someone was snoring... I am almost positive it wasn't me, but who knows? By the end of the week I am hoping to have overcome the sleepy bit and transported myself into a deep - non-sleeping - sleep. Watch this space zzzzzzzzzz.

Wagon Wheels

I was reminded of one of my favourite childhood nibbles, Wagon Wheels, when I was furniture shopping on Sunday afternoon. No, they weren't selling them in 'Woodpeckers' furniture shop on Whitefields Main Road, but they were selling a dispicable looking 'genunine' wagon wheel dining room table, complete with glass top and chairs. I went there looking for a table made of a temple door, or something equally Indian, but a wagon wheel? I've never even seen a wagon wheel in action in Bangalore, maybe a bullock cart wheel, but not a wagon wheel. It took me straight back to the scene in When Harry Met Sally where Sally's friend Marie is moving in with Harry's friend Jess; Harry's a little bitter about love having just seen his ex with her current guy and has this to say as Jess and Marie are unpacking their possessions together...

Harry Burns: Right now everything is great, everyone is happy, everyone is in love and that is wonderful. But you gotta know that sooner or later you're gonna be screaming at each other about who's gonna get this dish. This eight dollar dish will cost you a thousand dollars in phone calls to the legal firm of That's Mine, This Is Yours.
Marie: Harry.
Harry Burns: Please, Jess, Marie. Do me a favor, for your own good, put your name in your books right now before they get mixed up and you won't know whose is whose. 'Cause someday, believe it or not, you'll go 15 rounds over who's gonna get this coffee table. This stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale COFFEE TABLE.
Jess: I thought you liked it?
Harry Burns: I was being nice.

Suffice to say the wagon wheel dining table is still in the store, if anyone wants it. But where are those tasty chocolate wagon wheels? I remember eating them as a kid, and they were HUGE, but then they seemed to shrink (or did my hands get bigger?) and since leaving the UK in 2001, I haven't even had a sniff of one. Their website is 'under construction' which I guess means they are still in business? If anyone knows where to find them in Bangalore, please let me know!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Soaking Up Soukya

If your daily poison is high pollution, heavy stress, and a huge workload, then Soukya is the perfect antidote. Situated on the outskirts of Bangalore, about 17kms from the airport, and at least an hour’s drive from ‘downtown,’ it is billed as “the world’s first holistic healing centre of its kind.” Simply put, it’s heaven on earth that has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a cure for a serious complaint, or just a couple of days de-toxing after Christmas.

Soukya offers different systems of medicine such as Ayurveda and Homeopathy and a wide range of complementary therapies such as Yoga, Acupuncture, and Reflexology. It is owned and managed by world renowned holistic health consultant Dr. Issac Mathai and his wife, Suja Issac, a nutritionist. Among their guests and friends, they are proud to list Dr. Deepak Chopra, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and ex-wife Sarah, Duchess of York, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; quite a diverse bunch!

I arrived on Friday 13th with much trepidation; there’s a booze and cigarette ban, a lights out at 10pm policy, and no TV, so if you’re looking for a weekend of indulgence, better try newly opened Hotel Ista, which has a great poolside bar on the 4th floor and an international wine list to satisfy the most discerning palate.

Soukya is an unrivalled oasis of calm in Bangalore; the drive to the centre takes you through the over-crowded and polluted outer ring road (read: no lanes, no discipline, and often, no lights after dark), past the IT campuses of South Bangalore, through vibrant villages, and finally a barbed-wire-fenced factory. You know you’ve reached the 30-acre Soukya centre when flowering trees cascade over the outer fence and the sense of greenery and fresh air overwhelms you.

Centre-piece to Soukya is a wonderful lawned area complete with fountains, flowers, winding paths, and an azure-blue pool that would rival any 7-star hotel. The circular, open-sided yoga and meditation hall with its pointed thatched-roof is decorated with traditional mirror work, handcrafted tiles, and a giant sun motif that seems to be smiling down on you. The open-air dining hall, seating around 30 people, looks out across the beautiful lawns, and its wooden wind chimes tinkle from time to time, filling you with a sense of calm.

The centre has only 16 rooms, so there’s no chance of a scuffle over the sun-loungers, or melee over a yoga mat. The 12 deluxe rooms are well appointed with twin beds, functional bathrooms (if a little tired) and plenty of wardrobe space for those kaftans and Kurta. Each has a small private garden, with a couple of plastic chairs (sun-loungers would be lovely), and the pretty coconut tree in mine cast wonderful shadows on the lush grass as the sun went down. Bizarrely, grass is a rare commodity in ‘the garden city’, at least that you can call your own, so I certainly made the most of it.

A typical day at Soukya comprises an uplifting morning yoga session in the great hall at 7:30 a.m., followed by a hearty, well earned breakfast and the first of the day’s treatments. Depending on your schedule, you may have an afternoon of rest and relaxation or more treatments, a relaxing yoga session at 4.30pm, and a hearty evening meal.

The treatments at Soukya are plentiful, varied, and very professional. As I was booked on a package, my treatments were pre-set: On day-one, I was treated to a finely choreographed oil massage by two highly skilled therapists, who worked top to bottom and front to back (the front part being an anomaly for western guests – I only first encountered a frontal massage when I came to India; massaging of the stomach is said to be good for the digestion – not sure about the breasts!) This was followed by a quick personal sauna and a wonderful five-minute hydro-therapy treatment where seven large shower heads spraying water along my spine. Very relaxing. Day-two featured a reflexology session, an eye mask, and abdomen pack – the latter is applied to help digestion and flatulence; there seems to be a little ‘cause and effect’ situation going on at Soukya, given I had eaten cauliflower and beans at each meal the day before….

There is a wonderful list of ‘a la carte’ treatments which was only shared with me midway through day-two; it detailed every possible treatment, its benefits, and pricing, and would be a great idea for a little light reading when you’re tucked up in bed at 10pm. I splurged on a Rs.3800 75 minute hot stone massage. It was a wonderfully relaxing experience after which I could barely peel myself off the treatment bed.

The twice daily yoga sessions - relaxing in the afternoon and rejuvenating in the morning – are great for beginners. I tried ‘eye yoga’ which, for the uninitiated, literally means moving your eyes up and down, side to side, and round and round. Painful, but allegedly it strengthens the eye muscles; I am yet to be convinced, although combined with eye and nose washing, they may be onto something. While eye washing is quite straightforward using little eye-baths resembling egg-cups, nose washing is a less than graceful affair; a six-inch long mini-watering can filled with saline solution is tipped into one nostril and the contents flow out of the other. Breathing is done through the mouth – to avoid drowning, no doubt - and your head has to be carefully tipped to one side. After a couple of sessions at home, my sinuses felt very clear.

The food is Indian ovo-vegetarian (all grown organically on-site) and a typical meal comprised a deliciously thick carrot soup, cucumber salad, mushroom rice and four kinds of vegetable curries, finished off with fresh fruit, and washed down with lukewarm jeera (cumin) water which is an aid to digestion; try it, it tastes better than it sounds! The traditional Indian dosa’s at breakfast are delicious and, having had a little too much jeera water the day before, I tentatively inquired if they had tea with milk. Yes, they did, and, unlike 99 percent of Indian tea, it wasn’t pre-sweetened.

The staff is wonderfully attentive and nothing seems too much trouble; there’s always a smile on their face, whether they are therapists, doctors, gardeners, or wait staff. Even the animals are the best looking and happiest I’ve seen in India; there is a run of turkeys, ducks, chickens, and three cows, none of which will be eaten at Soukya! They have happy days ahead!

Sadly, running behind Soukya is a very-active train line. The railways in India are still very much alive and kicking, and it reminded me of a hotel in Modesto, CA, that actually placed a card in each room explaining, with no apology, that the heavy train traffic kept a wealth of businesses booming in the area. No such card at Soukya, so travel with ear-plugs, or, as I did, slip quickly into a deep slumber after a day of living well.

Soukya comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Soukyham’ which means ‘well being’ or ‘harmonious state of the mind, body, and spirit.’ In just two days, it certainly lived up to its name.

My two-day, one-night package at Soukya cost Rs.8900 (approx. US$200) and comprised all breakfast, lunch, and dinner, daily consultations with on-site doctors, two treatment sessions, two daily yoga classes, and use of all facilities, including pool and games room. Soukya is located at Soukya Road, Samethanahalli, Whitefield, Bangalore 560 067, India.

Tel: +91 (0) 80 7945 001/2;;

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Christmas is Coming!

I was reminded today of how quickly the year rolls by. Even though according to my google home page, it's 81 degrees in Bangalore, a mild 57 in New York, and a positively balmy 64 in Leeds (all the cultural capitals of the globe are listed on my page...) it's Christmas time on the L.L.Bean website! As I peel off another layer in the Bangalore humidity, I was reminded by email that 'holiday season' is just around the corner, and invited to do some shopping on their website. As yet, there is no branch in Bangalore, so I will have to be content with online shopping for my inlaws and friends in the States. Folk, look out, some pink shearling slippers may be winging their way to you - soon! For my part, please send more mosquito repellant, sunscreen, and J.Crew vests!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I was so happy when I came home last night - I found that our maid Satya had done 'Rangoli' on our threshold! No, it's not something I could fire her for, it actually traditional Indian floor art! The term rangoli is derived from words rang (colour) and aavalli ('coloured creepers' or 'row of colours'). It was traditionally done for special occasions, but now it's an expression of warm hospitality, so it's common to have a design on your doorstep. One important point is that the entire pattern must be an unbroken line, with no gaps to be left anywhere for evil spirits to enter, so it's not that easy to do! It also has a religious significance, enhancing the beauty of the surroundings and spreading joy and happiness all around. There are many different Rangoli designs, such as trees and flowers, geometric patterns, and animals. It's beautiful!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Happy Teachers' Day!

Today is Teachers' Day in India. Not that I am a qualified teacher, but I am doing my bit to help the English skills of some of the students at Oasis India. Three members of my immediate family are 'real' teachers - Tom's Mom, youngest sister Megan, and brother-in-law Jim - I wish them well and hats off to them. It is not an easy job! Here is a little background on the day in India, and why it is celebrated today. I do think though that the person writing this should have paid a little more attention in class as 'mold' is not something I think I want done to me or my children!

Teachers mold the lives that they influence. Lessons learned from teachers remain with their students throughout life. Teachers that break down barriers and reach into the souls of the students that they are responsible for do not get the recognition or gratitude they have earned. Many teachers are exhausted from their workload and responsibilities. They have their own families, financial and life stresses that challenge them along with everyone else. We should always respect our teachers. Teachers need encouragement and support from the community to feel that their devotion to students is appreciated.

In India 5th September is celebrated as Teachers' day. 5th September is the birthday of a great teacher Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. When Dr. Radhakrishnan became the president of India in 1962, some of his students and friends approached him and requested him to allow them to celebrate 5th September, his "birthday". In reply, Dr, Radhakrishnan said, "instead of celebrating my birthday separately, it would be my proud privilege if September 5 is observed as Teachers' day". The request showed Dr.Radhakrishnan's love for the teaching profession. From then onwards, the day has been observed as Teachers' Day in India.

Bat Out Of Hell

No, this is not a reference to the classic Meatloaf song of the 80's (although it was a good, it wasn't quite as good as Meatloaf and Cher together doing Dead Ringer for Love .... Ah, Alan Preece, those were the days!) Anyway, I digress. Tom and I now own a 'bat out of hell.' This is the only way to describe this modern torture device that lets you systematically fry mosquitoes and other such nuisances like big fat black flies that seem to be taking over our new apartment (well, we had three in tonight... but I am the person that complained we had an infestation of roaches in NYC when we had two in the kitchen...) The bat resembles a child's tennis racket and our very sophisticated version, costing approx $8, has a torch in the handle as well as a button that sends a shock through the bat to literally 'fry' anything you decide to swat. After much practice, I have decided that it fries mosquitoes instantly, but fat flies take a little longer and play dead, stunned for a while, then fly off to die and be fried again elsewhere. It is pretty barbaric especially as the victims frazzle quite visibly on the bat and I could even smell burning after one of Tom's particularly violent outbursts with it. We will be bringing them to the UK and US as gifts, especially for the children, who would have hours of fun with them!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Back to Blogging

How many times in PR presentations have I quoted the statistic that the average life of a blog is one day? Well, at least my initial foray into the blogging arena lasted a little longer - one month, to be precise. Perhaps it's a testament to the wonderfully packed schedule that Tom and I enjoy here in India, or maybe it's a sign that I am spending way too much time in the car getting from A to B and drinking too much Sula Sparkling Wine to really put my time to good use? Either way, I am committing to try and maintain some semblance of regularity on the blog front so that at least I can remember what our time here was like. Since last blogging in April, just after Raj Kumar's sad demise, we have experienced many amazing things which I will write up in due course. But as an overview: together, Tom and I have spent many wonderful hours on (and off) horseback, honing our skills at the Embassy Riding School; I have taken up teaching (very poor) English to a group of young girls at a non-profit; Tom continues to grow and develop in his role at work; we had our first 'overseas' visitors when my Mum and Step-Dad came over for three weeks, during which time we took a trip to the Taj Mahal; we moved apartments, after spending hours supervising contractors, and then being 'forcibly ejected' by our caring landlord; we hired a wonderful new driver called Manoj who has made my life a joy, in turn, making Tom's a joy too!; we have celebrated many amazing Indian occasions, including Holi, the Ganesha Festival and my first Pooja; and of course, we have made some lifelong friends with whom we are lucky enough to share this crazy journey! p.s. I also celebrated a 'zero' birthday with a wonderful party and our first trip home to the UK and US! It's been a whirlwind four months but we are having a ball!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tupp Party or Not Tupp Party...

So, tonight I officially entered 'trailing spousedom' and hosted my first, very own Tupperware party! Yes, I have hosted them for stars like Cynthia Nixon, Mariska Hargitay, and Ice-T, but never in my own home - and in India. Who'd have thought that a country known more for rubber would be doing great guns in plastic! We hosted an eclectic crowd from the UK, US, Germany, and India, who dined on my makeshift European buffet of crostini, fine cheeses, figs in proscuitto (thanks Katie!), and of course fabulous Indian wine! Ironically, the cost of food far outweighed the cost of Tupperware. A couple of pieces of Mozzarella, some proscuitto, a quiche, some Gouda, and blue cheese, soon ring up a hefty tag here, as they are not the norm and only eaten by the likes of us who are willing to shell out a hundred bucks or so for the privilege! It is worth the indulgence though - good cheese is a rarity in India, they preferring the Velveeta type, or slices, than a good blue. But you can find them, and find them I did. And have them delivered to the door. And the fact that I didn't have enough cash to shell out for these treats? No problem, bring it next week! Try doing that with Sainsburys or Whole Foods! But then some things are crazily inexpensive - the fresh herbs, at 10 cents a bag for more basil than you could use in a week. Or the fresh lemongrass, thyme, parsley, oregano, etc., etc. What a wonderful place to live! So back to Tupp.... they may have had a bad day on the stock exchange but I think we managed to tip the balance in India. While probably not a traditional party, with everyone's attention on the consultant, we got around to viewing the fine display in our time (after drinks and food) and no-one could argue that the containers were inexpensive and a great way to keep ants and bugs out of your stored food! Our hostess Meena was adorable and made some fabulous idli that we will be enjoying for breakfast, and gave our guests some mini gifts to get them in the Tupp mood. We even had men at the party - three to be precise - all taking the event in its ironic stride, as Tupperware in both the US and the UK still has that certain kitsch factor. And what did I order??? Having been blessed with working with Tupp in the US, I have every conceivable piece of Tupperware known to man, except a fridge smart. So that is my indulgence for the week. And of course I will then have to buy more cheese to store in it. That will keep the deli man at Sunny's very happy for the next couple of years!

Monday, April 17, 2006

An Indian State of Mind

It has been one of those days where only a handful of cigarettes (I'm a non-smoker-ish person but make exception in a city where crossing the road is a pollution-hazard) and a bottle of red wine (howling wolf, no less, from Australia) would help see the funny side. Oh, and my Australian friend Fiona (now stalwart of Bangalore) put perspective on my situation by telling me I sounded like a colonial Brit complaining about the man-servants....

Coming from a job where perfection is everything and a city where everything is specified to a tee (venti skim extra-hot no-foam latte...), India can be a little shocking - especially when dealing with the day to day stuff. At this point, I will add the classic story from my friend Louisa (Brit) who at work the other day asked for, "frappe with no ice cream..." A minute later, the server asked, "what flavour ice-cream, madam?" Louisa reitterated, "no ice-cream, thank you... A couple of minutes later, she was surprised at the size of the check she was presented with..."why so expensive?" she asked. The server replied, "it's more with ice-cream..." A complete Indian experience!

So, to elaborate on that mindset, Tom's driver (I call him that so I have minimal responsibility for him) took it upon himself to come back to the apartment at 2 p.m. today despite Tom telling him that he would need him at the office at 2 p.m. I told him I didn't need him, and please go back to the office. As luck would have it, 3 hours later I was outside the apartment and lo and behold, he was STILL there! Why??? Who knows. But after a third attempt, we managed to convince him to go back to collect Tom.....

Our maid, Vijaya, who manages to work five hours a day at our apartment (?) still managed to do nothing of what she was asked and everything of what she wasn't (i.e., eating all Tom's cookies and talking to her husband on the phone!)

Finally, our contractors managed to finish (sort of) the work they started three weeks ago after being plagued by chicken pox and a sore hand - oh, and falling off a bike. Yes, I know this all sounds bratty, and you are probably thinking - clean the flat yourself, drive yourself, etc., but it's just a different world here... Tom has a female Indian colleague who spends every morning between 6:30 and 8:30 following her maid around the apartment showing her where she hasn't cleaned! Why??? My friend Fiona suggests that I can either do that, OR, as she does, completely ignore the fact that their cleaning is shit and carry on about my business!

This whole episode led me to believe that I really do have too much time on my hands - or am I stressed at getting my nest completely clean for the parental visit looming in 24 hours time???? While I don't want to think it's the latter, it may have something to do with it. But I think the former moreso. I am researching going for a detox weekend - ha ha - or to an ashram to do some good for a couple of days.... or maybe I will just go back to Goa!

Who knows, but this managing of a couple of people is as stressful as managing a big team of professionals... it's just scaled back a little but in my small life right now, it all seems big!So, my solution of ciggies and wine seems to fit the bill - it's exactly how I would have coped with stress in NYC or London, no matter what the size or scale. You can take the girl out of Leeds....

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Lock Down Part Two

So, we are now in the first full day of the Bangalore lock-down! Since the death yesterday of actor Dr. Rajkumar, the city has been in turmoil. News reports say that five people have died in conflicts, cars have been burned, buildings stoned, people attacked, and the police have resorted to 'lathi charge' (basically, thrashing people with a big bamboo stick!)

Tom arrived home around midnight last night and admitted that their building had indeed been stoned (although security gates were locked). Word on the street was that if you were seen driving a vehicle that did not display either pictures of Dr. Rajkumar, a Karnataka flag, or if you didn't speak Kannada, you would be taken out of the vehicle and beaten up!!! Ever diligent, Tom and our driver, Veeru, taped pictures of the demised to both the front and back of our lovely shiny new Hyundai Getz! And even the taxis taking home other workers from Tom's company did the same. Very scary - glad I didn't know this last night!!!

Today has been a quiet day with most TV stations blacked out, apart from local channels showing loops of the actor's movies, and some news channels reporting on the Bangalore situation. Stores are closed, along with cinemas and most businesses. It is such a sad state of affairs that this first official day of mourning is over-shadowed by violence and loss of life. Yes, I said 'first' as I believe that tomorrow may also be a day of mourning.... we are waiting for a call from Veeru to tell us whether it is safe to hit the streets and go back to work. Ironically, tomorrow (Good Friday) is a holiday for many companies here, but given lost work over the last day or so, most people will end up having to work it, or over the weekend, to catch up. Let's hope we can reach Easter Sunday peacefully and have the city back to some semblance of normality.

Don't Mess With My Kumkum

Today, I learned a new expression, "I swear on my Kumkum". Curious as to what a 'kumkum' is - and how serious someone has to be to swear on it - I did a little research.

The traditional Kumkum or Kungumam is made from dried turmeric. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into red color. It is traditionally worn on the fore-head to show the marital status of women.

The turmeric powder by itself has a lot of medicinal qualities. The Ayurvedic doctors say it has fluoride which is essential for teeth. It is also used as antibacterial agent. Whenever there is a cut or a bruise, the home remedy is to reach for turmeric powder. The young girls and married women of Tamil Nadu use it for bathing purposes as there is a claim that its usage controls the growth of body hair.... No need for waxing there then!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Lock Down In Bangalore

What a strange day! It all started in the usual way - painter turns up late, carpenter doesn't come as he's hurt his hand, Tupperware lady pops round, friend drops off her ironing (does this sound like June Cleaver's life???) I was looking forward to nice cocktails and dinner with an English friend of mine when at around 4 p.m. she called to say that a famous actor had died and Indian people at her husband's work were warning of rioting!!! After a quick internet search, I discovered that a 77-year old actor from Bangalore, Mr. Rajkumar had passed away this afternoon. We figured that maybe they were being a little dramatic - would we see riots if Michael Caine passed? Or even Robert Redford (can't bear the thought)? Or maybe Bob de Niro?? We decided to take a rain check til 6 p.m. then figure out whether we should venture forth.... Bizarrely, it seems that the fears were founded! It's 9:30 p.m. here, and the whole of Bangalore, no, Karnataka State, is at a standstill - shops, theaters, businesses, all closed - with some pockets of violence emerging. See news here. It's eerily quiet outside the apartment but I keep hearing sirens - for the first time since arriving in India, it sounds like New York! My husband is on lock-down at his company, another English friend was on lock-down but now their security is escorting people home, and I just got a call that the PR event I was working on for tomorrow morning is, of course, cancelled. It's kind of reminiscent of the New York City blackout a couple of years ago; only there wasn't much rioting, just a lot of partying and making do with the romance of candles for one night. Those who remember it, may remember that not only did the city blackout, but I did too - thanks to a lot of red wine and my ever game-for-a-drink friend, Katie! Of course, everyday here, people make do with no electricity, whether it's just one-minute power cuts that are quickly rectified - we get about half a dozen a day - or whole areas that are blacked-out for days with no back-up facilities to kick-in. You are told about these in the newspaper ahead of time, so you can get the candles ready! So with no blackouts to phase people, it's obviously more important things that affect their daily lives - like life and death. It is still amazing to think though that an actor can stir up such emotion; he was apparenly revered as a demi-god and he was once kidnapped a few years ago, again provoking unimaginable scenes of protests and rioting. Probably unimaginable in the US, but here in the Indian democracy, anything seems possible. Mr. Rajkumar is due to be cremated tomorrow and may he rest in peace - along with the state of Karnataka.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Men At Work???

Today, our apartment was a hive of activity!!! It is the first day this week that I have had a full quota of workmen on site! Our 'chicken pox' suffering carpenter arrived, having made a remarkable recovery. He was accompanied by his VERY young assistant (must be on a YTS - does that show my age???) Our wonderful painter who is quiet as a mouse and doing a sterling job showed up early, again without his workmate who has been AWOL since Monday (presumably his tummy ache is STILL not better!) What with them, our maid Vijaya, and visits from three girlfriends, our apartment was THE place to be!!!

Of course, I should have known better than to get over excited - tomorrow is the Ugadi holiday and it is forbidden for our carpenters to work (because they make noise) but okay for the painter (because as mentioned previously, he is particularly quiet!) It should be an interesting day tomorrow as the Ugadi customs seem very wonderful - new clothes, sweet food, lots of mangoes, wishes for the new year, and did I mention, new clothes? I was getting particularly excited til I heard about the custom of smearing cow dung on the doorstep... it is not, however, the first time that we have come across, or stepped across, cow dung.

On Christmas Day, we met this haunting little girl in the village near Devi Garh, waiting for her cow pats to dry which are then burned for heating and cooking. That explained the smell eminating from the village every evening! I guess we put it on our rose bushes, the Indians are much more practical and use it for fuel - and decoration....

Horses for Courses

Today I tried to book a couple of hours horse riding in Goa. I had visions of Tom and I riding along the beach, wind through our hair, waves crashing, sun shining, etc..... I was told that unfortunately we can't get horses, but we can have elephants! Not much difference there then!!! Not that I have anything against elephants - I LOVE them, but it's not quite what I had in mind!!!

If anyone comes across this posting and knows where to hire horses in north goa, please let us know!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Virgin Blog

So, today is the first day of the rest of my blogging life! There is no excuse as to why this hasn't happened sooner - I left the US four months ago to start a new life in Bangalore with my husband, Tom - but in India, time seems to slip away quickly... Today seemed an appropriate day as I am trapped in our apartment with the painters and have been advised not to leave them alone. I use the plural for painters and the word 'them' optimistically - three men were due to arrive yesterday, two to paint, one to construct mosquito screens for the doors and windows; suffice to say only two arrived, one had chickenpox but I was assured he would be here today. (Who knew chickenpox ran such a quick course!!!) After much chattering all morning, the activity went quiet and I discovered that one of the painters had jumped ship, allegedly with a tummy ache! That leaves one. He is hard at it despite that fact he has a paintbrush the size of a blusher brush and four large rooms to paint. Ever the optimist, I am sure the other two will make a miraculous recovery and join us tomorrow..... that is, before the New Year holiday on Thursday, which no doubt they will ALL be taking off!