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.