Monthly Archives: March 2012

Shopping in Bangalore

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After returning from Mumbai, Kim and Leti were going to spend a day in Mysore, but they were just too exhausted from our Mumbai experiences. So instead we focused on shopping in Bangalore–something that is very fun to do in this town! We started at Safina Plaza. The interior courtyard had an open air market where we sampled and bought lots of spices and candies.

Kim and Leti got bangles, shawls, wall hangings and more handbags. I got a beautiful Salwar Kameez set-which was altered on the spot in about five minutes by some guys with sewing machines at the top of the stairs!

Mom got a bedspread. Kaden got some rings. After maybe too much shopping, we headed to one of the best Chinese buffets in town–Mainland China. Below, Kaden and Leti are playing the game Angels and Assassins that Carson insisted that we do. We had trouble understanding the rules and that got him very upset!

On the way home, we stopped at a roadside watermelon stand to get some watermelon to bring to a picnic the next day. They weight it on a scale–10 rupees a kilogram.

Kim and Leti in the back seat of the Innova helping Kaden play a geography game on the IPad

Some photos taken by Kim and Leti while we drove about town. Below is the lake that we pass on the way to school. It used to be an important bird sanctuary but encroaching development is shrinking the water table.

A sign by my yoga class–please pick up after your dog, with dog poop right below it.

  

Signs of the ongoing construction in Bangalore–the beginnings of a sky-high metro rail system that will connect the airport with the downtown. We struggle through this construction daily to get to our house.

The barbed wire fencing around our community. Which both kids claim “I touched it and it’s not sharp at all!” Why are they touching it? Sigh.

The Ganesh blessing the community, cared for each day by Mr. Yadov.

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Mumbai, Oh My….

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When our responsibilities, we headed into Central Mumbai to do some sightseeing. While I had really, really hoped to see the Elephanta Caves, it took a long time to arrange a meeting with the TISS director and we were only able to get down into Mumbai at 5:30. First stop in any Mumbai tour–the Gateway of India. The Gatheway was built to honor British Royalty at the turn of the century. It is right at the edge of the sea.

  

Above is the first Taj Hotel, located right next to the Gateway of India. The Taj is one of the fanciest chains of hotels in India. It was built by an Indian businessman who was turned away from a British hotel. The Taj claims to allow anyone in it’s doors–if you have the guts to do so. They are very fancy, intimidating places!

  

Some people sitting by the Gateway of India. The guy in the white outfit was really giving me a look!

This guy was shouting “Samosa chat! Samosa chat!” If only we could eat street food and not get sick. They looked delicious.

Sunset at Nariman Point.

  

This section of land by the sea is also called the Queen’s Necklace was the lights come on and dot the curved bay.

   

As we drove about town, we saw this Wedding Chariot. Plus some gorgeous British architecture.

  

It is kind of sad that the most beautiful buildings in Mumbai are emblems of British dominance. Below is the Victoria Railway Station. It is now an official historic site.

Hali Aji Mosque–right at the edge of the sea.  You can only reach the mosque during low tide via a small causeway. The place is famous for snacks and juices at night for locals.

These horse rides reminded me of the carriages in New York’s Central Park. They paraded around the Gateway of India area.

We ended a very long day in fabulous fashion–an INCREDIBLE seafood dinner at one of the best seafood restaurants in Mumbai: TRISHNA

White Salmon–to die for

  

One of the best garlic butter sauces I have EVER had.

We thought our night was done, but then we saw a street lined with clothing stalls, just closing up for the night. Using the camera-as mirror trick, Kim and I ended up with $4 shirts. Leti got the steal of the day. Three elephant handbags for the price of one!

  

We left for Bangalore the next day after more meetings and a bit of shopping. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mumbai. Although I did LOVE the food that I had there. I think if I returned I would try to focus my visit on eating in as many fabulous places as I could! I also appreciated that the city was built to be a large city. The roads were the appropriate size for the traffic. The sidewalks were in better shape. Bangalore is a garden hamlet that has exploded into a large city and completely lacks the infrastructure to do so–the roads are too small, the water is insufficient. But still, I was happy to return to Bangalore–my home away from home!

On being an ambassador…

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Kim, Leti and I traveled to The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai as Ambassadors of Penn State. The two universities are in the process of developing a set of relationships. Our job as to come to learn more about TISS and to share our enthusiasm about the relationship.

Mumbai is most familiar in recent times in the U.S. as the setting for the movie Slumdog Millionaire. It is a city with vast wealth due to being the home of Bollywood and the Indian Stock Market. It also has great poverty, including one slum that hosts over 1 million people. This photo of a neighborhood near the airport shows the disparity of slums and fancy high rises that typifies the new India, and Mumbai especially.

While we had originally planned on booking a hotel, Venkatesh offered that we could be the guests of TISS and stay in their guest house. This was my room.

Here are a few of the buildings on the TISS campus.

 

Kim and Leti in a conference room, waiting for a meeting. We met with the Director (University President), the Dean, and a faculty member studying ways to improve women in leadership positions in Indian Universities. We also met  with former students who participate in Corporate Social Responsibility Hub–a government funded office that helps state-owned companies find ways to divert funds back into the local communities. All state-owned companies are required to divert funds to local development needs.  The Hub performs need assessments of the communities to help the companies make the best choices of how to spend their funds.

Below, view from the new building on campus. Right, a quadrangle on the old part of campus.

  

Below, we are walking from the Guest House to the Director’s office. The head of the Guest House took us the most direct route–through a construction zone! Kim is holding our gift to the Director–a Penn State mug and key chain.

The photo below demonstrates a significant struggle in modern Mumbai. The Rent Act and subsequent legislation allows anyone who squats on land for more than a year to maintain possession of that land. Even if they never owned it. This high rise apartment complex sits right in the middle of the new TISS campus–because they built it and were able to keep it for over a year despite TISS objections. TISS always owned the land but they were not pro-active enough regarding removing the settlement. After time, they lost the land

Kim and Leti enjoyed a quick Auto ride to lunch at an Indian/Chinese restaurant close to campus.

  

Lecturing in a foreign land

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For day two of Kim and Leti’s visit, I arranged for them to give a guest lecture in Shivali’s Foundations of Education class at NIAS, my institution here in Bangalore. They lectured about Diversity in Higher Education in the United States.

Me, Shivali, Leti and Kim

After the talk, we had some delicious “veg” lunch at the NIAS cafeteria. Here Kim is talking with Meetryi (a graduate student) and Shivali.

From NIAS, we went to my kids’ school to catch Kaden in a soccer match and Carson’s cricket practice.

The schizophrenia of two kids–Kim and Mom watch Carson while I am watching Kaden’s match in the other direction.

We went straight from school to the airport to catch a flight to Mumbai. On the way to the airport, I realized that I had forgotten my passport. Luckily, my PA driver’s license was enough to board the plane.

We were graciously met at the airport by Venkatesh from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. He took us for one of the most delicious Indian meals that I’ve had in India– Maya at the Trident Bandra Kurla

Penn State faculty take on Bangalore!

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Kim and Leticia, my friend/fellow professors at Penn State joined me here in Bangalore for a business/sightseeing trip. They  planned their trip in India to last only SIX days due to commitments back home. Quite a whirlwind tour.   They arrived at 2:30 in the morning.  They met the kids when they awoke for school and then bravely joined me in my yoga class by 9 a.m. Then we headed off to see some B’Lore sights. First stop: Nandi the Bull

Kim and Leti got blessings from the Hindu priest at the Nandi statue

  

We also visited the Ganesh that is supposedly made out of Ghee (butter). But I swear it looked like stone to us.

  

Then I showed them the bats in the nearby park! Flying foxes!

Kim and Leti had the misfortune of being here on the day that my driver situation self destructed. After Nandi the Bull we were to visit Tipu’s Fort and Tipu’s Palace. But  instead, the driver started heading to the other side of town. We gave up on the sightseeing and decided to head to the Taj West End for a delicious buffet lunch at Mynt. Below are two photos from the Taj Grounds.

We then set out to do a bit of shopping. But the driver got lost again heading to Commercial Street–one of the biggest landmarks of Bangalore. We just had time to stop in at our favorite bedspread store.

Back home we spent some quality time with the two new additions to our neighborhood–a one month old Golden Retriever puppy named Angel

And  a three month old Golden puppy named Flash!  We love them both. But quite the different personalities–a newborn and a mischievous toddler!

   

Kaden’s lens

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It has been fascinating to see what Kaden finds interesting in our travels in India. Here are some of my favorite shots that she has taken so far.

Swimming pool at the Lemon Tree--our home for the first 10 days

Dada waiting for Rafiq the driver at the Lemon Tree

Ice cream at Baskin and Robbins. One of her most favorite places. She especially likes Cotton Candy, Banana and Strawberry, Cupid's Delight

Playground at Cubbon Park

    

Majarajah's Palace in Mysore

   

More scenes of Mysore

Colors at the Devraj Market in Mysore

  

Goa

  

Baby Caur in Rajiv Ghandhi National Park on safari

  

Hammock outside of our villa in Goa

Driver woes

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Our driver quit at the end of February. It is very sad and frustrating. All of a sudden a new guy started showing up instead of Srinivas. A guy who spoke little English and slammed on his breaks too hard replaced him. He was nice enough, but no Srinivas.

I don’t think we’ll ever get the full story of why Srinivas left. His boss told us he found a better paying driving job. But then off hand said later that he told another driver that our kids were not sitting properly in the seats and leaving too many food crumbs.  It is hard to have a family in a car that is not hours. Road trips and day to day issues are hard on cars, but when it is not our car it is hard to live comfortably and not show some wear and tear on the car. Like today, as I was getting out of the car, the boss driver told me I needed to please shut the doors more gently on the van. Sigh. I know these cars are their livelihood but it is like walking through a store full of breakables with kids–next to impossible to not have something go wrong if given enough time.  I think we will keep the full time driver for this month and then shift to an as needed basis next month with the kids not in school after the 6th. That will save on costs and reduce the drama of the driver issue. But it will increase the volatility of when a car is available and if the driver knows where to go.

I wonder too if there was a problem with the fact that we actually used the full 12 hours of our time at least a few time a week. The arrangement is that we have the driver for 12 hours and that we pay for 12 hours whether we use them or not. More than 12 hours and we pay more. But the days that we have used the full 12 hours the drivers seemed surprised and a bit annoyed. They act like they have places to go, things to do. Maybe it’s a cultural issue but I just don’t get it. I think part of it is that we are probably not firm enough. Don’t want to offend.

I also often need to go to some strange places. Little schools on dirt roads in the middle of now here. None of our drivers want to be shown a map. They have no patience for a map. They want the village name, the road name, and landmarks. Always landmarks. And then a mobile number when they inevitably get lost. At my last school visit my driver had to stop and ask directions 5 times and finally I got through on the mobile and had the person explain how to find the little place.

To replace Srinivas, the owner of the driver group drove us around until he found another driver who speaks English well. but I think he just gave up trying to find someone good.  The new guy arrived–driver number 6 for us so far. And no, he doesn’t speak English well. And I had to start all over in terms of giving directions for how to get to school, my office, yoga class, our favorite grocery store. I sent him to recharge two cell phones. He came back with only one phone recharged. With six weeks left I just don’t want to have to start over again adjusting a new driver to what we need.

The second day was even worse. I had my friends Kim and Leti visiting from Penn State. We were a half an hour late for yoga because he went to the wrong side of town. Then he tried to take us to the wrong palace for some sightseeing. Then we asked him to take us to Commercial Street. One of the biggest landmarks in Bangalore. He tried to stop at two other streets before we just gave up.

I called the boss man and said that I was not willing to have him drive us again. Next morning, there he was. So I let him drive us to school, but then called a cab for the rest of the day. The boss man came back to drive again for us, but with a huge attitude. Not willing to help us find stores. Not helping to carry packages. Making it very difficult to get trough the day. I finally fired him. He seemed relieved.

We still have six weeks to go. No driver. My friend Vini has graciously offered her second driver while her husband is away. She recommends him, he knows this neighborhood, and he speaks English well.  He is wonderful. He knows the back roads. He is a kind, decent person. I am hoping that this bit of grace will get us through the end of schooling in the first week of April.  With school, we need a driver at 7:30 and again at 2:30 or 3:30, so basically we need full day help. Once the kids are out of school, we can rely on hiring cabs for 4 or 8 our stretches.

I am tired of worrying about transportation!