With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
It has been four months of memorable moments in Bangalore!
Here are some of our most memorable moments while travelling in India!
I found another school to inspire me and hope it will inspire others as well. I had the pleasure of visiting a Parikrma Learning Centre and meeting its founder Shukla Bose. I am frustrated that I only had the chance to visit this school in my last days in Bangalore. I would have spent lots of time here, otherwise!
Parikrma differs from Ananya in that they keep the kids at home (Ananya is a residential school). But they both serve the same slum kids who otherwise would likely not be attending school at all.
The scope of Parikrma is much bigger, though. Parikrma started nine years ago when Bose left the corporate world to make a difference for children She began first by spending her own life’s savings and since then has spread from one school in the Koramangala slum to four schools and one junior college. Parikrma has served 1,300 children, from kindergarten to getting a job. She shares the Parikrma story in a TED talk given in Mysore recently.
What stands apart for me in the Parikrma model is an understanding of a child as a social system. The group begins with the end point–What is necessary for this slum child to become an employee of IBM? Content is a big focus here. Also instilling a belief in each child that they are special and can make a difference in the world.
Two other aspects stand out–one is the importance of the schools being English medium schools. Bose was adamant that one of the great power differentials in Indian society is the ability to speak English well. Thus, English is the focal point of most lessons.
Second, learning is much more than the classroom at Parikrma. Attention is given to the whole child. How is the child’s health? Nutrition? What barriers are preventing the child from learning? The school offers classes for the mother sat night. It also offers alcohol rehabilitation since the majority of fathers are addicts. The school then works to place the fathers in jobs once they have rehabilitated. Each of these pieces helps to lay the groundwork for the stability necessary for the children to succeed.
Among the students graduating from Parikrma, 11 are in hotel management school two are in college for engineering; one is in college for law. Student has become national champions in many sports–indeed the school is the city champion in sports. Other students have travelled to San Diego for a conference. Still others have worked with Duke University faculty. Others are working on a Robotics lab.
Bose’s corporate background shines through in her clear and compelling presentations of the schools’ vision such as this video. Below, Bose and the headmaster of this Learning Centre.
While the school was officially closed for summer break, groups of children were attending for remedial preparation in math and English. They also were attending to ensure that they received a mid-day meal–perhaps the only meal they will receive today.
As I was leaving, the headmaster and this little fellow presented me with a card to thank me for coming. What magical, magical place.
The keeping of records is a fascinating issue in India. Other than the national corporations, many hotels, apartment complexes and banks even still keep records in big old fashioned ledgers. With power often iffy, no computer can go down and lose the records. And it’s how it has always been done.
I am astounded by the number of sign in books in our apartment complex and those of other complexes. Sign in the little books to go to the gym, to use the pool, to welcome visitors. And I am astounded by the paper trail at grocery stores. Get a tally of the bill from one person, pay another person, and then a third person at the door checks the receipt and stamps it.
While such record keeping seems ubiquitous in what seems like silly situations to me, we have been equally astounded by the lack of data bases and record keeping where it matters. For example, most book stores in India, even huge multi-level bookstores often do not have a method for keeping track of inventory. Books are not shelved based on title or author. Sometimes they are shelved by publisher. Sometimes by subject. Sometimes willy nilly.
Even at the big and fancy Mantri Mall this week, my mom went to a very large book store to find if they have books by Amit Chowdry, a famous intellectual in India. Big shot. Big deal. The book store pulled up Amazon.
My mother asked, “How do you know if you have the book if you look it up on Amazon?”
Clerk: “The book might be shelved by title.”
My mom goes to the section and notices that they aren’t shelved by title at all. She returns to the clerk and asks, “How are the books ordered if they aren’t ordered by title.”
Clerk: “It is what it is madam.”
Even more surprisingly than the book store, my parents went to the Museum of Modern art.
None of the personnel knew what paintings were located in the museum. When asking to speak to a more senior person, the man admitted that the museum does not have a database or catalog. Even more surprisingly, though, was that they could not find anyone who knew where the painting by Tagore was located. Tagore is one of the most famous authors/poets in India history. My parents finally found the painting tucked away on the sixth floor.
We took the kids to the Art Museum in our last days in Bangalore. The kids were not very enthused about the visit until I lucked out with a game that kept them happy. In each room of art, we all had to choose our favorite and then we had to guess the favorite’s of everyone else. It slowed them down, caused them to consider the pieces carefully, and they had a blast. I will definitely remember that trick for Paris.
The one place where records are watched very closely is in the cricket league which has caught India by storm. My dad watches a match every night. Carson is obsessed as well. He wears his red Bangalore Royal Challengers cap all around town. Below are some of the team logos at the hotel bar in Hospet. Carson insisted on watching the matches on the big screen in the bar, much to the concern of the wait staff at the hotel!
Mom and I set out to finish our shopping in what turned out to be a marathon day. We were out there so long that driving into town I texted good night to Todd. By the time we returned home, he had slept through the night, gotten showered, and had gone into work.
First stop: Safina Plaza for some fabrics and pillow covers.
Second stop: Dispensary Road, to our tried and trusted cranky lady to get some ultra soft linens with elephants!
Time then for me to hit Commercial Street and stock up on some bangles.
While I am still not a professional bargainer like some of my friends, I did succeed with a new technique. I talked one guy down to his lowest price, then walked across the street and said to the next guy, “That guy will give me xxx rupees, what will you give? (but I really said less than what the first said).” Was the most effortless bargaining of the day.
After a brief respite at KFC in the air conditioning and stop in Fab India, we discovered this lovely gem of a store called Kasmir House. Actually it is three shops–two brothers and a son. Each shop is more like a closet. But great prices and amazing treasures. We were bad. Very bad in this store. So many things to buy.
Then down the road to my favorite fixed price man. His prices are so reasonable and he is so cute. And he puts bubble wrap on everything. And I mean everything.
He even sent us down the alleyway to find even more bubble wrap to bring home for packing up! That was a lot of bubble wrap mom was viewing!
On the way home, we stopped at Bamburi’s to get the best beef in town and some darned good looking eggs. Plus Swensen’s for ice cream, Reliance for veggies, and then to a tailors. For $4, I got three shirts altered.
Two days later, Kaden and I had our own final celebration–getting a little India bling on our toes!
And on a commercial note, I finally figured out why my cell phone plays this Kannada song. For four months, it has been playing the same song. I have no idea what song because I never call myself. But at this point my mom can sing it by heart even though none of us know what it says. Turns out the messages I have been getting for my HT service weren’t related to texting as I thought. Instead it was the monthly renewal of my Happy Tunes service! Rs 30 a month!
And on a second random note on commercialization in India, I am completely amused by the Disney channel in India. They have turned all of the popular Disney Tween shows into Hindi shows here in India. The other night Kaden was watching “Best of Luck, Nikki” in Hindi with no subtitles, and she was able not only to tell me exactly what had happened so far, but started eerily predicting what would happen next on the screen. Turns out the show is an exact knockoff of the show “Good Luck, Charlie.” Kaden knows the show so well that she was able to share with me that the exact storyline was repeated on this Indian show. So exact that Kaden would say things like, “Now a girl is going to come around the corner. Next a stuffed dinosaur will fall out of the air.” It’s not the only show that has been adapted to a Hindi format. “Suite Life with Zack and Cody” is “Suite Life of Karan and Kabir.” Of course, the sociologist in me is fascinated to learn what they changed on these shows. With the attempt to make such a parallel formula–what was perceived as not funny or not appropriate for Indian audiences?
We have one week left in Bangalore. And it is HOT here! April and May are summertime. Schools are closed. Vacations planned to get away for the heat!
My ambitions seem to falter with every increase of mercury as the temperatures go up and up. My processing speed now seems to mirror our painfully slow dial up/data stick internet. Thinking quickly, getting work done efficiently by U.S. standards just doesn’t even seem comprehendible. Checking email is a 20 minute process just to open the messages.
Maybe this slowdown is a blessing. I have completely reevaluated my expectations of what counts as a productive day. I take one task at a time and I am grateful if I accomplish that task. Perhaps I can take this new normal back with me in the U.S. and help to use these measures to carve out a more “normal” pace of productivity at home. Lightning fast internet speeds, access to information right in my pocket is fun. But it also creates its own exhaustions. Doing one thing at a time has its merits.
The kids have slowed down as well, and they seem quite happy to “do nothing” with much less exclamations of “I’m bored” than I hear at home. Being out of school, they have been sleeping late, staying in their PJs until the afternoon.
Granted I am letting them play on their screens more than usual. But I know that they are awaiting the punctual 5:30 knock on the door from the neighborhood posse for the evening game of Cops and Robbers. Or an occasional night swim, game of cricket or football. The whole neighborhood seems to come out after dark, really. Sitting in the courtyard visiting with one another. The puppies come out to play. The heat is just too much during the day.
The festivities end when Mehir and Sanskriti, the oldest kiddos at 14 and ethical compasses of the group (well, usually,), decides that it is time to for everyone go home. Usually that end point doesn’t happen until after 9 at night. Carson comes home so tired that he often falls asleep changing into his PJs and before he has had his dinner.
When we go out, evening excursions are more appealing as well. The other night we headed to UB City for a bite at Café Noir.
Carson had fun with this poster at the UB City Entrance
The kids had fun getting soaked in the fountains.
Then we drove past the lit up parliament buildings on the way home.
With a stop at Baskin and Robbins for some ice cream. We stopped to watch a few minutes of the cricket match that had the city at a standstill—the Bangalore Royal Challengers versus the Rajasthan Royals.
Below, weddings are still in full force during the summer months!
We also finally got my kids together with my friend Priya’s kiddos. They are the exact same age and gender. Our schedules didn’t connect until this late date. We went over to their house for some swimming. The kids got along great, but unfortunately Kaden developed a tummy bug when we were there and spent most of the visit on the couch. Carson got it the next morning and both kiddos spent the day on the couch. Nothing as serious as the Dehli Belly, but enough to put them out of commission for a while.
At bedtime, sleep is a challenge in the heat. While luckily it does cool down in the evening, not enough for the house to cool well. We have just one bedroom with an air conditioner in our place, and we put it in my parents’ room where they and Kaden sleep. It didn’t seem worth it to spend $400 US Dollars to buy another one when we are here for so short of time. Carson doesn’t seem to mind the heat of our bedroom. We bought a small oscillating fan for $40 US Dollars. Couldn’t find any box fans at all. And can’t believe the cost of fans in general!
But the oscillating fan broke with 2 weeks left here. I can’t take the heat anymore, so I have started to sleep on the outside patio on our roof. The first two nights I accumulated 11 mosquito bites on my face, so it was time to get some mosquito netting and make my bedroom a permanent fixture. Very hard to find, mosquito netting. It’s not used much anymore here. But I finally found some for the hefty price of $20 US dollars. I’m just amazed at how much these things cost here!
I just got everything settled tonight in my open air bedroom. And the skies opened up. Our first rain in four months! The monsoons won’t arrive until June, so hopefully this was a fluke, and I can return to my outdoor sleeping plan tonight. I have enjoyed the majesty of taking deep breaths in the fresh air and looking up at the stars as I fall asleep.
One of the oldest and most ceremonial form of shopping in India is sari shopping. Having just read a great book on the subject, called The Sari Shop, it was particularly interested to head to a Sari shop with my mom. She was looking to buy sari fabric to turn into curtains. My yoga moms have encouraged me to buy a sari before I leave. But I just don’t think I would have an occasion to wear one in the States.
The colors and designs on saris are beautiful and can be overwhelming. The design of a sari shop is not for browsing independently. The saris are stacked in a way that you can only really see them if you have the attendants lay them out for you on the mattresses. Often women sit on the mattresses as well, but this shop also had chairs. Choosing the right sari can take hours, usually with a friend or family member helping to advise. And it involves continuous asking of help to bring down sample after sample.
In contrast, to old school shopping, Bangalore also has better modern shopping than we have back home. Right before our trip up North, I had to bring the kids on a journey to Mantri Mall the mega mall to buy Carson some shoes. The place was packed with people on Good Friday, because apparently most of India gets the holiday off–even though Bangalore has few Christians. We don’t even get the holiday off in the States so the crowds were unexpected!
Bangalore’s fancy malls have far more amenities and much better shopping than our mall back home. Above, the kids love playing virtual reality games in these colorful pods. While waiting for them I looked out the window six stories below to see a maze of autorickshaws zigzagging down the street.
Our main reason for coming to the mall is because Carson had broken his Crocs the night before playing soccer out in our courtyard with his buddies. The Croc store at this mall is massive and nothing like we have near State College back home!
Carson picked out red crocs with flames along the sides, and a complementary metal jibbit!
Outside a bookstore we found a trampoline. A woman tried to put a two year old baby on the trampoline at the same time as Kaden was jumping. I had a fit! So unsafe for that little baby and to have more than two kids of any size jumping on such a small trampoline is so dangerous! Especially without any walls or a soft surface for landing. But once we got off, we turned around and six Indian kiddos were jumping at the same time. Sigh.
Every outing these days seems to end with ice cream, and especially Swensen’s ice crem
In addition to our own celebrations, it was fun to be able to celebrate Easter at school this year! The school seems to be a center for holidays and celebrations as a school community, thanks to the great parent organization.
Grades 2 -5 at the Canadian School, the moms organized elaborate Easter Egg Scavenger hunts throughout the school. The kids had to collect puzzle pieces from people including the Assistant Principal and Librarian (below)
When they assembled all the puzzle pieces together, it spelled out that they should return to their room to receive chocolate treats.
Carson also was given a carrot and is eating it below. The moms in bunny ears, below, were some of the awesome coordinators of the event.
The wee little ones got to have an egg hunt. I think the second graders were a bit jealous! Here is a pre school class lined up to collect eggs!
And off they go!