Category Archives: Bangalore

Summertime and the living is easy…

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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.

Sanskriti, Pratham and Mehir came a knockin’ this evening to round up the kiddos.

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.

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Shopping…old school and the modern way.

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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

Easter at school

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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!

Easter in India

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We celebrated Easter morning at a Muslim mosque and mausoleum–the Taj Mahal! Many more pics of this trip will be shared in future blogs.

We got an e-mail from Daddy while in Agra  that the Easter Bunny had arrived in State College even in our absence and brought much loved treats that cannot be found in India–Peeps, Jelly Belly beans, Bean Boozled beans (is it peach flavored or vomit flavored? You won’t know until you try. Oh what fun for a 7 and 10 year old!).

Many thanks to the Sheehan family who so thoughtfully offered to have Pat deliver our Easter Baskets during his business trip to Bangalore this week!  What a treat! Carson even received a much wished for Mark Henry wrestler doll and Kaden got a Tamagatchi, which she loves! The kids found the baskets waiting for them when we returned from our trip up north! During our travels, the kids kept studying the picture below to see what delights awaited them!

But BEFORE all that good news, last week the kids were wondering if we’d have Easter at all.

Christianity comprises only 2.3% of India’s population. Albeit that is still 24 million people. Most Christians are Catholic, and are located south in Kerala, as well as the Konkan Coast and pockets of the North East. Still, Bangalore has a big Basilica and many other churches scattered throughout town. My friend Kathryn even noted that the church near her house changes Mary’s sari and Baby Jesus’s sleeping clothes every week. They are a well-dressed family!

Despite all of that, we had great trouble finding Easter Candy. Because of this concern, we told the kids  that the Easter Bunny doesn’t come to Bangalore.This warning was important to explain since the expected treats of Easter in our family–Peeps and Jelly Beans don’t seem to exist in India (my kids are not big chocolate fans–especially Kaden). Easter is not Easter without marshmallow chicks!

After much searching and finding NOTHING, we also found one fancy hotel–the Lalit Ashok–that had chocolate Easter Bunnies and eggs. Plus hot cross buns and Easter breads, although we didn’t get those! Although we have learned that in the hot Bangalore summer time, all chocolate must be kept inside the refrigerator or it is a puddly mess–even inside the house! Temperatures these days average about 95 degrees and we don’t have air condition but in one bedroom.

 

Still, since Easter didn’t feel like Easter without  some baskets, Mom and I surprised the kids with Easter, Bangalore style. So on Good Friday morning ,the morning before we left for our trip, the kids awoke to treats that Mom and I had found around town.

The goodies included an Easter Egg dying kit that I had saved from Easter last year, gold coins and jelly candies for the grocery store, a blue Hanuman Statue, an Indian purse for Kaden, Ganesh coin banks, and little jellies and candies that we found at various stores.

So Good Friday morning we set about dying eggs in earnest! Easter isn’t Easter without some spirited egg dying, and at least one pot of color being spilled across the table!

    

So in the end, not being home, the kids got two sets of Easter baskets instead of one this year!

Food, books, dancing, swimming, riding a bus–Indian style

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With the kids only in school for one more week, it was time to tackle some of the restaurants that might not be viewed as so much fun to them. One experience that I wanted to try was a traditional thali lunch. With circular plates lined with a banana leaf, the veg thali lunch here at Bheema’s Restaurant on Church Street was standard lunch fare for the tables of workers that filled the restaurant. With mounds of rice and dal and papadam as the main staple, I was also presented with little bowls of yogurt, spicy sambar soup, a little desert and pudding. I realized that at my office, we basically have a thali lunch everyday, since that’s just what they serve–rice, a bread, a sambar, curd, cukes and tomatoes and then two or three veggie dishes. But the thali is special because of all of the cute little bowls and the banana leaf presentation.

  

Plus a guy would come around with buckets of food–beet root, more dal, chutney. The food was very spicy. The meal wasn’t over the top amazing, but quite satisfying and a fun experience.

After the meal, we braved the crazy sidewalks, some of which were as high as my shin, to get to an incredible used bookstore. Three floors of every book imaginable for no more than a few dollars. Not that we need anymore weight in our suitcases, but I got some paperbacks of the hottest Indian writer right now, Chetan Bhagat. Plus we found some of Kaden’s favorite Nancy Drew graphic novels.

On the way into town, here was a bus of workers on the highway. This bus was moving. No room inside, so people hung to the outside. Wild.

Here, Kaden is swimming with her new neighbor and friend, Diya. Sometimes in India I feel like I have stepped into the 1920s. And her family is modern–the girls actually have swimming suits. When dry, the suit dries out to be baggy shorts. And swim caps–de rigeur.

Neighbors Diya and Ecta, in their standard matching outfits, enjoy Just Dance on the Wii with our kiddos. The Bollywood song is now a huge favorite in our house!

Norwegian death metal meets Indian classical dance

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Mom and I took the kids to a most unusual musical performance on a Sunday evening. But first we had a lovely dinner at an outdoor cafe in UB City called Cafe Noir. It felt like we were in Paris. Delicious pommes frites, omlettes, quiches, and fancy bubbly mocktails.

   

On the way to the concert, Kaden insisted she didn’t feel well and wanted to go home. The nightly swimming plan with friends awaited, I think. She perked right up at the concert, but all the way to the auditorium, she insisted on wearing a plastic bag around her ears–just in case she might be sick.

Then it was off to the show, called Questionings. The show was a fusion of Norwegian death metal and Indian classical dance.

The performance took place in Chowdiah Memorial Hall, a concert hall shaped like a violin.

Inside about 200 people attended this free show.  Choreographed by an Indian dancer, the stage included a tabla player and another Indian drum player, the full Norwegian death metal band including three guitar players and a shirtless drummer all dressed in black, plus three Indian dancers. Two of the Indian dancers mainly spun in circles–amazingly so. Sometimes 25, thirty times in time with the music. They all had bells on their feet and their movements were entrancing.

I took some videos of the evening to try to capture what it was like. The first video shows the spinning of the dancers to tabla music. The tabla player is shouting out the notes and rhythms that he is playing. That kind of rap, almost, is used to demonstrate how tabla playing works but does not usually happen in performances.

The second video shows the main dancer with the death metal dancers around her and also pans out to show the tabla players as well.

The kids loved the show, although it was so loud we had to stuff cotton in our ears. Carson was bouncing his legs and nodding his head to the metal music. Kaden was entranced by the dancing.

Hare krishna, hare, hare, rama, krishna, krishna

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For curiosity’s sake, Mom and I decided to visit the massive ISKON (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple–the Hare Krishna sect in Bangalore. My dad was worried they would kidnap us and he would never see us again. The event was rather underwhelming in many ways, surprisingly. I couldn’t take any photos at all inside the compound, so the photos below are all pulled off of the internet. I did get a really cool shot, though of a dhobi ghat, or a big open air laundry facility just outside the temple.

The images below I pulled off of the internet. I picked the images of what we saw.  It’s a massive place. The main impression at the entrance where we were allowed to enter was a lot of stairs and a LOT of turnstyles. This place is designed to host lots and lots and lots of people.

  

  

We wound our way around the metal gates, although the place was quite deserted midweek, at least compared to the amount of space there. You head up the steps and stop at two smaller temples en route to the massive one. We had to pay about 200 rupees entrance fee. This fee basically gave us a VIP pass, so the turnstiles that we were in lead us past the lines of people and right up to the front of the shrines. We felt a little silly since we didn’t even know exactly how to act at these shrines and we were blocking the view of people who were very awed by the shrines. But they were interesting to see. Here is one that we saw.

Finally we made our way into the big temple. It is massive. Too massive really. It felt rather impersonal. Big frescoes on the ceiling. Huge chandelier. Massive gold dieties in the front. And to the back three musicians playing a tabla, a sarod and a singer doing the Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare song.

We were told to follow the path that led to the right of the gold shrine. There is a little desk there that you can see i this photo.  A priest was waiting there to give us a personal blessing over some flowers. And then again we were guided in front of the people sitting up to right in front of the shrine. Luckily a few Indian women were ahead of us through this whole process so we knew what to do.

The main shrine had images of Krishna and Rada, plus some other dieties that we did not recognize. This was the image in  the main shrine.

After sitting on the grass mats and watching the priest ring the bell (in Hindu temples the bell is not to summon the gods but to help the worshipers to get clarity to worship).  Then they had the plate with the smoke as in most Hindu temples and you could pull the smoke to your face.  We then were ushered out of the main area and to the back behind the shrine. Here there were people waiting at table and chairs to talk with you about the sect and to encourage you to make a donation. We walked past those tables. Then we were led back out into the main worship area.  To exit that area you walked through a bookstall where we were allowed to chose two pieces of literature for free. Mom choose a book called “Coming Back: The Science of Reincarnation” and I chose “Bhagavad Gita for Beginners”   As we left one of the priests said, “Hare Krishna! You say, too, say, “Hare Krishna!!”

The place wasn’t threatening really other than that table in the back of the shrine where they wanted you to sit down and talk. Also in one of the gift areas there was this interesting little box of a room that reminded me of a Catholic confessional where you could go in and ask any question for free. Sample questions on the wall included “What happens after we die? How do I link my life to God?” and so on.

Then we were led through a maze of gift shops that went on and on and on. But like the Shiva temple last week, we found some really interesting and low cost souvenirs. Then we followed the path outside. And that was it! I had expected to see more of the campus. From the website I can tell that they have a goshala (place for holy cows) and a fancy fountain and an ashram and such things. But the campus was not available to the public like it was at the Art of Living and at the Buddhist monastery in Bylakuppe.