With the big picture of India often so overwhelming, the tiny beauties are often overlooked.
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?
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
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!
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!
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.
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.