Tuesday, December 11, 2007

unexpected blessing

i was in downtown Yelahanka, the old part of town, doing a bit of grocery shopping: tomatoes looked good, maybe some onions... i was squeezing veggies and considering how much to buy when it suddenly felt like there was a bit of a shower. i thought the sky had been pretty clear, so i was surprized at the drizzle. i looked up to see how dark the suddenly- arrived cloud was; i was puzzled to see that the sky was quite blue-- not a cloud to be seen anywhere! then i looked in the tree straight overhead and saw a fairly large monkey scampering about. i had been bepissed by a danged monkey! i said to the shopkeeper (who had a fair amount of English) "i think that monkey just pissed on me!" to which he replied "this is great good fortune, sir! monkeys act for lord hanuman. this is a great blessing, sir!"... what could i do but laugh and take it in the highest possible framework? what could i do but laugh and count it a blessing? what could i do but laugh and hurry home to shower and change my shirt???

Friday, November 23, 2007

we visited a local dance village

this is where the resident dancers stay. the huts are in a traditional style, but with post-modern aspects: or were there really triangular windows in ancient huts? we arrived too late (we got lost!) to see the master classes, but we were blown away by the grounds themselves: so clean and quiet. sculptures all over. we will go back soon!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

we were motorcycling down the highway and saw a bunch of "birds" flying overhead, but we noticed that their flying patterns were rather peculiar. so we stopped the bike and looked closely: they were BATS! i had never seen bats flying in the middle of the day before.... it was ultra-cool to see them hanging upside wrapped in their own wings, just like in the movies.

Friday, November 16, 2007

i had written earlier about the many uses of granite; here is a vineyard whose stakes are made of stone. this is quite common practice in this neighborhood. a local winery just announced a deal to plant another thousand acres or so of zinfandel and cabernet, because they have determined that the conditions here warrent expansion. i suspect that wine-making is a business about to boom here in in-jah....

during divali the blessings continue... our autorichshaw driver had his vehicle ritually blessed, in order to prevent collisions (one of durga's realms of influence), and in order to increase his revenue, because lakshmi (the goddess of wealth) is among the goddesses honoured during divali.

this is what divali is really about: the lamps burning in celebration of the return of rama or krishna. this shot is taken on the stairs of a fancy hotel in mysore, where the management decided that a classy bunch of lamps better portrays the holy-day than a bunch of firecrackers. and it is easier to clean up....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Divali in mysore was not as radical as what we heard about Dasara... the latter is the GRAND festival for mysore: over a million folks show up to watch the crazy indulgent processions of elephants, musicians, military guards in full plumage et cetera et cetera as they celebrate the victory of a LOCAL goddess over a LOCAL demon.
Dasara is HUGE in mysore. Divali is a sort of second class celebration there.
we saw bunches of fireworks and the palace lighted up with electric bulbs all over.
an order of magnitude difference.
and we were not allowed to sleep well, because Divali has morphed from a festival of *lamps* into a festival of firecrackers.
there were some sweet moments, but it was a lot louder than i was hoping. the photo shows a sweet sight, n'est-ce pas?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

two big festivals in two weeks

During the recent Dasara festival, we celebrated the victory of Durga (as a representative of “Good”) over various demons (as representatives of “Evil”), so it is archetypically the celebration of the triumph of Good over Evil. But it was MUCH more than this… Since Durga slew demons with her knife, it is a time to get blessings on all knives; and since knives have morphed into all manner of related and unrelated tools, Dasara becomes a time to get ALL tools and vehicles blessed. So there is a line-up at all temples (not only Durga temples) to bless tractors, buses, cars, bicycles, scissors, screw drivers, hair blowers, etc etc. Almost all offices have hired priests to come and do pooja at the doorways, so there are broken pumpkins and squashed limes in every corner, and stripes of sandalwood paste on all windows. All vehicles are adorned with banana leaves and flowers, for Durga’s charms can keep away collisions and break-downs. [Imagine the mess traffic would be without Durga’s interventions!] This was a ten-day fetsival, with several explanations for this indulgent duration. My favourite is that Dasara really celebrates three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, and that they each get three days, with a grand finale trio on the tenth day.
And next week there is yet ANOTHER big festival: Divali, the Festival of Lights. Guess what this one celebrates? You guessed it: the triumph of Good over Evil. Hey, if it’s worth celebrating once, it’s worth celebrating twice! This time the mythical structure is that the good Lord Rama has returned to his kingdom, and his subjects all light candles and lamps to welcome him home. Another version has the lamps lighted to celebrate the return of Lord Krishna. During the modern celebrations of this time of Devali, there is a massive reliance on fireworks, including NOISY firecrackers all times of the day and night… They are already almost constant, and Divali doesn’t start for another four days!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The rains return!
We had thought that monsoon season was already over, due to some version of global warming, or perhaps a curse of some irate god. It had not rained for over two weeks, and the air was looking like Los Angeles: thick brown soup which tickles the throat and burns the eyes. But last night the clouds formed and grouped into tumbling dark armies which charged one another and hurled lightning bolts from horizon to horizon, rending great holes in the very welkin through which tumbled rain blessed rain. So today the dust is all settled and transformed back into its natural state of mud. And I can breathe freely again...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

my favourite spot in our apartment complex

i swim almost every day. the pool is clean, and the water temperature is perfect: just cool enough to be refreshing.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

holy man on the holy hill

the press of the crowd on the holy mountain of tirumala was rather too much, so i walked out to the edge of the temple area and found this fellow meditating and asking for alms.

climbing sacred steps

this set of steps is anointed by pilgrims on their way to see Lord Venkateshvara at the most visited shrine in the world on the holy mountain of tirumala, just outside of tirupati, some 270 km away. there are over 4,000 steps on the path, which is around 12 km long. i walked the entire path bare-foot, as is the custom. it was a brilliant walk, even though i was not able to see the Lord Venkateshvara this time. next time perhaps...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

next-door neighbors watching a volleyball game

these guys were chased out of our gated community, so they went next door to watch the humans play.

some local color

i took my science class out to see what was in the field: we found an orgy of beetles! ain't they dressed fancy?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

a view of my school: canadian int'l school of bangalore

i just bought a new bicycle!

it has only one speed (it is flat here in the deccan plateau!) but it has shock absorbers (needed on these funky roads) and fenders (needed during monsoon season). now i can get some fun exercise on weekends and evenings. my first trip out on local reoads was exhilirating and educational. i found a GREAT road through tiny local villages and found an inspirational view of the local nandhi hills. maybe i can figure out a road thither without the brutal highway traffic...

miko in mexico (archive photo!)

it seems i finally figured out how to add photos!
look in my archives, as i continue to post images to earlier posts.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cricket: sixes and wickets [huzzah for India!]

When I started telling friends that I was about to move to India, several said that I would be duty-bound to learn something about cricket in order to engage in polite conversation about India’s national sport. I replied that I would resist the temptation to throw good time after the project of understanding this silly sport.
Well, I have not resisted strongly enough: I actually am figuring out the game and its appeal as a spectator sport. This is made simple by several recent exciting and important tournaments, one of which is just beginning as I write this. India lost a heart-breaking best-of-seven series to England, and then came back to beat England in a “twenty-twenty” series, which concludes tonight in a match between India and Pakistan.
The local hero is a batter called Yuvraj Singh, who has delivered a record-breaking flurry of the equivalent of home runs (called “sixes”) in the last few matches. So in paying a bit of attention to this spectacle, I have been absorbing other aspects of the game through listening to commentary and asking na├»ve questions.
One of the appeals of cricket as a spectator sport is that a LOT of runs are scored: sometimes over two hundred per side. So instead of waiting hours for a single run, there is action a-plenty: the scoreboard is always cranking! Actually I started developing a wee bit of understanding of the game while watching the GREAT Bollywood film “Lagaan” which featured a crucial cricket match between British Imperial functionaries and a team of Indian peasants, who had to learn the game before they could play (and defeat) the Brits.
But I digress. The excitement here is sparkling: the community is gathered in the recreation room watching the Big Game on a bigscreen TV. There were rollicking cheers when India were at bat and scoring runs. They didn’t get a particularly high score, only 157; and Yuvraj was a great disappointment. Now Pakistan are batting. (Note the britishism adopted here as collective nouns like team names are conjugated as plurals). It is now all about tension and waiting. The only sounds of celebration are related to stunning defensive plays, which are rare. Pakistan are playing fairly conservatively instead of trying to blast sixes into the stands, which risks a wicket. A number of fine bowlers have put nine wickets together: one more and Pakistan are out on wickets! Now we are at endgame, and a Pakistani batter named Misbah has just hit four sixes and got his team back in the game at 152 runs, but the nine wickets might be a problem. Then at the very next pitch following a mighty smashing six, he pops up a weak fluttering ball which is caught, and so INDIA HAVE WON!!! The fireworks are all around and there is frenzied dancing in the clubhouse, as there will be all over the SubContinent.
So even though I do not yet grok the subtleties of this strange sport, I have shared an exciting few hours drinking from the cup of nationalism and spectator sports: a heady brew! This game will be the subject of jolly conversation for the next week or more, so I am glad to have seen a lot of it, and gladder still that I can actually follow some of the conversation. When in doubt about details of the win related in profoundly technical cricket-talk, I plan to huzzah that India won even with a dull performance from Yuvraj: what glory would have been if he would have been on his game! What a team to win even without help from their star batter! Huzzah for India!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Ganesha comes to Prestige Monte Carlo Apartments

Yesterday was the festival dedicated to the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed Remover of Obstacles, India’s best ambassador and one of the best commodities in India’s export portfolio. Here was this God made of plaster of Paris (more on this later) smiling over a ritual blessing during which the local priest recited quite a bit of Sanskrit, including the famous mantra of Ganesha’s 108 names. We all stood around and observed the priest and his arcane gestures and recitations, after which the priest sent into circulation a stainless steel platter which contained a small lamp whose flame had blessed Ganesha (and been blessed by Him) so that we could sweep some of the flame’s blessings over our heads and into our hearts. The stainless steel platter also served as an offering dish, and was presumably chosen so as to not be stained by the filthy lucre which many of us dropped beside the flame. After the crowd had been purified by fire, a bowl of uncooked rice was passed around, which the celebrants took in pinches and palmfuls to toss at the image of the god. After we had showered Him in grain we each partook of a little bowlful of spicy cooked rice & beans and then a bit of sweetened cream of wheat. The apartment manager insisted that we pose for a few small-group portraits, in which we played the role of token foreigners. There were also a few Sikhs who participated in the ritual and were dragged into ecumenical photos. In days of olde, the Ganesh statues were made of mud and straw, and they were not fired nor painted. Therefore when the statues were thrown into a local body of water at the end of a ritual period of three, five or seven days the statues would simply “melt” back into nature, carrying with them all the blessings and petitions prayed into the mud. Nowadays people prefer gaudily painted statues constructed of modern materials, like plaster of Paris or even plastic. So when these are chucked into lakes, the result is toxic pollution instead of a wholesome cycle of nature.

P.S. It is now three days later, and we have just gathered again as a community to dance before the gaudy plaster of Paris idol of Ganesha, and convey Him to the lake. I followed behind the procession of wildly dancing men and a few calm women; but then several of the local guys dragged me into the mosh-pit of dancers, so I decided to shake a leg for the Remover of Obstacles, to show Him that I appreciated all He had been doing for me. The local dance style is rather like Brazilian Carnival dance crossed with African tribal moves. Apparently I acquitted my self well enough, winning the appreciation of the local youngsters. The apartment complex managers had hired a photographer to document the final part of our little community ritual: I suspect I will be featured prominently in the photo-montage showing “old white guy worshipping Ganesha”. Perhaps these photo-ops will shave a few more seconds off of my 15 minutes of Warholian fame.

Monday, September 10, 2007

desk or table? baksheesh or namaste?

Desk search
The school furnished our apartment with a little student desk, which could be read either way: a little desk for a student or a desk for a little student. Neither of us like the size; not enough room for long legs to fold beneath the desk, nor enough area on the desktop to manage a laptop computer and some papers and reference books, let alone speakers and post-modern accessories. So we decided to buy another desk, actually two: a his & hers pair of big person’s desks. Of course this ought to be easy: go down to the local furniture shop and pick out a desk, pay, go home and await delivery… right? Wrong! Nothing happens smoothly in India. I went to several furniture shops where the concept of “desk” means “little student desk”. I looked on-line and found several other shops which sold little student desks. What do big students use to focus their big thoughts and compose their big papers? Eventually I stumbled onto a catalogue item called “office table” which was EXACTLY the “desk” I was looking for! Plenty wide, maybe even TOO deep, neither mama bear little nor papa bear huge, this desk looked baby bear perfect. It featured three drawers on one side and still lots of leg room. It even seemed to have little holes cut into it to allow printer wires and lamp cords and so forth. But the company which sells the perfect office table does not allow of payment on-line nor even over the phone; so we had to take a taxi way cross town to the Pan Office Furniture (no, I am not kidding!) showroom to make payment, sign papers etc. OK. We got lucky and arranged a lift in the school bus which was taking boarding school kids into town; this would make the taxi ride shorter and spare us from most of the diesel pollution which rickshaw taxis subject us to. So after we were dropped at MG road, we grabbed a cab further south along Hosur road near Electronics City. After a bit of asking around, the driver found the showroom of Pan Office Furniture. Hurrah! There we were facing an actual CHOICE of different models, instead of one type, possibly out of stock… a little squad of salesmen accosted us, wondering how they could be of service. Could they show us model AI 4000, the perfect office table portrayed in the catalogue? “Sorry sir, this model is not there. It may be available in four or five weeks.” Dang! Of course we want our desks NOW, not a month from now. We asked which models were in stock, so we could buy something which could be delivered the same day. “Sorry sir, nobody works in the go-down (Indian English for “warehouse”) today. We cannot say what is in stock.” Hmmm. So the very reason for our schlepping all the way cross town seemed to be null and void. Was there any model which they could say for certain WAS in stock? “Yes sir, I am sure the CT-450 is there. We can have it delivered on Monday afternoon.” So we decided to pay Rs. 8000 for desks delivered in two days, rather than Rs. 5000 for desks promised in four or five weeks, knowing full well that merchants’ promises are often estimates based in wishful thinking and good intentions. This is not the end of this little saga, but I am optimistic that Monday evening will find me and Hansa parking all of our gear and nicknacks on our shiny new desks, ummm, that is, our new office tables.

P.S. it is now Monday afternoon and I am in fact typing at my new perch in front of a swanky new office table with drawers that work, and even can be locked with a key! There are holes drilled into the surface to allow wires to bring 220 Volt electrical current to the speakers, printers and peripherals—they look great and work fine. It was all as smooth as going to Ikea: maybe even more so, because the delivery guys actually unpacked the boxes full of desk parts and assembled both desks, made sure they were placed in the correct part of the room and so forth. But then we didn't think about giving them a tip, so if we ever order more stuff from this company, we can count on inferior service. Tipping is an art form based on influencing the future rather than merely rewarding the past. Baksheesh! Baksheesh! One controls karma through generosity and through memory. Baksheesh! Baksheesh! One makes ripples of good will by dropping coins in the water of human kindness. Baksheesh! Baksheesh! We had actually front-loaded a bit of good karma by giving a generous tip to an autorickshaw driver just last night: he had quoted us a fair price from downtown Bangalore to our suburban apartment, rather than the normal procedure of quoting a ridiculously high price and forcing a bargaining war. We were impressed with his honesty and rewarded it with a big tip. Money has different value and serves several different functions here in India. And non-monetary interactions transpire in a richer coin of the realm; I am amazed at how much good will I can generate by a smile and a handshake. Namaste outweighs baksheesh in many circumstances.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

ganesha fest

Ganesha festival support

I was out on a pleasure ride just seeing the sights and making a bit of a breeze with my bike to dry the sweat off my body. I headed north on Dod Ballapur Road. Just north of the police academy I saw a little road off to the left with an intriguing sign “Ayurvedic Nursing home and Yoga Center” so I went to investigate. A few kilometres down the road there was a tiny village where a small pack of boys clustered, awaiting passers-by. I was passing by, so they stretched across the road in an effort to wave me down. Normally I would just honk and gesture at them to get out of the way, and then just barrel through, ignoring their adolescent piracy without surrendering a bit of a piece of eight nor any other booty. But something seemed different; one of the boys brandished a kind of receipt book: a raffle perhaps? “Fifty rupees, Uncle. Fifty rupees!” A charity collecting rupees for a local library? I wanted to know what was the cause, so I stopped and we tried to find a few words of a common tongue. They told me they were collecting for a festival in honor of Ganapataye (a.k.a. Ganesha) who is among my favourite Hindu deities. How could I refuse? I still thought it might be a raffle, so I tried to find out from the boys how I would be notified if I won. “What do I get if I give you the fifty rupees?” I asked several of the older boys who had a few dozens English words each. One boy replied “the blessings of Lord Ganesha”. How could I refuse? After giving the eldest a bill and receiving a receipt, I sped off down the road to find the Ayurvedic Center, which turned out to have an organic herb garden directly across the road. I realized then that I should have stayed with the boys and chanted with them the Maha Mantra “Om Gan Ganapataye namaha” so on my way back I stopped again. This time the boys showed me less interest: they had already squeezed a pretty hefty donation out of me (slightly more than a dollar!), and it wasn’t too likely that I had stopped to give yet more money. I addressed the oldest boy and said “I should have chanted the Maha Mantra when I gave you the donation. Will you chant with me?” and then I began the simple universal prayer which means : “Om Ganesha Lord of All Created Things, I call upon you”. The boys’ eyes popped open full wide: they had just witnessed a miracle. I had just paid for a blessing from Lord Ganesha, and now just ten minutes later I was singing a Sanskrit prayer! How could this have happened if not through the direct influence of the elephant-headed remover of obstacles?

california dream inn

Next to California
We live in a gated community just outside of town. In this context “town” means Yelahanka, a suburb of Bangalore, a throbbing metropolis. We can walk to a grocery store called FoodWorld in about 15 minutes. There is a bar right down the road where I can buy locally made dark rum for about $5 per bottle, and local light beer for a dollar for 750 ml. There are no sidewalks; the roadsides are muddy and filthy with garbage. Traffic is thick and loud from mid-morning until well after dark. A little road off to the right just before FoodWorld leads to the western part of NewTown Yelahanka, where there are plenty of shops and restaurants; but it is a pretty long and stressful walk to get there. Our saviour spot is right next door: the California Resort (!) where the restaurant serves local nouveaux riches clients along with us foreigners. The food is excellent: a tandoori oven supplies kebabs and fresh Indian breads as complements to all the normal fare of daal and spicy veggies. On weekends there is live music on the terrace, so we have frequented the place quite regularly. A nice gentle man plays sitar and explains every raga and folksong before playing it, although the sound system makes his clarification unclear if not muddy, and I don’t mean as a result of the monsoon weather. The drummer is a beginner on the tabla, but he has good rhythmic sense, so his lack of technique is not detrimental to the presentation of the raga. We suspect he is related to the sitar player, who is just doing a favour for a nephew or cousin. We happily feast on food fit for kings while listening to a serenade for a small audience of visiting dignitaries, which turns out to be a little band of teachers at a local school, one of whom actually comes from California. Sometimes we see monkeys frolicking in the treetops at the California Resort, but they haven’t invaded the dining area yet while we have been eating. One of the managers speaks perfect English, and always comes to chat with us when we eat there. He has travelled widely through the southern states in the USA, and so he is familiar with some aspects of that consumerist paradise, including the notion of dark beer. He has promised to order some of India’s only dark beer, which is called Hayward’s Black Stout. Since the entire market is controlled by a few light beers, Kingfisher and Fosters, and the few small rivals, Knockout and Royal Challenge, are both in a style called “malt liquor” beer (fortified with higher alcohol content) the presence of a dark beer is most welcome. We have also found the one and only dark bread, which is called California rye bread. Kalifornia ueber alles!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

granite, rain, monkeys

Local granite
There are several HUGE granite quarries which produce prodigious quantities of granite slabs, which become fences and vineyard stakes, among many other uses. Driving down little side roads, one is surrounded by granite walls, behind which are healthy grape vines (which produce mediocre wine) propped up by four-foot-tall posts made of solid granite and in the distance are immense granite boulders leaning against the sky. Granite granite everywhere! Granite temples. Granite tables. Granite picnic benches. Granite bus-stop shelters. Granite tomb stones. Living in granite, dieing in granite. Granite flakes in our shoes. Granite dust in our eyes. Granite mason by the roadside produce mortars and pestles so we can grind our grain and eat microscopic pieces of granite.

Monsoon season
The rains have been inconsistent, but when it rains, it pours. We went over a week with nary a drop, and then the last two days have made up for it. All the roads are thick with mud and I am glad I have my military boots. The timing of monsoon season is rather like Camelot: it only rains in the late afternoon, so everybody has plenty of time to take care of shopping and errands before the torrents chase people indoors. Of course some poor sots are still out in the downpour, and so they fight over taxis or just huddle in doorways until it blows past. There have been SERIOUS floods in the north (where it often rains for three days straight!), but here it is a minor inconvenience. I have not heard of nearby villages swept away by mudslides nor mass evacuations like the reports from the northern states near the Himalayas.

More Fun than a Barrel of Monkeys
Well, maybe not, but it tickles my fancy to look up in the trees right in my neighborhood, and there sits a little tiny primate. I have taken two trips now to Nandhi Hills Station (about 40 km north of here). This is a place with a bountiful herd, pack, pod, exaltation or barrel of monkeys. They beg for food and even snatch it from those who let down their guard. They preen for photos. They sit on cars, and even urinate on them. I don’t know if anybody considers this a blessing; I would not! They chase each other around and have as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. Here in my apartment complex they hoot and howl at dawn and dusk, waking the local canines and inviting them to join the bestial chorus. It’s all dogs and monkeys: no elephants in these parts, but I am pretty sure we will take a bit of a journey soonish to see giant pachyderms in the wild. Stay tuned…

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

india at last!

We are really here in this once faraway fantasy world.
It is actually mind-boggling that every morning we wake up and go outside and there are monkeys and cows in the streets, women wearing saris but no shoes, people carrying water in jugs balanced on their heads, and on and on just like in the guidebooks and travel movies. This region north of Bangalore is hot and smelly; but the air is actually clean relative to the wretched pollution in downtown Bangalore proper.
My school is around three kilometres away, but the road we take to get there bends around a lake and wiggles through olde town Yelahanka, so it is more like eight km from door to door. I have found a funky path that goes the other direction around the lake (sun-wise instead of widdershins) that makes it more like three km, but the path is often too muddy and I have been repeatedly warned of “hooligans” and snakes. I still walk to school fairly often, but by late afternoon, it is too hot and I am too grimy: I want to go straight home and jump in the swimming pool.
I am living in a swanky gated compound, which I would find gross, except that the sports facilities are excellent and it is actually quite nice to escape from the throngs of people on the roads and in the shops. The compound is quiet and clean— in huge contrast to the India outside the gate.
I have bought a motorcycle, so I can go outside and explore at my leisure. Sometimes Hansa comes with me and sometimes I go alone. I have found some gems already, but my camera is not behaving well, so I will leave my comments for later when I have some pictures to guide the descriptions.
The motorcycle I own has a story attached. I looked on ebay.co.in to see if I could find a Royal Enfield bullet, which is still made in India according to the specs of the British Enfield of 1960 or so. The only one listed was a 500 cc bike, while most Enfields are 350 cc. So I thought it would be smart to try to win the eBay auction for this big bike, because I am a big guy and I plan to do a lot of riding with Hansa on board. So I bid and won! But the owner was around 800 km (500 miles) away. He had promised to ship me the bike by train after I deposited a thousand dollars in his bank account.
Being the trusting soul that I am, I dutifully deposited the money (a HUGE sum for an Indian) and he responded by coming along with the bike to help me through the paperwork etc at the train station. So he travelled twelve hours EACH WAY just to be helpful to a stranger. I am convinced that Doctor Muhammed Ahmed Mohiuddin Ali Khan was nice to me because I so readily trusted him, and because he was curious to meet an American.
It is a magnificent motorcycle, with amazing power. It feels like a massive bull surrounded by little dogs.
The traffic here is ridiculous: autorickshaws, cars, motorcycles and buses all aggressively pushing to pass one another with machismo well beyond the expected levels. And there are cows and bicyclists and pedestrians thrown into the same soup, but nobody collides: none of the vehicles have any scratchmarks. All the drivers pray to Ganesha to remove obstacles and He guides the drivers through the thick traffic with no harm. I have seen only one aftermath of a collision; a bus had hit a cow near the main bus station in old town Yelahanka. The cow was dieing and a crowd had gathered around it. Some were chanting, some were just watching. Somebody had placed some grass under the cow’s head to ease its suffering.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

new zealand

after a few days in the Big City of Auckland, we rented a van and have been driving around the north island, visiting the gorgeous natural sites: the Bay of Islands, the geothermal region of Rotorua. we had a few days here and there with hansa's sister & her husband and their two little babies.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

mexico city

we have been here in mexico city for five days now of nonstop sightseeing. my eyes hurt from stress more than from pollution. the rain has cleared the air every day that we have been here. what an amazing City: the world's largest! we have been staying with my nephew mike and his wife and two kids. every day is filled with walking about: pyramids, museums, parks, etc. mexico city has more parks and tree-lined boulevards than i would have dreamed possible. it is one of the greenest cities anywhere. one night mike took me on a bike trip exploring parts of the city which he and a bunch of his friends didn't know. four gringos on bicycles swooping through some tough neighborhoods made an obvious target for whistles and taunts, half in fun, half asserting dominion in their 'hood. of course we stopped a few times at esoteric old fashioned bars for a drink. we have enjoyed mexico city greatly, but even more pleasure is the connection to distant family-folks. mike and gabi have been generous with their time and we can't get enough of their loving hospitality. the week is going by too quickly....