Tuesday, May 31, 2005

OK, It's the Monsoon

There is no doubt in my mind that the monsoon is here. Following the Mother of All Thunderstorms on Friday , it's been cloudy some mornings and we've had some strong afternoon thunderstorsm.

This evening, the rain came down in sheets. I was very glad to be in a car and not a rickshaw, whose sides are open to the elements (See Tilt-a-Whirl in the Rain).

But the monsoon has not -- so far -- been what I had feared: constant heavy rain (For constant light rain, go to Britain). And it's brought very welcome lower temperatures. Which means, as far as Bangalore is concerned, that the hot season is over .

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Is it Monsoon Yet?

As a first-timer in India, you become semi-obsessed about the legendary monsoon. You ask questions like:

-- How bad IS it?

-- When does it get here?

Monsoon season in Bangalore begins in June, so it's getting close. And, according to some, it's here already.

This week, we've had a couple of nights of spectacular thunderstorms. The booms sound like an artillery battle. And the rain falls in sheets.

Yesterday, one newspaper declared the monsoon was going to hit Kerala, on the west coast, in 10 days.

That afternoon, we had the Mother of All Thunderstorms. The storm, which hit around 4:30 p.m., knocked down 70 to 80 trees and caused the Mother of All Traffic Jams (My son had a school play. I was nearly an hour and a half late because of the traffic).

If this is the monsoon, it's not too bad (yet). Basically, you get some severe thunderstorms in the late afternoon or evening. And that's it (People say the monsoon does not hit Bangalore as badly as it does other areas, such as the coasts).

But I suspect this may be just the beginning. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

(No) Power to the People

One thing you notice pretty quickly in Bangalore are power outages. They seem to happen nearly every day in a city that has grown very, very quickly.

Which is why every major office complex or building and apartment buildings like mine have emergency generators that kick in the moment that power is cut off.

I've learned to expect the roar of the emergency generator that invariably follows a power outage at home.

At work, the computers keep going when the lights die. So, when the power goes, the office is lit by the eerie glow of computer screens.

Sometimes, the power will go out three or four times in a few minutes.

I've also noticed a form of power triage when the emergency generators take over. For example, you can turn on your lights but your air conditioners won't work until the "real" power returns.

I think this explains why products like orange juice, milk and prepared meals don't come refrigerated or frozen. They are packaged to be stored at room temperature.

I feel badly for the people who don't have emergency generators.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tilt-A-Whirl Posted by Hello

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Auto-rickshaw Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Tilt-a-whirl in the rain

We went to a party last night. Heading home, we got into an auto-rickshaw just as the heavens opened up.

The rain sheeted into the open vehicle as we howled in surprise and laughter. Diane said it was like being in a tilt-a-whirl -- a spinning amusement park ride -- in the rain.

When we got home, we were mostly soaked. Wet fun!

Where have you gone, Robert Zimmerman?

A recent edition of The Hindu newspaper contained a review of a book about Bob Dylan and involvement in Sixties causes with this quote:

"He was always against the Cold War and globalisation and said that he could do without a revolution. He was the greatest Protestant of his times and his ideology is still relevant."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Comments, PLEASE!

Is anyone reading this thing? I have not seen any comments in a while, since the great "Tippoo" vs. "Tipu" controversy.

It's easy to leave a comment -- just click on the comment link on a post and Blogger will generate a form you can use to write your thoughts about my pithy posts.

I'm particularly interested in what people think about my most recent contributions.

Thanks. Now, WRITE SOMETHING (please).


My wife, Diane, discovered that you can watch "The Sopranos" here. Being Italian-American and from northern New Jersey, this is the next best thing to home movies for her. I like the show, too.

But I noticed something when I watched it for the first time in India last night. Tony Soprano -- the godfather of the Soprano crime family for those of you who may not know the show -- kept saying "freaking" a lot. And his voice seemed to change subtly when he said it.

That's when it hit me: the unexpurgated version we were used to seeing in London used another word that begins with "f" -- a lot. Whenever Tony used that word, they dubbed over it with "freaking."

At another point, Tony called someone a "bloodsucker." Two guesses as to what he really said.

It could have been worse. I related this story to some Indian colleagues today. They told me that they used to bleep over Tony's f-words.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Now she tells me

"There is no need to go to India or anywhere else to find peace. You will find that deep place of silence right in your room, your garden or even your bathtub"

Elizabeth Kubler Ross, from a Quote of the Day Web site

Officer on Deck ...

I've been here more than five months now and I am still not used to the deference shown to a) me as a white man and/or b) me as someone perceived as belonging to a higher class (read caste).

Security guards -- and sometimes doormen -- salute me like I'm General Oatis, not just Mr. Oatis. At work, the security guy at the door often stands or begins to stand when I approach the door.

This week, two of the guys who clean the apartments here and a third guy who seemed to be part of their group lined up -- at attention -- just outside our building as I came out the door. I was tempted to stop and inspect them.

The closest I've come to being in the military was a six-year stint in the Boy Scouts. Still, I've seen enough war movies that I have to fight down an impulse to walk over to one of these saluting guys and ask, "What town are you from, soldier?"

Friday, May 13, 2005

Indian English

It doesn't take long to realize that Indian English is yet another variety of the global tongue: different but not too different.

You encounter phrases like "I will do the needful," " ... to avail yourself of the complimentary breakfast" or "I will do the updation."

It's not difficult to translate. The above three phrases (you've probably figured this out already) mean "I will do what is necessary," "to take advantage of the complimentary breakfast" and "I will do the update."

Another difference: the use of the word "kindly," as in "Kindly return your payment," instead of "please."

And there are subtle changes in spelling: for example, "detanus" instead of "detainees."

Encountering different ways of writing and speaking is another perk of living abroad (we moved to Bangalore after learning to read, write and speak British English during 3-1/2 years in London).

I could write about what I call "Hinglish" as well -- the dropping of Hindi words into English sentences -- but that's a topic for another post.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea and think I'm making fun of Indian English or deprecating it in any way, I'd like to quote my wise friend James Dalgliesh on American English vs. British English: "One isn't better than the other. They're just different."

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Kalamkari hanging

Detail from kalamkari wall hanging. Posted by Hello

Beautiful fabric ...

Yesterday, we went to the Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat, an art college with exhibition galleries. Diane had seen an article in The Hindu newspaper about an exhibition on kalamkari, a technique for decorating fabric using a bamboo pen and, traditionally, vegetable dyes.

The fabrics are scroll-like, elaborate and beautiful. We chatted with Cristin McKnight of Los Angeles, who put together the exhibit titled "Traditions-in-Use ..." She was friendly, knowledgeable and allowed me to take some pictures of the exhibit.

I'll put up some photos of items made using kalamkari techniques. Cristin has also put together a Web site on kalamkari.

Temple on wheels

Bangalore is full of surprises. Driving down M.G. Road yesterday, we saw this mobile Hindu temple. Worship comes to you. Posted by Hello

Blogs I like

A pause in my Tales of Bangalore to promote a couple of blogs I like:

Now Cough, by college classmate, public radio veteran and online pioneer John Barth (guys will understand what "Now cough" means).

Amy's New York Notebook by Amy Langfield. Amy is a former colleague at Reuters and blogger extraordinaire. Her blog inspired me to start blogging and she continues to provide helpful advice and criticism. Amy writes about her life in New York, with a focus on journalism. She also has a New York travel site, Neworkology Travel.

There are lots of other blogs out there, some of which I check into from time to time. But these are by friends and, for me, that's more compelling.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Nice story

My friend Paul tipped me off to a nice piece on CNET about Bangalore, titled "Boom Times in Bangalore." Read it here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Eats, Shoots and Throws Monkeys off a Cliff

Looking back over recent postings I noticed a grammatical error of the "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves" variety:

We saw a temple built around 850 A.D., a cliff the Tipu Sultan -- who ruled Mysore in the 18th century -- used to get rid of people and lots of monkeys.

As far as I know, the sultan had no particular animus against simians. The sentence should have (and now does) read:

We saw a temple built around 850 A.D., a cliff the Tipu Sultan -- who ruled Mysore in the 18th century -- used to get rid of people, and lots of monkeys.

A tip of the copy editor's green visor to my brother, Jeremy, who spotted this before I did. He is an English teacher, after all.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Loos Change

It often seems like a given plumbing company in a given country has a monopoly on toilets and urinals, especially the public varieties.

-- So, in America, American Standard's name appears on a lot of white ceramic

-- In Britain, it's Armitage Shanks

-- And, in India it's Hindware

If you have tales of toilet domination in other countries, please chime in.

Tippoo or Tipu?

A sharp-eyed reader notes that I misspelled Tippoo's drop in my last picture's caption. However, the reader suggested I should change it to "Tipu's Drop". My Rough Guide spells it that way, too. But I've also seen it spelled "Tippoo". So, for now, I've corrected the caption to read "Tippoo".

Tipu (or Tippoo) Sultan may very well be one of those names that -- because it's translated from another language written in different characters -- has alternative correct spellings. (E.g., you write "Quadaffi" but I write "Khaddafi").

Any opinions?