Saturday, October 29, 2005

Playing the palace ...

Today, we visited the fantastic Bangalore Palace, said to be a replica of Windsor Castle. The castle -- complete with turrets -- was built by the Wodeyars, the maharajahs of Mysore, in the late 19th Century.

We took a tour of the interior. It was amazing. There are signs of former opulence and decay all around. Workmen were doing restoration work in various rooms, but in some places it looked like a losing battle.

The place is a mix of Western and Indian elements. There are skylights containing Belgian glass and rooms hung with oil paintings of Hindu gods. The maharanee's bedroom has beautiful Chinese wallpaper. Two small courtyards boast Mediterranean tiles and fountains. Sepia-tinted pictures of the Wodeyars from the days of the Raj line the walls of one of the courtyards. An entrance hall is dominated by a stuffed elephant's head hanging overhead.

To complete the cognitive dissonance, the palace grounds -- including the formal garden -- played host to an information technology fair. Very Bangalore.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Floods ...

We have had days and days of rain. On Tuesday, it rained so long and so hard, we got flooding. Flooding and flood-related damage so bad that, according to news reports, at least 13 people died.

At my office, we sent all non-essential staff home. Some of the essentials spent the nght at hotels or guest houses.

I was lucky. The roads to and from work were pretty dry. So, no problem for me. But one of my co-workers had the most amazing mobile phone video of flooding in her area: floating cars and people wading waist-deep in water.

THIS was the monsoon I'd been expecting back in June and July. I'm told the rains are falling later this year than they have previously.

Friday, October 21, 2005

How does a monkey cross the road?

By using a power line. We saw a monkey scamper atop a power line to cross Airport Road this morning. He (she?) was followed by another monkey dangling upside down with a passenger: a baby monkey on her (his?) stomach.

As Peter Gabriel once sang, "Don't you know you've got to shock the monkey?"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Today is Vijayadashami, the culmination of a 10-day Hindu festival called Dassehra.

The festival's name is also spelled Dasara and Dussera, and is also called Navaratri. In southern India, the festival commemorates the victory of the Goddess Durga over the demon Mahishasura near Mysore (For more details, see Wikipedia's entry).

On the eve of the day, we held a ceremony -- called puja -- at my office. An ad hoc mini-temple was set up in the lobby. Bedecked with flowers, it contained a picture depicting Ganesha and two other gods. A friend from New York said the temple's canopy reminded her of the canopy, or chuppah, erected for Jewish weddings.

On the floor were chalk inscriptions.

As at other Hindu temples, a priest came round with a tray with a flame on it. You put your hand over the flame, touch your warm hand to your forehead and then put a dot of colored powder on your forehead. You leave a little money on the tray (like collection in church).

I'm sure this ceremony is commonplace in many offices in India. But it was a first for me. And very special.

On the streets going home, I noticed that some cars had plants tied to their front bumpers (Readers: what does this signify?).

Vijayadashami is also a work holiday in southern India. So, I'm taking the day off.

Happy Dassehra


A reader says my "Star Trek" posting was wrong in saying that "firangi" referred to white people and says it refers to foreigners in general (my information came from an Indian co-worker). So, I've taken that bit out for now.

I've also deleted the post about drinking Taj Mahal tea, which even my wife didn't like (overbrewed? :-) )

Monday, October 03, 2005

We traveled north to see the glorious Taj Mahal this past weekend. I'm on the left. Jay is in the middle and Diane is on the right. Posted by Picasa