Posts Tagged ‘ cars ’

American back in India

I’m now an American who is partly Indian-afied, who is returning back to India after a brief intermission. The return has been fruitful and interesting. It has been easy to return to the left side of the road; my interaction and reaction time has not been so good. Yesterday, as I have forgotten that cars and bikes pull out from all directions, I took a lovely dive (I’m perfectly fine besides a bruise on my bum) outside of a hospital. I love the response time of people; I don’t love that the person who pulled out from the wrong direction, drove off immediately. Four people came rushing out to help me, picked me and my bike up, grabbed my chapals, and took me to the side of the road. They made sure I was ok; someone coming out of the hospital commended me for wearing my helmet and told me I should have sent someone after the guy. It’s the good and the bad of people all over the world. I’m fine, so no one worry. I also have to get used to seeing over 24 dozen eggs loosely packed into the trunk of an old Maruti (car). I also started paying more attention to the cows and water buffalo on the street. I’m not sure why.
New Years was amazing. We got some free passes to a non-us kind of party, but we went anyway. In our own way we made the party an us-kind of party and brought in the new year singing, dancing, laughing, and being ourselves. Here’s another shocker for this American in India; most of my friends had to work on New Years Day. That was beyond me.
For New Years Day I went to Bhakti’s house to have our long awaited reunion. Besides being amazing coworkers and teammates, we’re great friends. I showered her with I love New York items and spent the afternoon with her over lunch and tea. It’s always strange to have a holiday on a Tuesday. It definitely throws you off for the rest of the week.
I forgot to mention that I would never, ever, fly Kuwait Airs. It was not a fun flight back at all except for meeting a couple new people who were equally as frustrated yet not aggressive. We got stuck in Kuwait for a long time without any information. We actually got on the bus to go to the plane and sat there for over a half hour before they took us off the bus and put us back in the airport. They didn’t tell us what was wrong, when we’d board, or anything. There was a very, very angry crowd surrounding the Kuwait Airs desk. There was shouting from both sides. I met a British rock climber who was going to Hampi for a few months to climb there and we stayed off to the side peacefully. There was an Italian couple equally appalled at the crowd mentality. They sent us upstairs for sandwich, and we boarded the plane at around 3am (originally 7 I think, then pushed to 2 but we didn’t really board until 3). It was a nice travel meeting. I don’t usually get those because I live here, often forgetting that it’s still kind of traveling for me.
It’s back to the grind of the day to day life. The first week, or semi week, was a good filter back into living here. Tomorrow is Sports Day again. I’m not so thrilled about waking up early on a Sunday, but the day is always fun and a great way to bond informally with the kids.
Because I never mentioned it before – Happy New Year!

Indore part 1

Indore is great. I get to come to a friend’s home, a nice home with nice, smart, super friendly, caring parents, eat home food, go shopping and dress up. It’s a true vacation. Sleeping a lot helps as well. Last week was quite hectic at work and this was very much needed. We would have taken the bus but Bhakti’s husband managed to take a day off work and we drove. It was a long drive that took around 9 hours. The ride was really interesting – we passed several gypsy settlements, saw many fields, some mountain ranges, sang some songs, I listened to a mix of Hindi and Marathi because both her and her husband, Abhijeet, are fluent in both, ate some snacks, and slept. Bhakti has decided to start teaching me Hindi, with proper Hindi lessons.
Last week I heard a story, learned how to introduce myself, and got a few new vocabulary words. Because it was hectic at work, I wasn’t able to get another lesson. So in the car ride I decided to ask a few questions based on different songs. I learned that “Born to be Wild” is jungly hone ke lie peda hona, I also got some Pink Floyd and Beetles song titles translated. This is useless Hindi I know but it’s really fun.
Her parents are amazing. Both of them are agricultural scientists. Her house is awesome and homely. There are many mosquitoes that have already eaten me up. We’re going to a wedding tomorrow night. I was instructed to bring a sare but apparently I’ll be wearing one of Bhakti’s sister’s saris. It’s beautiful. We spent a significant amount of time choosing an appropriate one for Bhakti and myself, and then sifting through all the fancy sari jewelry. A home is a fun place to be. Home food is also a fun thing to eat. I was joking with all my friends that I’ll come back happy, relaxed, and fat; they’ll just roll me down the hill.
Yesterday we left in the evening to go to a Sardar wedding in Khandwa, a small town about two hours away from Indore. It took us around 4 hours to get there. There was traffic; not just any traffic but big truck slow traffic. We waited about 5 minutes on a small narrow bridge with huge trucks on it. I could never see anyone driving so meticulously in the West, however, I could never see a bridge like that with cars like those anywhere else either.
We got there as the groom was coming in on the white horse. We said hello, did a little dance, and quickly left to change. The hotel we thought we were staying at was an immediate “no.” Abhijeet (Bhakti’s husband) and his friend checked it out and it was not only cheap, but baaaad. I’m used to staying in the low end hotels, but this was apparently really bad. We went to the sabse aacha (best) hotel in the area, which was still not great. I wonder how bad the other one was. We dressed up in our sarees (I’ll post a picture later) and went back. We basically said hi to the wedding party, ate, and left. The next morning we came for breakfast late and thought we were going to miss everything. The wedding was supposed to start at 9:30. We reached breakfast at 9:30, ate aramse (relaxed) and went off to the Gurudwara. It was almost 11:30 before it started. As my one friend said, when I spoke about the timing, it’s a wedding, not a business meeting. It was simple and sweet. The singing was beautiful. They had a tabla player with two harmoniums. The Guru was at the front and they went through the ceremony. I loved the music. And then, it was over. We were going to leave but then they made sure that we came for lunch. Of course, even though we protested, we obliged in the end. After eating, one of the uncles spoke to me. He lives in Pune in an area I know. He wanted to make sure if I had eaten. If he only knew…
We took our leave and came back to Indore.
The food we’ve eaten so far that is special to Indore: Pohe – much different than Pune pohe, with a different masalas; Jalebi – this was for breakfast as well which was a strange experience, but it was the best jalebi I’ve ever had; Cachori – I’ve had it before in Pune and didn’t like it but here it was absolutely amazing – here we had moong dal, aloo and mutter cachori, I think my favorite is aloo; fried khaman – this is fried dhokla (a Gujrati dish); Shikanji – this is one of the most amazing drinks ever, it’s like dahi with sugar and mixed fruits and nuts; Banjo from Johnny Hotdog – this is a famous place that’s been running for over 20 years – it’s basically an omlet in a pav (a type of bread); and of course home food – it goes without saying that it’s amazing.
The rest of this evening we’ll be at home relaxing. We’ll play carram (an Indian non-bored game, it’s played with your fingers on a square board. It could remind you a little of pool but it’s nothing like that). This is a good vacation.

Frro again…and again…

On Sunday night I saw a movie, English Vinglish. It’s a Bollywood remake of a Tamilian film with one of the most famous actresses in India, Shri Devi. It’s about an Indian woman, a homemaker who does not speak English and is either ostracized or made fun of by her family. She is soft spoken and feels embarrassed often. Her sister’s daughter, in New Jersey is getting married so her sister calls her to help prepare. She goes alone and manages to get on the path train to the city, and finds an English in 4 weeks class. She secretly goes to learn English. There are a mix of interesting English language learners including ones from Mexico (who I thought looked less Mexican than not), France, Pakistan, a non descript African country, India, and China. The story takes her through various spots of downtown Manhattan. At one point their at the Sunshine theatre on E. Houston and then all of a sudden they’re walking next to the Flat Iron building. I found that funny, but no one else would know the difference. The movie was sweet. It made me a little homesick. I wanted to fly home for the weekend just to see everything and run, as Gayatri would say, helter-skelter, for a while.
I also just had a great day yesterday as well. It’s always nice to work one on one with kids, especially when they’re the kids who really need the one on one work. It was also due to my FRO experience. Yes, I had a good day because of the FRO!
After four trips to the local police station and only two to the FRO, I’ve successfully submitted my extension papers. Everyone knows me there now. It’s kind of funny. After you walk in the main gate you have to scan your bag, even if you walk out for only a minute. Most people have to walk in and out several times because they don’t have one copy or another or they need to get their paper stamped from a different desk outside the main building. The women officers who sit there just smile at me as I put the same bag through the same scanner each time. While entering my information into the computer at that table, the man at the front desk (which is kind of smushed up on the side of the computer) started talking to me. At one point he yelled at me last year, but we’ve let bygones be bygones and now he asked me how long I’ve been here, what I do, where I live, what I do for fun. The conversations are in Hindi. There was a new woman entering data in the computer and she did something wrong so her supervisor, very nicely took over and did it again. Everyone was laughing. It seemed like some odd movie. The only thing I can think of comparing it to right now is in Coraline when she meets her other mother and everything is eerily amazing. The rest of the day was just as smooth. Even the woman who scans the documents said that my Hindi was getting better. The main woman who has been super nice through this whole ordeal smiled at me as I walked back to finally submit my papers. As she looked through them she already handed me the famous slip of paper that states I’ve submitted my documents, handed me the whole puncher for me to put them all in my folder. When I was done she smiled. I put a little chocolate éclair candy on the whole puncher and said thanks for being so nice and patient with me through all this. She smiled a huge smile. I decided that this would be my thank you to people. They barely get recognized for what they do, and even better, they’re really nice about it these days, even through people who are quite ridiculous. There was a man who came the first day who was particulary not nice to them. He kept saying whatever and just do what I say. I couldn’t believe that they let him speak to them like that. I think they were just amused at his guts to not care about his own paperwork. So I’m done…for now.

Baroda – a few weeks late

I didn’t write about Gujrat – to the dismay of one of my friends here who recently discovered my blog.

This was a great Baroda trip. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but Gayatri had to back out last minute to go somewhere else. We were supposed to stay in her house, with her, and her parents. Both her and her parents aren’t here. We stayed anyway; they insisted. We left Pune at 7:30, 15 minutes after we were supposed to, and only 10 minutes after the last group of folks arrived. They enjoy making me go slightly crazy when they’re late. They kept telling me to relax, but for some reason, the American in me won’t allow me to be late or accept lateness from others when it comes to things like bus times. The bus would have left them in the US. Good thing the bus was later than them here.
The rule was not to sleep on the bus, but of course, none of us abided. We all passed out and awoke at the first rest stop. After getting off the bus, the driver kicked everyone off, and quite bitterly at that. We spent around 45 minutes there. Sachin’s mom cooked us all parathas and we happily ate them with dahi and a really yummy peanut chutney. After sleeping, waking, eating carrots, and sleeping more, we woke up at 6am for another rest stop. It was pitch black out. The amazing part was sitting in a cold rest stop for 20 minutes and to see how the first break of sunlight creeps into the world. I’ve seen it before, but it was somehow different. We’re a great group of people so no moment is lost without a laugh or making fun of something or other, even while getting off a bus and waiting for the car to pick us up. It’s incredible really. We were hosted by Gayatri’s family’s driver and were taken around the city, cooked for, and assisted for three days. The itinerary is kind of as follows – as mapped out by Gayatri to her father who provided instructions for those who were supposed to take care of us. I reread that line and realized how I’ve been indoctrinated. I don’t feel strange that they had a driver, their driver take us around, that they have a maid and cook who cooked for us. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I’m still quite conscious of it, but more accepting of it as well.

Noticings about Gujrat: It’s much cleaner, hotter, spacious, greener, and drier than Pune. They have fancier tool booths. Both Manoj and I looked at each other with the ooooo face when we passed through. We abided by the itinerary, for the most part provided by Gayatri. When we got “home” Kajal put out this amazing breakfast and we set out for the days events. Her parents got us a mini van for the 9 (turned 8 of us). It was amazing.

Amazing artists, especially the Indian modern art. In each of the galleries there was random European art, mostly Italian and French by artists I’ve never heard of; it was kind of weird. There was great modern Indian art, but the section must of consisted of less than two dozen paintings. After the second museum, we set off for a temple on the top of one of the only peaks in Baroda. I had to face my fear of heights (which has slowly developed in the past few years along with a fear of elevators). Indro wasn’t ready to go either, but after he saw the technology of the tram, he decided it was ok. I took his cue and struggled on the way up. It was a spectacular view. Many places we went, including this temple, didn’t allow photos, hence, there will be none to show.

There are so many mosquitoes! I look like I got a rash. In between my dreams where monkeys were very prevalent, I was bitten up to no other on my legs and back. It’s awful! They itch. Usually Indian mosquitoes bites (for no particular reason) don’t itch for too long, maybe a day or two; these ones are brutal!

The next morning we were out by 6:30, a first deviation from the itinerary. We saw the sun temple and changed the plans to see Akshardam, a privately owned temple that is so well maintained. It also had a water park (closed) and a sea show (also closed). We found that a bit strange.

The rest of the trip is documented in the pictures below and through the album, which you should check out. I would love to write about the rest of it, but doubt I’d do it justice a few weeks later.

For all photos:

safety in Pune ;)

It was safety week at work. On Friday we had a fire drill and in the morning before that we had a “mandatory” fire safety workshop. I reluctantly went and after about 15 minutes, I left. They spent a long time introducing various people (as is very customary here) and then when the guy who was teaching safety lessons spent a little over 5 minutes saying that you have to know where are all the exits. Sometimes I get kind of frustrated when people speak English horribly incorrect. I wonder why in big groups people don’t speak Hindi. Odds were, in that crowd, more people spoke Hindi more proficiently than English. I left after he said, “for what all those exist are.” There was too much to do. Although I heard, and from the 10 minutes I was there, he was quite funny. I got another little taste of his humor when we did a fire drill. Every floor had a person who wore a bright yellow and orange baseball cap who was responsible for getting everyone out and lining up in the driveway. We had to line up in a single file by floor. The gates were locked! The whole thing was kind of a joke (to me, and I’m sorry if I offended anyone at work or in the building by laughing too much and getting a little upset about the counterproductiveness of getting us out of supposedly burning buildings only to line us up next to the building and lock us in the compound). We were required to stand outside and listen to his amusing and much more informative what to dos in terms of safety. It made me happy when he kept reinforcing wearing helmets and, to the shock of most people in the crowd, he told them they’re walking on the wrong side of the road. Everyone walks and runs in the same direction as the cars. I do it too most of the time. He was hysterical, using great jokes, I used it as time to test my Hindi – I didn’t get most of it, but with words here and there I could piece together some stuff.
During a class trip to a park with a nearby pool, I discovered I could go swimming. The guy at the pool was a character! Promptly after work on Friday I went to a sports store to get a suit. I must say, I look like a 20s swimmer. The suit reminds me of the uni I used to wear on the crew team. It’s a one piece that goes all the way down mid thigh. It’s a nice maroon and yellow. I was so excited to buy it. Yesterday after work, Manoj and I ventured to the pool. We can pay by day for Rs30 and swim as long as we want. It was amazing. I’m not a great swimmer; I know how to swim, but by no means a good swimmer. The same man who gave the kids a tour on Thursday asked me to help him coach kids with him, to help out. Manoj says it’s because I’m white, I kind of agree. But it didn’t take away from the amusement factor. For safety purposes they had to see if we could swim. We didn’t even know when the “exam” was over. We shared the pool with about 15 kids taking a lesson, stopping to go to the side when they were taking off.
Unsafe thing of the day – I drove 40km. It wasn’t that unsafe really. I drive well, at least I’m told I do a decent job. I’m getting used to it, but don’t exactly enjoy it. At the safety talk we learned that Pune is the most dangerous city in terms of traffic. Going on a long journey in the car wasn’t exactly the thing I wanted to do after hearing it, but I also enjoyed the challenge. We had a fun day with work so I drove the folks on this side of town to the other end of the city. It was stressful and I feel very accomplished after driving back. Everyone was safe and sound; there was a lot of traffic on the way there and it was really hot both there and back, but everything went fine. The car is going back on Wednesday so I feel like that was a nice last hoo-ra.