Thursday, April 22, 2010

back at the airport

Well of course I didn't come home early from karaoke last night did I? I was having a lovely beer or two and watching the IPL semi final - of course my team lost - and and 'enjoying' the singing efforts of a group of young people who were murdering Madonna, ABBA and many more besides. So I didn't feel the need to participate. I gave my friend Manish an autographed Steve Waugh cricket bat which my niece very kindly sent over (she works for S Waugh) and he was well pleased.
When I woke up way too early this morning I tried to rationalise my luggage  as I knew I had too much - but of course failed miserably. So off I went with the driver, after saying goodbye to Hydra who is not feeling well as she ate a dodgy pigeon yesterday...As I got out of the car at the airport a Kingfisher airways man came up and asked which airline - I said Jetlite - he said no problem - and wheeled my trolley for me up to the counter. Too helpful - take note other airlines!
I can hear them calling another Guwahati flight so I guess the airport has dried out a bit.....I've still got a couple of hours before mine leaves, so I can play on the free wifi here at the airport (god how I love it) and maybe ring some people up before having a Delhi airport version of breakfast. I've have already had a warm bottle of lemon Mirinda - mmmmm I love fruit for breakfast. I don't know why Sydney airport can't be as civilised as this - the staff are pleasant - even when you have 'too many luggages' and everything works and lots of stuff is free! Pay attention Macquarie Bank.
Carmen my hostess is probably getting out of bed now to collect her bags as she is flying off to Goa while I am away - lucky thing. When I am knee deep in flood this afternoon she will be floating in the Arabian Sea and eating pineapples!
So here's a picture of the National Highway in Assam from my last trip there. Pretty bustling kinda joint!
See you all again soon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

and then it got hotter

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside, it got hotter and the desert wind picked up and you got - hot and sticky and covered in fine sand! Lovely! Sitting in an alley way on a busted chair eating what was, undeniably, a very hot and spicy chicken tikka roll while melting in the 'breeze' was quite something, especially as I was losing the food fight with myself. 
There are some cars parked around here that got so covered in dust they look like they have been parked since the time of Akbar the Great.
In Guwahati, where I am flying tomorrow, they have a different problem. Since Monday they have had 80 cm, (that's right centimetres!!!!) of rain and the town is flooded. I do hope Jet Airways has invested in a couple of seaplanes and one is on the Assam route.... stay tuned.
Righto, Robin is in Bomdilla visiting the big Rimpoche today with some people from a UN (I think) programme - he is hoping to get a blessing for his Bhutan trip. He will then head off early tomorrow to drive down through Tezpur then change cars to meet me (assuming I make it) in Guwahati. I hope he is coming in a boat!
The first final of the IPL is on tonight between the Mumbai Indians (Sachin Tendulkar) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (Anil Kumble) - I can't decide which team to go for. I'll be watching it in Harry's karaoke palace tonight with Manish - I don't expect there will be too many people out and about this evening.
The IPL scandal is getting lots of coverage over here, naturally, and so now some politicians are suggesting that the government makes gambling legal in India. That would certainly solve some of the problems currently being faced.
If I make it to Assam tomorrow, I will be out of technology range for a few days, so you won't hear from me for a while. So, enjoy Anzac Day and be nice to a service person. It's thanks to them we have so many things we take for granted.
Remember the story we learnt at school about Simpson and his donkey carrying wounded soldiers in Gallipolli? Well I don't have a picture of that so here is the donkey rank in Jomsom, Nepal. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let's get jolly shall we?

Well I didn't make it out yesterday as it happened - sorry Steven my report on Ice Lounge will have to wait. I ended up trying to console the wailing women of the household - how does one treat the helpers who are upset? I never learnt that at Bankstown Girls, oddly enough! Sometimes this house is like a Bollywood potboiler. And I've seen plenty of them lately.
Good old Bollywood, there's nothing quite like it.  Shah Rukh Khan (or SRK) is one of the big heart throbs - he also owns the Kolkata Knight Riders IPL team -  along with bad boy Salman Khan (who is forever taking his shirt off) who works out about 28 hours a day by the looks of him, Aamir Khan who hadn't been seen for a while and is now back with a vengeance on TV, and Saif Ali Khan who looks quite sweet.
If they aren't for you,  there's Hrithik Roshan who is too dishy for words, and my personal favourite, Akshay Kumar, who started off as a martial arts exponent in Bangkok. He's pretty easy on the eye, and does his own stunts. He frequently appears open shirted or shirtless too. Of course the Big B, Amitabh Bachhan, is probably the best known of all Bollywood stars over the last 30 or so years. His son, Abhishek, is married to the beautiful actress Aishwarya Rai (a former beauty queen). Other screen ladies of note in Bollywood are Preity Zinta (owner of Kings XI Punjab IPL team), the deliciously named Twinkle Khanna (who is married to hunk Akshay Kumar), Twinkle's mother Dimple Kapadia, (where do they get these names?), Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor (aka Bebo). My favourite Bollywood actor name? It has to be the wonderful Chunkey Pandey! OMG.  These people have the most outrageous lifestyles which it seems most self respecting Indians admire and aspire to.
The movie plots are fantastic (in the true sense of the word!) and the hair and costumes have to be seen to be believed. Yesterday I was watching some turgid offering where the good guy (clearly) had the tightest whitest trousers on but still managed to kung fu (well sort of) his way out of a fight against about 20 evil goondas who were trying to beat him up and molest his lady friend. He had the most amazing bouffant hair do too, and just like James Bond, it never got messed up. Ah if only the real world could be so fabulous....
They do sometimes fall from grace, like Sanjay Dutt, a big star in the 80's - he even starred in a Bollywood version of Rocky - and he and I share a birthday (yes the same year too). He was always a bad boy and muscleman, and ended up embroiled in an illegal arms scandal and something in the 1993 Mumbai bombings. Despite this, and several stints in prison, he kept appearing in films and even wanted to run for parliament. Nothing it seems can remove the glamour of Bollywood once it has been appliqued in place!
I'm sure you needed to know all of that, and will be rushing off to your nearest purveyor of Hindi films...
Hey, so Robin rang from Tawang yesterday bored and wet. The gompa was big, the museum not particularly noteworthy, and the Phd student from Assam was not quite up to her Phd yet. Anyway, he was going to head to Bomdilla I think today and then make his way down to Guwahati for our Thursday reunion - key cheesy Bollywood music and person with bouffant hairstyle! Perhaps we can run towards each other through a field of flowers in slow motion or something - then either the fireworks go off or the train enters the tunnel. OOH. If you don't get it don't worry!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sad day in Hauz Khas

Well Sunday wasn't much chop of a day as it happened. After the incident of breakfast, all of a sudden there was drama, as Carmen's driver, Prem called from his home to say he wasn't feeling well. The other driver went to his house to take him to hospital (I think, everything is rather mish mashed right now) whereupon poor Prem died of a heart attack. It was a complete shock to everyone. So then Luis (Raj and Carmen's son) and Carmen and Louella (the delightful teacher who lives upstairs) went to see Prem's wife and teenage son. The whole day was spent with people coming and going, and Luis has done a wonderful job arranging for Prem's body to go to the morgue at Lodhi gardens, where the cremation is taking place as I write. It has shaken the whole street, as all the staff used to gather outside when they weren't working (guards, chowkidars and drivers) and gossip and drink tea etc, so they all know each other very well. So I am minding the house and making sure Hydra the cat drinks enough water.
I didn't tell you that she likes to drink out of the tap - it's pretty funny and I must try to get a video of it. Not that you will get to see it.
So Robin had a lovely day in Tawang yesterday. They went to Nawang of Tawang's place to meet his family, and then they went to visit the oldest man in town (102) and his 96 year old wife. They heard all about when Arunachal was part of Tibet, and how it is still subject to border disputes between India and China. Sounds like a very jolly day. They were to meet up with the anthropologist last evening - she's from Assam not Berkeley (bad translation obviously) - and wander around the market. Today in Tawang there is a big religious festival, so everything will be closed, except the monastery which will be doing a roaring trade. Robin then plans to head up to a home stay village for 2 nights before coming through Tezpur to meet me in Guwahati.
The blasted swimming pool is closed again for cleaning - hope they aren't hosting the Commonwealth Games at this one - so I am pretty cross with them as I paid a lot of money to join and this is twice in just over 2 weeks that it has been closed for 2 or more days. I think they omitted to connect the pump to the electricity - or something like that. So I am trying to think of something to do today that I can do which is: cool, enjoyable, gets me near some shops as I need to buy a few grocery type items, and is FUN. Any ideas? Maybe I should go to Ice Lounge at Saket - where everything (even the seats) is made of ice - I'm sure there would be a supermarket of some description there......

May Prem's soul find peace.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How hot is Hot?

Pretty bloody hot actually! Yesterday Delhi got to 43.7 degrees - and the wind! There is a hot wind which blows in from the desert, called loos, which makes you feel as though you are walking around with a huge fan heater attached to you. I am struggling to find ways to describe what it feels like, but as I was swimming yesterday every time I took my head out of the water to breathe I could feel my hair being blow dried! It is so hot that you feel it cannot get any hotter, so you try to go about your business as best you can. It is predicted to be even hotter today, before the temperature 'plunges' to about 40 tomorrow. Better get my fleece out! According to the Times of India, yesterday was the hottest April day since 1958 - lucky me. Everyone is forecasting May to be close to unbearable. Good thing there is a brand of home airconditioner advertised that cools 'even at 54 degrees'.
After a morning swim yesterday I went to Khan market to see Mr Goel the tailor, who has done a magnificent job for me. A spot of lunch in a nice a/c cafe (with a cold beer) and it was back into the shops, then home for a bit before going to Delhi Haat in the evening.
Delhi Haat is a fabulous outdoor market with stalls from all over India - each state tourism place has a restaurant serving their local delicacies, and the stalls from all over India have Hyderabadi pearls (very nice), embroidered stuff from Orissa, Punjabi pottery. It was still about 38 degrees last night when we went, but after a while your brain just switches off!
Sunday is the 'staff' day off, so I was first up this morning (that never happens!) and I am struggling to create breakfast. I found some bread to make toast, finally found tea leaves and a teapot, but damned if I can find the milk. There is some rather weird looking white stuff in the fridge, which seems to have separated, so I am not taking any chances with that. I filled a thermos with the lame looking tea I made, and ended up with Vegemite on toast and Coke. Very healthy. Something I have often had here for lunch, which some people are fascinated by, is Chicken Ham. Don't ask me what it's made from, I am assuming chicken.. It kinda doesn't taste like anything, so perhaps it is made from chokos! But it is pretty good with grilled cheese on top for lunch. You can buy it here in South Delhi from the Steakhouse (which doesn't sell steak but does stock just about everything else) or a butcher cum deli called Pigpo. Great name.
And what of Brave Sir Robin? After telling me on Friday that they would spend a few days in Bomdilla, at lunchtime yesterday he called from Tawang, the end point of the 'trek'. He estimates he has spent about 5 hours trekking in the last few weeks, and never wants to see a jeep again! He saw another foreigner on the road yesterday - they were both pleasantly surprised - and there are 2 other foreigners in town apparently. Hope they got together and had a party. One is an American anthropologist from Berkeley so Robin was hoping to catch up with her. They now have to fill in time till Thursday when I get up to Guwahati to meet them.
Latest scandal in India (now that Shoania is over) is that the IPL (cricket) has been tainted by match fixing and money laundering. Gee no kidding!

And here's some sickly cakes you don't want to scoff in this heat - from the fabulous Evergreen Sweet House in Green Park - and don't you just love the name - Pista Bhog - I bet that's how you feel after a few! The silver stuff isn't foil it is silver leaf, which doesn't make your fillings zing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Logistics Success at Last!

Yes it took some time but all is arranged - thanks to Harry and the internet. And thanks to Steve for reading my mind about which hotel to stay in - done and dusted!
Changing flights in this nutty country is really interesting. The closer to the date you want, the heaps more expensive it is - like about twice the price. Damn. But now it is complete and I got the hotel I wanted in Kolkata for a price which is actually cheaper than an email offer I got today for something in Hobart. Go figure.
Kolkata wasn't my first choice for a romantic relaxing romantic week - I actually wanted to go to Gopalpur-On-Sea - don't ask why, I just like the name. But it was 2 plane rides and a 5hr car trip. Best not.
So yesterday was spent surfing the net and trying to get my a/c fixed - again. Then had dinner and a few drinks with Carmen and disappeared upstairs to watch the IPL cricket. Go the Delhi Daredevils! Tonight's match is in Dharamsala - a beautiful looking ground with monastery and mountains in the background. What a treat for the locals.Robin has arrived in Bomdilla which is quite a large town in Arunachal and is staying in the first star rated hotel in AP - it even has a bar that serves Fosters. So he intends to have one. He described the bar as "red and black checked furniture with green downlights" How tasteful. I'm relaxing with some Godfather Rum from Jammu and Kashmir (my old faves Old Monk, or Raffles, are strangely unavailable). Hope I don't wake up next to a horse's head!
Last night after the cricket finished I changed to an Indian news channel, and it struck me that I should tell you about some of these channels.
In particular, shouty news TV – and Headlines today and Lemon TV are the most notable exponents of this genre. By this I mean TV ‘news’ that has so many doodads flashing and whizzing by and ‘info bars’ that you don’t actually know what is happening, and you may have an epileptic fit if so inclined! “Welcome to Head Spin TV”
Headlines Today – bottom left screen – channel banner and in the  top three quarters whatever is filmed. Followed by a large banner headline underneath the moving picture, which usually bears no resemblance to what is happening onscreen. Under that will be an explanation of the banner heading above, which seems to change in order to further inform the viewer, every 10 seconds. Under that again is a scrolling newsbar. GAWD
Lemon TV in contrast is in restful shades of lime green and canary yellow and has:
The Lemon logo on top right corner, moving pictures in the top half of the screen, a show title banner and ‘explanation’ thereunder.
Then a title NEWSFLASH with scrolling banner of whatever the newsflash is (usually incomprehensible). Underneath that are 2 scrolling-at-different-speeds bars with stock exchange info in English and Hindi, and on the right they display the time! Ooh my head!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Logistics swings into action - sort of

And what a pain it is! There I was having a lovely relax yesterday (well actually it was a nanna nap!) when Robin rang to tell me to call him back. Here we go again... Some considerable time later we managed to chat to each other, and he told me that since he seems to be not achieving what he had hoped, he was going to can the rest of the trip and just get to Tawang and then send the crew on their way, leaving a free week for us to have a holiday. He said that he does not want to spend much time in a car, or going somewhere with lots of rain, but apart from that I can decide what we will do.
OK, India, bloody big place, having a heatwave, he is about to spend 7 weeks in the mountains so not that, and we will be in the far north east - about 10 hours plane ride away from Goa, the place everyone immediately suggested. Right dear leave it with me.
GRRRRR. Spent a very frustrating 3 hours or so online trying to work out something, ANYTHING, that was doable from Guwahati airport that connects with not much else.
Gave up and went out to karaoke and sank a few Kingfishers and managed to avoid the microphone (well mostly). Had a very cranky driver when I came out - well how was I to know he gets 'locked out' of his house at 12.30 if he doesn't tell me these things?!@!*#* Thanks Manish for taking over the 'hurry up madame' phone call or whatever it was. But of course it was thanks to Manish I was there in the first place!
Anyway, was hoping to go to the pool this morning but have spent about 6 hours online trying to make arrangements, and the person who is supposedly changing my plane tickets has just disappeared, so I can't book anything till I find out about the tickets. I could have gone to the pool after all instead of wasting all day here getting cross.  I spoke to Robin a few times today, and he suggested Manas National Park in Assam (saves him going too far) - ah well I'm sure it would be nice if there was somewhere to stay that a) was not a dorm, b) provided food and c) was not rated by travellers as 'like a prison cell'. So I gave that a miss. Equally Kaziranga in Assam has some quite OK sounding places - but if I am paying $180US a night, I actually expect that my 'hot shower' will not be a lukewarm bucket of water. Call me weird!
So I have, after much thought, decided that as Robin has had 1 cancelled trip, 1 made up trip and 1 bummed out trip so far, that we should have a treat. I think that a super posh hotel in Kolkata (just an hour or so away by plane from Assam) might be just the ticket. Yes I know it's lots of money, but it is actually cheaper than a lukewarm bucket shower in Kaziranga! We can swim, Robin can go to the gym, sauna or spa, have massages and eat, and at least in Kolkata I can go out and stock the mini bar with STUFF and not pay 5 star prices! And he did say that if I was happy he was sure he would be too! So anyway, that's what I have decided (Robin did say it was up to me and if I thought we could afford it to do it) but don't tell him - it's a secret.
I also got an email today from the guys in Bhutan wondering what sort of food Robin would like - I said that he wouldn't like sardines with rice, or fish head soup. Luckily for Robin he can and will eat just about anything.
I spoke to Robin this afternoon and they were driving through a town in Arunachal where there were NISHI people who have rather distinctive headgear - one fellow had a coconut shell on his head with feathers stuck in it. Sounds like just the thing for the racing carnivals.
Well that's about all I have to report from my hopeless day of internetverke. Hopefully next time something FABULOUS to these pictures!

a wonderful light up map of Indian Railways network

here's some delightful outfits from Sarojini market

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Public holiday India

Apart from it being various forms of New Year today, April 14 is celebrated as a public holiday every year in India in honour of Dr Ambedkar, the leading light of the social revolution in India to release the lower castes from their downtrodden status. While Mahatma Gandhi certainly did much for the Dalits/Untouchables by calling them Harijans (children of God), Ambedkar argued that this still left them in the Hindu caste system, and didn't free them from their situation. Although both men had the same end result in mind, they took very different routes. Ambedkar was one of the first Dalits to receive a college education, then he went abroad and studied in the USA. On his return to India he helped write the new constitution, and became India's first law minister after Independence. In the 1950's he became a Buddhist, and urged many of his Dalit followers to do likewise. To many he is still a hero, with his catchcry "Eduate!! Agitate!! Organize!!"
So around India, and especially in Mumbai where he studied, there are many rallies going on in honour of him. The 2 major political parties, BJP and Congress (think Gandhi) are having rival rallies in an effort to convince people that THEY are the party with the legacy of Dr Ambedkar- that is, to look after the Dalit people who still today are not even treated as 2nd class citizens by many.
The life of a Dalit is not easy. They are forbidden to even cast a shadow on a higher caste person, and in many villages they are not allowed water from the well, to walk on the roads with others, or even to get their hair cut. When Ambedkar was a small boy, he and his family were denied many things we take for granted every day, just because of their name or caste. It was this constant ill treatment, for which he could find no apparent logical reason, that led him on to be one of India's greatest modern politicians and social reformers.
So that is today's history lesson. Meanwhile I had a night in with Carmen and Isabelle, a 75 year old ex Embassy lady who is pretty damn lively! Today was more pool action - did a few extra laps today - and a lot of internetverke - and I'm going to have a bit of a nanna nap now before Robin rings - though I have no doubt he will, as usual, interrupt! More karaoke tonight - look out world!
Oh and yes, it is still HOT, and Robin is still WET.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Happy Hindu/Sikh/Nepali New Year

I think we're up to 2067 from tomorrow - oh dear I feel old!
Here's some good luck charms for you all....You can see why I had trouble deciding which one to purchase.
The weather is still HOT HOT HOT here and people have started keeling over from it all over the place.
After the excitement of going to the 1911 bar at the Imperial on Sunday night for dinner and drinks with friends, I stayed in most of Monday as I was booked to go to a presentation by the Himalaya Club here in Delhi, by a chap called Tom Davenport who skied Antarctica. He looked like quite a normal man! It was a very entertaining programme, and I was very surprised that there seemed to be about 90 or so people there for a Monday night in Delhi. The organiser, Maninder Kohli, was very impressed with the turn up.
Afterwards, Harry of train museum fame and I went to AI, a Japanese restaurant which just won the Best Japanese restaurant in Delhi award. I know, I hate fish, rice and seaweed, but the food was lovely. And don't even ask me about the sorbet. I'll show you some photos later. If you behave.
Then I got home and went to bed and was woken about 2am by my air conditioner giving up the ghost. LOUDLY. The ceiling fan was really hopeless and noisy so I gave up and tried to get in downstairs - it is a complex arrangement here in the Gated Village. I was so tired I couldn't get in so ended up sprawled on the outside furniture under a fan (thank god many Indian places have a fan on the verandah). The maid person thought it was pretty funny.
Did some laps as penance then headed off to Khan market for some retail therapy. I feel much better now.
Hey I didn't tell you that last Sunday night I saw a camel on the ring road. What is it about Sunday nights and wild animals on the road - well I don't think it was actually wild but you know what I mean.
And yesterday there was a plush a/c bus with about 10 girls in lycra shorts (a sporting team no doubt) 'speeding' along the main drag, with a police escort which would not let ANYBODY go past, when they had to screech to a halt for the world's HUGEST bullock. The horns were about 2 metres each. Very impressive and a good laugh for those of us stuck behind the world's slowest speeding bus.
Poor old Robin is back in Along again, (didn't Gilbert O'Sullivan do a song called that? That's right, Alone Again Naturally). Ah the jokes just keep improving. Robin is looking forward to another road trip tomorrow, but says that in Menchuka/Machuka whatever it's called the locals we able to give him a lot of insight into the problems Indian Himalayan villagers are facing - such as rapid loss of village life and tribal customs. Tomorrow they head to Deporijo then somewhere else I didn't catch. So while it isn't much of a 'trekking trip' it is useful for anthropological and other information.
OK, so Sania and Shoaib had to get married because the mullah said they couldn't be in the same house without being married. What a hoo haa. I wonder what will be the next big thing. IPL cricket I bet.
Here's some pictures from last night's yummy Japanese feed:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Yes, ANOTHER lazy day! It's too hot to do much else really.
Yesterday started with a swim (and very good it was too) followed by chatting to Robin on the phone and watching the Tahs get beaten. But only just..
Robin was in Machuka and had been promised that they could get roast chicken for dinner, instead of sardines and rice which I gather they had been eating for a few days. mmm nice! I found out this morning that they couldn't, and he got sardines and rice again.. They have been chatting to the army trying to find out where they can go, but the army boys are all new and really have no idea. But the locals have given them some ideas, and tomorrow they are off to the gompa for a look around.Then they are driving down to somewhere starting with D and up to somewhere else....
I had a very delightful evening out with Maninder and his wife Sharmila, at the home of the Sports and Marketing lady for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Susan and her partner Rajiv were charming hosts and I really enjoyed having Aussie white wine and some spicy prawns.
This morning I managed to squirt Odomos on my toothbrush AGAIN - what a dimwit! Had a rather lovely swim before coming back at lunchtime and falling asleep.
This is the first time I have been in Delhi in the hot weather, and I think it rather suits the place. There's LOTS of trees and lovely parks, and it suits the Indians I feel to be lazing around, drinking cold water from the 1 rupee 'refrigerated water trolley' (also known as malaria on wheels), gossiping and waiting for the weather to cool before doing too much work - unless they absolutely have to of course.
In today's news: a local chap got shot by some people last weekend, and survived. He got out of hospital and was on the back of a motorbike yesterday when he got shot again. This time he died. 
Here's a photo of Hydra the big cat:
who has not won any friends the last few days as she has been throwing up in Carmen's room.
Anyway, I think I might wander up to the local shop (if I can find my way there) and buy a few nibbles, and maybe some rum and coke. Even though respectable ladies don't go into the bottle - oh here.
Last night Susan told me that in Gurgaon (a satellite city next to Delhi) she saw a great big yellow sign "Government approved drinking place" outside a Government wine and beer shop (as they are called here). Might go see if I can find one of those!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Radiation Panic in capital!

Well that's what the news said anyway - I seem to have missed a golden opportunity to run around screaming! A hospital waste place had a cobalt 265 or something leak (for about a week) before the guy working there noticed his hair had fallen out and he had gone a strange colour. And the first doctor he consulted when he started to feel unwell thought he had a virus. Poor buqqer is now in hospital fighting for his life.
Hey, an update on the Havells ad with the hangman I told you about the other day. Thanks to Manish for clearing this up. The ad is along the lines of 'hanging people is bad karma, but you can do good with a Havells energy efficient light bulb'. I think that is even weirder than what I originally thought the ad was about. I wonder how many countries could get away with an ad like that.
So yesterday got off to a flying start with me putting Odomos mosquito repellent cream on my toothbrush - so my teeth will not get dengue fever. I am so glad about that. Then Carmen and I went off to Khan market to collect some things, like my shirt that the tailor was whipping up for me (as I told you last week) and what a great job he did too. So I have now deposited the rest of my material with him for some more shirts - he isn't the cheapest guy around but his work is very good. And super news on the Suunto watch - I found a watch man in Khan market (Stop and Shop I think the cubby hole was called) who managed to fix my busted watch strap in the time it took me to drink a cup of tea - and the price was 'as you like madame'. If you need a good watchmaker chap head to the lane in between the main street and the parking area in Khan market. He also sells belts, bags and ties - the shop is red.
Then I got a call from Robin, much to my surprise. He was back in Along, as the places they had thought they would be able to trek were being dug up for roads. So they were going to go to Machuka and have a few day walks. He was quite tired from all the road trips, and was looking forward to a shave and a decent feed - maybe even a shower. He managed to get a bit of good weather for photography too.
I got an invitation to dinner tonight from Maninder Kohli, son of Harish Kohli who was part of the Indian Army expedition which did a trans Himalayan trip in 1980. That should be interesting as I believe we are dining at the house of an Australian woman who is working on the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
Then last night I met Manish at 1 Cafe in Saket for a bit of a Friday night out. The place was packed with people who were probably half our age....And even though it is a karaoke joint I refrained - I didn't think I was up for Vanilla Ice or 50 Cent! I think Harry's on Wednesday is more my style. Whatever that style is.
So this morning it's a bit of internetverke while Carmen head out to get some stuff for the house, then I'll get the driver to take me to the pool, which luckily has reopened after a new filtration and cleaning system was installed. The Met Office says that April will be super hot, it has already been 40 for a few days and will only get hotter. Brain boiling!
And in Shoaib/Sania news (now they are called SHOANIA) one can purchase, for a very reasonable sum I am sure, a souvenir cricket bat with their photos on it. Lovely!
Enjoy the weekend and go the Tahs!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another strange day in India

Well what a funny old 24 hours it has been. Again…..
Here's pic of go-to-man Harry (in the turban) Raj, who invited me to stay then went to Japan, me, Robin and Manish.
First off was getting a taxi organised to drop and wait for me at the Wednesday karaoke place (Harry’s in Ansel Plaza – go there if you get a chance), where unfortunately I drank enough Old Monk rum to sink a ship and for reasons unknown (but I think we can all guess) was goaded (thanks Manish) into singing. Well, it would be better described as sharing my unique vocal interpretation of popular songs. More than once. Different songs. Oh dear. All your favourites – well they were before I had a go at them… will be pleased that I didn’t attempt, Whitney, Celine, Britney or Shirley Bassey. Or Metallica! The will is weak sometimes. But it made me laugh.
Anyway, enough of that!
Today after minimal sleep my ‘go-to-man’ Harry (not connected to karaoke Harry) decided that we should go on an outing. Because it is only about 9000 degrees outside. And I drank a lot of rum, as you may recall. So off we went to the Parliament Museum, which I have to admit had a very interesting multimedia presentation spread over 2 floors, about democracy in India, right from emperor Ashoka way back in, well a long time ago – look it up yourself! There was a great bit where you stood in a room and they projected Gandhi on his peace march walking along, and you could walk along too. I really enjoyed the bit where you got to sit in a mock up of parliament next to models of parliamentarians who were there when Nehru made his speech “Tryst with Destiny’ on the night India became independent. I then got to meet a friend of Harry’s who is in charge of the parliament library, who is also a keen mountaineer, trekker and photographer.
After that it was DEFINITELY lunchtime, so Harry recommended a restaurant in Pandara Rd, called Gulati. Always trust a Sikh on restaurant recommendations! It’s a fairly typical Punjabi/North Indian restaurant – as soon as I walked in I knew the food would be good. And it was – buffet with all sorts of stuff, the best Mulligatawny soup I’ve had for ages, and a dessert that I had forgotten about over the years – Fruit Cream, I think it is an Indian invention with evaporated milk or something and tinned fruit, BUT also with fresh green grapes this time. YUM. And pink icecream – and Gulab Jamun. That's it in the 2nd photo. I feel ill.
But the fun wasn’t over yet! We went to the Railway museum where we had a ride on the toy train, laughing all the way. I am such a dag I took a thrilling 4min 16 second video of it for Robin – he really loves old trains but didn’t get time to go. All you can hear is Harry laughing his head off in the background. Then we played in the museum for a while (Harry had lots of fun pressing buttons to make trains go toot toot), and at the gift shop I went wild and spent Rs 110 (about $2.50 Aussie)on presents. Gee I had better slow down.
And in Shoaib/Sania news - yesterday he signed divorce papers for the woman he never met and never married, because (and I take this from the papers I DIDN'T MAKE IT UP) the Ayesha person handed over to police her wedding night clothes from 2002 which still has Shoaib's semen stains on them. YUCKO. I think she needs a better washing machine.
And the head of the anti corruption force here in Delhi was arrested after taking a Rs 1 Crore bribe. Which is a fair whack of money in any language.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The funny things I see and hear

Yes indeed there is always something to write home about when you are in India. Here are some of my favourites from the last week:
Driving along Aurobindo Marg there is a toilet block, painted Public Toilet Green, with a sign “Toilet Complex”. There were 2 entrances: “Staff” and “Workers”.
In a bazaar, a pile of loose pantyhose with a sign pointing to them ”Stroking”
In front of a house “Do not park here. Tyres will be deflated”
Something that may have been a time pass item on Doordarshan, the national broadcaster, with what could have been the Indian National anthem (I’m sorry I am not very familiar with it) with shots of India: Mt Kanchenjunga, waterfalls, deserts, Taj Mahal, weapons and rockets, and Army Personnel in a parade ON STILTS.
There are still the ironing wallahs in every community – saw one today who uses his hot coal filled iron under a shade umbrella and then puts the freshly pressed items on top of the old red pillarbox next to him – so cute!
An elephant on the ring road at about 9.30pm on Sunday – and no it wasn’t pink.
“Madame, I will do the needful”
Blonde busty cheerleaders for the IPL cricket.
Stretchy gold or silver slacks that show plumbers crack even before you bend over – well not ME because I wouldn’t be caught dead in a ditch in them! I mean even on the mannequin! There seems to be a plague of them for summer.
The nightie as outerwear – also popular in Nepal.
17 messages a day from Airtel (my mobile carrier) telling me in Hinglish what number to ring to find a job, house, husband, watermelon.
The traffic light sales people: lovely red roses, magazines, window shades (must do a roaring trade this time of year) and FLEECE BLANKETS. Yes it’s 40 degrees, do I get a discount for 2?
The ad on TV (in Hindi) for Havells cables: the executioner hangs a bloke, then slowly wnders home, walks into his house and admires how his lightbulb, hung presumably from a Havells cable, doesn’t fall. Ha ha ha.
Shoaib Malik having to admit that he WAS married to the young lady from Hyderabad, and divorcing her so he can marry Sania – and just when we thought the story would keep us going for a week more!
Mobile phones: the number is: disconnected, unavailable, busy, unreachable, wrong. Network is: busy, unavailable, overloaded, closed. But you just got an SMS from it. AND you can SMS them back! Go figure.
And an important note – NEVER go into an Indian public toilet if you are wearing thongs – the footwear that is.
See ya!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Soggy update time

Greetings all. What a strange day it has been.
First the church across the back seemed to be having Christmas karaoke at about 7am, then some bagpipes started up. I gave up and had brekky then headed to the pool. In the house today we only have 1 car and driver, so I had to send Prem back so that Carmen could go out. As I wandered down to the pool the attendant rushed up to tell me that the pool was closed as the water was too dirty. Of course Prem was long gone by now, so I got an auto rickshaw (3 wheeler) to take me back home. Home... now it is a very hard place to find. It is in a colony and the roads probably all make sense if you have lived there for 15 years, but as far as I am concerned it is a rabbit warren that confuses the hell out of me. Made it as far as the village shops then had to give up, jump out of the auto and wait for someone to come rescue me. How useless.
Was going to get a hairdo but the local shopping area is closed on Tuesdays (Delhi shopping areas close 'zone-wise' as they like to say). So that's 2 jobs today I failed to do!
Robin rang and we played phone ping pong again for an hour. They were getting ready to leave Tuting for a place called Miging, then on to Machuka in a week. He told me that the phone system in Arunchal Pradesh is only switched on for out of state calls for 1 hour a day, and of course the system is jammed. Which explains why it is such a nightmare. Doesn't explain why I get crossed lines though.
The weather in AP has been really wet and cloudy, and I didn't like telling him that the satellite shows more of the same. Hopefully the jetstream will move a little and it will clear in a week or so. He had some dodgy momos last night and was feeling pretty crook this morning when he rang, so fingers crossed he feels better soon. I won't get to talk to him for maybe another week, but if you would like to send a message for me to quickly yell to him on the phone just send it in the comments bit here. He would leave to hear from you - whoever you are!
I have just polished off more grilled cheese on toast and am waiting for a driver to appear cos I might go hit a mall this afternoon.
And on news just to hand.. India has had its own Maoist problem, the Naxalites for many years now. They are in states like Bihar and Chattisgahr, and are fighting for the usual Maoist reasons, just like our acquaintances in Nepal were. This morning the Naxals launched an attack on an army bunker just as a patrol returned at about 6am, and at least 70 members of the Indian armed forces were killed. The scenes on TV were horrible. And this is why, in some part, the Indians are so nervous about their borders, as many of these crooks just come and go between India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma whenever they please.
Here's a link to a good map of India so you can see what is where:
And in equally shocking news, a mob in West Bengal (Kolkata is the capital) beat a man to DEATH because they believed he had been stealing motor scooters and bicycles. They tied him to a lamp post and beat him with canes and metal rods. All this was filmed - it lasted for half an hour before police 'intervened' and took the poor sod to hospital where he later died. This kind of stuff happens every week over here, especially in medium sized towns where people have no faith in the police or justice system. I doubt that it would happen in New Delhi, but I wouldn't guarantee it.
Sorry that wasn't very uplifting, but that I'm afraid is life in a country of over 1 billion people.
And some of those billion own shops I need to look at. SOON!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The exciting news in India....

Well of course I have omitted to keep you up to date on the BIG news story of the last week or so in India - the impending marriage of Indian tennis star Sania Mirza to ‘disgraced’ Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik. It’s not the disgraced bit that is the problem. It’s a rather plump young lady in Hyderabad, who may be called Ayesha or Maha. It seems that this Ayesha person contacted him when he was playing in 2002 or so ( I think, it is all so confusing), saying she was a fan and worked as a teacher in Saudi Arabia. Anyway, she sent him photos of a girl she claimed was her, and then somehow arranged a telephone marriage without ever having met him. So she claims. Shoaib says the signature on the marriage papers is forged, and anyway the girl lied about who she was and what she looked like, and he has never met her. I have just been enjoying the first interview with Sania and Shoaib after they emerged from the Hyderabad police station, as the other woman’s parents have filed an FIR (something complaint I guess). Oh and the Ayesha woman claims he got her pregnant and she miscarried and he didn’t care. She may well have medical evidence that she had a miscarriage, but I wonder how she will prove who the father was… Anyway.....
The press are shouting about 100 questions at once, in various languages, and the poor sods can’t get a word in edgeways. It is all very gripping.
It now transpires that Shoaib is saying the woman in the photos he was sent is a decent married woman so he will not reveal them to the press, in deference to her position, as he says she may not even know that the Ayesha woman sent them to him. Gawd, this is better than the Bold and the Beautiful! The days until their wedding on 15 April will be fun filled or viewers I am sure!
The very very right wing Hindu fundamentalist Shiv Sena party have said that Sania is a DISGRACE for marrying a Pakistani, who of course they see as their sworn enemy, when there are 150 million decent eligible Indian men. Who of course are Hindu not Muslim. Strewth!
Did a spot of shopping this afternoon – cheese, chicken sausages, lemon cordial. Tried to get my blasted Suunto watchband fixed – why do I bother with this brand? - of course it is impossible so just like last year I am watchless again. If anyone from Suunto is reading this – make your watchbands better! For the money the watch cost it’s a disgrace that a watchband only lasts 6 months. I’d get better value at Kmart. Oh have a whinge!!!
I am now in the 'drawing room' with Hydra the cat and a rum and coke, and all is well with my world anyway. Still can't get hold of Robin but that isn't surprising.
I hear dinner cooking (I think) but have no idea what is on the menu....
Bye for now

News at last

I finally had a 23 second conversation with Robin this morning and can report that he made it to Tuting, the starting point of his trek. Better late than never. I got a few text messages yesterday but couldn't call him back, and I suspect he didn't get my messages. And I thought the phone system in Nepal was crappy! So anyway I was at the pool today relaxing in the sun when he called me and said that I should call him back. I pointed out that I had been trying to do that since yesterday, he said well just keep trying and hung up. MEN. So I tried, and got through once when he was busy chatting to someone about the material in some sleeping bag or something, and he told me that the locals were surprised to see him then the phone cut out. I tried a few more times but was getting so cross with him that I went for a swim. Twice. I mean really - he knows how difficult it is to get thru, why not just stay on the line and STOP TALKING TO SOMEONE ELSE. MEN - oh I already said that.
So, it was 41 under the sun umbrella at the pool this morning, and about -72 in the water! I am enjoying the swimming very much and it is lovely to lie in the sun and feel it tingling my skin.
Yesterday Carmen and I went to Lal ghat or something local market and had a hilarious time laughing at the items on offer - the silver stretchy slacks were particularly delightful. We did however buy a shower curtain for my room - well 2 in fact which were in the same packet but are different lengths. And some cheese balls and pomegranates.
Speaking of cheese, the maid Benita just brought me grilled Bega cheese on toast for lunch. YUM. Double yum!
Fluff ball Hydra is responding well to combing, and speaking of which it is time for me to locate a hair emporium locally as I am starting to look worse than the cat.
Last night we dined out at a place called Chic Fish (my 3rd meal there since I arrived). Absolutely delicious food and good value too.
I've been enjoying the IPL cricket the last few evenings. I'd love to go but since I don't really have anyone to go with I will just have to watch it on telly.
Time to DO something......

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter fun in Delhi

Well I managed to survive the karaoke night (mostly because apparently I didn’t sing loud enough!) and had loads of fun, except that I never want to hear Metallica again.
Robin called yesterday from the middle of nowhere to report that they were STILL about 12 hours drive away from Tuting, their first destination where they can start walking.They have been caught by landslides caused by heavy night time rains, and were hoping that the road would be cleared by 2pm. Fortunately the people in the village where they were stuck were extremely photogenic and hospitable, and yesterday morning they put on a fashion show. One of Robin’s boys, Nawang from Tawang, showed them how to pose and strut the catwalk, much to everyone’s delight.They are mostly animist people who live in bamboo and palm huts, and for dinner Robin and the gang had fish head curry. MMM may I please have seconds?
So what is on the telly? Well, this morning I can choose between stories about Hanuman the monkey god or Ganesha the elephant headed god – both involve grown men dressed up in gold headdresses, way too much makeup, ‘pearls’ and ‘rubies’ and appalling superimposed backdrops. Fabulous. There is also news/TV in: English, Hindi, Punjabi, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Urdu, Bangla, Marathi, Oriya, Gujerati, and possibly my favourite: "Topper TV”. Topper TV is currently educating me on the comparison of different types of crystalline solids – I have no idea what it is talking about. Earnest professor types present all sorts of educational programmes, with a test at the end, so that the kids will become class ‘toppers’ (as they are called here). Oh look, the molecular arrangement in glass! Way too scientific for me, think I’ll go back to Hanuman and Ganesha.
The resident cat here, Hydra, has loads of thick fur and now that summer has come (it was 39 the last few days) she is struggling to stay cool. So I have appointed myself in charge of combing her regularly to get rid of her excess fur. In the interests of ‘fitting in’ I have given myself a title(everyone in India has a catchy title with acronym): District In Charge of Keeping Hydra nEat And tiDy. Yes I know what it spells.
Have had some more pool time which is a nice bit of sanity and coolness – don’t know why there aren’t more people there but I guess they are all working or shopping.
The rest of the house has gone to church for Easter Sunday, and I am here lying in wait for the cat to appear. Then I'll head to the pool when the driver comes back, then us girls are off to the golf club for lunch followed by a spot of shopping in a market. Life goes on.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Love me, Love my Safari Suit

That’s right the Safari Suit is IN – well I suspect it was never OUT as far as India is concerned. My driver today had a rather splendid bone SS (with tasteful self stripe), of course with short sleeves due to the rather excessive heat we are experiencing. Add to that the fact that we were whizzing round Delhi to the strains of Dean Martin on the CD player and you will see that it has been a rather surreal sort of day. And now I am singing along to Led Zeppelin on the telly…Was there EVER a better band than Led Zep, especially for this part of the planet? I think not.
Well since I wrote last time, Robin has been on the phone again (against all odds I might add) to explain that they were in a place called Along, but that they had travelled at 5kph in 1st gear most of the way and were looking for another car and driver as they had so far to go and so little time. Needless to say he was a little annoyed.
This morning the local Catholic church had their Stations of the Cross and outdoor Good Friday sermon out the back of where I am staying – thank goodness they didn’t start till about 7am(unlike last week when they were at it from about 6am). We had a lazy morning till Carmen decided we would go fabric shopping so she could get lots of new curtains, and I bought some material at stupidly cheap prices – hopefully the tailor I found can make one top the way I instructed then I shall get the other material made up – cheaper than ready made and it SHOULD fit perfectly… ask me in a week!
After a morning burning our eyes and brains with the kaleidoscope of colours and patterns in the fabric shop we retired to the Indian International Centre for a delightful lunch washed down with more Kingfisher beer -I should have bought shares before I arrived. Seems like breakfast is the only meal where beer doesn’t appear!
I got up this morning to discover Hydra, the enormous cat-in-residence, sprawled out on the dining table with her head on my breakfast place setting. Charming. Naughty. Just like every other cat I have ever known.
Tonight I am supposed to be going out for karaoke with a friend but he hasn’t called to confirm yet so perhaps the population of Delhi will be spared my dulcet massacring of some timeless classic…or not. Oh dear, Manish just rang and we are on for 9pm - I wonder how long it will take me to get voted off Karaoke Island? Wish me luck and not too many beer bottles!
And in the news: a bus driver here in Delhi had an accident - nothing new there. He was seen talking on his mobile phone - nothing new there either. He allegedly had his pet monkey clinging to his back...only in India. There was also a report about a crazy Japanese man who attempted suicide by hara kiri - usually that involves cutting your stomach open, but this fellow decided to use a cucumber in a most unusual way. All it did was perforate his bowel, and several other bits besides no doubt, and his highly embarrassed daughter rushed him to hospital. How mortifying.
Bye kids

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Back from the wilds of the North East

I can now say I have been to Assam (where my favourite tea is grown) and can report that it is a little ODD. Because the North East (Assam, Meghalaya, Arunchal Pradesh to name but a few states) shares very porous borders with places like China, Bhutan and Bangladesh, security is on High Alert. India likes capital letters, but more on that later. So satellite phones are banned (as the calls cannot be traced), and all other mobile phones are blocked by ‘The Forces’ unless they are a North East issued number, and even then they are hit and miss. The internet is similarly affected. So, if you want to get away from technology may I recommend a trip to Assam? In its favour I must say that it shows the most beautiful shades of green: dark tea plantations, iridescent rice paddies, bright banana groves and all around heavy red clay soil that makes everything grow so beautifully. But then when it rains (as it did most of my visit) it gets very boggy. VERY. And as I was being whizzed back from Tezpur to Guwahati for the flight back to Delhi, we got caught in possibly the hugest hailstorm I have ever been in. The road had no verge, so we couldn’t pull over. The driver, bless him, ploughed on with hazard lights flashing at only about 50kph (well it makes sense to slow down) as that was somehow preferable to stopping in the middle of the road.
Which got me to thinking about, in particular, Indian road travel. I am reading a really good book just published here: “Mother Pious Lady” Making Sense of everyday India by Santosh Desai. If you love and are mystified by India you must get a copy. It explains so much about India that has often set me wondering. Like their love for Capital Letters. So, as I said I got to thinking about road travel in India. And I figured there are some golden rules:
Do Not Show Fear
Do Not Wind the Window all the way Down
Do Not Sit in the Front
If you show fear, your driver will either a) go out of his way to scare you witless or b) slow down so much that you are overtaken by donkeys. Neither of these are good options.
If you open your window, you may find that when you are passing a public bus you get more than you bargained for. Indians, women in particular, are notoriously bad travellers and vomit at every possible opportunity. If you happen to be passing just as they feel ill, you will get a nasty surprise in your lap.
If you sit in the front you can see what you might crash into. You will also get your leg felt up every time the driver changes gear, which can be surprisingly often. If you sit in the back like Lady Muck, you can gaze pointlessly out the window safe in the knowledge that you won’t know how close you came, and that the front seat is a large airbag between you and the windscreen.
And so what of brave sir Robin. Well he called last night from somewhere called Mirkung Selek (sounds like he went to Bali not Arunchal Pradesh) and was staying in the BIUTI Hotel (we figure it means beauty). He had a rather dreadful 12 hour road trip in the cold and rain, and has another one today to get to Tuting, the start of the trek. They had planned to take the scenic route but there was no bridge, and since there was also no scenic thanks to the weather they took another road. I think he is itching to get walking again. Poor Pema, who flew from Nepal on Sunday, can’t believe the time and distance involved in going for a walk in India!
So I am back in Delhi with Carmen, my Spanish friend, enjoying a cold beer and watching IPL cricket.
Hope you are all looking forward to the easter break.