Archive for October, 2006

Today’s adventures

October 31, 2006

Today Jeannie went wth my niece Meera to the Taylor and give her measureents so that her clothes would be ready by the time we return back to Bangalore.

I’m sure you are all anxious to see some pictures.  I am labelling each slide and getting ready to post them, hopefully tomorrow, and will send a mail to each of you.  Please be patient as I had to hop through several computer systems.

Toay, I also had the pleasure of meeting my old friend named Srinivas.  He and I were classmates in high school (3 years), Intermediate college (2 years) and engineering college (4 years).  We were both very tough competitors for academic excellence, but were also very good friends.  He went to univ of Toronto in canada to earn his Ph.D. and returned to India to work as a professor at the prestigious Indian Institute of technology in Kanpur where he lived for 30 years.  He and I lost track of each other, but by sheer luck reconnected last year when he was visiting his sons in the US in the summer of 2005.  He and wife live 45 km from my sister’s house.  I rented a cab for the whole day and left here around 10:30 am and it took almost 3 hours to get to his place.  The main reason is Bangalore traffic.  It is dreadful.  There are far too many cars, trucks (they call them Lorries here), auto rickshaws, and some bicycles, and buses.  The traffic is not controlled well and thus every one is on their own except in some key intersections.

I finally reached my friend’s place by 12:20 pm, and it was like we had never been away from each other.  The last time I saw him was in Oct 1960 when we attended the commencement to receive our diplomas.  We went out to eat and had a wonderful opportunity to get reacquainted after these many years, share old stories, look at our pictures when we were young, have a barrel of laughs at the trcks we played in high school and college.

He lives in an area called Electroncs City.  This area of Bangalore is something to see.  Companies from around the world have built palatial complexes.  When you enter the area, you see a huge camusof InfoSys the biggest software company that has a huge call center base.  In addition, I saw Intel, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Texas Instruments, Bosch, Phillips, General Electric, FNAC from Paris, Spanish and German companies.  It is as if you are walking through Silicon Valley in San Francisco area.  Many drug companies are here as well.  This area employs, I was told, over 250,000 people.

The infrastructure (roads) are in poor shape, however they are hard at work building them and repairing them. 

When I got back, a travel agent was waiting for me, and found out that he will escort us to  Bandipur National  Park about 150 kms away.  This is where they have left Tigers, Elephants in natural habitat.  We will be staying in a lodging facility managed by the daughters of the last Maharaja in the region.  We leave on Thursday AM and will return on Saturday late.

Megha

Day before Holoween

October 30, 2006

Today is the day before Haloween.  Yesterday we stayed home as Jeannie was not feeling well, and I was not either; just normal travel ills.  We are both better today and were able to get out.

Yesterday late in the afternoon, I went along to my nephew Ravi’s family.  He lives with his wife Shyla and a son Akhil.  The young man is an engineering student wanting to enter the field of biomedical engineering/technology programs in the US.  I looked at his CV and we worked on soe schools that could accept him.

Later we all enjoyed a good meal.

Something about meal times – everything is turned around here.  When people get up in the morning, they like to have a cup of coffee, read the paper, get the children ready to go to school, and get ready themselves.  Then they think about breakfast around 9 or 9:30 am.  Lunch is usually around 2 -3 pm.  Dinner starts around 8 or 9 pm.

People don’t come back from work until 7 or 8 pm.  We then eat and talk unyil 10 or 11 pm.  The TV is rarely on during a meal except when there is a cricket match and particularly if India is playing.  Well they lot yesterday in a crucial game against Australia and so they are out of the running for championship.

Today we went shopping in a mall that is very new.  It reminded me a lot of malls in Singapore.  we shopped for some clothes.  I bought 4 sports shirts for about $ 40.00. The prices for clothing is interesting – the shirts cost about 30-40% of what it costs in the US, handkerchief’s a tenth of what they cost in the US.  The quality of clothes was excellent.  Jeannie bought a skirt, and some tops and she is having some items made here as well.  She can write about that.

Our transportation here is simple; we call for a cab that costs us $ 2.10 per hour.   Today, when we went to buy the clothes, we had the car for 6 hours. I’d not drive in India without a lot of practice.  The traffic here is quite crazy.  More on that another time.

A special dance school

October 28, 2006

We went to a special dance school about 30 kms from my sister’s house.  This school is one of a kind in the world and is designed to train and teach students in all the seven classical dances of India.  A dance teacher started this in 1990 with the vision of

1.  To preserve and popularize the classical dances of India.

2. To train young people in the art of dance guided by great teachers.

3. A school to create a new generation of dancers and gurus would be created and restore dying traditions, where dance would be a way of life.

Indian classical dance incorporates story telling, rythm, devotion to Gods, mythology, sculpture and poetry.  The school has developed to ensure that students spend time in an atmosphere of comradare, intensity, cooperation, and meditation.  A beginner’s course lasts 3 years and an advanced course can take 6-7 years.  They have had students from arounf the world.  They had an sensational debut in New York and won critical acclaim.  The curriculum they use includes inspiration from classical dancers around the world, yoga, meditation, martial arts, sanskrit, creative movement, mythology and mime.   The dancers stay on the campus and participate in attending to a garden.  The houses are built in small structures with local materials.  

There are several large dance halls to practice and an amphitheater.  On Sundays, the school invites local children and trains them for free.

It was certainly a marvelous and peaceful place.

It was hard to get there, but it was worth it.

Megha 

Talking to the children about schools

October 25, 2006

Jeannie and I were able to talk to several kids about their schools this past few days.  The schools are back in session as of yesterday.

There are are a lot of private schools that follow the curriculum specified by the state.  The first grader starts learning 3 languages right away.  State languae, Hindi and English.

The fourth grader in my brother’s house is a bright young man with many accomplishments.  he plays chess very well, and has a lot of work imposed on him from school.  He spends typically 3 hours doing his home work.   He goes to school with his younger sister in an auto ricksahw 4 kms away from home.

We spoke to another young man 13 who is in the 8th grade.  He has to spend 10-15 hours every work on projects for class that involve research from the internet, writing skills in English, geography, and math.  They also seem to place much emphasis on sciences – ecology, physics, chemistry.  His parents are very proud of his accomplishments of winning medals in competitions statewide and nationally.  He has even won a lot of money.

The pressure on these kids is very high to excel.  My  feeling is that the parents have very high expectations for their children and do everything for them to reach their goal. Thekids seem very polite and unassuming and seem very competent.  This kid developed a website for his school and maintains it for another year.  He seemed like a very fast learner.

The last young man I met was was nephew’s son.  He is 20 and is in his final year of engineering.  Biomedical engineering is his field.  he wants to pursue a masters course in the US.  I will be meeting him soon and discuss his interests and steer him him towards some colleges in the US.

The schools do not have much in sports activities.  The games they play are cricket, soccer, basketball, badminton, volley ball.

This hopefully gives you a flavor of schools here

Megha

More about life in India

October 25, 2006

The press in India is an interesting.   There are many national Newspapers published simultaneously from 10-15 cities and they all contain National, International, and regional news, sports, business news etc. They also have papers in regional languages.  In factr my mother used to read paper in the language here and well connected with activities in the world. 

The international news usually shows on page 15 or so.  Today we had two stories from the US.  One was the sentensing of Skilling of Enron, and the other a two paragraph report from the US Press secretary attempting to clarify “Hold the line” on the Iraq war.  There is no sports news from the US on baseball, foot ball or basket ball.  There were some dispatches about basketball.  Of course lots of soccer news from around the world.

At this time the most important sporting event is cricket. There is a championship trophy tournment going on and we have teams from Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies (Carribean countries) and Sri Lanka.  There were other teams but they were eliminated.  The series ends on Nov 4.  It is constantly on TV of course.  Each game lasts about 7 hours.

The TV here has some of the channels from the US – History Channel, CNN International, Discovery Channel, some old TV programs such as Cheers, Friends etc.  I also saw a BBC channel, local versions of CNN in English, Hndi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada.  I also saw a lot of shopping channel imitators, and many channels selling religion, goods.  I also saw several chgannels from Australia and CNBC.

It was all very entertaining.  I did not listen to the radio.

There are of course many problems you come face to face – poverty, vagrancy, begging among them.

Internet access is very easy.  I am using my niece’s computer and it is a faster connection than a standard DSL.  I am connected at 600 kb/s.  The interbet cafes are every where.

I will tell you about our conversation with the children about their schools next.

Megha

More about life in India

October 25, 2006

The press in India is an interesting. There are major newspapers in India which are published in all major cities.  They major newspapers are in English with names like Deccan Herald, The Hindu, Indian Express, Times of India.  There are plenty of newspapers in regional languages.  My sister spends 9-10 am every day reading the newspaper, doing croddword puzzles, and soduko.  She is very good at it.  This is how she keeps her mind alert.

The newspapers do carry some news from abroad.  Perhaps one or two stories from the US.  One is more likely to see stories from UK, Holland, France or Germany than the US. 

The press is relatively free, and aggressive in pursuing problems it sees in the government.  It carries some columnists from other papers.  Today, I saw a column from Paul Krugman from the New York Times.  The other day, I saw a column from the Guardian from UK.  All spelling here is very  UK English.  They have cartoons as well, ame as what we get, but less in quantity.

Megha

Our First Week in Bangalore

October 25, 2006

Our First week in Bangalore (Oct 16-Oct 20) was spent at my late brother’s home where his wife, lives with their son and his family.

We spent two days getting rid of jet lag followed by lengthy conversations with my sister-in- law, who is also my first cousin  (This is legal here).

We actually grew up together and she is only 3 years older than me.

She became a widow in 2001 when my brother died following surgical complications after a major accident.  It the custom in our family that when you meet anyone after a loss, you take the opportunity to share their loss in private.  Exchanging sympathy cards is not just enough.  we had a very long heart to heart conversation.

In my book, she is a saint and an angel along with my sister.  Both of then endured great difficulties, but kept their composure and raised wonderful children and now in their twight years just are enjoying life to the fullest.

My nephew owns an agency selling connectors and cables from US and European compenies, while his wife is a home meaker for now, but will stary practicing law when the children are older.They have two kids 10 and 5, who gave up their room for us.

It is the time for Diwali.  An ancient festival of triumph over evil, and is also a new year.  There are many firecrackers lit starting from 5 am until way past midnight.  The air smells fire crackers.  The festival lasts several days amd dtsrta this Saturday.  Many businesses offer prayers to the goddess of wealth at this time, bonuses are handed out etc.

The children are off school, and will be gouing back on Wednesday Oct 25.

We have spet a lot of time remembering times with our parents, how we grew up together, little stories that the newer generation does not know yet.  Even the children were part of the conversation and they stayed up late as well.

We talked about the good times, and the bad times (about which we can laugh now).

Most of the conversation was in English, even the children can speak English fairly well. They have just started a new curriculum where the children have to learn 3 languages from the very first day Local language, Hind (National language) and English.

The competition to do well in school is tremendous.  Families spend a lot of money to prep their children to enter prestigious schools. The IIT (Indian Institutes of Technology – 7 campuses, and Indian Institute of management 8 campuses) are premium schools.  nearly 2 million students take the test for about 30,000 seats, and the admission is strictly by merit.  The graduates of these schools are sought after from companies from all around the world.  I understood that recently they have decided to allow foreign students to apply, but they have to take the same rigorous tests as locals.

Jeannie did dome shopping for a sari for our niece in California who plans to get married in a year.  I have not ventured out to town except to an internet cafe and an ATM machine to get some Indian currency.

On Friday, my sister-in-law prepared a delicious meal to remind me of old days and my mother’s cooking.  (In fact she said that she learned her cooking skills from my mother),  We lit some fire crackers in the evening.

We were given a nice room and one day we slept until noon before realizing how much we had slept.

Megha

Bangalore

October 25, 2006

Bangalore is an interesting and rapidly expanding town.

It is now a town in excess of 8,000,000 people.  When I lived here it was the size of the city of Portland.

It is the Silicon valley of India with the presence of Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Phillips, AMD, Toshiba, Sony as well financial giants such as Goldman Sachs.  The growing rate here is tremendous.  I saw in the newspapers yesterday that the comanies plan to hire nearly 200,000 more people in the next 4 months.

The outerskits of the city is getting built up very fast.  There are many gated communities.  The prices are very high.  One of my nephews is building a house 4500 sft at a cost of nearly $ 200,000.  We saw that house under construcion yesterday.

There are many many shopping malls with just about everything available.  The old part of the city is very congested and they are building a metro system for easier travel.  This is suposed to be ready in 2 years along with a new International Airport to be ready in early 2008.

The city is expensive for those who live here and make a modest salary, but rather cheap for those from overseas.  To give you an idea, a kilogram of tomotaoes costs Rs. 35 – 50 (or just about $ 0.45 per pound).  Starbucks latte costs Rs. 45 (or just about $ 1.00). Autorickshaws (3 wheeled vehicles can take you anywhere in town for Rs. 20- 50.  Gasoline is expensive $ 5.00 a gallon.

People are in a hurry, you hear a lot of Indian music, and some top 40 type music as well.  They are totally inundated with Mobiles.  My nephew’s havs 4 phones, my sister’s house 4 phones mostly mobile.  I saw a man riding a motor bike, taking on the cell phone and entering some data on a pad – a rather scary site.

Megha

We are now in India

October 21, 2006

Yes, we have finally arrived in India.   We arrived here safely on Monday afternoon (10/16), and two of my nephews picke dus up at the airport.  They took us to the home of my late brother who passed away in 2001 following complications after a surgery following an auto accident. One of the nephews decided to make a vegetable stew for dinner, and he brought his daughter 14 along with him.  We had a very enjyable conversation lasting into midnight.

I take this opportunity to introduce my family to you.

Both my parents passed away in 1997.  My dad was 98 1/2 at that time and my mother passes away in December and she was 92 years old.  They had remained married for 79 years.  They both enjoyed good health until their demise and did not suffer any pain.  They simply died of old age.

My parents had 8 children, 7 boys and 1 girl.  I had 2 younger brothers and 4 older brothers and an older sister.

Three of my older brothers have passed away, and two of my younger brothers have passed away.  I just have left one sister (who will be 80 in january) and a brother who lives in California.

In between these siblings of mine, there are 16 nieces of nephews.  Ten of them live in Bangalore,  two live in California, one lives in South America, one lives in Delhi, one in Mumbai, one lives in Hyderabad, and one lives in Delhi.  Execpt for one niece and nephew all others are married and have their own children.  Some of these children are of marriagiable age now.

The main thing I must say about my nieces and neohews is that they are all very close, and get together every two months or.  Some of them are into group singing, and enjoying a jolly old time.

Megha

Visit to the British Museum

October 13, 2006

Friday (Oct 13, 2006), we spent most of the afternoon at the british Museum.  What a treat it is yo see it.  We were able barely scrape the surface.
As we entered around noon, we were drawn into a big courtyard, and we spent some time checking the layout of the museum and what was “must see” on our list.  Following a quick bite to eat, we launched into the museum complex.  First we saw the exhibit on the Americas, which showed Native American artifacts from the pacific Northwest, California coast, South east and North east tribes, followed by an extensive collection from various parts of Mexico and central America.  We  saw atleast a dozen different regional artifacts, from 500 BC to around 1500 AD when the Europeans came to the new world.  Most of the materials are extraordinarily well preserved.

After that we saw some fine tapestry, special artifacts in the main hall.

As we continued our journey, we entered the Korean and Japanese part of the museum. We got a good history lesson on Korea, Japan.  The variety of items included a model house built the old fashined style, old samarai periods in Japan, early entry of Buddhism to Japan, and later into Korea were presented.  We saw some pottery from Korea, Japan, and some clothing styles of the forgotten eras.

After` this we entered the Egyptian section of the museum, home to relics from the ancient Egyptian world from 2000 BC to the present.  Materials presented included mummies, medicinal treatment for the regular folks, worshipping the Gods of Egypt, and some spectacular segments from pyramids to help us learn how to read the writings inside the tombs.

This led us into the influence of Greeks on southern Italy, Sicily and Cyprus.  It was most interesting to see how the Greek styles helped adapt to different regions while still maintaining a strong Greek root.

We went through Roman period covering 100 BC to 600 AD with life long statues of some of the Rman emperors during the period.  I was lookingt for Julius Caesar, Augustis Caesar, Mark Anthony of some others I would have recognized, but alas that was not to be.

We also saw a coin collection from Bizentyne era.

After`al thiswe went into an exhibit called “Myths of Bengal” taken from the area of Bengal covered by Bangla Desh and West Bengal, a state in India.  The focus was on Goddess Durga, Kali, stories of some muslim mystics, and the stories of Rama and Krishna.  they were very colorful.  Also was a note about one of the devotees of Kali by name Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.  His disciple, Swami Vivekananda, came to the US in 1893 and spoke at the Parliment of Religions, whee many recall that the name of Baha’u’llah was introduced to the west publicly.  The result of Swami Vivekananda’s visit was the arrival of Vedanta Society centers throughout the west.

Finally we saw Islam showcased on one floor in a large room; wow! what a show; we saw the influence of muslims and their contribution to the world from Spain,  from Babylon and Mesapotamia, Mongolia, India.  We saw quite a few artifacts from Iran and the influence of Sunni and Shia muslims.  The displays were majestic and very inspiring.  I saw pieces that influenced the grand gate in Isfahan, examples of tiles used in mosques using Mongilian influence etc.

By now we were quite worn out.  So that was the end of the British Museum for today.

We  came back to the Hotel and had dinner at a Thai Restaurant.  

Tomorrow will be a long day as we plan to take a guided tour of a castle at Leeds, see the White Cliffs of Dover, the Cathedral at Canterbury, see the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and take a cruise on the Thames.

I will write about it tomorrow.

Adios

Megha