Donna and Joe have finished their assignment in India. Occasionally they still travel somewhere.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daily Life in Bangalore

Today I’m going to start with little glimpses of India, and what’s different here than in the states. My favorite “snapshot” in my head would actually have been from our house-hunting trip. It had just started to rain and I spotted a woman carrying a bundle of firewood about 4 feet long on her head. Right at her heals were 2 of the local dogs, looking like her devoted companions. I realized she may not have even known they were there—they were just taking advantage of the impromptu umbrella!

The next thing is what I refer to as the “India Full Service Wake-up Call”. At 5 a.m. the nearby Muslim Mosque announces the first call to prayer of the day. It involves an undulating song in several parts that is broadcast with very effective loudspeakers. In the living room area, the cement block of the building makes the songs muted and sort of interesting Indian background music. The first morning I heard it from bed it seemed to resonate with the glass in the window above our bed; enough to wake the dead. I began to wonder if any conflicts between Hindu and Muslim in an area might have as much to do with lack of sleep as the issue of eating cows! I could picture an uprising on a hot summer night when people had just finally been able to fall into a restless sleep.

I bought a ball of twine and intended to buy some of the rolled up mats I’d seen in shops in the area, to tie them to the grillwork in front of the window. I didn’t get it done that day, though, and that night I slept through the call to prayer. Since then I sometimes wake up, but am able to go back to sleep.

Many of the shops in India look like one-car garages, with a metal garage-type door that they pull down when they are closed. Hanging down from the ceiling in the front of many of them are strips of foil packets that contain bidis, a type of Indian cigarette. Shops are arranged in groups, with a street specializing in a certain ware. There are fabric/clothing streets, hardware streets, furniture streets, etc. Items are stored from floor to ceiling and often there are many more things available than apparent. You just have to ask. The problem for a foreigner is knowing what to ask for and making yourself understood. Some days you just decide it’s more work than you have energy for, and cut your shopping goals accordingly.

The employee in the stationery shop was quite taken with a water bottle holder I had brought from the states which consists basically of a rubber 0 ring that fits just below the threaded area of the bottle, hooked to a carabineer (mountain climbing clip). Thinking they might make nice gifts, or an idea for a fund raiser for a local charity, I asked our Hertz driver what they would be called and where I might buy some. His reply sounded like a “Labelle wring”. I asked him to spell it, which he couldn't. He explained that he’d only gotten as far as the 3rd “standard” in school, and couldn’t spell well in English (though he does seem to make out written addresses and instructions fairly well). After asking him to repeat it again slowly, I finally realized he was saying “rubber ring!” We have not yet found a source.

Inside homes there are lots of little differences. The toilets have tanks that look like eggs that are flattened front to back. They have very little water in the bowl, but a powerful flush that made me jump the first time. The round flush button on the top is actually split into a larger and smaller “half circle”, so you can have a short flush or a long one. I was amused that the toilet brand at our first apartment was called “Hindware.” Toilet paper holders are optional, but a spray hose to clean yourself, sort of like a bidet, is standard equipment. (Toilet paper is considered very unsanitary.) There is a jalousie window in the shower, with a fan in the pane above it. They insist that they don’t have a mosquito problem here, but I have seen a few, and this really stretches my comfort level. They do have little igloo shaped gadgets into which you insert a bottle of mosquito killer called “All Out”. You plug this into an outlet and turn it on at night. They are supposed to fill the room with a vapor that kills/repels mosquitoes. Some of our doors have a big gap under them where you can see considerable daylight. Right now I am settling for putting a rug against the door and stuffing the remainder of the space with wadded up grocery bags. I intend to figure out a more permanent solution.

I can’t bring myself to just leave windows and doors to the balcony wide open during the day. Today at the internet café a mosquito wandered in with the traffic fumes. I whipped out the tube of Odomos mosquito repellent Joe didn’t think we needed to bring, and started slathering it on him as he typed. The mosquito hung around but didn’t land.

I guess to cut down on power surges and small latent loads, almost all wall outlets have a corresponding switch, and don’t work until the switch is turned on. We have a front loading washer that can be set for exact water temperature, takes a very long time to run, and has settings we’ve never heard of. Because so few people have dryers there is a setting that stops the machine just before the last spin cycle. So the clothes sit in the rinse water until you are ready to take the clothes out to hang them up, when you start it up again. “This avoids fabric to wrinkle and therefore facilitating the ironing.”

Our dryer is on the balcony, where many people have clothes lines or drying racks. I noticed that a neighbor balcony has the dish washing area on it. Pigeons are rather unwelcome visitors, but they put food out for a House Crow, which looks like a normal crow, but has a light brown neck area.

There are ledges on the back side of our building that are “tailor made” for a pigeon rookery. We have been watching the dramas of parents going from feeding their large offspring to kicking them out of the nest as they are trying to hatch a new set of eggs, and protecting their nest from intruders, even if that is the fledgling that just was driven out of the nest on the ledge above. I was told that cooing pigeons are supposed to attract evil spirits to a house. I am thinking that maybe the idea comes from disease brought on by having pigeon droppings so near to the house. I have decided to evict one family nest from the bathroom windowsill, but am trying to wait till the fledgling is out of the nest.

Yesterday I watched a large spotted bird, almost the size of a female wild turkey, hanging around a man who was washing his black car. The front door was open and the bird, I think a pheasant peacock, looked ready to hop in. The bird alternated between the doorway and looking at the side of the car. When the man closed the front door, the bird started to chirp at the car. I finally decided he was trying to find the bird he saw reflected in the side of the car. The next day I saw him admiring himself on the side of another black car on the road.

We have been expecting our air shipment of home furnishings since Friday morning. We have an appointment with customs officials tomorrow morning, so perhaps tomorrow. Probably about the time someone comes to fix our refrigerator. Oh well.

Yours in India,


1 comment:

Merry said...

Donna ..
Thanks for taking time in your grand adventure to share glimpses with those of us sitting safely at home.
So .. the world really is round, is it?
What you are living with, hearing, smelling, tasting is so different from home, yet it is becoming home for you and Joe.
It widens my sense of things to read about your experiences.
Oh, tell Joe I made Chocolate Raspberry Fudge today!
It is fabulous. Wonder what your coworkers and neighbors would think of Raspberry Fluff.
Stay well, folks. Merry