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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Chrismas in Bangalore

According to the newspaper Christmas eve was the coldest December night Bangalore has seen since 1883. But at 54F overnight and up to about 80 during the day, a white Christmas is out of the question. At the holidays we especially miss all of our family and friends. Fortunately Paul was able to come over his school break and be with us for the holidays.

Because I was in the US for a Compact Model Council meeting December 13 & 14, I was able to meet Paul in New York and we flew together to Mumbai (AKA Bombay). Peter came out to JFK airport and we all had dinner before Paul and I left. This picture is Peter (on the left) and Paul at JFK.
Note from Donna: I had really exciting time coming to meet them at the Mumbai airport. Because of continuing banking and reimbursement problems, and the fact that Joe had our only debit card for our U.S. bank with him, I left home with only about 600 rupees to my name. By the time I arrived in Mumbai, having bought some food at the airport, I was down to about 400 rupees. When I asked how to get to the international flight area I was told that the terminal for national flights is separated from the one for international flights by the long runways and the only way to get from to the other is by a rather long taxi ride through the city.
I was told that this would cost about 100 rupees, so I figured I was fine.

Once outside the terminal I was accosted by a number of men talking to me in Hindi. I couldn't understand them, but eventually one of them said "taxi" and I told them I needed one. Whereupon another man who had come up during the conversation grabbed my suitcase and started to haul it off toward HIS taxi! I followed behind, and soon he and his cohort were driving off to the other terminal. Soon the cohort turned to me and showed me an official looking type-written piece of paper that said that the trip to the other terminal cost 2100 rupees!

"The information booth said it would cost 100 rupees!" I replied.
"That is for the slow taxis. This a fast, air-conditioned taxi."
"Then you can let me out right here, because I don't have 2100 rupees! I only have 430 Rs.!"
"See here, M'am. That is the official rate!"
"Well, you should have told me that before I got in. I don't have 2100 rupees!
"O.K. 1600 rupees."
"No. I told you I only have 430 rupees to my name. My husband has all the money."
"Then you can just give us $20 american."
"I don't have any american money either!"
Much mumbling ensued, and he took my 430 rupees. A short time later the driver pulled over by another taxi, loaded my suitcase (and me) into it, handed the driver what I assumed was a 100 Rs. bill, and off I went in a different taxi! And let me tell you, he went faster than the first, and I wasn't sure I'd make it there in one piece.

When I arrived at the other terminal I was told that I would have to pay 60 Rs. to go in and sit down under the canopy to wait for their flight to come in. After telling them my story, they took pity on me and let me come in for free. So I got to sit down to wait for the plane to arrive 90 minutes later.

Back to Joe:
I spent most of my time in Mumbai at the conference and Paul mostly tried to recover from jet lag. Mostly Donna hung out and knit and shopped at the hotel while waiting for Paul to wake up. We finally woke him around 7 p.m. to feed him. Unfortunately, once wakened he was awake all night. Hearing Donna on the phone through the wall, he knew she was up and they went for brunch at 10 a.m.. She & Paul did take one short shopping trip in Mumbai, but exhaustion & culture shock made Paul happy to go back to the hotel and sleep some more.

The next day we flew to Bangalore. That evening We had a visit from Chenming and Margret Hu of California (see picture.) Chenming was a keynote speaker at a conference in Mumbai and was kind enough to come down to Bangalore to visit India Institute of Science and the IBM compact modeling team.

As you can see in the picture, we have a Christmas "tree" in our living room. This continues our tradition from Vermont where we have "made" strange (artsy?) Christmas trees for the last 3 years. It began with an exhausted florist/costumer (Donna) finding an green silk army surplus parachute in her living room, brought home from college by eldest son/art student, Peter. She hung it from a hook on the ceiling and it became our Christmas tree. The next year more lights were added, in the form of a spiral outdoor christmas tree made of lights. The next year it was a huge white "ghost" costume from the community theatre production of "Fiddler on the Roof", that Donna was costume designer for. This one is made of 6 dupatas, scarves/shawls which women here wear, hooked to the collapsible spiral tree frame. If you buy an Indian outfit it will come with a coordinated dupata, but you can also buy them separately to match or contrast with outfits you already own.

The fireworks started just before midnight on Christmas Eve. We were in our apartment doing last minute gift wrapping and filling Christmas stockings and began to hear the firecrackers outside. We went up to our terrace and watched the rockets light up the sky from various directions. Compared to Diwali it was pretty tame, still it must have been a bit harrowing for eight tiny reindeer.

Here we are Christmas morning ready to go church (Joe, Joseph the driver, Donna, Paul and Luna in the front--no we didn't take the dog to church). Our driver is also a Christian and we told him he could have Christmas day off. However, he said it was Christmas and he would take us to church. We suggested he could also come to the service at our church, although he normally attends a different denomination. Christmas morning when he picked us up and said he would go to church at the same church, because "God is one". However, he still was not comfortable actually sitting with us in church. The sermon was about God's acceptance of everyone and how we should be accepting of one another. A topic you might have heard in an American church. But it had an Indian flavor because he spent quite a long time talking about castes, and said that if you were checking what caste your potential son-in-law or daughter-in-law came from, you were not really a Christian.

After the 2 hour service, we went home, had lunch, and opened presents. It was a nice quiet day--"Just what the doctor ordered" after all the traveling and jet lag.
Since I was gone for most of the two weeks before Christmas I thought that I might need to work some during Christmas week. However almost all of the compact modeling team is taking the whole week off, even though most are Hindus. Christmas seems to be an important holiday for traveling and visiting your family.

Another part of that Christmas feeling is the foods of Christmas. Both ham and turkey are hard to come by in Bangalore. While I was in the U.S., I procured some ingredients which are not available here. I was able to make chocolate-raspberry fudge using marshmallow fluff, evaporated milk and raspberry extract brought back from the US. The recipe also calls for milk chocolate (no problem to get here) and semi-sweet chocolate chips--not available in Bangalore. But I used dark chocolate bars and got reasonable results. I also brought green food coloring, mint extract and baking chocolate to make mint topped brownies. Donna once found powdered sugar here but we could not find it this time, so I used the food processors to grind coarse sugar fine for the frosting.

For Christmas dinner we stuffed and roasted a chicken. We also had mashed potatoes, gravy and maple glazed carrots, thanks to Rob Jones bringing Vermont maple syrup down to Virginia for me. Weren't able to find any cranberry sauce. While in the US I also acquired DVDs of a couple of movies which are part of our holiday tradition, "A Christmas Story" (AKA 'You'll shot your eye out') and "White Christmas".

What's Christmas morning without the stockings? This is one of the few normal traditions we have in our house. Donna thought our old stockings were getting a little worn, so she sewed new ones from a mixture of American & Indian fabrics. In Vermont we have a fireplace to hang the stockings by. Here in India we used a handy marble pedestal.

Hope everyone out there had wonderful holidays this year--whatever your beliefs and religion.

Back in Bangalore we took Paul around to some of the nearby sights. He was very impressed with ancient temples and live monkeys but his favorite Indian thing is the kurtas (shirts). Counting the one he's wearing in the Christmas picture above he acquired about 10 of them to take home.


Anonymous said...

Hi There,
I missed you lots at Christmas services this year. Bill told a Christmas story at the 5:30 pm service, but it was nothing like that great story about the innkeeper where the kids made the sounds of the innkeeper going up and down the stairs.
I enjoy reading about your adventures.

Caryn said...

Fun to read your comments and have some sense of what you are experiencing and feeling.

Joe, do I gather that you are BIKING to work? Very impressive. I hope you wear a gas mask...or at least a surgical mask...

Plans for my own trip to India are up in the air but I should make up my mind within a few days if I am going to India and if so, whether I can get to Bangalore. If so I will definitely let you know.