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Manderson

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As you can see, Manderson is worshipped in India in the form of a golden statue.  If he came to India it would be just like the scene from Return of the Jedi, where the Ewoks rejoiced when they met C3PO.

Ocado delivery

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T

This vegetable truck stops in our street at 2 o’clock each Sunday.  Fresh from the fields and incredibly cheap.

Mark making toast in a sieve

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We are trying to limit how much stuff we buy before our shipping arrives – hence creative cookery.  I’m not sure we’ll try the toast experiment again.

Fast food

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My first impressions of India

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India (in the city) is quite a noisy place. We live one street back from the road which is quite good in that you can’t really hear the traffic but the buses have extra loud horns which we hear loud and clear. There is an empty plot next to our building and I think I can hear crickets from there at night time. From about 7.30am people push carts down the road shouting ‘paper’ (for recycling), ‘bananas’, ‘apples’ etc. so you can go down to buy if you need anything.

There are too many light switches in our apartment – it seems the electrician was on something when he wired the flat so the washing machine is connected to the lights and some of the fans only work in combination if you walk to the other side of the room and turn on more switches. It is like working out the code for a safe to turn all three fans on at once. I like soft lighting but even I think there are too many different lighting options in our flat.

We eventually managed to get a washing machine plumbed in which was an achievement in itself, although most people speak English, they cannot understand our accents. It doesn’t matter how slowly we speak, we sound very different to the English they are used to. Texting is easier than phoning, as you don’t have the accent to decipher. A typical phone conversation goes:

Hello
Hello
Hello
Hello
Hello madam
Yes Hello
Hello
Can I help you?
Hello yes I am calling from (phone company, internet provider, Health Insurance etc) is Mr Mark there please?
No he’s at work, can I help you?
Can I speak to Mr Mark?
He’s not here, can I help you?
Yes, is Mr Mark there please?
and so on………..

Depending on whereabouts we are walking we get quite a few funny looks. In the more well off areas they are used to seeing white people but in the other parts people stop and stare, one shop assistant followed me round a supermarket asking me questions and finding all the things I asked for, then she opened up a new till just for me – like having a personal shopper at Tescos. In the other extreme we went into a bank that was quite empty, the tellers were sitting at their counters and when one woman saw us come in she ducked to hide behind her counter!

Queuing does not exist in India, you push until you are served. Twice so far people have actually come up and interrupted whilst a shop assistant has been serving me. They stop serving me, serve the other person then go back to finishing with me. Sarla (our helpful neighbour) told me there is no room for politeness and no such thing as queuing in India, particularly on trains, which will only wait for 3 minutes at each station. She said you have to push (even beat!) people to get on, if you stand politely waiting everyone will run in front of you and the train will go.

We have found a nice 3 bedroom apartment in a (relatively) quiet street. Everyone we have met so far from our block is very friendly and keen to help us settle in.  The apartment is lovely but most things don’t seem to work properly e.g. our bathroom dilemma – the showerhead in our bathroom is blocked so will blast you with tiny needle like jets and the tap falls off, the shower-room in the second bedroom is damp and smells very bad, the shower in the third bedroom is warm but trips the electricity after a few minutes so it goes cold and all the lights go off.

But it doesen’t matter because today lots of people are coming to fix things so I am waiting.

I am waiting for: 2 electricians, 1 plumber, 2 air-conditioning menders and one internet installation person and, hopefully the Sky man.

Road maps and directions are proving difficult. Even Hyderabadies don’t look at maps, no one seems to use them, they head off to near where they are going then phone whoever they are going to see to direct them – I wonder what they did before mobile phones? You can’t go anywhere in a rickshaw (when you can’t speak Hindi or Telegu) if you don’t have a landmark to head towards. Thankfully our apartment is behind a country club, which everyone seems to know, and next to a massive shopping mall.

Haggling with rickshaw drivers is proving a challenge. The easiest thing seems to be to walk away if they are asking too much then another one will pull up in 30 seconds and you can try again. James (Mark’s English colleague) wobbles his head, smiles and haggles. They ask way over the actual price, he says under the price then they meet somewhere in the middle. The trouble is you need to have an idea of the correct price in the first place. Almost every driver says the meter is broken and 9 out of 10 say they don’t have any change. I need to get a separate purse of small change just for rickshaws I think.

The power goes off quite often. We were sitting in Mark’s office and the power went and nobody even batted an eyelid, they just sat around chatting as before in complete darkness. So different from the UK, I don’t think I can remember the power going off even once when we lived in London.

There was a monkey in our neighbour’s flat at the weekend, it had climbed in over the balcony and had stolen bananas. The watchman Narayan, was summoned to chase it away with a broom. We told Surya (Mark’s boss) about it and he said a monkey was sitting on his Auntie’s dining table last week holding fruit and watching the TV, it wouldn’t leave for 1 hour until the programme had finished! They get angry if you try to move them when they are holding food apparently.

Bureaucracy is taken to a whole new level here. It is a bit like Catch 22 for getting things. For a sim card you need a tenancy agreement, to find a flat (or arrange anything at all) you need a phone. To have the internet you need your registration documents. To register with the police commissioner you need a passport photograph of your landlord! (our land lady lives in Kuwait so not sure we’ll get that one) 6 passport photos of yourself, your lease, and letters from your employer (stamped and signed on every page). You are supposed to register within 14 days of arriving which means you must find somewhere to live pretty sharpish. You need a copy of your passport for almost anything at all. There are photocopy shops on almost every street corner – now we understand why.

Drivers are very horn happy. Even if it is obvious there is traffic and no one is moving anywhere they will sit with their hand on the horn. There are not many pavements – you just walk along the side of the road. It is not uncommon to meet rickshaws and motorbikes coming the wrong way towards you. If it is raining the gutters turn into little rivers so you have to wade. Crossing the road is taking your life in your hands. A few people have described to us the ‘hand of god’ – the roads are never quiet so people put out their hand then stride into four lanes of cars, motorbikes, rickshaws and buses etc. There are some zebra crossings but people ignore the lights anyway so it doesn’t make much difference if you cross on one of them or not. So far we have been waiting for a bit of a gap then dodging and running across the roads. I think if I am on my own I will just wait for someone else to cross then just stick with them.

The food is very good and really cheap (so long as you avoid the western type ‘sports bars’ which are awful). Eating at a restaurant feels like being stuffed by a kindly grandmother – you are not allowed to serve yourself, they will rush over as soon as you have room on your plate and heap on a load more. The Indian sweets are delicious; I think I will have to be careful with these as it is hard not to eat a whole box at once. Being a vegetarian is easy as there is so much choice. You can go to a ‘veg’ or ‘non-veg’ restaurant, it seems the split is about 50/50 so the choice is great. They tone down the spices for white people but I am still finding it a little hot. Hopefully I will adapt soon.

There is a man who looks like Michael Jackson who keeps trying to sell me gingerbread when I go to the Spar supermarket, it is very strange, he stands there all the time next to a tower of gingerbread. Each time I have been there they are playing Angel by Shaggy, it must be driving the staff mad. I discovered you can buy live fish, or rather choose a live fish and they will kill it and gut it for you.

We’re off now to look for a second hand car. I want an ambassador but they’re not very popular any more apparently. We wondered about getting a rickshaw but the AC and waterproofing are not so good.

Here’s a good one:

Ganesh

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There’s a Hindu Religious festival coming soon and the preparations are already on their way. This is the Elephant God Ganesh. The wooden scaffolding is common in all the construction I’ve seen so far. It’s springy when you go on it.

Monsoon

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Outside my work at the bottom of the hill where water likes to collect. No one seemed to mind the mini lake. It had stopped raining but there’s no drainage on the roads (non that I can see anyway).

Worms

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Bunches of worms coming to a pavement near you. This incredible street had several bunches of wriggly worms in 1 metre intervals. I think it’s the future of pavement avoidance. Dog feces has had its day. Can anyone identify them?

Boulders

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We’ve arrived in our service apartment in Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad and from the window I can see boulders everywhere. They look like they should be climbed. I need to find an old mattress to stick under them.

So far we’ve failed to withdraw money from a cash machine and Beth is determined not to get ripped off.