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category archive listing Category Archives: Life in India

No Showers Allowed

See, I always remember being told that the best way to save water was to take showers instead of baths. Apparently that is just not good enough any more.

Water rationing is starting to hit Mumbai hard these days (the newspapers have talked about cuts of 35% or so) for a variety of reasons – exploding population, localized drought, leaky infrastructure, etc. On our way to school, we saw a stark reminder of how serious an issue this is.

On an overpass, the grim visage of Sachin Tendulkar – who is lionized around the country as the greatest cricket player (in a nation of great cricket players) to have ever graced the pitch – advises people to avoid the ‘temptation of using shower.’ Apparently the new thing in saving water is taking a bucket bath.

It is pretty ironic on a couple of levels. First of all is the obvious juxtaposition with our idea of the shower as a water saver – now it is the water wasting way to do things. Secondly is the fact that many (if not most) of Indians have no access to running water of any kind, making this exhortation a moot point. It reminded me of this great article I’d found a few years ago for World Water Day.

But as we get ready for spring break and our trip to Jodhpur (which is, incidentally, where we are heading this year in case you were wondering), we’ll keep in mind the need for care in our water use. Bucket baths are not that bad: we’ve had them before in hotels, and I foresee us having them again on this trip!

Geckos and insects and fish, oh my

Strange animal partner week continues here at the ole Stutz blog, as we have two more great tastes that taste great together. Our fish tank has a new resident, albeit one who lives under the aquarium (we have it on a couple pieces of wood to try and minimize water damage to the table it is on).

We’ve noticed him coming out at night – at first he would just sit on the ledge below the tank and watch the fish swim around. Eventually he began climbing on the glass itself, but we’ve never seen him making any kind of “I’m going to eat you” movement towards the fish.

Internet searches have pretty much yielded the consensus that these household geckos don’t eat fish, but Susan is convinced that he is trying to do just that. She also thinks he is too skinny and is starving to death – apparently he is incapable of going somewhere else for dinner?

My guess is that he likes the warmth of the tank (and the vibration from the bubbles?) or else hunts bugs that are attracted to the light inside. The only flaw in this thinking is that the light is turned off at night, and we’ve never seen him doing any kind of hunting at all. So who knows what is on his mind?

Maybe he just wants to adopt some of the fish and take care of them – another Mumbai cross-species love affair in action?

Monkey Mamma

Mother monkey protects baby kittens against the crowsStraight out of Wild Kingdom, another “never seen before” in India: a monkey with 2 kittens!

Our neighbors grabbed us this afternoon to take pictures of a mother monkey who has adopted two kittens and is taking care of them up in the trees! I would never believe it, had Alea and I not watched them today.

Protecting the babies (not more than a month or so old) against the vicious crows that would feed on unprotected babies, she swung down out of a tree onto a rooftop. She was trying to find a spot away from the birds, and we were helping her on by shooting the crows with water guns. We could see them clearly – and hear them meowing – and they certainly looked well cared for. This is apparently the second time she’s been spotted, so some sort of maternal instinct is obviously at work.

This event was doubly unusual in that we have never seen wild monkeys around our house. Watching her disappear back into the tree, we could tell why – the camouflage is amazing.  We don’t know what is going to become of the babies, but our neighbor remarked that they’ll be good climbers when they grow up!

I put together a series of pictures and descriptions on our webpage, so you can see a bit more of this pretty amazing occurrence…

Holi fun abounds

Holi ColorsYes, it is Holi again, and just like last last year and the year before, once more we threw ourselves head first into this celebration of water and rebirth. We rounded up all sorts of non-toxic powders, and had a huge water and paint fight at Kiara, squirting everything that moved.

Following the morning battle, Alea and Dave ventured out into the neighborhood and got even more appropriately colored. The excitement on young kids’ faces was evident when they realized we were going to let ourselves get all colored up!

We finished off the afternoon at a colleague’s get-together, where we ate, drank, and soaked in the bright sunlight. My favorite Indian holiday! You can check out all the exciting pictures from hour day, now posted on the webpage…

Haircut

Didn’t think getting a haircut was a big deal? It is when you walk through an Indian neighborhood to get there. I’ve wanted to document the walk down to my hair cutting “saloon” for quite some time, and I finally got around to it last weekend.

I go to a local place – a step up from the sidewalk emporiums since it is actually housed in an old cargo container with electricity and everything!

Check out the pictures from the walk, just another glimpse at the sights from our life in Mumbai!

CD Release party tonight

One interesting aspect of this life we lead overseas is getting to see and do things that many people don’t have the chance to. Besides all the cool places we’ve been and fantastic sights we’ve seen, we also get to take part in some pretty funky stuff.

Breck’s modeled clothes, we’ve eaten dinner with a billionaire, and tonight we are going to a CD release party. The thing that makes this even more interesting is the fact that it is for an album being put out by a student of mine. Alea is invited (as is much of the 7th grade, and middle school for that matter), and so we are going to traipse downtown to check things out.

It is a little bit ‘strange’ to see a 12 year old that you meet every day and eat lunch with quite often involved in something like this (not to mention the crazy outfits and all in the music video!), but just as teachers have lives outside of school, so do students.

In any case, you can check out Raveena’s official website and blog, watch the music videos, and vicariously enjoy the Indian jet-set life!

Whoo hoo!

Gotta love the Indian sense of karma on the road. Don’t worry about things like helmets and seatbelts and carseats and rules, because nothing’s going to stop your number coming up when it is due on the big wheel of destiny, baby!

This guy came zooming up behind us today on the way home, and I just happened to have my camera (because of the Mathcounts tournament). Check out his kid’s hair whipping in the wind!

But don’t worry, dad’s got a good grip around his leg in case he has to stop real quickly – that’ll prevent the head from whipping forward, right?

I’m alaughing

Hot stuff, man.

Saw this at the Aquathon last week. And I know, I know, this probably is technically correct English, but it just isn’t something that, really, would ever be written this way.

Thanks, Eddy, for noting the issues I had with the original post for today (which has now disappeared into the bologsphere!)

ASB Aquathon

Today was the 5th annual aquathon at school – a fundraiser that includes swimming and running events. One of Breck’s buddies invited him to participate and ‘share the wealth’ in terms of the work, so Breck agreed to be the runner.

The Splash and Dash portion consisted of a 150m swim and 1.5km run (as opposed to the longer main Aquathon 300m-4km-300m event), which was just perfect for the guys. They had a great time, got a certificate and t-shirt, and had some fun on a Sunday morning!

There are more pictures posted on the main webpage – check out Breck’s eventful day!

Free verse Friday – Shaving in the Street

Just a look at a roadside barber shop today:

Men all have beards that grow each day
so they should shave them off, you see.
Since no water’s where most Indians stay
This barber looks out for you and me.

He sets up shop in the local streets
next to the tea and rickshaw stands
and using what he can find for seats
He goes to work with his two hands.

A bucket of water, lathered suds,
a brand new straight-edge blade
are all he needs to serve his buds
and ensure his income’s made.

A shave, hair cut, and head massage too
Check look in mirror hanging down.
Amazing what the locals can do
In this topsy-turvy town!

This isn’t the place that I go – I just took the picture from our school bus one day. Next time I go to get a haircut, though, I will bring that camera and document that adventure. Have a great weekend!

Happy Birthday, Breck!

Even though today was a day off from school (due to India’s biggest holiday – Republic Day), we were all awakened early in the morning. He claimed that he “wasn’t really trying to make too much noise,” but Breck was pretty impatient to get his birthday started!

We’d brought out some presents the night before, so he knew that there was (probably) some good stuff waiting..
He was totally excited about the new Star Wars Lego set that he got!
But the thing that got his (stomach) juices really flowing? Good old American junk food – that bag of chips costs 6 bucks, so it is a real once-a-year treat.

Weekend update – Alea’s play and the family fun day

Whew. Susan is off on her girls’ night chick flick thing, Alea is at the play cast party, Breck and dad just finished up a Star Wars movie: a pretty typical Saturday night – welcome to parenthood! We’ve had a pretty cool couple of days recently, and there are a few pictures posted from the events. Not many, but enough to pop on over and see briefly. Check out Alea’s play production and our school Family Fun Day pages on the website. Happy last week of school before winter break, too!!!

Wouldn’t wearing a helmet be more practical?

Oh God!I understand the power of prayer: it makes people feel that they are taking whatever steps they can to control situations that are beyond their control. But man, not doing anything else really seems to defeat the purpose.

I read these stories about people who would rather ask for divine intervention instead of getting a blood transfusion, or those who think that chanting a mantra over and over again will be more effective than seeking (and following) medical advice, and I just shake my head.

Here in Bombay, we see a ton of people who have a helmet on their motorcycle, because the law demands it. Notice that I didn’t say ‘On their heads,’ because that would be a lie. They carry the helmets around on the handlebars or by their feet, rather than wearing them, just so they have something to show a police officer. I know it is Christmas time and God’s probably feeling pretty generous right about now, but don’t you think He has more important things to worry about then precautions you could be taking?

Anyways, long lecture about this license plate we saw in McLeod Ganj.

Tis the season

Alea on the sax - winter 2009We have a slow moving family this morning, as we all nurse the excesses from this ‘start of the holiday season’ weekend. The events began on Wednesday, with Alea’s band concert, and things will just get ever more crazy from that point on.

This weekend is chock a block with doings: Friday night was an impromptu rooftop gathering in celebration of a colleague’s new job in Bucharest, Saturday night was the school’s Christmas party at Aurus, a swanky beachside club (open bar and all, thus the quiet music and dim lights this morning), today is an art show followed by holiday sing-a-long, and Monday is the Grand Hyatt’s tree-lighting ceremony showcasing the ASB elementary schoolers and also including copious amounts of first-class food and drink (unfortunately on a school night!).

Alea’s play practices – the show is called “Online – An Internet Fantasy” – are revving up in intensity, as her performances are Friday afternoon and evening, Susan has a chick-flick movie night organized on Saturday, our White Elephant party is Thursday evening, and then we are outta here for Bali. Whew. I’m glad we got our tree up as early as we did, ’cause there’s no time to do it now!

Which is worse?

Cleanliness in MumbaiWashing your car or urinating in public?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too, but apparently the city of Mumbai doesn’t agree with my assessment of the situation. We went downtown the other week and I was able to snap this picture of a ‘civic awareness’ sign.

While it is certainly interesting that a car wash sets you back about $20, and that feeding animals will ding you $10, the far more fascinating bit is that it is apparently worse to let a dog “go” in public than for a person to drop trou! Again, the priorities and heirarchy of concerns are fantastic.

I’ll jump on the bandwagon that an acquaintance of mine here in Bombay started. Actually, he’s not really an acquaintance yet, since we haven’t met in person, just electronically. He’s the dad of a student I teach, and we seem to share a lot of the same amusement at Indian quirks. In any case, he set up a Facebook album of Indian Street Signs that I hope you can see. I’ll post a few more of those that we’ve come across as well – although to be honest, I’m afraid we’ve gotten so used to them that it is hard to ‘notice’ how funny they are any more…

Thanksgiving post-game report

Oompah-loompah doopidty doo: that’s how we all felt last night as we tried to sleep on tummies stuffed with food. We had an outstanding meal, made all-the-better by the fact that we had good friends as guests, really making the holiday complete.

So let’s see – the menu was rotisserie chicken (which we cooked for the first time ever on the barbecue and which turned out great!), mashed potatoes with gravy, yams (Indian yams: not really yams and not really sweet potatoes and the only disappointment on the table), squash, green beans with almonds, stuffing, pumpkin muffins, jello, spice cupcakes, apple crisp, and ice cream.

We ate and drank to excess, and then finished off the evening with rousing games of Eye-to-Eye and The Game of Things, and the promise of an invite to Google Wave (which we’re still awaiting, BTW). All in all, a nearly 6 hour festival of gratitude. My “what are you thankful for” was that this year, unlike last, we were not celebrating the holiday under an umbrella of uncertainty and fear.

This weekend doesn’t just revolve around the giving of thanks and the consumption of copious amounts of fowl, however. It is also the Muslim holiday of Eid, so our basement is once again filled with goats.

Eid goats in the basement

They don’t know it yet, but they are scheduled to be ritually slaughtered today – Breck has been asking whether or not he can watch. Raising your kids internationally lesson #274: instead of crass commercialism during the holiday season, we get a discussion on the differing religious traditions.

But I suppose it is not much different from that-which-gave-Alea-great-pleasure this weekend: Uncle Billy got a big buck hunting, which means there will be venison sausage for her this summer!

Not quite clear on the concept (plus a few other things)

Actual quote from a story in today’s Bombay Times:

Jai Ho choreographer Longinus Fernandes…has been invited to Miami to perform at the 2010 Orange Bowl Games of America. “This is a convention of various colleges playing football where they have a half-time in between the games which is taken over by entertainment performances….This is the first time an Indian’s performing at this convention so it is a proud moment for me.”

Enjoy that convention there at the Games of America, with various colleges in attendance!

And speaking of football – oh hey, my fantasy football team has now won 6 straight games, thank you very much!

Alea in the mangrovesAnd speaking of cleaning up, Alea and dad had a very productive day in the mangroves. We had a bit of an informative tour and then proceeded to get all dirty and muddy cleaning up some trash! Alea was going gangbusters in finding all sorts of living creatures (snails, bugs, slimy things), picking up garbage, and then thoughtfully reflecting on the day’s activities.

And speaking of living and dead creatures, out Thanksgiving festivities will be pretty low-key. Breck and Alea have playdates Thursday after school, Friday is a day off, so we are going to the dentist (!), and at some point during the weekend we’ll break out that box of Stove Top Stuffing that we brought back with us this summer just for this occasion! As I told my dear Aunt Susan over on Facebook the other day, tandoori chicken and minced goat meat is how the sub-continent Pilgrims roll, baby!

Hiking in the Himalayas

Monks spinning prayer wheels in Mcleod GanjThe webpages from our Dharamsala trip are online and rarin’ to go. This last week has been really weak on the blog entry front, and I’m worried that trend might continue as we enter the holiday season of things.

We did have an exciting event this last weekend, as we went to downtown Mumbai for dinner with the parents of one of my students. The interesting thing about it is that the husband happens to be the 34th richest man in the world (this after having his net worth drop by $42 billon last year. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s only worth $10 billion now). When all is said and done, however, he and his wife were delightful hosts and we had a fabulous time.

But that doesn’t excuse me from neglecting my internet duties now, does it? Until I get back into the real swing of things, go take your mind off your other problems and check out all the fun we had a few weeks back!

Free verse Friday – Rats on the Rooftop

Our first Christmas-themed poem of the season, relating to events from last weekend:

Up on the rooftop, barbecuers pause
Sounds like the clitter clat of little paws
Skitter cross the guard rail with lots of noise
Little ones shriek, both girls and boys

Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go? Ho ho ho, who wouldn’t go?
Up on the rooftop, pit-ter pat
Down through the drainpipe with a great big rat

Dead rat in the road (not on the rooftop)We’d always thought that being ‘up’ in a building would protect us from rodential infestations, but apparently not. A group of us saw a rat running around up there while we were cooking dinner – hence the inspiration for this week’s rhyme!

And just for reference, here’s one that was outside our building the other day. Maybe this is what happens is a rat loses his grip and falls…

Sufferin’ through a cyclone

The winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and the locals are battening down the hatches. We are not supposed to get rain any time between October and May, so the torrential storms we’ve had are really unusual. I didn’t think too much about it, until I read the news today (oh boy): Cyclone Phyan – the first in 67 years – is smacking the area!

Seeings how we lived through an earthquake in the Himalayas just a few weeks ago, this is a pretty cool follow up to that natural event. Guess after last year’s horrific events around Thanksgiving, we consider flooding to be a welcome break.

And because I am such an astute and interested student of all things, I found myself wondering what in the world a cyclone was. As it turns out, cyclone is just another name for a hurricane or typhoon, or, as I like to refer to it, a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.

There’ll be a quiz on Friday – if the school is still open!

Wine shop man come, is go?

Translated from Hinglish – “The delivery person from Deepak liquor store is here at Kiara. Are you expecting him, and would you like him to come up to your apartment?”

Since many of our purchases are made via delivery (groceries, medicine, pizza, photo prints, etc), we get a phone call with this phrase every time a delivery peon comes to the door (and yes, they are really called peons here).

That’s just one example of the funny mix of Hindi and English (Hinglish) that takes place as we try to communicate with our building guards. When we need to turn on the filter in the pool about 20 minutes before the kids go swimming, we have to tell them to “Make pool on.” If I am not going to be on the school bus, “602 no go bus.” Or if looking for someone in the building, “Is 301 sir come?” I love being called sir.

Indian perspectives on life in Mumbai

ManFromMatungaThe newspaper we subscribe to, the Times of India, is often an interesting way to get an insight into how Indians view their own country. On the way to our Himalayan trip a few weeks ago, I stumbled across an opinion piece by a man named Bhavin Jankharia in the TOI.

Since he is a regular contributor to the paper, and the article is an interesting read, and there are many other pieces that he’s written on his site, and he has a facebook group that you can check in on, and I felt like posting today, here is a link to the article: Hardship Allowance for Living in Mumbai? Really?

Trick or Treat

Halloween Kids 2009We had our traditional Kiara Halloween fest last night, with a ton of kids from school visiting and a bunch of parents doing the same. The young ones roamed up and down the stairwell, going from room to room collecting goodies, while the old ones congregated in one apartment, enjoying adult beverages and even special jello!

Halloween 2009 dadAfter the tricks and treats were done, the kids came to our place to watch Charlie Brown and Monsters Inc. All reports indicate that they were well behaved, even with the sugar high they were sporting.

And the Stutz costumes? Susan wore her Boo!! T-shirt and kept the home fires burning, Breck was Billy the Kid from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Alea was an Emo (not Elmo, but Emo) and Dave played a suave Hugh Hefner.

Carving up the pumpkins

Carving the pumpkinsSince Susan is hosting a book club meeting tomorrow night, we figured we’d get our jack o’lanterns done a few days early. Our maid had picked up a few (greenish yellow) pumpkins from the market, and a neighbor from downstairs brought up carving magazines and stencils (I kid you not).

Oh, in case you were wondering – here’s a little bit of international Halloween trivia to keep handy: Indian pumpkins are MUCH easier to carve than Serbian pumpkins. They are soft and scoop out with very little effort.

In any case, there were some scary faces, a stenciled-on spider, and Breck even carved his very own pumpkin for the first time – a zombie! Aside from the cheesy (pumpkin) pi tattoo I gave mine, the evening was a success. Plus we’ll have lots of roasted pumpkin seeds to eat!

So now we are all set for the girls coming over to talk about “People of the Book.” I won’t be attending, but just for the record I thought the end of the book ruined the whole thing: how in the world could he have recreated – perfectly (except for the wrong skin) – the book. Silly, silly, silly, and there goes all pretense of reality for me.

Oh but wait, this post is about pumpkins. OK – so this is what they looked like in the end. Now we’ve gotta see if they last until Saturday!

Final Faces

Ganesh finally gets online

GaneshIt has been a while, but I finally have finished up all 4 Ganesh immersion pages. There is some good stuff here, lots of which didn’t make it into the Facebook spread, so check out the better-late-than-never edition of this holiday.

And yes, I am away this week with Alea on our Week Without Walls trip, but though the wonder of the Internets I could schedule this in advance! How technological are we these days!