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Posts Tagged ‘reflection’

As there’s a good chance I won’t get the opportunity to visit India again, I thought I’d better make note of a few of the new things I saw whilst there this time.

I saw many more of the little things on this, my second visit to Bangalore than I did on the first. This is probably because urban India is such a challenge to all the senses. It’s noisy, it has smells all of its own, it is in a constant state of movement – there’s no let up – even the beer tastes different.

This year I noticed the people.

Crockery
When we went shopping on Commercial Street, we saw and met lots of traders, many of whom were probably sole/family traders and many of whom simply worked off of a push-cart or small table. One man and his wife were sat alongside a small cart full of crockery and I wondered just how busy they would be; it didn’t seem to be the most desirable of trades or likely to be the most profitable. Yet, as I sat outside one shop waiting for Alison I saw several sales made at this tiny crockery cart, with selections being discussed, then made, then wrapped in newspaper for purchase. So perhaps all was well in that family’s world.

Builders Merchants
Many businesses like that do seem to be family affairs. One morning as I looked out of my hotel window I saw a bullock cart loaded with sand. I didn’t think much more about it (it delivered to a house across the road and then set off back on its way – after the driver had along chat with someone passing on the road). Then later (and probably unrelated but worthy of note) I saw a small child playing in a big mound of sand. I just thought nothing of it until the photo was developed (well uploaded to the computer). Behind the child I now saw mum was pushing the sand through a massive sieve, obviously preparing for some work or delivery. Another example of Indian family life?

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Demolition
Despite the prevalence of modern motorcars, the transport vehicles and trucks were not so up to date and often looked like they were held together by sticky tape and luck. Perhaps it’s a personal credit thing, which in turn makes everyone work so hard, even those who are lower down the pay scale. We saw a building being demolished, by hand. Over a period of about four days, certainly no more than a week, this building was demolished by a team of men using nothing more than sledge-hammers, shovels and an acetylene torch. The torch was to cut the steel from within the concrete blocks, so that it could be recycled (in the back of the Indian equivalent of a Luton van). And all this was done within feet of a major road and overlapped the narrow pavement only slightly.

Demolition

Road Repairs
The roads are not the best. Most are pitted and full of holes – some of which are quite large, and we wondered how often if ever, they were ever repaired. That question was answered one day when I took myself off for a walk. Try not to imagine the sort of walk we might enjoy here in our blighted isle – this walk was on some good pavements, some bad pavements and often, in the road. There’s no real respect here for one-way systems and for many small vehicles they simply don’t exist – so the walker (me) has to be constantly on the alert for that beep of the horn that is warning me to move out of the way. Some way in front I noticed a lady standing in my way with something balanced on her head and as I was wondering what it was, a young man scuttled past me and placed a similar receptacle as her feet. As he retreated back past me I turned to see where he was going and found another man walking towards me with a steaming pan of asphalt on his shoulder (see pics). At the lady’s feet were pans of small grade hardcore; the previously deposited pan of asphalt (another on her head) and hubby (I guess) was now coming along to begin the actual repair. Without much care for the cars whizzing past in both directions he now began to spread his load along the already prepared hardcore/gravel. The other pans of asphalt were recovered and spread likewise. I didn’t stop to see how it was tamped down, but I guess the traffic did that for them. Health and Safety? Really?

Foundry Work
Our hotel was situated in a fairly quiet part of town. From my bedroom window I could see a few detached (one looked as if it had been bombed) suburban homes, some coconut trees and some high-rise buildings – I could hear the nearby main road – but not too loudly. If I looked out of the end corridor window I could see the narrow car park and access that runs down the side of the hotel – and the Republic Hospital, which is just behind the wall. One day I looked out of this window and saw two men sat in the car park with a pile of pans around them. Looking closer, I noticed that they had a fire going and that one of the guys was holding a pan over that fire. Looking even closer, I saw that they were in fact tinning (lining) copper pans. Their mobile foundry was a box with coals for the fire, a turny-thing that blew air into the fire, some tongs and some thick gloves! If you see the video, you will note that the action of tinning is fairly simple but fraught with danger. Still – this is how they make a living.

Coconut seller

Street Traders
Here in Bangalore there are almost as many street traders as there are shops and they sell all sorts of things. We saw folks selling freshly cut fruit; melon, paw paw, mango etc, Coconuts: these were still surrounded by their protective green coir, a little of which was then sliced off, a hole made and the buyer was presented with a straw to drink the liquid inside. Following this the top third of coconut is sliced away and the customer is given the whole thing to eat with a scoop fashioned from the coir. Some folks had roadside newsagents selling sweets, drinks and newspapers. Others sold flower petals from the handlebars of their bicycle, or cups of hot sweet char from carts or flasks they carried with them. One pair did the ironing.

Ironing
Close to where we worked all day each weekend and between 4pm and 8pm each evening there were two guys who stood out in the street ironing. They had a flat cart well covered with material and each had huge soft pads upon which they ironed all manner of clothing, bedding and furniture covering. A tarpaulin was stung between the boughs of overhanging trees to cover the whole enterprise. Their irons were massive – and probably very heavy. They were half filled with hot charcoal and topped off with cold charcoal (presumably to give the heat a longer life – I never checked how long it lasted). No matter what time we were there – they were ironing. The coconut guy held court across the road from them and both traders did a roaring trade.

As I said earlier, this is just my reflection of the people I saw. There will have been many many more that passed my notice. And, when I said ‘urban India’ above I meant just that – I have no knowledge of rural India, it was too far away for me in the short periods we had not working.

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Monday 24th February 2014

Kites

I’m not sure how much of this I will get to finish before we set off home on Wednesday, but I need to mention the Kites. I’m not entirely sure what it is I want to say about them, but each day their presence amazes me.

I am talking about the birds, not the ‘go fly a‘ kites. These magnificent birds used to be a rare site in the UK, Red Kites in Wales were especially rare, but here they are everywhere. There must be hundreds overhead, constantly swooping and surfing the thermals. This entire area is urban, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of open land, yet here they are over India’s third largest city in numbers matching the starlings I remember from my Huddersfield youth.

I think they are Black Kites, but I think I’ve seen red ones amongst them. The are beautiful. There is a flock of them (do kites flock?) over UB City, just a short way away.

Disparity

There is obvious disparity between this magnificent edifice (I suspect there are places like it in Dubai, I’ve certainly seen similar in Muscat) and the surrounding area. [read] Where we are based is not one of the rougher areas of Bangalore, yet the pavements are cracked, broken and dirty. The roadsides are dusty and often piled with rubbish, the odd beggar appears from nowhere when we walk past, but as we walk closer to UB City, the pavements improve (a little) and there is less evidence of obvious poverty.

The 10-20 minute drive to our training venue takes us through some of the more ‘Indian’ areas and these seem to be vibrant places with roadside stalls, small businesses, banks, shops and animals. We’ve seen monkeys, cows, squirrels and chipmunks around here, something we never see around our hotel.

No matter where we are though the roads are a thrusting river of noise and chaos.

Wednesday 26th February

I’m up now and almost ready for the car to take us to the airport for our return flight. The last two weeks seem to have flown past quickly and in some ways it would be nice to stay on longer and learn more about Indian life. My abiding memory will be the traffic noise and chaos, describing it really is beyond words. You need to experience it – do it if you can.

I am looking forward to getting home and to having a proper cup of tea however 🙂

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Friday 14th February 2014

Motorbikes

Well, I’m here now.

We arrived this morning about 20 minutes early, just after 4.30am. The airport here in Bangalore is half new and half not-so-old, so you are not overly aware that you have arrived in India for a while. Quite a while as it happened, because the luggage was only very slowly sent up to the baggage collection area.

We finally set off into Bangalore (via hotel car) at 6:00am.

My room is gorgeous, yet by the time we got to the Hotel St. Marks, all I wanted to do was unpack very very slowly, and to sleep – and not too soundly – for a while. Following a light buffet lunch in the restaurant (we’d wanted snacks but … well, an Indian buffet was all that was available) the rest of our afternoon was spent exploring the locality, planning and training (me) for tomorrow. We stayed in-house for our evening meal – another Indian feast and the odd Kingfisher Beer.

Saturday 15th February 2014

We’d had a couple of walks yesterday, so actually starting work today wasn’t too big a shock. I did get to see more of the city though, as the journey to our training venue was about 20 minutes long. I didn’t see too many of the expected cows or monkeys today but there were a couple just outside the venue – which is just a little more suburban (run down).

Our trainees are young (compared to me 🙂 adults, all wanting to mark exam scripts for the host company here. Alison and I are tasked to train them in the use of specific online marking software and all associated skills. They are a lovely bunch of people with excellent English and a very cosmopolitan outlook. We have tried to help them understand the learners who are being tested – in this case level 1 students studying FS ICT. We have explained that the students do not always have the best numeracy or literacy skills in the world and that it is just as likely that English is not the student’s first language. Hence, there are lots of things to explain, which we suspect will take all of the time we are here.

Sunday 16th February 2014

Today was much the same as yesterday except I saw a lot more cows, and a chipmunk! The cows are amazing. Traffic gives way (mostly stops) for them, which is something it tends not to do for other traffic – see this video clip. They just wander around where they like and no one bats an eye. The biggest surprise to me is that they look exactly like the cows we see in farmers’ fields (rather than ones like this).

Saturday night’s food was amazing. I had a vegetable talis (Alison had chicken tandoori) in the hotel restaurant – both were excellent. Two colleagues arrived from England today too – to cover English. We all enjoyed yet another Indian meal (buffet this time) in the hotel restaurant.

The packed lunch on both days was a vegetarian curry box – more curry! They were nice, but I’m already a bit overfed with curry right now.

We’re avoiding the salads and some fruits but right now I’d love a nice juicy steak with chips.  Mmmm.

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