Sunday, September 30, 2007


We sat out church today (probably need to look for a new one) and just went to the Marriott for brunch.

We met a bunch of folks who moved here right when we did. It's a booming environment here in Hyderabad. Nice to connect with other westerners.

It's easy to get used to places like the Marriott's pool. Above is a picture.

Special note - our friend Susan Flynn came to India this past week to help some people in Karnataka with her medical knowledge. She came with a Charlotte church that was making a medical mission trip. We spoke to Susan this evening. It was great to hear from her, and we are grateful that people like Susan care about India. There is great need here, and Susan's love was evident in this great mission trip. Thanks Susan!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


OK, here's something a little odd about India. There is what they call "a third gender". These are the "hijras", almost always men who become , for all intents and purposes, women in Indian society. They either beg or take part in sex trade, or both. We first saw them when they came up to our window and begged. When the kids asked what they were, we had no idea. I have since done some research.

Earlier today we saw a bunch of them trying to crash a wedding. This is one of the things that they do - they crash weddings and tell foul jokes in the presence of the wedding guests until the patriarch gives them money to leave. It is a sign of his status how he can bribe them to go away. Their presence is seen as a sign of bad things to come. They stalk weddings to make money.

The guy today who was facing a crowd of them just looked angry.

They are also known as "eunuchs", although not many of them are actually castrated. These days more of them are becoming castrated because they hear stories of sex changes in Europe and the US, and castration is the Indian version.

The Hijra live in Hijra communities, or families, and they are kept apart from the rest of society in many ways. They have been cast out by their families. They cannot get jobs in the normal trades.

There is a great deal of superstition about them (as there is about everything here). Hijras are believed to be able to cast spells of either a good or a bad nature. They are powerful in the Indian cosmology of superstition. Their wishes are believed to effect the gender of babies. People are very wary, respectful, and filled with malice toward these hijras.

The existence of this group is the result of two very inter-related Indian impulses. Categorize and sacralize.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Who would have thought?

Two of the twenty eight states in India are run by Communists. Who would have thought that anyone would consent to being ruled by communists? Yes, these are communists that are in power because someone voted them into office.

Inconceivable, yet real.

West Bengal is one of those states. It is right next to Bangaladesh and is where "Bengal tigers" are historically from.

The second state is Kerala, on the south-western coast of India. It is also run by Communists.

With that said, West Bengal is positioning itself as being the next place that should be the focal point of the tech boom here. And Kerala is filled with beautiful resorts that cater to European tourists.

Communists just aren't what they used to be.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pooja Room

Every Indian house where Hindus live has something called a "pooja room", a room in which a Hindu god is honored.

Over time, we will be Christianizing our pooja room. The first step was replacing the ornaments hanging from the door jamb with strings of fish, a Christian symbol.

More to come.....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pics and a Poem

Getting the kids on the bus is something I do by walking them down the street. Here are some pictures. You'll see a guy retrieving water from the Untouchables Camp, as well as a group of security guards talking.

Aidan wrote a poem today at school. Here it is:

I started school a month ago,
A single friend I did not know.
Everyone from some place new,
Strangers now are very few.

His interest in the clarinet is growing. He found two keys that make a "peaceful" sound, per what he said.

The rangoli looked good today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ganesh Immersion

Today was the day that all of the Ganesh statues are immersed into bodies of water. Once in the water, they are left their to dissolve. It's at the end of the Ganesh festival that this is done. We did not see any first hand, toward the theme of staying away from crowds and religious processions.

There's a new thing taking place - "going green" with this festival. There is a great deal of self congratulation here in India about creating Ganeshas that are not sprayed with toxic paints and the like. The idea is that the Ganesh statues that are dissolving in the various bodies of water throughout India are causing less pollution than in prior years.

I suppose this is a good development, but.... the bodies of water into which they are being inserted are usually profoundly polluted. Another paradox we have noticed.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Jai Hind!

India beat Pakistan tonight in cricket. I was here when India lost to Bangladesh last year, and it is amazing the amount of emotion this county has over cricket. When they lose, they are filled with anger about their team. But when they win, they are amazingly jubilant.

All of these games have social ovetones - beating England feels good because of the colonial thing, losing to Bangladesh is a blow to national pride (I mean, who loses anything to Bangladesh??) and beating Pakistan is a huge vindication that India was the winner in the painful split of those two nations.... Anyway....

For the Americans, some background.

In cricket, one team goes first and scores all they can, then the other team uses the second half to try to beat the score from the first half. Very simple.

Well, there were 6 "pitches" left at the end of the game. Pakistan had to get twelve points during those six pitches. On the third pitch of the six, a Pakistani player hit a six. That's the best you can hit. If they hit just one more of those, they won the game and the tournament.

Filled with tension.

With the next pitch, the Pak "batter" slammed the ball up in the air. And an Indian player caught it. Pakistan lost. India won.

We spent the next several hours watching fireworks all around the city from our patio. Very dramatic.

It'll be the buzz around the office tomorrow. It's actually a great game!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A fun afternoon

After church, we went out to ICRISAT to the barbeque event that the expat group was holding. A really fun time.

This group is like church in one main way. It is a gathering of people of various generations around a common goal - in this case, enjoyment. There are people in their sixties and seventies all the way down to babies.

Here are some shots of the boys. Liam has some girls who love him, they yelled his name and ran across a field to see him. Then they hung out.

Aidan manages to get candy if it is offered, so he was relentless in retrieving every scrap of sugar he could. His diet is not good.

Jonah kept putting rice all over his face. Dried rice, used to hide the candy in a bucket.

Tara was home resting off a stomach issue.

Here we are at the pool. I love how Europeans think speedos are acceptable for leisure swimming. I would have thought they would have gotten over that a generartion ago, or so.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ganesh Chaturthi

Liam and I walked down to Madhapur tonight, a section of Hyderabad near us. We visited about three different tents where there were huge Ganesh statues. Incredibly colorful!

One tent had a family watching a movie on the TV in the corner, the other tent was being manned by four kids under the age of twelve, and the last had a man chanting over a microphone. He kept saying "moksha". It means salavation.

Each tent has insence, many flowers, and a variety of small Ganeshas around the base of the big ones. The biggest one we saw was ten feet tall.

On Tuesday night every Ganesh statue will be immersed in in water. The intent is to have them dissolve.

They are all plaster or clay with loads of paint on them. Probably not too good for the water supply.....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The James Bond room

Here's my place to hang out. I have coffee hee in the mornings about three days a week. It's the James Bond room at "My Cafe Latte".

Bond film posters from different eras and different countries.

The names of all of the Bond beauties are on the walls.

The coffee has cool little "touches" like a foam fern.

And you can get the latest in Telugu headlines.

What else does a guy need???

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Camp

As I waited for the bus with Liam this morning, I asked if I could take his picture. He begrudgingly acquiesced and I took the picture. He asked why I took it. I told him it was because of what was behind him. Behind him is what we have started to call "the Untouchable camp".

At the end of our street there is a small plot of land inhabited by a group of people that apparently work in the neighborhood. I am not sure if they are truly Untouchables, the lowest caste of the caste system (Untouchables are actually not even a caste). But they certainly look like they're very lowly. I don't mean that in an unkind way, but this is a very humble dwelling place for about three or four families. They range in age from the very old to tiny babies. An observation, babies in India are far smaller than big, plump American babies.

What is really curious is that this plot of land is right next to Mr. Agarwal's house. He has, without a doubt, the most styling crib on all of Road 23. He and his wife look out onto this camp.

We think the folks are involved in building one of the homes on the street.

Tara and I were talking about it last night. Each member of the family has a different approach to this small camp.

Jonah: Jonah is at the age where everything is pretty even in his eyes. He does not say much about the camp, but when he saw one of the babies squatting on the street pooping and peeing (yes, on the street), he made a huge deal about it. Talked about it for days.

Aidan: He has a warm spot in his heart for the people. As they walk in and out of their camp in the morning bringing in water jug after water jug from some mysterious source down the street, he watches them closely. He does not say much about them.

Liam: He thinks it's kind of odd and a bit gross. When I asked if he had compassion on those people for the hard life they lead, he quickly said, "no". When I pushed him on that, he said plainly, "Dad, I'm not like one of those kind and compassionate people. I don't feel compassion for them." Hopefully that was just 13 talking.

Tara: She observes them a great deal in the afternoon when she is waiting for the kids to come to the bus stop. First, when she comes to the end of the street, it is nap time. Three of the women from the camp come out on the sidewalk and lay down to take a nap (yes, on the street). They have about 4 babies around them. They sprinkle the babies around the sidewalk and proceed to sleep. The kids crawl around and toddle around as the mothers sleep.

She once witnessed that one child pushed another child backwards, which caused him to fall back over his mother's sleeping body. He clocked his head on the concrete and started to wail. The mother woke up, comforted the hurt baby, smacked the villain across the head, and then proceeded to resume her nap. The kids returned to their games.

The babies never wander far enough to get into the road or away from their mother. Survival lessons start early in India.

She also took note of the fact that one of the toddlers was not wearing pants and had a small string around his waist, from which hung a metallic disk. The flat disk was over his private parts. It was to prevent his pee from shooting everywhere. Easily washed. Ingenous. Obviously, diapers are not an option for these folks.

Me: I am authentically interested in the people in the camp. They are so incongruous in a place that is incongruous to everything that I have ever know. They are a riddle wrapped in an enigma to me.

Why are they here, on Road 23? Why am I here?

Beyond the fascination I feel, there is also an appreciation that they are burning a fire every morning. That is such a raw aspect of life, there's something magical about starting a fire. For these folks it is a routine and a survival tactic. It smells great. I enjoy smelling their fire from over the wall. India has a way of invading your senses, and I assure you that smell is the top sense that gets assaulted/indulged. A fire is a cleansing proposition for a nose that just smelled "whatever that was".

I don't think these people need my pity or my charity, they simply need me to remember that they are my equals in all the ways that truly matter in this world. They have stopped gathering in groups and staring at us in the mornings. We have started to feel that their presence and daily rhythms are not gross, or threatening, or whatever else we first felt. We simply inhabit the same space for a period of time during an unprecedented period of human coalescence.

I doubt they'd phrase it that way, but they have the same sentiments, I believe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Well fellow bloggers, Camerons, and cyberspace surfers, so far India has had its ups and downs. Me and my family are having our boring days where we just go to school/work, and we come home and our cook Leena has cooked us a delicious indian meal. My mom was surprised to see that our new decorative patio furniture has been chewed up and completely destroyed today by some random animal, or the old dog upstairs named "chilli", who we refer to as "Pet cemetry dog" because it is so dang old. And the Ganesh festival has ended just the other day, for a couple days India has been worshipng, celebrating, and having festivals for the Hindu god Ganesh, or Ganesha...(whatever you want to call it)


Monday, September 17, 2007


Dad - datura grows wild here, as does lantana and some variety of gardenia.

Here's the buffet we found after church. The place is really nice, and it's packed with expats galore. Most of them are British. Nice pool, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Interesting weekend

We went to church this morning. We went to "New Life Church", Hyderabad's answer to the megachurch phenomenon. I really did not know that such places existed outide of the US, but it appears that there are many places just like it around the world. My friend Jamie goes to "Warehouse 242" in Charlotte, a place we have dropped by about half a dozen times. The kids love it. This place was just like that.

There are about 6,000 people who attend New Life Church. It has video feeds, a contemporary choir singing the latest rock songs, drama skits, and the like. The kids really enjoyed it, I found it pretty fun, but Tara is a traditionalist - she does not think church should be like that. There was a mime troupe during the service, and mimes creep Tara out, so she was not pleased.

Fear not, you Selwynites, we look forward to being reunited with you in 2009!!

From Saturday - this has happened twice - some guys walk down our street and play huge oboes really loudly and in a very squawking manner. I have to believe they are scaring off spirits or some such thing, because they sound terrible. In turn, they want money for their services.

I brought Liam and Jonah down to stand in the middle of these guys. Here's the picture.

It is "Ganesh Chaturthi", yet another festival here in India. This festival leads to a huge amount of activity depicting Ganesh, an elephant headed deity of Hinduism. He is depicted in huge statues all over the city, and those will all be unveiled next weekend. Then they are marched to the water and submerged. The sand sculpture is from a beach in Mumbai.

Here is a group positioning a huge Ganesh in a tent near our home.

Yesterday, we went to a place called Runway 9, where you can do archery, riflery, go carts and the like. It is an "entertainment center" like they have in the states. But only in India would they put Aidan in a high powered go cart. Here's a film of when Liam and Aidan were on the track together. It's Liam you see. Aidan wiped out twice, they had to take him off the track.

Friday, September 14, 2007

ISH Inauguration

Today we spent the day at the International School of Hyderabad's inaugural event. It was really awesome, as is the new school. Much of the school opens out to the air, and it is heavy in natural light. Very cool.

As is so often the case in Asia, there was something beautiful to mark the site of the auspicious event. It's interesting how often you hear and read the word "auspicious" here. I don't think I heard that word ten times during my four decades in the US.

You'll notice the star of David is in the center of the rangoli. It's all over the place - as are swastikas and a variety of other symbols that we don't quite "get" yet in terms of how they relate to Indian culture.

Look closely in some of the pictures, you'll see Jonah in the sitting area with a gaggle of other young ones, Liam standing amongst the Secondary School crowd, and Aidan in a choir.

We found out today Liam is on the student council.

Have a gander at the way things are built here. This is the to-be dining area..... Even a beautiful facility like ISH gets built in this fashion.

We had an awesome lunch and then we drove away down the long exit from the ICRISAT facility where the school is located.