Wednesday, October 31, 2007


^ Above are the pictures of Halloween. It is not celebrated here, but we observed it, as did many expats.

This weekend there are Halloween parties at the kids' schools.

Tara hid candy around the house and the boys had a ball after school looking for it.

Notice that Aidan is in the Deccan Chronicle, a local paper. His picture was taken while he was at school. It's hard to see, but he was a lion or something. His regular costume is as an Indian police man, although they don't carry guns, only bamboo staffs.

Liam is pictured to show that he got a hair cut (thank goodness).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Cochin synagogue. ^

Thanks Liam.

He's right, there are swastikas all over the place in India. And it is not a sign of Nazi sympathies.

On a related note, diaspora Jews did settle in India in very small numbers many centuries back. And they lived in peace and harmony with the peoples around them. India is one of the only places in the diaspora where Jews did not experience any level of persecution. They once numbered in the many hundreds.

The two communities of Hebrews are in Cochin, in the state of Kerala, as well as Mumbai, in Maharashtra. There are about ten Jews left in Kerala, and only two in Mumbai.

They have otherwise all gone to Israel.

For your edification.....

Monday, October 29, 2007

ん0tεL sCεnεry

^This here is a picture I took of the pool in our hotel when we visited Jaipur. You notice the swastika signs, theyr'e not what you think they are, these signs are Hindu symbols and are spread throughout India.

- by l!Am

Sunday, October 28, 2007


We stopped for a few hours at a wildlife sanctuary between Delhi and Agra. It was great, although we got fewer pictures than we wanted. In addition to these creatures, we saw turtles, an owl, monkeys, an antelope, and many great birds.

^ Various deer (look closely) and a stork.

^ Close up of a deer.

^ Our horse, decorated in the Uttar Pradesh style (which is, apparently, plastic flowers).

^ Tame deer, lived at the Hindu temple on the property.

^ The property was once a hunting grounds, many names I remember from grad school bagged animals here. Lord Qurzon and Lord Kitchener among them. There is a town outside of Toronto named for Kitchener, and he took part in the Boer War.

^ The boys catching a moment at the edge of the lake within the sanctuary.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More detail on the Taj

Our trip to the Taj Mahal was a great one, we really enjoyed it.

^ We first took a camel ride up to the western gate of the Taj. Within 30 seconds, with everyone else whizzing by in vans and on horses, we realized this was a bad idea. But a cool bad idea, if you know what I mean...

^ These are jewels and precious stones, not paint. The whole Taj is filled with beautiful shapes such as this. There are no humans or animals depicted, as per Islamic tradition. Only flowers and leaves and the like.

^ The writing around the entrance of the Taj is Arabic script, from the Koran. Here's a neat fact. The letters along the top are 1.5 times as tall as those letters down at ground level. They made them larger on the top so that they would appear to be the same size as those on the bottom, despite the difference in height. Very cool.....

^ Dusherra, a festival of the Hindus, is going on now. This was a celebratory festival march for Dusherra. Throwing colored powder is a thing Hindus do during certain festive events. You see that in these videos. And music. And dancing.

^ There are four minarets at each corner of the Taj, They are built slightly splayed out away from the actual structure. That is to prevent the minarets from falling into the main structure in the event of a lightning strike or other such calamity. You are reminded how advanced India has been for centuries.....

^ Shah Jehan and his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, are buried here. The Taj Mahal is, in essence, a very large grave.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More of the trip

I am doing this in no particular order, just putting our photos out here in a random way. Here are some good ones....

^ A monkey show we were given at the state line of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh during one of our long drives. Sorry, Liam decided to film it sideways for a while.... not sure why. This type of monkey treatment and training is actually illegal in India, but the law is rarely enforced.

^ Elephant ride.....

^ The elephants we rode were colored with some sort of paint. This one had the best detail of all. Click on the picture for a larger version.

^ Tara had mehendi put on her hands prior to the trip. It looked really cool, and is still there.

^ These are feuding monkeys at the Taj Mahal. This was a scary event for Jonah, as you will notice from his screams.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


^ Here's where we went - between these three cities.

^ From Qutub Minar in Delhi. This is the only part of the tour where I invested no time figuring out what it was, why it was built, or its age. But it was cool looking.

^ An old fellow who makes his living with a flute/horn and a python. He was one among many folks who sold us the incredible at the state line between Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

^ Which one is best for our Christmas card - we're taking votes!

^ Rajasthan is known throughout India for its puppetry. Here is the family taking in a show. Notice Jonah's authentic Indian outfit.

^ Here I am with Jonah as we headed over to his school assembly last week (pre-trip). It was "ethnic wear day" at the office, and he was asked to wear Indian clothing for his assembly..... so, there we were, dressed in kurthas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


We're back! Long trip, going to bed. But before I do that, here are some photos to prime you for the many pictures to come.....

^ One of the few excellent photos we took at the Taj. My camera leaves the pictures off balance! Anyway, this is the color the Taj turns when the sun is setting.

^ Love

^ If you're going to do something predictably touristy, you can do worse than take an elephant ride up to the top of an old castle in Rajasthan.

^ We all took a camel ride, and half of the fun is getting the camel to stand up and the other half is getting off of it. This is the "getting off of the camel" phase where Jonah and I had a good laugh.... Liam and Aidan pictured, as well.

^ Aidan really loved Rajasthani turbans.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Very excited to share the pictures from this trip. We spent our full day in Jaipur being guided around by Davinder, a young guy who seems to know everyone in Jaipur. It was an informative and enjoyable day. We all rode an elephant and a camel today, a first on both counts for everyone in the family.

This was definitely a fantastic trip.

Pictures forthcoming!

Monday, October 22, 2007


We're in Jaipur. The drive from Agra was really long, but we broke it up by visiting a wildlife sanctuary. We saw antelopes, deer, a jackal, a kingfisher, storks, an owl, many turtles, macaque monkeys, and a peacock. It was pretty cool.

We took a ride on a camel-pulled cart in Agra, and have seen many camels all over the highway and towns we passed through.

We're staying at a very beautiful hotel in Jaipur. Tomorrow we ride on elephants up to the Amber Fort!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taj Mahal

Well, we have seen it - the Taj Mahal. It was spectacular. It is like the Grand Canyon in that nothing really prepares you for it. You simply have to see it.

We have great pictures and videos, to be updated when we get home.

Click on this image and take a look at the Taj Mahal. It's just amazing.

Next stop - Jaipur!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Delhi was great. We went to Qutub Minar, Jama Masjid, Red Fort, and India Gate.

Pictures to follow.

Next stop Agra and the Taj Mahal!

Friday, October 19, 2007

True stories from the edge of HITEC

Comments on the quality of my writing are very welcome, I think it would be neat to write a book about our experience, but am seeking feedback.

~ byl


If you have not experienced it, interacting with the multitudinous beggars of India can be a dismal event. As a general rule, whoever is begging at your window is usually in one of three categories. There are the children, there are the infirm, and there are the old. Almost without exception, they are being watched by someone at a distance who oversees them and takes the majority of their day’s catch. The homeless children are managed by abusive strangers, or, even more sadly, abusive parents. The infirm are often not even that - they get a sudden burst of spryness when the traffic picks up and they have to get to the side of the street. And the old beggars are generally abused by the same overseers that exploit the children. By giving them change, you're perpetuating abuse. The few times we have given money, the car became surrounded by numerous emboldened beggars who saw one of their own get some rupees. That is an unpleasant experience.

We have learned not to give through the car window anymore.

I think everyone is indicted by the sad reality of the begging class, both those who prey upon them as well as those of us who make a habit of turning away.

With all of that said, reality can often interject the spectacular into even the most dismal situations. What follows is a touching and interesting experience I had recently.

One night when Khalil was driving me home we sat stopped at the intersection directly on the outskirts of HITEC. The sterile, monolithic, global hustle and bustle of the Indian programming boom is left behind, and with an immediate rawness, India welcomed me back into her multiple arms.

I decided to wait out the traffic by taking out the iPod and watching my favorite show, The Office. The view out the window had become mundane since our arrival a few months prior. I was way past gawking, and not even terribly interested in looking anymore. I had had a full day of meetings, discussions, analysis, and had read far too many e.mails. I simply wanted to watch Jim and Dwight spar on my favorite television program. I started to watch the episode. I was vegging out.

And then it happened.

Next to me, in the window, a small face pops into my field of view. The sun was setting, but it was light enough that I could make out the face of a boy no more than 10 years old, just a shade older than Aidan. He looked at me, making the sad face and moving his hand from my window back to his mouth again and again and again.

Tap, tap.

Look sad.

Hand to mouth, hand to mouth.

Tap, tap.

Look even more sad.

Hand to mouth, hand to mouth.

It’s his moment to sell his wares to me - his product is pity. I stared at him. The episode began. I ignored him by looking down at the iPod. He looked down at the iPod, too. We are both looking at Steve Carrell talk to the camera in the way that is typical on the show - the so-called "mockumentary".

The boy cups his hands up on the car window and leans in to get a better view. He is looking at the iPod and has stopped selling his wares. He just stares. I turn the iPod slightly toward him so he can have a better view. He can see clearly the face in the screen.

Scranton, meet Hyderabad.

Hyderabad, meet Scranton.

Glad to introduce you to each other.

A few seconds pass as the boy stares at the iPod in amazement. I am pretty sure he thinks that it is someone on the other end of the device talking to me. I smile and watch him watching the video. He looks up at me and smiles, then catches himself.

Tap, tap.

Look sad.

Hand to mouth, hand to mouth.

Tap, tap.

Look even more sad.

Hand to mouth, hand to mouth.

I give him a stern look and he stops. We exchange small smiles of appreciation. He seems happy to stop begging and catch another glimpse of the iPod. I am happy not to have to ignore his begging. I am not going to give him (or his overseer) any money tonight.

He cups his hands over his eyes again and watches a few more seconds of the show. Somewhere ahead a light turns green, or maybe it turns red. The precise color of the lights never seems to matter to the drivers of India, they proceed based upon very subjective measurements at every intersection. Perhaps a herd of cows had finally made it across the intersection where everyone stopped in shared reverence. Who knows. But we started moving. Something started forward motion. The honking starts. That was his queue to return to the median of the road, but he does not. I knock on the window and make a hand gesture that says, “watch out!”. He keeps looking at the iPod. I turn it away from him. He snaps to attention and looks at me, hurt. I point to the cars around him and wave my hands, telling him to get to the side. He flashes me a huge grin and puts his hands together in the traditional Indian fashion that can mean hello, thank you, or good bye. I do the same. He darts away as we pull off, and I see him get safely to the side of the road.

I have not seen him since. He is probably out there. Perhaps he has escaped his life as a child beggar. Our intersection that night was improbable to both of us. He almost certainly started his life in a rural village in Andhra Pradesh where there was no electricity and running water. He probably had not spent a single day of his life in a classroom. I, on the other hand, had spent my life free from virtually any form of want. Yet our lives intersected one night in a place foreign to both of us, where for a quick second we were shed of our differences and sat in mutual wonder.

Not all intersections are so touching. A few nights later I was at the same intersection at a late hour. It was completely dark outside and a knock came at the window on the other side of the car.

Tap, tap.

I glance over. By now I was an old pro at ignoring the beggars. Still, you cannot help but look for a brief second in the beginning. And what I saw could not be absorbed by a quick glance. I looked for a second and then glanced away. But I had to look back. It looked like the woman had white paint on her face. it was almost completely dark by that time of the day, so I could not be sure. It looked like two white stripes across the middle of her face. I looked again. Then I leaned forward to see what exactly the face was that was looking at me.

Tap, tap.

As I leaned forward, I saw a bit more clearly. Even with my glasses on, I had to squint. Then I had a rush of shock go through my body. It felt like ice water coursing through my head and spreading down my spine. The white stripes were her teeth. She had no lips. Her face was terribly burnt. Her eyes were peering out at me through scarred eyelids. Her face was horribly disfigured. Instead of a gasp, I exhaled loudly. It was an odd reaction, I am not sure why my body reacted that way. Perhaps I had muttered a word in the exhale. I am not sure. I was frightened and very sad, all at once.

Tara explained later that night that there is a phenomenon called bride burning here in India, wherein a bride-to-be is covered with petrol and set on fire if the dowry her family offers the bridegroom's family is deemed to be insufficient and insulting. This woman was almost certainly a burnt bride.

I have not seen her since.

These two examples, encountered at almost precisely the same place, serve to remind me that there is very little that is tepid about India. It is a land of extremes. The Eastern philosophies speak of a lotus arising from the mud. That is India. India provides you with touching things of beauty, and shocking things of a tragic sort. And both often come in the same packaging. Life in the US has become so controlled, so repeatable, so tidy, so marketed, so planned, so......

India, despite its voluminous business overtures to the developed world, is still a very raw place where life moves according to different rules, and at a different pace. It is a land that cannot be fathomed. It simply must be experienced, and experienced in the moment. And that experience will leave you forever altered. Forever.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Funny picture

Chandramohli made Jonah a crown of leaves. And we have yet to replace the tiger picture in the back room. Great photo!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Aidan had some friends over the other day. Also, there are kids from the neighborhood and the daughters of the domestic help.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A walk to a cup o' joe.....

The following is what I experienced while walking out in the morning for a cup of coffee. Because I keep different hours here, I have learned how nice it can be to have a great deal of time to yourself in the morning. In the US I was up and out at the crack of dawn. I like this better.

So, I began my intrepid journey in search of coffee.......

^ There was a smoking pile of debris being burned down the street. And you can see how they are chipping away at the boulders in the interest of getting construction materials. Look closely.

^ Someone built a fence around a reclining tree. Very Indian. In harmony with nature.

^ Then I walked past a hut built from palm fronds. I got closer and noticed that it was named The Alpha School.

No, I am not sure....

^ I saw a big house with a servants' hut in the front on Road Number 22.

^ Finally, I arrive at Barista!

^ And the culmination of my journey - not a single blueberry was found in my blueberry muffin! Truly, not a single one. Just some blueberry syrup stuff around the edges. But the coffee was hot and good and energizing.


^ On another note, Jonah has found a culture where the type of clothes he likes to wear are appropriate for boys. What a bonus. These are pyjama bottoms with kurtha top.

^ Liam remains a difficult child to raise..... but we love him in spite of it all.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Echo Room

This is the room called the Echo Room by the kids. It's due to the loud noise, inevitably, that one makes in the room. It's all marble on the bottom, so no absorption of sound. And it's big.

It's not a very comfortable place, we don't use it much.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


It's Liam...

Well, something you should know or already know about India is the beggars. Beggars are a very common thing to see on the streets of India. Above is a picture of a beggar woman in Mumbai. Beggars are extremely poor people who come up to your car window during a stop in traffic and make movements with their hands towrads their mouths. Some of them are very young, most of them are very old, and some beggars are women who need help with their babies.

Some people feel compassion towards the beggars, others don't and just try to ignore them. I feel like ignoring them most of the time, not that I don't feel a little bad for them.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I don't say a great deal about work here. This is because the bank is probably somewhat sensitive about how it is depicted and the like.... So, largely, mum's the word.

With that said, I had a funny experience the other day. Every once in a while I go for a walk around HITEC (Hyderabad Information Technology Engineering Consultancy City). I see the signs for Accenture, IBM, Motorola, Oracle, and a variety of other major names. There are also local names like Satyam and Nipuna.

So, the other day I was walking and saw some stairs. They walked up onto a garden area. I walked through the garden area. And out onto the main street outside of HITEC.

Now this may seem unspectacular, but consider that to get to my office I drive through two areas where guards stop the car and check my ID, and on days they are feeling the need, they check the trunk. It gives a feeling of intense security. In light of the terrorism that has happened here, that is a comfort.

But I found a nicely manicured way to get in and out of HITEC without a single person noticing or asking any questions. Remember, I don't blend in, I am a white giant over here. Everyone stares. Here in this garden, though, no eyes on me at all.

In India, there is always an exception. There is always a way.

I just hope no one with ill intent ever comes through that opening.

Yes, I got back into the HITEC area through the same fashion. I turned around because a group of water buffaloes was walking out on the street where I arrived, and I have yet to walk very close to them.


We had a great day at the pool. I have started up a small running club out at ICRISAT and we had a good run this morning. A couple from Seattle joined us. This place is filled with people who have been here as long as we have.

Liam went to a buddy's house, Aidan had two friends over, and Jonah hung around with them.

Indian kids from out on the street came and joined the fun with Aidan and friends (they played rugby), but Mrs. Goel sent Nandu out and ushered every Indian kid off the property. She is the landlady. They are the children of domestic workers, in some cases.

Hierarchy is everything here. I felt bad for the kids.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Internet is down at home again. Going crazy! Writing this from work.

Be patient, I have created something interesting and I really want to share it. It's a photo/video essay about what it takes to go out and get a cup of coffee and a muffin in India. Be patient! I will try to be patient, too.

In the meantime, let me leave you with a picture from India that I took.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Patio

This is our patio. If you hear noise on the video, it was a guy with a jackhammer. Not sure where he was, I have yet to see a jackhammer in India. Most jackhammer-like tasks are done with muscle and pick axes.

At one point in the video you can see the main cityscape of Hyderabad off in the distance. It's a little hard to make out. It's also more impressive at night.

Overall, a nice spot to sit and relax. Although this time of year (it's Ramzan, the Hindi word for Ramadan), the night air is filled with songs being blasted from the various mosques around the city. Kind of really loud some nights. It ends this weekend, thankfully.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lavish praise

Internet is still busted at home, need to do something else..... let me see, how about compliments.

It is very easy to arrive at the edge of insanity in India. Things can drive you crazy if you let them. I want to avoid that impulse and take a quick moment to lavish praise on India.

Everything I am going to say has a "but....".

I am going to avoid those.

I choose to say only positive things for now about this land where we live.

Some thoughts.....


First, India has some of the most beautiful things that are to be found under the sun. The ornate nature of the clothing, the bright colors that the women wear, the flowers and trees and flowering trees, the emphasis on beautiful silks, the intricate jewelry.......... it can be an aesthetically breath-taking place.

The architecture throughout India is so varied and, in many cases, gorgeous that you cannot help but sit there and stare at it. We have yet to visit Jaipur (week after next), but it is said to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is known as The Pink City, because of the colored sandstone from which many palaces were built.

And there are so many dancing styles that enthrall the eyes and the mind. We watched a dancing show where dance styles from all over India were on display. I have rarely seen anything so engaging.

The food here is among the most interesting on earth. From the coconut-based foods of the Kerala coast, to the spicy treats of Andhra Pradesh, to the savory flavors of north India (that's what you eat when you go to an Indian restaurant in the US) - the food of India is rightly renowned as a delight. And the variety is something you cannot appreciate from afar. You simply have to try a bit of everything while here to appreciate it fully.

Additionally, being a vegetarian has never been so fun and easy as it has been here.

Finally, the people are often the warmest and most kind you find. People are generally too tightly wound in America. Everyone should take a step back, a deep breath, and just calm down in the US. Life is too short! India has a much more relaxed and unraveled approach to life. People are very slow to yell, are ready with a kind word, and are polite to a degree that puts most of the rest of the world to shame. It is truly a nice place to be.

Finally, this is a very diverse land. Languages, religion, class, caste, ethnicity, history and a variety of other things provide ample opportunities for resentment, anger, division and conflict. Despite this incredible diversity, and the challenges it offers, India is a remarkably unified and peaceful place. It is generally non-violent in its approach to life together.

Indians are a very enjoyable people.

Man, I *really* had to refrain from a variety of comments to write this essay. But we are guests here and India deserves our polite praise. It is, no doubt, a remarkable and wondrous land.....

Jai Hind!