Friday, November 28, 2008


Looks like it is almost over. There are a few terrorists who remain holed up somewhere in one hotel or other. They are getting captured and killed in order. Looks like they killed the people at the Hasidic Jewish house. Horrid stuff.

One thing they do here is show carnage on television. They showed a dead woman lying in a bed in the Jewish house. The televison crews from different stations are taking pictures of her from a building next door. I'll never get used to that. I applaud the American media for respecting the dead a bit more than they do here.

Facts are coming out - and the terrorists claimed they are from Hyderabad. Not true, please don't worry about that - friends and family. As facts emerge, it is more clear that they were Pakistanis.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Terror Today

Today is day three of the siege of Mumbai. It started the night before yesterday, and it continues until this morning. Two of the nicest hotels in Mumbai have become a war zone, and a Jewish community center is being raided by commandos. I am watching it right now from the James Bond room at My Caffee Latte, Thursday morning.

It is horrible, and the details we have now is that young men came in from Pakistan on boats and surgically hit sites around Mumbai. They knew where they were going, they knew what they were doing - and they knew that it is very easy to penetrate the security apparatus of Indian hotels and other sites.

In some ways India is a sitting target. Politicians seek to score political points against each other in terms of who is more effective and ineffective against terrorism instead of fighting the problem aggressively. The intelligence agencies must be entirely asleep at the wheel if this could happen. And one scene shown on film here shows terrorists that seized a police van and were driving around in it while shooting into the people on the streets. That speaks volumes about crisis response - perhaps the only thing the Mumbai police contributed to the fight against the terror event was the contribution of their cars to the gunmen.

Various people have different opinions. Many people are upset with the intelligence and security communities. How could they not be? Others mention Pakistan. Moments ago, a Gujarati politician named Mohdi just gave a speech (in Hindi, I followed it) that implicated Pakistan. He is involved with stoking Hindu fundamentalist sentiments which has lead to churches being burned in recent months, as well as intense violence against Muslims in his state.

The implication of Pakistan was also done over breakfast yesterday by a colleague from work. In my mind, there is almost certainly some link there, but that is also the knee-jerk reaction of India everytime something bad happenes here. Hard to say what is really at work here....

One thing to note - on 9/11, life in the US ground to a halt. I would also think if gunmen raided hotels and restaurants in Manhattan tomorrow, the country would still largely grind to a halt and watch it in shock. But here, life continued. There were meetings about this, everyone was talking about it, and we had a Thanksgiving at our home. But it was largely an ordinary day for everyone. Except the security guys out front checked the trunk of my car, which they will stop doing in a week or two. I think that people learn to carry on in spite of these things. This is both understandable, and it is also part of the problem. The extraordinary has now been accepted as ordinary, in some ways.

For those of us in different companies, we had visitors in Mumbai, and thousands of associates who live and work in Mumbai. Many of our colleagues slept at the office last night, unable to go home. Most activities were shut down all day. One cousin of a young guy who works at our office was shot and killed. Another visitor from Europe was trapped inside the hotel, a friend was tracking the event via his BlackBerry last night during our meal. So, it is close to us, even if we are far away from the actual events.

Of interest is that a few Muslim friends I speak with imply that this is the doings of the government, to spread discord between communities and score political points. This perspective pisses me off more each time I hear it, but I have yet to lay into any of them directly. They have a right to their opinion.

At a personal level, this hit home in a way that others did not. These guys were looking for Americans and Britons. They were doing so in a city where I spend a great deal of time. They were looking for people like me in places like those where I stay in Mumbai. It, honestly, makes this a very different terror event. Not that any others were less horrible - it's just that this one feels like it has more to do with us directly.

This will not a be a good thing for India. If you follow the blog at all, you know how we feel about India. It is fundamentally a good land filled with great people who live in incredible circumstances. But the fact that this element lives in the midst of India, and next to India, and are not tracked or managed in an effective manner by those from India who are changed with fighting terrorism - it is discouraging, to say the least.

For those of us who are managing to carry on in spite of the fact that we have become the focus of terrorists - good for us. For those, like the sniper and commandos who are raiding these places in front of my eyes, who fight this day to day with such bravery - thank you. For the politicians who are asleep at the wheel and will seek to make political gains on this - stay out of the way. You have failed. To the Indian people, and the foreigners in their midst, let's continue to work together to fight back against these evil people.

And for those of you living behind a high degree of security compared to the rest of the world - please remember that we need to stay vigilant. May we continue to find allies in the fights against these people and eventually destroy them. And may we focus on the right fight in coming years.

Pray for a rapid end to all of this.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We're fine

I did not travel to Mumbai this week. We're fine. The kids' school was cancelled. Otherwise, we're just like everyone else, trying to get facts....

More to come.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sat Photo

Above the word "Google" is our house. In the upper left is the graveyard from two days ago's post.

Thanks Google Earth!

Now, along the bottom is an orchard. We drive past it daily. It has a gate, but I may be able to penetrate it. We'll see, stay tuned....

Monday, November 24, 2008

People Do the Strangest Things Here in India

Part 6 :: "Oh, Those Things Are Not Part Of The Scope?"

Recently, the streets in our neighborhood got paved. It involved a solid engineering effort with a steam roller and a small crew of people managing the act of applying the new pavement. It was a multi-day effort, in which the crew managed to sweep the street clean, then apply hot pavement in massive piles, and finally steam rolling it into an even surface. It was an impressive effort, and it moved the street to the next level. It was a good effort. A young boy, almost certainly below the legally employable age of 14, followed the steam roller around throwing cups of water onto the massive wheel. Two women from the rural villages swept in front of the steam roller without ceasing. And the man operating the steam roller managed the whole effort, orchestrating the whole team.

Then one day they stopped coming and the job was over. The streets of Whisper Valley looked nice. I had the deep sense that there must be a catch. It had simply gone too smoothly.

About a week later, we walked out front of the house one morning and saw that there were two guys in the middle of the road. They were squatting down in the middle of the street and chipping away a part of the new pavement with crude metal implements. They were the kind of guys that stop everything they do when they see a Westerner, as they were from the rural areas of AP. Their incredibly skinny bodies and their turbans told us that they were day labourers from outside of the city.

We stood and watched them chip away at the pavement. They stopped their work and stared at us. We smiled. They smiled, one putting his hand to his heart.

"What are they doing?" I asked Tara.

She shrugged. "No idea," she said.

We watched for a while longer, sipping our coffees.

"Oh, I get it. They're chipping away at the pavement to get to the manhole covers. Apparently the manholes were paved over by mistake when they redid the road last week," she said.

Then she started to laugh. I laughed, too.

"Oops," Tara said.

Oops, indeed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Islamic Graveyard

We live in a property that is behind an Islamic graveyard... or so we thought. It appears that there are Hindus in the graveyard, as well. With the basic understanding I have, I thought Hindus were solely cremated. But some of the graves were clearly Hindu.

The only Christian graveyard I know of in Hyderabad is next to the new highway on the way to the new airport. The road was built right next to it - so, literally, there are graves right next to the road. Those graves are no more than 15 feet off of the shoulder of the road.

If anyone reading thus is conversant in Indian graveyards and knows a bit about what I was seeing, please e.mail me. There are some confusing points about the graveyard, including the length of the graves. They seemed too short.

Here are the snaps.

^ As I walked into the graveyard, a woman was walking out with a massive pile of sticks on her head.

^ One of the graves I saw. Notice the "Om" symbol at the top of the headstone. Not a Muslim grave.

^ As I got deeper, I noticed that I was being watched. There were wild dogs on every third headstone in the graveyard. Watching me intently..... One of them bounded off and barked. It could have quickly gone bad. But here I am, fully intact.

^ This guy lived until 92 years of age. An uncommon thing in India. Note that the time of his death (I think) is mentioned on the headstone. Time of birth and death are important in Hindu cosmology, as well as the exact time for a marriage (down to the minute).

^ A few random shots.

^ Green is the color of Islam. These are Muslim graves.... perhaps two members of the same family - husband and wife?

^ This grave had some curious markings on the top. Check out the closer view. Notice that these headstones are simply shards of the boulders that make up Hyderabad. It actually takes a tremendous amount of talent to get them into this shape.

^ A dog extracting something out of the pile of buffalo manure. Now I know what they do with the dung. Yeesh. This dog is, I believe, part of an interesting phenomenon - breed dogs that become feral. I think this is a yellow lab, or one of its parents was.

^ Grave with webbing of some sort in the dead tree behind it. By this point, I was glad the sun was up.

^ A Hindu grave - "Om" again.

^ A Hindu grave. The representation of male and female reproductive anatomy is what you see on the grave itself. This is seen often in Hindu temples. Represents..... rebirth, of course.

^ Yet another Hindu grave. I think there are cows in the carving, but the dogs prevented me from getting closer.

^ I discovered that the edge of the graveyard is where the local people get water, out of a hand-pumped well. Didn't even know it was there, I drive past it daily. This one deserves a click to see the larger version.

^ An advertisement for a Hindu event, related to a couple of swamis visiting the city.

^ By this point, the flowers in the neighborhood were amazing to me. I had not even noticed them on the way out. After the visit to the graveyard - complete with wild-dogs and buffalo dung - I decided to take some snaps of the beautiful flowers to soothe the mind. Nice....

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Flowers were laid out last night in anticipation of our dinner guests, Krishnan and Indu. Nice touch, no?

The metal bowl with the water is called a "varpu", where the v is a bit like a w in its sound.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Janam din Mubarak ho!

Today Mr. Matthew Fairless become closer to 40 than 30. A mere whippersnapper for those of us feeling the beautiful-yet-cruel grip of post-40 entropy, where the inside flowers at the expense of the body....

A Cornish hero, an erstwhile denizen of Alpine climes, a man who conquers the ocean and inspires the admiration of those who know him, a man who appreciates 007 almost as much as do I......

A man of strong enthusiasms and love for his family, Matt is a good man and a good friend - and, in the final summation, isn't that all that counts?

*** Owners of swimming pools in Hyderabad, please be very wary over the next 24 hours, especially if the above individual is seen in the company of a strapping Dane who smiles without ceasing.....

**beware the below man**

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ashoka and Eddie

Some new folks who have moved in have a Rhodesian Ridgeback. He and Ashoka have become famous friends. It's awesome.

And they look a bit alike! Except Ashoka is a Ridgeforehead.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


... in the Old City, eating peanuts.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buying banana chips and a cool scene in Kerala

Also, blow this picture up below into full size and look at it. The photo has neat attributes. And you really get transported into the moment.... one of those moments that I was fortunate enough to live in.... Wow.

It's like living in a National Geographic (childhood life-goal).

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Farrands - Soon To Be Erstwhile Hyderabadis

The thing that stinks about this whole expat gig is the act of saying good bye. Our friends, the Farrands, are moving to Kuala Lumpur next month. Good friends who always bring a smile to your face, the four Farrands will soon be living in Malaysia. They had a nice party last night at their palace. Here are some snaps.

We'll write a longer good bye - for now, it is just too hard to think of life here without them.

Nice fiesta, Richard and Carol! We enjoyed ourselves.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


From our friend Matt's Face Book photo album.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kerala - final day

After two days of productive work, we had a great time wrapping the day up with a little sightseeing and hanging around.

^ The Taj property in Kovalam.

^ Fisherman and boats on the Arabian Sea.

^ On the last morning, I walked to a masjid that was falling into the sea, for all intents and purposes. It was a hefty walk, during which I lost my glasses. So, along with a pair of shoes in Malibu and Singapore, I left a pair of glasses in Kerala. Not intentional, this time.

You can see the masjid off in the distance.

^ Along the walk.

^ Along the walk.

^ Here is the masjid that is seaside and looks like it will soon fall into the sea.

^ A sacred cow.

^ Anantha Padmanabaswami temple in Thiruvananthapuram. I couldn't hide my devotion for the risen one, so I was not allowed in. It is a Hindu-only temple, one of India's few. Usually, I just go right in....

^ Swami temple. Notice the nuns on the street outside, the state of Kerala is among the most Christian in India.

^ A place mentioned some prior writing. Sarah Calatayud - this is the place that I wrote about!

^ Carving from the front of the temple.

^ Another carving.

^ Adjacent to the temple is a palace. It had dragons at the entrances, and smiling horses in the inside. Was not allowed to take pictures within the palace, but the theme is consistent - Indian maharaja's lived very well.

^ I was reading a book in Kerala about Kerala - and there she was, Sarah Cohen. About two weeks prior, I saw a Travel and Living program that featured here. One of Cochin's last Jews. We met her.

^ And so the sun set on a fantastic time in Kerala, personally and professionally. Yes, I took this photo.