Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blog pictures

The pictures from Goa ended up being pretty bad, I guess Tara's idea of "keeping the kids occupied by having them take pictures" ended up not being a good one. Oh, well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to funny India

Tara and the boys are back. They had a great time. Aidan was cute - when we were driving home after they arrived, he kept asking what I did for a living. He was deeply interested. I couldn't figure out why, then it dawned on me....

He was so amazed by the place to which they went that he wanted to know what you needed to do in life to be able to provide experiences like the one they had in Goa. It was a nice feeling, I enjoyed it.

Tara had a funny experience today. She went to buy some fish today. She was the only person at the fish counter in the store. She stated what she wanted. The fish seller told her that she had to take a number. She looked around, in part to see if she was still the only one standing there (she was) and in part to look for a hidden camera.

She took the ticket.

Number seven.

Almost immediately there was a bell sound followed by an smooth American female voice stating, "Now serving.... Number 7".

The butcher took the ticket from her and looked at it, validating it was indeed number 7. He then proceeded to give her the fish she had requested.

This is a akin to an experience we had during our first few months here....

In the US, you go to a counter and order a cup of coffee in a coffee shop. They get it for you and you take it and sit down and start drinking.

So, we came to India with that in mind. We walked up and gave a full order at Cafe Coffee Day, India's answer to Starbucks. The guy listened to us request what we wanted and then said, "Ma'am, sir - please have a seat." We turned around and sat down at a table. The same guy then walked up and handed each of us a menu. He walked away as we sat there. About three minutes later, he walked up and asked if he could take our order. We stared at him for a bit, then at each other.

I spoke first, ", we still want what we asked for at the register."

He nodded and wrote the order down, finally.

To continue with this funny theme, Tara once called for a pizza for the kids. The guy at the other end of the phone took her order - a plain cheese pizza. This was from Dominoes, an American chain. Here's the conversation:

"Hello, Dominoes."

"Yes, I would like to order a pizza for delivery."

"Hello. Hello."

"Yes, I would like to order a cheese pizza."

"Yes, ma'am - tell me."

"I would like one large cheese pizza."

"Ok, ma'am. Would you like a drink with that?"

"No, just one cheese pizza."

"Would you like to have some bread sticks with that?"

"No, just one large cheese pizza."

"But you get a special discount on the drinks if you order bead sti-"

"No, we only want one large cheese pizza."

"Ma'am, it is a special...."

"No, just the one cheese pizza!"

"Ok, ma'am. May I repeat your order?"

At this point, Tara paused and wasn't sure what to say.....

"OK, sure."

"One large cheese pizza."

Tara started laughing so hard that she could barely respond.

So, it's just funny sometimes here in India.

They will have pictures for the blog tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


^ Tara and the boys are back from whacky Goa. Pictures and stories forthcoming. Apparently, it was a great time.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


... asks me about Slumdog Millionaire. I have not seen it. Came close a few times, but it did not work out. I am not in a particular rush, as I am convinced that we will own a copy someday and I will have seen it like a billion times.

It is more interesting right now just to watch it from the perspective of someone without an opinion and see what everyone else has to say about the movie.

This was playing back in the US when we were there for Christmas. It received great reviews. Interestingly, we had never heard of it until then. It wasn't being played in India.

It is here now, both in English and Hindi. The Hindi version is called "Slumdog Crorepati". I believe this roughly translated to Slumdog Husband of Ten Million Rupees.

There is two main reactions to the movie here in India. The first is that people are proud of it. When it opened in Mumbai, it was to a red carpet affair where Bollywood's beautiful came through and said what a great movie it was going to be, etc. Typical stuff. And I gather from the movie that there is some irony in a glamorous affair in Mumbai being part of this movie's reality. So, there are those who applaud the movie, mostly to be part of the "big thing" that is happening around the movie.

Then, interestingly, there are is a second group of people who feel offended by the movie. Amitabh Bachan in particular has rubbished the movie. He is amongst those who think it is shameful that so many movies show this side of India. But he does not deny that there is this side of India. He is just sensitive that the movie shows India in such a poor light and that it was made by a Westerner. Then he goes on to say that every country has a poor, frightening underbelly like was shown in Slumdog Millionaire. Well, maybe. But I would submit that India is different from most countries in terms of its poverty and its inattention to helping its poorest citizens.

If that's hard for anyone to hear, so be it.

Additionally, a Muslim friend made a point of mentioning that there is communal violence in the move and "...that is very real." He pointed out that it has become less in the last 10 to 15 years, though.

So, there is a mixture of reactions to the movie here on the ground. Mostly it is being praised as a good, even great, movie that shows a side of India that exists. Some are offended by the skin tone of the director and a few are embarrassed that this very real side of India is there for the world to see.

Maybe we'll see it in the next few months and update a blog entry about our personal perspectives on the movie.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More pictures

From the fateful Ganesh Chathurti walk I took a few months back.... to continue the story....

^ Many people were eager to see me, although I didn't know them. I suspect some had been drinking moonshine. I am pretty sure about this guy.

^ There were trucks everywhere carrying Ganesh to the body of water where he would be immersed.

^ And guys dancing to the drums everywhere.

^ Ward and I discovered where the local water buffalo live.

^ Ward started to get the powder early on in the equation. Here he is with a bit of color. Note the guy behind him, perhaps the only Indian guy unhappy to be in our company that day.

More to come.....

Monday, February 23, 2009


Tara and the boys are off in Goa. Tara was really excited by how nice the place is, the Park Hyatt. They have purchased some cameras from which we will get photos on the blog, but for now - these are some pictures of the place.

Here are some pictures from 2006 during my first trip to Goa.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Day back in October

I have been waiting to get these pictures up for a long time. From several months ago....

^ It started like any other lazy weekend day that has a good pipe and a fun book. Then my friend Ward came by looking for someone to go explore the festival out on the streets - Ganesh Chathurti.

^ Being a white guy at the festival meant that the local people focus on you like a laser - ruining your shirts, putting Telugu phrases around your forehead, and generally attacking and wearing your cowboy hat.

^ As you can see, we became a focal point for people to through colored powder and adorn us with flowers. It got a bit out of control for a bit, more pictures to come of this event in the next day or so.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


My birthday was great. Much more subdued than last year, I guess 41 is a less significant event than forty.

We went out and had a nice quiet dinner and I enjoyed some apple tobacco in a hookah. Nice time.

Friday, February 20, 2009


^ Rahul

^ Omar

So, I have learned that there is a category of Indian that other Indians use, mostly in a humorous way. It is called an ABCD - American-born confused desi (this word means " fellow countryman", roughly). It's the Americans of Indian descent that don't have many attributes of an Indian. Meaning, they nod from front to back, speak American English and are wound a bit tighter in the psyche that most Indians.

I want to create a new term - OWGSOLMTAI - Other White Guys Sort of Like Me That Are Indian.

Omar Abdullah is the new head of the state government in Kashmir. A recent arrival on the scene, his father is an established guy in Kashmir who is prone to playing golf almost all of the time. Omar is a pretty modern guy, I read that he is on Facebook. Unfortunately, he is one of 400 Omar Abdullahs on FB, so I could not send him a friend invite. Seriously, I tried.

Rahul Gandhi is the son of the prestigious Gandhi political family, which has no familial connection to the Mahatma. Rahul's great grandfather was Jawaharlal Nehru. They have real roots in Indian, give speeches in Urdu and Hindi and live very Indian lives. They are Indian.

But they look alot like - well, like I do. In the sense that they look pretty Western...

I guess the fact they both have European mothers sorts of influences this. But, again, these guys are Indian. It's pretty interesting.

Now, as I have pointed out - India has every color in its population. There are white Indians with blue eyes. Not many, but they are there. Then there is the blackest black on other Indians. And every hue in between. No blonds or red-heads, though. All Indians have black hair.

Unfortunately, these hues do count for something today, although I sense this will change.... but it may take a while. Watching any Bollywood movie tells you that beauty and darkness are not usually seen as going hand in hand here in India.

Of note is the fact that it is widely predicted Rahul will be Prime Minister of India someday. Stay tuned for that.

Both guys are pretty dynamic and interesting men, so it'll be fun to see how their lives unfold. Just a small note of interest for you.... hope you found it useful.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

OK, so....

....did anyone notice that the Pakistani government just handed over a chunk of their nation to the Taliban??

Being in India, you learn how deeply the dynamic between India and Pakistan sits on the psyche of Indian people. It's amazing. Even recently, I watched a debate where people expressed different opinions about Gandhi. There is actually a portion of India that thinks that his easy acquiescence on the partition, or even it being his own idea, was the roots of so many modern-day miseries that they don't feel Gandhi should even be revered.

I simply never knew that there were people that felt this way in India. It's almost orthodoxy in the West that Gandhi was a man of incredible moral and intellectual traits. At the end of the day, he was human....

Anyway, back to the Taliban.

So, they have been given authentic self-governance by the government of Pakistan. There was a cartoon in the newspaper today that showed a Paskistani politician saying "We will defend the 1947 border [with India] and dissolve the 1447 border [with Afghanistan]." Pretty funny.

I don't think there are easy answers on this one. I authentically hope they have a plan of some sort behind the scenes that will help. As one friend stated, "Look, that region has always been that way. There are simply letting it come into the open."

What really surprised me was that our acting US State Department spokesman, Gordon Duguid said, "Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. So, I don't know that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss."

Wow. I'll just leave it at that. Wow.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


^ The old type of movie.

^ The new type of movie.


India is undergoing significant changes. It is everywhere. One change is in its movies.

I don't watch old Indian movies, but I do catch sections of them while on the elliptical at the gym. I have noticed something interesting that is changing.

In the old movies, it is almost a standard element to have a god or goddess visit one of the characters. Hanuman will appear to a woman as she wakes up from a dream crying. Krishna will fly into a room and sit on the window sill while a family spills their hearts to him. Or even baby Krishna will play a flute and magically reassemble broken flower pots with a smile, a chuckle and a few toots of his instrument. It happens in so many films from the 1950's and prior.

You don't see this any longer in Indian movies. Today, gods and goddesses or God are in the movies, but they have shifted from a direct and local participant in the plot. Now, these gods and goddesses are either an unseen force that impact the events, or they are somewhat personal in a funny sort of way.

In the West, we underwent a change like this to some degree years ago. Think of George Burns as God, or Morgan Freeman as God in the Bruce Almighty or Evan Almighty movies. Then think back to some of the older movies where organ music and light coming through a window would follow the main character praying.

Things changed.

Please don't interpret what I am saying as a statement about a creeping secularization of Indian culture or thought. This is still a country that is deeply focused on things spiritual. But there is a change and certainly an element of this change is the Indian mind reckoning with a world where the secular perspective is emerging in more places than ever before.

An excellent example of the new kind of movie is Om Shanti Om, a fun movie that we own. In it, there is a love triangle followed by a murder. This all works itself out in a subsequent lifetime for the main character - reincarnation, traditionally a very Eastern and Indian belief.

During the movie, one of the characters who has spent nearly twenty years in America comes back and scoffs at the ceremony and religiosity of his fellow Indians (he is the bad guy, by the way). The good guy connects with his prior life (at the end of a vigorous dance scene!) and realizes that he must exact revenge for his dead love by killing the bad guy. Suffice it to say that in the end of Om Shanti Om love, spiritualism, reincarnation and tradition defeat modernity, secularism, greed and deceit.

And not a god or goddess is seen during the whole film. But they seem to have been assigned the most important role.

Then there are those movies where the divine agent is a friendly guy in a white suit. I have not yet seen one of those, but it is of note that this is happening in Indian now.

So, things change and things stay the same. So it is.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More pictures

^ Expat kids chillin' underneath the banyan tree. Notice Aidan.

*Tara thought this picture looked bad and asked that I take it off. She is so pretty, evem when she is not - what's the big deal?*

^ Me with Tara

Monday, February 16, 2009

Saturday in the ICRISAT Park

This past Saturday at ICRISAT there was a fun picnic. It was a great time for all. Here are some snaps my friend Theo took of some activities. My digital camera is on its way from the US, so I am depending on the kindness of others for pictures.

^ The first event was when the men were made to dress up in a sari and race with a water pot on their head. It was a fun race and I think I did well. And it gave Tara and all of the other wives a good chance to emasculate their husbands in public, which is always a treat. ;-)

^ Then we took part in a contest where you had to swing a coconut from your body and move a second coconuts across a finish line. Tara won the women's competition.

^ I didn't do well in my race, but I did make some progress walking on coconuts.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ajanta and Ellora

We are going on a train trip with friends next month to Aurangabad. I went there a few years ago, here are the snaps. Excited to go back! Ajanta is where you see the cave paintings and Ellora is where all of the robust carved temples are to be seen, complete with carved elephants. Both are great places. Thousands of years old....

Learn more.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rajasthani Puppy

^ One more picture Liam took up north. This is a typical street puppy.

Friday, February 13, 2009


To reiterate a point we have made before, we have a driver not for convenience, nor for luxury. We have a driver because we never mastered how to drive in the crazy traffic here. Knowing other people in our situation who do drive here, I believe we could have learned to drive in Indian traffic. But, we didn't.

So far, I have twice been asked about a driver in the US. Three of us share a great admin in the office. When I was traveling to the US once, she asked if I needed to have a driver for my rental car. Such an innocent question, to which I responded by explaining that only very affluent people in the US have drivers. The explanation seemed odd to her, I think, because I think she thinks I am one of those affluent Americans.

More recently, my driver asked if he could drive for me in the US. I explained that I drive myself in the US and we did not need a driver. It would have been especially interesting to tell him that I am primarily a bus rider back n Charlotte. With his images of what public buses are like based upon the Indian buses (as an example, they rarely come to a full stop in the act of dropping people off or picking them up) I figured it would be too long of a conversation.

We will miss Subu. After all this time, we finally got a great driver after more duds than we can count.

Of interest is that he and I have never spoken English to each other. Primarily because his English is pretty poor, per what Tara tells me, and I have enjoyed building my confidence in Hindi.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

More snaps

Without my digital camera, it's hard to chronicle our lives, so I extracted more photos from Liam's trip to Rajasthan.

By the way, when is the next week without Liam??

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The desk in our office is like the elephant graveyard for broken digital cameras. Sorry about the lack of pictures on the blog lately, at least on the blog.

We'll buy one this weekend.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

DId you know?

Most Indian people, unless *very* Westernized, drink out of water bottles by pouring it into their mouths from a height of about 3 inches. They don't touch it to their lips. It is a surprising attention to hygienics in a place not known for it. Even Americans touch water bottles to their lips.

This arises from the fact that communal cups are used in water dispensers throughout India, and the habit of not touching your lips to anything with water in it has been carried forth into use of individual water bottles.

Took me like sixth month to piece this together and understand why they did this.
Don't remember seeing this in America amongst Indian friends.

Just some small piece of random trivia for you....