Archive for May, 2007

Seeing double

May 29, 2007

Lots of unusual sites coming in twos as the rain approaches. We didn’t tell you but we have a resident evening visitor – an owl – near our home in Margao. At least we thought we only had one, until his/her mate made an appearance the other evening. They fly past us at dusk onto the roof of the house across the street, then return to the trees behind us after dark. They don’t hoot, unfortunately, but have a distinctive screech.

Ran on the beach on Sunday, with storm clouds all around but no rain on us. Approaching some fishermen, could see that there was a four-legged animal on the other side of the nets, too big to be a dog. As we got closer, the tangle of legs suggested there were two such animals. It turned out to be a mare and foal. Yes – there are horses in Goa (Alison spies riding opportunities). The duo clearly belonged to someone – in reasonable condition and looking like thoroughbreds, hooves trimmed etc. We hope to see them again and find out who owns them.

Finally, with the coming rain and storms, we’re getting rainbows. Lots of them. Almost a full half circle from one this morning. And two next to each other on Sunday.

Today it’s sunny, which is a shame because we had cloud and showers yesterday which brought the temperature down so much we didn’t need the air-conditioning last night. Still, the monsoon has arrived in Kerala, so our first proper downpour is probably only a few days away.

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Pre-monsoon panic

May 26, 2007

Our advisors have been difficult to contact this week. The excuse is that with the monsoon now (hopefully) only about a week away, they’re very busy rushing all over the state getting jobs completed. The mind boggles. Unlike the UK, the weather in Goa is pretty predictable. Seven months of fine and sunny, followed by three of torrential rain and two of intermittent showers. With seven months notice, you wouldn’t have thought there would be a last minute panic. But this is India ….

They could also be avoiding us for another reason. During Friday’s bi-weekly visit to Panjim, Martin discovered that all the documents we gave to the Reserve Bank of India in March have mistakes in them. So that’s two company secretaries, one accountant and one advocate for the ‘high jump’ – when we can get hold of them!

Election fever

May 25, 2007

We’re due state elections soon in Goa. The voting is planned for 2 June and the results will be announced on 5 June this despite less than a million votes. Apparently elections in Goa reduce everyone to such a volatile frenzy that the Electoral Commission sees fit to restrict then ban sales of alcohol.

So, as we write, all bars and restaurants have to stop people drinking by 10pm. And apparently the off-license shops have closed already. And all sales of alcohol will be banned completely and all restaurants shut from 31 May to 7 June. It all seems a bit over the top and ridiculous to us. Especially as knowing the situation, anyone who wants to get drunk and cause trouble will have long since stockpiled whatever they need, and what about all the illegal Feni (local liquour) stills?

We were quite impressed with Goan’s enthusiasm for who to elect. Rallys are very well attended and people do seem to be interested in who says what. This was until we were told that people are bribed – 1,000 Rupees (about £12) – by different parties to vote for them. Ho hum.

The mystery of Harry’s moving mirrors

May 21, 2007

Harry’s mirrors kept moving. One of us would get on him and find we had to readjust the mirrors to see what was behind us (we still bother to look, unlike most of our fellow road users). Initially Martin thought Alison was moving them and Alison thought Martin was the culprit, until both realised that the new positions were often out of place for both of them.

Then there was a wedding at the apartment next door and the truth revealed itself. We went down to get Harry to go out, to find the chauffeur for the wedding car sitting on Harry, using the mirror to preen himself. Honestly! We sometimes think the young Indian males are more image conscious than the women.

Social gaffes

May 20, 2007

We have moved in to our new room and completed our first treatments in it. The room is lovely. It’s on the back of the building, which doesn’t get any sun, so it’s beautifully cool. And all you can see out of the open window is sky and trees (when you’re sitting down). Just got to take delivery of the desk now, and get some shelves put up and we’ll be made.

During the course of setting up, we managed to commit one of our periodic social gaffes. In short, Martin was seen carrying a chair. Yes, you read that right. I’ll repeat, Martin was seen carrying a chair. He was accosted by a woman he didn’t know (a patient in the doctor’s waiting room) and told he ‘should get someone to do that for him’. Martin patiently explained that by the time he’d found someone to carry it, gone upstairs with them, told them where to put the chair and which chair to collect instead, then chaperoned them back downstairs, he could have done the job himself at least twice over.

But you see, in the intricacies of the Indian hierarchy, professionals like ourselves are not supposed to do manual labour. It’s funny in a way because the Goan coastal belt is largely Catholic, so in theory they’re not allowed the caste system. Try telling them. Among our other social gaffes are travelling sleeper class on the trains and doing our own cleaning and shopping. As ‘firengies’ I guess they just think we’re a bit eccentric.

At long last ….

May 18, 2007

Our new treatment room is ready. We haven’t moved in yet because the smell of paint is a bit overpowering. However, this weekend, with a following wind etc.
Meanwhile Martin is ferrying back and forth to Panjim because our advisors appear not to know what they’re doing and we have to keep picking up after their mistakes. It’s astonishing how much of the work we’re doing compared to how things go in the UK. One step at a time, as they say.

Writer’s block

May 14, 2007

Maybe it’s the dust and heat, but finding something to blog today is defeating me. So I’ll have a moan.
There’s ‘essential’ paperwork to be completed for various Indian Government Departments, otherwise we are stalled with regards to business development. Nobody can tell us why our applications forms for DINs are refused. The reason given is that ‘addresses do not match’ but looking at the duplicates, we can find nothing to indicate a mismatch.Still, nobody seems to worry that we are working with a temporary DIN number.
We are told that the staff at the Reserve Bank of India have gone on holiday and this will delay getting an ‘essential’ number (or not getting, depending on whether the paperwork is adjudged correctly completed); we have been trying for eight months to get this number.
Oh and our room still isn’t ready.
Still, take heart. Alison had a new client in on Saturday – an Australian – who’s worked throughout a lot of Asia including Korea and Japan. He says India is far and away the most difficult country to do business in. So if we can thrive here, we can thrive anywhere.

The Figure of Eight

May 13, 2007

When was the last time you performed a figure of eight? Ice skating maybe, but probably never on the highways and byways of England.
Apparently the two-wheeler physical driving test consists solely of getting the machine to do a figure of eight without putting your feet on the ground. Nobody can tell us exactly how big it is or how many attempts you have. No idea what the car driving test consists of, however given the performances outside our flat, reversing and hill starts are not part of the curriculum. Use of the horn? Definitely.
We have spent this morning planning our next excursion – the the Ajanta and Ellora caves around mid-June. It’s a hard life. I should add we have done some work too – well, Martin has.

Cochin blog three: water and dancers

May 12, 2007

While in Kerala we took the opportunity to do two of the ‘must dos’ if you’re visiting the state – a trip on the backwaters and an introduction to Kathakali.
The backwaters are a collection of rivers, lakes, and man-made canals which make up the Keralan landscape just in-land from Cochin and the towns south of it, and which connect to the sea. Our trip included a morning on a rice boat and the afternoon in a much smaller canoe. It was very peaceful, idyllic, although how I’d feel about living on an island and having to take a ferry regularly to get fresh drinking water I’m not sure. Some islands are uninhabited, others have relatively large propulations and phone lines, electricity, schools. People make their livings fishing, collecting muscles (for food and to turn the shells into calcium carbonate which eventually turns up in the calcium tablets people buy), harvesting coconuts and making coir (coconut rope, used for matting and in mattresses). It was easy to see how the area could be spoiled by too much development, however so far the Keralans seem to be resisting the temptation.
The Kathakali was a revelation. It’s a ritual form of theatre – dance, costumes, extravagant make up – normally performed in all-night sessions in temples. In its pure form, it’s less an entertainment and more a religious observance. The make up colours and symbols all have special significance and every eye movement, hand gesture and foot position means something. We saw an introduction at the See India Foundation, with Director Devan who comes from a family of dancers. We recommend his show because he takes the time to explain the philosophical and religious traditions that underpin the performance. Having been a bit sceptical about suggestions that you should follow an introduction with going to an all-night temple show, we could be tempted. It was mesmerising.

Cochin two: which country are we in?

May 11, 2007

Fort Cochin is such a mix of architectural styles it’s hard to keep contact with the idea you’re still in India. Within walking distance of one another there is a Synagogue, Protestant church, Catholic basilica, Hindu temples, and a Jain temple. The buildings are low-rise mix of Portuguese, British, Dutch, Indian – oh and then there are the Chinese fishing nets.

It wasn’t as hot as we expected – the sea breeze and the arrival of monsoon storms at night kept the temperature more reasonable than Margao. Coupled with it being less dusty and generally cleaner than Goa, it was a pleasant place to be.