Archive for September, 2007

Man the barricades

September 23, 2007

For those who haven’t noticed, India have made a cricket final. They will be in the final of the Twenty20 slogfest tomorrow (Monday). Guess who they’re playing. Pakistan!

Not sure whether to go out and join everyone getting excited or take cover – in case they win or lose. It could be a magnificent party or it could start World War Three.

Either way the Indians will be extremely excitable. We wonder whose idea it was to have the final on a week day? Don’t suppose much work will get done.

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Son et Lumiere

September 23, 2007

We are nearly a week into the Ganesh Festival and events are escalating in the noise department.

On Tuesday we were asked at very short notice to offer accomodation to a doctor from Bangalore. We enjoyed a pleasant evening exchanging views and ideas. As the evening wore on conversation became difficult as Margao transformed into what we guess Beirut must sound like on a bad night. There were no firework displays, just random bomb fireworks and firecrackers. It felt as if the town was under seige. The noise started to lessen at about one in the morning.

Friday night at about nine saw the start of what we can only guess was a sort of Son et Lumiere affair (sound and light show). We could only see the top half from our viewpoint on the terrace. First off was five minutes of the same bomb firework; silver starburst and a sonic boom. Then there were speeches and then silence. Then followed 30 minutes of organ music; a bit like Bach on speed. Another round of fireworks with a bit more pzazz followed. It seemed to be reaching a climax, when it started to rain and went quiet for a few seconds. Then three ‘howlers’ went up, turned earthwards while still under power and exploded below our horizon with three dull thuds.

Finished? Not on your life. Our organist sprung into action with an hour’s recital; again it was like Bach on speed. Ten minutes before the end the volume was notched up by 50% just to ensure that we had no chance of going to sleep before he finished.

Perhaps, we will find out what it was all in aid of, as the music seemed more appropriate for the Christian God rather than a Hindu God. Maybe it was Son et Lumiere; glad we didn’t go if it was.

Things are getting a bit tedious in the fireworks department and we know that in a month or so they will set fire to a couple of hour’s worth of fireworks at 3.00am 150 yards from here! Last year we got up to see what the racket was; remember that last year we were living six kilometers away! Then there’s Divali, The Festival of Lights (and Noise), in November. Any excuse for a ongoing party. And somewhere in the middle of it all we’ll have St Francis Xavier’s death day celebrations. Readers with good memories may remember last year’s blog on this subject. The church services start at around 5.30am with fixed loud speakers to call the faithful. And this year our nearest church is somewhat closer to us than it was last year. We can’t wait.

Finishers… not

September 22, 2007

This title has cropped up before with regard to construction works of most types. We think we may have discovered that not finishing is part of the Indian and/ or the Goan psyche.

Alison is studying the local language Konkani using books on grammar and dictionaries. She is very persistent in her studies despite the fact that the grammar book has been published in such a way that it introduces various tenses and vocabulary in the wrong order. However, she is gleaning enough from the books to discover that they use the continuous tenses nearly all the time. For instance, when we say ‘We came last Monday’ the Goan will say ‘We are coming last Monday’. Does this have manner of speaking have links with the Hindu belief that after death Hindus are reborn until they achieve spiritual perfection and go to live with their Lord?

Aerial display

September 20, 2007

Six weeks ago, Martin watched a fruit bat flying round the flat at dusk. He thought it must have been lost. But it might have been on an intelligence gathering mission, searching for ripening fruit.

Last night while we were on the terrace watching the first sunset for two months or more, a dozen bats gave us a superb aerial display as they made their landing approach to a nearby tree. The bats are quite large with a wingspan of more than three feet and it was an eerie sight as they circled silently. They look exactly like the movie vampires.

However, the eerieness soon evaporated. Touch down was an inelegant crash landing. As soon as they arrived at their chosen landing site they slowed sharply and grabbed the branch with their claws; then promptly turned upside down, creating quite a disturbance in the branches and followed that performance with a series of irritable squawkings.

We didn’t see or hear their departure. Maybe take-off was altogether easier for them.

Tirakol Fort, where to do nothing

September 19, 2007

It’s now a week on since we went for our short break to Tirakol Fort. The fort is in an enclave of about two square miles in the state of Maharastra right at the north end of Goa. It has been renovated and converted into a seven bedroom hotel by private individuals with government grants. It overlooks the Tirakol River estuary and Keri beach on the other side. There are only about 250 inhabitants in the village. This is the place to go to get away from it all. Peace, quiet, spectacular views, wildlife. We spent 2 1/2 hours just watching the tide coming in.
We were the only guests, but in season Octber-March the place is filled with the rich and wealthy. You’d have to be wealthy to afford the drinks! Martin’s cashew feni cost a whopping 190/- rupees (£2.30 approx). It was locally brewed, good quality and a litre costs 70/- in the local shop! The food was good and traditional Goan. We’ll take two days next time and a fishing rod… and our own booze

The journey of 100 kilometres on Harry the scooter was surprisingly unstressed and thoroughly enjoyed the changing scenery as we travelled through new territory.

Driving Tests

September 16, 2007

All, as usual, did not go as planned. You may recall that due to presentation of faulty paperwork the original test day was postponed. An extra 200 rupees sorted it out (about £2). The Monday test was then abandoned, we are not sure why, but a phone call late Tuesday afternoon said we should be at the testing ground at 9.30 am. on Wednesday. We could not do this because Alison could not cancel early morning patients, so 10.00 am was agreed. We thought that was the actual time that the test would take place; we have not yet learned that there is no such thing as a fixed time appointment in India and that any meeting requires at least 4 hours to complete.

On arrival at 10.00am it was apparent that the test would not take place at that time as we were at the back of a slow moving queue of testees. Alison had more patients at twelve so after waiting until 11 in the hot sun, we decided to abandon Al’s test but keep Martin’s.

At 12.30 it was his turn and at 12.40 both tests were complete. Our instructor had told us that we had to demonstrate we could go forward in first and second gear. Off went Martin and got into second maybe doing about 15mph, only have the examiner slam on the brakes and stopping the car with a skid and in a cloud of dust. ‘Do not to go so fast; you are not an expert’, he said. The test wasn’t too taxing – reverse up a hill and round a corner without hitting anything – go forward and then reverse in a straight line. The scooter test then involved riding a figure of eight – not as easy as it sounds, especially when the examiner parks his car in the middle of the area so reducing the space. Martin struggled and had to put his feet down.

As a result of Martin’s experience, he told Alison to try to be the last driver on the 4-wheeler test (there are three/four of you in each car) and to park further back down the road to give herself more space on the scooter. This she did, only to be told to drive further up. So she moved five yards! It worked and she had enough space. Incidentally the examiner’s only words to her on the car test were ‘did she have a “proper” license? (eg a UK one). And to drive very carefully as ‘unfortunately there’s no road discipline here’. As if we hadn’t noticed.

Ganesh Chaturthi

September 15, 2007

Today is the day that Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god, visits earth. Ganesh is worshipped as the Lord of beginnings and as the Lord of obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and the god of intellect and wisdom. The celebrations will last for up to 14 days.

We’ve taken the day off to enjoy a late lunch on the beach. Glorious sunshine at last, lovely sea breeze and a sea to swim in… if we’d taken bathing gear.

For those eagerly awaiting driving test news. Alison passed both, but Martin is not sure about the 2-wheeler test. However he is sure that he did better than the unfortunate who rammed his 2-wheeler into the wheel arch of the examiner’s car. There was, of course, a goodly crowd of spectators, who were also treated to the novel extrication process of having to bodily lift the car off the ground.

Full details in next blog.

We were going to Porvorim…

September 9, 2007

An extra blog today, as we are taking a couple of days off.

We were going to Porvorim week to start haggling with the Home Office about renewing our visas; that’s another story. Just as well that other work took priority and prevented us. Someone has been dumping rubbish (a perennial problem here) on top of a hill by the NH17 national trunk road running from Bombay to Trivandrum along the west coast, which is the road we planned to take. The road is always very busy. The hill has collapsed across half of it causing morer chaos than usual. And then the politicians get in the way as well. Read on:

PORVORIM, SEPT 7 — Poor traffic management by authorities during the rush hour led to total traffic chaos along the highway at Porvorim on Friday.
Confusion began when Deputy Collector Mahesh Khorjuvekar, Additional Collector Swapnil Naik and SP (Traffic) Atmaram Deshpande visited the excavation site at the Porvorim hillock and asked Traffic police to close the highway from Porvorim pump to Mandovi bridge, to safeguard motorists passing along the excavation site.
As a result, Panjim-bound traffic was diverted via Britona and Malim, and the narrow interior roads were hopelessly inadequate to handle the surge in traffic leading to the bridge. Absence of traffic cops along the interior roads added to further confusion among motorists, many of whom were unfamiliar with the detour and ended up driving in circles.
To make matters worse, a Siolim-bound bus descending from the Betim slope rammed into a scooter, injuring the rider and bringing the severely affected traffic to a grinding halt for a long time.
Further disarray ensued later at about 1 pm, when Opposition Leader Manohar Parrikar, Mapusa MP Francis D’Souza and Saligao MP Deelip Parulekar, were stopped near the ACDIL high school due to the barricades.
They confronted ASI (Traffic) S Dhawaskar on duty, to protest about the road closure. The three legislators then removed the barricades and proceeded towards Panjim. They then removed a second set of barricades near Sai Service, forcibly opening the road to traffic.
Porvorim police reported the matter to PWD officials and excavation work at the site was stopped, for fear that boulders and mud could slide down on the motorists using the Mapusa-Panjim section of the highway at the site.
ASI Dhawaskar later filed a police complaint against Parriker, D’Souza and Parulekar for obstructing him from performing duties and endangering the lives of the public. Porvorim police has registered a complaint under Sections 186 and 336 IPC.

70 die in truck mishap

September 9, 2007

’70 die in truck mishap’ is the headline in some papers yesterday. Three points: 1. The word ‘mishap’ is often used to describe fatal traffic accidents but it’s the first time we’ve seen it applied to such a large number of people. 2. Yes, we can believe that 200 people can get on board a truck, but it’s truly hard to imagine. And 3. Pilgrims will do anything to reach ‘their’ sacred site at least once in their lifetime; many are poverty stricken so we guess overloaded buses and lorries are the norm for millions.

Below you’ll find the story as reported in the Navhind Times.

Udaipur: At least 70 pilgrims were killed and over 130 wounded when a truck carrying them fell into a gorge near Desuri Ki Naal village in Rajsamund district, about 150km from here, tonight.

The accident occurred when the truck driver lost control over the wheels and the vehicle smashed through a protective wall on the road and hurtled into the gorge, Rajsamund district Superintendent of Police Rupinder Singh told PTI over phone.

Singh said the pilgrims were going to Ramdevra temple, revered by both Hindus and Muslims, in Jaisalmer district when the mishap took place at around 8 p.m. on a road full of sharp bends. So far, 70 bodies have been pulled out of the gorge but their identification is yet to be made, he added.

Local authorities pressed into service cranes and searchlights to retrieve the bodies and rescue the injured, the SP said adding medical teams are attending to the wounded

What! No driving test yet?

September 8, 2007

Due to submission of incorrect paperwork, our driving test on Monday has been cancelled.
The test will be arranged for ‘magir’ when the bureaucrats have deemed the 16 pieces of paper to be in order.
Need we say more?