Archive for August, 2009

A bridge not far enough

August 27, 2009

Dog asking wheelie bin for directions

Dog asking wheelie bin for directions

Directions from humans here are bit like the roadsigns in Goa, best ignored on many occasions. On our journey into the ‘wilds’ of Goa on Monday, we turned right one junction too soon over a bridge, which we though was our landmark. The road came to a dead end and there was no-one to ask. We re-traced our steps and continued to the village where we stopped opposite the next junction and asked where ‘Kanke Wada’ was. We were surely directed back the way we had come to the previous junction. Which we did and came up with same dead-end result, but we did ascertain that we were not at Kanke Wada and that that place lay back at the next junction in the village. On the way back we checked again. Sure enough, they pointed us in a totally different direction. Our destination was only a kilometre, over another bridge, from where we had been originally stopped to ask and was easy to get to.

These misdirections happen often. We have yet to get to the root of the problem. Answers on a postcard please.


…and more Ganesh

August 26, 2009

Mango Room Wallpainting

Mango Room Wallpainting

Our friend Vivek invited us to his ancestral home in Rivona to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi with his extended family on Monday. We checked out how to get there and what went on in the area of Rivona. Not somewhere we had previously visited, we learnt that there were ancient caves with paintings where sages of old had gathered consistently for more than 2000 years and that its an area where there are plenty of springs with good water.

Togged up in wet weather gear, we braved the 25 kilometre journey in heavy rain (at last), were misdirected by locals twice but arrived at our destination in the foothills of the Ghats in good time to witness our friend doing puja (devotion consisting of a ritual offering of food, drink, and ritual actions and prayers) to Ganesh, following a tradition laid down generations back.

Vivek’s grandfather was a farmer and head of the village and did well for himself. The house, some of it 200 years old, is becoming dilapidated. Vivek was the last of the family to be born in the house, which had been extended sequentially to accomodate the families of his three uncles and father. As these families grew so all they moved away and the house became too big for the grandparents to stay in and it became unoccupied. A burglary deprived the house of it’s furniture and old artefacts. The family have ideas to restore the place as a holiday residence for themselves.

As well as enjoying the pleasure of the family gathering in this reverential but fun atmosphere, we were shown some wall paintings in the ‘mango’ room, which we hope will be restored one day. The countryside and whole ambience was a welcome relief from city life and we felt tempted to run away and live here! Now we feel we have sampled what life was like in Goa until ‘liberation’ in 1960, when India took over the state from the Portugese and changed a way of life that had existed near enough unchanged for 500 years or more. We guess than many of today’s Goans still believe they are in this peaceful and relaxed mode despite the huge changes.

More Ganesh

August 23, 2009

A God

A God

A row has been rumbling in the capital city Panjim for a fortnight. The problem has arisen because of some paintings and drawings of Lord Ganesh, none of which were published in the press, by a local modern artist. The antagonised or antagonistic group (probably politically motivated) have claimed that they are ‘obscene’ and asked for their withdrawal from a public exhibition with a lot of ballyhoo police and government involvement. The gallery promoters have backed down so another headline grabbing subsides.

We thought the paintings/drawings were rather good and very much to the point of the festive occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi. Here’s one that we thought summed up Indian/Western religious beliefs rather well. Obscene, we think not. Controversial, undoubtedly.

Google Kerkar Calangute for more pictures.

Not enough rain

August 23, 2009

It’s raining. Not a downpour, not drizzle, but good old ordinary intermittent rain. And this is the second day in succession. Temperature and humidity decrease comfortably and a breeze stirs to help things along. It certainly isn’t monsoon rain though. Many parts of India are now officially classified as drought areas, talk is that the monsoon has failed and locals are saying we won’t get any retreating monsoon and that it’s over. Hope not.

One would think that a drought would worry the Government of India, certainly when it comes to food supplies. But actually food stocks, particularly rice, are enormous. More than enough to keep the undernourished population fed for a few years. So why is a large percentage of the population undernourished? Government warehouses are bulging with the stuff. And the storage set up costs a small fortune to run. We wonders, we wonders.

Tit for Tat

August 23, 2009

Lord Ganesh Immersion

Lord Ganesh Immersion

Sunday was the auspicious day this year when Lord Ganesh,the elephant headed god, arrived on this planet for a ten day visit. He is amongst other things the remover of obstacles (a huge boon in India if you can get him on side) and is always invoked by Hindus for the success of new businesses and projects. He is the manifestation of many good things. Ganesh Chaturthi as the festival season is known is celebrated much like we celebrate Christmas in the West. It is a time for family get-togethers and some serious worship (puja). Religion in India is a major part of life and although we find the many gods bewildering, we are coming to understand the beliefs behind the stories. These have been around for over 5,000 years and have as much substance as the story of Christ’s resurrection. Bearing in mind that our Christmas revolves around both Christ and Father Christmas, we are beginning to feel more comfortable with the Indian expression of religious beliefs and practices. (See our experience in Madurai recently).
Anyway, on to the main subject of the title. Sunday here is usually quiet on most fronts, but today we not only have repetitive firecrackers welcoming Lord Ganesh to earth, but we also have loudspeakers at the local catholic church spouting fire and brimstone. We can’t find a specific saint’s day or Christian festival of any note so we guess that it’s a counter measure to the Hindu festivities.
We suspect, but don’t know, that the Christian community views the Hindu gods as pagan. However we are pretty certain that the Hindu community accepts the Christian God and Jesus and probably all the saints as perfectly reasonable manifestations of the Almighty. Hinduism is very inclusive and happy to accept Hindu atheists, agnostics and followers of any the huge pantheon of gods, however they practise.


August 17, 2009

What not to do?

What not to do?

Martin was nabbed again for breaking the law. He turned up a one way street on Harry the Honda and parked a yard on the wrong side of a No Entry sign… in full view of three traffic police who made no move. Two minutes later he returned from the printer (third visit to get a receipt book proof cleared). A short, dumpy, moustachioed cop approached with notebooks in hand. Martin surrendered peacefully and asked how much was the fine, without a word being spoken by the cop. That started a two minute lecture on what a oneway sign meant and did he understand that he had broken the law. ‘Oh yes’, Martin agreed and added that a temporary No Entry sign had blocked the other end of the street and other traffic was currently going in both directions with no interference from the three policemen. Then the argument started as the cop said there was no such sign. Martin offered to accompany him the 100 yards to show him the sign. He declined.

At that moment one of the other cops came over, remonstrated with PC Dumpi and pointed out that Martin was a doctor and he should be left alone. This second policeman was one who had fined Martin nearly three years ago. Then PC Dumpi asked what kind of doctor and then pointed out his GIMPS (General Intermittent Multiple Paining Syndrome). Martin treated him with Bowen there and then, second policeman said he’d send his wife to Alison and the matter was closed… except a repeat of the No Entry sign lecture.

Sunday lunch

August 16, 2009

The dal bit of 'dal and rice'.

The dal bit of 'dal and rice'.

Two weeks ago we were invited to Sunday lunch by father and daughter in their fine new house in an outlying village. We had been before when invited by mother and two daughters. Before we left home Alison had a fleeting feeling that it might have been wise to put in a tactful call just in case they had forgotten. It was too late now anyway.
We arrived to find the front door ajar, no-one answering our calls. So we wandered in and found daddy in his vest and shorts in the garden of the old family house tending the pig and daughter, who was fast asleep on a bed. It was plain that the invitation had been forgotten.
No fuss, no apologies, no admission of forgetfulness. Just a bald statement that they were not aware we were coming and that their simple lunch for two could be easily expanded into a simple lunch for four. And so it was. After lunch we were introduced to the dog, who didn’t like us, and the pig, who did. It didn’t sneeze, so I think we will not contract suvar flu today.
We did note that we make rather a better job of dal and rice than they did, which is a bit surprising when you consider the hype about Goan cooking. This meal was our first home cooking disappointment in Goa.
Anyway it was an interesting interpretation of how to handle guests who you’d forgotten were coming. It happens to us all, we guess… but more often in Goa. The incident was probably a lot less embarrassing than if it had happened in England.

Suvar Flu

August 16, 2009
Indian suvar sneezing

Indian suvar sneezing

We read and are amused by the swine flu story and the UK’s media and government reaction to it. We are of a mind that it’s a big hoohah organised by the pharmaceutical industry to boost sales and get rid of old stock. We can’t work out whether it is just another flu or a ‘super’ flu and are inclined to think of it as the former and therefore nothing to panic about.

In India deaths from swine flu have just reached double figures and Pune seems to be the centre of the ‘epidemic’. The government has gone into overdrive. It has had a minor affect on our business. Two of Alison’s patients come from Pune… one a lecturer and one a student at the Pune university. It seems that a government directive has confined the student to the university town but not the staff. The lecturer turned up for his appointment, the student phoned to say that she was not allowed to travel!

Our receptionist was looking very down in the dumps. When asked why she explained she was terrified of catching swin (sic) flu. Martin cheered her up by snorting like a pig and coughing.

Face masks are now not available in Margao, all sold out. We have only seen two in use.

It’s a pity the government doesn’t get more excited by TB which accounts for hundreds of thousands annually. There probably aren’t records for those who die of ‘normal’ flu.

Anyway the good thing is that they have ordered god knows how many tons of vaccine. Have you bought your shares in the pharma industry?

Independence Day

August 16, 2009

Saturday was Independence Day in India. In 1947 the British let go of India and by agreeing to partition helped make a right fist of the first years. Since then India has been getting along just fine.

Goa wasn’t part of this scene as the Portugese had been running the ‘country’ for 450 years and India didn’t invade and boot them out until more than a decade later. So we guess it’s not a surprise that the celebrations for India’s independence seem somewhat muted here. We didn’t get out much on Saturday but the absence of ballyhoo and Indian flags was noticeable. So we’ll fly one to help make up the deficit.
Indian Flag

We have since heard that in Margao there was a parade for a couple of hours in the morning… but no evidence of anything after lunch.

All is not lost

August 8, 2009

Thank you guys

Thank you guys

People will tell you India is corrupt. But as with everything in India, what you believe is true but the opposite is also true. Last night we left a bag in a rickshaw. It was a rather nice leather bag (one of the side bags from Hari Enfield, whose clutch cable chose last night to break while we were travelling home). In it was all our wet weather gear including Martin’s rather smart leather hat.

Not the end of the world, but a bit miserable as these items would not be cheap to replace, particularly the bag itself. So out this morning with business cards to do the rounds of the Margao and Colva rickshaw wallahs who all congregate at rickshaw stands. Most of them know us and quickly grasped what had happened. These people have hard lives and not too much reward. There are too many even in the tourist season and they have to vie for business with motorcycle taxis (pilots), ordinary and tourist taxis, and the buses. The rickshaws are very basic and road conditions are poor, not to mention the fumes. While doing the rounds there was time to fit a new clutch cable and Hari Enfield was back on the road before 10 am.

Mid morning, door bell goes and lo – one rickshaw wallah with our bag, not even opened. A handsome reward for him and big smiles all round.