Archive for February, 2010

A modern day god

February 28, 2010

Despite all you may have heard about India’s multiplicity of gods, there’s really only one. And his name is Sachin. Mr Tendulkar may well be the best batsman ever seen. For those who don’t know, he’s just set a new world record score in a one-day international, scoring 200 off just 147 deliveries. He’s a class act on and off the field.

We think a knighthood is well overdue, however such is India’s hypersensitivity regarding anything that smacks of colonialism, it might be difficult for him to accept the honour.

Anyway, we salute him. More power to his elbow, and next time his back gives trouble – well, we know a chiropractor.

Situation normal

February 27, 2010

It’s a public holiday on Monday, to celebrate both Holi (a Hindu festival) and Milad-Un-Nabi (the birth of the Prophet Muhammad).

The government decided Monday was going to be a holiday on Friday. Yes, yesterday. Imagine leaving it that late in the UK. We guess this is a populist move because so many public holidays fall on Sunday this year that the ‘netus’ (bureaucrats) have been complaining that they won’t get enough time off.

In the meantime the traffic in the centre of Margao is at a standstill due to the parade in honour of the Muslim celebration. Of course the roads haven’t been closed – and there’s not a policeman in sight to orchestrate events. Buses and cars are going the wrong way up streets, everyone’s using their horns, so it’s, well, situation normal.

And in a packed programme tonight, as the Two Ronnies would have put it, nest building is progressing well. Twigs are being bound into a circular shape underneath, a few leaves have appeared, plus a partial snake skin and a piece of plastic food wrapping.

The most important news of the day

February 25, 2010

Forget what’s happening in the rest of the world. War, pestilence, famine, the UK’s budget deficit being bigger than Greece’s (just don’t tell Gordon).

We have some good news. The bulbuls are back.

After various discussions regarding colours, carpets and curtains, nest building has commenced in the window at the bottom of our stairs. At the moment it seems to involve lots of twigs (many of which finish up on the floor), a piece of cotton wool, and yesterday there was a snake skin, however this has now disappeared. Martin has put up a piece of wood to bridge the gap between the window and the security bars, to make their life earlier.

Pictures and further reports of progress to follow.

In a crisis, do you or don’t you make tea?

February 25, 2010

We’ve discovered a new difference between the Indians and the British. The relationship between family crises and tea.

We arrived at our usual ‘chai’ (milky, sweet tea – the way the Indians mostly drink it) stop on Monday, on our way to Patnem, to be advised that ‘she wasn’t making chai’. Why not, we wondered? It transpired that the son of the family has fallen off his motorbike. We don’t think he’s seriously hurt, but the event involved all members of the immediate family standing around, and meant that tea could not be made.

The mind boggles. If you’re British, the first thing you do in this situation is ‘put the kettle on’, even if it doesn’t suit you. The idea that you don’t make tea in a crisis – well, what is the world coming to?

Spare a thought for the FRO virgins

February 21, 2010

We’ve decided to register with the police as per the dictats of our visa. That deceptively simple statement masks more than 24 hours of sustained effort, travelling to and fron Panjim, hand writing forms in triplicate, and photocopying more than 200 pages (no exaggeration) of documents, also in triplicate. And some of them in colour.

However we were relatively successful. Martin made one trip to get the forms, we then made a second trip together and, although somehow we missed on on the third set of photocopying (the shop near the Foreigners Registration Office must make a lot of money), we did manage to submit our papers. Whether we’ll be successful is another matter, but it’s a start.

At least we’re here for 12 months more or less. Spare a thought for the poor souls who thought they’d come on a two week holiday, only to find themselves in the middle of an Indian security crisis. We stood alongside one couple who were only in Goa for two weeks, but still had to register. Not knowing the form, this was their third trip to Panjim in as many days, and they were losing their tempers about colour photocopies and passport pictures (How many copies? You didn’t say colour!)

Meanwhile, the Indian navy has been criticised for causing ‘panic’ among the populous, by testing their new aircraft without telling anyone and producing sonic booms in the process. All anyone really needed to do was ask Martin – he could have told them the source of the unusual explosions. You see, when he lived in Cornwall, the sound of Concorde coming down through the sound barrier on its way into Heathrow was a regular event. Still we don’t suppose Concorde ever landed at Dabolim and it isn’t till recently that the IAF has had many aircraft capable of exceeding the speed of sound. Martin still gets excited when the Indian Navy’s Tupolev Bear (1950’s design) lumbers through the skies over the flat.

Pure luck and the hero

February 18, 2010

Sometimes it just happens . Clearing up in the kitchen on Saturday night Martin (taking on Indian habits, but not 100%) lobbed the cork from the evening’s bottle of wine out of the window into the wilderness beyond the yard. He sensed that it fell short and forgot about it. Sunday morning was the usual 5 mile run on the beach, eggs, bacon and etc for breakfast and a few domestic chores to follow.

Getting ready to chill for the rest of the day, Martin heard the landlords in the flat underneath shouting from the windows. Not that uncommon, but there was something different from the usual demands required from ‘staff’. He looked out of the windows and observed that their driver was ducking in and out of the outside toilet. Hazarding a guess, he assumed that the driver had inadvertently destroyed a bit of the plumbing and was having to deal with a leak. Martin decided that as it was Sunday he’d not get involved but two minutes later Alison’s mobile rang. It was a call for Martin to help with a plumbing problem. As he had already alerted himself to the situation he arrived on the scene armed to the hilt with an assortment of probably useful tools. After four padlocks had been released he gained access to the area where the driver was still hopping in and out of the loo with assorted bits of piping and plumbing bits.

Water was pouring from a pipe and the plumbing bits didn’t fit. Where’s the stopcock? There isn’t one. But while hunting for it, Martin spies the cork. An Aha! Moment. It looks the right size to plug the hole. He’s already successfully tested stopping the flow with his thumb, but decides that Sunday and Monday can be better spent, rather than waiting for a plumber; particularly as there don’t seem to be any plumbers in Goa.

Yep it’s just a bit oversized to fit the pipe, nothing a hammer can’t handle. And with some wire from a telephone cable the cork is secured against being blown out by water pressure.

Two questions now arise. What has happened to the plumbing? And how did the driver get into this relatively secure area. The first is easily answered. While the family are at Mass thieves have entered the toilet and stolen two taps successfully and not stolen associated piping. The second question remains to be answered… watch this space. Thanks for Martin’s efforts are still awaited but not expected. There are some more footnotes to this episode, but you’re probably a bit bored with it all by now

Expect the unexpected

February 14, 2010

Most days we experience something odd. Because it happens most days these events become less odd and less noticeable. So when three odd things happen we take note… hence today’s blog. We’d travelled north for a party on Friday evening and a very good party too. Thank you Susan and Dean!

On the following morning we had arranged a home appointment at the house of a man who has suffered a stroke. Martin had taken a good ten minutes getting directions in the form of a map and had arranged to call the man’s son in the event of not finding the house. It wasn’t far out of Margao and we confidently arrived in the road leading to the house; we asked at the first house in the road where to find the house and were told it was in the next road. At the top of a very steep hill (Alison had to get off the motorbike as it couldn’t make it up) we found a grand house with magnificent views, but the solitary occupant turned out to be a German Shepherd (canine variety). So we called the son who without apology or explanation told us that they had moved his father to another house and he was waiting for us there. Cut a long story we eventually arrived, not even wondering why we hadn’t been informed.

When we arrived back at our place of work there were police and a crowd of gawpers around a car lying on its side in the small turning area outside the college gates. Don’t ask. We didn’t. But it was odd, as in theory there is nowhere in the vicinity to get up enough speed to roll a car.

Next oddity was an unplanned meeting with our prospective ‘partner’ at the college. It was to discuss the employment of a physiotherapist, which matter was dispensed with in short order. Then followed a lengthy meeting covering all the points made in a previous meeting, which came to identical conclusion and same action plan. We had to dissect what all this was about after the meeting and worked out that during the repeat discussion our ‘partner’ had very succinctly asked a question about our intentions regarding length of stay in India. We checked with a friend who is a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) if it was considered bad form to ask the question directly. ‘Most certainly’, he opined ‘very difficult for him.’ Odd.

Demolition Derby

February 13, 2010

Just a few extra holes, the palm leaves are supposed to alert people to the danger.

JCBs are in action up and down the coast of Goa. Concrete structures have been earmarked for demolition. These structures include anything from 4’ x 4’ huts housing tourist information officers (hardly ever occupied by such worthies) to large 5 star hotels that have been illegally built in the CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) too close to the beach .

The owners had to obtain planning permission from the village panchayats (councils) to put their structure up and have their paperwork. It makes no difference and the government says the panchayats got it wrong but take no action against their errant officers. Of course, all the planning permissions had to be bought and all were issued…illegally. Therein lies the fault. Legal action will take more than 10 years to come to a guilty finding, by that time the structures that survive the demolition will have paid for themselves. Everybody knows how the system works!

The monied owners of these illegal properties are getting stay orders (no doubt with big bundles of cash changing hands) and those without money, fishermen and government departments, are having their structures demolished. They can’t afford the ‘fees’.

Apparently more than 500 structures are deemed illegal. What was the government doing, while so many were being built? Certainly not governing.

Anyway, the fun part of this story is that locally in Colva, the drivers and minders of a JCB moved in on some beach side structures. Instead of taking a long route round, they attempted a short cut over a concrete footbridge leading the beach… another structure demolished.

What we don’t know yet is whether the hideous concrete lifeguard houses built on the sand are going to be demolished. They are about a year old now and our reading of the laws of the land is that they are illegal.
However we are not holding our breath to see the downfall of the likes of The Intercontinental 5 Star Hotel, which was destined for demolition about three years ago.

It’s pants

February 11, 2010

Purchasing new underpants the other day Martin selected (among others) some van Heusen Y-fronts, a style he has not used since schooldays. He was shopping in a sort of western-style supermarket of good reputation. However, despite the brand name, they turned out not to be Y-fronts, rather they are A-fronts, which poses a problem in the gents. Standing on his head could be a solution?

We guess these are either counterfeit or Van Heusen has off-loaded a batch of faulty gear to India. There’s no going back… there are big signs all over the shop saying that underwear will NOT be taken back under any circumstances!

A second pair, neatly packaged Jockeys, are counterfeit for sure. A spelling error in the style name on the irritating washing instruction label… Elgance instead of Elegance… not sure this is how I’d describe underpants, but hey , what would I know.

Fans of Martin’s clothing will be relieve to know there are not pictures to go with this blog – yet!

Offstation: a final word about Orchha

February 9, 2010

High wire act in Orchha

Our last morning in Orchha was livened up by an unscheduled acrobatic display by some neighbouring monkeys. The house opposite our balcony was being raided by langurs. The owners must have been fruit merchants if the amount of fruit that was carried gleefully up by the raiders was anything to go by. Apples, pomegranates and oranges seemed to be the popular choice. We were well entertained by a gymnastic youngster who wasn’t allowed a look in at the feeding frenzy but compensated with his acrobatics. More and more apes arrived but we eventually got bored and wandered off to do more structures, leaving them to their feast and no doubt a lot shouting and cursing if they had hung around long enough for the owners return.

We left Orchha for Jhansi and a train journey back to Goa in the afternoon, but not before we’d said fairwell

James and family in Orchha

to James and his family. If you want evidence that it’s a small world, here it is. James was a friend in Marlow and this is the second time we’ve all managed to meet up during our three years in India. Just goes to show.

The journey back to Margao was uneventful, save for getting on the train an hour late but still arriving on time (three cheers for Indian Railways). And the relief of waking up on the second day of the journey and finding it was a bit warmer than it had been.