Archive for May, 2012

Monday Morning Fireworks

May 28, 2012

We’d finished breakfast on the terrace. Alison was still out there enjoying the morning quiet. Martin was in the office reading the on-line press. Both were aware that someone was burning plastic somewhere close, but as this is not unusual it caused not a flicker of concern. However these fires are slow, quiet burners as a rule, so Martin looked up when he heard sharp crackling. Across the street an AC unit was well ablaze at the window of a flat. First thought was dial 999, but that’s not the number here and ooops! we don’t know what is. We think there’s a 108 for ambulance.

Anyway, it was soon obvious that the people in the flat were aware of the fire, as there was a lot of screaming and coughing… all from street level, so we knew they were out. The plastic awning was now well ablaze; there was an explosion and shooting flames as gas escaped, a window imploded and curtains went up with a whoosh. And then we saw the house girl calmly opening windows in a adjacent room. She’d obviously been instructed to stay inside and do something. Anyway the flames were now subsiding and it didn’t look like anything else in the room was going to catch.

In the meantime at street level a very smart, very new dark red BMW 4WD had pulled up outside.The driver looked like a business executive but some kind of insignia on his brilliant white shirt suggested he might be an officer, maybe from the Fire Department. So we guessed someone in authority could soon be handling the situation from inside the building. Eventually we could see a garden hosepipe pointed at the smoking remains of the AC unit and its dribble of water subdued the remaining flames.

Five minutes later the 1950’s styled fire engine arrived slopping water everywhere and overshot its target. The red BMW from which the driver had not moved now drove off. The lightly uniformed, wellie-clad firemen disconsolately stood around for a bit while the engine crashed its gears while attempting its reversing moves in a confined space. A passing cyclist was giving helpful hand signals, the crew weren’t interested. Then, reversing manoeuvres completed they clambered aboard and the engine disappeared down the hill and life returned to normal.


2 are not

May 24, 2012

2. In which country do 15% of the Members of  Parliament face criminal charges including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and murder to mention a few crimes? China. In India it’s more than 25%.

4. Where do about 250 people get killed on the roads – every day. China. In India it’s more than 300; and that figure is probably wildly under-estimated.

Election result ll

May 24, 2012

You may recall that soon after the Goa State election a BJP MLA (MP) inconveniently died. The BJP was the party that won the election, comfortably seeing off the incumbent Congress party. A win for the Congress party at the by-election would have quite seriously upset the BJP so the event was of quite some interest.

The BJP were fielding the widow of the expired politician. A couple of lightweight Independents suggested they’d have a go and the Congress party eventually decided not to field one of their heavyweights. Although probably the heavyweights refused to get involved to avoid further humiliation. Eventually they picked a candidate who they’d refused to put up in the general Election.

Days before the poll the Chief Minister ‘suggested’ that the Independents pulled out; one thinks of brown envelopes. Then the Congress man drops out leaving the widow to be elected unopposed. And the Congress party has egg all over its face.

The suggestion is that our Congress man made a deal with the widow to be allowed to continue operating his illegal dry dock in her parish in exchange for him dropping out. Also it was his way of getting his own back on Congress for barring him in the General Election contest.

A Bulbul’s perspective – The Parasite

May 23, 2012

One of the reasons for making the nest in our flat is that most other birds are not inclined to come near humans. This makes rearing a family safer. Bulbuls are not too scared of the human animals; don’t trust them,of course, who does? However, because the back garden has been vandalised, I reckon that the crows have lost their nests. This in turn has caused a problem for the Asian Coel a very noisy, red-eyed, early bird and one of the cuckoo family. They have been known to lay as many as thirteen eggs in a crows nest. The crows nest  is their favoured choice. The pre-dawn duet is an appalling racket. He performs this shrieking crescendo kuoo, starting low down the scale rising to fever pitch on the seventh or eighth note, while she shouts kik-kik-kik-kik while scudding from tree to tree. Then they stop abruptly, pause  and start all over again. They really are an irritating pair. Thank god they are silent for the winter and the rain seems to slow them down too.

So with a shortage of nests to lay their eggs in, who do I find intruding when I’ve returned after nipping out for a quick snack but Mother Coel. She’s eyeing up my nest. Do I let her have it! Although she at least twice my size, after a short attack I’ve driven her between the iron grille and the  glass of the window. She’s stuck and kik-kik-kikking helplessly. Mr Useless is flapping around, shouting; should have been watching out for the Coel bird and driven her off anyway. Eventually a human arrives and ejects the parasitic beast; they do have their uses… the humans that is.

The Parasite

Trivial Pursuits… 13 answers are India… 2 are not.

May 23, 2012

  1. In which country can you retrieve a lost wallet with contents intact that has travelled 120 miles away from its owner in less than 4 hours?
  2. In which country do 15% of the Members of  Parliament face criminal charges including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and murder to mention a few crimes?
  3. Which country has Communist run states that are successful?
  4. Where do about 250 people get killed on the roads – every day.
  5. Which country operates the biggest, best and cheapest railway system in the world?
  6. Which country has the largest backlog of court cases?
  7. In which country will someone follow you for two miles out of their way to return a worthless piece of paper that they’ve seen you drop?
  8. Which country spends more money on water for growing rice than it costs to import?
  9. In which country do huge quantities of rice rot in and outside warehouses?
  10. Where in the world are more than 10% of births and deaths not recorded?
  11. Which country has the most stringent Health and Safety Legislation in the world?
  12. Which country did the Ministry of Labour state in its 2008 statistics that only 20 fatal accidents occurred in the workplace, on construction sites etc during that year?
  13. In which country can a Foreigners Registration Office turn round an application for residency without a bribe in LESS than 24 hours.
  14. Which country will take three days to issue a visa one year and three weeks for an identical one the next year?
  15. Where can you get a litre of good spirits for £1?


The Letters

May 23, 2012

Part of the backdropFriends of ours in the film industry here in Goa invited us to be extras in a film. We had no idea what the film was apart from the fact that it was about Mother Theresa. Alison was to play a nun and Martin a cardinal. We accepted.

Alison endured three days of heat and general boredom, interspersed with a couple of hours on set. In one she was cleaning windows and the other as a member of a 1930’s congregation in a Dublin church. Her tedium was relieved when a group of totally unsuitable Russian suntanned hippies arrived from a beach in North Goa to be part of this congregation. The person tasked with rounding up 20 white skins to fit the roles came in for quite a bit of stick.

It turned out that the film is a Hollywood based effort and is in with a chance of Academy Awards next year.  As we learned more about it, respected director Bill Riead, producer Jack Green (most Clint Eastwood films) and star Juliet Stevenson (Truly Madly Deeply) we became more impressed with the goings-on. Alison talked with all three on set. You can check out some its ten year history on the web. Google The Letters

Martin’s experience was altogether more lively. It was the last day of filming so as opposed to just ‘another day at the office’, there was an ‘end of term’ feeling.  The sets were in the Braganza House, a magnificent if slightly decrepit Indo-Portuguese pile. It is the house to visit in Goa. There was some discussion as to whether Martin would be demoted from Cardinal to archbishop, but the original decision stayed and he was suitably garbed in black robes and red cap. All he had to do was sit and not look at the camera, unlike a priest who had to say three words. It took six takes for him to remove the cap off a pen in sync with the words! The main characters were played by stage actors from Bombay, one of whom had the misfortune of having an off day. There were more than a dozen takes before the director was satisfied. Later Martin was summoned for another scene, which was a walk-off part.

That evening we went to the wrap party, where we were able to talk to the team members and learn what a respected and professional bunch they were. Now it’s a long wait until we find out whether we ended up on the cutting room floor or whether we appear in glorious Technicolor as a bit of the scenery and no interest to anyone but ourselves and and a few family and friends.

Life is cheap

May 23, 2012

Read in the papers today of a couple who were crossing railway tracks at Thakurli Station on the outskirts of Bombay. They decided not to use the passenger overbridge because of heavy luggage. They waited for the train to pass and then walked to their deaths into the path of a train coming from the other direction. This happened to a schoolgirl here in Margao a couple of years ago, so in a way not that newsworthy.

What astonished us was the addendum to the story:


Thakurli is a notorious accident spot, where 16 accidents have been reported in the last five months alone. Indeed, the statistics of the three railway stations within the jurisdiction of the Dombivli GRP (Railway Police) in the last five months are grim: fifty deaths have taken place here, of which 24 were at Kopar railway station, 16 at Thakurli and 10 at Dombivli. Another 37 people were injured in railway accidents at these stations. 

10 deaths a month? At only three stations? What is it in the national psyche that prevents any attempt at enforcement of life saving laws? Or from another angle, what is it in the national psyche that allows so many people to be stupid enough to ignore the laws. Is it as simple as ‘Life is cheap’?

A Bulbul’s Perspective

May 23, 2012


Safe in houses

It’s that time of year again. A year ago, my silly ass husband insisted that we build the nest in a fancy lantern hanging in the dining room of our flat. ‘Not a good idea I said, it doesn’t look like a stable platform and it’s made of flimsy paper and plastic.’ He made a fuss at this and I foolishly gave in and set to work on the build. He, of course, is just an onlooker, occasionally chirruping encouragement, but mainly skulking in the shrubbery with his mates or sitting and whistling on one of the many wires strung willy nilly across the sky.

Three weeks and three eggs later, the damn thing tilted, jettisoning two of the eggs. I looked at the mess on the floor and thought ‘That’s it! Enough already, I’ll take a break from raising a family this year. Just as well they hadn’t hatched.’

I deliberately left nest building late this year. There would be no arguments about my choice of nest at the bottom of the stairs. I don’t like the kitchen. The noise of the pressure cooker is scary and there’s generally too much activity from the occupiers of the flat; they spend a lot of time peering at me, which is uncomfortable. I can’t be certain that they won’t  want to interfere. The stairs work well for me.  Most of the time the inmates forget I’m there as they have to concentrate on negotiating the steps.

As usual, the other half just stood by gawping while I lugged the materials in. There was a lot of it which I didn’t use; too long, too short, not the right colour, too rough, too weak. Not a problem as there’s loads close to hand and I didn’t have to clear the mess up. The inmates did that for me.

Now I spend most of my time sitting and making sure the eggs stay up to temperature.

On Saturday, a motley crew turned up in the back garden armed with primitive axes and proceeded to wreck it. Two big old trees were hacked down, the national tree in full bloom was butchered nearly to death and two more sort of destroyed by accident in the mayhem. The crew did more damage than a cyclone, let alone monsoon (which is the reason for what should be a simple pruning exercise). A couple of council officials came round after they had finished, shook their heads and wandered off, probably to count their ‘look the other way’ bribe. No action from them then. We’ll have to wait till monsoon when the shrubs will grow tall and hide the carnage.