Saturday, 30 June 2007

Blue moon

I have just learned something really interesting! Just sitting here catching up on e-mails I spotted the moon shining through the trees outside the balcony. It looked like full moon but to check for sure I googled it - and got more than I expected. Not only is today full moon - it is also a blue moon! Apparently there really is an astrological phenomenon (unpronounceable one too!) - bear with me if I am last on the planet to discover this - called a blue moon.

According to the Hindu News, June 30 is ‘blue moon’ day
HYDERABAD: This month will witness an uncommon occurrence of two full moons. While the first full moon occurred on June 1, there will be another on June 30.When such an event occurs, the second full moon is called the ‘blue moon’ due to the uncommon happening and not because the moon in any way turns blue, according to B.G. Sidharth, Director-General, B.M. Birla Science Centre.In a press release on Wednesday, he said a ‘blue moon’ month occurs once in a few years and at times in about 12 years.

Apparently there are many more technical details, but that is enough for me. Enlightened blue gecko!

Dhaka - a preview

I arrived back safely late last night from a very intense and interesting week in Dhaka. While I am preparing my thoughts and experiences (including a disproportionate number of air travel tales) I thought I would post this picture from of the sunset the first evening I arrived.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

The ironing shop

My friend, neighbour and colleague B was leaving Chennai recently as her assignment here was completed. Packing was the usual nightmare and to take belongings and clothes back luggage was way over the airline weight allowance. Gifts were given, and anything which really had no possible further use went out in the rubbish. Included in the rubbish was a bag of old clothes which had well outlived their usefulness. We arrived back from work together that evening – and we were met by a smiling watchman who handed B a mystery carrier bag, asking for 25 rupees. He couldn’t understand our blank faces and we couldn’t understand what on earth this was all about. B peeked into the bag and was instantly enlightened. All of her discarded old clothes had been sent to the ironing shop, by the proactive watchman, ironed on credit, and returned to her within the day!!

So what is this ironing shop? When we arrived in Chennai we learned that there is a specific local industry which takes care of all ironing and removes the hassle and time consuming mind-numbing task from the day to day chores. Ironing is immediately outsourced to – the ironing shop! On most streets in the residential areas, there is at least one stall, set on what looks like large bicycle wheels, surrounded by bundles of laundry and with a huge non electrical iron. For around 2 - 3 rupees per item, your ironing is completely taken care of at the ironing shop and everybody is happy.

On sharing B's lovely tale with a friend in the Netherlands, who is also Indian, she observed that in Europe you have to wash and clean your rubbish before you throw it out! Only in India does your discarded rubbish come back to you all fresh and ironed!

Friday, 15 June 2007

Weather report

This is not just a weather report - this is NEWS!

I was woken in the middle of the night (well, 4 am which here is morning but for me is the middle of the night), by a sound which I could not quite identify at first. Then I realised it was the sound of - RAIN!! How exciting. You have to have lived out of Scotland and in a place like Chennai for a while to appreciate the excitement of this. Since I arrived in Chennai at the beginning of January I have seen it rain only three times. Yes, 3. Added to which, we apparently get the retreating monsoon here which arrives late in the year, unlike most other parts of India and Nepal where I am more familiar with the monsoon patterns.

Anyway, in the middle of the night, as I was slowly getting used to the idea of rain, I was treated to a full performance from the elements. Crashing thunder, simultaneous lightning which lit up the bedroom long enough to have a surreal photographic impression in my mind, and the torrential rain. The electricity cut and the fan slowed and stopped which is usually a nightmare in the heat and humidity. However, the silence brought an intensity and immediacy to the storm. I listened as it approached a crescendo and then slowly faded. The lightning became less vivid and dazzling, and the thunder slowed in its response as the storm either disappeared or moved on to another part of the city. Before long the electricity and fan resumed as if it had all been a strange dream.

When it was time to start the day the roads were still soaking, the puddles full of leaves and blossom and the talk on everyone's lips was of the night storm. Later, in the middle of the afternoon, another murmur of excitement began and smiling faces announced that it was raining again. This warranted a look outside and a number of us gathered to watch the rain and breathe in the cooler air for a quick refreshing break before we resumed our tasks.

The rain cannot begin to compare with the constant reliability of Scottish rain, and the storm is tame in comparison with the incredible electric storms which were part of life in Nepal. But this night time storm brought real vibrancy and life to the new day. Now I wait in anticipation for the REAL rains to start later in the year.

Friday, 8 June 2007

More marketing

Would you be tempted to go to this beauty salon?

First of many...........

I am sure this will be the first of many similar posts. I can't resist signs which make me smile, laugh out loud, cringe or wonder what on earth they mean. Some signs prompt all reactions! In Nepal I also used to collect newspaper headlines and cuttings with wonderful epxressions in them - one of my favourites was the headline "Vegetable farming yields fruit" How on earth did that happen?? Genetic modification? Miracle? ........?? I still have the little scrap book with these gems and will share them here from time to time.

Now moving to the present. We were in Bangalore recently and I was rather alarmed (and curious) to see this sign. in one of the streets...............

Luckily J was able to enlighten me - it means ear piercing done here, by an ear piercing machine!!

A very good sales tactic

Thursday, 7 June 2007

So that will be no sugar and no ice?

One of the things I love about India and Nepal is the incredible creativity when it comes to different jobs, how to repair absolutely anything and how to make something out of apparent rubbish.

Sometimes in the juice shop I have noticed a man bashing an inner tube on the pavement beside the shop and to be honest I hadn’t actually thought anything strange of it. I just thought that was his job. I had a vague notion that he was bashing the air out of the inner tube.

This morning I was mindlessly consuming my watermelon juice and out of the corner of my eye noticed one of the juice shop workers extracting two huge blocks of ice from a cold box. My attention woken, I watched as slipped the blocks inside half of an inner tube and started to bash it with a metal pipe. I hadn’t noticed before that it was not a complete inner tube because it had been folded at the ends so that no ice escaped. After a few minutes of bashing, the crushed ice was emptied back into the ice box ready for the next customers. “ice with your watermelon juice, madam? – “er, not today thank you!”

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Southern squirrels

What noise does a squirrel make?

I have been woken up a few times now by an insistent tooting noise, which sounds like quite an angry bird. Finally, a few weeks ago, I crawled out of bed and tried to locate this strange exotic and harmonious bird. There are a number of trees outside my balcony and I could hear the noise quite close by when I opened the patio windows. Searching for the elusive bird I was faced by ............................

A cute wee squirrel saying “toot toot toot”. Seriously and honestly. And not just the one. It seems to be clear that squirrels in Chennai, if not throughout the whole of South India, say “toot toot”. I thought about this very carefully and considered my why the issue of squirrel sounds was troubling me. I realised that the problem lay in the expectation that squirrels would say something more like a throaty kind of tut tut or chirrup chirrup. I think a PhD dissertation on the language of squirrels is needed.

I thought that this needed an expert opinion so I asked hubby J, as a professional naturalist in Nepal and north India. After some thought and consideration his opinion was that “squirrels in the north (of India), and Nepal don‘t talk”. Now isn’t that a highly interesting anthropological and linguistic mystery? Would it not be amazing to get a mixed group of squirrels from South India, North India and Edinburgh together and see if they can understand each other..................