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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Comment update

I killed Disqus, for many reason, but the most important being that half of the time it was slow to load, and many user I know had problem, including myself. The reason I installed it in the first place was that back then Blogger did not have threaded comments, and I was affected by trolls I wanted to deter. Disqus never deterred the trolls anyway...

What bugged me over the years and bug me even more today, is that for it to work you need to allowe anyone to comment in your blogger setting AND disable the CAPTCHA. Over the years that had lead to spam bots to constantly hit my blog and while both Disqus and Blogger made sure these comments were never published, I hate the fact my blog is an easy bot target, and I no longer want to make their work easier. Want to spam me? Be a real person and face the consequences, do not inflate my page hit artificially...dammit!

So for all these reasons, I have reverted to blogger's comment platform, and yes I still allow anyone to comment, you can still be anonymous, I don't really mind, but you will have to enter a captcha code to comment. With this, that should be hopefully the last blog format and layout update for a while.

Monday, July 28, 2014

On this wet wet wet day...



The sun did not shine.

It was too wet to play.

So we sat in the house

All that cold, cold, wet day.

(the Cat in the hat, Dr Seuss)

 

Well no offence Dr Seuss, but rain is not a valid reason to sit inside, especially when a page later in the book you learn that the only thing to do was to Sit, Sit, Sit, Sit and not liking it one little bit. Sunday was a very wet day in Mumbai, and we took our time sipping tea, having a nice breakfast, and doing a bit of cleaning before heading out to our favourite chaat shop to bite into fresh jalebi and kachore, before coming back home to fold a few paper boat and head to our building's garden to play like children again...well Ishita is still a child, but for DH and I age was no bar.

 

We looked for deep enough puddles to launch them on, the rain sank them quick enough. But not without us giggling and having fun. Our mighty fleet sunk, we continued playing in puddles of cool water with no fear of getting soaked. The promise of soft towels, warm dry clothes and hot beverage just being a few meters away. For a few minutes we felt young again, and taught Ishita that the rain is a fun, fun thing.

 

While we were doing so, we could see a few neighbours peeking through their windows. And I still wonder what could have crossed their minds. Were they judging us and branding us as insane? Or wishing they could do the same? It's while going back upstairs that we saw an old lady smiling seeing us all wet and happy to be. Clearly she knew the thrill of the excersise and probably revisiting childhood memories. And, once home, getting all dry and warm again felt blissfully magical, so did the smell of hot coffee and tea.

It was too good not to play, or sit in the house on that cold, cold wet day. So we went out and all we could do was to splash, splash, splash, and we enjoyed every bit of it.

 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Old meets new

 

This week, here is a picture closer to home. This is the Bandra Worli Sealink viewed from the old Bandra fort in Mumbai.

The fort, or what is left of it, which isn't much is a relic from the time the Mumbai Islands (yes there were 7 Island before the British started reclaiming land and form one giant one) belonged to the Portuguese. The fort has a distinct Portuguese architecture you will find all over Goa. Today the fort and the Bandstand promenade that goes from it to a posh residential area (A few Bollywood stars live there) is a favourite spot for Mumbaikars to watch the Sunset over the Arabian Sea.

The Bandra-Worli Sea link is part of a bigger project that is yet to be completed...or even started that should link the Western suburbs to Nariman Point in South Mumbai. This bridge pretty much mark the limit between the suburbs and South Mumbai. Auto rickshaws are allowed to ply in the suburbs but not in Mumbai city where you rely on black and yellow cabs to get you around. The Autos can ply until the Sealink and not beyond on the Bandra side. This bridge was meant to cut the travel time of commuters, and to some extent it does. Going through Mahim at peak hour is a drag, but then the traffic has increased so much over the year that you are likely to be stuck in a giant traffic jam in the suburbs after having gotten off the Sealink anyway.

That picture and that place always amaze me because of the stark contrast between two engineering marvels of their respective time.

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sworn enemies?

 

Many will want you to believe that cats and dogs do not get along together, that they are natural enemies, dead set on exterminating one another. This picture above shows that it isn't so. My cat took to Jasmine quite well and they are past the "just tolerating" each other. And, while my dog could still not care less about Mittens, Mittens has taken a liking to Jasmine, and will often play with her tail, her paws ( she must like the corn chips smell dogs have about their feet), and will on occasion even cuddle with her. This is one more picture in favour of the "Cats and dogs can be friend" lot. I have many friends, and family members that have been down that path before, and none had tales of bloody battles and hatred to tell. In all the cases the feline and canine cohabited peacefully, with many stories of pets developing a strong interspecies bond. On the other hand, I have many stories of cats not getting along with fellow kitty, with led to nasty fights in some cases.

I grew up with cats, and we had three of them in our flat at one point, two of them had no problems living together, sleeping together and being friend, the third one was an asocial diva who simply could not tolerate anybody on her turf, but would sneak to the neighbour's flat to spend time with their dog and Siamese cat. The two likeable ones ended up banding together and pissing her off, which often led to nasty cat fights we needed to interrupt with splashes of water. You see, cats are solitary hunters, and they don't really like having competition on their territory. Dogs are not a threat to the territory at all, they are just perceived as another species that live on their turf, not a potential leadership snatcher. The thing cats initially fear about dog is them chasing them and eating them, as feral dogs might make a meal out of their kitty skin. Once that threat is removed there is no reason for the cat to be hostile to the dog, and this is typically the case in a domestic setting. Dog gets dog food, cat gets cat food, both are fed by the humans, and the cat still can roam areas the dog can't. The dog will never threaten to take over that special spot on top of the shelves the way another cat could.

Cats have that secret plan to dominate the world (I swear they do!). They think your house is theirs, and that everything living in their territory belong to them. Don't be fooled, when they rub themselves against your leg they aren't showing love and affection, they are just marking you as their territory, rubbing their sent all over you. We human think it's cute so it ends up being a win-win situation. Dogs are just happy to be part of a pack, and could not care less if they are at the bottom of the chain of command, in fact most canines are just happy to let you two legs being the Alpha. They don't have any ambition to rule the household at all, and as long as they are getting their walk, their food and affection from their owner, they are A-OK.

And, this is exactly the scenario that unfurled in our place. Jasmine was just curious about the cat at first. The cat freaked out on their first meeting (and bit me). Then over the span of a few days realised the dog would never chase her if she stayed up and out of reach. Over the course of a few weeks she realised that the dog would never go after her because she had a dog bowl full of food twice a day. From there she progressed to not minding the dog at all while Jasmine learned that Mittens made an acceptable roomie as long as she didn't try sniffing her from too close. When Mittens started going at her tail and paws, she simply let her do it, completely submissive because she somehow figured out it was better to let the cat be above her in hierarchy, and Mittens became brave enough to rub herself against the dog and cuddle with her. It took a little over two months to go from the hissy pissy, ready to strike stage to the cuddling stage for our cat. And, yes, it is always the cats who calls the shot in a feline-canine bond, not the other way round.

As for my dog? She knows she won't win against the cat, and whenever the cat is coming close she just wait for Mittens to do what she wants, she even yield when my barely 2kg Kitty decide to sample the dog food. Never mind that Jazz is about 20 times heavier.

 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pound to Ponder



I love walking, always have. It has been my thing for as long as I can remember. A thing I mentionned several thing on this blog. To me there is no easier, cheaper way to get in shape and be healthy, and, anybody can do it. The pace doesn't matter, neither does the place, nor your age. All one need is two working legs.

However, my reason for walking isn't necessarily to get in shape. Of course I don't mind it, but that isn't my prime reason. This isn't the part of walking I love above all. And, I never had getting fit as a prime goal. Getting fit is one of the perks, but the reason I walk is more mental than physical. I walk to get alone with myself. I walk to ponder thoughts, solve problems, distress, get rid of worries, anger and woes. I walk to beat what is bitting me, and I walk to get inspired. From the moment I was old enough to be outside on my own, I walked around without any particular goal. As a teen I remember just wandering downtown while window shopping, while in fact I was more keen on rearranging my thoughts than actually buy anything. When I was first living on my own and dealing with the inevitable pitfalls of newly found freedom and the woes of young adulthood, I kept my sports shoes handy, ready to grab and hot the road. Depending on my problem, level of tension or simple need for quiet and solitude, these walks could last hours. I was fortunate back then to live minutes on foot away from a trail that lead straight to the countryside. I rearranged a lot of thoughts, created a lot of new solutions and mulled over a lot of problems pounding the ground.

When I first arrived to India, I spent a lot of time walking around my neighbourhood and discovering things on foot. And interestingly, looking over the decade I spent here, the periods of time I struggled the most with myself were the ones I had the less access to walking. It never really was the climate that stopped me from walking, but the stares of others. Walking is that activity I use to escape the world when I can, and there was no escaping the curiosity of people. But, I still walked as much as I could, so what if at times my walking served only an utilitarian purpose of going from A to B for a very specific reason, I still did, and still do walk whenever possible, choosing it over any other form of transport. Walking without goal is however, much more fun. And I no longer make excuses for not doing it. I probably got used to people starring, and I don't even let the heat or the rain really stop me. I hit the track to find myself back, to let my thought wander, and my imagination soar. I tire my muscles to energise my mind.

This is what I love the most about walking. My goal isn't a specific clothes size, it is reaching a certain state of mind. and no matter how tensed and chewed by issues I might be lacing my shoes on, I always come back from my time out a much more balanced and sane person. My best creative ideas always came from walking, my biggest problem always faded away with the rhythmic thump of me feet on the ground and evaporated with each droplet of sweat running down my skin. A physical activity never just benefit the body, but also the mind.

This is my reason for walking as much as I do.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Our old neighbourhood

I have spoken of that rooftop terrace flat we had in Bangalore a lot, this was after all the flat in which we stayed the longest. What I never did was share the fact that it was in one of these typical residential block in Bangalore, were all the streets are called Main and Cross and are numbered. The layout is a grid and it function a bit like in New York to get around inside the block in question.

 

The picture above was taken on the day we moved in. As you can see all the houses around us are no more than two or three stories high, there is a lot of greenery, and the houses are close to one another. In the neighbourhood it was about 5ft between houses, but I have been in other areas in Bangalore where you barely have two feet. Needless to say that your neighbour will alway know what you are doing. Almost all the people who like us have the top floor of the building have a terrace, but we were the only one using it for something else than hanging laundry and dumping garbage. Over the years our outdoor space turned into that :

 

We bought a patio table and chairs, added a lot of potted plants, at one point we even had a large wooden bench. Every weekends our friends would come over in the evening and we would spend our time there, drinking, eating and chatting. We spent every New Year's Eve at our place, piling on the sweaters as the night became chilli and watch the fireworks in the distance. And because we had world class gossiping Aunties in the neighbourhood, we always had one or the other peeking from their own terrace on ours to see what we were doing. We didn't care, we never let them stop us, they would usually hide the instant we stared back, and gossip never affected us, the only time one of them said something to me was when I was watering my plants while pregnant, apparently she had a problem with that and told me I should ask the maid to do it as pregnant women aren't supposed to walk around like this...I ignored her of course.

Before high rise made their appearance, this is how the middle class lived, in Bangalore and other cities, and how some still do of course. In Bangalore, these houses usually have one independant flat per level, the landlord usually live in one of them and rent out the others, the staircase always run on the outside of the house. In real estate listings these flats are listed as Independant house, but unless the add mention it is a duplex or villa, don't imagine you are going to rent the whole house, you are really just renting a flat in a house that belong to an individual instead of a flat in an apartment society.

 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Parents' homeworks

When you have a child in school, you know that sooner or later, they will not be satisfied enough to just give them homeworks. they will want to test your skill as a parent. They can't really call them homework though, that would not be proper. So instead they call these special events. Events for which your kid will have to produce something that has been made with parental supervision by the parents. All school have them, and pre-primary classes are especially fond of them. This is something you simply cannot escape, it is your parental duty. There is dress in blue, white, yellow, pink...to learn the colours you see. Those are easy to pull, just make sure to have an outfit in ever possible colour in your wardrobe at the start of the academic year. But that is not enough, you have to be prepared for a succession of special days that will see you send your kid dressed as a community helper, mom or dad, a national leader, in tricolour, a cricketer, an animal, an insect, a fish, a magician, a witch, a monster, in ethnic Indian wear, an athlete, as what they aspire to be when they grow up. And just when you thought dress up days were enough, there are all the show and tell days. Bring a specific fruit, a stuffed animal, your favourite toy, a printout of one thing or another, a family phot, a best friend photo, a couple of chocolates, a few sweets, a rakhi, modelling clay, books, crayons. In all cases you have to sit your child home to teach them a few line about what they are wearing, or teach them a Hindi poem that even after a lot of repeating will end up sounding as "mumble, jumble, na vid ya Kaput" (true story). Yes parents, they want you involved, and it often feels like they are testing your knowledge, skills and how much of a Mc Gyver actually reside inside you!

You end up catching up on the drill quickly though. You stock up on craft paper, paint, glue, stickers, you make sure the wardrobe has enough options to pull out a costume of one kind or another, you stock up your printer with paper and colour cartridge, and know Google will be your best friend forever. That's what I did.

And, that is when the school threw me a curve ball!

"Dress in an international costume and teach your child to speak about the country he/she represent"

Dang! Dammit! Anything but that! No!!!!!! I am not ready, I have nothing to pull a traditional costume you people! And now would be the time to let you all know that in Ishita's school they ask parents NOT to rent fancy dress, they want parents to make these from what they have at home on hand. Or buy something to make it. And sure, we all have a fancy international costume in our kids wardrobe! Silly me, didn't see it coming. An entire rainbow in the wardrobe and 4 Indian ethnic outfit and nothing to pull an international ethnic outfit? This is one of these time Google comes to the rescue, except that because Internet is widely tinted with some American culture, it yielded nothing in this case. You see, it seems that in US it has become politically incorrect to dress up your kids in the national costume of another country for Halloween, a couple of nincompoop even said it was racist to do so. So because they feel it is their moral duty to speak for the entire world on what is appropriate or not and what cultures not their own should be offended by, Pinterest and Google will give you nothing. No variation of "children international costume will" yield much. Too bad that a school frequented by Indian kids planned a fun day of dress up to teach the kids that theirs are other nations and culture than their own!

Time to turn to my friends on Facebook. They were useful, I got to learn how to make a toga out a white bed sheet to be a pretend Greek goddess, how to make a Native American dress out of a brown pillow case among others. they were good ideas, except that bed sheet sets sold in India are rarely white, and all the used and ready to sacrifice bed linen I have comes in funky colours. I have a black kimono wrap top in my size, but no amount of pinning, belting and adjusting ended up making her look as anything but a fancy potato sack. So that idea had to go as quickly as it came. It left me with there somewhat doable options to explore:

1) Take the withe frilly dress they made me buy for sports day the year before and manage to Swissify it with enough red ribbons and white crosses and edelweiss to pass as Swiss. Good idea except it was pouring cats and dogs, and I had no red anything to trim the dress with to make it ethnic, forget it, no ribbon anything in any colours but a hot pink funky one. Plus teaching her about Switzerland other than " This is where mommy come from and they eat cheese and have snow" felt daunting on such short notice.

2) She has a long sleeved t-shirt that vaguely looks like a cheerleader outfit, could pretend she is American and give her some pom-poms made of paper. Not bad, just as I was getting ready ton consider it, I remembered she was wearing it on Thursday morning as I was thinking about it, and right on cue sent some yogurt on it! Bam option gone, noway it would dry in 24 hours if I hand washed it right away. Plus she has no connection to American culture, knows nothing about it, and teaching her something constructive enough to say was a bit scary...we don't want a repeat of "mumble, jumble na kaput" here.

3) Dress her in her pink t-shirt with Pandas doing karate on it, make a paper Chinese hat and a hand fan and sending her saying she is representing China. That was the easiest, because she also knows China has panda, that they eat noodles and rice with chopsticks and that Papa went to China recently...fair enough

You guessed it, we went with the funky Chinese option. And as I type this, she has been sent to school by bus. The hat blew off her head while we were waiting leading me to a quick fix on the strap and telling her to hold it in her hand and ask the teacher to put it back on her head in a hurry as the bus approached. the instant she was inside it started pouring cats and dogs out of nowhere, so right now, I have no idea if the hat ever made it to school dry, if at all...could they at least hold the crazy costume ideas until AFTER the monsoon is over, when parents can go shopping last minute or send paper craft that will not reach the classroom soggy and destroyed? Needless to say I am scared to think about what comes in store for the rest of the academic year when it comes to Parents Homeworks.

Reconnect with me

I changed the name of my blog, and updated my RSS feed address as well. As a result, you probably aren't getting the new feeds in your Feed Reader of choice. Worry not, all you need to do is to re-add the blog to your reader of choice. I had to do this in Blogsy yesterday to test it, and it worked fine.

There are also other ways to connect with me and make sure you never miss an update:

I am on Twitter : @Cynadventure

I have a Facebook page, that is by far the most updated of all with status updates, extra pictures and links : https://www.facebook.com/CynsAdventureInIndia

I am on Google+ and I just got an easier custom URL so you can find me more easily : https://plus.google.com/+cynthiahaller

And of course, there is the feedburner RSS address that changed : http://feeds.feedburner.com/HomeCynHome

To make it simpler, you can click all the litte icons in the right column to take you to the right place, I tested them all, they work fine. With this final update, I hopefully have ironed all the wrinkles that come with a name and layout change. If you have any technical issues, feel free to let me know in the comments.