Sunday, May 02, 2010
Well, we moved yesterday. Yes, we loved the old apartment, it was gorgeous. But some little things were finally just too much for me. The worst thing was the electricity: Bangalore has a huge problem with electricity, i.e. there simply isn’t enough for everybody in the city so they need to cut the power of each neighborhood for something like one to four hours every day. Of course places like big office buildings, big malls and good hotels will have their own back-up generators so there is no real problem. But many people are without electricity during those times and they just have to live with it. They use candles, wash clothes by hand, cook with gas or just on a fire, iron with one of those old-fashioned irons where you put hot coals inside, etc.
Now we paid absolutely an arm-and-a-leg for our previous serviced apartment. Well, my company did. In any case, it was simply a ridiculous amount of money and for that amount of money, one would expect there to not be any problems with e.g. the electricity. In fact, before moving in, I asked several times: “Can you guarantee that there will not be any problems with water or electricity?” and they assured me that there would not be any problems. Well, we had nothing but problems with the electricity.
Until I first threatened to move (after about one month), the situation was such that there would be no electricity at all for a couple of hours each day. They had a diesel power generator, sure, but they simply did not use it! I suppose to save money. This did not bother me during weekdays since I was at the office, but it was not fun for the hubby: he had no air-conditioning, no TV and – what’s really bad – no internet either! There was a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) box that the internet was hooked up to but it seems that in the beginning it was configured wrong and did not actually work. Well, I gave the landlord a major piece of my mind and they did two things: started using the power generator and fixed the UPS so that the internet did not go down when the electricity did. So some improvement….sort of.
The power kept going off and coming back on and going off and coming back on. Sami counted that on the last day we were there this happened around 40 times. And every time it did, the UPS box would beep very loudly. Really, really annoying – and embarrassing on those days that I tried to work from home! I would be in a phone conference with customers and would have to explain what all that terrible beeping was in the background. :-( And of course sometimes the internet would simply stop working and then I would have trouble doing any work at all.
The other thing was the water: hot water was unreliable, especially in the mornings. Maybe it was one of those solar-heated water tanks, I don’t really know. But I took many a cold shower in the mornings. But that’s not even so bad, but what I really did not care for was the water pressure – or rather lack thereof. Some mornings I would just wash my hair under the tap because it was faster than waiting for the slow trickle-trickle-trickle of the shower to rinse out the shampoo.
Well, what happened was that I was in Chennai on a business trip on the 23rd of April…and of course stayed at a nice hotel. The shower was so heavenly that I told the hubby: “I want to live here!”. It started out as a joke but then it just sort of snow-balled from there. We figured, well, we might as well look around a little bit to see what else is available out there for the same money and, long story short, we moved a week later on May 1st. The current place is very hotel-like in every possible way, i.e. in the good and the bad. But at least we don’t have any more issues with the basic infrastructure….apart from the internet, which is fast but seems to sort of come and go. Here’s hoping that won’t turn out to be a major issue….
I don’t normally like to dwell on the negative, so this posting is a bit atypical for me. But I just wanted to give a realistic picture of what life is like here: even the so-called “luxury” lifestyle is not always all that luxurious. But, those are just small things, we still love India!! Especially now that we can have nice, long, hot showers in the morning, perhaps a nice dip in the pool and then go downstairs to the breakfast buffet… :-)
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I got to thinking how different my life is here in India as compared to how it was in Finland. Here are some reflections:
Today is April 10th, so in Finland it’s barely spring yet. The snow has just melted because of the rains. Here in Bangalore it’s already officially summer and it’s been a bit hotter than normal, the forecast for today is 36 C. So far, it’s rained twice during the past two months. But of course the rainy season is approx. July-Aug, which is the hottest (should I say "warmest"?) time of year in Finland. It's so far been sunny here nearly every day.
The food I eat here at every single meal is just amazing. Sometimes I can hardly believe that food can even be made to taste that good! Especially the vegetarian food (which I eat for free at work every day) is truly delicious. Can’t say much for the Sodexho food back home. And at home in Finland, we were mostly too lazy and/or tired to cook so we ate a lot of foods that “go bing” and also payed an arm-and-a-leg to eat out. Here we absolutely never eat anything that isn’t freshly cooked and eating out is mostly dirt-cheap (especially for Westerners).
In Finland I did a lot of housework in addition to my work at the office. Here I do nothing at home since we have a house-boy who cleans, does the grocery shopping, cooks, does the dishes, waters the plants and the garden and does the laundry and the ironing. Or, to be specific, he does not actually do the ironing: he sends it out to the nearby village! Sometimes they deliver our laundry early in the morning when our house-boy has not yet arrived (he comes around 8 am), and we need to pay the delivery guy: a big pile of ironing costs 55 rupees, home-delivered. That’s about 90 euro cents. We pay a fixed fee of 3000 rupees a month for laundry and ironing, i.e. around 50 euros. That’s actually really over-priced for India!
In Finland I drove an 11-year-old VW Polo. In the winter, we had to dig it out from under piles of snow. Sometimes we couldn’t use the car because it was simply buried too deep under the snow (we lived in Töölö). Here, I have my own personal driver who is at my disposal 24/7. The car is a diesel Toyota Innova, which is nearly big enough to be a mini-van. Every single expat in India seems to have one.
In Finland we mainly did housework, took walks, and watched TV on weekends. Here, we’ve travelled somewhere nearly every weekend. I’ve now been here just over two months and we’ve already been to: Chennai, Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Goa (Panjim, Palolem and Bogmalo), Pune, Mysore, Srirangapattana, Kerala (backwaters, Kovalam and Varkala). This weekend we are, exceptionally, staying home. But already I’m thinking it would be nice to go to the beach near Mangalore next weekend…or to the Coorg hill station…it's apparently really nice and cool there...
At work, my company is in the process of getting rid of approx. 500 people in Finland. The morale is not great. Here, everyone is really motivated, really proud to work for their company, there’s not even a trace of cynicism. It’s truly a pleasure to go to work every day.
The most common trees in Finland are pine, spruce and birch. Here we see palm trees, banana trees and trees whose name I don’t know.
In Finland, many people only see their parents a couple of times a year. They could easily see them more often but either they’re “busy” or they’re not that close to their parents. The first time we gave our driver a long weekend off, he was over-joyed. I asked him why. He said he had not been to his home village in a year! The previous people he worked for never gave him a single day off. He calls his parents every day and he has their first names tattoeed on his forearm.
In India, everywhere we go and no matter what we do, we are constantly stared at. I feel pressure to always look good…I’m starting to understand how movie-stars feel...
I still feel that everything I see here is really interesting. There’s constantly something to look at, something to wonder at. I am constantly asking the locals: what’s that? Why are they doing that? Etc. Feels like being 3 years old all over again. India is infinitely fascinating.
What about negatives: well, little things like not being able to rely on hot water and electricity. We had minor digestive issues for approx. the first month. People have a lot of desire to provide really good service, but sometimes they seem not to know so much what they are doing. What I mean is, it sometimes seems to be very difficult to buy something because it takes them 5-10 minutes to find out how much it costs. Little things like that. We don’t dwell on them, we like to focus on the positives.
It’s tough to see real poverty, tough to know what to do about beggars. However, there are not so many beggars in Bangalore since there is so much work available. Poor people do mostly seem very happy. Or is it just the way in Asia that you are always supposed to put on a happy face? At least my yoga teacher is always telling us to "keep a smile on the face" and to "be of good cheer". Indian people seem to think that it's good for the health to do so...I tend to agree! :-)
As they say in India: No issues!
P.S. The photo shows Pink Lady at Brindavan Gardens near Mysore. It's very popular: there are 2 million visitors a year!!
Monday, March 08, 2010
Well, Pink Lady is at it again, up at 5:30 am and not able to sleep anymore. I wonder what it is about India that makes me get up so early, since this is something I absolutely never do at home? Maybe all those roosters crowing? ;-) Even though we live in Bangalore (population 8 million), we live in the outskirts of the city. This means that it takes me 5-10 minutes by car to get to work when it’s typical here for people to travel an hour – or even two – one way to get to work. The traffic is completely unbelievable. But, living where we do, I don’t need to worry about it all on my way to and from the office. The only “traffic” we see here is of the four-legged kind: cows, dogs, cats, goats and a monkey or two thrown in. And chickens, lots of chickens. We live in an Indian village (called Srirampura) in the middle of one of the biggest cities in India. It is right behind the campus where my office is located. My husband bought a couple of bars of soap from one of those tiny little kiosks in our village - which here pass for shops - and both packages of soap had (in addition to the soap) medium-sized cock roaches inside the package!! We now called it “cock roach soap”. ;-) So in our Indian village, the cocks they are-a-crowing and the cock roaches they are-a-running.
And now about the colour pink….when I say that I have seen women here wearing literally 20 different shades of pink, I am not exaggerating. Sarees and salwar kameez seem to come in every colour of the rainbow. I have seen sarees in the hottest pinks you can even imagine on 80-year old grandmothers. I’ve seen baby pink, bubble-gum pink, old rose pink, salmon pink, peachy pink, bright pink, muted pink, fuchsia, cherry pink – you name it, I’ve seen it. I’ve now been in India just over 3 weeks and I feel that just the fact of having seen the clothes of the women here has changed me forever. I may never wear black again!! Why should a woman ever wear black when there are so many gorgeous colours out there? I am now wearing colours such as bright lemon yellow, bright orange, bright turquoise – bright everything.
I have a theory about why Indian women wear so much colour. Of course the usual explanation is that it somehow “looks right” in the bright sunshine and that may well be part of it. But the theory that I’ve come up with is that women everywhere simply want to be beautiful. And since in India women cannot – for reasons of tradition and modesty - so much emphasize the beauty of their bodies by wearing tight or revealing clothing, my theory is that they, instead, emphasize their beauty with the use of beautiful colour and fabric (and of course jewelry to match). Shiny, richly embroidered silk is not just for evening here, it’s every-day-wear for those who can afford it. And those who can’t afford silk wear cotton or have the choice of the most amazingly gorgeous man-made fabrics in every possible colour under the sun.
Bangalore is extremely modern for an Indian city. You see Indian women here wearing clothing that would be unimaginable in rural India: tight jeans, tight, sleeveless tops, tight T-shirts. Showing a lot of skin is still not the done thing, but in Bangalore, the younger women are starting to wear tight-fitting clothing. I am just hoping that the tradition of wearing bright colours won’t die out with the modernization of the Indian woman’s wardrobe. It would be such a shame. Life’s just too short to wear black!!
Must stop here, I have a job to get to...
Bright Pink Lady
P.S. Speaking of black, some Muslim women here do wear the black burqa. However, I have heard that when these Muslim women are in the privacy of their own homes, they dress to the nines and have their hair, nails and make-up perfectly done. So yes, women everywhere do want to look beautiful! :-)
P.P.S. The photo is showing Pink Lady admiring the Bay of Bengal at Aurobeach near Pondicherry.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Well, it has finally happened. After more than 2 years of planning it, waiting for it, Pink Lady has finally moved to Asia. To Bangalore, India to be more precise. The Hubby will join in a few days.
Since I will be working here, I wanted to buy some local-style, business-appropriate clothes. Frankly, I felt very underdressed here in my Western clothes. All those Indian beauties in their sarees and salwar kameez…well, they just all look so feminine. And so colourful. I just see one gorgeous outfit after another everywhere I look.
Even before I got here, I had already decided I wanted to wear local-style clothes. I come from the “When in Rome….”. school of traveller/expat. I already started eating with my right hand. Actually, I’m left-handed and have trouble eating with a fork using my left hand – but no problems at all using my right hand to eat. Yep, I just get my fingers right in that mushy rice with the sauce mixed in. I do have serious issues with tearing off pieces of naan bread using just one hand, but I’m convinced it’s just a question of practice.
So back to the story about clothes. You do know that Pink Lady is nuts over clothes right? I adore fashion. I love the touch of luxurious fabrics: silk, cashmere...simply the stuff dreams are made of. So when the taxi driver I had hired for the day insisted on taking me to this silk shop he knew, I did not complain. I did not realize how life-changing this experience would be, however. I may never wear ready-made clothes again!
My taylor (as he's now known) showed me the most amazing, delicious, delectable hand-woven Bangalore silks. I did not need to doubt the quality for even a millisecond. Just touching the fabric was like stroking the side of a cloud. And the colours! It took a long time to select my two fabrics (see picture). He then very modestly and apologetically took my measurements (highly appreciated) and promised to deliver the two outfits to my hotel already the same evening. I was also quite impressed by the fact that the shop-owner came personally to deliver the clothing, lovingly wrapped up in paper.
For those not familiar with Asian clothing, a salwar kameez is the “three-piece suit” of Indian women, consisting of a baggy pair of trousers (a bit harem pant-like), a tunic and a long pashmina-style scarf. Speaking of the scarf, I’ll need to consult some local woman about how to wear the thing...I’m somehow not able to wrap it around elegantly the way the locals do, mine just hangs there like a dead animal.
So the clothes were delivered to my hotel. I unwrapped the lovely parcels, photographed the outfits of course, and prompty decided I was too sweaty to try them on. I had to shower before attempting it. The clothes seemed so precious to me immediately. After my shower, I put on the one on the left: oh the heavenly luxury of the silk on my skin! And the fit of taylor-made clothing! As I said earlier, I may never wear off-the-rack clothing again. I would rather own one outfit like this than 50 uncomfortable, constricting, itchy, off-the-rack Western outfits. Believe me, you don't know what comfort is until you've tried on one of these babies. The salwar kameez really takes into consideration how a woman’s body works. We are, for example, prone to bloating in the abdominal region (especially after the absolutely amazing food here), which is why it’s so wonderful that the pants are of the drawstring variety. I could probably be pregnant and still wear the same ones. They are not meant to be tight, not meant to be constricting. And yet wearing the 3-piece combo, I feel perhaps more feminine than I’ve ever felt before. I’ve obviously already decided to go back and have more clothes made next week. What seemed expensive at first now seems like the best deal ever.
As mentioned, my husband is not yet here in India with me. So I am spending this Valentine’s day alone. But hey, I’m sure having a wonderful love affair with my new silk outfits in the meantime! And don’t even get me started on the local jewelry...
Happy Valentines Day 'ya all!
Lots of love,
P.S. My next salwar kameez will be, you guessed it, pink!