Paradise Lost?

Hi folks, we’ve been to Goa and back since we last talked to you. There’s a whole stack of stuff to tell you about – so together with an assortment of photos and a summary of our Goa trip, the highlights in this edition include sweating it out in Chandigarh, learning to do (and being happy doing) nothing and the visit by Sat’s brother, Jag. Oh yeah, and we’re not going to mention the cricket!

Sat wants me to make it clear that this is a joint posting since his earlier ones have been a bit scathing of life here and mine are usually more upbeat than his!

So let’s kick off with our trip to Goa. Feels like donkey’s ago already but I guess since we had to leave Punjab earlier than planned due to the aftermath of the riots, then we’ve been away for almost 2 weeks…

First off, the travelling. We left the farm for Chandigarh on Tuesday morning and had an uneventful trip to the house there. Being the height of summer now you can certainly feel the difference in temperature in the city after being out in the sticks where it’s already really hot – we were sweating buckets in no time at all. Lovely. That same day, we’d also hired a truck to take the cooker from the farm and swap it over with the one in Chandigarh as that was a better model. So the truck brought the other cooker back to the farm along with the small generator because we rarely needed it there (more on that later!).

Mum had been advised by her doctor a while ago to have some tests on her heart (just for peace of mind) and since Chandigarh has a state of the art Fortis outpatient hospital, and we had the time to do it, we took the opportunity to to get these done. So Tuesday afternoon was spent at the hospital which wasn’t anything like I expected it to be. The hospital was very large, clean and spacious and also quiet. You still get families all turning up for one family member to have treatment or whatever (we were doing exactly the same thing!) but the ambiance within the building was one of calmness and serenity. A welcome haven from the hustle and bustle outside.  Anyway, better pick up the pace a bit on the story-telling here to keep you gripped with “what happens next…”.  Mum’s heart is as strong as an ox but she has high cholesterol (but we already knew that!) and so that’s about all you need to know about that!

On Wednesday Sat and I hired a car and driver for a few hours and went to mooch around a few shops. The highlight of the shopping trip was a minor crash – our driver hit a scooter driver. Since neither of them was paying attention whilst they were driving they were both at fault. The incident itself happened in a car park and at a very slow pace so it was very low impact.  Although there was actually more damage to the car than the scooter, it didn’t stop the scooter driver from having a good moan. Our driver simply inspected the scooter, tweaked a couple of parts on it then started the engine with no problem at all leaving the rider to continue on his merry way, unhurt, apart from a bruised ego.

A quick funny at this point…we saw another guy on a scooter zooming along with his head on one side and muttering to himself. We then realised that he was on his mobile phone – it was jammed up inside his helmet and his head was on one side so the phone didn’t fall out!  Just wish we had a photo of that to show you.  Instead here’s one below which typifies life here – a whole family on one scooter.  You usually see 2 kids squeezed in between their parents – this boy’s lucky as it’s just him (for the moment!)

Scooter Family

Scooter Family

Anyway, we weren’t in much of a shopping mood so we decided to go onto Sukna Lake for a stroll.  Not the best timing as it was midday and the sun was at it’s most intense. There was very little shade at the lake but it was good to be out of the house as there’s nothing to do indoors. It’s a bit of a Catch 22 situation. Stay at home and be bored or be outside and fry. The lake is quite scenic and they even have a jogging path there – and we did actually see one guy jogging (although he was heading towards the cafeteria so maybe he just wanted to get his lunch quickly?).

Sukna Lake

Sukna Lake

Cooking food in the Chandigarh house is a real chore as mum and dad spend so little time there that the cupboards are practically bare and the local supermarket is very limited in what it stocks, so dinner was spent, as usual, in The Rock, more familiarly known to us as Rocky’s. It’s the only decent restaurant within walking distance of the house. It’s very dark inside with a couple of battered AC units coughing out cool air, a few ceiling fans and stain-ridden tablecloths plus a fish tank in the corner (?). On the plus side, the food is pretty good. You still wouldn’t risk a salad or anything raw or even fish! Noodles, chilli chicken, honey chicken and a few bottles of Kingfisher beer are our usual source of sustenance here. Our night out was followed by a second sleepless night back at the house. Let me explain. The house is south-east facing and gets the sun for most of the day and since it’s made of brick and concrete it absorbs heat and retains it.  So by the evening, even the cold water in the tank has heated up considerably making a cold shower to cool down out of the question. The outside temperature does drop a bit in the evening but the house continues to radiate heat. There’s no air con here either so we rely on ceiling fans to bat the hot air around which would be OK until we talk about the bed we have to sleep on.  Actually, bed is a bit of a misnomer. It certainly looks bed-shaped but measured on the comfort scale, it rates somewhere alongside a wooden board.  All in all, rest and relaxation in Chandigarh just doesn’t happen in the middle of summer. Let’s move onto Goa…

Actually, I can’t move onto Goa until I’ve told you about the flights to get us there. Flights, plural, as we flew from Chandigarh to Delhi first but didn’t change aircraft, and then we continued onto Goa – it’s actually only about 3 hours of flying time but ends up being a 4+ hour journey due to the stopover in Delhi. The safety briefing is pointless and the cabin crew have their work cut out for them since kids are allowed to sit on their parent’s laps (they ignore using the seatbelt) and the kids slam the tray table and window blinds up and down relentlessly during take off, flight and landing – a real pain in the arse when you’ve got them sitting behind you. Adults use mobile phones during the safety briefing and again as soon as we touch down. Kids stand up the whole way (if they’re not on their parent’s lap without a seatbelt). And the aroma of body odour is pretty ripe. I think I’ll leave it there – you get the idea.

Our arrival in Goa was a positive one – it was a relief to get off the plane for a start, and all our luggage had arrived on the same flight as us – what more could we want? We hired a cab to take us to our hotel, which was in a resort called Candolim about an hour’s drive away. We’d done plenty of research on TripAdvisor.com before making our choice, much to the lament of mum and dad who’d stayed near the airport (as they usually do wherever they go – saves on travel time apparently) last time they’d been there. The first thing we noticed was that drivers were much more considerate and competent that those we’d seen in the Punjab. They don’t hoot their horns all the time and because the roads are narrower, they’re not itching to overtake everything in sight. They are patient and wait for an appropriate moment. Plus they drive on the correct side of the road. Makes for a much more relaxing ride as a passenger.

The heavens opened about half an hour into the journey but we didn’t mind. After the heat of Chandigarh, some rain was more than welcome (so long as it didn’t rain all week). We’d seen from the plane that the state of Goa is very lush and green with plenty of rainforest and we were impressed with how just how much we could see from the air since we are used to the smog and dust in the Punjab and visibility is much reduced. The view from the car gave us a better insight into the Portuguese influence, particularly in the architecture. The countryside was very picturesque so our hopes were equally high for the beach resorts.

It took a couple of drive pasts to find our hotel tucked away off the main road but we were soon checked in and unpacking. The room was very basic, no great views to report so we decided to go for a walk along the beach which was at the end of the garden. This is where we wish we’d paid more attention to the one comment on TripAdvisor about the ship which ran aground 9 years ago. The “River Princess” doesn’t deserve its name at all and is an eyesore on this part of the Goan coastline. I’m sure there are good reasons why the ship hasn’t been salvaged or moved but the impact it’s having on the local environment and subsequently on tourism is immense. In short, we packed up the following day and checked into a hotel in a different resort further down the coast at Baga.  The hotel owner in Candolim wasn’t too chuffed but there was nothing he could do.

The monsoon season in Goa runs for 3 months from June to end of August. We were aware of this when we were planning our trip but hadn’t fully appreciated how much things close down for this whole period. Shops, restaurants, hotels – much of the area was like a ghost-town. As a result, the place was much quieter than we’d expected and not the tourist hub we were hoping for. Needless to say, we did find bars and restaurants to provide all the unhealthy stuff we’d didn’t have access to for the last 2 months. Our first night in a beachfront restaurant having steak and chips with mushroom sauce, washed down with a mojito cocktail was absolute bliss! :-) Actually, I think that’s about all Sat ate the whole week (oh, as well as Cadbury’s chocolate and Oreo cookies at regular intervals!)

Late on Day 2 it started to rain. And boy, did it rain!? In fact, it rained so much that it didn’t stop until Monday! We weren’t impressed. Here’s a soggy-looking Sat on the beach…

Sat In The Monsoon

Sat In The Monsoon

That brings me nicely onto the subject of beaches. We’d seen the Indian Ocean before when we’d been to the Maldives. There the water was crystal clear and full of sea-life. In Goa the water was murky and dirty with a yellowish tinge to the spume that got washed up on the sand. Admittedly it was pre-monsoon so the water was particularly choppy and swimming in the sea wasn’t allowed due to the turbulence of the waves (though, to be honest, we had no intention of swimming in water that grotty anyway). Again, not being there in peak season, it’s hard to know what state the beaches are normally in. During the time we were there, the beachfront was littered with all kinds of rubbish, from plastic bottles to syringes and from red chillies to light bulbs. We found this quite sad really that for a place that depends so much on tourism, the efforts made to keep these areas clean and even recycle were barely visible. Couple all this to the countless stray dogs that live on the beach and the mess associated with them scattered everywhere and you probably don’t have a very good image of Goa beaches in your mind.

One of the funniest things about the beach is there’s about 5km of it stretching from Baga to Candolim and in-between those two resorts is another resort called Calangute which, in comparison to the other resorts we’d seen, was far busier. Without word of a lie, this whole stretch of beach would be empty apart from a 75 metre section at Calangute where all the Indian tourists would congregate and paddle in the sea. I’m specific about them being Indian tourists since our hopes of meeting other Westerners had quickly faded once we saw what low season meant. We only spoke to one other tourist all week, a very friendly girl from Germany. The other Westerners we saw were either high on suspect substances or ignored us completely. Quite disappointing given I hadn’t seen any other non-Indian people for over 2 months.

Calangute

Calangute

Moving on…so apart from eating, drinking, sleeping and the odd jog or walk on the beach, what else did we do? Well, we downloaded and watched the 5 remaining episodes of 24 (series 7)  which we’d missed in the UK so that made me a happy bunny. Sat watched all of his remaining episodes of The Wire (US crime series he was addicted to), we did emails and Skyped and did loads of internet-based stuff until the owner of the wireless network we’d hooked into cottoned on that their usage had gone through the roof and added a password to it so we couldn’t make use of it anymore! Still, it was good while it lasted.

Sat’s progress with his book had slowed a little and he was getting frustrated so to give him some peace and quiet, me, mum and dad went over to Panjim for half a day. It’s the state capital of Goa and also known as Panaji. It’s a busy port town. I wouldn’t have known it was so busy other than when we were in the cab on the way there, mum clearly stated to the driver that we wanted to go to the beach. An hour’s drive later and we’re in the middle of the bustling town’s crowded shopping area with our driver asking where we wanted to be dropped off for shopping. “We want to go to the beach!” was the deafening reply from both my in-laws. So another 15 minutes of traffic jam later and we’re on the beachfront. Much cleaner that elsewhere but this was mainly due to the lack of restaurants and shacks along the beach.

Mum & Dad

Mum & Dad

Our final night was spent at Britto’s restaurant. It’s famed for it’s Portuguese food but it’s the place where we’d eaten on our first night and there was only one thing on the menu we wanted – steak and chips. We drank a fair few cocktails and even had dessert – tiramisu for Sat, apple pie and cream for me. Well, we knew it’d be another couple of months before we’d have these sorts of luxuries again, you have to make the most of it while you can. The other really good restaurant we found was called Take 5. It was primarily a jazz bar but did great cocktails and very good food. Also, this was the first place that Sat had a JD & coke in Goa so it holds special memories for him, particularly as it was happy hour and he had a double! We were the only customers in this bar both times we were there – I’m sure it would have had a really great atmosphere in high season as it had a nice vibe about it.

The day we were leaving we had time to visit the resort where mum and dad had gone to the first time they’d been to Goa. The beach was much cleaner but the resort was very small and practically dead so we didn’t feel we’d missed anything there. It satisfied their curiosity though. Unfortunately we arrived at the airport very early due to the Jenson Button-like driving skills of our cabbie. That wouldn’t have been too much of an issue but for the fact the incoming flight from Delhi was delayed which meant we’d be delayed for our departure. We’d arrived at the airport around 10.30 and our flight was due out at 2.15. In the end we took off at 4.30. That’d be alright if you’re in one of the terminals at Heathrow where there’s enough to occupy you for a couple of hours but at Goa Domestic Airport there’s bugger all there. All you can do is eat samosas (we did), wrestle with melted chocolate (we did) and drink cups of tea (mum did). So we were pretty cheesed off by the time we were on the plane and a repeat performance of the shenanigans from the kids sitting (more accurately, standing) near us didn’t go down well either. Particularly the little lad behind me who wiped melted chocolate all over my headrest and just missed my hair. AAAggghhh!!!!!

And then we get back to the furnace that is Chandigarh. Home sweet home. Not. And then, just to cap it all off, we have the same blind and incompetent cab driver that took us to the airport when we left (I forgot to mention him earlier but I’ll fill you in now). That journey hadn’t been too bad as it was early morning and there was little traffic to bother him. The return leg was beyond belief. He couldn’t find his way out of the bloody airport for a start. He had no concept of building up speed to change gears so he’d be in 5th gear by the time he’d got to 35kph and he’d horn all the time as he clearly (?) couldn’t see anything much in the dark so this preemptive manoeuvre of horning all the time probably made him feel more secure that the road ahead was clear. (I’d imagine my parents having kittens if they’re reading this now!) The silver lining in this journey was a quick pitstop at Domino’s pizza to pick up dinner. A shame that another of dad’s estimates was blown out of the water by our driver. What should have been a 10-15 minute journey home from the pizza place took over half an hour. Anyway, the pizza was very tasty and worth the wait and it was still hot! Another sleepless night on the wooden board with churning hot air followed.

This is when parting with the generator and sending it back to the farm proved to be fatal. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “big mistake”. You’d think the powers that be would have a better grip of getting electricity cuts sorted quickly in a city like Chandigarh but not during the time we were there. We lots power late evening on the day we got back, it came back on for a couple of hours on the Friday morning and then we were without power for the whole of that day. No electricity does have further ramifications in that no power means no fresh water as the tubewell won’t work. Furthermore not everyone has the luxury of a tubewell so there were many people that day who went without fresh water for over 12 hours. It also meant fridges defrosted, there was no TV, you couldn’t boil water (unless you had gas), ceiling fans wouldn’t work, etc. It does make you appreciate these things we have spent years taking for granted. Many people simply sit outside their houses at times like this because they have nothing else to do – it’s funny, but it’s the one time when there’s actually a bit of community spirit.

To kill time last Friday, Sat, dad and I had gone shopping and dropped mum off at a friend’s place since she didn’t fancy coming with us. The AC of the car was a relief from the intense heat everywhere else. We even had lunch in McDonald’s (the healthy eating would resume once Jag went back to the UK!) – no beef or lamb though, only chicken nuggets and chicken burgers.

I’m not sure if I’ve laboured the Indian heat aspect too much but you feel so helpless in this kind of situation. It’s too hot to do anything outside and if you stay indoors there’s not much to do, worsened when there’s no electricity.  We’ve come from a culture where the norm is to be busy all the time and where we always have things to do, life in India is a complete contrast and takes a lot of getting used to. In the West, time is the one thing we always seem to be short of; time for ourselves and for other people. Yet here in India, we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum where time is the one thing we do have in abundance and knowing what to do with it isn’t always obvious. I still haven’t got used to it and I often feel that I am wasting this abundance of time.  But as Sat pointed out to me yesterday, we are continuing to learn during this time, it’s just not in the conventional way that we’re used to. Our relationships with the people around us and how we deal with things are probably the areas where this is most apparent. We’re still trying to operate in Westernised ‘must maximise our time mode’ whereas the pace of life here runs to a different (slower) beat and requires an altogether different level of self management to handle it. I think Sat’s found it easier to adapt than I have but even he has his moments too. I also think that as we never eat well in Chandigarh (we usually eat out) a lack of fresh fruit & veg in our diet has an impact as these are really key things for the both of us to maintain a healthy mind and body. Sat was in quite a (rare!) philosophical mood yesterday as he also said we’d be stronger for this whole experience. I have to agree with him.

Anyway, back to the story….we had Saturday morning to kill before Jag’s flight arrived from Delhi. So we hired a car and driver for the day (a different guy from airport man, before you ask!) and headed off to the lake again for a potter about and some lunch. Soon it was time to go to the airport and it wasn’t long before Jag’s big beaming grin (and the rest of him, in case you thought he was some kind of Cheshire Cat!) appeared in the arrivals hall. We collected our luggage (I’d be lying if I said it was his luggage. I think of the 45kgs he brought over, at least 42kgs of it was stuff for us! The rest of it was his camera and a spare pair of pants!). A short stop in Chandigarh to load up dad’s car and then we were on our way back to the farm. Since Jag’s on his holidays, it was only fair we stopped at a restaurant en route to get him fed and watered after such a long journey. We stuffed our faces on parathas, butter chicken, mushroom dopiaza, chilli chicken and mum ordered a take out portion of noodles which served as a midnight snack for her later on! We also bought a bottle of Bacardi to replace the one dad accidentally smashed just before leaving Chandigarh but at £5 a bottle it didn’t cost a fortune. (Forgot to mention, on our earlier shopping trip we’d managed to track down some Jack Daniels, Bacardi and Jacobs Creek Chardonnay). Couple that with all the goodies Satpal and Parm had sorted out for us (see previous posting for our wish list) then we were well sorted for another few weeks. Apparently the bag of brown rice he brought for us was a running joke – a bit like taking coals to Newcastle (understandably) but we just haven’t managed to find anywhere that sells it! Sat had also got Jag to bring a stash of chocs from Thorntons as a birthday present for me. Much of it had melted by the time it got here so it’s been sitting in the fridge ever since (apart from the odd bar or two that we’ve secretly scoffed – do you see there’s a trend in our chocolate-eating habits??) As we’re going trekking in Ladakh towards the end of the month and we’ll be away for my birthday then this chocolate needs eating – I don’t need asking twice! The birthday pressies my parents and sister sent will come with us on our trek so I have something to open on the ‘big day’. You’d think by now the novelty of birthdays would have worn off. Not with me and Sat!

Earlier this week, Sat, Jag and I went off for a walk into the village.  I know I said we weren’t going to mention the cricket but we’ll ignore the current Twenty20 competition and talk about grassroots cricket instead.  We came across a bunch of boys playing cricket on the football pitch/playing field of the school where I was teaching.  There’s no grass, just dust and it’s the same place the footy competition was held at when we first arrived.  Happily for me, many of the boys were pupils at the school and I was greeted with cries of “Madam ji, Madam ji” which was very welcoming! They were keen to get us involved so Sat volunteered to take strike.  His first ball was a dot ball – he was just warming up (his words, not mine).  The second ball he somehow managed to score a 4 and at this point he decided to quit while he was ahead.  Thus ending his village cricket playing career.   Jag, meanwhile, had taken another 100 photos to add to his ever-growing collection.  Action shot below!

Cricket

Cricket

We haven’t mentioned Simba very much in our blog so far.  He’s the farm’s guard-dog/pet/pest/source of amusement.  He’s a few months old and is of no particular breed (in Wigan we’d call him a Heinz 57 i.e. a blend of 57 different breeds).  His default position is to roll onto his back and expect his belly to be tickled.  If that doesn’t get the desired result, he’s likely to run off with your sandal or even your mobile phone.  This is a picture of him looking particularly cute, as if butter wouldn’t melt. We know otherwise but thought a picture of him would please Sukhmuni.

Simba

Simba

So there you have it, you’re upto date with everything that’s gone on in the last couple of weeks. I must admit, it’s really good to have Jag around. For one, he’s company for us; two, he’s a much more positive person than mum and dad which helps with the overall atmosphere and three, he can be a tourist for the week visiting places and mum and dad are more than happy to go with him and we have some peace and quiet!  He even came for a run with us this morning wearing the new trainers we’d bought for dad that he hasn’t even worn yet! They’ve all gone to Garhshankar and Nawansher (about an hour’s drive away) today to do some shopping which is why I’ve had the time to write this epic of a posting.

So I’ll love you and leave you for now. We’ll be off to Ladakh towards the end of June so we’ll do another posting before we go.

Had a few technical problems since I wrote most of this, so congratulations to Simren (Sat & Jag’s niece) for passing her driving test (first time) yesterday!!!  Anyone living in the Slough area might want to make sure they have fully comp insurance cover!! ;-) (That was Uncle Sat, not me!)

Oh yeah, and for the rest of the Sandhu/Phagura clan – we had lunch at Havelli today. Yum!

Adios amigos!

Jo

xxx


In Search Of The Rain

This is just a quick posting to let you all know that we’re on the road for the next week and a half, hence may not have internet access…just in case you email or comment (not that many of you seem to bother…boo hoo :( )

We’re off to Goa for a week.  The flight is on Thursday but we’re having to go to Chandigarh a few days early because the whole of the Punjab will be locked down when they bring the body of the murdered Guru to India, from Austria, on Wednesday.  We’re not looking forward to an extra air-conditionless night in Chandigarh!!!  The original curfew is over by the way…we’re hoping to get our travelling in before it kick-starts again!

We (especially me) are looking forward to Goa – assuming we get there (the monsoon may have come early this year and that usually spells travel chaos).  Steak and chips…there’s a portion in Goa with my name on it…and if I’m really lucky there will be a Jack Daniels to wash it down with.  Am I building myself up for a major let down?  Probably, but there is always hope!

After Goa my brother, Jag, arrives (which incidentally means another extra night or two in Chandigarh without the air-con) but he’s worth it….I think!   It’ll be nice to have a new face around…especially since he’s bringing lots of “goodies” for us.

That’s about it….I did say it would be short and sweet.

See you all when we see you!

Sat & Jo


Curfew’s in – school’s out!

It’s almost a week since Sat’s last posting about the riots going on here and the impact is still being felt out here in the sticks.  The violence in the Punjab which kicked off after the murder of the guru in Vienna resulted in armed forces being deployed to major cities, particularly Jalandhar which was at the heart of the fighting, and a strict curfew being imposed all over the State.  So although we have seen nothing of the conflict (fortunately), we have been on the receiving end of the curfew.  

First off, the schools have been closed all week.  I was halfway through a written alphabet test for Class 6 last Monday morning when one of the other teachers came in and suddenly announced that it was a holiday.  There followed whoops of joy and test papers being flung at me from all directions as they all piled out of the classroom as quickly as they could.  I was then told by Rajwant (the headmistress) that they’d received the directive that all schools in the Punjab would be closed that day as hostilities were mounting and clearly the safety of school-children was a priority. As it was only around 7.45am (school was now starting at 7am due to the hot weather) it was still relatively cool so I decided to walk home. Rajwant was insistent that I have some company en route and instructed some of the older girls who lived near us to walk with me. Many of the younger kids decided they’d tag along too so I felt like the Pied Piper of Kukran as we all trooped through the small villages on the way back.  Rather than walk along in silence, I decide we’d do a verbal alphabet test (after all, I had done the preparation)…”A is for?” I would ask, and there’d be a multitude of different answers (admittedly “a” was always “apple”) but it passed the time and everyone joined in.  Our numbers grew smaller as we passed the various houses and kids would go home shouting “bye, bye!” and waving as they went.  

And sadly, that’s the last time I saw the kids. School has been closed since Monday and today (Saturday) would have been the last day of term.  I’d planned to get loads of fruit for every child and ice-lollies as treats but that will all have to wait now until the holidays are over in July.  Not quite the end I was hoping for but it does mean I’ll be back there again in the near future.  

Mind you, speaking of fruit and ice-lollies, we would have struggled to give the kids these treats even if school had reopened this week.  This is due to the curfew.  We’ve only been allowed to go out for a couple of hours each day – usually between 2pm and 4pm – which isn’t very long at all.  If you consider this applies to everyone, then the supplies in the shops have been depleted and stocks have been completely used up.  People here rely on buying their fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables and dairy stuff almost every day and since the curfew hours are so limited, very few supplies are getting into the Punjab or even being transported within the state.  (I guess if you had to compare it with anything we’d experience in the West, you’d have to imagine people stocking up on food and booze at the supermarkets at Christmas time when you’d think the shops would be shut for weeks instead of just one day!!!!! )  Don’t misunderstand me, we haven’t starved or gone without, we’re lucky in that we always have stocks of the staple foods such as flour, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and things like salad ingredients (green peppers, cucumbers) were still available and we’ve eeked out the fruit to last us.  Masala flavour crisps and dry biscuits are still in plentiful supply though!

So, no school, limited food and we can’t go out of the house.  We’ve suffered a bit from cabin fever this week – I think that might be more a mental thing since we’d hardly be jetting off all over the place even if we could go out.  It’s more the fact we’d had a good routine going between us and we all had a purpose and then the routine  completely changed.  I’ve found it hard to fill my time and been bored, which has frustrated Sat as he’s happy just to get on with writing more chapters on his book (he’s on Chapter 10 already).  He’s trying to upload a few chapters to Harper Collins’ new website, http://www.authonomy.com, but the site hasn’t been working properly (it’s a beta…a new concept by Harper Collins to get budding authors to submit their work for the general public to read).  We’ll let you know when it’s successfully uploaded as many of you have asked about it.

The carpenters have finally finished the kitchen cupboards – if we’d got them to stay and fix everything that needed fixing then they might as well have moved in with us (!) so instead we kept about 9000 rupees back (in case they fall off the wall or something) and they’ll get the money owed once we’re happy and using them.  Sat and I spent Wednesday sanding, wood preserving and then putting a first coat of varnish on them.  Labour is cheap here and if we’d been paid a day’s wage for what we’d done, we’d have earned the princely sum of 120 rupees each (that’s less than £2 each!!!). Having said that, what we managed in a day, would have taken workers here at least a week – there’s no rush to do anything round here.   Also I don’t think Sat could have handled the stress of directing workers to varnish the cupboards without inflicting GBH on someone for crimes against woodwork!  

We’d earmarked Thursday for a second coat of varnish and filling the cupboards on Friday – fat chance!  The heat has conspired against us and the varnish is still a bit tacky even today, Saturday.  We’ll be lucky to have them finished and in use before we head off to Goa on Wednesday.  

So yesterday I decided to bake bread.  The stuff you get here is laughable (for those of you who remember Nimble think square instead of round slices and half the size per slice!) – you need at least 6 slices of it to know you’ve eaten anything. We’d spent time driving around a couple of weeks ago in a quest to find yeast and amazingly we managed to find some.  For those of you desperate to know the results, I made one loaf and 4 rolls, one of which we scoffed smothered in marg as soon as they came out of the oven – yum yum (that’s for you, George!).  We’ve had most of the rest at breakfast today, toasted and with either eggs (Sat and dad) or bright orange marmalade (me) and a cup of tea/coffee.  A little touch of home goes a long way! :-)

Oh, and even though there’s been no school I’ve been able to work on my real passion –  I’ve been doing some coaching.  I had the last teleclass of my recent coaching course on Wednesday evening.  I’ve enjoyed these as the rest of the guys on the course have become good friends of mine and we all get along really well.  This last course, again with The Forton Group, was the Developing Course in Leadership Coaching.  I’d definitely recommend them to anyone looking to get into Leadership Coaching – I’ll do a separate posting on this later on.    

I’ve also started coaching another client this week who I speak to over Skype which just goes to show that the miles don’t matter.  Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be focusing more on expanding the coaching arm of Can Do Sandhu Ltd and I’m already exploring several new avenues.  In the meantime,  coaching is for anyone so if you’re interested in getting the most out of life, reaching new goals and not settling in the here and now…what are you waiting for? Get in touch!

Builders arrived yesterday to drop off supplies for the pool area renovations that Sat’s planning.  Work has started today and involves lots of bricks and cement which will ultimately end up as the extended poolside area (there’s currently nowhere to sit by the pool, you’re either in it, or out of it, if you see what I mean?!)  I’ll let Sat go into the actual detail of it some other time. 

Speaking of supplies, I sent my sister-in-law, Parm, a shopping list of stuff which will make our life here a bit more comfortable.  The goodies will be given to my brother-in-law, Jag, to bring as he’s coming out in a couple of weeks’ time.  It’s an assorted list ranging from hair conditioner and a pumice stone to cotton sheets and cling-film!!!  Not all to be used at the same time, I hasten to add!!!  ( When proof-reading this posting, Sat said that since we’ve been married over 7 years now , we don’t do that kind of stuff anymore! ;-)  

Think that just about wraps up this week’s events.  I’ll leave you with Sat’s phrase of the day, which I guarantee will bring a smile to your face, even though it’s cheesy…”I’m so happy, I can’t stop smiling!”  I dare you to try and say it with a straight face!!!  Although a deep and meaningful this morning (with his mum) would challenge anybody to maintain a happy disposition.

I’ll love you and leave you and hope life’s treating you as well as it is us!

Love 

Jo

x


Punjab is burning…who can tell?

Large parts of the Punjab (the state we are currently living in) are apparently having large riots.  No-doubt you Brits will have seen something about it on the BBC news or something…no doubt our American audience still doesn’t know what’s going on outside their borders.  (Joke!  Sorry I couldn’t resist).

Anyway apparently some members of the Sikh community cannot stand the fact that a preacher from a low caste Sikh sect is calling himself a Guru.  Someone should point out to these idiots that in Sikhism there is supposed to be no caste system.  Anyway the word Guru means teacher.  As always, idiots will only take the parts of their religion that suit their lack of intelligence.  Someone give them an education…please!  Ah, can’t do that either as they closed the schools down as well today!

Sorry I’m in a grumpy mood – got a bit of a headache.  We’ve had large power cuts recently hence the tube-well that we rely on for our water has been out of action.  I’ve therefore maybe not been drinking as much water as I should be – even though we can always buy water from somewhere.  My father warned me that the power supply would become erratic after the elections (when those in charge no longer worried about lost votes) – guess he was right.

We’ve also had carpenters round for the last few days.  It’s a simple job – if I had the supply of wood then I could have done the job myself in one day.  Anyway – to say they have to be micro-managed is a bit of an understatement.  They thought they had finished putting up kitchen cabinets they had made until my father tugged at one gently.  It came off the wall with ease.  They’re now trying again!  I wish I could say something positive about them but I’m struggling….erm, they have nice teeth (actually they don’t – like I said I am struggling).

Anyway – this was just a quick note to say the Punjab violence isn’t affecting us here in the village – the bus service and train service have pretty much shut down and a lot of the key roads within the state are closed.  But in this heat we have no intention of going anywhere.

 

Laters,  Sat


Corruption

 

Jo told me I should do a posting about incompetence, corruption and ineptitude.  I totally agree but each topic takes quite some time, so today I’ll focus on corruption since it’s pretty relevant because of the recent elections.

Well the elections are over in India, but will they make any difference?  Maybe now that the Congress Party has a large enough mandate that it doesn’t have to bribe the Left to build it’s majority things may get done in this country.  One can but hope…but I’m not optimistic.

Although the politicians in the UK are currently mired in allegations of exploiting the expenses system, they are still held accountable and (hopefully) resignations will ensue, even though I would like the lot of them to be thrown in jail.  The situation is India is on a whole new level.

What hope is there when all the political parties are mired in corruption.  It is the achilles heel of this country. Corruption runs deep, like a cancer forever eating at the fabric of this society.

At the pinnacle of this corruption, today, is Italian born Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress Party (which does not, thankfully, mean she becomes the prime minister of India).  In my opinion, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been a thorn in the side of India for the past fifty years.  Sonia Gandhi is the wife of the late Rajiv Gandhi, who was prime minister of India before he was assassinated.  Rajiv Gandhi was the son of Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India for fifteen years between 1966 and 1984 before she too was assassinated. Indira Gandhi was the daughter of the first prime minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.  So you see, until the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the Nehru-Gandhi family have ruled India since it’s liberation from British Rule.  The only break in this rule came when Indira Gandhi had a short stint on the sidelines after being found guilty of corruption – what a great role-model!  In her defence, Indira Gandhi said “There is a lot of talk about our government not being clean, but from our experience the situation was very much worse when [opposition] parties were forming governments”, i.e. yeah we’re corrupt but the other side is worse!!!!

So, you see, although India has been a democracy for over fifty years, it has in reality, due to the ill-placed love/worship of the Nehru-Gandhi family, been led by a self-styled monarchy. Maybe the uneducated masses in India do not realise that Indira Gandhi had no connection to the great Mahatma Gandhi…if only, then she may have learned to put country before personal gain.  Or maybe it’s because Indira is just so similar to India…you may laugh, but that’s the kind of thinking that goes on around here!

So, what grounds do I have to say that corruption still continues in the Gandhi name?  Well, India’s politicians have finally decided that they all have to declare their full wealth.  Sonia Gandhi, the main beneficiary of the Nehru-Gandhi estate recently declared her wealth to be a mere 9.5 million rupees (£130,000).  Indira Gandhi passed on most of her wealth to Sonia Gandhi, after she threw out her other daughter-in-law Menaka Gandhi.  So how is it that the poorer Menaka Gandhi (a politician in the other main party, BJP) recently declared her wealth at about 67 million rupees?  Why would Sonia Gandhi declare her wealth to be so little?  Tax – the more you declare, the greater exposure you have to the tax man.  

As you can gather I have no respect for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, and the sooner they leave Indian politics the better.  In terms of actual policies, so much of what is wrong with this country is down to the protectionism that Indira Gandhi championed – people here don’t believe in doing something as well as possible.  Why should they – they haven’t been brought up with the concept of competition.  Her father, Nehru, was the man in charge when so many of today’s border problems, with Pakistan and China, were created.  He allowed China to grab large chucks of Indian land which even today lead to mistrust between two nations.  Two nations that should be working together and building transport links between each other.  But when neither side can agree on where the border actually is then I don’t see how you can do trade across it!

Unfortunately, Sonia Gandhi’s son, Rahul, is now also part of the political mainstream, and many think he will be a future Indian prime-minister!

With leaders like this what motivation is there for the working masses to behave any differently.  Recently I was told of a police officer in the region who only works for two months a year but draws a full years salary.  Why does he only work for two months?  Because he works as a lorry driver in the USA.  How does he manage to get a full years wage?  Because his boss, another police officer, signs him in in his absence.  Why?  For half share in the ten months wages.

Even the army is at it.  Recently some soldiers were seen selling diesel on the main road.  This wasn’t some new government scheme, this was simple profiteering by greedy soldiers.

Corruption it seems is a way of life here, nothing gets done without it.  But, one must remember, that ignoring the technological advances (since most of these have been imported from abroad), this country is, I believe a couple of hundred years behind the West.  For example, the political system is new, effectively only being a proper democracy since 1991.  I’m sure when Cromwell guided England towards democracy four hundred years ago it was probably rife with corruption, and I’m pretty sure politicians weren’t picked on ability but rather on their family background.  Also if you look at other aspects, such as agriculture which still revolves around small farmsteads as was the case in England many years ago, then you begin to see that the core of the country is still evolving and has a long way to go.  It’s easy to see air-conditioning, television and Mercedes-Benz and think that the country is in the same era as England, but look deeper and you see that it is not really the case.

If this country can continue to evolve before it destroys itself from conflict and pollution then maybe it can emerge as the great nation that Mahatma Gandhi believed it could be.

 

I live in hope,

Sat ;)


One month on

Well, we’ve been here a month already and if I’m honest,  this last week, it’s felt like longer but that’s mainly due to the fact I’ve been unwell the past few days and have had too much time to feel sorry for myself! 

Basically we’d gone for a longer run on Sunday morning  as usual but we’d left just a little later than usual so naturally it was hotter.  I’d felt fine during and after the run and it was only by early evening that I started to feel under the weather.  I was aching all over, shivery and getting bad stomach cramps.  Didn’t take much to figure out I was suffering from sunstroke.  I clearly hadn’t drunk enough water following the run. I won’t go into any further detail of my suffering since Sunday, suffice to say I’ve lost a few pounds in weight over the last few days!  Fortunately I’m beginning to feel much better – still quite weak, resting a lot and not eating much other than dry toast for the time being but I’m being well looked after by Sat and mum and dad are also fussing over me (I think they were quite worried and sent out for some drugs this morning but luckily I haven’t needed them – besides, they don’t arrive in the same pristine fashion you get in Boots with your name printed on and the required dosage clearly stated. No, these arrive either in a little clear plastic bag with “emergency” written on it, or they are a cut out square of a blister pack with part of the name of the drug visible  if you’re lucky!). 

Needless to say, I haven’t been up to going to school this week which is a shame but can’t be helped.  Last week was great as I’d found loads of great flashcards on the British Council website.  They covered all the topics I’d gone through with the kids like telling the time, parts of the body, fruit & veg, etc, so I printed them off and took some cellotape with a view to sticking them on the walls. Well the kids loved them! And once they realised they were going on the walls, you can imagine how many little helpers I had all screaming at me to choose them to stick the next one on the bit of the wall next to their desk! Noisy chaos in both Class 6 and Class 7 ensued and drew attention from other teachers who wondered what the noise was all about!  The flashcards have certainly brightened up the classrooms as the walls are bare apart from flaking paint and a few religious pictures.  Let’s see how long they last…

In any case, today is another holiday as it’s voting day for this part of the Punjab and the schools are used as polling centres.  We went along with mum and dad this morning while they cast their vote.  They don’t expect the party they voted for to win outright, they reckon there’ll need to be a coalition government but at least they’ve used their vote.  I think there’s a lot of apathy around this election.  India  needs its own version of Obama to really shake things up but that’s not going to happen for a while yet. 

On a completely different topic but still US related, I was checking out the TransRockies Run website yesterday and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw who was in one of the teams this year…Dean Karnazas…the God of ultra-distance running and king of  fundraising!!!  Why couldn’t we be doing this year’s run, or better still, why didn’t he do it last year when we were there????  Hopefully he’ll enjoy it as much as we did and decide to do it again next year when Sat and Satpal run.  I’m still trying to persuade my sister, Gill, to run with me but she’s a bit preoccupied with planning her wedding to commit just yet.

And on another tangent altogether, I’ve been watching more TV over the past couple of days since I’ve been house-bound and the English-speaking channels like HBO always have subtitles in English as well. Anyway, the really funny thing is that we were watching “Something’s Gotta Give” with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton yesterday afternoon and each time the actor/actress said the word “sex”  or “sexy” or anything starting with the letters “sex” then the subtitles missed out that word completely – and hence lost the sense of the sentence.  We just found it bizarre, for a country which devised the Karma Sutra, they sure are prudish when it comes to the spoken word! 

Think that’s about it for now.  I’m hoping to be fit enough to go back to school tomorrow.  There’s only a couple of weeks left until the end of term.  I’ve been planning what to do for an end of year treat for the kids.  It’s clear most of them are from very poor families so anything we do will probably be much appreciated.  Figured lots of fresh fruit like bananas and mangos will go down well along with ice lollies.  We’ll also take some photos of each of the classes and post them here so you can see for yourselves the little darlings I’ve been teaching!!!

Time for one last laugh…my sister-in-law, Parm, sent me to India with a box of Charbonnel & Walker pink champagne truffles as a treat (long story cut short – on a previous trip to India I had bought a bottle of Taittinger pink champagne at Duty Free in London which I’d carried faithfully throughout our trip and planned on us drinking it when we got to the mountain station of Shimla. In our haste to get off the train at Shimla and escape the eager clutches of the luggage porters, I managed to leave the champagne on the train and never saw it again. Gutted! So the truffles were a reminder but small enough for my rucksack and not likely to be left anywhere). We’d been here over 2 weeks before I even opened the box.  Inside were nestled 7 beautifully pink truffles, each in a little brown case.  We deliberated whether to share with mum and dad and decided that as there weren’t many we’d just keep them to ourselves.  So whenever mum and dad have gone out, we’ve had a truffle.  Then this morning I found the box in the bin…my first assumption was that mum and dad must’ve polished off the last 2 yesterday after we’d gone to bed.  But I’ve been here long enough to know better by now and decided to open the box. Sure enough, the last 2 were still there.  We reckon Dad thought the box was empty (it didn’t make a noise if you shook it) so binned it.  Needless to say, I hastily shoved them back in the chiller section of the fridge so they could recover!!  You might say this was just desserts for not sharing with them! Well, all I can say is that they were luvvlee – we polished off the last 2 just now (I must be feeling better!).  I know the chocaholics amongst you will understand! J

Lots of love

Jo  x


Good morning, Teacher!

As Sat mentioned in the last posting, I started teaching at the local village school on Tuesday. I’ve been there every day since then (it’s now Thursday) and think I have enough info to tell you about how life is in a rural Punjabi secondary school.

The school itself is called Government Secondary School Kukran and is located in the centre of the village. It has around 60 pupils ranging in age from 10/11 to around 16/17 and there seems to be an equal split between boys and girls.

The school week runs from Monday to Saturday (!!!) and their day starts with morning assembly at 8am. They march from the school building onto the field in front of the school in single file and stand in rows of about 8-10 pupils, boys on one side, girls on the other. The headmistress leads the assembly and asks the pupils to say prayers. This is followed by a brief rendition of the Indian national anthem.

The headmistress is definitely someone on my wavelength (probably one of the reasons why I’m there). She values healthy living, eating well, taking exercise and helping others to learn whilst still developing themselves. She’s a very determined woman. She needs to be as the conditions of the school coupled with the funding it gets leave a lot to be desired. Anyway, in her bid to get the kids physical strength enhanced she’s introduced some gentle stretching exercises. So after prayers and singing, the kids run through these whilst one pupil stands at the front beating a large drum which dictates the pace of the stretches. It’s quite fascinating. The odd pupil will get a clip behind the ear (usually a boy!) if they don’t follow the exercise pattern! Not sure they’d get away with that in the UK.

Stretching over, the daily newspaper is brought out and either the headmistress or one of the more senior pupils reads out some of the main news headlines of the day. Personally, I think this is a great idea as many don’t have access to news sources so it’s good to let them know what’s going on in the world.

So they’ve prayed, sung, stretched and had a news update. Time to hit the classroom. The beat of the drum gets them back into their respective classes – class 6 through to class 12 (I think!). At the moment I have responsibility for teaching classes 6, 7 & 8 but I was told today that the older kids are demanding my time too. Oh to be popular!

Anyway, classrooms are pretty small and vary in size from about a dozen to 20+ pupils. Their level of understanding seems quite basic but they are enthusiastic and very willing to learn although their shyness tends to hold them back from speaking aloud (although they’re very good at twittering amongst themselves if I happen to leave the room!). I know the older ones understand more than they let on. Classes start at 8.15 (ish) and each one lasts 40 minutes. Fortunately I’ve been given classes in the morning (when it’s a “little” cooler) so my timetable from Monday to Saturday is Class 6 at 8.15-8.55 (period 1), Class 7 (period 2) from 8.55-9.35 and Class 8 (period 3) from 9.35 to 10.15. Next week I have another class to add to this which is after lunch (lunch break/recess is 11.35-12.00) from 12.40-1.20 (period 7). I expect I’ll do some teaching to fill in the time between period 3 and 7!

Given Sandhu Farm is about 3 km away from school I have the privilege of being chauffeured to school either by Mum (that’s Sat’s mum but everyone calls her Mum) or Sat (as was the case today). I don’t much like driving in the UK but I have no intention of driving in India (see previous postings!)

Right, so what about the teaching? I hear you ask. Well, it’s been an experience so far and to my relief (and perhaps surprise) I’m loving it! The kids are receptive and keen to learn. The benefits of my being there are two-fold. They get a native English speaker to help them speak/understand/write better English, and in order to do that, I have to improve my Punjabi in order to say the little phrases which they don’t understand in English. Simple things like, “write it down”, “listen”, “does that make sense?”, “put your hand up if you know the answer”, “speak more slowly” (they like to race through the alphabet thinking it’s a speed speaking competition rather than a pronunciation exercise!). Each night I plagued the rest of the Sandhu clan for these phrases and scribble the phonetic sounds in my little notebook which I now guard with my life!

So everyone’s language skills are improving. I’ll admit it’s been a bit difficult to gauge the level they’re at but in all 3 classes today I did more or less the same thing – “a is for apple, b is for banana, etc, etc”. Gut instinct said this be a good place to start.

I’d spent my run this morning mentally preparing a list of words to correspond to each letter (just in case). But I was keen to continue a more “coachlike” approach to their learning and I was really chuffed that it paid off. Once each class got the gist of what I was trying to teach them, they all came up with their own version of “the list”. Admittedly, many of the words were the same as the ones I had written but it was the fact they understood and took the initiative themselves and it was fun for them and for me. Mission accomplished and each class left with a smile on their face. (I hope that’s because they enjoyed it rather than relief that it was over!) So….a satisfactory start to my teaching career!

There’s yet another bonus to teaching out here, holidays! Not only are there the standard Indian national holidays, but due to the diversity in religions, all Hindu, Sikh and Muslim holidays are also honoured. Monday this week was a holiday and so is tomorrow. Happy days! June is when the school is closed for the whole month as it’s too hot (although it was 40c in the shade today) and the ceiling fans in the school weren’t working yesterday and for some of this morning (they kicked in about 10 minutes before I left – bliss!). One of the joys of an erratic electricity supply. Dad tells me it gets worse as it gets hotter – and we’re experiencing this already.

So, there you have it. My first posting on our latest adventure. My main goal for taking this time out to travel was to use my coaching experience to support and develop other people and also develop myself through being more compassionate, patient and understanding. It’s early days but there’s definitely a tick in the box for life satisfaction at the moment and for now, that’s good enough for me. :-)

Love & hugs

Jo

x

 


Home sweet home

We’ve been in India for almost two weeks now and I’m happy to report that it’s beginning to feel like home. The first week was hard, mainly because of the heat but also because the environment that we now live in took some getting used to.

In terms of the heat, in the shade it’s getting up as high as 37C and in the sun it’s way up into the high 40s! The problem has been that although the evenings are much cooler (at the moment – this is only spring after all) the buildings here are made of bricks, cement and concrete, all of which absorb the heat during the day and release it at night; the stone floors feel like underfloor heating all the time. Hence the nights indoors do not get cooler than about 30C – a few days ago we were in the city of Chandigarh and I’m pretty sure it did not go below 38C while we tried to sleep. Even with two fans on and the windows wide open (sod the mosquitoes we were baking) it was just unbearable. Modern living had actually made summer living worse in India. They used to sleep outdoors when it was hot but nowadays people are beginning to sleep indoors (away from the insects) but without the benefit of the cooling night-time breeze.

That’s when we invested in a water cooler – which certainly helped, but then we went a step further and got air-conditioning installed in our bedroom at my parents place. The installation, done by a bunch of cowboys (or should that be Indians) was a farce, but now that it’s all working and sorted sleep is much more comfortable…I even feel too cold sometimes. :)

My parents have a place in Chandigarh which they hardly use, but it had decent furniture there, so we’ve moved it all to their place in the country (aka Sandhu Farm) which is what we now call home:

SandhuFarm

That moving of furniture was quite a good step mentally as it made us feel as we were physically moving to our new home. We’ve felt far more relaxed since. Maybe the new TV and satellite dish have helped (I think we get to see more Premiership games here than we did back in the UK – and only for £4 a month subscription!!). Oh and I forgot to say, the Xbox 360 works fine too…I played Halo 3 and Left 4 Dead with my brother Satpal (in the UK) last week.

Some interesting bits of wisdom I’ve learned while we’ve been here (aka old wives tales):

  1. Do not drink water after eating melon…it gives you a bad belly!
  2. Do not drink water after eating cashew nuts….it gives you a cough!
  3. Do not walk barefoot in the heat…it gives you Typhoid!!!

I’ve done all three and my belly is fine, I don’t have a cough and I’ve had jabs for Typhoid!!!

There’s a bit of a scary beehive about 50 feet from the house, but the bees seem pretty well behaved, and as the weather gets even hotter they will move on…soon, hopefully.

Buzz Off

At the moment it’s harvest time. There’s some sort of infection affecting a lot of the wheat crop around here which my parents crop seems to have been spared. They reckon the wheat harvest will be about 35% reduced this year but it doesn’t make any difference to the price my father will get for the crop because the price is fixed by central government. The harvesting is still predominantly done manually, roaming workers move from farm to farm and work seven days a week from dawn to dusk, earning 1500 rupees (£20) for every acre harvested. Then a chap with a machine comes along and separates the wheat from the chaff, earning about 12% of the crop. All this in a country where the price of everything is shooting up.

Harvest 1

Worker 2

Harvest 2

Harvest 3

Harvest 3

Went to see the final of a village football tournament yesterday. It was enjoyable – I wished I was playing. The standard on display from the 16-18yr olds wasn’t bad – but they just seemed to lack the sense to calm down a bit and pass and play, rather than running around like blue-arse-flies.

 

Before The Carnage

Before The Carnage

Carnage

Carnage

Red Stiker In Blue Team!

Red Striker In Blue Team!

The white team won, 2-0, and deservedly so.  The blue team kept playing it long to their striker (in red!) who thought he was Maradonna but played like Madonna.  The winner’s trophy wasn’t given to the captain of the team, instead it was awards to some fat middle aged men that accompanied the winning team (aka their managers/coaches). Even my parents, who had funded the tournament, were awarded a trophy. That sort of thing drives me mad. My parents said that they get a trophy because people want to show them respect and gratitude for funding the event. I pointed out that there are 1000s of unpaid volunteers back home (UK) that give up their time to coach or organise sports events for kids and they do not expect or receive anything in return. A simple thank you should be enough. To give them credit my parents agreed that in future they will ask that they not receive a trophy (maybe they are running out of space for their “respect” trophies) and for winning trophies to be awarded to the team captains.

 

We’re finally getting into a routine. We’re running in the morning, although it’s already above 30C at 7:00am so I think we’ll have to get up even earlier from now on. I guess we’re in training for trekking to Everest Base Camp later in the year but it’s just nice to get running. The locals stare but we do not encounter many when we run. Yesterday it was a motorbike and an ox drawn cart whereas today there was no-one else on the road (they don’t do pavements) and only a couple of people working the fields, not forgetting the herd of wild cows.

Then after the run we have fresh fruit (mangoes, melon, grapes, bananas and apples) for breakfast. Lunch and dinner are Indian food…which is fresh and delicious. I have to stop myself from eating too much as I am trying to lose the weight I’ve gained over Xmas and post-redundancy! I’m spending most of my time working on my book – I’ll post an extract in a future posting to give you a better picture. Jo’s time will be spent teaching at the local village school – where she is currently (it’s her first day!!!). I know she’ll do well and will get a great buzz out of teaching the kids – but she was a little nervous today.

Generally time passes very quickly here, maybe the midday siestas help. We’re hoping that some members of my family come and visit soon as we do miss them, but we’re set-up on Skype and have probably seen them more online that we would have done in person had we still been in London.

I’ve got Jo, my toys and awesome food….and I’m loving the hot weather too. Not sure we’ll ever leave this place.

Do I miss anything? Hell yes….a simple cheese sandwich. Fresh wholemeal bread and mature cheddar….nice and simple. Wonder if Waitrose/Ocado will deliver here!!!

 

Anyway – must go, my belly is rumbling.

Laters,

Sat.


“What have we done?”

“What have we done?”

Those were Jo’s first words last night as we settled into our new home for the next few months.

We left the UK on Tuesday evening after a frantic few days sorting out last minute paperwork, our house rental and cramming in as many culinary delights as we could stomach (excuse the pun!), especially over bank holiday weekend at Satpal and Parm’s home (my brother and his wife).

After arriving in Delhi and getting through customs without any questions from curious officials (we did have rather a lot of techie gear….Xbox 360, laptop, computer bits and audio and video gear!!!) we had a rather long drive to my parents place. It took 10 hours (of which two hours were for breaks). It’s not that my parents live hundred of miles from the nearest airport, it’s because Indian roads are shit! According to a road-sign we saw leaving Delhi, driving in India is as easy as ABC….Always Be Careful – personally I think that’s an understatement.

It took at least two hours to get out of New Delhi…I could write about the reasons but there are so many reasons that the roads in India are gridlocked but I’ll summarise….the drivers here are ALL idiots, no exceptions….yes really. Little things like driving the wrong way on a dual carriageway, or joining a major road without looking to see if it’s clear, or driving without lights at night (made worse by the fact that everyone driving the other way, whether they are on the correct side or not, drive with their full beam on…..sorry, I know I said I wouldn’t go into it but I think my friends (especially those sheltered Americans) needed a clearer definition of what I mean when I say the drivers here are idiots.

We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant, which was okay (by Indian standards, i.e. dire by Western standards) but the food was good. We didn’t treat ourselves to parathas but instead went for plain naan bread – did I mention we’re on a diet (especially after the last few weeks of binge eating)?? If you ignore the flies, the scruffy décor, the dirty floors, the dim lighting and the not very effective air-conditioning then the place was nice enough. The 2nd place we stopped at was worse – the kebab dad and I decided to share was like a sponge, in texture and taste (with a few chillies thrown in to hide the taste!). Guess we should have known when we saw their toilets were labelled “He” and “She”!! Although Jo did rate them a 6 out of 10 which is pretty good. At least they were spelt correctly; one day when Indians discover dictionaries they will be so embarrassed at having to change all their “Lay Bye” road signs to “Lay By”!!!

Going back to the road users, the only sensible one we encountered was an elephant – it was keeping in a straight line and wasn’t beeping a horn!

People say that you either love or hate India – personally I think everyone loves AND hates India…the question is whether you find more to love than hate! All the bits I hate tend to be between Delhi and my parents farm….so it’s never an enjoyable drive.

This morning, however, after a good night’s rest, things look much rosier. We woke up leisurely and enjoyed a fruit salad for breakfast and then I spent most of the day getting wireless internet working at my parent’s farm. Then we made sure Skype was fully set-up and working – Jo had a couple of coaching training sessions. We’re now avid fans of Skype now what we’ve discovered new and wonderful features it supports, for example we now have a UK phone number for Jo’s Skype account and we can call landlines in the UK for free using Skype. Not sure we’ll ever revert to using a normal landline ever again!

We’ve had a nice relaxing day…it’s gone very quickly to be honest, which I think is a good sign. Probably do a spot of running early tomorrow (before it gets too hot) and fill up the pool for a spot of chilling (for when it gets too hot). It’s about 33C maximum during the day and it’s only going to get hotter. Thankfully last night wasn’t too bad, we had the fan on full blast and the windows open so that we actually felt cold in the middle of the night – we’ll enjoy it while it lasts! There was apparently a big thunder storm last night, I wouldn’t know because I slept right through it!!

I’ll post some photos soon – once I’ve got the important stuff (like the Xbox) all sorted ;)


It’s The Final Countdown…

It’s been a hectic (and knackering) few weeks.  We’ve spent pretty much every waking hour packing our “stuff” into boxes.  It’s taken longer than our previous moves (we’ve moved five times in the past five years!!!!) because I’ve tried to plan each and every box.  Besides all our other paraphenalia we’ve also got about thirty to forty boxes (all different shapes and sizes) and we’ve got an inventory of what’s in each box….mad I know, but hopefully we’ll benefit in the next year or two when we’re back looking for that all important book or pair of shoes!!!

It has been pretty exhausting moving those boxes into the garage (thankfully dad borrowed the car hence giving us space to manoeuvre).  Yesterday we finally moved the whole lot into storage with the help of the Sandhu clan.  My dad was a star – hiring and driving a massive van and helping load it….did I mention he’s 68 years old?

So here we are with just over a week left in the UK.   I’m looking forward to doing the final packing (of stuff to take to India)…important stuff first, i.e. the xbox, camera and laptop computer…then maybe some space left over for clothes and, if I’m really lucky, some toiletries.  I’ve also made sure I’ve packed lots of DVDs to take; The Wire (season 4 and 5), Battlestar Galactica (seasons 1-4), Damages (season 1) and a few other choice selections….yeah I know I’ve not really embraced the “get away from it all” approach to going to India!!!

The rest of the week consists of final DIY jobs, selling the car, sorting out paperwork (i.e. making sure the tax man doesn’t come after me in India) and eating out at restaurants that we’re going to miss….done the Dicken’s Inn for Pizza and strangely the Mala for Indian (as if we’re not going to get enough Indian food in India!!) and Jo’s taking me out to Gaucho’s for a nice Argentinian steak tomorrow!!  Think the diet may have to start when we get to India.

Basically we’re finally beginning to relax and look forward to our escape, but I don’t think it will really sink in until after a week or so at my parent’s place in India.  It will be then that it will dawn on us that we’re not there on holiday for the usual week or two.

We’ll probably do one more posting before we head off…so watch this space!!! ;)