Sunday, 28 October 2012

My Week in Tiruvannamalai

It's Sunday evening in India, and I am beginning to get ready for my 5 a.m. trip back to Chennai. It's been a week with two days off for holidays so I was able to get away with only a three day work week. I could definitely get used to working only three days a week. My husband and I spent time hiking, checking out the streams and waterfalls around Mt. Arunachala and getting caught up on the US elections via the Internet. We are both pretty passionate about politics and enjoy following the polls no matter how up and down they seem to be this election. We are following the major storm expected to slam into the East Coast of the US and keeping an eye on a cyclone headed towards Chennai mid-week. The last major cyclone here was last December 2011. We lost power for nearly 10 days and had sporadic Internet access. Since we are even more rural than Tiruvannamalai town (our home is about 5 km from the town center), we were some of the last houses to get back on the grid. It's been very windy here today, which is not very common, so the severe weather seems to be headed our way. I have once again slipped into rural India mode and need to gear up for the hustle and bustle of Chennai, with a potential week of floods awaiting me.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Navaratri 2012

This week my office in Chennai was closed for two days in observance of Navaratri. According to Sharell Cook who writes for About.com on India Travel, "Navaratri is a nine night festival that honors the Mother Goddess in all her manifestations, including Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. It's a festival full of worship and dance and culminates with Dussehra, the victory of good over evil, on the tenth day."

It was nice to have the two days off during the week. My husband, David, and I took the time to wander outside and see what four days of rain had done for the streams and waterfalls on nearby Mt. Arunachala. The vegetation was lush and we encountered monkeys, stream and waterfalls yesterday that emerge when the runoff from the mountain reaches a certain level. The baby monkey we ran across was stuffing it mouth full of leaves seeming to enjoy the greenery that had sprouted with the steady rains of the past week.

I get used to the pace of rural India and am trying to focus on our garden and my newly planted sunflowers for the next few days while I am in Tiru. It's such a different energy in Chennai and the noise and chaos seem never ending some days. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to work from home this week and am planning to maneuver for more time here as my work permits.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Rainy Days in Chennai

It has been raining for the past two days in Tamil Nadu, at least in the areas I have been in. I left Chennai yesterday afternoon. It was Friday and time for my weekly commute to Tiruvannamalai. The streets were flooding in Chennai due to the heavy rain the previous night. Municipal workers with long sticks were poking around in the gutters to clear away the debris in the drains to unplug the muddy swill of runoff water that was a foot deep in some areas of the city. It was one day that I was glad to be traveling by taxi and not on the city bus in Chennai.

My work colleagues straggled in to the office with their tales of long commutes due to the flooded streets; it had taken my boss over two hours to reach the office and it was six miles from his house. Another friend had driven her moped from her flat about three miles away and was drenched from the rain and the splash back from other vehicles. Not a good day for commuters in Chennai.

After work, the four hour trip to Tiru was harrowing as usual, and this time I was forced to face my lifelong fear of hydroplaning; it was not one of the more relaxing trips home. I asked my driver more than once, "Tires are good, yes?" as we sped along the national highway towards Tiru.

Anyway, I made it back safely once again and have spent a lazy day catching up on the world news via the Internet; I even learned some new words and phrases like 'binders full of women' and 'Romnesia'. God bless American politics.

Tonight we plan to watch the finale of the 'Great British Bake Off' (I'm pretty sure that has not made it to the US yet) and I have made some homemade brownies in celebration. God knows what they will taste like since the power has gone off and on since I put them in the oven. They smell like brownies and look like brownies so I am hoping for the best...

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

India ATM Fun and Games

So, I have not yet described what it feels like to be in an ATM in India (or anywhere for that matter) and have the power go off. No electricity. No money. No return of the debit card in the machine. Nothing, nada. You simply find yourself standing in a hot ATM vestibule thinking what just happened here?

I almost felt like I was in an episode of 'Punked" or 'Candid Camera'. Insert debit card, type in PIN and wait hopefully for money to emerge. Well, picture the card going into the ATM machine, punching in the PIN, the machine just starting to count out the money...AND THE POWER GOES OFF. I felt like I was in a sitcom. Really? No card? No money? The only record of my transaction is in a text message saying that $200 dollars had just been deducted from my account... when it hadn't.

After one solid panic filled hour, I was told to go to the main branch of my bank, which ended up being closed for an additional three days due to bank holidays. I did miraculously get my money back, but it was not the most relaxing 3 days I have ever experienced in Mother India.

I'm more than sure than another adventure is forthcoming...

Monday, 1 October 2012

Happy Gandhi Jayanti!

Today is a national holiday (Gandhi's birthday) and I am happily sitting on our front veranda in Tiruvannamalai writing this entry. We have had some good steady rains over the weekend so the summer monsoons finished with our area of Tamil Nadu coming out ahead in terms of rainfall. Now that we are in October, it is the start of the winter monsoons, which will stretch till about mid-December.

The lovely thing about having a holiday today is that we are just starting our garden and having the time to putter around planting and weeding is a treat. I worked from home yesterday and put in about 10 hours, so I feel entitled to enjoy my day off. I will remain in Tiru for the entire week; my boss has agreed that any week that has a holiday, I can work that whole week from Tiru. That works out to about 10 weeks per year. Not too shabby.

I did not have the dreaded Monday morning commute to Chennai yesterday, which was the first time I have not dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 am on a Monday in weeks. Last week commuting into the city, I had a somewhat harrowing time. My driver fell asleep about 2 hours into the 4 hour drive and we narrowly missed hitting an on coming truck. If I hadn't screamed, I fear you may not be reading this blog entry. So, the less I have to commute on that busy road each week, the better. Besides, I like getting into the rhythm of the week with David. Now that we are married, I feel as if my place is at home in the serenity of our garden and the views of Arunachala.