Wednesday 28 October 2009


This is a short and sweet post. I just received email notification that I have been given my visa. So it is all systems go for India.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Prospective tenants

Great news - it looks like I have prospective tenants for my house. Yipeee! They have cleared their credit, landlord and personal reference checks and should be signing a tenancy agreement through my lettings agents next week. And moreover they want to sign up for the whole two years! This is quite a relief actually as it means that the house will not be empty, that if something goes wrong the agents can sort it out and all my bills are covered. As a consequence, I have just spent the past two hours reading the fine detail of the tenancy agreement, listing up all the insurance specific thiings to be added for the thatch roof insurance cover, and listing all the suppliers and people I use to do various jobs around the place, service boilers, sweep chimneys, service Rayburn, deliver logs etc etc so that the Agent has all this detail to hand for when things are due and who to contact. Also making a folder of operating instructions documents for each of the appliances to be left in the house.  Phew! Another things ticked of my preparations list. Now I think I deserve some time with a nice cup of tea and a good book, some easy reading I think.

Friday 16 October 2009

shubh diwali!

Diwali ( or Deepaavali) is one of the many festivals celebrated in India. It is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. Its timing varies with the Hindi lunar calendar but in 2009 it falls now on 17th October. Coincidently the day I have invited some friends round prior to me leaving the UK.

So what is Diwali all about? It literally means a 'rows of lighted lamps' and is commonly called the Festival of Lights in English. It is celebrated worldwide, wherever there are large Indian expat communities, eg in the UK in Leicester and Southall, London. As I look forward to it next year in India, I find out that it is a huge celebration lasting five days - bring it on!  Houses are lit with hand-painted clay lamps (diwas), colourful rangoli drawings, and henna. It is a time when businesses pay off all debts, new clothing is purchased, gifts are exchanged, and food is celebrated, particularly dried fruit, nuts and in particular sweets - Indians it seems have sweet tooths to rival anyone's. Hilary tells me that in Orissa houses are blessed at this time.

Tradition has it that it was the time when Lord Rama returned after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demons and the demon king, Ravana. People light up their houses to celebrate his victory and to welcome him back. So it signifies the victory of good over evil and the banishment of darkness. Pretty good stuff in my book even today. So let's hope we can rid the world of a few more evils in the coming here.

"The night is black
Kindle the lamp of love
With thy life and devotion"
by Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday 15 October 2009

So good they named it twice!

Yes, we all know the song "New York, New York". Then last year I visited Puka Puka, a beautiful small coral atoll in the Northen Cook Islands, absolutely stunning. There is Pago Pago in American Samoa. Then there's those little three wheeled taxis used in various parts of the world but in Central America called a "tuk tuk"  - a much beter name than "autorickshaw"  of south east asia; the ubiquitous Chelsea tractor as it is known in London, or the 4x4, or "quatre-quatre" or just the "kat-kat" in the Sahara. There's probably more. But they definitely have a musical air to them that makes them very appealing.

Hindi has them too, in abundance! It has a great habit of doubling up words and it sounds fantastic when you hear these double barrels rolling off the tongue - try it with the typical Indian head wobble thrown in for good measure. How about "thola thola" which is about my limit of Hindi at the moment, ie a little. "Dhirie dhirie" which means slowly, a great expression, much needed when trying to learn a language and most helpful in getting native speakers to slow down. Near doubles are "sadi-suda" for married, "bhir-bhar" for a crowd, "thik-thak" for fine and "garbar-sharbar" for confusion. There's definitely something memorable about them.And I am clearly getting more into the rhythm of the language. I tried my ear at listening to Hindi radio yesterday. Although I couldn't understand anything about what was being talked about – normal speed is far too quick and the language too complex as yet , but I did hear words I recognised! Progress!

Wednesday 7 October 2009

The pervasiveness of irregular numbers

How important are numbers in everyday life? For telling the time - it is 2:30. For shopping - it is £5.45. For location - he lives at number 7. The post code is 765001 etc etc

In English, you need to learn 0-12, the 13-19 have their own pattern, thereafter learn the 10s, and the 21, 22, 33,34,45,46 etc fall into place. Learn 100, 1000, 1million and you are probably done.  French, Spanish also have an esssentially similar pattern. Each have little irregularities whcich you just have to learn, but the others basically follow a pattern and if you don't know what 357 is, but you do know what 3 is, what 100 is what 50 and 7 are, you'll probably work it out. And anyway you can always ask the shop vendor to wrie it down!

The only other language I know my numbers in is Tamashek and again that's fairly regular
dien, sin, sarath, coz, smose, sadix, sa, tam, tarza, marou for 1-10, then
marou dien, marou cin etc for 11, 12 etc. So learn your 10s, what 100 and 1000 are and you are away.

This morning I've been learning how to ask the time in Hindi . So naturally numbers start to become real important.
What time is it? = kitna baj raha hai??
It is two o'clock  = do baje hai.
When do you want to eat lunch? = ap kab dopahar ka khana khana cahate hai?
At one o'clock - ek baje

As I expected you just have to learn 1-10, so 1-10: ek, do, tin, car, pac, chah, sat, ath, nau, das
But regularity thereafter? Oh no, not yet.11-20: gyarah, barah, terah, caudah, pandrah, solah, satrah, atharah, unnis, bis
Lets keep going, 21-30: ikkis, bais, teis, caubis, paccis, chabbis, sattais, atthais, untis, tis
Ok I can see the similarity between 4, 14, 24 and 5, 15, 25 etc. So what might I think 34 is? Cautis? Yes!
So I ought to be set for 31-40. But no, not quite. Just when it loooked semi-promising, it all turns differen again ;(
31-40: ikattis, batttis, taitis, cautis, paitis, chattis, saitis, artis, untalis, calis

And so it goes on,
41-50: iktalis, bayalis, taitalis, cavalis, paitalis, chiyalis, saitalis, artalis, uncas, pacas
51-60: ikyanvan, bavan, tirpan, cauvan, pacpan, chappan, sattavan, attavan, unsath, sath
61-70: iksatath, basath, tirsath, causath, paisath, chiyasath, sarsath, arsath, unhattar, sattar
71-80: ik'hattar, bahattar, tihattar, cauhattar, pac'hattar, chihattar, sat'hattar, athhattar, unyasi, assi
81-90: ikyasi, bayasi, tirasi, cauasi, acasi, chiyasi, sattasi, atthasi, navasi, nabbe
91-100: ikyanve, banve, tiranve, cauranve, pacanv, chiyanve, sattanve, atthanve, innyanve, sau

1000 is hazar
100,000 is lakh
10,000,000 is karor

Then there are more irregularities!
1.5 is derh
2.5 is dhai
and so 150 becomes derh sau, 250 dhai sau, 1500 derh hazar, 2500 dhai hazar, 150,000 derh lakh, 250,000 dhai lakh. Ok that maybe wasn't quite so confusing after the first two.

Oh and of course, Hindi writes numbers differently to us, so no use asking someone to write down the price. 

My conclusion: I shall have to learn these in chunks. If anyone can see any way to help grasp these I'd really appreciate it. Candy, any hints from your experiences here? I'm thinking about learning 21, 31, 41, 51 etc together, what do you think?

Tuesday 6 October 2009

An intermittent rambling about food - Number 3

I'm feeling quite chuffed with myself this evening. I believe recipe books are for inspiration and once I find something I basically like I generally mix and match, adapt and work outwards from that basic recipe hopefully creating something new and nearer to my tastes. Tonight I played around with a variation on the spicy green beans theme, which came originally from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery.  It worked really well and I feel created my first Indian inspired recipe - Roasted Butternust squash with green beens. The amounts are my usual guestimate style.


Green beans, chopped into 1in pieces ( I'sd estimate a handful of uncut beans per person)
Several pieces of roasted Buttternut squash ( I'd estimate about 1/4 squash per person)
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 in ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 green chilli, finely diced
Salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 lime
150 ml chicken stock
Handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oil on a high heat.
Put in the mustard seeds. These will pop in a very short time.
Add the ginger. Stir util they start to brown.
Put in the green beans. Toss well.
Add cumin, turmeric, salt and chilli. Toss around again so the beans are covered in the spices.
Add the roasted butternut squash. Toss again.
Add lime juice and stock. Simmer with lid on until beans are tender - I'd estimate about 6-8 minutes of so. (I'd roasted my squash for another reason, so it was still hot and did not need much cooking.)
Add the coriander leaves
Remove the lid and raise the heat to reduce the stock a bit.

Taste-talk: I have to say I am immensly pleased with this. It is a delicious dish, a slightly sweet curry, not hot at all. A nice Jasmine tea followed.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Something about Orissa

I found various audio and video reports about Orissa from the BBC World Service which I thought might interest everyone. These were first posted earlier this year when BBC took a train around India for 18-days covering 6,000k  as part of its coverage of the Indian Elections.

Orissa's quest for water

Tribal India cut-off from election

Passing through

Sights and sounds of Bhubaneshwar's Lingaraj temple

Indian Railways

Saturday 3 October 2009

Gadgets for coping with the inevitable power cuts

I have been hearing about the frequency and length of power cuts in Orissa from other volunteers, so at the risk of ending up with a bag full of gadgets and very few clothes i order to keep within what I have heard is a very strict Air India's baggage allowance, I thought that I better expand my collection of rechargeable objects. Those of you who have travelled vicariously with me before will remember that I am a well out of the closet gadget fan and I use them. I have long had a PowerMonkey, Power Gorilla and Solar Gorrilla which have all served me well in various places from the middle of the Pacific ocean to the deep Sahara.

I've had small wind up torches in the past and never been really satisfied with them, they kept breaking or just dying competely on me, so I decided to go to the expert and have purchased a Trevor Baylis wind up torch and lantern. They appear to have good, solid wind up mechanisms, no flimsy turning handles here! So I am hopefull they will stand the test of time.

According to the specs the lantern will blast out the equivalent of 5-LED of light for 4 hours on full charge. That should be enough to cook dinner with, and generally see me through an evening. One minute of hand winding is said to give 30 minutes of light - which seems like a not bad ratio to me. It has a car adptor for charging and, yes, my Power Gorilla can charge via it. I've already tested it out. In additon, the lantern has a hidden handle to let you hang it from a supplied ceiling hook, or it can be used upright on a table. Seems a pretty versitile beast.

With regard to the torch the specs say 5-LED worth of light for 8 hours on a full charge, with 1 minute of winding gives 25 minutes of light. The torch can also charge a mobile phone - what can't these days! and also has a head torch contraption which plugs into the main torch body. I suppose that's for when I go caving again!  Or for hands free encounters on the route home! This might have been useful for volunteer MikeT who tells on his blog how he had to grapple with household locks in the dark recently after a night out on the town in Koraput!

Friday 2 October 2009

Seeing through disconnection

I had two main tasks to complete today as part of my leaving preparations. First, arrange to terminate my telephone and broadband, and second, visit the opticians.

(1) Why is is so expensive to disconnect one's telephonic equipment?

In today's modern world we have landlines, broadband, mobile phones, set top boxes etc etc. I've just been arranging disconnection of my broadband. Aaargghh, I hate packages! In order to get broadband I have to have a landline. This is because mobile broadband doesn't quite reach here as mobile reception is poor. As part of my broadband package I get a set top box, which I only use in place of a video recorder, and a mobile, which I use only when I am away from home. It is one of those 18 month contract things - there never seems to be a real alternative to contractual periods, why?. At least with just mobile telephones you can pay as you go. My standby mobile is just that - an old phone, that no one else wants, even those services which advertise big bucks for your old mobile will only give me £1 for this one. The up side is that no one will want to steal it as it has no resale value.

Anyway one of my jobs today was to organise my disconnection for the grand telephonic network.