Monday 25 October 2010

Road construction Indian style

The last month has seen addition construction work in our Nagar in that 2nd Lane is being rebuilt. I am told that for 8 years the nagar has been waiting for this.  Only one of the lanes is partially concreted for about 200 yards! The rest are dirt tracks. Everyone's hope is that building the road will remove one of the reasons auto drivers give for not coming out here.
I had been hoping to provide a photo journal of how this was done but I can only provide early and later stage photos as my camera packed in during the middle period, so you will have to use your imagination for part of this tale.
P9020005P9020004Stage 1. Originally the lane was just a sandy dirt track that you can see in this first photo.     
The first signs that something was happening was the arrival  of piles of boulders regularly positioned along the track side.

Stage 2: Place out boulders regularly along the path of the lane.   P9020003At this stage I am thinking of cobbled streets back home and hoping that this isn't what was going to be the end point here. Cobbles are one thing with their flat surface, but these boulders were just large roundish stones. Un-walkable! And so it remained for some time. 

Stage 3: The arrival of gangs of workers, men and women, who flung earth over the boulders. This earth was taken from trenches, 2 feet deep, dug at the sides of the lane. I'm thinking why dig these? They will just fill  with water and become stagnant, and be a breeding ground for mosquitos?  But them where else would you get the soil from the fling on the boulders?
Stage 4: Bulldoze the lot! Yes, seriously! The bulldozer was driven over all the boulders, crushing them to smitherines!
Stage 5: Apply more earth, and repeat.
Stage 6: Wet the resultant surface and leave to bake in the sun. Or if you are unlucky get rained on and go muddy.
The result is in places not at all bad. Cars have been seen driving in third gear! But in other places it has already started to break up where the tyre tracks of motor bikes are creating ruts in the muddy soil where there has not been enough broken boulders. Yes, the secret of a good road surface would appear to be an even distribution of broken boulders. Unevenness leads to ruts. Sadly, we have ruts in one part on my route home. Next rainy season this will be a mucky mess. For the rest its OK.
Until the trenches fill in, folks traversing the nagar, i.e. not following the block pattern of the lanes must take care, especially in the dark, a 2 foot drop is significant! People can be seen jumping across with bicycles in hand, motor bikes kept driving up for the first few days only to have to turn round and find another route - a few Oriyan and Telugu equivalents of Merd were to be heard!
PA220005The left hand picture shows one of the first traffic on the new road - two ladies carting firewood back from the forest.
The right hand picture shows the new road surface straight on and left at this crossroads and the old road surface to the right and from where I was standing to take the picture.
Just right click on the pictures to enlarge

Friday 22 October 2010

A first dalliance with the new digital camera

So it finally arrived. Ordered 11th October arrived 21st. With a promised delivery of 6-8 working days and the Dussehra holidays falling  last week I would say my first experience of online ordering (with Infibeam) in India worked pretty well. I must admit to being nervous about buying fairly substantially priced electronics, but supplier turned out OK and the postal service keeps up its 100% record of deliveries ( just rubbing salt in Hilary's experience here! )
I decided to stick with an Olympus as I have extra batteries, charger and cards already with me, and bravely opted for their new model SP-800UZ which was reviewed here and here.
Today was my first chance to take some pictures as I walked home this afternoon. It perhaps wasn't the best day with storm clouds gathering, and I know I need to get used to having a camera with such a big zoom lens which is consequently bulkier than my previous pocket camera. My hand's  steadiness needs to improve and I need to get used to where everything is on the menus, but judging from first play and from previous experience with Olympus models that should not be at all difficult.  Being a "beginner" photographer, I'm still messing around, but here are a few photos of my nagar today.
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PA220024  PA220042 PA220033
As a result of our first dalliance together I have to say the thing that blows me away is how easy the Panorama function is to use - three photos taken in panoramic shot, lined up via an on screen automatic target matching wizard - take picture 1, move camera and a target appears, as you move across your panorama a second target appears, as these overlay each other the camera register this and takes the second picture. Second to third picture follows in same fashion. Simples!
( I received no incentive, financial or other, for this review)

Tuesday 19 October 2010

The fizz has gone out of the champagne....

"We lost a good friend this morning"....that was how the news was broken this afternoon to me here in India from the UK. So sad. But the way to remember David is with a smile on one's face and a warmth in one's heart. David brought those into my life and to everyone else's life his touched. I can't actually recall the first time I met him, he just seems to have always been there. We worked together as colleagues, and his jovial nature won him many friends. In the days when companies did corporate entertaining we had to take lots of customers and prospects to lunch or dinner - no such thing as a free lunch for them or us!  David  was an excellent colleague to do this with, his bon viveur, his storytelling, his ability to talk with anyone and everyone won the day. He made those difficult business dinner conversations easy, balancing work and non work topics with a deft touch. Others can tell more about other aspects of his life I am sure, but that is how I will always remember him as David the storyteller. So as he would have done I retell the only joke told to me here in India, which, be warned, is about religion and about death There were three mountaineers.....
David, RIP. I'd toast you with a beer but there is none here in India!
Photo reproduced from Dave's fb collection

A little bit of Italy in Orissa!

This past few weeks I have been replete with goodies. I don't want to put folks of sending stuff as believe me it all goes very quickly and is much appreciate as it breaks the routine of veg and the boredom of always having the same thing time after time. The past few months I have been inundated with aubergine, and over the next few months it will be cauliflower.  There will come a point in time, mid January last year, where I really don't want to see another cauliflower ever again!
Seattle star cuppasSo the first package to arrive was full of teas - the best drink of the day - I am sipping a peach and ginger tea as I write. It makes a wicked iced tea, very refreshing! A present from CR book club buddie Theresa in USA, sent in response to one my posts
Delhi delightsNext came fellow volunteer Brooke from Delhi to work with me on a specific project. She came, having done a shopping trip in the Delhi stores, with half her luggage full of my purchases. Two days on the Sampta Express and I am surprised she had raided them to keep going!
Oh and no prizes for guessing correctly what was consumed first! Yes Gerry it was your wine. Lovely! :0 
Next came one from Judy in the UK, oats, tins of fish, oatcake biscuits - sorry no pictures as by that time my camera had packed up :(
Then last weekend as I have previously reported I raided Omar's shop in Koraput. So I have been indulging in nice treats such as pasta in a walnut sauce. I didn't even miss not having parmigiana or a sprinkle of parsley - who am I kidding! But it was delicious, simple, unfussy, no spice, no chilli, a bit of Italy in Orissa!
Thank you all!

Sunday 17 October 2010

Kool Koraput & a Corny Oriyan Movie

This has been Dussera, a major puja holiday here in Orissa, and I took up an invite from fellow volunteers Corey and Gina to spend a few days of it with them in Koraput. Koraput is at an altitude of about 2000 feet so is always cooler than down here in Rayagada, usually about 8 degrees I reckon, so it is always a merciful respite from the heat. It is also only 4 hours away by train, making it the nearest place to get to.
The Thursday evening train however was running exceptionally late so I ended up sitting at Rayagada through the heat of the afternoon, through the peak mosquito time of dusk and into the dark. By the time the 4:25PM train actually arrived and left it had gone 7PM. Luckily it made up a little bit of time and got into Koraput just after 11PM instead of the usual 8:30Pm. By this time the number of auto at the station was much reduced and the first one I went to tried to overcharge me, so I walked off and found another shared auto. So after dropping everyone else off at the bus station in the town centre it took me to "backside hospital" where "mora sanga-ra ghara achi" It was a cold evening, everyone was wrapped up in scarves and jackets, it had started to rain, and the auto drivers clearly wanted home for the holiday. By my arrival time the promised aubergine lasagna was never going to be eaten that evening and so had to wait for lunch the following day. It was the case of a quick cup of tea , a short chat and then sleep.
I am always surprised by how quiet Koraput compared to Rayagada - no train noise. I slept like a log and didn't wake up till gone 9AM! The day was written off to rain, it rained ALL day "bursa haba, haba, haba" It rained, and rained and rained! But the windows were open it was cool, I wasn't sweating, I'd slept without a fan on, but did need a light blanket - what a great start to my weekend. Fellow volunteer Kevin came round in the evening, braving the downpour in complete head to toe wet weather gear, bringing bottle of beer - nice man! Corey prepared a mean cornflakes encrusted deep fried chicken with mash and steamed carrots - excellent The man is a good cook. Both food, beer and conversation went down well. Such a change for me.
Saturday saw Corey having to work and Gina and I went shopping. Gina had some errands to run in town and I wanted to visit Omar's (whose shop ex volunteer Hilary named The Best Shop in Koraput). He always has something I cannot get in Rayagada - all imported stuff so relatively expensive but I have to stock up at every opportunity. He came up trumps again this visit - not just the usual nuts and breakfast cereals but also pasta, coconut milk and dried apricots - oh my goodness, how one's mouth waters at the thought. I am now having visions of pasta with walnut sauce! Then Gina came  up with a present of a tin opener and a potato masher - two kitchen items I have been struggling to find and their lack recently saw me prising open a tin of coconut cream fellow volunteer Brooke brought me from Delhi with the saw attachment on my Swiss Army knife like tool kit set - don't try this at home!
Saturday evening dinner was with a staff member from the VSO India Programme Office who was in town for the meetings which Corey had been attending and was therefore my only Indian meal of the whole weekend end , but only after Corey, Gina and I had paid a visit to the recently refurbished and reopened Koraput Cinema. I was amazed how big it was - maybe 500 seats. It was not anywhere near full, but the seats were classic cinema seats with the base which springs up and padded! Comfort I had not expected. Although there was no AC or fans, it was OK, although I think I'd skip it if it was full.
The film was in Oriya, it was my first Oriya film - definitely the way to improve your language ABHIMANYU - THE LOVER WARRIOR. You don't need subtitles to understand the movie. Just like Bollywood movies they are classic tales of good v evil, love conquers all, complete with the obligatory song and dance scenes. In this one the hero ends up working for a local gangster in order to pay for his mother's medical operation, he meets a girl, she doesn't know what he does until etc etc I enjoyed it. I have been talking with my landlady about going in Rayagada and had been saying we should go to a Hindi movie, but now I am not so sure, I think Oriya ones maybe more corny but also more beneficial language wise.

Monday 4 October 2010

Cattle rustling


I walked out for some evening air to find my landlady and daughter deep in conversation with the milk lady. The milk lady speaks only Telugu, and although my landlady has some she needs her daughter's help to have this conversation. I only know 1 Telugu word rai come, but as Rinky translates the full story for her mother I hear gai = cow, churo  thief in Oriya.  Clearly all is not well. After much gesticulation and animated words, the milk lady Namaskars me and wanders of, bottles in hand for the following days milk delivery. Only then do I get the story.

Two of her cows were stolen last night. I ask how many she has and what a cow is worth. I am thinking she may have 3 or 4. I am surprised to be told she is a rich woman. She owns land in Andrah Pradesh, and has a herd of 20 cows here, each worth 20-25,000 Rupees. That makes her herd worth 400,000 - 500,000 Rupees! Her income from milk production works out as follows: she sells her milk at 20 rupees a litre - it is very good milk, according to my landlady! A cows gives 20 litres of milk a day, that, 400 rupees per day, working on a 30 day month, that is 12000 Rupees per month income. At this time of year yields must be good and fodder supplies free as the cows wander through the nagar eating the lush greenery. Even at other times of year she can't be paying out much for fodder. So a nice little earner!  So you can easily see why loosing 2 cows is significant for her. It brings home to me yet again how precarious lives are here and in other countries where peoples wealth is vested in their animals. I know how much Tuareg camel  herds were decimated in North Africa by the droughts of the mid 70s and early 80s, how Mongolian livestocks suffered  in last year's Dzud. When livestock start to die, wealth evaporates irreplaceably.