Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kullu Trip, Part Two: Delhi to Kullu and Manali

Before I left for each section of my trip I studied various maps so that I would not have to stop to look at them on route. Getting from Mike’s in Delhi to highway number1, heading North was relatively easy, with only one minor wrong turn. But the highway itself was a mess. You would travel a few kilometres on modern 4 lane highways only to come to and abrupt end leading to one-lane dirt roads jam packed with all the traffic trying to squeeze together at once and dust everywhere. Motorcycles usually took to the very left side and often went off not just on the shoulder, if there was one, but off to fields and parking lots and through any opening a bike could fit. There I was, dirt biking with my heavily packed camel. Then after a few kilometres of this, things changed back to a good road. This went on many times for the whole trip to Chandigarh.

I wanted to stop in Chandigarh for the night as it would get dark long before I could get to Kullu. The maze through/around Chandigarh, and it was a maze, caused me to stop frequently to ask for directions which left me on the other side of town. This is where I eventually wanted to go, but I was then past all the possible hotels or guest houses I could possibly stay at. So I went on hoping to find some place to stay, even if it was a cozy field. As luck would have it, a roadside hotel appeared in the middle of nowhere (literally) and I stopped to find that it was clean and cheap, only 400 rupees ( about $8 CDN) for the night, and they had a veg and non-veg restaurant. It was also the holiday Divali, a night of celebration using as many fireworks as you could afford, and the staff at the hotel were into it. I spent many hours with them watching them light flares and rockets and noise makers of all types. I also made sure to move my bike well out of the way from where they were ‘playing’ with fire.

The next morning was bright and crisp and I got up early to set off after a quick breakfast. This for me was really the beginning of the trip I had imagined. For it was from here that I left the flats of the plains and valleys and headed up into the foothills of the Himalayas. I started to get excited about the changing road conditions to being narrow, twisty, rising steeply with spectacular scenery.

I stopped often to take pictures because you really couldn’t watch the road and look at the scenery at the same time, unless that is you wanted to become a part of the scenery. The temperatures were changing too. In the sunlight it was hot, but at the instant I drove into a shadow it was cold. I stopped to put on a vest. The rest of the journey to Kullu then was just one big smile. Except for a very very long tunnel (the Aut Tunnel) through the center of a mountain, I think it must have been over 3-4 kilometres long, dark and dangerous, the trip was wonderful.

When I arrived in Kullu I did not notice as I passed the hotel where I was to stay (The Vishali) and went through and past the center of town. So I stopped to call Heidi to ask for directions and didn’t look to see where I put my foot down and I stepped into one of the side sewer trenches and lost my balance, falling with the bike onto the road. My camera jumped off my neck (I carried it on me to take pics) and I managed not to get caught under the bike. In a matter of nano-seconds there was a huge crowd around me. I got up, dusted myself off and went over to the bike. I couldn’t lift it. Even without all my luggage on it, it was too heavy for me, so I signalled to two young guys who are watching me to come over and help lift, which they did. I gave the bike a quick check over, it was ok, I was ok, my camera was ok and so I quickly got out of being center attention.

I did find the hotel and settled in for three days. I later met up Heidi and Steve, who came over and we went off to an Italian restaurant nearby. Not something I had expected and it was very good. Kullu is very touristy, with lots of westerners and lots of Royal Enfield’s and repair shops. I felt safe.

On my second day there Steve and I did a short climb up the mountain that Kullu rests on and later I got him to agree to get on the back of the bike for a drive up to Manali. So the next day we borrowed a helmet from the owner of the Italian restaurant and off we went. There are two roads to Manali. One on each side of the river. We took the smaller east side road, which has more flavour and less traffic. Manali is only about 50 or less kilometres from Kullu but we took our time and got there in time for some momo’s for lunch (a momo is a dumpling, steamed or fried). If I thought Kullu was touristy, then I have to come up with a new word for more-touristy for Manali which has a large selection of 4 star hotels. Tourists go there for helicopter skiing, hang gliding, mountain trekking and the hot springs. It’s a small town but packed with people and stores and lots of restaurants. We had decided not to spend time in Manali but instead drove a little more to get to the hot springs at Vishisht, just 3 kilometres north. My pictures of the springs for some reason didn’t come out as well as I hoped but you can get a pretty good flavour of what they are like at this YouTube site: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VScPnD7uX18
We planned a short day because the sunrise and sunset in the mountains is two hours shorter at both ends of the day and as I don’t like to drive at night we took our hot dip in the springs and then took a leisurely trip back to Kullu. I did the trip again the very next day to get more pictures, which I couldn’t do while Steve was on the back of the bike. On that trip I stopped at a German coffee house and chatted with, believe it or not, two Germans, while sipping on some brewed coffee and relishing a real chocolate croissant. On my last day in Kullu I went to Heidi and Steve’s farewell party, which was arranged by the people from her ashram, so I got to meet a lot of those very nice folks.

Then off I went the next morning to find the road to the pass leading out of the Kullu Valley and crossing the mountains to Mandi. I was told the road, that started in the small town of Bajaura, would be difficult to find as it looks like a laneway, but I found it with help and headed up the pass. About 4 kilometres up my throttle cable broke and I was left with a loose cable in my hand. But I glided back down to the town at the bottom of the road and was able to ride to a Bullet Bike shop by pulling on the cable for acceleration. Of course this meant that if I had to stop suddenly I didn’t have my hand on the break handle. An hour after the cable broke and less than 100 rupees later, I was back on the road going up the pass again. This pass had smaller roads, steeper cliffs, more breathtaking scenery and lots of turnoffs so I stopped often to ask directions. This turned out not to be a language problem issue as most people in the region had basic English. Go to Google Maps and get directions for Kullu, HP to Mandi, HP and you will see the route taken.

The drive to Dharmshala, along a long wide valley with the beautiful mountains always on my right and getting highlighted by the setting sun as I drove north west. I found another inexpensive hotel just before Dharmshala for the night. It too had a food service but only for veg meals, which was still welcome. Coming next: McCleod ganj, the Dalai Lama and me.

"Vegetarian - that's an old native word meaning 'lousy hunter.'"





Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kullu Trip, Part One: The Road to Delhi.

7:45 am. I had waited outside my house in the dark, doors and gate locked for 15 minutes for a supposed group of staff who said they’d be there to see me off on my trip. They didn’t come, I left at 6am, as per my schedule.  I was eager to get onto the road.  Ten minutes later I was outside of Barmer City on an empty road (a rare thing in India) heading East, driving at a respectable speed of 60kph through the desert air.  And it was cold. I didn’t want to stop, the journey had started there was no stopping. Less than an hour later I was too cold to drive and so I pulled over to put on a sweater, jacket and gloves. 

“Why didn’t I do that before” I chastised myself, feeling much more comfortable. Of course an hour later, after sunrise, I had to take the extra clothes off as the temperatures quickly rose to sweat levels.

First stop was Balotra, some 100 kilometres away where the Patwari’s home was.  Lalchand Patwari, father of Vishal lent me his Bullet 350cc motorcycle for my adventure.  So stopping off at their home was a mandatory and a grateful first stop.  During my hour stay there I was honoured with a short send off ceremony by Vishal’s mother Laxmi.  She hand fed me some special sweet foods, put a teekah on my forehead and tied a coloured string around my right wrist.  It’s still there.

Then off I went to my next stop at Jodhpur where I had to have some additional work done on the bike. So far so good, I was feeling very comfortable with the journey as I had previously traveled these roads before.  I would still be comfortable afterwards but I would also have the constant feeling of wanting to confirm and reconfirm I was on the right road.  Signage is not that great in India. This obsessive mental state paid off for me a few times along the way as I often merrily motored off down the wrong way.

In Jodhpur I found the Royal Enfield shop as I had before and had them make a few adjustments and put a new speedometer in.  While waiting for the repair I dropped my helmet and it landed directly on the visor which got a big scratch on it exactly at eye level where I would be looking through it.  Was this a bad omen for the first morning? I got used to it.

I found the right road out of Jodhpur and headed to Jaipur to spend the night with Joe at his NGO Pravah.  I had been there before (by train) so I sort of knew where it was, but I arrived at Jaipur at night and I got lost, despite stopping constantly asking for directions.  Finally I pulled up to an auto-rickshaw and asked him to lead me to Bapu Nagar where Joe was. He agreed to do this for 30 rupees and I was happy to finally get off the bike and get together with Joe for some supper. (which was a whole chicken teka and beer, one for each of us.)

The next morning I headed out early for Delhi. Leaving Jaipur wasn’t as bad as getting into it and I was soon on the killer highway dodging trucks that were often heading straight at me. Needless to say this wasn’t one of my favourite parts of the trip.  I did stop along the way at roadside stands to eat and rest and made it into Delhi in a quick 5 hours.  I found Mike’s place relatively easily as I had studied Google maps closely and memorized the route.  It was a dirty trip, Delhi air is very polluted and my orange shirt was noticeably blackened by soot all over it. It was good to get to Mike’s, my Delhi home.

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you. - Carl Gustav Jung

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some Basic Concepts for Driving in India

So you fancy yourself ready to drive the hi-ways, by-ways and no-ways of India. Well let me tell you that it can be a very rewarding experience. After every ride you go on you will get out of your car, or off your bike and kiss the ground you rode on in gratitude that you survived another misadventure.

Actually there’s basically one or two concepts that I want to share with you that has helped me survive my recent travels from Barmer, Rajasthan to Manali, Kullu and back and these are:

Concept 1) Always drive defensively.

Now this may seem self evident, but after you have driven a while you may have the tendency to become a little to confident in your skills and analysis of the driving patterns you engage in and think to yourself that you’ve got it. So here’s my next concept for you to mull over.

Concept 2) When you think you’ve got the hang of driving in India, stop where you are and slap yourself strongly enough to get rid of that egotistical thought.

Why, because you will never understand Indian driving and there is a good and logical reason for this: no one does or ever will. Here’s why: You see some drivers here think there are rules and try to abide by them, some know there are rules and just ignore them, some are not even aware of any rules and drive as they wish, some are too young to drive but drive anyway and have no concept of anything, let alone driving and should be driven far away from as possible, and most drivers don’t have any idea what driving is all about, from etiquette to the physics of moving masses and beyond.

Please understand, all this seemingly negative or dismissive talk about the way Indians drive is none of the sort. I am merely trying to describe the driving scene as I see it and have experienced it. In all considerations of the “art” it always comes down to Concept 1 above.

So what does it mean to drive defensively? Will to start with, you must always where a helmet when driving a motorcycle. I know that when you look around and you see that most bikers do not wear a helmet and you like the feeling of the air blowing through your hair and catching bugs in your teeth. But you also love yourself (or at least respect yourself) and so show the world your love and respect and put the hard hat on. You will also be doing a community service by modeling to those who don’t wear helmets, the right/safe way to drive. And besides, if you do have an accident resulting in a head injury and you were not wearing your helmet, you health insurance will be invalidated.

But there are many other good reasons to wear a helmet: the visor keeps bugs, stones, dust and heat (or cold) off your face. If you drive long distances with no helmet (or the visor is up) your eyes will quickly dry out and get irritated as will your lips. Hence you are no longer kissable. A helmet also keeps your head a bit cooler/warmer as it insulates your head from the outside heat/cold, especially if your are using a white coloured one, which I think is the insurance rule in any case.

Driving defensively also means never, and I mean never never never never take your eyes and mind off the road. No daydreaming, not putting your vehicle on automatic control, no looking around to admire the scenery (unless you desire to become a part of the scenery). Driving in India means having a long attention span. If you don’t have one now, you will. Why, because every conceivable and inconceivable obstacle will come at you from all directions. Let me list a few so you get the idea:

Cars, trucks, buses, military vehicles, construction vehicles, motorcycles and scooters, bicycles, three wheelers, tractors, ox carts, camel carts, horse carts, goat carts, people (every variety), dogs, goats, cows (and you already know there’s lots of those around) cats, peacocks and hens, deer, chickens, vultures, rats and road hazards such as bricks, stones, boulders, sand, mud, glass, garbage, re-bar, dung (all types) holes and bumps, just to name a few. But there’s another catch, if you drive at night, most of these objects do not have any lighting whatsoever, including the motorized kind. And recall what I wrote in the previous paragraph, these challenges will come at you from the front, head on (remember the rules of the road: there are none), from the sides and rear and even from above and below. Never underestimate a falling tree or a truck that is packed too high and is about to rip out the power lines above it while you’re driving behind it.

Again, let me reassure you that although these things may seem comical to our foreign ways, these things all exist and happen (but not necessarily at the same time, but then again I suppose I could be proven wrong on this point).

Another lesser known defensive driving technique that I have found to work in many situations, is just to stop where you are, or in some cases like when a truck in heading directly at you at 100 kph, get off the road a.s.a.p. or sooner. When I first drove in India back in 1976 I was told that one of the rules of the road was that the slowest vehicle has the right of way. A bit oxymoronic I admit, but I have found that when I can’t figure out what to do in a complicated situation I just stop and wait for the dust clouds to clear. But use your judgement on this on as it pertains to Concept 1.

And one more little thing. If at all possible, don’t drive at night. Some of the reasons for this have been mentioned above, like objects on the road with no lighting, but also when there are vehicles with lights they will normally be on the high-blind-the-driver-coming-at-you level. And as a matter of interest the signs you see on some trucks that say: “Use your dipper at night” has no known English translation.

Hope these few thoughts don’t scare you off the road, but if you are planning a trip by vehicle somewhere, please call me for a whole lot of other details that could fill volumes.

I love to travel, But hate to arrive. -Albert Einstein

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chanchal

Chanchal is a 33 year old woman, married to Sudhir Tailong. She has a beautiful 5 year old daughter Sabhya who comes over to the office after school and loves to play with me. Chanchal works in our office as a part time consultant and I have recently been working on some R&D with her on the drought situation in Rajasthan in order to write a paper to find funds for the local villagers. (see the report at http://societytoupliftruraleconomy.blogspot.com/ )

Chanchal is first of all a very beautiful woman with an intense look when she speaks with you. I often feel like the rabbit caught in the headlights of the car, unable to move. She is a very intelligent and sensitive to the pain and suffering of those in need. This sensitivity drives her work. It has been a real pleasure to watch her work and be a part of the effort to we share here at SURE.

She also is an amazing dresser. Maybe it’s me, but I don’t think in all the time I’ve been here I’ve seen her in the same outfit twice and always a beautiful sari.

She has also been a good friend, helping me from the beginning to find a home and settling in, being concerned when I have been sick and helping me find resources for my home. I am very grateful to know her and know we will continue our friendship even after I leave India. In fact, I have been encouraging her to come to Canada with her husband and daughter.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.

Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof. - R. Bach

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Attachments

       
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reflections

There is always so much a parent wants to share with their children.  Some of these things are cleverly disguised lessons in life, but most of it is just a sharing of family history. Sharing like this is a very important part of making and maintaining relationships.  Perhaps this is a part of our human need to tell each other stories and pass on our personal tradition. A young child, say from 1 to 25 years old, is not that interested in family history.  For them the world is an amazing and evolving place, one that will go on forever, so why dwell in the past?  Time, as we know, changes that perspective.

I am 57 years old. When I think about how fast time has gone by I can not fathom how it does it or what is I think I am experiencing.  When I think back 20 years, I was only a just learning to be a father.  If I try to imagine 20 years from now, 77, it does not even register an image in my brain.  Maybe my journey will over, but if not, and I certainly hope not, I hope I am still energetic about the adventure I have been traveling on all these years.

There is still so much I yearn to learn, to do, to go, people to meet, foods to taste, music to play. I have been interested in so many aspects and details of life that I never know when to put something down.  Today I am reading David Bornstein’s book on social entrepreneurs and I feel a great kinship with what he is writing.  I keep saying to myself as I read: “ I did that!”  and “I just wrote that in my proposal!” or “I learnt that when I interviewed the Indian NGO consultants!” And so on.  I may be a social entrepreneur, but only a baby one.  In any case I will need a few more decades before I can really call myself one.

Here in India I am discovering a new culture.  Actually many cultures, as there are so many that are laid out across my door.  And within each culture are sub-cultures and sub, sub cultures, each with their own wonderful flavours and surprises.  How do I share this information with my child?  How do I tell her she may not have another chance to spend with her dad, intimately exploring the exotic landscape and people of India?  She is miraculously caught up in the enjoyment of her own budding career.  There no time for family or adventures now. Time as we know, will change that perspective. But will it come in time?

I lived for thousands and thousands of years as a mineral. 
Then I died and became a plant.
I lived for thousands and thousands of years as a plant. 
Then I died and became an animal.
I lived for thousands and thousands of years as an animal. 
Then I died and became a human being.
Tell me, what have I ever lost by dying?
- Rumi

 

 

 

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Day I Saw the Prime Minster of India

The afternoon before the day the PM was going to be in Barmer to dedicate the new Cairn oil well to the nation I did not have an invitation.  I tried to get my NGO to arrange one for me as they all had invites to go but no such luck.  So I called my connection in Cairn, Shankar and he told me I could come, he would have my invite at the entrance.

That night I didn’t sleep well as I discovered that no one in the office was going to the event, except maybe Hitesh.  Most were out of town for various reasons and no one could tell me where the event was.  My Shankar’s phone was not working, or he was too busy planning the celebration to answer.  So I didn’t know when or where and I really wanted to go to see the PM for some strange reason. I got up early and ate a good breakfast and then proceeded to make multiple calls and drove around to try to find out the necessary details I needed.  Finally Hitesh called me and told me to hold still, he got me Magraj Jain’s pass, which he delivered to me, and told me to go get the invite from Mr. Jain’s house.  At the house no one had any idea of what I was talking about.  So I left with some sketchy instructions about where the event was, some 25 kilometres down the road and hoped for the best.  Actually finding the place was easy.  The road way had been all cleaned up for the PM visit and there were signs everywhere.  Security at the parking lot was intense, soldiers and security guards everywhere.  I parked my motorcycle and went up to one of the Cairn staff, who were all dressed in their blue coveralls.  One of them recognized me and got me an invite and helped me pass the security check.  I got onto a bus which took us another 4 kilometres to where a huge tent had been set up.  But first there was another security check and without a proper pass I was not able to go beyond that point.  Fortunately I spotted another Cairn blue boy and called  him over.  I got him to call Shankar who came right over and cleared me through and then took me to the next security check at the VIP entrance.  He got me through that as well and I went inside to a very nice, very large air conditioned tent with room enough for about 3 thousand people.  I sat down with some water and waited.   I was the only person who did not have a brightly coloured pass hanging around his/her neck.  And of course I was one of the few white people there too. Finally the PM came, speeches started and then were over.  The PM gave a short lack-lustre speech, turned a wheel valve to signify that the oil had begun to flow and one hour later the whole show was finished.  Well almost, there was lunch to come.  I went into the VIP lunch room where a short press conference was being held and then a most wonderful lunch buffet was available.  I have to tell you I went right for the non-veg section and filled my plate with meat.  I ate it all and then filled my plate with vegetables twice before having desert.  As I was walking out I notice a familiar shape on the table where the presentations were held.  There were two Toblerone bars out of their paper wrapper but in their tinfoil suits. A guy was cleaning up and I asked him for one which he gladly gave me.  It melted a bit on the way home but was the real thing!

So that was it.  I saw the PM, end of story.  Lunch was worth it.  Oh and I did speak briefly with the CEO of Cairn and he gave me his email address to continue our talk. However I put the paper in my shirt pocket and due to my sweating, the ink got wet and all blurrrred.

Typos are very important to all written form. It gives the reader something to look for so they aren't distracted by the total lack of content in your writing.”  - Randy K. Milholland

 

 

 

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Update on my work

During my two years at Avid Projects, I was honoured by my clients for the work I did for them in managing the construction of their home.  The Shiners (a client) bought me two really good tickets to Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” musical and then treated Christina and me to a wonderful Italian dinner.

Gordon Wiseman, owner of Avid Projects always treated me as an equal partner and we worked closely together on many projects, including those of Gillian Gillies, the interior designer, who took a fancy to our great management practices and started to use us regularly, including a major renovation project of her own house.

Today, I have been honoured again by the leadership of the NGO I work with: the Society to Uplift Rural Economy (SURE).   They have reviewed my 65 page proposal for capacity building in their organization and have agreed with all my suggestions on how to change the organization to make it sustainable, healthy and strong.  They have accepted me as their change facilitator and soon I hope to work closely with the Executive Board of SURE to launch a local fund raising campaign and a search for a new Executive Director.  These are exciting times for all of us.

On the side, that is in my spare time, I have also been involved with some minor projects concerning VSO India and doing peer reviews with fellow volunteers.

I thought some good family news would make your day.

Love Mark

August 26, 2009

“Experience is that marvelous thing that enables you recognize a mistake
when you make it again.” -  F. P. Jones

 

 

Monday, August 24, 2009

From Neil with love

My brother Neil wrote me:

“Hi Mark, I love reading of your adventures and am envious as I have had many of my own having traveled to more than thirty countries and lived in several from six months to a year. I was one of the few travelers to be more interested in the locals than other travelers and as a result have had many adventures from funerals, to weddings to parties based on the dreams of elders. Parties that would go on for three weeks. It was always an interesting experience and filled me with much joy. Ah the gifts of life.”

As I read his envious words and also began to wonder about his crazy adventures, another thought came into my head.  While I have been only recently writing a BLOG of my adventures in India, I think I have been living my life so that all of what I do is an adventure, or misadventure as the case often is. The only difference now is that I’m writing about it.  But while I lived on the West coast of British Columbia, I had many adventures every week from learning how to SCUBA dive, sailing around the Pacific islands learning to sail, climbing the various mountains nearby, playing music with many people and groups, dining out for new foods, driving snow covered roads in the mountains with no snow tires, camping out in those snowy hills, kayaking the coast both alone and with others, discovering and working with new people and discovering new materials, systems and processes, and so on.  Isn’t this the way for all of us, except we sometimes forget that we are on an adventure?!  Einstein said that he loved to travel, but hated to arrive.  Maybe that’s the secret, keep everything in the moment of wondrousness, new and fresh.  Or as my old mentor said: Be Here Now Remember.

 

Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other. – Dalai Lama

 

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Of Bikes and Biking

Of Bikes and Bikings

I was invited with Vishal to another Muslim wedding.  Vishal and I decided to go there on our own motorcycles. It was about 60 kilometres away and we left just before sunset riding, where we could, side by side in absolute perfect air temperature. It was exhilarating to be riding down long two-lane roads in the semi-arid desert. We were both wearing helmets for those of you concerned.  But the helmets protected us from the many insects we collided with along the way.  Sunset turned to evening as we turned off down some narrow dark roads looking for the light.  The light was the decoration of multi-flashing coloured lights that all weddings, Hindu or Muslim, use for such events. And way off in the distance we saw them.  At some point we had to turn off the paved road and go onto the hard sand, weaving in and out between the brush to the little village of Garda.

We arrived and were welcomed like heroes returning, ushered into a room and served tea, raisins and cashews.  It took us about  two hours of driving to get there, and we were still early for the celebration. Despite the lights and sound of people, there was a deep dark silence in the desert.  The stars here have their own sharp illumination. I’ll spare you the details of the event itself, save to say that after supper the music began, played by many international folk musicians from Rajasthan.  And I mean international.  Many of them had just come back from tours of Europe and one group from doing a recording at the BBC in London, England.   Needless to say we heard and saw some of the best Rajasthani music in the country.  I, of course, fell asleep on the ground sheet early on, even though they did use a sound system with the volume set to about 150%, I still managed to sleep.  If you recall, I was at this same village at a previous wedding where the music was also fantastic, but very intimate in a small room and live with no sound system. I prefer that way to listen to music.  Around 3am, I awoke feeling very refreshed and looked over to Vishal and asked him if he wanted to return to Barmer, but he had not slept and from the look on his face, I saw he needed to.  So he lay down and dozed off while I wondered into the desert, a dangerous thing to do as earlier that evening a poisonous snake was killed as it tried to come into the village. I just wanted to get right out of the light and sound for a few moments to feel the cool night breeze as I gazed into the heavens.  So I did, and I didn’t meet up with any snakes, scorpions or lions, tigers or bears.  I did hear a wild peacock in the distance calling out to me to come back.  That’s what they call out I’m told.

I wandered back into the village thinking I better get some additional sleep.  I found a blanket on the ground near our motorcycles, shook one out to get ready to sleep on it when one of the guys saw me and went and got me a bet cot with a mattress, blanket, pillow and bottle of water.  How very sweet it was of him.  He helped me put it in the shadow of a nearby house and I fell asleep looking up at the stars with the desert breeze gently blowing over me.  I didn’t think I would need the blanked, but around 5am I pulled it over me for warmth. An hour later I heard Vishal’s voice call to me to wake up, we had to go. He had to go to work that morning in Nagar, a village far off to the south of  Barmer.  I managed to get a cup of chai (the musicians were still at it!) and then we drove off into the sunrise though the desert. There was not any traffic at that time and we made good time back.  This was my first road trip, albeit a small one, but I got a taste of what was to come and I felt very good about it.

 

Bullet

I have made an offer to buy a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 cc motorcycle from one of the local boys.  He is the son of a wealthy man and but he bought the Bullet without his father’s permission and now he has to sell it as his father disapproved of his action.  He paid 72,000 rupees for it new.  It has about 3 thousand kilometres on it so it is still new but I offered him 50,400 rupees, or 30% off the new bike price.  I await his answer, but as people have learnt of my offer I have been asked if I could sell the bike to them when I leave in 20 months.  I would take it with me back to Canada but I have inquired to the transport office there and it doesn’t meet the emission requirements.  So I have at least two offers to buy the bike I still don’t own. And just to make the situation a bit more humorous, today as I was driving back to my house on my little 100cc Honda Splendor, I met the guy with the very Bullet I want to buy.  He stopped when he saw me and asked me if I would sell him his bike back when I left India!  This is too funny, now I have three offers.  He hadn’t yet decided on my offer at that time.  But I hope to hear from him soon for the next negotiation.  This should be interesting.

“I love to travel, I hate to arrive.” – Albert Einstein

 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mobiles, Police and Illness

Off off and away

The volunteer conference was held at the Bundelkhand Hotel in Orchha this year.  Before I left Barmer to spend a few days in Delhi with Mike, I submitted my completed work proposal to my bosses. (feedback to date has been very positive, Mr. Jain calls it the Bible!).  In Delhi I picked up a cold from Bolbol, one of the kids at Mike’s house.   Then to add insult to that I stayed out in the sun too long and got sun stroke again.  So my trip to Bundelkhand by train was spent sleeping.  And most of my time at the hotel/conference was in a daze.  After a few days a doctor was called in to see me.  He gave me a handful of many coloured pills to deal with my symptoms and I did begin to feel a bit better after that.  But my appetite seems have disappeared (and is still not back this 14th day of August).

On my way back to Barmer: I had arrived in Delhi at the new train station and had to take the Metro to the old train station for my train. During that short trip between stations someone picked my mobile out of its holder.  I managed to find a pay phone at the old station and call the VSO emergency number to see if they could call Vodaphone to cancel my service.  Still in a daze I got onto the wrong train car, A1 instead of A2.  The train conductor told me to get off in an hour and make my way up the train to the A2 car. I did that, but the train didn’t stop long enough at the station for me to make it all the way up to A2.  The train started to move and I ran along seeing only the luggage car beside me.  But with my back pack on I couldn’t get a good leap onto and into the car and I was about to fall out back to the platform when two guys in the luggage car pulled me inside safely.  There were eight guys sitting around in the luggage car, no luggage, and two of them spoke a little English.  So they told me that I could get off in a few stops to get up to the A2 car.  It was nice sitting in the luggage car, with its big doors open on both sides and the wind swirling around inside.  Half an hour later I made it to my right seat where I had to ask some guys to move, as they had taken over my seat perhaps thinking I had not made the train.  After that I slept until the next morning when we arrived back in Barmer.

 

Mobiles and Police

I went home and put my stuff away and immediately went to the Vodaphone store see if my phone was cancelled.  It was blocked and I was able to get a new phone and sim card for only 1,050 rupees with my same phone number.  I took the information I needed about the old phone and went to the police station to report my missing phone.  At the police station, four guys behind desks in a small room looked at me and wondered what to do with me. Finally, one guy got out two blank pieces of paper with a piece of carbon paper in-between. He put it in front of me and told me to write out my report.  So I invented a Lost Mobile Report form and filled in my details and that of the phone.  I didn’t mention it was taken in Delhi, as they would have asked me to fill out the report there.  But it was important, according to friends at SURE, that I fill out a missing mobile report in any case. After I did my writing the man behind the desk stamped both papers, signed and dated them and gave me one for my records.  What this all means I haven’t the faintest idea.

 

Back Home

I went to see the Sharma’s and they made me supper.  And as usual they were not happy that I ate so little. I went home, turned on my AC and slept. Not only did I not feel like eating, my stomach was upset too.  I tried to eat a banana and drink some water, but I couldn’t do more than that.  Vishal came the next day with some lunch which I tried to eat, forcing myself, but only a little.  I watched some movies (that I downloaded from others while at Bundelkhand) and slept. This morning (August 14) I’m feeling a lot better, although I still don’t feel hungry. So I went into the office to catch up on email, write this blog and wait for the power to come back on (it’s off from 8am to 12noon everyday) so I can get back to my AC once again and to sleep.

 
Nasrudin walked into a teahouse and declaimed, "The moon is more useful than the sun."  "Why?", he was asked.  "Because at night we need the light more."

 

 

 

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Driving to Breakfast

Driving in India, 101

I wonder if I should even be writing about this to you.  I know after you read this you will kindly, and maybe even urgently, advise me to stop this silly nonsense of driving in India.  But alas you also know I will most likely continue to ride the roads.

So it’s like this:  In the West we drive on the right side.  In India they drive on the left.  But in Barmer, a special sub-section of India, they drive in the middle!  It’s easy to understand why. For the most part the culture here in Barmer, as I’ve noted before, is still caught in a pre-technology past. The road/path ways of those times did not have lines down the middle or any right of way considerations.  Everyone walked or drove their carts down the middle of the path and passed when necessary. All shared the road.  And so you still see this kind of behaviour here.  People will walk in the middle of the road while motor cycles, cars and busses zip by and around them.  Even where there are road dividers for the left and right, you always have to pay attention to what is coming at you.  You don’t have a “side of the road right of way”.  You don’t have any right of way.  This is not the same in the larger cities like Delhi, although you do find some of the same “discrepancies” there as well form time to time. In any case what I have discovered about driving here, which has been difficult for me to absorb, is that you only have to be concerned with what is in front of you or to your left. Again, this rule is not always practiced, but it generally works. Ok let’s say you are on a side street and you come to an intersection (no stop signs here to be concerned about and traffic lights have not yet been invented) and you are turning left, into the left lane.  In this case you just go ahead, you don’t look to the right to see if any traffic are coming at you, you fully expect them to allow you to merge.  No fear.  Well I don’t buy that and I always check to my right, and when there is a potential collision I slow down, which in turn causes the expectation of the other drivers, that I should get right in front of them, to be blown and everyone looks a bit confused and pedestrians wonder what the Krishna is going on. I’m getting better at it but these days, but due to the unusual rain fall we have been having, the roads towards the bottom of the city are about a foot deep in brown sewage water, and this makes navigation very difficult no matter what the rules aren’t. I saw one guy on a motor cycle drive into a hole that he couldn’t see, as it was under the water. Everyone watching cheered.  He was ok, but his bike was totally submerged. There are lots of such holes that are also invisible at the night when the roads are dry.  Ok, then there is turning to the right at an intersection.  This is much more dangerous for everyone. First of all you cut the corner on the right, so that if other vehicles are turning left onto your side road, you are now on the right side of them.  Then you head into oncoming traffic, like a salmon swimming upstream,  until you can find an opening to the left.  If you turned into a divided roadway, then you might have to travel a bit into oncoming traffic until there is an opening. So recall once again why it is you have to pay attention to what is ahead of you.

Rules of size.  Yes, the bigger you are the more status you have on the roads. Hence, if you are driving a large truck or bus you rule.  Only military vehicles take precedence over everyone else.  So I’m driving down the road just outside of Barmer and a truck ahead, coming towards me, is passing a cart.  The truck coming right at me flashes his lights and I am forced to the side shoulder (that is if there is one, or it is not being taken up by a cow or people). This is typical and that’s why you watch for what is in front of you.  So it’s military vehicles, trucks and busses first, and then cars and then motor cycles, followed by bicycles, carts (of all type, ie: camel, oxen, goat, horse, donkey, and humans). At the bottom of the list is people, they have no rights but you don’t want to hit them either.  One great exception to all of the above, never hit a cow. You’d be better off to hit a person than a cow, I have been told this many times, so I have to believe it. Recall, there are more cows in Rajasthan than people.  Maybe that’s because they are less likely to be involved in a traffic accident.

 

Breakfast of Indians

The Sharma’s (Satish [father], Pawan [mother], Supriya [daughter 20yo], Kushboo [daughter 17yo] and Niku [son 11yo] who were my neighbours until recently invited me to breakfast at their new home.  It was rice with assorted vegetables mixed together (including hot chilli peppers) and coffee. I’ve had this before at Vishal’s house and elsewhere. It’s good but I’m not that fond of this for breakfast.  Let’s just call it a cultural difference.  So I invited them for breakfast, Canadian style.  As it was easier for me to go to their house than the lot of them come to me, I packed up bag with all the ingredients I needed and biked over to their house through the sewage lakes (a.k.a. streets).  The typical Canadian breakfast I presented to them was porridge (oats) with slices of mango and bananas and an optional sweet lassie, plus coffee (Indian style). No maple syrup available. I didn’t actually make the breakfast, Pawanji would not let me in her kitchen, so I just gave her instructions on how to make the porridge (with salt and sugar).  I also brought my own bowls and spoons for them as I knew they didn’t have these, so we all sat and ate porridge with cut fruit on top.  Pawanju ate in the kitchen.  They said it was tasty. Oats in Hindi is Javi.

Pass carefully. Driver spits. (that’s another thing to watch for.)

 

 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bulletin

Bulletin

I went for my first ride on an Enfield Bullet (no I didn’t drive it). I was in Balotra at Vishal’s family home to celebrate his 24th birthday. Vishal gave me a tour of the town on the Bullet.  It’s a heavy bike and sounds like a Harley with it’s deep muffler voice.  As always, me with my Tilley hat being driven around on the bike by an Indian on a Bullet (which is an unusual motorcycle in these parts) made us the parade for the day.

 

Valley View

That night Vishal’s brother Parinit took me out to visit Valley View, a local development project that his younger brother Tarun helps to manage.  Tarun couldn’t take me due to his having jaundice. The development was a collection of neatly spaced octagonal shaped one room little houses that people could buy or rent.  There were several dozens of them all laid out nice and neat.  There was a central meeting place with two pools, one for gents and one for ladies, a restaurant and other facilities. That night there was a draw to entice buyers.  When you purchased a cottage (for about ten thousand CDN) you received a coupon that could win you a prize, like a car, motor cycle, TV and so on.  Lots of people were there and of course a large buffet was being served.  The stage was brightly lit and numbers were being called out identifying the winners.  I had just met the owner of the whole complex when one of his staff asked me to go up on stage and pull some numbers out of the bucket.  So I did. I was introduced to the smiling crowd, and in the mic I said my best Namaste to everyone before I picked out two sets of numbers.  Riding back to the house on the Bullet in the cool night air was absolutely divine.

 

The AC Bill

I got a call from Chanchal who told me that I needed to pay my electric bill. But I didn’t have my electric bill I said. Go get it from the landlord, says she. So off I went to find Sonul my landlord at his shop Krishna Textiles where he gave me the bill which was due today.  If I didn’t pay it now I would have to pay a hefty late penalty. Could he please give me the bill when it comes, I asked, but no, that’s not how it works.  You see when the meter reader comes to the house, he prints out a bill and if you’re not there to take it, he gives it to a neighbour.  The neighbours hold onto it until they remember to give it to the house owner my landlord, who then calls me at the last moment.  The bill was for 7,152 rupees for the past two months of power. (divide by 40 for CDN $)  I didn’t have that amount on me or in my bank account, and VSO India had not paid me my salary yet so I was up the dune without a camel.  So off I went to my bank to draw upon my credit card like I’ve done before.  But alas, today the ATM there decided to refuse my request.  It was very stubborn and ignored me several times. So I went to another bank’s ATM at the train station, which was broken. Even so there was still along line in front of it.  I always check first before getting into lines.  Finally Vishal, who was now into helping me, found another ATM which was working and which recognized my card and so I was able to withdraw 8 grand.  Then off I went to the Chemist shop (that’s where you pay your electric bills) and paid up. That whole process only took four hours.  All in a days work.

Street Cleaning and B-Ball

I found a shovel in the organizations garage and brought it back to my house.  My street has been dirty as there is a house being constructed across form me and the sand and mud has been washing all over the road due to the rivers of rain that come now and then.  So with my trusty rusty shovel I bent over and pulled all the dirt back into a nice pile.  Of course when ever I am out, my neighbours look out to see what I’m up to.  They came out of their houses and smiled (and laughed) at my work.  Meanwhile, I’m thinking that I’m setting a good example of cleanliness. Stop laughing.  So a few hours go by and I hear some kids at my door calling me.  About three young teenage boys are holding a blue basket ball and are asking me to come play with them.  My friend Michael Rosenkrantz in Delhi, an avid, no crazed basket ball fan, who bought a b-ball to play with the slum kids during our in country training days, would never forgive me if I didn’t go play with the boys.  In any case, I wanted to so off I went to the nice clean area right in front of my house.  Oh my, a clean place to play in, see that my good neighbours!  We passed the ball around and soon many other kids came to join the fun.  I made sure the girls had a turn too as the boys were not throwing the ball to them at first.  Later on they started to include them as well. As we were passing the ball, they each started to tell me their names, and slowly pronounce each syllable for me, allowing me to say it aloud.  For one or two of the girls, who I couldn’t pronounce their names, we all just decided to call them Monkey.  Everyone got a kick out of that.  I’ll have to do the name routine many more times before I can remember them all.  For now I’ll just call them all my little monkeys.

 

 

 

Monday, July 6, 2009

Binjrad Music

Our monthly staff meeting is at a campus in the small hamlet of Binjrad.  Several buildings on 5 acres of land about 70 kilometres outside of Barmer, close to the Pakistan border. When there I must register with the local military police as this is a restricted zone for foreigners.  But I did get permission from the Barmer authorities (the Collector) and so it’s a small formality at the station and then I’m cleared to be in the area.  The staff meeting was attended by an assortment of SURE people, all working on different projects. Seven of the 35 in attendance were women. Getting more women on staff is a problem in this area and culture.  At the beginning of the meeting there was some singing and I also played a short tune on my dulcimer. Last month I played Gershwin’s Summertime on my recorder for them.  They’ve never heard the blues here before, or even knew was it was, so it must have been quite an odd sound I played out.  After the main meeting, at about 5:30pm, Jamal came over and started singing and encouraged me to pick up my dulcimer.  Amazingly I discovered he was singing in my key of D and I was able to pick up on the beat and melody as we played and sang together with others joining in for about twenty minutes. No I didn’t sing. Then we figured out another song and another. Jamal took the dulcimer and began to experiment with it, holding it like a Vina (upright like a cello). I ran to my room and got my recorder and soon I was playing along as he began another song, which he tried to teach me to copy and we jammed again for another five minutes before everyone set off for some more meetings.  But what fun to be able to catch on to this new Indian music for me and just enjoy the rhythms of the hot afternoon.

 

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.

Don't open the door to the study and begin reading.

Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

- Rumi

 

 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Craig, Eggs and Eating

Craig

Craig Cameron is from Aberdeen, Scotland but he now lives with his wife Lisa and three children in Singapore.  He works for VAM, and is Mohan’s switchover.   That is Craig works for a month here then Mohan comes in for a month and then they switchover. Craig is in his early 40’s and shaves his head bald.  Which makes us look like the odd couple when walking down the street, as my hair has grown quite long and I now have a respectable pony tail out back.

Craig is a kind man and as I told him tonight at our regular beer meet, he’s no trouble maker. Actually I used the word “shit disturber” but I didn’t know if I should use that in the BLOG. We spend a lot of eating times together.  He and I often share lunch of a CTM (chicken tikka masala) with rice, nan bread and a sweet lassie. Actually, we eat that almost every day. And it’s beer for dinner, although Craig has a soft spot for Vodka and Pepsi.

Over the past many weeks we have shared our many stories about our family and travels and the things we have come across in our lives and it’s been a real pleasure to get to know him. I hope one day I can visit both him and Mohan in Singapore, the city where they fine you $250 for spitting.

 

How to Transport Eggs and Make an Omelette

I buy my eggs from a cart vendor on the main street. They cost 3 rupees an egg. At 42 rupees to the CDN dollar, you figure it out.  The vendor puts my usual order of ten eggs into a small black plastic bag and then into another for safe keeping.  I  put the plastic handles of the outer bag around my chin strap of my helmet, allowing the eggs to hang down below my chin.   They transport very safely like this as I manoeuvre in and out and around and up and down in traffic.  Once home I then go into the kitchen and remove my helmet and the eggs fall to the marble floor because I forgot they were there.  This is the second time.  Because they were in a second inside bag the collage inside stayed in place and I managed to pick out all the shells and then make a big omelette with tomatoes, onions and garlic, which I ate over a few meals.

 

What I Eat At Home

Lots of fruit: I always have a watermelon in the fridge along with mangos and sometimes apples and other fruit of the season.  I keep tomatoes and cucumbers and potatoes in the fridge too. Onions and garlic are on the open shelf. I have Poppers, which we call Pappadums, ketchup (of course), Marmite, chutney, rice, soy stuff, and a variety of soups and ready to make noodles packages.  I keep cashews and peanuts to much on.  I have only one can of tuna and one can of sardines left that Craig brought me from Singapore when he came a month ago.  Mohan, who will be returning promised to bring me some canned crabs.  I like to mix these into the noodle packages and also add the veggies to it as well.

I drink lots of water and like to mix this mango drink (Maaza made by Coke) into the water for flavour. When I can find them, I buy these little boxes of Rose Flavoured Lassies which I also mix 50% with water, as they are too thick and sweet on their own. In Barmer they make a special local lassie which is more like thick yellow custard with its own particular spices added.  And then there’s chai and coffee (the powdered kind).  On the street I drink freshly squeezed orange juice (the oranges here are green) and when I can find it, I buy a fresh coconut and drink the water/juice in it.  At weddings, and at restaurants I eat the regular Indian type foods and in the Indian tradition of eating with your right hand only.  It’s messy but think of all the cutlery that doesn’t have to be washed.  Once you eat this way a few times you will understand why all restaurants here have sinks by the entrance/exit. You wash in and you wash out.   And as I mentioned above, I eat CTM and sometimes some mutton or fish. Fish is rarely found in the desert, apparently they have trouble swimming in the sand.

It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rain and My Second Wedding

Rain

It came early this year.  And a lot of it. How much? Let’s just say I don’t live on a street anymore, it’s now a river. During the evening the river was at least six inches deep.  The cows don’t like it.  The garbage flows quickly down the brown mixture. The sewage system is completely over run so we can estimate what the river contains.  I will use a lot of soap when washing tonight.  That is if the power comes back on and I can pump some water for a shower.  My neighbours ran out of water and I allowed them to take some of mine.  Many bucket loads later I noticed my own well was very low.  So here I am in the dark, low on water, using the last of my computer’s battery life, needing a shower, and listening to the thunder and the rain that is leaking into my house through the plastic over my roof hole. Add to the image two candles weakly burning on a shelf very dimly.

If only I could use the roof as a catch basin, I could have filled the water tank by now.

 

My Second Wedding

The young man next door is married now. I was invited to various parts of the week long wedding, much of which was unfortunately cancelled due to sand, wind, rain and lightening storms.  But this night I got dressed up in my fancy kurta, actually my only kurta, and my beige linen pants that I had custom made for me in Delhi and went to the feast. I went along with the family on the other side of my house, who I have befriended.  They reminded me that I needed to give the married couple a gift, which is between 50 to 100 rupees in a nice envelope.  The envelope matters and I had to run off to a local shop to get nice one. I gave 100 rupees: admission price. So off we walked just down the street (now a street again now that the water is gone) to a hall off a side street. We walked into the first floor area where the food was being prepared.  It was black with black cooking utensils, pots and pans and people sitting on the ground cooking or making chapattis. And by the way, a roti and a chapattis are the same thing, so I learnt today. Up the stairs to the second story where hundreds of very nicely dressed men, women and children crammed together, eating off plates stuffed with all sorts of good food while being bombarded by VERY LOUD MUSIC.  I got my plate and put my meagre dinner portions on (I don’t normally eat a lot for dinner) and found a place of relative safe to eat and watch the bride and groom be photographed with each guest.  Of course I had my turn too. In this wedding, the groom was dictating all the instructions to the crew and making sure everyone had a picture taken with him and his new wife.  Even though there were numerous ceiling fans, it was very hot inside and you could see everyone was sweating.  I was the only white person there, and many stared at me and some laughed to see me in my Indian kurta.  The kids all know me and came over to shake my hand and say Namaste. Getting to know and play with the kids on my street first has made it easier for their parents to accept this strange foreigner in their midst. (this is another story I’ve yet to tell)  But it’s strange, so many people have told me I look Indian.  I wonder if I should get a genetic profile done.

So we ate, we watched, we were photo’d and we left.  That took about half an hour. I was told that nothing more happens at these events, so why have your ears damaged by staying. You can’t even have a conversation, not that I could have one in any case. 

And one more thing, the bride, a lovely young girl, never smiled.  I asked why: “Because she’s tired.” I was informed.

 

The world is your exercise-book, the pages on which you do you sums. It is not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish.

You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or to tear the pages. – Messiah’s Handbook, R. Bach

 

 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Storms, Birds, Weather and Work

STORMS

I could hardly believe the storms we had last night, first it got dark really fast, and I could hear the kids in the street screaming (with delight) as a sand storm hit us with a fury. You couldn’t' see anything, it was almost like being buried alive in the dunes, then after about an hour of that excitement with sand everywhere, a heavy rain storm made a total mess of the city spreading garbage, sand and mud everywhere.  Newly formed rivers flowed down the street and the cows sought higher perches to get out of the flow.  One was on my front step leaning against my outer wall looking quite miserable. But the air was cleaning up and cooling down.  When that storm subsided, an non-stop horizontal lightening storm began for about three hours. Just was just amazing and quiet.  Only a few rumbles of thunder off in the distance, but there was no thunder from these flashes, just a wonderful fast action display.  All the while, my neighbours had invited me for dinner and we sat on the roof watching the lightening eating chapattis and aloo (potatoes). But as it was so nice and cool after the storm, I slept on the roof and fell asleep watching the last streaks of lightening.

 

BIRD UPDATE

I came home to find a baby bird, fully formed, on the floor in the house.  As I approached it, it tried to fly but was not quite up to it yet.  So I tried to cradle it in my hands to put it outside with it’s parents, who were wildly chirping away.  I was not about to take over that role. I wasn’t able to catch it but did  gently get it onto the front patio and there I left it with Mom and Dad.  I haven’t heard any other sounds from the nest inside, so I guess there was only one bird up there, or one that made it.

 

WEATHER CHANGES

So I’m told that now, after the last two months of mid 40’s temperatures, we will have a change of weather: sand storms and rain.  This may last a month, but the rain will continue for a while, when the temperatures will go down to some reasonable levels.  In the winter months, December and January the night temperatures can go down to zero I’m told. So I can hardly wait, maybe I will get to wear my winter clothes.

 

WORK PROGRESS

My basic overview is just about finished now as I settle down to writing my notes and doing my analysis.  I learnt quite a lot from the staff interviews I did and from interviews with some outside Indian NGO consultants.  I have also been letting the administration know of my findings and where I’m going with my proposal both to test the waters of their reactions, which seems favourable to some degree, and to make sure they are not going to be surprised by my comments.  Although there will be some surprises.  My report is due August 1 and I told SURE that if they implemented my suggestions I would stay on to train and mentor as needed.

 

 

 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Parinda / Birds

My house, like all the other houses in this neighbourhood, has an opening in the roof into a room below to let the heat out. There is a metal grid over it so you can’t fall through from the roof, but the birds easily go in an out.

 

The birds were constantly flying in and out and leaving their droppings in the house. I didn’t like this part of their cuteness.  So I started blocking their entrances and exits. First I covered the hole in the roof with a carpet. That had two other advantages, 1) it kept the dust out, which is major in a desert, and 2) it kept the hot sunlight out, which is major in a desert.

Next I started keeping the front door closed, as they were sneaking in when they saw the slightest opening.  And finally I put a sheet over the doorway going up to the roof.  Still they managed to find ways around the sheet to get in.  But once in they were having trouble getting out so I would have to open the front door and chase them out. 

The last time two birds snuck in and began fluttering around the house, I was in my bedroom reading when I heard a thud noise and realised that one of them had probably been hit by the ceiling fan.  I ran out and there it was lying hurt on the ground.  It tired to fly but couldn’t. I opened the front door to let the other bird, still flying around, out and then helped the wounded bird out to the patio.  I went back in the house to get some water and then returned to see the hurt bird, but it was gone.  There’s no cats here, and I don’t suspect the cows got to it, so I hope it was only stunned and managed to fly away.  But there is more.

I discovered why it was they were so insistent to get in the house.  I heard some chirping, loud chirping and because of the bare walls here, I could not tell where it was coming from so I assumed it was some sound bounce from outside. To test my hypothesis I closed the door to block the sound.  But it persisted. In fact it was coming from right above my head in a wall air vent (they put them in all over the houses for air movement).  So I thought there were still some birds up in the vent. I got on a chair with my flashlight and looked in.  Baby birds.

So I removed the door sheet and keep the door open now to let the birds in to feed their babies.  I still keep the carpet up as that serves a better purpose.  I hope that soon the babies will fly away and I’ll be able to secure the house again before the stand storm season, before the rainy season and the dreaded mosquitoes.

 

Note: Parinda is Urdu for birds but it is sometimes used in Inida.