10 Clues that We’re in India – Clues 8 to 10
Yes, it’s the same photo of a traffic jam. This is giving you a taste of the frustrations of living in Bangalore – looking at the same old traffic jams every day. But we are on the last leg of this story. Here are clues 8 to 10 that the photo was taken in India.
Clue No. 8. There is a palm tree in the background, and the men on the motorbikes are dressed for warm weather, but the sky is grey. Just a typical July day in Bangalore. By 4pm that day we had rain showers; by 8pm we had thunder.
Clue No. 9. Staying with the guys on the motorbikes, they are dressed for different kind of jobs.
The man in the shirt with vertical stripes looks like he’s riding his own bike to an office job – maybe carrying a laptop in his shoulder bag on his way to his career in the new Bangalore of software companies and call centres.
The man in the white shirt and shorts looks like he’s on his way to a manual job – which might be connected to the IT sector as well, because so many offices are under construction. His footwear is definitely Indian. I hear various names for open shoes – slippers, sandals and chappals – and I think these ones are chappals, because they are not secured at the ankle.
And finally, Clue No. 10. There are two advertisements about gold. The poster of a woman is advertising gold for sale at the Malabar shop in our newest shopping mall – Phoenix Market City.
Jewellery shops thrive here. Indian families are really keen on investing in gold.
The Malabar store advertised isn’t even the only jewellery shop in the Phoenix mall – there is also Tanishq.
But when you buy gold this year, what do you do when you are short of cash next year? You could sell your gold jewellery, but you may be reluctant to part with it.
So instead you go to the bank asking to borrow money on the security of the gold. In an ironic juxtaposition in the traffic jam, the ad on the back of the auto-rickshaw is offering “jewel loans – convert idle gold into active cash”.
I spoke to one man who has borrowed money like this. He was happy with the arrangement because the bank lent the money quickly, at a reduced interest rate, when he offered gold as security. The gold, which he originally received as a wedding gift, is stored in the bank until he repays the loan. If he can’t keep up the repayments, the bank may eventually auction off his gold, but he is intending to repay the whole loan and reclaim the gold.
According to the KV Bank website, the bank will only be interested if you have jewellery of a minimum purity of 22 carats, or gold ingots. As a foreigner who hasn’t been stockpiling ingots, and who received kitchenware as wedding presents, I don’t have much to offer them.
Enough of that photo of the traffic jam. I promise that next week’s post will be vehicle-free!
Green leaves in the Rain
This is my first July in Bangalore. The international schools are on holiday, so most of my expat friends have gone home, and life is quieter than usual.
Life is also cooler. The rain and wind have brought an end to the stifling heat of summer.
In fact I can see from the Ashes cricket and the Open golf on TV that the weather is actually warmer and drier in the UK than it is here today.
We don’t need air-conditioning in the house now, but I am constantly opening and closing windows, switching ceiling fans on and off, trying to get the perfect balance between temperature and humidity, while letting in the most fresh air and the fewest mosquitoes.
We have a lovely green garden now – this was the view during one rainy afternoon last week.
March and April were unexpectedly hot in Bangalore. All the trees around the city suddenly came into bloom. The Tabebuia, Jacaranda and Gulmohar trees all flowered at once. They made a stunning show – as you can see from this gulmohar, which I photographed on 30 April.
But this may not be a good sign. The Bangalore Mirror, a local English-language paper, carried the headline “It is a climatic bloomer that all trees are blooming now.” The theory is that the early flowering predicts a water shortage. The trees are feeling threatened, because their roots struggle to find water after the intense heat and lack of rain. So the trees stop growing and move into the reproductive state of flowering.
Now we just wait and see what May will bring – more heat, or summer rains?
Here is a closer look at the gulmohar.
And a closer look at one branch. My driver told me that he remembers eating gulmohar leaves when he was a young boy, growing up in Chennai. He doesn’t eat them now, and I wonder if anyone does?
Before the Cyclone
Today is a wet and windy day, as Cyclone Nilam passes across South India. But here is a photo from last Wednesday, showing our house, with sunshine and palm trees.
We like our new house. But we had a series of mini-crises this week, one of which involved fridges.
Fridge number one, provided by the landlord, just froze everything. Frozen milk, frozen yoghurt, frozen broccoli, and frozen coke. Fridge number two had a hideous floral pattern on the door, and Paul had grave doubts about buying it, but none of that mattered, because it never turned up. The shop gave the refund in cash, which was promptly spent on fridge number three, which arrived on Friday.
Number 3 appears perfectly normal on the outside, but it plays “Jingle Bells” if the door stays open too long. And it has a temperature gauge for Winter, Summer and Monsoon, which may not be so appropriate if we take it back to the UK.