Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You got my attention!

One thing you realize quickly when you are in India - there are a lot of billboards around here. And they are HUGE!!! If you are in a major city (and a not so major one), you can't help but notice the large number of billboards everywhere. And some of them are as tall as a building. Besides size, they use attractive models, catchy phrases, colors etc. to attract your attention - each one attempting to stand out in the crowd.

I was trying to figure out the popular categories and here are the results of my unscientific study. One major cluster is related to housing and furnishings. With a massive demand for housing and an explosion in the real estate market, it is hardly suprising to see billboards advertising a piece of heaven on earth (and some divine furniture to go with it). Then you have the clothing and the jewelry category advertising must-have outfits for discerning men and women. Of course, you have the usual others - automobiles, cell phones and banks. But by far the biggest category is Movies. The movie billboards are the biggest, the most colorful and unique in style and design. I guess this is a reflection on the huge popularity of the Bollywood, Tollywood and Lollywood industries in India. Larger than life images of Tough heros, Mean villians and Gorgeous heroines provide some distraction and relief during your daily commute!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Into the Green Paradise

We are back in the Southern State of Kerala - God's Own Country. This time we are in Wayanad, on vacation with our extended family. Four families, eight adults, six kids, one van and one SUV in a beautiful plantation resort for the weekend!

We spent the weekend at Tranquil Resort - a private coffee and vanilla plantation spread across 400 acres. Our hosts, Victor and Ranjini have created paradise in this corner of Kerala. Lodging include guest cottages, suites, tree house and even a tree villa! The interiors have been conceived and designed by the hosts themselves, who also live on the property with their daughter, son-in-law and two grand children ... and yes, a half dozen absolutely wonderful dogs. The hospitality and the service is out of this world. The resort has five chefs who turn out one excellent meal after the other.

There are nearly a dozen trails on the property, a comfortable pool, massage facility and games for the kids. You never have to leave this place to seek fun and adventure.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Harvesting Water

In a world where water is starting to become a precious resource, you can imagine the water crisis in a country like India where the population crossed the 1B mark a couple of years ago and industrial growth is accelerating. The establishment of large campuses by global multi-national firms and the explosive growth in massive residential complexes to house the growing affluent and the returning NRIs have increased demands on scarce water resources. In an earlier posting, I had written about the dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu regarding the distribution of the Cauvery river. This sort of issue is not limited to this part of the country but is seen all over.

While travelling through Kerala a few weeks ago, I learnt about the phenomenon of Water Harvesting - which gave me a lot of hope. Kerala appears to have a highly developed system and infrastructure for harvesting rain water. The system involves capturing rain water from rooftops, capturing water from seasonal flood waters etc., purifying it and using it for a variety of purposes such as drinking water, irrigation, cleaning etc.

This technique has been extended to "Grey" and "Black" water harvesting. Grey water refers to used wash water from bath, shower, sink etc., while Black water refers to water containing fecal waste. To my amazement, techniques have been developed and perfected to harvest both Grey and Black water as well so that it can be recycled for a variety of functions.

It is heartening to see the efforts, foresight and leadership being made in this area to help in water conservation and recycling efforts!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Emperor of Fruits

If the mango is the king of fruits, the Alphonso (also known as Hafuz) is the emperor.

It is great to be in India during the heart of the mango season. Our visits in the last couple of decades have been usually during the winter so we have always missed the peak season (April/June). But now that we are here, we are thoroughly enjoying eating mangoes. The Alphonso is considered to be the best mango in terms of sweetness and flavors. It even has it's own page on Wikipedia, if you care to read more about this exquisite fruit.

We are pretty much in the peak season now and you can get the sweetest and tastiest Alphonsos at this time of the year. They run about Rs. 400/dozen - so you are paying around $1/mango. But when you sink your teeth into this juicy, sweet and succulent fruit, it seems like a price well worth it.

Just found out that the restrictions from the US agricultural department have been lifted on the Indian mango and starting in 2007, Indian mangoes can be shipped to the US. Keep an eye out for these delectable fruits at your local supermarket. You will never understand the joy of eating one of these until you actually try one!!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

World's best chilli dog!

It's good to be back in Los Angeles!

One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to Pinks in Hollywood. If this is conjuring up seedy images of a dim-lit cabaret bar in a dark alley, think again. We are talking about the most famous hot dog stand in the country. Paul Pink started his hot dog stand in 1939 and sold oversized hot dogs with chilli, mustard and onions in a hot bun for 10 cents.

Today, hot dogs sell for around $3.50 each at the Pinks hot dog stall. It is a small place at the corner of Melrose and La Brea and you can spot it easily because of the crowd gathered around this place. We had to wait in line for over an hour before making our way to the counter. I ordered a spicy Ozzy (polish sausage, grilled onions, mustard, cheese and chopped tomatoes!).

Quite an experience at this historic landmark!

Indus Day

Last week was the annual Indus Day at the children's school.


At Indus International School, they are serious about the International bit. Children from over a dozen countries were represented in the show. Performances ranged from Indian folk dances like Bharat Natyam to a popular Korean dance. The kids did a reproduction of the musicals Annie and Oliver Twist. Indian kids sang western songs while Australian kids danced the Bhangara. During one performance, children representing their home country came on the stage waving the flag of their country - Holland, UAE, UK, Australia, Germany and India. Conspicuous by it's absence was the American flag!, Finally, all the students of the primary section got on the stage to sing the Indian National Anthem!

Truly amazing performances by the young children and the event made you feel like a global citizen.