Friday, August 31, 2007

Back to School

It is September 1.

According to the Vedic Calendar, it is Chaturthi h. 06-33, Asvini Nakshatra h. 54-16, Vriddhi Yoga h. 48-41, Balava Karana h. 06-33.

Aanish and Ayaana have been back to school for a couple of weeks and a new routine has set in our daily life. There was the usual excitement about new classes, new friends, meeting old friends, getting new books & supplies and meeting new teachers. Ayaana is continuing Bharat Natyam lessons while Aanish plans to continue guitar lessons. Ayaana has moved out of the primary block. She will be leading the school assembly next week and will lead the singing of the Indian National Anthem (yup - she has memorized this).

Aanish has an interesting program this year with some exciting classes. His business studies class is quite fascinating and is focused on turning 9th graders into real business people.

The road to school has been upgraded (it was a bumpy rocky road for miles) but there are more kids in school this year. So the trip to school still takes about 40 minutes.

A new director of administration is in charge this year and discipline has been tightened. Strict guidelines for hair (short for boys, shoulder length or tied up for girls), uniform and behavior have been posted. iPods and video games of other students have already been confiscated for the academic year!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Move aside Mel

Bollywood beats Hollywood once again! If you thought that Mel Gibson's troubles with the law when he had the altercation with cops last year was a big deal, you have seen nothing yet. Two of the biggest stars of Indian Cinema have been sent to jail within a few weeks.

Sanjay Dutt was charged with possession of illegal arms about 14 years ago (yes, yes ... that's the pace of the legal system here) and has finally been convicted of the crime and sentenced to 6 years of prison time. He started his jail term a couple of weeks ago causing huge distress to movie producers who have millions of dollars invested in films starring Sanjay Dutt on the production floor.

Meanwhile, Salman Khan (another Bollywood favorite) has been sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for the shooting of two black bucks (considered to be a protected animal) during a hunting trip in 1998. Salman is expected to be arrested today.

As expected, the news media can't stop talking about these and you get to see/hear friends, families, lawyers, cops, news analysts, film industry colleagues all expressing their opinions!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Saare Jahaan Se Accha

If you want to get a feel for the vitality in India, you must visit the country around August 15th - India's independence day. This year, the country is celebrating it's 60th year of independence. While there is a lot of hope and optimism about the country's future, there is also a growing recognition about the problems (poverty, overpopulation etc.) among all. The newspapers today were full of debates and discussions about the progress made since independence and the way forward.

At the office yesterday, folks split up into three teams and competed to create an exhibit that represented India. These are the guys who represent the future of India where nearly 50% of the population (500MM) is 25 years old or less. It was a fascinating experience to view the country through their eyes. One exhibit represented India as a growing sapling (high prospects) on a rock foundation (difficult circumstances). The second had the country represented as a pigeon in a cage with the door open. The cage is open but the bird has not flown out yet. The third was full of optimism and was a celebration of the country's achievements and prospects for the future.

The residents association at our building had organized an Independence Day celebration complete with flag hoisting, march past, children's concert and breakfast. A school next to our building had their celebrations at 10AM with speeches and patriotic songs. The theme in all these events was pretty consistent - future looks bright and there is no stopping the young, bright and talented of this country. But there is also a tremendous responsibility to ensure that the opportunities are made available to all (250MM still live in dire poverty!).

Jai Hind!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Enchanting Tamil Nadu

The children's summer vacation was coming to an end last week and we planned a quick last minute vacation to Tamil Nadu. We decided to visit the famous temple city of Mahabalipuram (also known as Mammalapuram) and Pondicherry (famous for it's French Quarter - a'la New Orleans). We took a train to Chennai where Mona and the kids spent the day sightseeing while I spent the day at work.

Next day we drove to Mahabalipuram - destination GRT Temple Bay. This is an exquisite beach resort and a must-stay during any visit to South India. The kids absolutely fell in love with our beach front villa and did not want to leave. Game room (X-Box, table tennis, dart board, carroms and more), Infinity pool, fabulous restaurants and organized tours - you name it and they have it.

The highlight of our trip was a visit to see the old and ancient temples built during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. These heritage sites have been well preserved and are quite a sight and experience. The recent Tsunami has uncovered a few more temples under the water and a small boat ride from the resort takes you to close to the spot where you can see the roofs of the temples under water.

We thoroughly enjoyed our 2-day stay here and moved on to Pondicherry. But more on that in a future post.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bangalore Monsoons

The monsoons have finally arrived in Bangalore but so far they are nothing compared to the rain that we have seen in Mumbai. It rains hard several times a week. You don't get to see this kind of rain in Los Angeles so it is a new experience for us. Monsoon rain creates some unique challenges for people out here.

There is a lot of two-wheeler traffic on the roads in India. When it is pouring hard, the roads clear up amazingly quickly and if you are in a car, you are zipping to your destination. Most folks however are not deterred by the rain and getting soaking wet is taken in stride. The children are loving this season and actually head out to play outdoors when it rains.

Occassionally water will seep into our flat and towels strewn around the place during heavy rains is not an uncommon sight. Mona also gets impacted by rain because her tennis lessons get cancelled! But at the end of the day, we all enjoy the rains! Water level in the lake across from our building is rising and the green cover in the city looks fresh and rich.