24 November 2011

Now on Facebook & Twitter

India Outside my Window is now on Facebook and Twitter. ‘Like’ and ‘follow’ me to keep updated on what I’m up to, the places I’m visiting, what I see through my window, and to find out what I’ll be posting about next. I’ll also be putting up other stuff. Like pictures of my cats.

Click on the buttons below:

23 November 2011

Bangalore goes peanuts

For the past few weeks I noticed that a lot of the pushcart vendors in my neighbourhood were selling peanuts. This obviously meant it was peanut season, so I knew the Peanut Fair was coming up. Usually by the time I hear about it, it’s already over because it only lasts for three days. I didn’t want to miss it this time.

So I started asking around: ‘When is the Kadlekai Parishe (Peanut Fair)?’ Nobody knew. Some said it’s on the 21st of November. Others said the 29th. An Internet search revealed that it happens on the last Monday of the month of Kartika – but this didn’t help me much. I asked my Kannada teacher. Since she lives in South Bangalore and the fair happens in Basavanagudi, I thought she may know. She didn’t – but she said she would find out. On Sunday she sent me an sms saying the Kadlekai Parishe had started. A photo in the paper the next day confirmed this, so I headed to the area near the Bull Temple with my camera.

All the roads leading to the temple were closed to traffic. They were crowded with all kinds of vendors selling trinkets, bangles, pictures of Hindu gods, jewellery, toys, whistles, balloons, nimbu pani, chaat, cassava, cucumber, mosambi, jalebi, and of course, roasted peanuts!

As I got closer to the temple, I saw more and more peanuts. Piles and piles of peanuts still in their shells lined the sides of the road. These were being sold by farmers who had come to Bangalore from all over Karnataka and maybe further away, specially for the Peanut Fair.

This fair is dedicated to the ‘big bull’ (dodda basava) and has been taking place every year for the past 500 years. The story goes that farmers noticed that their crop was disappearing during the night. They wondered who could be the hungry thief. One night during the month of Kartika, a farmer discovered it was Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull. This is why before offering their peanuts for sale, the farmers offer their first crop to the large statue of Nandi (or Basava as he’s known here) in the Bull Temple.

Here are some more of my shots of this peanut fest:

14 November 2011

An agent for everything

In India, there’s always someone to do things for you. I already wrote about button pushers and household help in previous posts. Today’s post is on the agent.

There are a variety of agents to help you get your work done in India. If you’re looking for an apartment, applying for a driver’s licence, passport or foreign visa, or requesting a PAN card, there’s an agent for everything.

All over the city there are small signs printed on A4 sheets of paper stuck on tree trunks and shop fronts which simply say: PAN card, and then a mobile phone number. These are posted by agents who can apply for a PAN card (income tax number) on your behalf, for a small fee of course. Applying for a PAN card is actually quite easy. It can be done on-line. But for those who aren’t very net savvy or perhaps don’t have the time, they can use the services of these agents.

Then there are the ubiquitous real estate agents. A friend who’s looking for an apartment is having a hard time avoiding them. When she replies to ads in the paper, it’s always an agent who answers. Somehow they manage to have a monopoly on the rental market. And they’re not cheap! They expect one month of rent from the landlord AND the tenant! Which is always negotiable of course...

Getting things done takes time in India. You have to wait in offices, collect papers, fill them out, return to the office only to be told you need this form, or that paper has to be notarised, and the other one printed on stamp paper. Or you’re asked to ‘Come tomorrow’. It’s a complex process which requires not only time but a good dose of patience. So why wait in lines and fill in papers when you can have someone else do it for you?

06 November 2011

Gaga for guavas

I got the image above from Wikimedia.

My favourite fruit at the moment is guava. It’s been in season for the past few months and it’s for sale on almost every street corner. There are two varieties: white and pink. I’ve been told that the white fruit is sweeter than the pink. But I prefer the pink because of its beautiful, brilliant colour and I’m convinced it’s sweeter too. Pink guavas also seem to be bigger and rounder than the white. As guavas ripen, the outer skin becomes more yellow in colour.

The guava seller at the market has a big, round basket full of guavas perched on the back of a bicycle. When he sees me coming, he starts picking out the pink ones because he knows I’m gong to ask for them. For about two months there were only white guavas available but the pink ones are back now.

If you want to eat the fruit straight away, he’ll chop it up and sprinkle rock salt and chilli powder on it. But I like it the natural way: plain, no salt, no chilli. I usually ask for 5 or 6 to take home. He always gives me an extra one. Maybe because I try to speak Kannada to him, or because he’s overcharging me, or because I’m a good customer. Not sure.