29 March 2008

Chainsaw massacre

Above: A victim of the CMH Road chainsaw massacre.

One thing I love about Bangalore is its trees! Almost every road is lined with huge ancient trees on either side stretching their long branches over rooftops and meeting in a canopy over the city's streets providing some much-needed oxygen and shade from the scorching sun. But in the past few weeks, some of the city's arteries have witnessed a massacre of sorts: trees are being chopped down to widen roads and make way for the much anticipated Bangalore metro.

Though most people support the Metro project as a solution to the traffic problem, many are unhappy with its proposed design. 33km of track will run from the North to the South, and from the East to the West of the city with 32 stations along the way.

Above: Signs of discontent.

The problem is that the line will not be completely underground. Some parts of the city will have an elevated track crossing commercial areas like MG Road in the centre of the city and CMH Road in Indiranagar. This will radically change the urban landscape, replacing trees with concrete in what used to be called the 'garden city'.

Above: Work on the metro is underway on 100 Feet Road in Indiranagar. These trees are probably the next victims.

Above: CMH Road in Indiranagar looks barren without the trees which were spaced every 10 metres along the length of the road.

Above: The contrasting image of another stretch of CMH Road that has escaped the massacre.

Residents and shopkeepers in Indiranagar lobbied to have the CMH Road stretch of the Metro pass underground to avoid the demolition of buildings and the chopping down of trees but it looks like they have lost their battle. Many now grumble that this is another example of bad urban planning that Bangalore is a victim of. 'Driving Bangalore ahead' seems to be the motto of the Metro Rail Project. Again, this is another reminder that development always comes at a price.

22 March 2008

Happy Holi!

This morning I heard excited screaming and laughter outside my window. My neighbours were playing Holi!

This colourful festival celebrating the arrival of spring is mostly celebrated in North India but it seems to be becoming more and more popular in the South. It involves throwing coloured powder and water at friends and family members, covering them completely in a riot of colours!

To get a taste of the spirit of this festival, watch this clip (from a Bollywood film featuring stars Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini):

19 March 2008

Halebid temple

In the last of the temple trilogy, today we visit Halebid temple. This is one of my favourite temples in India. Like Belur temple, it is extremely well preserved and the interior and exterior are completely covered with beautiful sculptures and carvings of deities, animals, dancers and musicians.

Some renovation work is going on.

These mats protect visitors’ feet from the hot stone floors which had soaked up the sun’s rays all day long.

Take a walk through Halebid temple:

18 March 2008

Unwelcome visitors

Insects are a part of daily life in India. I always seem to be in battle with some type of bug or other. Mosquitoes are a daily menace. They suddenly make their appearance at nightfall, and all the doors and windows have to be kept shut tight if I want to avoid being eaten alive. During the night an electrical repellent plugged into the socket keeps them from buzzing in my ears all night. If I’m outdoors I can always use a cream repellent to keep them from biting my ankles which they seem to particularly like.

Ants are also regular visitors. When we first moved in there was a continuous highway of ants moving from the front door to the kitchen. If as much as a breadcrumb fell to the floor, they would be on it in seconds. I learned to keep food in airtight containers and make sure nothing edible was lying around. But still the steady line of ants moving along the wall from the door to the kitchen and back continued… I tried to locate exactly they were going but failed to find the source of their interest. Finally in exasperation I emptied the cupboards and found them INSIDE the honey jar. How they managed to get inside, I have no idea. I got rid of the honey jar and traffic on the ant highway considerably lessened but didn’t completely cease. I spoke to my ever-resourceful landlady about this and she showed me a type of chalk I can buy which is used to repel cockroaches and other insects. I bought one and drew a chalk line in front of all the doors and windows, and along the kitchen wall where it meets the floor. This worked like magic – the ant highway was closed for good.

A couple of months later I noticed I had an itchy rash on my hands every morning. I put this down to those annoying mosquitoes. Then one day I noticed bugs on my curtains. Tiny brown-coloured bugs. I summoned my landlady again. Bedbugs was her diagnosis. BEDBUGS?! Ahhhhhhh! They really exist? I thought they were the stuff of bedtime stories and seedy hotels. How did they get into my house? This new contingent of unwelcome visitors sent my landlady into a tizzy who mumbled something about her daughter coming from the US the following week before hurrying off to spray her whole house with bug spray. Though we live on separate floors with separate entrances she didn’t want to take a chance.

After doing some quick research on the Internet, I put all the sheets and curtains in the washing machine and put the setting to 90 degrees. In the meantime I also went on a spraying frenzy in the bedroom. Thanks to the information on the Internet I learned how to identify the hiding places of these tiny critters. I also learned that they leave behind tiny black dots. I found these dots on some places on the walls but found no traces of them on the bed frame or mattress. That’s how I learned that ‘bedbugs’ are a misnomer – they don’t necessarily live in your bed, but often somewhere near your bed. In this case, they hid in the curtains during the day and feasted on me at night! I also found those tiny black dots on the electrical sockets and discovered they were also hiding inside the sockets, as well as in the space where the curtain rod is attached to the wall! It took a few days of frenzied spraying, but these unwanted visitors were finally eradicated for good!

My eyes were now trained to spot an erring ant or pesky bedbug resting on the ceiling but little did I know that we had other visitors who I would never even see. A tiny hole had appeared in the dining table and sawdust was coming out of it. I inspected the table and found another tiny hole. I had absolutely no clue what this could be, so again I consulted my landlords who told me to put dishwashing soap in and around the holes. This seemed to work: no more sawdust. But some time later, more holes appeared. Soon there was a whole line of tiny holes across the table! More Internet research and a call to a pest control company exposed the nature of our latest visitors: wood borers! The pest control people smeared a smelly varnish type of substance all over the top and under the table. This seems to have worked.

Thank goodness that the creepiest insect of all – the cockroach (in India these are the length of my thumb with long twitching antennae!) is a very rare visitor. On one or two occasions in the mornings I’ve found one lying inert on its back in the kitchen, but thankfully this happens very, very rarely.

Geckos are more welcome. I have no idea how they get into the house; they must squeeze in through the windows or walk through the door when I’m not looking. If it wasn’t for the strange clicking sound they make, I wouldn’t know they were there. They’re harmless, kind of cute, and most importantly, they eat other bugs – so they can stay for now!

11 March 2008

Back to Belur

After descending 614 steps and leaving Gomateswara behind, we headed to Belur to see the Chennakesava temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. What's impressive about this temple is the magnificent carvings and sculptures covering the interior and exterior of the temple. Inside it was quite dark so I mostly admired the intricate carvings covering the outside of the temple. Compared to the Sun Temple of Konark, this temple is a lot better preserved, despite the fact that it is a century older.

The exterior of the temple is completely covered with intricate carvings.

A close-up reveals... horses, lions and elephants!

A close-up of the elephants.

There are also many dance sculptures. This is one example.

The third and last stop of this whistle stop temple tour was Halebid - the site of one of my favourite temples in India. A post and slide show of Halebid temple are coming soon...

10 March 2008

Weird web searches

I've been looking outside my window and telling you about what I see for a year now, as this blog is just over a year old. Since then there have been over 25,000 visits!

Thanks to StatCounter, I can also see how visitors reach this blog, and for those who arrive via web searches, what they typed into google to get here. I thought I'd share some of the more funny, as well as just plain weird ones:

why do chipmunks make that annoying chirp noise

is unbelievably ugly and bad tasting. It looks exactly like sheep intestines turned inside out

how to make annoying squeaky sounds with a straw

could i see the red firework come out

woman sex perfume in India

large curtain window picture on the beach

successful marriage without horoscope matching possible

the monsoon season has started but still no rains poems

old indian vegetable market sounds

inside outside home plane for India

can i have septic tank in south west according to vaastu?

what is animal in thetop of pillor sabarimala temple in kerala

indian woolen freedom fighter hats

woolen hats from India

longhair banyan milk

volvo bus window shutters

what is a good and cheap 2 wheeler for females in india

india arranged marriage convent

what is hazelnut called in tamil

it’s red on the outside looks like a coconut, from the inside is white with little black seed

05 March 2008

Colours of summer

The seasons in India seem to be in fast forward. The huge tree outside my window had lost all its leaves last month. The last leaf had barely fallen before I noticed new buds already appearing. In the space of 10 days the tree was in full bloom! The terrace is a shady oasis once again and the cats have come back to spend their afternoon siestas out of the sun. Temperatures now reach the 30s during the day but a gentle breeze keeps everyone cool and dry.

Bangalore is a riot of colours: bright pink, brilliant yellow, purple, red! Take a walk through the neighbourhood and enjoy the colours on offer: