25 September 2008

New kitty on the block

At one point I was feeding four stray cats who would come and visit my terrace regularly. There was sweet little Todi who decided to move in with us and then was unexpectantly called to cat heaven before her first birthday. There was her mother, who would have a litter every few months and who I planned to get spayed but she disappeared before I could. There was a wild black and white tomcat who would keep the whole neighbourhood up at night with his loud, screeching meows. He has also since disappeared. (Perhaps he’s not as missed!) Fluffy Tail Cat is still around. It took some time to get to know him but I appreciate his quiet and reserved but affectionate nature.

And now there’s a new kitty on the block! On a Sunday evening just over a week ago, I was on my way home and was passing a very loud Ganesha procession (it was the last evening of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival). My eye caught a small scurrying animal dodging cars and stray dogs. It was dark and at first I thought it was a rat, but when I got closer I saw it was a small scared kitten. I picked her up and took her home. She was so thin I could feel her ribcage. Once home she settled in almost immediately and now seems happy to have a new home where she is safe from all the hazards of street life. She must be just over 2 months old. She doesn’t even have all her teeth yet! She spends most of the day sleeping or playing with whatever she finds around the house. She also likes to play with Fluff who is very gentle with her and happy to have some company again.

Meet Squeaky:

And this is Fluffy Tail Cat:

I noticed that 95% of Indian cats are ginger-coloured. I mentioned this to a friend who remarked that this is not surprising, considering that everything is so colourful in India!

19 September 2008

End of the monsoon?

Above: another view from my kitchen window

August was an unusually wet month in Bangalore. Though rain is expected during the June to September monsoon season, the city received double the expected amount of rain in the month of August: the average is 147 mm. This year the city received 309.8 mm, with August 26th being the wettest day with 66mm of rain.

It poured rain almost every day, but mostly during the night, which was convenient. Of course this was very inconvenient for those who experienced flooding in some parts of the city – luckily my neighbourhood was spared. Though the flooding was inconvenient for some, it was no where close to the devastation experienced by some parts of North India during this monsoon season.

Though the monsoon is always enthusiastically welcomed in June, come September and many people are looking forward to ‘winter’ and the dry, sunny days ahead. For the past week or so it hasn’t rained at all and the monsoon seems to be waning now. Daytime temperatures are climbing back up to the 30s and though the sky is still mostly covered with cloudy patches, there are longer sunny spells throughout the day. The plants on the terrace need watering, the garden furniture can be taken out again and the laundry dries quicker!

10 September 2008

A happy end for Ganesh

Above: Ganesh on his way to Ulsoor Lake

Ganesh Chaturthi is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in most parts of India with much noise and fanfare. For the past week, colourful and noisy processions have been taking place every evening through Bangalore’s streets in honour of the elephant-headed god Ganesh.

For weeks before the festival, colourful statues of the god in all shapes and sizes are sold in the streets. Huge Ganesh statues are erected in each neighbourhood where he is decorated with flowers and worshipped by the locals before they hoist him onto a tractor and take him to one of the city’s lakes for immersion.

The Lake Development Authority has run a campaign asking people to only buy idols made with natural colours to avoid the unnecessary pollution of the city’s lakes with toxic chemicals. Many of the statues are made of clay or mud which dissolves easily once in contact with water. At various points around the city, huge bins of water have been set up so that people can come and bring their idols for immersion. A priest is on hand to perform the final puja before the elephant god is dunked. The idols are then disposed of instead of being dumped in a lake.

Should devotion lead to destruction? Think about it! declares an ad in the paper:

05 September 2008

Too much to bear

Above: the view outside my kitchen window.

The morning of September 1st was cloudy and grey. A typical monsoon morning. It had rained heavily during the night.

I was sitting working at the computer when I heard loud crying coming from behind the house: a child and some women. I looked outside my kitchen window which looks onto a small community of modest housing where many labourers live. These are people who work as maids and drivers in the neighbourhood or at the marble works next door or as manual labourers. This community is made up of a few rows of small concrete houses with corrugated irons roofs squeezed between the main road and the road I live on. When I looked outside my kitchen window, I saw a group of people huddled in front of a corner house, crying. I didn’t know what was going on but I understood that something terrible had happened. I thought of the woman who comes to clean my place who has been sick for the past month and hoped that there wasn’t some sort of epidemic running through the community.

Later on I went up to the roof to put out the laundry to dry. I looked over behind the house and saw a man lying on the ground, in the narrow lane between two rows of houses. I knew I was looking at a corpse. His arms were lying unnaturally straight along his sides and his legs were also ramrod straight. His head was cocked to one side. Then I noticed the end of a sari tied around his neck.

His neighbours were busy emptying his small house which measured maybe 2.5 by 4 metres, like the other houses in this community. They brought out a small wooden table, a reed mat which had probably been his bed and a few plastic water jugs (these houses have no running water, only a common well). A man emerged with the other end of the sari and casually threw it on the body. Another carried out a bundle of clothes and a blanket which was used to cover the body. A few men arrived with a stretcher and carried him away.

I wondered what led him to take this extreme step. Illness? Debt? Despair? A few days later, I read in the paper that Bangalore has the highest suicide rate in India. 25,000 people take their lives every year in this city. On the day following the Ganesh Chaturthi festival, the morning paper announced that four persons had taken their lives that day. The man who lived behind my house was not one of them but maybe his story was similar.

The Hindu, 5 September 2008. Bangalore: Four persons ended their lives in separate incidents by hanging themselves in the city on Wednesday, when Vinayaka Chaturthi was celebrated.

Gali Venkatappa (45), a bar bender, committed suicide at his residence in Uttarahalli. The police said he was suffering from stomach ache for many years. Unable to bear the pain, he took the extreme step.

In another incident, a 17-year-old girl ended her life at her residence. She was identified as Sridevi, a resident of Gowdayyana Palya. As an assistant, she had worked for a few telefilm production companies. She had a quarrel with her parents on Wednesday. When her parents went to a temple to offer puja, she hanged herself, said the police.

Another 17-year-old-girl and a first PU student committed suicide in the limits of Mahadevapura police station. The police gave name of the girl as Pavitra Murugesh who was studying in a college in Prakashnagar.

A 26-year-old woman ended her life in Krishnananda Nagar. Rajamani, wife of an autorickshaw driver, was a native of Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. Four years ago, she moved into the city with her husband Mariyappan. On Wednesday night, she took the extreme step, the police said. Based on the complaint lodged by her father Rama Gounder, the sleuths of Nandini Layout station have arrested Mariyappan on charge of dowry harassment.