Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WOmen at work

The sign (though admittedly difficult to see) reads "Men at Work". Yet, if you notice, the women are the active ones.
These women stacking bricks on their heads continue to fascinate me.

Friday, December 25, 2009

High five

This picture is from the stained glass panel of the Life of Christ in the Chartres Cathedral, France.
The Annunciation to the Shepherds.
It makes me smile because it appears that the shepherds are high fivin' the angels.
You bet: the Messiah's arrived? Give me some skin.
Good news indeed.

Hymn for the day

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Purple hand towel

An awesome thing happened this morning.
Last Saturday I went shopping for some new towels for the guestroom. I wanted a full set of purple towels--bath towel, hand towel and wash clothe. But the hand towel wasn't available in that color.
I asked if they would have more in stock at a later time.
I was told no.
I asked if they would be ordering any more purple colored hand towels (never accept the first 'no').
Why yes, they would. And if I gave my address, it would be couriered to my house on Tuesday.
Really? Awesome.
And yes! My purple hand towel showed up this morning! What great service!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chili snow tree

Here's my Christmas tree.
Chili peppers and snowflakes.
Kind of Charlie-Brown-esque, but it works.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bill paying

My water bill was due Monday. But the bill paying office was closed. What kind of sense does that make? So I got to pay the 13 rupee late fee.
After I found the "office", that is.
It's in an out of the way place off a highway in a walled compound.
I chose the "cash counter" since I didn't have a cheque.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Some friends picked me up in a taxi today to go to lunch. I am reminded how nice it is to ride in a car. No jolting. No wind. No exhaust fumes.

So on my trip out, I passed the Republic of Chicken. Very clever sign on the door.
Conversely, when you leave you are 'emigrating'.
No passport necessary, though.
Not exactly a vegetarian friendly 'country', but amusing nonetheless.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inventive vocabulary

Here's a new word for you: upgradation. Did you know you could make up words and put them on signs throughout the city?
Happens all the time.
The AnswerTips vocabulary feature on this page (which is awesome--double click on any word and check it out) doesn't recognize the word. It will give you no helpful information. Try the word 'inventive', though--it will even tell you how to pronounce it.
Nothin' for 'upgradation.
But: that doesn't stop the construction folk from digging a hole in the ground and putting up a sign about it so they can go away and leave it there unattended for a week.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bad math

I was desperate yesterday evening for a clean house.
I went to the lady downstairs and told her I had guests with a small child coming and my floors were not clean.
She said, "Come in and have chai."
I went in and talked with her for a while and had some chai. She told me she'd send her house helper up the next day to see about the floors.
This afternoon a lady turned up at the door. She made a mopping motion and told me to let her in. I said that not only did I need her to clean the floors today, but I needed someone every day.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Clean the floors. Dust. Clean every thing."
"How much will you give me?"
She didn't understand the number I said.
So I counted it out for her.
She didn't understand that.
So I wrote it out for her.
She couldn't read.
Finally she said, "I'll do the floors for 500 and the rest for 200."
Being generous, I asked, "800?"
"No. 700."
"You mean for a month or today?"
"For the month."
Sold. She'd just subtracted from my original offer and given me an unheard of deal for a foreigner. I'll take it. And count it as a gift from the God who knows how little is in my wallet.

My small visitor still managed to turn his nose black on the curtains, though.
Guess I need the number for a dry cleaners.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Teeth that see better

My friend chipped her tooth.
She went to the dentist to have it fixed.
The dentist looked at it.
He x-rayed it.
He drilled it.
He sealed it.
And he was done.
No root canal needed. Or Novocaine. (eek.)
It took thirty minutes from the time we walked into the office.
So then she got glasses.

The cement he added all fell off within a couple hours and one bite of pita and humus.
But she can still see perfectly.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chipmunk rage

The noisy gecko has moved on and no longer bothers me, but it seems that if it's not one creature, it's another.
There is a now a chipmunk who likes to hang out on my balcony. Making an uncalled for racket.
Is this necessary? It's as if he's preaching to the noisy city from my balcony rail. Something about humans encroaching on his habitat? Or maybe he's demented.
Whatever it is, could he please find another balcony from which to yell?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bearing gifts

Is it Christmas where you are?
Here there is little evidence that Christmas is a holiday.
Much much less than the decorating frenzy of the US.
Today I saw these two gift bearers and remembered that in other places people are turning everything green and red for the rest of the year.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


There are a lot of things I notice.
And most of those I choose to post here are the observations that have some sort of human interest. They are fun or intriguing, wild or unimaginable.
But the things I've noticed this week are ugly.
Sin is never pretty.
In contrast to the waves of disappointment, anger and sadness of the past few days, are the readings I have been going through about trust and forgiveness.
Two things stand out to me, as I hope to grow into the person I desire to be:
One, if I have a problem forgiving, it's because I don't know how much I've been forgiven.
And two, I cannot keep myself safe, but I can trust God to hold me when others fail me.
Because at the center of everything is Him and his love.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jantar Mantar

The meanings of Jantar Mantar are not something I paid a lot of attention to when I was there.
Astronomy and astrological instruments of immense proportion.
And this giant thing which tells time.
No, I wasn't paying attention to that.
I was following the color
and the shapes
and the textures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Happy Diwali.
The neighbors have decorated.
The shops are hung with lights.
The neighbor below me has decorated outside the door and left marks for the spirits to follow.
It's time for Delhi to be overtaken by the Festival of Lights.
The celebration of Diwali includes thousand and thousands of lights, candles and fireworks. Non-stop fireworks from 6pm until well after 1am. That's a lot of fireworks. And a lot of smoke and trash when it's all over.
Diwali is a loud holiday.
See some of the festivities and the "safety precautions" taken as traffic passes by:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The contrasts are great

What is that between the buses, auto rickshaws, and cars?
Yes, it's an elephant and his mahout.
What a city of contrasts Delhi is.
On the drive across the city with some friends, we spotted the elephant, and in another part of the city there were families gathered in the grassy areas to enjoy the evening cool.
It was a very different atmosphere once we reached our destination, a fancy hotel where we partook of some coffee and tea and mixed with the rich and privileged.
The halls and corridors were lined with old paintings, drawings, lamps, statues and fountains.
We enjoyed our rare, expensive treat and then it was back to the real world of Delhi, its dust, noise and humanity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Subzi call

Each subzi wallah (vegetable seller) has their own distinct call. They come through the neighborhood every morning with their vegetable laden carts--tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, normal things and others I can't identify.
Women come out on the balcony and yell, "Ho, how much are your tomatoes?" And in a bid for a lower price they add, "Oh, they don't look very good."
The vegetable selling lady shouts that the cauliflower has come, and other things I cannot discern.
But the snack man: he has a bell.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Billowing curtains

I love to watch my curtains blow in the breeze. Billowing.
It's very relaxing to watch the interplay of light and color, shadow and movement.
If I didn't have work to do, I'd just sit mesmerized by them.
That curtain man was right to take pride in his work.

If only it didn't include the background construction noises...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Neighbors' construction progress

Have you wondered about the progress of the neighbors' building project?
Here's an update anyway:
The brick lady is no longer around. Instead there is a new group of men with drills and marble sanders. They are much noisier and they work for about twelve hours a day, 8am-8pm. They are also now assuming the structure can stand on its own and are removing the supports.
It's some of the fastest construction work I've ever seen in India.

Plant experiment

I have plants.
I'm not certain that this is a good development. I've always held the idea that my life here is full of too much travel and transition to be able to be responsible for the well being of a plant.
But this is what happened:
I was on my way out this morning and I rounded the corner in the neighborhood. There, his bicycle loaded with greenery, was the plant selling man.
"Ah," he said, "You want plants."
Well, maybe. It was sort of true. My balcony was terribly bare and in need of them, but...
"Look at this one," he knew he'd caught my attention, "It's very nice."
It was. He even had one of the little pine trees I've admired on the neighbor's balcony.
"How many?" he asked.
But I was on my way out! "Not now. Not today," I told him.
"Why not today? I am here today. Here you are. Tomorrow these nice ones will be gone."
Right. He was right.
So back I went, plant man following.
At the foot of the stairs, he unloaded his plants from the bicycle. Then he tried to talk me into buying all of them.
"You won't take all? Okay, you need these six."
"No, four."
"Okay, these five."
"Do you want me to take these five up the stairs for you?"
"No, only four."
"I will bring them." He carried the five plants up.
We talked price and came back again to plant five. "Oh but Madame, don't make me take it back down again. Look how nice it is. How well it would look over there for you."
It was a nice plant. But it didn't look as hardy as the others. In other words, easier to die of neglect if I go away for a few weeks. "If this one stays, you must give me a very good discount."
"Of course, Madame, this one is like a gift to your home."
Sure. Was it free? No, it was not.
The plant man left then with promises to return to re-pot the plants for me the next day. That's a pretty good bit to throw into the bargain, 'cause where in the world am I going to find dirt? I mean, besides the kind that accumulates in my house everyday as soon as I'm finished dusting.
Is he going to come back to water and prune them for me, too? ...Probably not a good idea that he hang around so much.
I've no intention of killing these four new additions to my home, but great hope for their survival. Now begins the experiment: we'll see who lives.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Impressive time

Today when my friend's wireless internet wasn't working, I was finally motivated to go out to see about reconnecting my own account.
I wasn't looking forward to it, being that I've had some unpleasant past experiences, and because I've gotten several calls in the last week about an outstanding bill--which isn't accurate information.
So I gathered up all my paperwork and headed out just after 2pm.
At the office the man remembered suspending my account for me two months back and he quickly went through the process of un-suspending it. He said it would be back up and working in two hours. We clarified the inaccuracy of the outstanding bill and I was on my way.
I stopped to buy a rice cooker--which should help while I wait for cooking gas--some napkins and tp, and I was home before 4pm. That's amazing fast for so many errands.
And what's really, really remarkable was that I had working internet by 4:12pm. Impressive.
Is it a good, fast connection? No, not really. It's taking forever just to post this.
It's still India, but a good day in India.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Noisy gecko

There's a gecko in the kitchen determined that I don't sleep very well. I didn't know they could be so noisy. I didn't know they wanted to be so noisy; I thought they were stealth creatures sneaking up on bugs.
Anyway, the one living in the crack in my kitchen wall starts his chirping around 10pm and continues until the sun comes up just after 6am. At first I thought something was wrong with my fan, that it was making a funny noise. Nope. Gecko.

Ignore the poor video. I couldn't find the "record sound only" setting on my camera.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The gas is gone

My propane cylinders I use for the stove are empty.
I need a new "connection". Getting one is a tedious process, especially since government offices are involved. This morning I went out to get that process started.
The cycle rickshaw driver thought he could find a different gas office in a different neighborhood and we spent about forty minutes riding around looking for it, before he finally arrived at the original destination asked for. I felt bad for him, pedaling so long. But I also didn't because it was his own fault for trying to find a short cut and not take me where I wanted to go.
By the time we reached the gas company office, it was 1:16pm. Lunch time. The office was mostly deserted, but there was a woman who said to come back at two o'clock with the proper paper work (which I had in my bag). She wouldn't help me then.
I noticed a sign in the office. I'm wondering if it's true... Making me come back in forty-five minutes does not seem like something that is for my "convenience".
I got change for the cycle driver by buying potato chips from a small snack store and went to a Tibetan restaurant to eat momos.
Then I returned to the office and submitted my paperwork. I was told that "between a month" someone would come to inspect my home. Then I could have a gas connection. If I pass inspection.
I should.
I think.
I submitted all the paperwork. And what about my "satisfaction"?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shelves arrived

My shelves arrived today.
The carpenter kept his word. And he did a good job on them, too.
Now my house smells of new stain and sawdust.
Next great, big project: unpacking, cleaning, repairing, sorting, filing, organizing, and shelving the hundreds of books in the bunches of boxes stored in the same room.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wouldn't believe it

I saw a calf with horns and part of a second head on its backside.
It was the weirdest thing. I don't know why anyone would believe me that I really saw such a thing. And I didn't have my camera handy to document it, since I was fresh off the plane and it was still packed away.
I was in the taxi passing what I thought was the usual sight of Hindu-girl-parading-decorated-calf, but it turned out to be different than the usual.
My incredulity and jet lag delirium were so great, that I can't even be sure myself that it was real.
And I can't prove it was.
Now that I think of it, that's a pretty good metaphor for my whole existence here in Delhi: Is that real? Did I truly just see what I think I saw?
I wouldn't believe that even if I did just see it myself.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Don't worry about tomorrow

Tomorrow I go back to India and my apartment after some very nice time at home with my family. Not really looking forward to the return and all that is waiting for me.
So today, I like this song for tomorrow.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Different belief

Tonight is the Night of Power for many who believe in things very different from what I believe. They'll stay up all hours, hoping God will take special heed of a prayer said on this night.
Here's something of what some of them believe:

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unexpected wheels

My friend and I were walking along the beach and I wondered aloud how close the boat coming our way would be able to get to the shore before the people getting out would have to get wet.
"Oh, it's expected to get wet in a boat that small size," replied my friend.
As the boat came closer, it didn't slow down and I began to wonder aloud how it planned to unbeach itself after landing at that speed, but what came out was: "How will they--it has wheels!"
The boat didn't slow down at all--or ever intend to land. It transformed before us into a strange looking truck which drove right up onto the beach.
There were men waiting for it who unloaded the cargo from the boat truck and filled it again with new cargo.
Then the truck drove into the sea and floated away again.
Very unexpected.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Beach dog's heart

I thought it was a very talented beach dog who could make this heart on the beach and then sit beside it to guard it.
Is that for real?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Duplicate keys

I needed some duplicate keys for my door. In case something happens, I get locked out again, or for visitors who come to stay for a few days.
There are several different locks on the main entrance of my apartment, keys to each of which are necessary to get in.
So I went to a locksmith. Locksmiths usually just have a stand somewhere out on the street near a market.

The first one I visited was set up near a public toilet--how do they stand that smell all day!--and he had hundreds of possibilities for key duplicates and even advertised "digitized" key duplication. But that machine was broken.
So he said.
It was an interesting process to watch. (But very difficult to stand next to that public toilet for twenty minutes.) He used his metal files and a very dangerous looking blade from which he removed the protective shield and I soon had duplicate keys for two of the locks. But he told me the last key was too difficult and it wasn't lining up right; he couldn't make it.

The next locksmith I visited told me the keys for the third lock were not difficult, but they were precise and it was a lot of work. He would make keys for me right then in ten minutes and I would have to try them out. If they didn't work, he said he would have to go and see the lock and work on them some more. He was very thorough in explaining the process to me. In Hindi, which I tried my best to follow.
The keys he made didn't work.

The next day I went back to the market to find him. His "location" is just a place on the sidewalk up against the wall where he spreads a mat and lays out his tools. The mat and a pile of keys were there, but the man and his tools were missing.
"Where's the locksmith?" I asked the toothless barber nearby.
"He's gone."
"Yes. Do you know when he'll be back?"
"Did he go to lunch?"
"He has taken his things and gone."
Okay then.
I went to the stationary store and returned twenty minutes later. The barber, a man getting a shave and one spectator all told me the locksmith was gone.
I went to a coffee shop, drank a blackberry smoothie and returned after another twenty minutes. The barber and two other men said there was no locksmith.
"But here," he pointed to a kid walking by, "Give your name and contact to this boy and he will tell the locksmith."
"For sure? He will?"
"Very sure."
I gave the kid my name and number on a ripped off piece of my receipt from the stationary store and went into the grocery store. I returned again in another fifteen minutes.
"You are here," said the barber's friend.
"Yes, and the locksmith is not."
"You have given your contact to the boy?" asked the barber.
"I did."
"Then," he waved his hand in the air and put his head to the side to say 'it is taken care of'.
"For sure?"
"Very sure," again with the hand and the head.
"Good. We will see."
I went home.

The key man did not call me the next day and I went back to look for him on his mat at the market. This time, there he sat. (No barbers or other loiterers in sight.)
"So, what happened?" asked the locksmith.
"The keys don't work."
"The keys don't work?"
"Nehi, ji."
"Do they work a little bit and go into the lock?"
"Nehi, ji."
"So they don't work?"
"Nehi, ji."
"Then I have to come to see the lock. Tomorrow I will come. This is your contact?" he pulled out the little piece of paper I'd given to the boy the day before.
"Yes. Do you have a mobile number?"
He gave me his number and said he would come the next day at 10am.

The next day at 12:30, the locksmith showed up.
"Here is the lock," he said looking at the door.
"Yes, ji," I handed him the keys that didn't work.
He oiled the lock, filed the keys for a few minutes then said he needed to take them somewhere else to work on them. He'd be back in an hour.

In four hours he returned.
"These keys are a lot work," he said. "They are imported."
On both the original key and the lock it clearly said: made in India. "They are difficult," I said.
This time he pulled out his file and worked for forty-five minutes or so. He had the keys almost working, but there was something not quite right about them.
"Look," he said, "They are almost right."
"I see."
"I need one other tool for this. I will have to go where they have this tool. I will take the keys and come back tomorrow. This is fine?"
Why not? What am I going to do with two keys that don't open anything? "Fine, ji. Tomorrow."
"Tomorrow what time?"
"Early. 11 o'clock."
"Okay, very good."

Two days later, he came in the afternoon.
"Where is it?" he held out his hand.
Thinking he meant the duplicates, I said, "You have them."
"No, it is with you."
Oh, the original key. "One second."
He got to work filing and pounding with his hammer. For a very "precise" key, it seemed like a rough process.
An hour later both duplicates would open the door and the locksmith was feeling confident enough to lock himself out and try them.
Nope. He rang the doorbell and I let him back in.
More pounding.
And finally: working keys! He packed up his tools, sat on his tool box and told me to try them out. It takes a little bit of a special touch, but they do work.

So now I know that key duplicating is an eight day job.