Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Open World by Ryszard Kapuscinski

The New Yorker has this wonderful, endearing travel essay by the Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski.
"Abroad?" she said, surprised and slightly frightened. "Where? What for?"

"I was thinking about Czechoslovakia," I answered. I wouldn't have dared to say Paris or London, and, frankly, those cities didn't interest me; I couldn't even imagine them. This was only about crossing the border—it made no difference which one, because what was important was not the destination but the mystical and transcendent act.

A year passed. Then one afternoon the telephone rang in the newsroom. The editor-in-chief was summoning me to her office. "We are sending you abroad," she said, as I stood before her desk. "You'll go to India."

My first reaction was astonishment. And, right after that, panic: I knew nothing about India. I feverishly searched my thoughts for some associations, images, names. Nothing. Zero. The idea for the India trip came from the fact that, several months earlier, Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, had visited Poland—one of the first premiers of a non-Soviet-bloc country to do so. The first connections were being established. My stories were supposed to bring that distant land closer.

Make yourself a hot drink - coffee, tea, Horlicks, Boost, whatever, kick back and enjoy.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Piercing babies' ears - the gun replaces tradition, but a lot is lost

Little N turned seven months old and it was high time we got her ears pierced. Yes, I know, just even saying it sounds gruesome, but it needed to be done (family tradition, culture and all that good stuff, plus I didn't want her to lose valuable real estate to park precious earrings, studs and jhumkis when she got older). So Little N and I went yesterday to Ganjam Nagappa on Infantry Road.

These days if you want anything pierced, ears, nose, navel or other assorted body parts, apparently that's what you do - you go to a jeweller or the doctor or to a beauty salon, where the "piercer" will place a gun loaded with the stud against the relevant body part and shoot it and a second later, the pointy end is nestled neatly in its lock behind.

This is a far cry from the ear piercing ceremonies I remember growing up. Parents would arrange for a goldsmith known to them to arrive on an auspicious day and at an auspicious time and have the baby bathed and dressed in a new dress. After a small puja, with the rest of the family hovering around nervously, the mother would settle down on the floor in front of the goldsmith with the baby in her lap and the baby's arms held firmly in her own hands.

The goldsmith would have his minimal paraphernalia ready - coconut oil and two thin, delicate, pointy needles made of gold about an inch long. He would dab the baby's ear lobes with the coconut oil and pick up one of the gold needles and pierce one of the lobes with it. Right on cue, the baby would start bawling, but the goldsmith would move quickly to complete the process with the other ear lobe. The ends would be left hanging until the baby had calmed down sufficiently when the goldsmith would quickly twist them locked.

This would be followed by an arathi where two of the older women in the family waved a plate, with turmeric and kumkum mixed with water, in a circular motion three times in front of the mother and baby to ward off the evil eye.

A few days later, the goldsmith would replace the gold needles with earrings or studs of the parents' (or mother and grandmother's) choice.

While I was not expecting the warmth and fussing over the baby that are the hallmarks of the ear piercings of my memory, the process at Ganjam's still left a lot to be desired.

For one, although I had talked to the lady in charge of piercings in advance and told her I would be there at a particular time, it took her fifteen minutes to even come see us. By the time she organized her paraphernalia - the gun, the studs, a ballpoint pen to mark the spots on the ear lobes where the studs would go, and some kind of a disinfecting solution - and she settled us down in a chair in a small, dark back office, the shop lost power. A few lights stayed on in the showroom, but the back office had no light.

Power was out for a good half-an-hour during which time I wondered whether a store like Ganjam's could not afford a generator to keep lights on in their offices. Then even those few lights went out. By this time it was a good hour since we got to the store and the ear piercer had disappered. I located her attending to some clients in the far end of the show room.

She had not only made no attempts to locate an alternative to the back office, some place that had sufficient natural light, but she had also busied herself with someone else. It was ironic, since there were atleast ten other saleswomen who were sitting around the store twiddling their thumbs.

By this time, Little N was hungry and was looking to be fed. I managed to distract her hoping that we could finish what we had come for and leave shortly.

When the power finally came back on, we were back in the cramped office. As expected, Little N bawled the second the stud pierced her ear lobe. The piercer quickly moved on to the other ear lobe and the job was done. Little N continued crying and as I tried to console her, I asked the piercer to leave us for a few minutes (she kept shaking her ID card in front of Little N's face which was not helping at all).

Little N continued sobbing and did not feel like feeding. The lady came back into the room and said Little N was crying a lot. I was taken aback. What else did she expect? And it had hardly been two minutes since she left the room. She tried to shush Little N down. I decided to leave.

To me, it appeared that that she was concerned about a baby's crying spoiling the ambience of Ganjam's jewellery store, which was totally unwarranted.

If Ganjam wants to provide the service of piercing babies' ears, they should do a way better job of preparing themselves and their store for it. Why not dedicate a small room, close to natural light? If they are so concerned that their other patrons might be disturbed by a baby's crying, locate the room away from the main showroom. It's not as if they don't have enough space or financial resources. I realize that piercing ears is a low margin activity, but if that is a concern then they should not hold themselves out as a provider of that service at all.

Little N calmed down as soon as we got out of the store and did well on the ride back home and at home the rest of the day.

While I accomplished what I set out to do, I wish it had gone better than it did.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Travel: Australia - Impressions of a Big Country

The lines at the customs counter at the Melbourne Airport were long. There were three separate lines and as many counters dealing with the international passengers coming into Australia. After about fifteen minutes of our line not budging an inch, we craned our necks to see what the matter was. At each of the three counters suitcases were wide open and inspectors are parsing through the luggage with gloved hands, occassionally picking out mysterious things wrapped in plastic bags with the tips of their fingers.

As each person left the counter, the inspectors sprayed the counter top with something and wiped it down before signalling the next passenger to step up. From what I could see, a lot of things were taken away - packs of cigarettes and lots of unidentifiable things in plastic bags, water bottles. The baby food and formula in our suitcases survived vigorous shaking, reading of the ingredients list and a smell test.

It is hard to escape the fact that Australia is very cautious about the food or other items that journey across the borders or are made available for consumption within the country. There was angst over avocadoes imported from New Zealand and then there was this notice near the checkout counter at a McDonald's in Melbourne assuring patrons that its buns come from Australian grown wheat.

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Similar notices - that the products are "proudly" made in Australia - are very common in numerous other instances. While protecting the local economy and local jobs is one side of the story, the need to safeguard the uniqueness of everything Australian, particularly the ecosystem, is quite apparent.

And unique it is. For one, the diversity of landscapes is simply breathtaking. From the cobalt blue waters of the Southern Ocean to the thick, dark green canopy of the rainforests, from the the Great Barrier Reef to the dry, dusty, parched land of the Northern Territory, from the hustle and bustle of its cities to the desolate highways and the nearly two-thirds of the country that hasn't yet been explored, from the pastoral scenes to patchs of twisted, burnt trees, Australia evokes memories of many other places I've seen yet is unlike any of those.

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The Kurunda Rain Forest near Cairns

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The Great Barrier Reef as seen from the air

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The desert in the heart of Australia

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A farm on the Great Ocean Road

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A view of the Southern Ocean from the Great Ocean Road

Australian roads are made for long car drives and road trips - they are beautifully laid out, well paved and carry clear and helpful signage. The signage itself is a curious mixture of the British and American systems. Highways are designated as A1 or M1 as in the UK, while the boards resemble the American ones - green for the highways and brown for tourist attractions and places of historical interest.

Signs dotted along the highway remind you that you "drive on the left side in Australia," they encourage you to use the "turn-outs" - short lanes on the left of the road that you move to before you make a turn - if you are going slow and there's a vehicle behind you looking to get ahead ("Consider the vehicles following you," read a sign); they also urge you to spare a thought for the cost of speeding ("Speed ... Consider the cost").

In addition to turn-outs and round-abouts (meaning circles), I've added "bottle shop" to my vocabulary (it took a while to figure out what it was, but I'm very pleased at the addition; it's much more subtle than "liquor store" or "wine shop"), and "northern spring," meaning springtime in the northern hemisphere. That phrase made its appearance in a story about the impending birth (well, in the spring) of the child of Mary Cheney, Cheney's gay daughter.

The usage of the term is curious to me. I don't believe I have ever come across the phrase "southern winter" or "summer in the southern hemisphere" or some equivalent in newpapers or on television channels in the US. What is also curious, but endearing, is the many ads on television during the Christmas season (some for barbeque grills!) carrying visuals of snow and snow flakes. Images of a white Christmas must be difficult to shake off even if you're sweating in your half-sleeved shirt and have no hope for a snow flake for at least six more months.

Infomercials occupy pride of place in television programming, or so it appears. A few of the morning shows we saw took breaks of ten minutes or more at a time during which they played informercials (I remember one for a computer purchase plan). In many of these, the anchor of the morning show was also the presenter of the informercial.

Much newsprint and airtime was given over to the "coup" in Fiji, which dragged on and on for a few days, so much so that the television channels were giving regular updates on the precise timing of the coup. No cloak and dagger stuff here - the general gave the president advance notice and the president sat in his home waiting for the event to happen. Also close to Fiji, two young air force men died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash.

In politics, the Cole Inquiry (investigating the allegations of kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime by AWB, an Australian wheat company) hogged much of the limelight followed closely by the tussle for the leadership of the opposition between Kim Beazely and Kevin Rudd (who we saw one evening going up Market Street in Sydney), which Rudd eventually won.

Although Australians are acutely environmentally conscious (one television channel voluntarily instituted programs to reduce carbon emissions within its premises) and although many people were on foot and on bikes, downtown Sydney and Melbourne were as clogged with rush hour traffic as any major metropolitan city.

Australia spoils you for food choices. No matter what your taste, you're bound to find something, although it might be slightly more expensive than you are used to. The people are warm, welcoming, helpful and eager to chat you up. There are so many things to see and do and the country is just so big (even if you take into account only those parts that are inhabited and have been mapped) that you cannot get the full flavor of it on just one visit.

And I'm definitely looking forward to going back, not the least because in our entire two weeks there we somehow managed not to meet a single kangaroo.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Manhole Cover Art

Cool, no?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Baby wisdom: When hungry, stay close to food source

Little N has learnt, over the last week or so, to lean forward if someone holds up their hands and beckons her to come. The only exception is when I'm holding her and she's hungry. In that circumstance, there's no profit, obviously, in going away from the food source, namely me.

How much of this is instinct and how much learned behavior?


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Found a Mama Blog

Found this very good mama blog, The Mad Momma, via Desipundit. Some great posts in there and lovely writing - will have you nodding in agreement frequently, tearing up occasionally, laughing often. Good enough reasons to go visit.


The Hindu: ISRO to send astronaut to space and bring "him" back (quotes are mine)

An article in today's The Hindu newspaper has the following to say about India's manned space mission prospects in the wake of the successful recovery of the space capsule from sea:
The accomplishment is a boost to the Indian Space Reaserach Organisation's (ISRO)'s plans to send an astronaut into space in 10 years from now and bring him back.
That statement was not only in the body of the news item, but was also its subheading.

Someone - either at the editorial staff at The Hindu, the story's reporter, T.S. Subramanian, or at ISRO - has decided that whoever that astronaut is going to be, at least 10 years from now, it will be a male.

From a couple of other news sources it appears that ISRO's statements were gender neutral.

The same story on Gulf News's website:
"This mission is a stepping stone to design and build our very own reusable spacecraft, and eventually carry out manned missions into space, too," A. Subramaniam, head of the team that designed the capsule said.
DNA made a mention of future "manned missions" as well, while the Hindustan Times said:
The success also takes the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) a step closer to its goal of putting an Indian in space some years from now.
Perhaps The Hindu's reporter took the ISRO officials' use of the term "manned" literally.

One of my friends mentioned yesterday that India lived in a few different centuries at once, some parts in the 21st century, some in the 16th (meaning the cities have advanced facilities while certain rural areas remain untouched by any sort of development).

My response was that it's not just parts of India that are living in different centuries than the rest, it is the people themselves that live in a few different centuries at once in terms of their attitudes - some of their attitudes and ideas are certifiably space age, but at the same time they are unable or unwilling to countenance women not being confined to certain roles in society.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Equating an American accent with television

My husband was watching a snippet of an American show on his computer. I brought in little N from another room and she immediately looked at the television.

All of seven months old, she has figured out that if she hears an American accent, it is probably emanating from the television.

As they say, kids these days...


Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Mother Dangles Her Child Over a Railing - Is This Responsible Parenting?

Deepti recounts a horrific incident at a mall in Bangalore where a mother dangled her child over the railing so the child could grab a tassle,

We were on our way down the escalator when we saw the mother dip the kid out once, twice and then by the third time the kid nearly grabbed the tassel and we had our hearts in our mouths. If you want to imagine the scene, think of the 'Michael Jackson fiasco' at close range.

Deepti and her husband exchange strong words with the parents of the child and come to near fisticuffs.
One would expect a mother to be always thinking of things that can go wrong. Parenting two active children has meant a constant flurry of keeping sharp pencils away and walking with the child on the 'safe' side of the road, besides a constant 'what-if' mode of risk assessment. The fear of heights is an atavistic instinct, and 'safe hands' do not make a reckless act any more tolerable.

And those who stood by and watched the circus were no less. It all happened in a crowded mall with lots of witnesses but we were the only ones who objected. A child could have died but no one seemed to care.
Enough to send chills down your spine.

There are many things that you shake your head at: two-wheelers with three kids, sometimes fast asleep in the back with their arms around the rider, ten kids jammed into an autorickshaw meant for three people, small kids riding in the front seats of cars, parents not knowing where their kids have gone off to play, kids running on the streets unsupervised, kids in the park not with their parents, but with their ayahs (and not because the parents are otherwise meaningfully occupied, mind you) ...

But you look at all this and no matter how much you rationalize, you get the sinking feeling sometimes that kids are in these situations not because their parents have no alternative, but because their parents have not spared a thought for the well-being and safety of their kids. If a family can afford only a bike, fine, but then can't they have an adult ride in the back to hold the child at least? Can't they postpone the journey until someone can? Is it too much to ask that the parents know where their kids are at a given point in time? Was it too much for the parents of little Sridevi to anticipate that at that hour in the morning, dogs would be roaming around and she would have trouble navigating the streets? It is not as if it was the first time that the dogs had attacked pedestrians in that area.

Sure, it is inconvenient and sometimes impractical to be there for your kids all the time, and I'll agree that it's stifling. Unfortunately, however, that is what parents sign up for when they have kids. Parenting is nothing if it's not relentless. As Deepti so eloquently rants,
Just because one can get society's stamp of marriage, get fucked and then produce does not make people parents.
I can't help but feel that life comes cheap and there is an apathy when it comes to protecting and nurturing these little lives. There is less of nurturing and more of a sense of ownership over the children. And as Deepti's experience proved, lack of parenting skills knows no educational or financial barrier.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Love Amid Cables and Cameras

My strongest memory of my maternal grandmother is of her making kaai obbattus in her small, dark kitchen at her home on 5th main in Mysore's Saraswathipuram. Avva was generally very good with her hands. In addition to making all the snacks for all the festivals herself (including Kadubus, chaklis and kodubales), she groomed a beautiful and well-kept garden with two tall coconut trees, a Sampige flower tree, lots of rose bushes, daria and other flower plants, a papaya tree, a bountiful karbevu tree (curry leaves) and assorted vegetables.

The time not spent in the kitchen or the garden was taken up in crafting lovely garlands from strands of cotton and cotton balls, sequins, and foil paper of a myriad colors - gold, red, blue, green, silver. These garlands were in great demand during the Gowri and Ganesha festival. When not in use, Avva would carefully wrap them and put them away until the next festival came around.

She continued her craft activities when my grandfather retired and they moved to Bangalore to be closer to their children. One day, she received an offer to appear on Doordarshan to demonstrate her skill with the cotton garlands. She was ticked pink and she promptly accepted.

A few days later, a Doordharshan crew descended on their house - complete with cameras, sound equipment, lights, microphones and cables. The program's host, a young girl, smartly dressed in a starched cotton saree, took Avva aside to prep her, and they both sat down to talk to get comfortable with each other, while the producer busied himself with the lights and camera placement.

It didn't take long before half the neighborhood had found comfortable perches around the living room where the equipment was being set up. Soon it was time to start recording. The producer gave the host some last minute instructions, found a chair to sit in, and the host and Avva went before the cameras and the lights came on.

The host looked at the producer for her cue. He nodded and she turned to my grandmother. Avva looked back with a smile on her face and waited for the host to say her first few words, the cameras or the people crowding around not fazing her one bit. If she was expecting the host to reciprocate her smile, it wasn't coming. The girl was busy freaking out. She opened and closed her mouth a few times but there was no sound. She cleared her throat and tried again, but to no avail. She looked helplessly at the producer.

I don't remember him yelling, "Cut!" but it must have been some equivalent, because the next thing I remember is the producer taking the host out to the driveway to have a quiet chat with her. He looked intently into her face and said some things and she nodded a few times. Then they came back in.

This time around, the voice came out, but it came out all shaky and high-pitched. Avva, ever the smooth operator, pretended nothing was out of the ordinary and responded to the question. After about 10 minutes of the high-pitched queries delivered in a trembling voice, the producer and the host were back on the driveway. By this time, the host was sweating bullets. Avva thoughtfully arranged for a glass of water before they returned.

The cameras came back on and the orchestra of the host's problems kept building. Shaky hands made an appearance this time around. Because both the people in front of the camera had to point frequently to what was being shown to the audience, this proved to be rather irksome. The producer continued recording. He probably believed that if they kept going, the host would loosen up and shed her anxiety.

He believed wrong.

Things went from bad to worse and before long, they were out on the driveway again. We wondered what the problem was. She was not a newbie, she'd hosted a few of these shows before. Was it the people crowding around?

This particular break was a tad longer than the others and Avva seized the opportunity to stretch her legs. She walked over to us and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, "They are in love."


"They are in love. That's why she's nervous."


"Yeah. The camera guy just told me."

Seemed like a weird explanation for the host's affliction to me, but perhaps it was tough to be under the lights and work within 10 feet of the guy everyone knew you were in love with.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Moving To Bangalore as an Expat: Questions and Concerns

Over the past few months I've received many e-mails from people planning to or thinking about moving to Bangalore from other countries. Most of them have the same questions and concerns. So here is a list of the most frequently asked questions and my responses. I hope that this information is useful to you, but I request that you verify the information and visit the places I've mentioned (such as schools and hospitals) and assess them yourself before arriving at a decision about them.

If you have further questions or have information about any of the topics mentioned here, please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you.


By far, the issue that expats-to-be are worried about the most is schools. Here are my three articles on it and here's my post on our experiences with Greenwood High. Please take time to read the comments.

Some general information about schools in Bangalore that are not covered in those articles:

  • School year (term dates): International schools start in August and end in June (with Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring and Diwali breaks). Indian schools start in June and end in March (with Diwali, Dussera and Christmas breaks).
  • Uniforms: Most schools mandate uniforms from first grade onwards.
  • School timings: Preschoolers and kindergartners attend school from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm (there may be exceptions), from first grade onwards school starts at 9:00 am and ends at 3:30 pm.
  • Lunches: Most of the international schools provide lunches to the kids, at others you will have to pack lunch.
  • Transportation: Most schools have transportation, but there is no requirement that you must use school-provided transportation. You can arrange your own.
  • Languages: Unless your child has a foreign passport, s/he must learn an Indian language. If the child has a foreign passport, then French (not aware of other language choices) is an option.
  • Terminology: Children attend "nursery" from 3 years to 4 years, LKG (lower kindergarten) from 4 to 5 and UKG (upper kindergarten) from 5 to 6 years old. Nursery and LKG are what we call "pre-school" in the US, and UKG is plain old Kindergarten. At 6, everyone goes to first grade (some schools call it first standard).

Here are some notes about the childbirth experience in Bangalore and about the growing prevalence of C-Sections in India and abroad. Prenatal classes were not easily accessible here when I was preparing to have my second child, but I've received a couple of comments to this post with information about newly opened classes.

I should let you know that I had a very good experience with my obstetrician and gynecologist when I had my daughter and with my children's current paediatrician.


There is nothing that you need to specially pack for your baby (unless he or she has very specific, unique dietary or other needs). Diapers (Huggies, Pampers), Gerber's baby food jars, juices and cereal boxes are available here as are cereals made by Heinz (which I haven't noticed in the US, but is prevalent in Australia). Cereals made in India are also available, but you should know that they all contain added sugar.

You will also find Enfamil's baby formula in some of the stores. There's a shop called the Baby Shop on Ulsoor Road (behind Taj Residency - contact info at the bottom of this post) that stocks mostly American and European baby products (including baby furniture such as cribs, high chairs, car seats and strollers). There's also a store called Mothercare which mostly sells British products and expensive as hell, but you're most likely to find the things you want if you prefer to stick to the imported products.

Of course, the best option, especially if you are planning to stay here for a year or two, is to get yourself and your baby used to the Indian food, including the brands of baby food that are manufactured here (Nestle). That way you will not have to keep going to the one or two shops that sell imported goods and you will not face the problem of those stores suddenly running out of the one thing that your baby has gotten used to.

Stores suddenly running out of certain products is an oft-occurring problem here.

For older children who have not been exposed to Indian cuisine at all, there are all sorts of pastas (and the sauces, olive oils, etc.), cereals, cheeses, etc. available.


Yes, there is traffic and plenty of it, and yes, there is pollution, but not much.

The best way to deal with the traffic is to find a home that is close to your place of work and your kids' school. Eliminating a long commute should be the key. No matter where you decide to live, there will always be markets, grocery shops, restaurants etc. So the main factor dictating the location will be the workplace and schools.

With respect to pollution, one of the things I've noticed is that the children cough the first few months until they get used to the stuff in the air and then they settle down. Doctors recommend that you boil filtered water the first few weeks (or longer).


Here's a detailed post on that topic.


The real estate market (both for buying and renting) is a little bit nuts right now in Bangalore. Houses are being built like crazy and they are all sold out even before they dig the first clump of mud to lay the foundation.

As you can imagine, rents are going through the roof and there are certain localities, such as the Whitefield area near ITPL (where are all the big Bangalore-based IT companies are) that are getting expensive by the minute. Of course, the real estate agents are having a field day in this scenario.

The best bet for you to locate a good home for your stay would be to tap into your firm's relocation service resources. They can usually guide you to a competent relocation service.


Here's a map of Bangalore that shows the location of some of the hospitals. There are newer hospitals now, such as Wockhardt and Apollo on Bannerghatta Road. Here are the names of some of the hospitals:

Bangalore Hospital
Sagar Apollo Hospital, Jayanagar
Vittal Mallya Hospital
Manipal Hospital
Wockhardt Hospital
Apollo Hospital, Bannerghatta Road
St. Philomena's Hospital
St. Martha's Hospital
M.S. Ramaiah Hospital
National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences
Kidwai Institute of Oncology

Apart from these, there are many, many more smaller nursing homes and hospitals all over the city.

8. RINA MEHTA'S Bangalore Mum's Guide:

From what I hear, this book has not been available at the book shops for a while now. I would try contacting the publisher (Navneet) directly or try purchasing it online.

All in all, moving to Bangalore and living here has been a wonderful experience. Your kids will love the weather and Bollywood music, you will love the exposure they will get to an entirely different and vibrant culture (if you're not originally from India and you've never been to India before) or you will love the fact that they are getting a good look at their roots (if you are from India originally).

Of course, all this is in addition to the huge strides you will make in your career after having a couple of years of work experience in India, no?

And most importantly, where else can you live and learn to shake your head (sideways for "no", up and down for "yes" and vigorously in all directions if you agree heartily with someone) like the Hawaiin Luau dolls?

Good luck with the move.

Update 1: The Baby Shop:

The Baby Shop
7/1 Ulsoor Road (behind the Taj Residency), Bangalore - 42
Ph: 080-25596104 or 080-25596105

Update 2: Documents to carry before you move:

1. If you have children that will be enrolled in school here, you will need their birth certificates and letters from the previous school regarding the work done there.

2. If you plan to have a baby in India and you are a US citizen and would like your newborn child to be a US citizen, then you will need the following documents to obtain the baby's US birth certificate and passport (which you can do through the US consulates in India):

  • all of your hospital records (if you were already pregnant before you got here) along with the ultrasound scans;
  • your marriage certificate or, if divorced, the divorce decree;
  • proof of US citizenship;
  • proof of residence in the US.

The above list is for you to plan to bring before you move so that you don't scramble for them after you've already moved here. There are other requirements (such as the baby's birth certificate) that you can only obtain in India.

Here's a post on how to go about getting the US birth certificate and passport.

[Will keep updating this post as and when new info comes up or new topics occur to me.]


Update (June 16, 2010): After School Care in Bangalore - http://blogpourri.blogspot.com/2010/06/after-school-care-in-bangalore.html

X-pat Files

Thank you to Venkat for so kindly retiring his blog's tag line (he moved back to the US from Belgium) and offering it for use on my blog. As you can see, I've accepted the offer.

If you've never visited Venkat's blog, do stop by and find out, among other things, why you should no longer use the phrase, "Unless you've been living in a cave all these years ..."

I've been telling everyone I know about it and yes, I do attribute it to the proper source. Most of the time.

Monday, January 08, 2007

To the person in Australia who googled for ...

... anagram of swine that's a body part&spell and landed in my blog, here's the answer: sinew

OK, I've had three more identical queries from Australia and one from New Zealand so far. Something's going on Down Under. The question is, what?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Book Review: Not On The Level, Michael V. Maddaloni

About two-thirds of the way into Not On The Level, one of the characters explodes in frustration,
Another example of our tax dollars hard at work. The fucking U.S. attorney wanted the publicity, so he spent about a million bucks trying this case twice. The guy's not on the level and neither is the whole fucking U.S. attorney's office.
These eloquent words illustrate the central message of Michael Maddaloni's second book - institutions function within the framework of rules which individuals seek to bend for personal profit at the expense of the larger good.

Not On The Level is an engrossing coming of age story of a first-generation Italian American who goes on to build a successful career in the US Secret Service and subsequently in the private sector. The story begins at the beginning, as it were, in Philadelphia, with the birth of Joe De Falco, whose father has just died in less than admirable circumstances in World War II. Joe grows up in an extended family with his mother, sister, grand-parents, aunts and uncles.

The first few chapters describe, in some detail, Joe's Catholic upbringing at home and at school. Much of the narrative is given over to documenting the rules and traditions that govern life at home, school and church. Under the veneer of order, normalcy and regularity that elders, teachers and priests dictate, Joe encounters aspects of people's character that don't quite live up to the standards imposed by these institutions - a school official who's a pedophile, a sextant who steals from the church, a boy scout official who molests children, a grand-father who carries on an affair with his second cousin, and an uncle whose actions, while achieving their objectives (well, most of the time), are not exactly illustrations of moral, upstanding behavior.

Ever the bloke with the clever ideas, Uncle Sal is the purveyor of all things street smart. He encourages Joe to play with non-Catholics against the wishes of his mother (Joe's grand-mother) "because there were a lot more of them in the world than there were Catholics, and most of them were decent people"; he tells Joe to mumble pig Latin under his breath if he forgot the Latin responses on his very first day as altar boy; he coaches Joe to learn the answers to the questions on the exams from previous years (rather than preparing from scratch) because the teachers always reused old test papers.

Following high school, Joe decides to join the Marine Corps (when one of Uncle Sal's plans to help Joe make a quick buck and pay for college backfires). One would expect that the Marine Corps, given all the good, clean values it stands for, would be devoid of the kinds of ethical conflicts that are prevalent in, say, politics, but no. Drill Instructors at the Marine Corps, under pressure to perform and focused on their own career advancement, resort to cheating to improve their success rates.

The story is not much different in the US Secret Service where Joe begins a long career, in the US Attorney's Office with whom Joe works closely on his cases, or at the multi-national pharmaceutical company that he later joins as vice-president of security. If the stories of the underhanded, shady goings-on at all these institutions come as a surprise to the reader, then it serves to drive home the author's point - things are not what they seem or how they should be; things are not on the level.

There are a couple of different varieties of conflict that are at play in the story. At one level is the conflict between the interests of the individual and the institution; at another level, it is the tussle between Joe's two paternal uncles, Sal and Tony (an upstanding citizen who strives to keep Joe on the straight and narrow), for influence over the direction in which Joe's life is heading.

The book is most attractive for the endearing portrayal of a large, bustling Italian family and for the fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the Marine Corps and the US Secret Service. Having worked in both the Marine Corps and the Secret Service, Mr. Maddaloni succeeds in painting a realistic, absorbing picture of daily life in these institutions.

Perhaps for the same reason, however, the narrative reads, on occasion, like a report of some activity the author was involved in some time ago. This drawback is magnified because the story is told in first person. Apart from this and a couple of irksome errors (when Sal is referred to as Tony, the protagonist's other uncle, in a few instances), Not On The Level makes for a pleasurable read. This is served, in large part, by well crafted conversations, be it between family members or in the work place, and the warmth and sense of humor with which Mr. Maddaloni sketches his plot and characters.

If you're even the slightest bit curious as to what goes into the making of those people in the dark shades you see hovering around the President, Not On The Level is for you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out of Babes' Mouths IV

The other day Big N expounded on the importance of relationships with friends and family. After a lengthy monologue during which I nodded and said uh huh a few times in agreement, he concluded with, "but familyship is more important than friendship."

Out of Babes' Mouths I to III.