We have had the delight of welcoming our first guests to our house in Bangalore. Mandy (my twin) arrived on the 16th Dec. She was swiftly followed by Bujji (Mandy’s friend of over 20 years) and her sons Sunny and Finny on 19th Dec. We have had a wonderful time together chatting, eating and visiting some of the sights of Bangalore. Mandy lived in India for 6 months (a long time ago) and of course Bujji, Sunny and Finny live here (in Hyderabad). It is so refreshing to be able to speak (in English) to someone who understands the trials and tribulations of everyday life in incredible India. Speaking to friends and relatives over coffee and cake makes everything seem better.
On Sunday we went to church as usual (CFC in Bangalore) and it was a usual service. No Christmas decorations, no carols, no lights – nothing. It was very odd. As a Christian, celebrating Christ’s birth is pretty much up there. Not at this church – which I just found weird. After church we went to the Persian restaurant in town called Ayda. The food there is delicious and authentic. There are always other Iranians eating in ther when we have been. Starters, mains and (soft) drinks for 7 people came to just over £50. We had so much food left over we had a take home bag too. I can hear the audible gasps from those of you living in the UK, and especially in London.
After the restaurant we needed to walk off the lunch and headed to Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (“The Red Garden”). It houses India’s largest collection of tropical plants, has a lake and a Japanese garden. It has a glass house based on Crystal Palace and hosts an annual flower show. Entry is 50p for adults and 10p for children at weekends and holidays (otherwise 40p for adults).
On Monday we headed out to WonderLa Amusement Park whilst Rez attended a work conference. Cultural difference right there – a two day conference just before Christmas and after the children have broken up from school. It just wouldn’t happen in the UK. Anyway, we got to WonderLa around 1pm (after a two hour drive). We bought FastPass tickets to enable us to queue jump all day.
We went on most rides and had a great time in the Waterpark. It did feel weird that in the middle of winter we were enjoying 30C heat and an outdoor Waterpark. The rain disco was great fun. There were a lot of happy and tired people in the car on the way back. Even better was getting back to a dinner cooked and ready for us. I hired a cook for 3 days so we could enjoy our short time together. It was a bit of a risk as chilli and masala features highly in dishes here but I asked for no chilli whatsoever and we got that. The dinner was delicious.
We all had a lazy morning on Tuesday morning and headed out to Bangalore Palace in the afternoon. Bangalore Palace is based on Windsor Castle and completed in 1944 and is owned by the Mysore Royal family. The ground floor has an open courtyard and the first floor has an elaborate hall known as the Durbar Hall which is reached via an elaborate staircase with a massive elephant’s head. The maintenance inside is not great and it could really do with some investment to make it more appealing. There is an audio tour available (but we hired a guide to take us round when we first went).
The sprawling palace grounds are used for large weddings – massive in fact. There seems to be one or more going on every time we pass by. It also used to be used for public events such as music concerts but the government banned that in 2011.
From there we headed off to Mantri Mall to pick up a last couple of Christmas presents and to have a decent coffee at Starbucks.
The morning of Wednesday 23rd was spent enjoying an English breakfast (well the best I could rustle up out here) before heading down to the pool in the complex for a bit of fun.
Swimming caps are compulsory in the pool here so it was a little strange seeing the boys don swimming caps. Zahra loved having two older ‘brothers’ around to play with and generally look after her. She’s had a wonderful time with them. Mandy and Bujji spent the time chatting and catching up – it’s been a while (years) since they’ve seen each other.
Frankly, one of the best Christmas presents I’ve been able to give Mandy was having Bujji, Sunny and Finny to stay. Everyone has been so happy for the few days they were here – it’s been marvellous to enjoy the company of friends and to forget for a short while about the everyday difficulties of living in Bangalore.
As we waved goodbye to our friends at the airport I wondered how long it would be before Mandy would see them again. A friendship that has lasted a lifetime will continue to do so across the continents.