Holidaying at Home – a trip back to the UK

We have just returned from a wonderful, busy, enjoyable three weeks in the UK. We have met family and friends, eaten lots of delicious food and drank lots of wine and Prosecco. We have also visited historic monuments, tourist attractions and traditional seaside activities such as the pier and arcades. The weather was traditionally British with glorious sunshine followed by torrential rain. We had a great time.

Instead of detailing everything we did, I thought I would post a some pictures as ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’. The contrast between the UK and India is stark. The most noticeable to us was the pavements and general cleanliness as well as the great transport links. The parks and other open spaces was another contrast. Make up your own minds though and enjoy some holiday snaps.

The London Eye
The London Eye with the Palace of Westminster behind
The London Eye – Palace of Westminster and the River Thames
View across London from the London Eye with HMS Belfast on the Thames
J
Zahra on the South Bank of the River Thames with the Houses of Parliament in the background
Art work benches on the South Bank
The Lego store – Lego tube train
Lego store – Lego postbox
Lego store – Lego Tower of Westminster
Lego store – Lego telephone box
Lego store – pick and mix
Traditional fish and chips outside the Tower of London
The Tower of London – Crown Jewels
The Tower of London
Beefeater at the Tower of London
The Tower of London Chapel
Tower of London
Tower Bridge
On Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
Shopping Arcade by the Thames
Shopping street in Southport – a seaside town
Clambering over the sand dunes towards the sea
A seagull tries to raid the litter bin
Seagulls successfully steal doughnuts on Southport Pier
Southport Pier train
Southport Bridge
Cambridge Arcade, Southport
Phone boxes and churches on Southport Lord Street
Marine Lake, Southport
Deer in Bushey Park
The deer in Bushey Park get a bit too close
Deer in Bushey Park
Deer in Bushey Park
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Inside Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Seeing Gangsta Granny at the theatre
Hyde Park with Grandad
Feeding Geese in Hyde Park
Feeding the birds in Hyde Park
Strolling in Hyde Park
The travelling fair comes to Shepherds Bush
Walking Betsy in Crystal Palace Park
The Shrek Adventure wasn’t that much of an adventure.
Farmor and Zahra in front of the Westminster Tower (Big Ben) in traditional English weather
Feeding the ducks in Crane Park
Adventure playground in Crane Park
Playing in Crane Park
Playing in Crane Park
London Eye capsule and the Thames

Holidaying in Hyderabad 

Saturday 

Arrival

We arrived at the bustling and bright Hyderabad airport in the afternoon and were met at the airport with traditional flower garlands by our friends. We hopped into a cab and chatted along the drive into Secunderabad. We checked in to the Justa Hotel on Necklace Road next to Hussain Sagar reservoir in Secunderabad. Hyderabad was so far typically Indian – rough with the smooth and filthy dirty next to pristine places – a city of contrasts like everywhere in India. The hotel was inbetween two building sites. The staff ere friendly and the room basic and clean. We dropped off our bags (and flower garlands) and headed out.

NTR Gardens and Park


.

We headed out to a park called NTR Gardens. There was a small fee to get in (I think 20 rupees) and it was busy with families arriving for an evening in the park. There was plenty to do. We took the Toy Train ride around the park and people watched as we went round.  Zahra tried to break the bungi trampoline by jumping so high hopes went slack! Then there was the water slide. Sunny and Finny took Zahra on and they had fun as well as getting wet. I noticed that the were a large constituency of Muslims enjoying the park – not something often seen in Bangalore. It was a refreshing change.

Sunny, Zahra and Finny enjoying the toy train ride

Paradise Restaurant 


Getting hungry we headed over to the Paradise restaurant for the “world’s favourite biryani”. The food was good and plentiful (a take home bag was necessary) but the service was super slow which let it down. 

We went  to a local mall for a (huge) ice cream for dessert. They chop and mix the ingredients together in a display before you get your ice cream. Zahra went for ferrero rocher and there was a lot of chocolate and chocolate sauce involved!

Ice cream mixing

.

Sunday 

King’s Temple Church


.

Sunday involved and early start for church. We headed over to the Mahbub College Grounds for the 9am service of King’s Temple Church. The 7am service is in English, the 9am in English with immediate Telegu translation and an 11am service in Telegu. As our friends are Telegu speakers we opted for the service which suited us all at 9am.

Church traffic jam
 

.

We arrived in a traffic jam. Hundreds of people were leaving the early service and hundreds of people were heading into the 9am service. The college was also a building site. The “hall” had no walls and the ceiling was under construction. Piles of building materials had to be navigated to get into the service. 

Navigating building materials at the entrance

.

We were given the “elements”(communion wafer and juice), a church leaflet and a donation envelope as we walked in. We were quickly walked to plastic chairs about a third of the way from the front. The band was in full flow and the singers were giving it their all. It was a party atmosphere. There was a large stage, professional lighting and sound, a band and a blue tarpaulin covering the roof. Incredible India right here and as it is monsoon season I am glad it didn’t rain! 

The band and singers continued joyfully for some time before the pastor came on to deliver his sermon on the importance of prayer, and prayer in way that’s biblical rather than a shopping list. It was strange art first that the preacher would say a sentence or two and wait for the translator to translate his every word. The Translator also followed the preacher around the stage, keeping just a few feet away from him all the time. I quickly got used to it and settled into listening to the sermon. 

We took communion and the (many) collection buckets were circulated for tithes and donations. Then there was another sermon by video by the senior pastor, again with a translation in the recording. It ended up being rather shouty for my liking and the sound was clearly struggling with the noise and the translation became inaudible towards the end. I was quite relieved when it finished. The sermon, on prayer, was good but I had a headache from the loud shouting. The service was 2 hours long and attended by several hundred people – the congregation was huge.. I did think how many people in the U.K. would sit through a service that long. People get itchy feet when a service runs a minute over one hour in the UK!

We headed over to Cafe Coffee Day (India’s answer to Starbucks and Costa, except they don’t do soya milk) for a caffeine shot and rest. 

Salar Jung Museum

Suitably refreshed we headed over to the Salar Jung Museum. This had beautiful collections of art and objects from all over the world. The Salar Jung family were hereditary prime ministers in the Hyderabad court to the Nizams, the rulers of Hyderabad, from the middle of the 19th century. The museum was established in 1951 and moved to its current location on the banks of the river Musi in 1968. It was extended in the year 2000 when two blocks were added. Renovations to three of the galleries were in progress when we visited.


Now like most places of interest in India there is one price for Indians and one price for foreigners. In this case it was 20 rupees (25p) for an Indian and 500 rupees (£6) for a foreigner plus a 50 rupee (60p) phone camera charge. I had my FRO (Foreigner Registration Office) with me and and was going to fight my corner. We live in Bangalore and I’m not paying the extortionate foreigner rate. Purchasing the ticket wasn’t an issue. Getting passed the lady in the women’s security line was. “Madam, not Indian” greeted me when I handed over my ticket. I swiftly announced I lived here and produced copies of our visas, FRO forms, change of address – you name it I had it. The lady security guard looked flummoxed and waved over another (male) security guard who checked our documents and waved us in. Mrs security guard did not look impressed as we walked in through to the next screening (airport security style). Sometimes it is the just little things…


The collections of art and decorative objects is impressive and over the course of several hours we managed to see nearly all of it before tiredness took over. There are collections of paintings, carpets, weapons, textiles, metal work, walking sticks, furniture, jade, ivory, sculptures and much more. The statue of the “Veiled Rebecca” (by Benzoni, a 19th century Italian sculptor) and the jade collection were particular highlights. Collections are generally divided into Far East, Indian, and European spread across two floors and three wings. It’s certainly a walk to take in all the collections. There is a central hall which houses a musical clock and attracts a large crowd to watch it chime every hour. The museum also has a food court and a souvenir shop, neither of which we had time to visit. It was very busy and clearly a popular museum, which sometimes made it difficult to see or get close to some of the exhibits. The first floor exhibits were much less crowded though.

Monday

The ladies and children’s pool with water bucket

.

Jalavihar Waterpark

Jalavihar (“exciting water”) waterpark. ₽250 per person admission. Own food and drink is not allowed in the park and is retained at reception until you leave. There were slides (with and without rubber rings), a wavepool (with a ladies only section), ladies and children slide and pool area and a rain disco. Dry games for kids and flocks of birds (chickens, geese, guinea fowl) wandering freely around the park. Views across the lake were stunning from the top of the slides. It was small but with lots of slides to keep a 10 year old happy for several hours until tiredness kicked in. The changing rooms were basic with toilets and showers outnumbering the four changing cubicles considerably. Lockers were available to rent at ₽100 and were small but functional. The was a food area with stalls but we didn’t eat there. It was an enjoyable day out.

Eat Street

We headed over to Eat Street afterwards for food. There are stunning views across Hussain Sagar lake. It was beautiful and peaceful. We drank our coffee and ate pizza and noodles, after all we had worked up an appetite.

Nanking Chinese Restaurant and camel ride

In the evening we headed out to the Nanking Chinese restaurant, stopping en route for a camel ride for Zahra. Two camels in the central reservation car parking with some mini fairground rides. A makeshift tourist spot. The camel ride cost ₽30 if you shared or ₽50 for a sole ride. The camels were walked about 50m away before turning round and coming back. It was short and sweet, but Zahra enjoyed it nonetheless. Camels are huge and have massive feet; just an observation.


The Nanking Chinese restaurant was pretty empty when we arrived. We ordered our food and it came promptly. We ordered small dishes and I’m glad we all didn’t order a dish each because the “small” portions were huge! One plate of “small” noodles provided three large portions. It was ridiculous. We ate as much as we could and asked for the rest of the food to be parcelled up for a takeaway. The restaurant happily obliged. 

Tuesday

Charminar 

The Charminar

.

Literally means four minarets and was built by Sultan Mohamed Quli Shah between 1591 and 1612. It is in the middle of a busy market and effective operates as a roundabout, so to get to it you have to dodge traffic coming from all directions as well as market traders. It was a little hair raising! The queue was about 30 people long but we, as foreigners, were ushered to the front of the queue by a guide. Indian entry fee was 15 rupees (17p) and foreigner entry fee was 200 rupees (£2.40), children were free. I couldn’t be bothered arguing and frankly it was worth it to queue jump. We hired the guide to show us rounds (negotiated down from 300 rupees to 200 rupees) and again proved to be worth every rupee as we skipped the normal queues to go up (and down) and entered (and exited) via the restricted entry gate. We climbed the stone spiral castle like staircase to the first floor and took in the marvellous views across the busy marketplaces.

Bustling markets at the Charminar gates
.

The markets on each side sell separate things. One side for lacquered bangles (mouled out of pure lac and studded with glittering cut glass), another for pearls, another for fruit and the remaining for clothes and linen. Perfume called Itar or Attar is also sold. This is traditional perfume based in sandlewood oil (rather than alcohol), and fragranced with rose or musk or jasmine.
10km underground tunnel from the Golconda Fort to the fountain under the Charminar. 

The Quabbala Shahi Dynasty was founded by Sultan Quli Qutb ul Mulk in 1518 CE.He was initially in the court of of Bahamani rulers and in due course was made The Governor of Telangana under the Bahmani Kingdom. After the death of the Bahamani Sultan he declared independence in 1518 and established the Qutb Shahi Dynasty (1518-1687 CE), which ruled over the Golkonda Kingdom comprising of Telangana, Andhra, parts of northern Karnataka, Marathwada and Berra regions for about 171 years, and by seven monarchs of the dynasty. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb conquered Golconda Fort in 1687 CE and subsequently annexed it to his empire.

Chowmalla Palace

A rather uninspiring entrance hid the opulence of the magnificent Chowmalal Place. It’s a large peaceful retreat in a busy bustling city with four garden courtyards and several palace buildings. It was the main residence of the ruling nizams in the 18th and 19th centuries.  The most opulent of these halls is the Khilwat Mubarak; a Durban hall with magnificent crystal chandeliers and a balcony. It is at the heart of the palace and the coronation of VIII Nizam was held here on 6th April, 1967.

Khilwat Mubarak
The adjoining halls had various antique collections including an armoury of the Asaf Jami Dynasty. 

Amongst the various palace buildings there was an impressive collection of antique cars, including Rolls Royces. It was a pleasant and peaceful walk with plenty to see.


.
Wednesday

Today was a rest day at our friend’s home. We had mahendi done. A much needed relaxing day.


Thursday

Nehru Zoological Park was our destination today and it proved to be a good walk too. It’s a sprawling zoo in 300 acres, part of which is a ‘safari’ (aka wild) area. Most of the animals are contained within moated areas but the big cats were rather depressingly in small cages. There were additional fees to look around the very small aquarium, the nocturnal exhibits (literally too dark to see anything in places, including where you are walking) and the ‘safari’ to see the lions and tigers.  Whilst it was cleaner than most zoos we have visited in India it was still a building site in places and some of the animals displayed signs of distress by pacing or swaying on the spot. The lions and tigers in the ‘safari’ were in cages.

Unusually, there was a temple to Hunaman (the monkey god) inside the zoo.

Facilities were few as there was only one food area within the entire zoo and only one set of toilets. Both left much to be desired. 

Sign showing the way to the temple
Building works in front of the elephant enclosure
Spelling is everything
The only map of the zoo we saw, half way round

Friday

We had a trip to the Birla Science Museum and modern art gallery on Friday. Zahra had a great time in the interactive zone.

The interactive zone
Measurements are so important

Then we went to the famous 10 Downing Street (“10D”) pub for lunch. It’s inside a small shopping mall and worth finding as the lunchtime special menu was super cheap for 3 courses including a drink.

10 Downing Street pub

Boat ride to Buddha statue

Buddha
.
Hussain Sagar is a large reservoir (from the 17th century!) which separates Secunderabad from Hyderabad built by Husain Shah Wali. The Buddha statue is on the island in the reservoir. Boats ferry across tourists at regular intervals for a small fee. It is the largest monolithic statue of Gautam Buddha in India. It was carved out of a single granite rock by 40 sculptors under the guidance of Ganapati Stapathi. It was transported 60kms from Raigiri on a massive carriage with 192 wheels. It was erected in December 1992 is 17m high and weighs 320 tonnnes. It was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalia Lama on 2nd January 2006.

Holidaying in Hyderabad 

There was certainly a lot to see and do in Hyderabad and we didn’t see it all in this trip. We have previously been to the Golconda Fort so didn’t visit it again this time. There were various palace hotels and mosques and temples we didn’t have time to see either. If you’re in India it’s certainly worth a trip, especially as flights and accommodation are so cheap. 

Kabini

The Kabini

.

The Kabini River is surrounded by stunning landscapes, forests, wildlife and birds. It is tranquil (eerily quiet after the constant noise of Bangalore) and beautiful. We watched the sun set over the hills from our villa listening to the monsoon rain lashing into the river and were woken by the sound of the dawn chorus from the huge variety of birds. It was idyllic. I could have stayed a lot longer. 

The journey

A goat herd blocks the way

The Kabini lake is a large forest lined reservoir about 70km south of Mysore. The guide book indicated it was a 5 hour drive from Bangalore along the state highway 17 ( the main road between Mysore and Bangalore) then state highway 33 from Mysore to Mananthavady before winding through local villages to get to Kabini itself.

We left on Saturday morning for our weekend away. We usually leave on Friday evening and do part of the journey then to break up the travel. However we had a leaving party to go to on the Friday evening so travel was out of the question. It turned out to be a good decision. The roads to Kabini are best described as variable; some have tarmac (in various degrees of repair) whilst others are merely mud and rock. This was the only road to our destination and frequently goats, cows and dogs blocked the road. There were no street lights and it was across winding roads through farmland. I can’t think how anyone can make that route safely at night; it was difficult enough during the daytime.

 It wasn’t helped by me being sick at the roadside part way through the journey. As I don’t usually get car sick I assume it was the revenge of Bangalore Belly. Toilet stops are rare on the highway (never mind the village roads) so I had the indignity of being watched by intrigued locals as I emptied my stomach for all to see. I’m so glad we carry water and tissues with us everywhere.

We arrived at our destination 6 hours after we had departed Bangalore. Not a bad journey time but difficult nonetheless. The road to the hotel was pretty much off roading which is surprising when you’re going to an expensive place. 

The Hotel

As we pulled in to the complex staff were ready to greet us (having called on our way asking for our estimated time of arrival). We were greeted by a tribal flute player and being adorned with the traditional red bindi on the middle of the forehead. We were ushered into the arrivals lounge and check in was swift and easy. We were offered sugar cane juice as we gazed out of the lounge looking over the Kabini. It was so quiet. 

Various staff members introduced themselves and what the hotel had to offer. We were assigned a specific staff member whose responsibility it was to take care of all of our needs during our stay. Nothing would be too much trouble. We were handed an envelope detailing activities, timings and were applicable charges. We asked immediately to be booked onto a Safari for the following day, having been advised that places are limited and book up quickly. The naturalist looked crest fallen as he advised me that it might not be possible but he would do his best. (He managed it by dinner).

Our assigned staff member then walked us through the complex and pointed out various places and activity points on the way. We arrived at our pool villa which overlooked the Kabini and were shown its features. The mini bar was complimentary (soft drinks and snacks) and would be relensihed daily. There was a snack box and fruit bowl. Anything we specifically wanted would be provided. Zahra immediately asked for some Mysore Pak (a plate was provided) and I asked for some more tea (also provided). Really nothing was too much trouble. The chefs took pleasure in providing specific dairy free meals and desserts for me during our stay which made it great for me (as meals at hotels are usually difficult and I’m made to feel difficult for asking for dairy free). 

The villa was so relaxing. We swam and rested by our private pool. We sat out watching the birds along the Kabini river as the sun set. It was quiet but for the sounds of wildlife.

The hotel has a spa, an infinity pool for adults and a children’s pool with slide and games area. None of which we used during our weekend stay – we simply didn’t have time. There was an information display informing of the animals, birds and insects surrounding the hotel. There was also a tribal hut and butterfly garden. We visited the reading room with its majestic views across the Kabini. We took in the stunning landscape whilst we rested awhile. 

There were a series of activities planned for children including The Little Bartender, Plant a Sapling, Little Baker, Young Naturalist, Young Hotelier and Towel Artist. Zahra was content with the pool and didn’t want to participate. She was having a relaxing holiday too!
e

Bathroom
Bathroom leading to pool
Master bedroom
Lounge (equipped with Sky TV)
Dining area (with extra bed next to the open roof)
Villa entrance from the pool
Private pool in the villa
Daddy and daughter at Kabini
Pretty pots light the way

Tribal Dance Display

The Kadu Kurubas (“forest shepherds” in Kannada) are the original inhabitants of the forests of Nagarhole. They were originally hunter gatherers before switching to Swidden agriculture (slash and burn farming method), then collection of forest produce and basket weaving. They now work as small farmers around the forest.

The hotel, as part of its responsible tourism program, arranges displays from the local tribesmen of their celebratory dances. We were educated in three tribal dances and guests were encouraged to join in the last. We watched. 

Tribal dance display

.

Wildlife Safari

Nagarhole National Park is home to some of the most endangered (and elusive!) species in the world. Nagarhole means “cobra river” in Kannada, so named as it snakes through the tropical forests. The Park was set up in 1955 and extended in 1974 when it was accorded National Park status and dammed for an irrigation project. The Park is home to the tiger, asiatic Elephant, leopard and a myriad of other wildlife species.

Nagarhole National Park strictly controls the tourist incursions and they are limited in number, times and areas of the park to reduce the impact on the wildlife. They exclusively manage the jeep safaris and allocate resorts in the area a specific number of seats. As a consequence the twice daily safaris fill up very quickly. They are 6:30am to 9:30am and 3pm to 6pm. We were allocated the early morning slot meaning a wake up call of 5:15am for a meet time of 5:45am to cross the river to get to the Nagarhole National Park by 6:30am. It was a tough get up. It was even tougher for a 10 year old who was basically walking asleep!

Our jeep was like a small bus with 17 tourists. It was a noisey diesel engine so any wildlife would hear us coming a long way off. The guide gave us all a pair of binoculars and told us to keep our cameras ready.

Spotted deer were everywhere in large and small herds. We saw a Sambar deer, which is the size of a small horse, but were unable to get a picture of the camera shy animal. The Malabar Giant Squirrel proved equally elusive to the camera as did the Gaur. Birds proved impossible to capture but I was pleased to spot a rare white bellied woodpecker. I was able to take some shots from my phone of some of the animals we saw. The elephant was particularly close and completely uninterested in our presence as he ate his breakfast.

Monkeys
Spotted deer
Langur Monkeys
A pack of Wild Dogs
A tusker

Departure

Check out on the last day was as swift as check in. The chef had prepared a hearty packed lunch for us for our journey home. They took feedback seriously and strived for excellence. They called and messaged us later in the day to ensure we got home safely. Now that is what I call excellent service.

It was too short a holiday and a brief stay in idyllic surroundings. I would highly recommend a trip to Kabini and especially a stay at Orange County (and no, they haven’t paid me for this post – it’s a good old fashioned recommendation based on experience.)

Jack Fruit season

It’s jackfruit season. The sellers and farmers are out in force along the roadside and in villages selling these mighty spikey fruits. They are huge… and I mean huge… so how they defy gravity and manage to stay on a tree with the full weight of the fruit is truly baffling. 

What is Jackfruit?

Jackfruit is part of the fig and breadfruit family native to the Western Ghats of India and found all over South East Asia. It is the national fruit of Bangladesh . It is the largest tree fruit. Large jackfruits weigh up to 35kgs (yes you did read that correctly, 35kgs!) and up to 90cm in length. A jackfruit tree can produce 100 to 200 fruits a year. You seriously don’t want to be underneath one of these when they fall from the tree!

It is a strange looking fruit; The skin is green and spikey, very thick and hard. It takes a sharp knife, oil and patience to cut through to the yellow soft stoned fruit inside. The hands and knife are covered with oil as the sticky pulp inside would be difficult to wash off otherwise. The smell is something else and not in a good way. It hits your nostrils and stays there for a long time after you wish it had gone. Perhaps this is why jackfruit is always cut outside. The smell permeates the air for a long time. The soft yellow fruit has its own sweet flavour and like nothing else I have tasted in Western Europe. 

Manohar cutting open a jackfruit

It is a very versatile fruit and as well as being a popular roadside snack it is used to make chips, jams, pickles, curries, wine and flour. We have just eaten it as a snack. There is a huge amount of fruit inside a jackfruit so we always share. (You’d have to be a real jackfruit addict to get through a whole one on your own.) As Manohar (our G4S driver) cut our fruit for us he was delighted to take home most of it for his family – his daughters love it. 

Jackfruit – use it as a fruit, vegetable or dessert, and enjoy.

Mahashrivarati

When is it?

It is an Hindu festival celebrated during the Hindu month of Phalgun which marks the end of the winter season on the first full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in the later part of February or March. It is on Friday 24th February in 2017.

What is it?



It is an Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu god, lord Shiva, known as the great destroyer of the universe. On this day he and his wife Parvati are worshipped by young girls and some men in the hope of getting a perfect mate for themselves; because this is the day Shiva and Parvati were married.The Maha Shrivarti festival marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti (which means ‘power’ or ’empowerment’ and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe).

.
How is it celebrated?

The festival is mainly celebrated by offering Bael leaves to Shiva together will all day fasting and an all night vigil called jagaran. All through the day devotees will change “Om Namah Shiva” being the mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed in order to gain ‘boons’ in the practice of yoga or meditation in order to reach life’s highest good steadily and swiftly. The positioning of the planets is also supposed to raise ones spiritual energy more easily and the ‘powerful’ ancient Sanskrit mantras are supposed to increase greatly on this night. The ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja (prayers) is at Nishita Kala which a complicated calculation of time but is usually within an hour each side of midnight. Nishita kala is the time Shiva appeared on earth in the form of a linga. On this day all Shiva temples the most auspicious lingodbhava puja is performed.


Mahashrivaratri in Southern India.

It is celebrated widely in the temples all over Karnataka. Shiva is considered to be the Adi ( first) Guru from which the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night create a powerful natural upsurge in energy in the body. It is believed to be beneficial for spiritual and physical well being to stay awake throughout the night. 

The Dwadasha Jyothirlinga Temple will be kept open from 6am on Friday 24th February till 6am on Saturday 25th February. During that time several rituals related to the festival will be performed on the temple premises.

The Impu Sangeetha Samsthe, a non profit organisation which promotes music, has organised a musical marathon in Bugle Rock Park in Basavanagudi. Professional singers will will perform Kannada film devotional songs continuously from 9am on Friday 24th to 1am on Saturday 25th (16 hours) without any breaks. They are hoping to raise funds for Aparna Seva Samsthe which provides free dialysis for the poor.

In Bangalore hundreds of extra buses are being laid on for the festival… ensuring more traffic jams here. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (‘BBMP’) issued a notice on 21st February banning the sale of any kind of meat in the city on 24th February. The civic body has also banned the slaughtering of any animals on the day of the festival in the city.


The mythology 

A hunter having failed to find any prey in the forest climbed a bel tree towards the evening to spend the night there. Whilst drinking some water he dropped some on the shiva lingam hidden beneath some bushes at the bottom of the tree. A doe came to the spring to drink water and the hunter too his aim but seeing the mutual love for each other in the doe’s family he let them all go unharmed. In the morning lord Shiva appeared before the hunter and blessed him, saying that when he had sprinkled water on the shiva linga and thrown bel leaves on it he had unwittingly worshipped lord Shiva. As a consequence lord Shiva bestowed wealth and prosperity on him. From that day the shiva lingam is worshipped on the day which has become known as Maha Shrivrati.


Legends

This is the favourite day of lord Shiva as he married Shakti, and his greatness and supremacy over all other Hindu gods is highlighted. It also celebrates the night when he performed the cosmic dance named ‘Tandava’. The Tandava is a vigorous dance believed to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. 
On this day Shiva also saved the world from the disasterous effects of poison from the tumultuous sea by consuming it all. Shiva stopped the poison in his throat using his yogic powers but his neck turned blue due to the effects and is known as the ‘blue throated’ as a consequence.


Interesting fact

The Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of ash , and sometimes a dot, applied to the forehead of Shiva worshippers. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity (or will) and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga) (or action). They also represent the three eyes of Shiva. It is a reminder of the spiritual aims of life, the truth that the body and material things shall become ash at some point and that self realisation and knowledge is a worthy goal.

A Bandh – a “general strike”

What is it?

Today is another Bandh in Karnataka. A Bandh is a dawn till dusk general strike. Effectively 6am to 6pm.This means shops, offices, cinemas, hotels, petrol stations etc are all shut. Transport does not run- there are no buses, cars, taxis or autos / Tuk Tuks. Schools and colleges are shut and almost all government offices are likely to be shut. Everyone (who is not protesting) stays at home.

Why?

From what I can establish (and I’m a foreigner here so it’s difficult to penetrate what is happening), it was called by “pro-Kannada outfits” – the BJP and JD(S) opposition parties – to protest against the Supreme Court’s decision and direction to release Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu (the neighbouring state to Karnataka). Karnataka supplies river water to various places. Tamil Nadu supply electricity to Karnataka in exchange for the river water. Tamil Nadu farmers need the river water to grow their crops. However there is discussion about the lack of harvesting of rain and flood water by Tamil Nadu state and the type of rice crops (heavily water dependent) that the farmers grow. By contrast Karnataka has built dams and farmers grow different crops to save water. In addition Karnataka is facing a drought for the third consecutive year. The general fear is that Karnataka will run out of water within months. Drinking water is clearly a valuable resource and one we take for granted in the UK.

That may be an over simplistic interpretation of the reasons but like I say, it’s only what I can work out.

What’s happening?

The strike has hit Bangalore especially as the state government has supported the protestors. This is the fourth Bandh in less than a year and the second one in a week. Effectively the city has been brought to a standstill and everywhere is shut.

Last week we were advised around 4pm the day before that the school would be closed due to the Bandh. This week we were advised by midday. The school sent a warning that the strike was expected to be violent and suggested we stayed at home until the news channels said otherwise.

In addition the US Consulate in Bangalore issued a warning to US citizens which was kindly shared on the Overseas Women’s Club of Bangalore. It stated that there would be protests and demonstrations, stone throwing, localised violence as well as traffic congestion (although I have no idea who would be causing the traffic). Citizens were advised to avoid areas of demonstrations, review security plans and maintain a high level of vigilance whilst monitoring local news stations. I checked the British Deputy High Commission in Bangaluru’s website on Gov.uk and found nothing similar.

The police force will be stretched and tired today. The second Bandh in less than a week is coinciding with the end of the Ganesha festival and the beginning of the Bakrid festival. It is estimated by the Times of India, that 25,000 police will be deployed to control the protests. The weary police force will have a tough job on their hands.

Vehicles with Tamil Nadu number plates have been advised to stay away. By lunchtime the news reports were showing pictures of large and loud demonstrations and protestors and strangely on one channel, a picture of a man with his head being shaved. Protestors were on the streets to convey the message that they don’t want to give the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu as there was not enough water for Karnataka.

Thoughts

The Bandh has effected us as regards grocery and water deliveries (everything cancelled), Rez has had to work from home and I am trying to keep Zahra entertained on a day when we cannot go anywhere or do anything. The complex is quiet but I can hear the distant sirens of police cars and the drums of the demonstrators. It is very strange being confined to the complex for safety reasons when the events appear to be happening elsewhere. It is also difficult to understand why people will not share a basic resource, but clearly fear of not having enough water themselves is driving protests. There are indoctrinated opinions about the people from Tamil Nadu amongst some of the people of Banguluru. Trying to reason with such ingrained views results in me being told I “don’t understand”. That’s true, I don’t!

Buying sufficient drinking water is a skill I have learned and whilst we have had stocks run very low, we have never run out yet. It remains to be seen whether buying drinking water becomes more difficult in the coming months if the scare stories about running out are indeed true. Only time will tell.

India becomes more incredible the longer I am here.

KempeGowda International Airport, Bangalore

Kempegowda is the name of the International airport at Bangalore / Bengaluru. Some international airports are obviously named after a person (John F Kennedy, Charles De Gaulle, Indira Gandhi) or the city in which they are (Cairo, Ouagadougou, Dallas Fort Worth). (Cue everyone googling Ouagadougou.) Kempegowda is named after an ancient feudal ruler.

Who is Kempe Gowda?

Kempegowda is named after Kempe Gowda who founded Bengaluru in 1537. He was also known as Hiriya Kempe Gowda and was a feudal ruler under the Vijayanagara Empire.He got two pairs of bullocks and plough the ground. While one pair ploughed east to west, the other pair went from north to south and made the four main streets in the upcoming town. Along these streets and sublanes developed various markets (petes). His vision for the city included forts, farms, petes (markets), tanks (water reservoirs) and temples so that people of all trades and professions could live there.

The bullocks started ploughing in a place called Doddapete Circle today. There are four tower like structures which were built to mark the importance of that place. (They are derelict today – maintenance of historical monuments is not a priority here.) 

Kempegowda International Airport 

The airport serves Bangalore, the state capital of Karnataka in Southern India. It is spread over 4,000 acres and is located 40km /25m north of the city near the village of Devanahalli. It opened in May 2008 as an alternative to the congested HAL airport. It is the third busiest airport in India (after Dehli and Mumbai). It handled 18 million passengers in 2015 with 400 aircraft movements a day. International flights arrive in the early hours of the morning and the cacophony of noise from the cars, taxis and other vehicles beeping and jockeying for space is phenomenal as they try to pick up their passengers. 

Like any other airport it has cargo as well as passenger facilities, cafes, some shops and duty free stores. The cafes are popular in the mornings but the shops are very quiet and rarely have many, if any, customers. The prices are expensive compared to what can be bought in the city.

Getting into the airport itself is interesting. Only passengers on the manifest lists who can show a valid ticket and passport are allowed past the armed border security at the doors. There can be some confusion if for example a passenger is not in the BA flight manifest when their ultimate destination is London, UK. BA is the only flight that flies direct to London so any passenger getting an internal flight to eg Dehli to change to Virgin to fly to London causes much consternation.

When you’re flying home to the UK there is no greater sight than seeing the airport, knowing you are leaving the chaos that is Bangalore behind you.