A Bad Day in Bangalore 

Monsoon Season

It’s monsoon season here in Bangalore and it is raining….a lot. So much so that the monsoon is a record breaker with at least 17% more rain in Bangalore than ever recorded apparently. That means it is raining for a few hours each day, usually in the evening or at night, and the rain is heavy. It’s not the constant insipid cold rain from the UK, this is buckets being thrown down in a matter of minutes, and it’s warm. 

It’s worth stating at this point that my husband Rez flew to the UK at the weekend on a business trip, so isn’t at home.

The Flood

Last night it rained constantly and hard. I know this as I was up several times in the night with Bangalore Belly (yes, again!) and heard it thundering down. What I didn’t hear was the waterfall outside our bedroom. There is a balcony at the front of the house, with a drain hole. Water from the roof drains off directly onto the balcony (what an amazing thought through design feature that was). The drain can usually cope with the rain from the roof and directly falling in the balcony and we have a inch step at the door to prevent flooding. That’s all very well until ‘someone’ (not me, and none in the house is admitting to it) decides to place an upturned bucket over the drain hole. As a consequence of this ingenious action, water rapidly gathered and arose above the step. 

Zahra’s room was completely floooded. Her rug was sodden. As the bedroom was overflowing the water escaped over the top of the stairs and directly into the lounge and Rez’s office. Both were flooded with at least an inch of water. The Persian rug in the lounge soaked up a lot of water and prevented some further damage. The computers were sat in an inch of water, as were the plug sockets on the floor, and the wifi. It was a mess.

The Discovery

Zahra had a sleepover at a friend’s house last night so I went to open the curtains in her room. I stepped onto the landing, at the top of the stairs, and into a puddle. I stopped dead in my tracks. A puddle at the top of the stairs is super dangerous. I then looked up to the skylight overhead thinking it might have leaked, but there were no obvious signs. I grabbed a towel to soak up the water and opened the door to Zahra’s bedroom. It was a pool of water. Everything on the floor was sodden, her rug included. I gently paddled my way in and opened the door to her balcony. It was completely flooded. I turned and looked at the drain to see that an upturned bucket was covering the drain. I paddled out into the water and removed the bucket. Water imediately started gushing down the drain.

Becoming Bambi on ice

At this point the doorbell rings. It’s 7:30am and I have no idea who would be ringing the doorbell that early. Still in my PJs I bid a retreat from the pools and go downstairs. I step off the bottom step into a pool of water. I stop, confused. Why is there water down here? I step onto the Persian rug and it is sodden and squelches under my feet. I step towards the door an immediately become Bambi on ice, fall flat onto my back, smacking my head on the marble floor and slide with my feet in the air to the door, where I was able to plant them firmly with a thud. Both my hands are holding my head, which is soaked from the water I am now lying in. My PJs are soaked. Yet still I get up and open the door as though nothing has happened and discover the temporary driver has turned up early. He looks at me and I look at him and say “the house is flooded, please just wait” and hand him the car keys. How very British!

Surveying the damage

I close the door and grab my head. It’s hurting, a lot. I gingerly step through the puddles, sopping wet, to the bottom of the stairs. I survey the mess. The lounge is flooded. Rez’s office is flooded. The computer is sat in a puddle of water, as are cables and electrical sockets. I hold my head and wonder where to start. I decided on a shower first. Goodness knows what came in with that rain water, but I was now covered in it. I walk back upstairs and take a shower. Washing my hair I can feel a lump forming, it’s very sore.  I quickly dress and go back downstairs. I Whatsapp some friends and ask for help. I ask the driver for help – and I have never met him before. As is traditional in India he went to remove his shoes before entering the house; I told him not to. He walks in and stops immediately. He tells me it’s a bad flood. (With a throbbing head I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic response.)  He goes off to find a squeegee mop thing to just pushed the water out of the house.

The clean up

As we start cleaning up with a squeegee mop, ordinary mops and towels, friends start to turn up to help. All have the same astonished reaction at the amount of water in the house. Kirin has already arranged for extra help. Atifa asks me how I am. I feel my head and find a huge lump. Atifa does too and immediately tells me I have to go to the hospital. Kirin insists. Reluctantly I leave the clean up to others and head to the hospital with Kirin.

Zahra

On the way to the hospital I receive a call from school. It’s the school nurse. Zahra has a fever, is not well at all and needs to come home. I am in a car on the way to the hospital myself and feel a bit helpless. Kirin took control and calls her husband and tells him to pick up Zahra from school and bring her home. I advise the nurse of the plan and she wishes me well too.

I now wonder if this day can get any worse. (Thankfully it didn’t.)

The Hospital 

We arrive at the main entrance and have no idea where accident and emergency is. Kirin asks and is directed to follow the signs through the hospital. It’s a good job I wasn’t critical because I would have died on the journey through the maze. (We later discovered there was a separate entrance, around the corner and out of sight, for accident and emergency). We explain to a Dr what has happened and he nods and says “fast track” to a nurse. We stand there and look lost for a few seconds before another nurse guides me to a bed. I try to climb on but the wheels haven’t been fixed and the bed slides away from me. I quickly stand up and let go of the bed before I injure myself again. The nurse didn’t apologise and merely locked the wheels and told me to lie down. 

I explain to her that I can’t lie down as I have a massive lump at the back of my head. She goes and speaks to the Dr who comes over. I explain I have a huge lump on my head and I am not lying down. He prescribes an ice pack and tells the nurse I can sit up. He disappears. Some time later he reappears and starts asking me a multitude of questions: did I pass out or faint?, have I a history of heart problems?, was I unconscious at any point?. Clearly my description of slipping and falling on my arse and sliding to the front door wasn’t cutting it. Kirin tells the Dr what happened. He then feels my head and says ” oh, that’s a big lump!”. (Again I missed the opportunity for a sarcastic interlude.) He tells me I have to have a CT scan and they would take some blood tests. He tells Kirin to go and register me (that means they set up a tab for billing later). 

The nurse comes along and inserts a long needle into the back of my hand. “Just a slight scratch” she says as she pushes a 10cm needle through the thin  skin on the back of my hand. ‘Slight scratch’ my arse! I could feel that needle all the way in – it flipping hurt. The nurse then  took enough blood for a transfusion never mind some tests. I did wonder whether they were short of a few pints of O+ and took the opportunity to stock up their reserves. She then administered some fluid paracetamol as the Dr didn’t want me to eat until after the CT scan. Then she gave me an ice pack and left. 

After quite a short interlude the Dr was back advising me my blood sugar was low and they were going to put me on a drip. My blood sugar was low as I hadn’t eaten or drank a thing since waking up and it was now nearing noon! It doesn’t take a Dr to figure out my blood sugar might be low because of that. Anyway, I am now hooked up to a drip with an ice pack at the back of my head. 

Kirin is running around arranging things in the background so I don’t have to worry about anything. Zahra had been safely delivered back home and Saroja was looking after here. Sophie went round to check on her and reported back that she was unwell but basically fine. Saroja was busy cleaning up the mess with Anan (the replacement driver). I start to relax a little and realise how much my head hurts…like really hurts. I feel the lump that is now cold from the ice pack and can’t quite believe how big the lump is. All from slipping in water.

The nurse returns with a wheelchair. I get in after being detached from the drip. I am wearing shorts and a tee shirt. The sight of my glaring white legs reflecting the ceiling lights is clearly dazzling everyone and before we leave the emergency room three doctors yell for a blanket to cover me. Yes this is India and ladies do not display their legs. But you know, I was in a bit of a rush and modesty wasn’t the first thing on my mind when I left my flooded home this morning.

I get wheeled  through various corridors and up in the lift and through various waiting areas, all whilst being stared at. We reach the CT room and it is occupied so I have to wait in the corridor – but this is fine as the nurse then covers up my tee shirt and arms as well in the blanket. I definitely won’t offend anyone now – I look like I am in a straight jacket. 

The CT scan takes a few minutes and I am wheeled back to the emergency room and re hooked back up to the drip. We await the scans. The drip finally finishes and it is removed. We await the Dr to go through the scans. He confirms that I do indeed have a brain – he can see it clearly on the scan. I don’t have any fractures or bleeding on the brain – so all good. I do however have a flipping great big lump on the back of my head. He explains that this is better as it is a soft tissue injury and will eventually go down with ice packs and prescribes plenty of paracetamol for the pain.

Great – I can leave. Well no, not quite. We have to await the discharge report and pay the bill. Kirin goes off to pay the bill but there is a computer glitch which means they can’t add on all the treatment I have had to the bill. I didn’t see what happened but Kirin told them to write a manual bill and she paid that. About INR 5000 in total ( Note to self: I need to pay her back!). I had to ask for a nurse to remove the needles from the back of my hand otherwise I wokukd be walking out of the hospital with them.

Back home

Kirin drops me off at home and I am truly grateful, for her accompanying me to the hospital and looking after me whilst I am there. She had to rearrange her whole day for me.

I get in the house and Anan has already told me it is all done and finished. I see Zahra lying on the couch, looking quite a sorry state, and Saroja in the kitchen preparing lunch (great timing!). The house has indeed been all cleaned up. Rugs have been washed and are hanging out to dry. Water all cleared and floors mopped. Towels washed and hung it to dry. It was a completely different scene than the one I left in the morning. Friends popped by to see if I was ok, and relieved to know I was.

Zahra is till running a temperature and feeling quite poorly. I am now discovering new aches and pains from my fall.

A Bad Day in Bangalore 

It was a bad day in Bangalore. I have a headache from hell and my daughter is unwell. No parent likes to see their child ill, you just feel helpless. Dealing with a flooded house, injuring myself and looking after a sick daughter is too much in one day. I have survived it, so far, with the help of some truly wonderful friends. It could have been a lot worse and I am thankful it wasn’t. It was a bad day but tomorrow is a brand new day.
* Update: The newspapers are reporting 122.5mm of rain fell in 5 hours in Jakkur (where we live). The highest rainfall in Bangalore. A lot of houses in our complex flooded as a result.

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Kabini

The Kabini

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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!
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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

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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.)

Pre Monsoon rain

There’s been a lot going on personally so I haven’t managed to keep up with blogs and the water issue. I have been keeping a diary of events, which is now quite long, about the drought and the Cauvery water supply. (I may publish it when I leave the country; its such a sensitive subject here.) 

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Pre Monsoon Rains

Over the last week or so the pre monsoon rains and storms arrived. We have had thunder and lightning, hail, wind and lots of rain. The rain came down so quickly one evening it floooded into Zahra’s bedroom. I got drowned trying to lift the grill off the drain so the water could escape quicker. 
The newspapers are reporting people being injured or killed in the rains and storms. Holiday has been cancelled for the state water and sewerage staff until after the monsoon.

Hot and Humid

It’s strange as it is still extremely hot and stifling at night. Sleep deprivation is coming into its own at the moment. In the U.K. such weather is associated with winter and it would be freezing cold. I’m sat outside at 8:30pm in 28C temperatures – it’s hot and humid. Mosquitoes, flying ants and all manner of creepy crawlies and flying insects are out and about. Three mosquito repellent sticks burning and lots of anti mosie spray and the blighters keep on coming. My legs look like a dot to dot from a zombie movie.

Snakes Alive!

Snakes are an issue to at this time of year. Thankfully we haven’t had any (so far) in our house or garden but the neighbours have this week. Cue an alert on Whatsapp and the snake catcher paying a visit. Anti snake powder is spread in a lot of gardens, ensuring that those of us who haven’t braved the truly appalling smell of the powder are even more likely to get a snake. Yippee!

First World Problems

The pre monsoon rains continued to disrupt power lines and supply well into yesterday. People started to lose patience. Our driver and helper were without power for over 24 hours meaning that they could not shower (water heaters not operational) their phones ran out of charge. Now it did strike me that it was somewhat of a first world problem caused by a developing world infrastructure. Phones are so critical here, especially for drivers. This place cannnot function without them, or we have forgotten how to. Turning up at a pre arranged time and place are a thing of 30 years ago, now people merely phone each other when they’re ready. How our society and culture have changed.

Power

The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom) received over 3,200 complaints. I suspect it may take some time to work through all of those. Three electricity poles had been damaged and trees uprooted near two primary power stations causing damage. That’s not a quick repair. Some may be without power for some time yet.

Onam

When is it?

On am is celebrated in the month of Bhadrapad (a month in the Hindu calendar that corresponds with August/ September in the Gregorian calendar) on the twelfth day of the waning moon. It falls when the south west monsoon ends and the harvest season begins in the state of Kerala. In 2016, this is on Tuesday 13th September. 

History and Legend

According to legend the festival is the celebration following the home coming of the ‘Asura ‘ (a divine being in the Vedic period who compete for power) King Mahabali. King Bali ruled the state of Kerala; he was kind and just and accordingly the people loved him. When King Bali wanted to expand his kingdom further lord Vishnu attended the king’s court as the avatar ‘Vamana’ ( a dwarf priest). As this avatar, lord Vishnu granted the King the small wish of three steps of land. Then Vamana assumed an enormous form and in one step covered the entire earth, in the second step covered all the skies, then waited. The King placed his own head for lord Vishnu to rest his foot which pleased lord Vishnu. The King was granted one last wish as a consequence. (Another version of this story states that due to lack of space Vishnu put his third step or leg on Bali himself and crushed Bali to the nether or Patala Loka (underground world) thus helping the gods out). The King requested that he could return at least once a year to Kerala, his land. Onam is the day King Bali comes to visit his people and is celebrated to rejoice his homecoming.

How is it celebrated?

It is the biggest and most important festival in Kerala. It is celebrated over a period of ten days, starting from the first day of Atham and continuing until the tenth and biggest day called Thiruvonam. The festival attracts thousands of tourists from across the country and globe.

The first day of celebrations involves intricate floral carpets called Pookalam. Each day more flowers of differing colours are added to the floral carpet. Girls design the patterns in the front of the houses and the boys gather the flowers. Prayers are said in the temple.

The biggest day is Thiruvonam when festivities start as early as 4am. People clean up their houses, take a bath, wear new clothes and pray for blessings. A special Pookalam is designed to welcome the spirit of King Maveli. The high point of the day is an enormous lunch with 11-13 prescribed dishes (which is prepared by all, even if they’re struggling financially). It is effectively a 10 day carnival in which everyone takes part.