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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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.

Makar Sankranti/ Pongal – a harvest festival 

Makar Sankranti or Pongal is the harvest festival celebration. It is one of the most auspicious days for Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of India on 14th and 15th January this year. 

What is it?

Makar means Capricorn and Sankranti means movement. It traditionally coincides with the beginning of the sun’s northward journey when it enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Makar Sankranti is a festival dedicated to the sun, which coincides with the completion of the harvest season and is celebrated with much joy – usually. 

What does 2017 look like?

This year in Karnataka state looks like a gloomy one for farmers as they have had a terrible season with crop losses due to low rainfall. Compounding this is the lack of money in circulation due to demonetisation meaning people simply aren’t buying as they did before. As a consequence of this, and other factors, prices have dropped dramatically increasing farmers misery further. For example, the price of tomatoes has dropped 84% and onions by 70%. Lemons can now be bought by locals for 1 rupee (although as a westerner I was charged 20 rupees for four lemons. Still incredibly cheap but an example of the price differential we have to pay). 

Tamil Nadu state has declared a drought following the poor rainfall in the north east monsoon. Desperate farmers have started to commit suicide, particularly along the Cauvery river rice belt which is dependent upon the release of water from the Karnataka state. (Rice cultivation is water intensive.) The declaration of drought means that land tax is waived and loan recoveries are postponed. This will bring some relief to the farmers.

Pongal 

Pongal is the three day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated in honour of the rain god Indra as well as the sun god and the holy cow. ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is the first day of Pongal and the lord Indra is worshipped. Sisters also pray for the welfare of their brothers. On the second day the sun god is worshipped for imparting heat and energy to the fields. The third day is Mattul Pongal and cattle is worshipped. A portion of pudding is kept aside in the open to feed birds and insects. A special dish called Pongal is prepared by ladies to commemorate the festival.

Jallikatu

Jallikatu is a bullfight organised by every town and village on the third and last day of Pongal. This ‘game’ is traditionally ‘played’ by young men who try to grab the money tied to the horns of the bull. It is a centuries old tradition which is meant to tame the bull.

Since 2014 this activity has been banned by the Supreme Court citing it as an act of “inherent cruelty “. Tamil Nadu state has appealed this decision but the appeal was dismissed on 16th November 2016 stating that the very act of taming a bull was counter to the concept of welfare of the animal under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960. The Government has now issued a notification allowing the bull taming “sport” but the Supreme Court has not been hurried into making a judgment on it before this weekend’s celebrations. As a consequence the ban remains in force and is causing much consternation.