Saturday, 7 September 2013

Alive and kicking

Just to prove I'm not dead. Yet!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Boring update

For those poor souls sent here via Jakes blog I figured I ought to write something somewhat younger than 2009. So here it is.
More later, maybe.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Last words

My time here is drawing to an end. My replacement is an American from Pittsburg and is accompanied by his wife based in the same office but as a communications expert. We spend my last four days here together providing enough time for me to hand over my work and ease them into what initially is an alien environment. I have worked in various places, countries and worked in small and giant corporations. Never before have I had the opportunity to conduct a handover. Normally, I leave, the new person starts sometime later and for a few months they can bask in the glory of blaming it all onto me.

The downside is that they are taking over my flat which means I have to at least make a token effort of cleaning the slum up. Sorry, did I say slum, I really meant lower floor penthouse with all mod cons except hot water, roaches the size of large cats, dogs howling day and night, cows doing their business right where you step outside Fort Knox (good job the flip flops are plastic and scrub up really well after a night soaking in acid) and all the other comforts of modern day living. Reminder to self, really must find a good nail brush to remove the cow stuff from my toenails. On the other hand the dogs will miss a meal so don’t bother, they will lick it off.

I depart Koraput for Delhi on Saturday, starting with a four hour taxi ride to the nearest railway station where I can catch a train that will guarantee me reaching Bubanashwar in time for my connecting train to Delhi. Eight hours to Bubanashwar, a seven and a half hour wait for the Delhi train and then a minimum 36 hour ride to Delhi, assuming no time is lost on the 1500 mile journey. Dump my bags in the Delhi office and immediately set off for Faridabad, on the outskirts of the city, where I attend a two day conference, just to fill in my unexciting days before I catch the flight on Saturday to London. Unfortunately I still have two days to fill before that flight so I am considering paying a flying visit to Agra to look at the Taj Mahal. By then my ancient bones will be protesting loudly I feel, but the upside is that it will guarantee being able to sleep on the red eye to London. Hopefully three generations will be there to pick up my creaking shell of a human being. Nearest and dearest, our youngest daughter and her son. Being Sunday morning there shouldn’t be much traffic and the final leg under two hours to home. A brief stay over Christmas and then off to Aussie and New Zealand for a few months to visit family and friends. By the time we return I will officially be an OLD AGE PENSIONER. So anyone out there thinking they are too old to do something, consider the above paragraph. For companies that are looking for crafty ways to get rid that old dodderer think again. There is life in the old dog yet. Or in this one anyway.

As always, I have met, socialised, and worked with, some good people. Most are sincere in their wish to do whatever it is that they do to the best of their abilities. Also, as always, there are the hangers on who are on a personal ego trip. I first visited India in the mid sixties. Nuclear power was restricted to a few nations, mobile phones existed in the form of bricks that required handcarts to make them mobile and my first computer occupied the space a family of six could comfortable live in, complete with double garage and swimming pool. India today has more mobiles than any other country in the world and is on the verge of being able to put a man in space. But, power fails depressingly often, women still pump and carry water by hand, children die from malnutrition, it is home to some of the world’s richest men. Nothing has changed since the 60’s. Priorities!

Before I wrap up I must mention the banana lady. You know who you are. Thanks for all the free meals during my short stay (the beer was also very welcome) but being in the centre of a small civil war whilst the street vendors fought over your banana custom is to be regretted. Thanks, good luck and enjoy the rest of your penance in Koraput. I’m sure that whatever your sins are that placed you here are long since forgiven. (Not sure about the banana sellers, one of then looked daggers at you the last time you bought some).

Three years ago I started this series of unimportant and often pointless ramblings. I think I have maintained my original policy statement of no opinions (see above), no rude words (**** to that), no rants (see above). I sign off, have no intention of repeating myself (on pain of nasty things happening to me as my nearest and dearest will tell you) so goodbye, good luck, and be careful out there. It is a dangerous world. Or so they tell me.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Culture gap

Talking on the phone in my place is like being inside a Faraday cage and I tend to say yes and no in what I think are the right places as attempting to explain the line is breaking up only makes matters worse. I live under 3 high tension power cables, the house seems to have more steel than concrete so any phone call is fraught with problems. This assumes of course that the phone system is working, that the network is not busy, the line is not engaged and the phone battery is not about to die. With all these potential traps, any call seems like a minor miracle.

S had phoned the previous evening to invite me to visit his home and have lunch. Next morning I waited for him to arrive. Unusually he turned up 20 minutes early instead of hours late. Is H coming to my home as well he asked. Consternation as I had just left H and not invited her. Somewhere in the previous nights call that piece of information/invitation had gone missing. Doubting that H had actually gone anywhere in the 5 minutes since I had left her, I called. Faraday had gone AWOL and all 2009 telephonic systems were go. She would be pleased to have lunch and would be there in a few minutes.

Now assembled I asked S how we were to get to his place. I had been there once before on a fleeting visit and knew it was not far but lunch would be cold if we walked there. I will take you both on my bike he replied. H and I looked at each other. Locals often travel five in line on motorbikes (Indian fashion) but somehow we doubted that our sponsor would be very happy with that arrangement. One at a time he quickly explained having insight to our expressions. H goes first as I had to lock up and locking up my place is no quick and easy task. As I completed Fort Knoxing, S returned and the final piece of the plan fell into place.

S lives on the outskirts of Koraput, just off the main highway through Orissa and up a dirt and stone track. At the end of the dirt track are loose and very sharp stones and the odd, inevitable, cow. The choice is clear, hit the cow or leave the track and venture onto the track verge. Fortunately it has not rained here for a few weeks so mud was not on offer so leaving and re-entering the main track presented no difficulties. The house is on three floors and owned by a member of the judiciary who only lives there during the weekend. He works 120km distant. In India, that is too far for a daily commute.

We are introduced to S’s father (a title of respect rather than fact, his biological father had expired 17 years earlier), his brother and, later, the house owner. Brother cooks the meal and we eat, sitting around the bed. H is brave and determined to obey local customs and eats, messily, with her hand. I, on the other hand am a declared prol and request a spoon. Not taking offence, or at least I observe none, S brings a spoon. Adjourning after a fine meal of chicken curry and vegetables to the balcony we sit and exchange pleasantries about our respective cultures.

The topic of formal greetings comes up. It is common practice that locals greet with two hands in a prayer position towards the face and a slight bow. Handshakes you already know about. Thus, when the two cultures meet, each attempts to respect the others culture by using the greeting of the other. This of course leads to confusion. One attempts to shake hands whilst the other has both hands raised towards their face. I suggest a compromise. Each raises a single hand to the face and the other hand extends to the handshake position. This, the owner finds highly amusing.

As the afternoon wears on we make moves to leave as it grows dark very quickly, also chilly, and we do not want to walk back with giant trucks missing us by millimetres as they drive by, minus any lights. We had agreed earlier with S that we would walk back and so see more of the area. We put our footwear on (shoes would a step too far and flip flops would insult the excellent local equivalent). We start to take our leave with the formal greeting/leaving gestures. The owner offers one hand whilst raising the other in a one handed prayer. We laugh, he has adopted my idea and I think the culture gap has been closed.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Vulcanoes and wheels

Guy Fawkes was never like this. Some weeks ago we watched Diwali being celebrated, and spectacular, it was. Not wishing be to outdone we collectively decided it would be a good idea to have our own show on November 5th. But someone reminded us A was not due to return to Koraput until the 8th and not wishing him to miss the fun we delayed until this weekend the great event. M took the catering role, A brought his torch to help J, the chief lighter see his way to the inflammables, I took responsibility of finding them and H, being transported back from a field trip and unsure as to her arrival time, was to be chief spectator, if she arrived in time. That was the meticulous plan.

Ha, India, like the UK, sells fireworks to the great unwashed just once a year. I didn’t realise this until I started to look for them in town. Looks of disbelief on the local traders faces when I asked for fireworks. Diwali finished, no more till next year was the standard reply and I also suspected one or two of them thought I was some sort or terrorist in the making. Panic, M,A,J and H are reliable and will perform as expected. I, on the other hand will be denied beer for the remaining time I am here if I fail them. But, I have a cunning plan. Ask the staff at work. Maybe one of them has some leftovers from Diwali. I’m in luck, someone does have a few left over and will bring them in. Our fabulously impressive display will happen on the appointed night.

The day (evening) arrives and we assembly at H and J’s house. Food and beer are consumed and we move up to the roof for the GREAT EVENT. First problem, how do will we fix the Catherine wheels. We all scrabble around and agree that a nail driven into the end of a cane fluffy duster will serve as an excellent pivot and if we pass the cane through a wicker chair seat the problem is solved. Another problem looms as we then realise the wheel will be rotating horizontally and apart from a possible mishap when J lights it, we won’t get the full effect. A huddle later we stick the cane in the chair back. Now we have a vertical pivot. Are we innovative or what? Professionals we are, no doubt of that.

Having arranged the order of display the celebrations begin. First off, a wheel. Carefully hammering in the nail, narrowly missing his thumb with a large rock, J sets it off. We have lift off. For an eternity of five seconds, Ooos and arhs by the appreciative crowd. The night looks set be a great success. Now the first of the fountains or volcanoes goes up. More Ooos and arhs are emitted by the admiring crowd (OK, five may not be a crowd but at the time it seemed a lot). Another wheel is carefully arranged. It is a flop. Not in any way discouraged, another fountain is set up and admired for its conflagrational beauty. Now for the magnificent finale. The last of the wheels is examined under a microscope for flaws, unanimously declared fit for purpose, and arranged on our pole and ignited by J. It flares and J receives a slight burn that will only take about a month or so before he gets the use of his hand back so he tries again with his remaining hand. A drops the torch and J says something not to be repeated in these hallowed pages. But J is no wimp, he ignites the wheel in darkness. It fizzles and dies, forever.

Five unwashed, five fireworks, three displays equates to a 60% success rate (among my many doubtful talents is an ability to do sums). In our book we have had a successful evening, regardless of how others might view it. The beer didn’t harm the night either.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Stop that bus!

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” - Abraham Lincoln (1809 –1865) from "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time" from words of poet John Lydgate. (c.1370-c.1451). Thanks,H, for the idea.

This came from a conversation about the truth or otherwise of my blog that I had with H. Truth as any philosopher will tell you can, and will be, debated until the end of time (time for a diversion into Einstein, no, lets keep this simple). Let me be clear about this. I write for entertainment purposes, mainly for my own rather than yours as it helps pass the time and if the truth is occasionally blended with fiction, so what. The problem of course is where fiction ends and truth begins. That is where your problems begin and my entertainment really kicks in.

With H I went on another hair raising trip (stop giggling at the back, I do have some hair left although the barber always asks if I’ve brought the magnifying glass) to Jeypore recently. Fact. An interesting day in so far as the shops were shut and the Indian we had planned to see whilst there had his TV up too loud to hear the bell we rang so we didn’t get to see him after all. Fact. As we approached the bus station for our return trip we bumped into the Indian and some friends we had chummed up with during our first visit a month ago. How are yous are exchanged and niceties discussed. So engaged in conversing we failed to see our bus depart. Fact. But our locals, by some reason generally put down to the mysterious Asian osmotic process only they are privy to, knew it was our bus and reacted accordingly. One leapt in front of an overtaking truck and stopped its progress. A second hurled himself almost under a tuk tuk coming the other way and brought it to a halt. The third stood in front of the bus itself, arms akimbo, inviting him either to stop or be done for manslaughter. Fact? Our Indian, satisfied that it was now safe for us to cross took us by the hand and led us to the bus door. We alighted or embarked, whichever word you are more comfortable with is fine by me, and set off back to Koraput. This bus was the RR of the bus company. Doors that actually looked like doors, seats with real padding and a roof that definitely showed signs of a professional design. Obviously we arrived back safely otherwise this is being written by a ghost writer. Bad pun intended.

Once, many years ago, I had to return from Stavanger (it is in Norway for the geographically challenged) in rather a hurry. So much so that Scandinavia Air Service (SAS, are they still in business I wonder) held their plane up until I arrived. I recall the engines were running at the time and as I entered the fuselage the door closed, engines revved and we were off to the loud approval and clapping of the amused or was it irritated other passengers. This is fact. I leave it to you dear readers to decide how much fact is present in the affair of the bus stoppage. I have provided some clues but come on folks, get those brain cells working.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Foot pegs

Heading towards Semiliguda we stop at Sunabeda for lunch after 3 hours of Church. Those 3 hours are another story which I have no intention of boring you with. M finds a greasy spoon. No problem for me although I say I must have a spoon I’m not eating with my fingers. He negotiates a spoon and we sit. I order, he gets up and says he will return. I hope so, I’ve no idea where we are and India is a big place to be lost in. I eat chilli cheese lumps, dhall, a very oniony and curd salad mix and rice. In the company of a couple of blokes eating very nosily opposite me at the table. Hawking and spitting is going on behind me at the so called wash basin immediately to my rear. M does not return. I eat up and the only problem is that the food is a warm rather than hot. I pay at the counter and stand outside having a fag. Minutes later M turns up. ‘I leave you as I think you may be insulted at the cafe and be angry with me’ he explains. I say ‘no problem I eat where ever there is food’. He goes on to say his friends are ashamed of him for showing me the cafe, white people only eat in big hotels. I reassure him that it really is not a problem but I know he is not comfortable. He then tries to buy a cold drink but the power has been off all day and everything is warm. He decides he doesn’t want a warm drink so leaves it. We get back on the bike and our journey into the unknown continues.

Semiliguda has a huge Sunday Market which stretches for well over a mile on the main road through the town. Giant trucks, thousands of people thronging the road, mobikes, 3 wheel carts, buses, jeeps and other sundry traffic all hooting and everyone playing chicken. Including the inevitable cows who just decide to sit down in the middle of it all. On our way through we followed a couple of trucks. They meet a couple coming the other way with no inches to spare. Despite this M tries to overtake in the non gap at ½ inch an hour, wobbling. We get caught in the middle and a truck actually goes over my rear foot peg. Fortunately he is higher than me so I don’t get caught. We all shout and he stops. M foots it out of the way even though his exit is barred by 2 other bikes also attempting mobile suicide. We all move at the same time and crisis is over. All in a days traffic in India. I’m not looking forward to the return journey.

We visit the mining town, nothing of interest although there are dual carriage ways and roundabouts surrounding the complex and mining housing, but nothing remarkable. We travel back to Semiliguda and the market is still in full swing but M ploughs on as if he is the only bike on the road, pausing, sometimes, when he spots a hump or bump or a pothole. We then divert to a village mid way between Koraput and Semiliguda to visit an orphanage he worked in for 6 months during his social work training in 2006. Sad but at the same time a seemingly good and happy place to be if you are an orphan. Holds nearly 200 kids from 4 to 16, mainly younger. When we arrived there was 100 a side football match going on which only paused for them to say hello to us and to stare self consciously at me. House Mum invited us to tea which I was really grateful for as by now my mouth was dry and my legs aching from the odd pillion position I had been in all day due to a one sided pannier blocking one foot peg. On leaving I put my shoes on and amused them when I sat down on the kerb to do the laces up. Why do trainers have such long laces? Standing up I couldn’t locate the second waist strap of the back pack. Small girl shyly taps me and hands the end to me with a huge beam.

Arriving back in Koraput we pass A’s house and I know in less than 5 minutes I can stretch my legs. No, M spots his best friend J along with a dozen other people coming back from a hill trek. When I express surprise at a 5 km wander being described as a hill trek the guide quickly tells me they didn’t set off until after lunch; so that ’s alright then. They all crowd round very interested in who I am etc. We spend 5 minutes talking plus receive an invite from his friend J to visit him sometime. He calls M his “bloody good friend” which everyone thinks is funny. Arriving back M won’t come in for tea (what a relief) and I rush inside to get the washing in. And don’t laugh, my washing is important. You are up to date on the intrepid adventures of Mister Mike.