Sunday, June 26, 2011

26 June 2011

It seems like an orientation week reunion.  Several of us are back together at the Murthy’s house–-Pragya, Shevani, Liz, Jennie, and me.  In fact, many of us are actually staying the night now.  I guess I am not moving to Coxtown till tomorrow.

Since most of us had the day off, we decided to go to the mall for a movie.  We had a long lunch at the food court.  I actually had two meals—first Chinese and then Indian fried chicken (so good).

After what felt like a day of shopping and wondering around, we finally caught X-Men.  It was really good.  As by tradition, there was an intermission and abbreviated sex scenes.

Yesterday, I finished the last installment of eye screenings at Crescent School.  A staff of some 8 volunteers finished approximately 300 HS students before noon.  All of the local volunteers have been really great.  I have great hope for India’s next generation. The Great Indian Dream was even more evidence of the conscientiousness which is becoming even more prevalent here.  All too often, the acknowledgements of our errors become a political issue in the US.  The speaker from the development foundation was even more adamant.  His presentation during orientation was both inspiring and dooming, and yet refreshing.

I am almost finished with Swami Vivekananda’s A Study of Religion.  It’s actually just a collection of his lectures on universal religion in the US and UK.  It’s made me rethink my atheism.  Perhaps I am more of a Brahmanist.  We’ll see when I return.  Vivekananda does posit correctly that Europeans aren’t so good at religion.  They use it technically or practically like a tractor or something. (His parallel)

Venkateshji just gave me another book to read.  I think I’ll start it next.

Friday, June 24, 2011

24 June 2011

I’ve moved out of the Shastri’s home and I am currently staying at the Brigade Apartment Complex in the twin building of the Murthys.

I went with the TFS people today to a wealthy private school in JP Nagar to initiate a Green Club.  There were 80 or so children for 120 minutes and so a bit difficult to engage.  The private school kids tend to be the worst behaved.

Wednesday we went to RV Public School to conduct an eye screening.  I immediately became anxious about the atmosphere there—attitude from teachers, confusion about venue, poorly behaved students, etc…  We then found out after lunch that it wasn’t even a government-funded school.  We had the weekly meeting at Ajitashri for 2 ½ hours.  We each shared an update and plan before the group.

Thursday morning I was due to meet Anand at Rajajeshwari School in Srinivasanagar at 10:30 AM.  At 11:20 AM I decided to find a payphone (still no cell phone).  He had two-wheeler difficulties and so came by auto.  We met with the principal and doctor about Doctors at School.

We set 7 or 8 July as a date for the parental Q&A, etc…  Afterward, we went to Ajitashri and realized there was nothing to be done there. (I did pick up my passport-size photos.)  I walked to the clinic and typed up a letter to the hospital asking for surgery at a reduced price for one of their patients.  A 16- (or 19-) year old needed open heart surgery! I walked back, getting blisters from shoes and had lunch at Shanti Sagar (Hot & Sour Soup and Aloo Parotha).  

Class on Spoken English instruction began late–-long and quasi-helpful.  Dinner in Jayanagar 4th Block with summer interns.  An Italian restaurant name Pascucci’s which promoted ‘Free Wi-fi’ (didn’t happen).  I had spaghetti and (chicken) meatballs.  It was spicy but not that great. (Nausea in middle of the night.)  I’ve decided not to eat non-veg for the rest of the time.  Dessert was delicious though. I had a piece of cake called a B52.

Today was a nice change of pace. Spoke to Parimallaji for some time.  Beautiful view at this locale.

My room in Brigade

Mother and Son at Brigade

Family at Brigade

Private School in JP Nagar

"Brigade Towers"

Monsoon over Bangalore

View of Bangalore

Monday, June 20, 2011

20 June 2011

I walked to work today.  I had an eye screening in NR Colony and figured that it would be quickest to get there on foot. None of the vacation volunteers showed up—they got lost despite directions, etc… I guess it did not help that I could not be reached by phone.  A local volunteer, Priyanka, arrived early and helped me to finish standards I-VII before one.

Banyan Tree in NR Colony

Sunday, June 19, 2011

19 June 2011

It’s been two weeks today.  I spent most of the day lounging and watching American movies.  Yesterday was our first full day of screening.  We completed approximately 350 students in just two hours or so (Std II-VII).  The faculty at Crescent School was quite helpful after all.  Despite the appearance of the school, there is real need among its students.

I went to a couple of temples tonight with Auntie and Uncle.  First was a manmade cave temple to Krishna.  It reminded me a lot of Alvin’s Island in Panama City.  The carvings, however, were very good, depicting the many myths that surround him.

Finally, I have seen the famous Big Bull Temple of Bull Temple Rd.  I now know why it’s a landmark.  The stone murthy was extremely impressive.  I might actually go back before leaving.

We also visited Dodda Ganapathi which seemed to have huge popularity.  There was significant waiting and pushing required to catch just a glimpse.

All in all, I see a lot of similarities between the Hindu rituals and those seen in the West.  Unfortunately, the role of money seems to be one of the most striking resemblances.

Me cooking Maggi

Me and Auntie watching tv

Aravind taking pictures of me watching tv

Thursday, June 16, 2011

16 June 2011

I’ve been quite busy the last couple of days.  Most of this week has been spent finding and then seeking permission from government schools in Jayanagar and Basavanagudi.  Swathi and I have been very successful at scheduling the eye screenings.

Tomorrow I will conduct my first eye screening at Crescent School.  It should make for a very interesting start as a result of the unique Muslim flavor of the school.  I hope that perhaps just this brief moment of contact might make some impression on their conception of Americans, etc… Despite the general feeling of unwelcome-ness, I feel that the headmaster there has genuine concern for the well being of his student.  He was quite keen in determining the role of esteem in the lives of impoverished children.

On a similar note, the neighborhood maid stopped by again today.  Apparently, her grandson, who usually accompanies, her saw me today visit his principal at NR Colony GHPS.  He seems undernourished and likely mentally impaired.  His movements and speech were a bit spastic and his mental capacities below average.

Cousin Balu was here at the time and his presence and demeanor reflected an interesting inter-caste/inter-class dynamic.  It seems such constant exposure to poverty and the like will most definitely lead to desensitization.

Balu and I spoke for some time this afternoon, nearly four hours.  We spoke mostly about cultural and religious differences i.e. touching, relationships, Hinduism, etc… but also about growing Chinese influence and the possibilities of war.  Most interestingly, I was asked to provide an analysis of the family—personalities, relationships, etc...

Ate delicious North Indian thali today for lunch.  Bajjis for snack.  Butterscotch drumstick.
Caved and ate KFC yesterday – first meat and probably garlic that I’ve had

Girls waiting at Crescent School

The local maid and grandson 

Me and the maid

Eye screening at Crescent

Eye screening at Crescent

Sunday, June 12, 2011

12 June 2011 12:50 PM

Today is Sunday and most people are off of work.  Most businesses are also closed.  It has been one week since I have arrived in India and I have already seen and done so many things.

Yesterday I went with Auntie to go visit her brothers and their families.  They all live quite far from Tyagarajnagar—about 40 minutes and Rs 150 by auto.  Their colony is what I would call suburban.  The traffic is light and there is a lot of greenery and parks.

We first went to her brother’s who serves as a priest in the local Hanumantha temple.  This is the same temple that Auntie’s father served in.  There, I had jackfruit for the first time.  Later, I was told by cousin Balu that bears invented the recipe of earing honey and jackfruit together.  We were also served lunch of rice prasad and cucumber sabhar.  For dessert, I had noodles in reduced sweetened milk.  Auntie’s brother, Prasad, was very happy to hear that I knew a couple of mantras.  He gave me a couple of cds to listen to when I return.  During lunch, Prasadji showed me a video of a festival held at Tirupati.  In addition, I was shown many albums of his murthi decorations and creations.

Afterward, we walked a short distance to Auntie’s eldest brother’s home.  He is very well off and has a very large and beautiful home.  There are granite floors, a sunroom, a beautiful puja room, and a bathroom for each bedroom.  Uncleji also has two floors to his home.  There, I spoke with Uncleji for quite some time.  We discussed many things about India, the US, and the unique opportunity and experience that I am having here.  I was able to look through wedding albums and quite a few photos of the grandson.
About dusk we went to visit the Hanumantha Devasthana.  It was a very unique experience.
Tirupati Prasad – Ladoo
Betel Leaves
Cousin Marriage
Turmeric + Lime = Kumkum
Corruption and Colonialism
Urbanization of India

Prasad Uncle's House

Jackfruit Tree

Prasad Uncle cutting jackfruit

Prasad Uncle's Family

Auntie's eldest brother and family

House in suburbs


The deva's feet

Saturday, June 11, 2011

11 June 2011 9:17 AM

Today is my first day off since my internship began.  It’s very exciting how self-directed my work here is going to be.  As of yesterday, my projects on the health team will include Doctors at School and eye screening in the government schools.  My work in these projects seems to be heavily organizational.  I have a lot of ideas for how I can streamline and work these programs.

In addition to field work on the health team, I have been assigned documentation work with Nele.  I feel confident that I will be kept very busy during my stay here.

I am a little concerned about my internet connectivity.  Having checked my email only once, I have learning that Aging in a Cross-Cultural Perspective has been cancelled as Prof. Lamb is going on medical leave in the fall.  I hope I can find something else appropriate to actually graduate.

Ashwat left last night to visit Tirupati.  I understand that he’s going there because of his new job.  Apparently this temple is surpassed in richness and corruption by the Vatican only.  It’s a six hour drive to the location from Bangalore and requires nearly 24 hours of waiting, travelling, etc… just for some 20 seconds in front of the god.

A few classmates of Aravind’s came over yesterday.  They seemed like very intelligent girls.  Auntie said that both were engineering students.  One, in fact, was going to Chicago for two months of study.

Some things to remember:
Brahmins & garlic
Narsimha & doorways
Holy basil outside your window

Tulasi (Holy Basil) outside my window

The doorway at Tyagaraj Nagar

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

8 June 2011 7:34 AM

I’ve been very busy the last couple of days.  Orientation lasts for about 13 hours each day, 9-10.

Monday was spent mostly in discussion and getting to know one another.  The people here are all very smart and likeable.  I’m lucky to have others my age with which to work.  Since several are from Boston, it’s likely we’ll stay in touch.

After boardroom meetings, we went and visited Narendra Nele.  Nele is an organization which caters to orphans and ragpicker children who often don’t go to school.  It was an amazing experience.  All of the boys were so smart and eager to interact.  They very much enjoyed seeing American currency and talking about things they knew.

Yesterday was very similar.  The day began with Kannada lessons and program overviews.  We spent all afternoon and evening visiting various slums in Bangalore.  At the last slum, we actually separated into small groups and ate dinner with a few of the families whose daughters had become education volunteers.  Most of the families were of Tamil descent and so communication was very minimal.  Few foreigners seemed to have been to the slums.  People often stared at me and the other white people.  Many children would follow and want to touch us.  Others would ask for pictures on their mobile phones.

My eating patterns are still a bit off.  I am hungriest in the morning and have hardly any appetite at night.  It could also be that my Auntie is an excellent cook and makes things much more delicious than what we usually get at work.

I finally know where we live:
Nama mane Tyagarajnagar ali ide

Swathi at Nele

Me at Nele

One of Hindu Seva Pratishthana's Tution Centers

Slum area in Bangalore

Temple near Gurukulam

Swathi, Sagrika, Liz, and Pragya at Gandhi Bazaar

Green bean sabji, raitha, roti, and pickle

Boys at Narendra Nele

Monday, June 6, 2011

6 June 2011 6:25 AM

I’ve been in India now for just over 24 hours and it’s been very hard for me to believe.  The flight was bearable but very disconcerting to my sleep patterns.  My first day began at 3:30 AM and was spent eating and sleeping alternately.  Ashwat and his family are extremely hospitable and have made me feel very comfortable in their home.  For breakfast I was given dosa and tea, which were both more delicious than expected—perhaps because I didn’t know what to expect.  The cilantro that was on it was picked wild by Ashwat’s younger brother, Aravind.

Ashwat, my host, works for a software company in Bangalore.  He is very knowledgeable and in our first conversations told me much about Indian culture and history. Even with all my background and expectations, India is really more than anyone can imagine.

                                                         Revi Uncle (Ashwat's Dad)                            
                                           I would give him back massages in exchange
                                                             for Telugu lessons.
                                                    Dakshayini Auntie (Ashwat's Mom)
                                                                My mom in India


                                                                 Aravind (Ashwat's Brother)
                                                                         Studying for finals