Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raksha Bandhan

We just celebrated Raksha Bandhan with Evan and Audrey this morning. This day's name literally means, "bond of protection" in Hindi. I like it because the day is dedicated to building the bonds between brothers and sisters. Raksha Bandhan is when siblings pray for each other's well being and for each other's happiness.
In the short morning ceremony, brothers make a pledge to their sisters to protect them from harm and troubles. Then the sister prays to God to protect her brother from evil. Sisters go on to tie a thread, called a "Rakhi," around their brother's wrist and say a prayer for his well-being. The ceremony concludes with the brother promising to take care of his sister. Usually the brother then gives his sister a token gift of thanks.
The thread, or Rakhi, is often gilded or decorated. It is usually tied by one's sister, but a wife or mother can also apply the Rakhi.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shoe Repair

Audrey and I were in Sarojini Nagar market (one of our favorites) to do some shopping a few days ago. As we walked I noticed that the tips of my sandals were starting to come apart. Good footwear is essential in a place like India. This particular pair are made by "Keen" and I wear them almost everyday. I figured I'd take a chance and try out one of the local shoe repair guys. They usually sit along the curb near the Mehndi (Henna) artists in this large, rather famous, central Delhi market. Audrey wanted some mehndi on one of her hands anyway, so while she picked out her design (and negotiated her price) with one of the artists, I walked a few steps down the street to see the shoe man about my problem.
He gestured for me to sit down on his small stool and then had me take off my sandals. He examined them thoroughly, and then rummaged through his many tubes, canisters, brushes and bottles. After obviously not finding what he wanted, he looked up at me and put his finger in the air saying: "Aik minute." Then he stood up and disappeared down the street leaving me to sit alone on his stool in the hot sunshine.
I glanced over my shoulder. Audrey's mendhi-artist was still working on her hand, so I just sat there and wondered where my shoe guy had disappeared to... and if I would ever see my sandals again?
But sure enough in a few minutes he re-emerged from the crowded market street with my shoes in his hands and sat back down beside me. "Hanji," (Good) he said waggling his head. "New and best." I wagged my head back to him grinning and saying: "Teek, teek hai. Hanji!" (Ok, okay. Good!) My shoe guy also had a big smile on his face. The sandals looked as good as new. He must have used some sort of glue on them and then buffed and polished my sandals back to their original state in just a few short minutes. The man smiled and asked me for 20 rupees (about $.40) for his time and talent.
Then I turned back to see Audrey now standing next to me proudly displaying the beautiful new henna-design on her hand. Since we were both done, we decided we'd venture back into Sarojini Nagar to see what else we could discover...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moving in India

I figured I should give readers a view of our recent move from Noida to Delhi... Since we used international movers when we first came here, this was our first move using local resources. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. After meeting with four companies, I chose a Noida-based company called "Sai Movers and Packers." To prepare for their arrival, Lesa and I boxed up anything we were afraid might be damaged or tempting. We put our winter clothes into our many suitcases. But we left most of the rest for the movers.
Five guys and the truck driver appeared on the scheduled day at the scheduled time (8am). Not bad. The moving crew came in and after a little review of what we expected (as interpreted by our driver, Chauhan) they went to work.
Most of our clothing was bundled into sheets - big bundles. All of the dishes and kitchenware were wrapped in bubble-plastic and packed into well-used cardboard boxes. Although placing heavy, marble housewares on top of kitchen glassware would not have been a packing strategy I would've used... nothing seemed to break as it went into each box. Furniture was covered with cardboard and taped for protection. And all of our "wall art" was first wrapped in Styrofoam (Thermocol) and then covered with bubble-plastic. This process took about five hours.
The crew then hauled everything down to the lobby, using the service elevator of our ATS tower. The contents of our entire apartment was there in the lobby on display.. until the truck finally arrived at about 2pm.
Then the real action started - Everything was loaded somewhat haphazardly into the back of their small, open freight truck. The loading was interupted occasionally by loud arguments about what to put where in the back of the truck. Everything was eventually stacked in the bed of that truck. The "Beverly Hillbillies" comes to mind.
After it was all roped down our driver gave the movers directions to the new flat and a little cash in case they needed to bribe the transport-tax collector at the U.P. - Delhi border.
All of our belongings made it across the river into Delhi and to our new apartment in Nizamuddin. The guys carted the whole lot up two flights of stairs and placed everything where we directed. The only slight damage we found after all of this was to the heaviest piece of furniture we own - our Indian-made, wooden sofa bed.
The move was over before 6pm. The price? High for India, but only $275 including tips.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Officially Counted

Just a few days before we moved from Noida to Delhi, I heard a knock on the door. We usually don't get many visitors during the day unless it is a courier so I was a little curious.
It turned out to be a fellow from the Census Board. He had come to officially count us for the 2011 National Census of India.
The man came carrying a briefcase filled with very large, multiple forms with well-used sheets of carbon paper slipped in-between. All of the forms were printed in Hindi. Fortunately my census taker turned out to be a High School teacher on assignment with the government for a year. He spoke English quite well and helped walk me through all of the forms and the simple questions about our family. After about 15 minutes we were finished. Off he went, with a polite smile, a soft handshake and a wag of his head, to the next flat in our building.
The experience immediately made me think of my Dad, a retired High School teacher. Dad became a Federal Government census-taker in the mountains of rural Georgia during the 2000 US Census. If you know my father you know he has the gift of gab, and loves to explore back country roads - perfect man for the job.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day at the New School!

Evan and Audrey had their first day of school this week... No more uniforms, but a new schedule and this was the first time the kids have traveled to school on a bus! Audrey is now in 4th Grade and Evan is in 3rd. AES has a "no homework" policy for grades K-5, so the kids are pretty excited about this too! Daily homework only includes reading everyday after school for a minimum of 30 minutes and as much after-school physical activity as New Delhi weather permits... This seems a little more practical than what typical kids are doing - lugging a heavy backpack full of books and notebooks back and forth from school.
I think both of the kids are going to sign up for an after school gymnastics class (2 days/week) and continue with swimming on Saturdays to round out their week...
Only about 30 percent of the kids at AES are actually American. The other 70 percent of kids represent 52 other countries from around the world!

Here's Audrey's first-day picture - she looks all ready to go!

Here's Evan's....
Unfortunately Evan wound up with a 103 degree fever Sunday night (still 101 Monday morning) so he rested with Dad at home the first day.

But he made it in on Tuesday.
Although he is maybe a little less gung-ho than Audrey about AES, he seems to be enjoying getting back to more western-style classes and teachers.
Oh, and did I mention the school cafeteria? - tossed salad, fruit salad, homemade ice cream, bakery fresh breads, rolls and veg or non-veg main courses... Makes me want to go back to school.