the wonderful world of veena.

28 May 2011

more and more pictures.

I've been a picture taking fiend these past few weeks.  Ok, not really, but I have managed to accumulate quite a few.  Taking pictures from the bus can be a bit awkward, because I draw a lot of funny looks.  Plus the only thing I have to take pictures of these days out of a bus window is the "progress" of the Metro construction.  And really, there are only so many pictures like that that can be taken.  There are still a few on my list that I want to make sure to get, but it hasn't happened as yet.  I'll keep you posted.  Until then, enjoy these:

[this will one day be a Metro pillar.  just probably not before I leave]

[because I have recently become an expert at reading Kannada, I noticed that the English translation for this movie was misspelled based on the Kannada title.  just call me genius]

[since the Metro construction has taken over the road, people are now using the construction sites as footpaths]

[Anthony Appa's 60th birthday cake]

[I always love pictures of misspellings.  it's how I combat my obsessive compulsive need for proper spelling; I take a picture and laugh.  it keeps me sane]

[finally got to spend some time with my cousin's son Harsha on my last trip to Coimbatore]

[always love signs encouraging people to be sustainable.  wish there were more of them]

[this one always cracks me up.  finally saw it during the day and managed to awkwardly get a picture out the window of the bus]

[we celebrated Super's 21st birthday at the farm]

[you won't get hot dogs or nachos at sporting events in India; instead, you get pav bhajji and samosas]

[the IIM-B campus.  it's gorgeous, but they lose major points because it's ridiculously confusing to try to find your way around]

[painted on the ground at the IIM-B campus.  thought it was a good motto]

[Nithya's workshop on mapping our daily routines to learn how to lead more sustainable lives.  go through it and try it for yourself]

[I saw this and immediately remembered my second year at Rhodes]

[this is the candy dish Mindy and I swiped from 1912 all those years ago and gave to Bern; it was the beginning of our careers as kleptomaniacs.  Bern is currently showcasing dried jasmine flowers in it]

[ringing in Super's 21st at midnight]

[a cart of tender coconut shells.  it made me want one, but they were all empty, and the guy was nowhere to be found]

This will be the last chance I get to upload pictures for a while, as I'm heading to the farm tomorrow for a few weeks and will only be able to get to the Internet intermittently.  Be prepared for an onslaught of pictures [schoolchildren; sunrises/sets at the farm; our science experiments; costumes from our performances; banjarpalya village; the sights of mahaballipuram; and a million little things in between] once the group leaves on the 11th and I get some semblance of a life back.

Until then...

26 May 2011

my lifestyle contract.

This week the South Asian Youth Conference was held here in namma Bengaluru.  On Tuesday I braved the buses all the way to the far, far away campus of IIM-B to sit in on/help with Nithya's workshop on breaking down how we live our lives and how to develop a "lifestyle contract" for living a more sustainable life.

We had each delegate present draw a "map" of their daily lives, going over every aspect from where their food is grown to how they get around their towns/cities to simple things like remembering to turn off lights and fans when leaving a room.  In the end we made a list of promises to try to stick to in order to lead more sustainable lives.  The exercise got me thinking about how sustainable I am here in India, and how sustainable I hope to be once I return to the US.

This is a big issue mainly because the convenience of the US makes it so easy to be unsustainable, which is why the US has the largest carbon footprint of any country in the world.  And when you look at it, it can be reduced by leaps and bounds just by doing little things like turning off the water while brushing your teeth or unplugging a charger when you're not using it.

On one hand, there are some things that I know I am good about here in Bangalore:

  • I turn off the tap while brushing my teeth or washing dishes.
  • I have bucket baths instead of showers.
  • I turn off lights and fans when I leave a room.
  • I switch off outlets and unplug chargers when I'm not using them.
  • I use public transportation.
  • All the food we eat is locally grown [I don't necessarily know about how the chickens are raised, which I know I should]
  • I carry re-usable bags with me to shops.
  • Whatever plastic bags accumulate in the house I re-use as bin liners.  [one delegate from Nepal said that any plastic bags his family members bring home he returns on his next visit to that shop.  I found that an intriguing idea.  I can just imagine the look on the faces of the people who work at more. if I return a bag.  ha!]
  • Any plastic containers that come from restaurants are washed and re-used for leftovers.
  • I discourage - mostly by hitting or pinching - my friends from throwing trash on the ground and encourage them to wait until there is a dustbin available.  If they refuse, I keep it in an extra pocket of my bag until I find a bin myself.
  • I walk whenever possible [which is really only in my neighbourhood or when I'm in the MG/Brigade/Commercial St area].
  • I work for an organisation that tries as much as possible to be sustainable in its daily operations.
  • I print documents only when necessary - usually permission letters for the Boys' Home - and try to print on both sides of a paper.  If we have any papers that have one blank side - either at home or at the Boys' Home - I save them for re-use.
  • I dry my clothes in the sun rather than using a clothes dryer.
  • I try never to waste food.  I only serve myself an amount I know I can eat.  Leftovers from eating out are either forced down - if it's not a lot - or else packed up and either eaten later or given to the dog.
All that being said, however, I know there are things I could do better.  We can all always do better.  The point is whether or not we can commit to it.  I've started thinking about commitments I can make once I return to the US, where it will be more difficult to stick to my guns about these sorts of things.  I don't want to get sucked back into living an unsustainable life again, but I know it won't be an easy road.  My commitments are as follows...

I promise to try to do the following:
  • continue turning off taps when brushing my teeth and washing dishes [which I've done on my trips back to the States, so I think I should be able to keep up with].
  • turn off the shower while I'm lathering and scrubbing.
  • dry my clothes outside on sunny days [obviously I will have to use a dryer during most of the "winter"months.  and I will also have to convince my roommates that it is a good idea to put up a clothesline in the backyard].
  • avoid using the dishwasher as much as possible [we hardly used it growing up, so I'm used to washing dishes by hand].
  • encourage my roommates to carry re-usable bags when going shopping.
  • buy locally-grown produce whenever possible.
  • walk whenever possible [I'm pretty sure Little Rock doesn't have a public transportation system to speak of].
  • look into buying a cycle for use around the city [cuts down on emissions from a car, cuts down on money spent on fuel - especially with gas prices being so high - and is a good form of exercise.  a win-win-win situation.  I like those].  only downside?  I haven't ridden a cycle in over 15 years.  eeps.
  • remember to unplug chargers when I'm not using them.
  • cut down on how much I eat out.  This is especially difficult whenever I travel back to Memphis, as the easiest way to catch up with my friends is to meet them out for dinner or a drink.  I also am usually a bit desperate to make sure I hit all my familiar haunts during the brief time I am in town.  I'm hoping that since I am back for a while, this won't have to be such a frequent happening.
  • not keep the air conditioning/heat running 24/7.  I think this will most likely be my most difficult one, as once you feel that blessed air con on you, it's difficult to remember to be sustainable.
  • recycle my used electronic goods.
  • get back into the habit of recycling paper, plastic, etc.
  • possibly look into a backyard compost?  I would need very understanding roommates for this one.
  • not waste food.  This is especially difficult in the States, where portions are so big, but in the past I was always pretty good about packing leftovers - in college because I was poor and it meant I had one free meal for the week, and post-college because my dad would usually wait up to see what I brought home.  It will be something I have to get back into the habit of doing.
  • do my best to buy fair trade products.  I don't yet know how feasible this is, as I really have no idea of how socially conscious the city of Little Rock is on the whole, so this will have to be something I work out once I move and can get the lay of the land.
  • stick with my policy of printing as little as possible and re-using blank sides of paper.
Obviously there are many more things I could - and should - do, but I think this is a good starting point.  As I mentioned toward the end of my list, I don't know how socially conscious Little Rock is as a city, so a lot of things depend on that.  It was easy to recycle in Brussels because every train station had separate bins for paper, plastics, etc, while in Bangalore that's not the case.  [I know those are two very different cities generally, but you get my point]  So I have to get to Little Rock and see how many of these I can actually pull off [for example: I don't know yet how many cycle paths are, so I can't commit to buying one until I know how often I will actually get a chance to use it] and how many more I might be able to do.

What is your lifestyle contract for the next year?

24 May 2011

kudos to amazon.

I enjoy reading good along with my other online news sources for many reasons: they link to other news articles as well as writing their own, and they focus a lot on topics such as education, climate change, and non-profits, all of which appeal to my areas of interest.

Today I was reading through various articles and came across this gem: Amazon is now allowing people to send in their used electronic devices in exchange for credit for future purchases.  I like this not only because it encourages people to recycle their used electronic gadgets [just imagine how many phones, cd players, video game consoles, and computers you have thrown out in the last 10 years], but the idea of trading these things in to then be able to purchase books excites me.  I've cut down on my book-buying sprees of late, mostly because I need to save money and partly because I'm moving in 5 weeks and don't want to lug too many books across the world, but this is a great way to not only get rid of things sitting around my room but to be able to justify buying new books.

Although the article mentions that Amazon hasn't yet said whether their trade-in offer utilizes e-stewards certified recycling centers, I still have to commend Amazon on taking a step in the right direction and using their status to create a bit of awareness about a growing problem that too often gets overlooked.

23 May 2011

preparing for chaos.

From now until the 26th of June, life is going to be crazy.  I am likely to forget my own name, so forgive me if I forget yours as well.

This week the South Asian Youth Conference is happening here in Bangalore, and while I am not attending as a delegate, I am assisting Nithya with her workshop [Tuesday], facilitating another with Amai [Wednesday], and attending a meeting about Road to Rio+20 [Thursday].  And all of this is happening on Bannerghatta Road, which is approximately a long, long way from my house.  Those are going to be fun bus trips.

The weekend kicks into gear with two school groups arriving.  The Impington 7 [plus a dad] are arriving on Saturday evening, and the SFX group is arriving super-duper early on Sunday morning.  Their arrival also marks my hiatus from the Internet world for a few weeks, as I will be staying with them on the farm.

The SFX group is here for 2 weeks, so we're organizing a science exhibition and cultural program at a school near the farm and then traveling to Mahaballipuram [here's hoping my face doesn't melt off].  Almost as soon as they leave [in actuality, I think it's 4 days], I'm taking the Impington group to Hampi once they finish their gardening and painting work at the Boys' Home.  We're back for two days and then off to Mysore and Coorg.  And in between all of this are the normal extracurricular activities: Indian Nights, Bollywood nights, nights out on the town, days of sightseeing and shopping.

In between there somewhere, Marigold will be arriving to begin her training as our paid intern for the next year.  My friend Jane is coming on the 1st of June to intern with us.  And I also have about 4 ongoing projects that all need to be wrapped up at some point.

And then once these groups clear out by the 26th of June, I'll have approximately 9 days to finish packing, shopping, and saying my goodbyes before leaving on a jet plane and not knowing when I'll be back again.


22 May 2011

rcb! rcb!

Today was rcb's last home game for this year's ipl season, and Prakash managed to score tickets from a friend of his.  This was the match I had wanted to attend all season, as it was not only a Sunday afternoon match, but it was also against the Chennai Super Kings, which is the team my Dhoni-boy captains.  So it was a win-win situation for me.

We went to the Reebok store yesterday to pick up a jersey for me.  And today, with both of us decked out in our red, we grabbed some lunch and headed to the stadium.  Our tickets were for the "student stand", so we assumed we'd be up in the nosebleeds.  It was definitely a pleasant surprise when we entered the stadium at field level.  In Chinnaswamy Stadium, there are no assigned seats; instead, there are lots of blue plastic chairs in each section on which people can sit.  Of course, being India, there are not enough chairs in each section for the number of tickets they sell, but we weren't interested in sitting down, so we picked a spot near the edge of our section and stayed over there.

And then the match started.

Both Chennai and Bangalore are pretty well-balanced teams, so when we got four of their guys out for 22 runs in the first 6 overs, Prakash and I were both thinking it was going to be a blowout.  We forgot that Dhoni never lets his boys get blown out.  He clawed and fought his way through their innings and managed to get them to a semi-respectable, but never really defendable, 128 by the end of their 20 overs.

I think everyone was kind of expecting it all to get over quickly when Bangalore came out to bat, but that faded fast when AB got out on the second ball of our innings.  Luckily Chris Gayle was in his general jovial mood and was ready to knock the ball all over the place.  He and Kohli-boy put on a good show for us, and Prakash and I both went a bit hoarse chanting rcb! rcb! and chris gayle! chris gayle! over and over.  Finally it was Gayle and Saurabh Tiwary who saw us home with 2 overs left, and there were cheers and fireworks all around.  What a way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

I have always loved attending sporting events, but when you're in India, your only chance is to catch a cricket match.  I've been lucky that in the 3 and a half years I've been here, I have gotten to attend 2 Test matches, a one-day match [a World Cup match, no less], and 3 T20 matches [2 ipl and 1 champions league], which I'd say is pretty respectable.  It definitely doesn't compare to a college football game in the States, but it has its own quirks.  The only downside?  No hot dogs.  And that's not something I am likely to ever get over.

So now my rcb boys finish the season in first place and will play the winner of tonight's mumbai/kolkata match [kolkata, from the looks of things] on Tuesday night.  This is the third year in a row we have made the playoffs, and you know what they say about third chances and charms.  Maybe, just maybe, this is our year.

[image via freezonal]

19 May 2011


It's been a crazy few days.

I went to Coimbatore Monday and Tuesday to see my family and to spend some time with my grandmother before I head back to the States.  Even though I'm not leaving until the beginning of July, with the way the schedule has worked out for next month, these two days were the best option for my last trip down into the Nadu of Tamil.

It was a good trip -- I got to catch up with my cousins, spend some time with Anu's son Harsha, spend a bit of time with my grandmother and a few others of that generation, and sleep a lot.  Unfortunately, it was super hot.  As in, hotter than Bangalore, which I didn't think was possible.  But otherwise a pretty well-spent two days.

And then.  On Tuesday night, when I was on my way to catch my bus back to Bangalore, Viji called to say there still wasn't any water at home [the tank had gotten empty on Sunday and apparently the water supply had still not come].  That meant that I couldn't bathe or even wash my face upon completing my overnight bus journey.  Not cool.  I spoke to Amai and arranged to crash her house super early in the morning so that I could at least wash my face and brush my teeth - both musts after a night spent on dear old Rajahamsa.

I reached Chamarajpet around 6am and crashed for a few hours.  Up around 10, brush teeth, wash face, breakfast, and off to the Boys' Home.  Since Prakash and I always go out on Wednesday nights, I just went back to Amai's after work and hung out until it was time to head into town and then reached home only around 10.30 that night.

And again today it was off to the Boys' Home in the morning and then to Amai's after work.  Amai and I met with Nithya about what we need to do for our workshop next week, and then we took Amai's mother and aunt to the uber fancy Skye Bar at uber fancy UB City.  By the time everyone also had something to eat and we left and then managed to catch an auto home from Chamarajpet, it was nearly midnight by the time we reached home.

So since reaching Bangalore Wednesday morning, I have spent approximately 12 hours at home, 2 of which were spent playing cards and 7 of which were spent sleeping.  I am very much looking forward to being at home tomorrow and generally being able to get my wits about me again.

In good news, we have water at home again.  Now we just have to see how long it lasts.

12 May 2011

childhood favourites.

Ever since I came across Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style on television last weekend, I've been reminiscing over all the other awesome [in my head, at least] shows from my childhood.  From the beginnings of Nick Jr to tuning every Friday for TGIF, I got to watch some awesome shows growing up that I just feel today's shows don't live up to.  I know it's a generational thing, but I just don't see people looking back in 20 years and thinking what great shows Hannah Montana or The Suite Life of Zack and Cody were.  Maybe it's because back then it was just a lot easier to be a kid; I feel like I was a lot more carefree than kids are today.  [when I was back in Helena for my 10-year-reunion last fall, my classmates and I were noting that 14-year-old girls look a lot more grown-up today than they did when we were 14-year-old girls - they seem to be skipping over that awkward middle school phase and going straight into glamorous high school mode]

But I digress.  The point of this post was to remember some of my favourite childhood shows, not to ramble about the differences between being a kid then and now.  These are the ones I remember with the most affection.

the jetsons.  I can almost still remember the entire theme song.  And one of my fondest memories of being a kid is going to see the movie version at Boggs' Cinema [remember that place?] with the Webb family.  I still say that it was mine and Burke's first date.  ah, childhood romance.

the world of david the gnome.  This was one of the first shows when Nick Jr launched, and I used to love watching David race across the land on the back of Swift the Fox to save someone's life.  And I still think that the little "gnome kisses" are the most romantic thing in the world.  [I definitely just watched the theme song on YouTube and am not at all ashamed to admit that I teared up]

the littl' bits.  This was another of the original Nick Jr shows that I used to love.  I don't really even remember much of what it was about, I just remember being obsessed.

the smurfs.  I'm still unsure as to how the Smurf world was so populous when there was only ever one female.

the elephant show.  I realize that is probably not the real name, but I think you know what I'm talking about.  Do you still remember the actions to the closing song ["I love you in the morning and in the afternoon..."]?  Because I definitely do.

full house.  TGIF used to be the best part of the week - we would time dinner so that we would sit down just as the first show started at 7 o'clock.  And yes, Uncle Jesse still makes my heart flutter.  Don't act like you're immune, because we all know that you are lying.

family matters.  I had a Steve Urkel puzzle.  I think that really says it all.  Oh, but he was dreamy when he stepped out of that chamber of his and was transformed into Stefan Ur-kel.

boy meets world.  Admittedly, I stopped watching once they left high school, because I just didn't find the college seasons all that great, but the middle and high school seasons were hilarious.  And yes, I still have a crush on Shawn.  So do you.

the flinstones.  I rocked one of the better Pebbles hairstyles as a child and dreamt of growing up to marry Bam-Bam.  Plus I always wanted a pet dinosaur like Dino, he seemed really cool [not like that bloke Barney. don't get me started on him]

teenage mutant ninja turtles.  My favourite character was always Splinter - who was yours?  I'm still convinced that I was him in a past life.

inspector gadget.  My mother and I used to watch it and sing the song together.  We would yell together that "this note will self-destruct!"  I always wanted a super cool watch like Penny's.  And yes, I still say "go go Gadget arms" when something is just thatmuch out of reach.

charles in charge.  Come on, Scott Baio was dreamy.  He used to be Chachi!

the noozles.  It's the one on Nickelodeon about the little girl in Australia with the pet koala bear from another dimension who survives only on eucalyptus leaves.  You know, the one that no one can ever remember the name of.  I Google-d and Wikipedia-ed it, and I finally found it.  Victory is mine!

saved by the bell.  Just in case you guys had forgotten what inspired this little trip down memory lane.

And of course there were the early morning re-runs of gilligan's island, the beverly hillbillies, and the brady bunch to watch while we had our breakfast before school.  Ah, those were the days.

What were your favourite shows growing up?

10 May 2011

blast from the past.

Last Saturday, Ashu and I were passing the afternoon flipping channels at Pranay's place when I suddenly came across this:

That's right, Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style was on tv.  And it was awesome.  Transported me straight back to the mid-90s, when I used to watch 4 episodes of it every day after school.

I'm pretty sure my exclamations and excitement were very entertaining for Ashu.  He had no idea what was going on, as he had never heard of or seen the show [I don't know if they ever aired it in India], so I tried my best to give him the backstory on the characters and how they ended up in Hawaii.

And what a great trip down memory lane it was for me.  I felt like I was back in elementary school, wondering each day which episodes wgn and tbs were going to show that day.  Would it be the one where they discovered oil on the football field, or would it be the one with Screech and his lucky beret?  [gosh, remember when Tori Spelling was on there?]  Or how about the one where they steal their rival school's mascot?  Or the one where Jessie overdoses on caffeine pills?  [if I ever hear the song I'm so Excited, it immediately calls to mind Jessie passing out as she says, "I'm so excited, I'm so excited, I'm so ... scared."]

I had the theme song running in my head the entire day after that.  Who knows how amused Ashu and later Mukunda were by the movie, but I for one had a blast.  I want to watch more of my favourite shows from my childhood.  Those were good days.

[image via Classic Kids TV]

signs i have lived in india for too long.

Today, on my way back from the shop around the corner, I noticed a cow eating the grass just in front of my house.  I didn't think anything of it, said hi to the cow, thought briefly about naming her Cathy, and came on upstairs.  After a few moments, I realized that only in India is it normal to just have cows camped out in front of your house.  Partly because of the time I spent in India growing up, but mostly from having lived here for three and a half years, I'm never fazed by traffic being stalled because a cow is camped out in the middle of Mysore Road.  Do I find it annoying?  Yes, of course, but if I'm honest, cows are not the main nuisance contributing to the traffic, and we all know it.  But have I gotten used to it?  Yes.  Which scares me a bit.

I started thinking about other things I don't really notice anymore, and the first thing that popped into my head was the monkeys.  Whenever we take groups to Lalbagh or to Mysore, they always freak out when they see monkeys everywhere, and I always find it amusing that they go so crazy.  But then I remember that you don't often see monkeys while walking down the street in London, while I see them pretty much on a bi-weekly basis walking from the Boys' Home to the main road.

I've also gotten entirely too used to traveling on the left side of the road.  Last year when Dorothy and I were in Istanbul for the World Youth Congress, we kept forgetting that Turkey drives on the right, and we would continually look the wrong way before attempting to cross the street, being pulled back at the last minute by Koudi, Georgie or Gugi.  We kept getting confused in Belgium and Amsterdam as well, and it was scary how much better I felt once I reached London and the traffic made sense again.  I somehow manage to be fine when I'm driving - I guess because until last November, I had never attempted driving here so had never really thought about it.  But whenever I'm walking, I still look to my right first when trying to cross a street.

I'm sure there are other things as well, but these are what come to mind.  Let's see what I say once I'm back State-side for longer than a month.

09 May 2011

what time is it, you ask?

it's picture time, of course!  now, i admittedly have not been great about taking pictures the last few weeks, but i have still somehow accumulated quite a few.  hope you enjoy!

[this, my friends, is what the Taco Bells in India look like on the inside.  here, the Bell is considered "gourmet" fast food]

[a tree outside the Boys' Home that I only saw for the first time two weeks ago.  I've been going to the Boys' Home nearly every day for the past three and a half years.  so much for my observational skills]

[this is my friend Rakshitha. she was supposed to be listening to Prabhu's directions on playing with clay, but she was much more interested in posing for me instead]

[the finishing touches on Salomiya's "cake"]

[they all discovered early on that snails were easy to make. this one was the best of the lot]

[this is what Imran's hands looked like after just 10 minutes. the boy was in heaven]

[this used to be my footpath when I walked from the flyover to Mysore Circle. not anymore.]

[Namma Metro progress? who knows]

[Prabhu decided to decorate the clay models a bit]

[check out my awesome bracelet. I made it myself]

[the goddesses of Doddabelle Colony]

[a shop that charges for plastic bags! I love it]

[if you look closely you will notice that madam is already clutching the pair to the earring I am dangling, but you know how these babies are with their shiny objects]

[I cleaned the cupboard at the Boys' Home!]

[our man tried to convince me that he was wearing these to his friend's wedding on Saturday. thankfully he was joking]

[with the Prakash-a at his friend's wedding]

[note: this picture was actually taken last April in Goa, but I saw a guy today wearing the exact same shirt and didn't have my camera, so I decided to use this one instead. in case you can't read it clearly, it says, "sorry girls, I only date models"]

sorry there ended up being so many again.  one of these days i'll get the knack of this and there won't be so many all in one go.

05 May 2011

book update: suite francaise.

I have been wanting to read Suite Francaise [Irene Nemirovsky] for years.  I can remember seeing it in bookstores for at least 5 years - including the entire time I worked at Barnes & Noble - and for the life of me I cannot figure out why I never picked it up before.  Maybe it was the same as the case with The Fountainhead [Ayn Rand] -  I've been thinking for years that I need to read it, and every time I am inside a bookstore, I pick it up, but then something shinier always captures my attention.  And because in the last few years I've had to put myself on a budget of never buying more than two books per month [trust me, it's good for my soul and for my wallet], I would always end up putting it back.  Same went for Suite Francaise.

And then, one day a few months ago, I was perusing the shelves at Blossom's while waiting for Prakash to pick me up, and there it was: a used copy, still in good condition, for only 100 rupees.  That's right, for just over $2, it could be mine.  And the timing was perfect.  I was nearly finished with The Rug Merchant [Meg Mullins] and didn't have a lead on what I wanted to read next.  So on a whim I purchased it on my way out, and I just finished it a few days ago.

I loved it.  It took me longer than I would have liked to get through, but that's mostly because I've only been going to the Boys' Home twice a week in recent months, which has significantly cut down on my reading time on the bus.  And my house flooded.  And I've been working on a new puzzle.  And the IPL is on.  So I've just not had a lot of time for reading for pleasure.  But I still really enjoyed it.  Nemirovsky managed to capture a time that was both terrifying and unpredictable for French citizens, and she wrote the characters in such a way that you could empathize with them, even if you didn't necessarily like them.

The second half of the book - set in a German-occupied French village in 1941 - went much faster for me for some reason.  I can't imagine what it must have been like for Frenchmen and women to have Germans living with and amongst them, the men who were the possible captors of their own husbands, sons, and fathers who were off at war.  It makes me thankful that I grew up in a society where I had so many freedoms that I realize now I took for granted.

I'm not sure what my fascination is with World War II, but I've had it since I was in middle school.  I've always enjoyed reading about the time, studying not only the battles and the war itself but also the lives that were disrupted and the towns and cities that were destroyed.  And this book only served to heighten my fascination once again.

If you haven't read it already, find it and read it as soon as you can.  I don't think you'll regret it.

03 May 2011

a place for everything and everything in its place.

Today, we cleaned our room at the Boys' Home.  Wait, let me rephrase.  We didn't just clean it, we gutted it.  It has been needing a thorough cleaning for about 6 weeks now, but it's difficult when I am the only person there and am also having to run around getting supplies for the boys and checking their work.  It appeared clean on the surface, but I knew the corners needed to be swept properly and the cupboards needed to be set straight and the drawings on the walls needed to be pulled down and all the extra paper really needed to be taken for recycling.  I knew all these things needed to be done, but I also knew I needed help.

Enter Prabhu and Maruthi.  Now that the schools are closed for their summer holidays, and the summer camp Ness sponsored at Doddabelle is over, Prabhu and Maruthi will be coming to the Boys' Home for the next 6 weeks or so.  Someone [I honestly don't know who] got the ball rolling by straightening up the cupboard where we keep books for the boys to look through.

Since that was already done, and Maruthi was there to keep an eye on the boys who were working on their lessons, I decided this morning that it was finally time to attack the cupboard where we keep all our materials, games, puzzles, sports equipment and paper, as well as our bags.  It has been beyond messy for a while now, but everytime I've started to try cleaning it out, some boy or the other has had a "crisis" that has needed attending to.  So I kept putting it off, clearing out a few papers at a time every few days or so, but never doing what I really needed to do.

Today was my day.

I spent the entire morning session, and most of the afternoon, going through every single shelf of that cupboard, throwing out junk, separating papers that can be used again [we re-use paper that has a blank side] and those to send for recycling, categorizing and organizing all the materials, getting rid of broken shuttle rackets, packing up things that needed to be returned to the office, and generally putting things to rights.  And let me tell you, that cupboard is beautiful right now.  I meant to get a picture, but I forgot, so I'll get one as soon as I go in the morning before anyone has an opportunity to mess up my system.  Because I know it's going to get messed up.  That's just a fact of life.  But I'll know I did my part.

And while I was focusing on the cupboard, Prabhu and Maruthi corralled 3 boys into helping them get the rest of the room in order after lunch.  They got rid of all those volcanoes and planets we'd made 5 months ago, they swept out the corners where all the papier-mache had flaked off, they threw out all the junk that had accumulated on top of and inside the box with the screen printing supplies, and they tore everything off the walls except the two maps and the collage the Impington group made last year.  We came up with a plan of how to arrange things on the wall so that it still rotates with the boys but also has a better flow to it.

And tonight, I feel such a sense of accomplishment, something I haven't really felt in a long time.  Even though we didn't focus on teaching, today is going to go down as one of my favourite days at the Boys' Home.  And in 3 years of going there on a daily basis, I've accumulated quite a few.

I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the cupboard will stay mostly clean until I leave at the end of the month.

02 May 2011

for the love of a newspaper.

I have been realizing more and more in the last few weeks how much I miss reading a newspaper.  We don't get a newspaper at home anymore because it's just me, and it's not really worth it.  Plus, the newspaper guy for some reason doesn't like to bring the newspaper I like - The Hindu - but rather the Times of India, which spends more time on celebrity and Bollywood news than it does on proper local and international news.  At one point we were getting both papers, because Kishore liked reading the Times, and the interns and I preferred The Hindu.  While I was gone last year, however, they went back to only one paper, and the guy kept bringing the Times.  When I inquired about a change last year, he started bringing an entirely different paper, so I decided it wasn't worth the hassle, and just started reading my news online.

For the past few months, I've been spending a majority of my time perusing the online sites of bbc, nytimes, and cnn, using them to get my dose of information on what is happening around the world.  I've recently stumbled upon another site, good, which focuses a lot on more socially-conscious articles - especially regarding education and combating climate change - which appeals to me greatly.

In some ways, it has been good.  There are times during the week that I stay either at Amaidhi's or Pranay's house if I've gone into town, and therefore am not home the following morning to read the paper.  And I can easily pick and choose which articles I want to read and which ones I can come back to later if there is time.  Also, with the vast range of online magazines and news portals, I can read multiple articles on the same topic to gather different viewpoints.

But it has its downside as well.  If I'm not home and don't get a chance to see the headlines online, I don't have a physical paper to flick through to see the headlines.  If you don't check a news website over a 48-hour period, you're going to miss a lot, especially because of the speed at which these sites get updated.  And honestly, I don't enjoy sitting at my computer for such a long time just to read the news.  It's not particularly comfortable.

One of the things I am most looking forward to when I move back State-side this summer is being able to sit with a proper newspaper and absorb all of the information that is contained within it.  I know many newspapers have suffered as the amount of knowledge online and the number of Internet users have increased over the last 5-10 years, but I still love having a physical paper to read through.

and yes, I know that it might not necessarily be sustainable to print such large papers.  but look at it this way: if I'm reading a physical paper, my computer is not on, thus saving a lot of energy.