It’s a significant anniversary

Today, exactly four weeks after my beautiful died I’m at the old people’s ashram.

In memory of Manjula we’re gifting all today’s meals. I’ve arrived an hour early so it’s time to chill, remember and reflect and in a very limited way feed my addiction to share with you guys.

Back in Siddarthanagar smileys have appeared on the road, overnight.

Using stencils and water soluble spray paints they are another simple way to discreetly and publically remember and acknowledge.

There’s a fair amount of sweeping goes on at the ashram.

Checking out Manjula

Team briefing

As per usual. The girls are completely ignoring me. I’ve offered Manjula a new job and here’s the detail of the tasks and targets!

Ok so I’m not the worlds best artist 🙃 it’s how I communicated her job when she first came to work for me….

Here’s a photo of the original job description!

yes, there was a day when Manjula actually worked for me. Now we know that the tables have turned.

This is just my way to help support her and to focus on what’s important such as eating well, putting on weight, exercising, not being in bed too long, welcoming and chatting with guests, taking meds on time. Above all fun things and seeing the world through a glass half full

Here’s Manjula summarising how her jobs changed over time. A week or so before she died.

The election is coming!

Will Donald win again? No the election is in India not the USA but you’d be forgiven for thinking that politicians are much the same the world over. No not because of corruption, that’s true, or supporting their mates in business, that’s also true or being primarily focused on self interest rather than the good of the community, tick tick tick. All probably true. . It’s also about how they choose to focus on often non-issues to polarise the community, exaggerate them to create even more divisions of us and them and shift us even more to the right.

Well we’ve known an election is on the cards here because…

The local paper for weeks on end has had a headline complete with the PM’s photo , no wait a minute it’s an ad paid for by the govt to tell us how successful they are. Now the date has been set, the model code of conduct is in place and such crafty practices are not allowed.

We in Mysore also have the honour of supplying indelible ink for the elections. Once painted on someone’s finger it stops them biting a second time!

This is all getting exciting!

Sheer agony

It’s been 48 hours. Can you remember ear ache as a child?. I’d forgotten how bad it was. I’m certain there’s worst but it escapes me at the mo. There was the full-on blood throbbing pain alternating with the swish swish of the chain. Horrible. I was tempted to OD on my paracetamol. I’d turn from resting on the right (bad ear) Then there was the dagger like pain on my left shoulder. I couldn’t sleep and even tried three different rooms. No not embarrassing myself before guests. We had none last night 🙃

Well this morning the ear ache has subsided. What a blood relief. But the aching shoulder has become much worse. So it became…. Jag time. He’s a master. He’s considered a physio but he’s on a totally different planet. One of Mysore’s gems.

According to my appointment card it’s nine years since my last visit. On that occasion Jag declared that my Carpal tunnel syndrome was nonsense and traced the problem to a nerve which he spotted on my shoulder. After three visits and his trademark manipulation it was sorted.

This time, I also suspected nerves. But no after one jab he could tell it was a pulled muscle. So he picked me up lick a rag doll, threw me around the room, wacked me a few times, smacked me on the bed and sat on me …… no of course he didn’t. His gentle but on this occasion painful manipulation and he’d done the trick. Wonderful. That will be 200 rupees. What a bargain!

I return to manhood🙃 ok whimp hood.

A beautiful world

I’m called to the door by an Amazon delivery. There are no guests so it’s been an opportunity for a lie in. Now cut short.

Manjula has not been well for weeks stretching into months. Most of the day she’s in bed but with significant wobble will stumble gracefully to the outside sit-out and sometimes a walk in our park.

She excitedly tells me of hearing the birds visiting her window towards the back of the house. It’s her first experience of the morning.

Today, for some reason, I can hear them clearly. The whole air is full of joyous birdsong. Our house outside at the front, in the drive, hanging from the car port, on the mezzanine, the balcony and the sun terrace is bursting with life. Our greenery welcomes, as you arrive.

Now the presence of the wonderful birds brings a whole new dimension.

This to a house already marked by its openess. We’re far from but also reflect a traditional Indian home. The matriarch, the Amma, is Manjula, formerly the maid. Her husband who she declares: ‘the maid’ now provides her necessary support. As with established typical local homes. It’s a vibrant active place. Ordinarily there is a constant flow of people. Our cleaners, gardener and that husband-assistant feverishly ensuring it’s prepared for our paying guests at the Mysore Bed and Breakfast. It’s inward flow of guests, a mix of generations, the conversations mingling from the different lounges,  with their languages from around the world, in a very Indian way creates a mish mash, a melange of jeek by jowl. A pick-a-mix of rich experiences.

The smells, noises, colours, the feel and texture of India is enhanced by the beautiful bird song. Less than an hour ago it was full flow. It added a perceptible glow to the already shining house. The bird song is more than the icing on the cake its part of our whole.

It helps at this very difficult time of Manjula’s constant challenges to bring a natural soundful beauty.

This house, our home and the memories it creates are a natural consequence of my Manjula. Her smile that radiates is for our many guests, the first and last experience and a remaining mark of their visit.

img_5525The presence that is at its heart, the source of our life here, the link to all those who shared our place. This woman from a poor background, with little formal education who has a kindness reflected in those of the stories she shares of her father, a delightful beautiful woman who has made so many people happy by opening her home as the soft, gentle caring golden thread, linking it all. She, my very own Maharani, has…. no surprise here…. gone and stolen my heart, completely bowled me over… leaving me a marked man.

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All this helps remind us of how lucky we are, here in our Indian home in a world of infinite beauty. Where things continue to amaze, draw us out of our sadness and bring a smile on our face.

Why is nothing straightforward

A visa run (*) to Sri Lanka.

What could possibly go wrong?

1 flight bookings were made from Mysore to Chennai, then Chennai to Colombo in Sri Lanka. Return in 36 hours or so we thought. Sugar. The return flights we’re booked for the following month! Erm and quickly changed 🙃

2 the day before I’m due to fly the immigration Police inform me I’ll not be let back in on my visa. 😩

3 I apply for an e tourist visa so I can at least get back in. It’ll take 72 hours so I’ll have to miss the rebooked return flights, assuming I get a new visa🤪

4 hotel arranges taxi pick-up at the airport. All goes smoothly until we arrive at the hotel at about 4 am. There is no room at the Inn. How did they manage to book the taxi but not reserve the room? I sleep on the sofa in the dining area. 😮

Thanks booking.com

5 this hotel is a fair distance from Colombo so I check out Airbnb options and find what looks a very promising place to stay in Colombo. I can’t book it. Our AirBnB entry is now in Manjula’s name because of our Mysore Bed and Breakfast listing. 😕

5 there are no micro breweries in Colombo😩

So what could go right?

6 I tramp the streets. Find a cool boutique hotel with sea view, get a basic orientation of the city while creating a list of things to do. Meet some lovely people and do some shopping 😋

6 the e-visa arrives (within 48 hours) on the first night so I can leave on the booked flights. 🤩

7 they let me in at Chennai🤫

8 flights go great and it’s a dinky affair in Mysore 🙄

9 I can surprise my beautiful wife who was a little worried that i might not get back in 😘

A visa run * an extra trip out of the country is sometimes necessary so as not to overstay one’s welcome, usually beyond 180 days.

The price of an ice cream

As a young child in the 1960’s my grandparents used to take the grandkids driving through France to holiday in Spain. It was unusual for a working class family from Sheffield (grandad was a steelworker) to go on holiday abroad. What a great experience!

One of the things I noticed changing during these occasional visits over the years was the price of ice cream.

In Spain and England it was at a very low price and affordable on my pocket money. In France it was a little different. You know, more classy with prices to match. 🙂

The price of ice cream was of course significant in my world!

Over the years the prices gradually increased and merged. They became global and consistent. The price (and quality) changed dramatically.

In retrospect I was experiencing from a child’s world view both globalisation and the way products are now priced ie at a level that the ‘market can take.’ Price was increasingly determined not by the cost of raw materials plus the cost of production plus a profit. There was a dramatic shift towards the price-we-can-get-away with charging. There were key stages of this change, including; the increase in international travel especially holidays, higher disposal incomes amongst more people in society, middle class growth, the moving on from the effects of the war, decimalisation, sales taxes such as VAT and of course globalisation and not least internet sales .

In a few short years the cost of ice cream went way beyond my pocket money. Obviously my own disposable pocket money income didn’t keep pace.

Now, I’m here living in Indya age 61.

I often say that India is a good teacher it illustrates and illuminates many contemporary issues.

We’re seeing exactly the same process going on here. Ice cream was and still is cheap but now there’s a whole range of premium quality options so prices differ wildly. There is a massive surge growth of the middle classes so new demands and greater disposable income, India has always been the world leader of flexible pricing (the least local you look the higher the price you will pay). Now we’ve the introduction of GST (a General Service or Value added Tax) and the idiotic demonetisation which resulted in over 80% of currency becoming worthless overnight, so another reason for prices shooting upwards! So the price of ice cream, amongst other things goes up and up.

We often think that India is a cheap place. That’s both true and not. It can be incredibly cheap and shockingly expensive.

A case in point.

Medicines.

The big box of twenty tablets costs, …….. wait for it……. 1760 Rupees! (That’s one GB pound per tablet) I’ve managed to get a 15% discount and I’m not paying firangi (foreigner) prices. The minimum daily wage here is 250 Rs per day how is someone who is poor, supposed to manage? I can tell you as an exceedingly rich (not) foreigner it’s hard to handle! Imagine what it’s like for poor people, or Manjula for that matter if she didn’t have access to our resources!

So what’s the point?

So, I’m seeing the same process of prices increases at work, here in India over fifty years later.

Prices are becoming more consistent around the world, reflect what’s possible to charge rather than actual costs, are often increased when there’s a convenient policy change such as change in taxation. It also serves to accentuate and polarising difference, it reflecting the severe differences in levels of income and wealth, life and death experience in society.