Happy Ugadi

Sort of snippet

Just back from a MYCycle tour on Srirangaptnam with mother and her son from Delhi.

Everywhere were signs that it’s Ugadi or the Hindu new year. People amassing leaves, positioning them around their entry door, creating ornate and colourful Rangoli, to invite the Gods, girls all dressed up, people splashing and having family fun at the bathing ghats.

Coincidentally, I get back to a new parcel from Amazon. A book …..

The author is an effective self-publicist and has rightly challenged many of the assumptions around the British Raj. This book on Hinduism (which isn’t an ism, just my humble view) is a timely counter to the increasing, unsettling, unacceptable, extremism that we’re currently hearing and seeing.

Meanwhile, Manjula has been back at home getting a well deserved lie in (guest numbers are reducing now we’ve reached the end of the season) punctuated by endless phone calls from our friends wishing a Happy Ugadi, so Happy Ugadi to you too.

Why does it have to be this way?

the Indian Government insists that your national ID card, known as the Aadhaar Card be associated with your mobile number for you to have continued service. As below. (I’m not commenting here about ‘Big Brother’ and will leave that for another time. )

So I dutifully visit my local Airtel shop to do the business.

Young Airtel woman:

Sir, you can now call this number (as she hands me a small card) and arrange it on the phone.


Takes card. Readies his…. Two phones, (one to use and one for password, ok maybe overkill, I am 61), his Aadhaar card (yes foreigners can get one) and phone bill.

Calls number. It’s working. Press one for Indian and press two for foreigner. I press two. Line goes dead. I try again. And again. And again.

Slightly irate foreigner:

“It’s not working”

Airtel young woman

“Come back on Monday sir”


“Why can’t you do it now?”


Some mumbling about not having working equipment.

More irate foreigner.

“This is my third time here to sort this out. (Slight fib as it was my second time). Why can’t you do it! This is ridiculous” or words to that effect.

She calls me over. Gets out her mobile together with the fingerprint reader and does the business. It takes just a few moments.

Now why didn’t she do that in the first place? Why did it take two visits, phone calls, telling me to return in two days and a bit of a fit? To get her to do her job properly.

It’s not just in India but one of life’s conundrums. Instead of just doing their job well, being helpful and informative they give us the ‘runaround.’ Shame really.

well ‘Big Brother’ has just got back to me….



Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven….

I think not!

But it is a new beginning.

We know there are many of our friends in India and around the world looking forward to hearing about our latest tussles with the bureaucracy.

So here it is….

We’ve taken the big friendly giant (BFG) step and now fully registered Mysore Bed and Breakfast with the Police, the City Corporation and the Karnataka State Government. It’s been an absolute ‘joy.’ Yes, really 😉

If you like to see ‘the big picture’ first check the one at the bottom.

Step One

Visit: The Police Commissioner, followed by the local Police Station, to get a letter saying Manjula is a cool chick. No no no…. to show there are no objections ie. she’s a great character, has no record and the Police and neighbours have no objections.

Please note we’re saving you the agony by missing out 90% of the actual experience of visiting and managing the differently organised police service.

Step Two

ok, so you’ve got your ‘get out of jail free’ card, or your statement saying there’s no objection. Now collect up your documents: rental agreement, letter from owner agreeing to you using the house as a homestay, receipt for payment of tax.

Go to the office.

Then sort out the mistakes: redo rental agreement (letter not good enough) and pay extra tax. Spend two weeks trying to meet up with the officials, get letter typed up, and on and on and on… you just wouldn’t believe it…

is it incompetence, ‘we don’t care’ attitude or an intentional wind-up?

Step Three

The registration with the Karnataka Government was relatively straight forward. Complete the online form, upload the documents provided by the Police and City Corporation and rental agreement. Pay the bill, electronically or face the ordeal of going to a state bank queuing up, paying in cash or bankers daft, getting a receipt, scanning it in, uploading it. Forget that option! paid-up…. We now await the visit of the inspectors.

Step Four

Register on line with the Police to have foreigners come and stay and complete the online Form C within 24 hours of each foreigner who comes to stay. We’ll provide more details of this wonderful…. time consuming employment creation ordeal…. later to enable me (Stephen) to fully flaunt my Yorkshire sarcasm.

So we’ve done it. The team has arrived at the top step, we’ve had our highs and lows, we’ve learned to laugh and cry, we’ve met formidable obstacles, gone with the flow, we’ve sunk our flag in the hallowed ground. It’s taken time, almost a year, we’ve grown as a team and Manjula has made it happen. Phew!

She’s a star!

Next…. we’ll we do it all again next year.

The big picture

The A team includes:

Manjula, aka the boss, on point, who has traipsed around all the offices, made endless phone calls, been endlessly put off, turned up at the key offices to find the ‘houdini’ *official/policeman/Babu/patriarch (*delete as appropriate) has disappeared…. gone for lunch, on holiday, maybe hiding in the toilet, who knows? She gets a gold star for determination, fortitude, strength, with just a little innocence in the mix. madam has seriously been through it all!

Akram, auto driver extraordinaire, helping Manjula face the torture, mysticism and labyrinth workings of the Mysore City Corporation, and hiding outside when she faced the officials of the police commissioners office or the helpful smiley chaps at the local Police Station. To be fair he’s an auto rickshaw driver, rightly with an innate fear of coming into close contact with the constabulary.

Vidya and Tanu. Our knight-ettes in shining armour. Being Manjula’s counsellor, advocate, comforter, advisor and support in dealing with the Police.

Stephen, The clerk, computer operator, form filler, recorder and scribe. He lurks in the background. In the belief that to show his pale face will significantly add to the costs of said registration process.


Thank you for your invaluable help!

Maid in India 2

It’s almost eight years ago that I moved to India and mentioned to my grown-up sons that I was looking for a maid. They were horrified.

We’re from the UK, are quite liberal and left wing. I’m actually from a relatively poor working class background. The idea of having a servant was also way beyond the usual more acceptable (in the UK anyway) middle class practice of a cleaner.

It introduces a class dimension. It’s seen as a bit 19th century, old-fashioned, elitist and servants are employed by people who are not like us! Who see themselves a cut above the rest, or the hoi polloi , a case of upstairs/downstairs. In our world view, its all completely unacceptable.


as you can see its a big house and I need help! Fact is, I only had the first floor eight years ago


I explained as best I could. It was important to provide employment particularly as there was no real welfare safety net in India. I was fitting in with the way things are, and my approach would be different (yep, it would be!) I would be a sensitive and caring employer.

So I asked my friends Ganga and Cariappa if they could recommend someone. The maid network came up with someone pretty quickly.

I was called round to meet someone.


So what’s the bigger picture? once again Tripti Lahiri helps out:

“Britain saw the number of servants drop from 250,000 in 1951 to 32,000 two decades later.”

India followed a similar trajectory until that is, the 1970’s when there began a dramatic increase in the numbers of servants (we’ll come back to terminology later) employed and this is a situation reflected globally.

“According to international labour groups, as of 2010. there were more than 50 million such workers globally, an increase of nearly  20 million from 1995, most of this made up of women. There are now over 40 million female domestic workers globally.” 

So OK that’s enough with all the big numbers, what does this mean in practice for the women involved? who are they? where are they from and what lives do they lead?




Maid in India 1

Quotes taken from ‘Maid in India’ by Tripti Lahiri :


an image from a postcard that we publish


“We eat first, they later, often out of food portioned out for them; we live in the front, they in the back; we sit on chairs and they on the floor; we drink from glasses and ceramic plates and they from ones made of steel set aside for them; we call them by their names, and they address us by titles: sir/ma’am, sahib/memsahib”


Think that’s in the past?

Well, think again.

“In today’s India its not unusual to see, often in largely empty restaurants, a couple seated with their child at a table for four, while the help is despatched to sit not one but two tables away….. or a nanny dandling a child on her lap at a nightclub while her employers and their friends drink cocktails as it creeps towards midnight, her hours of sleep dwindling since she is no doubt expected to be up and ready for another day at sunrise…. or for example children playing in a neighbourhood park, seeing a plump, light-skinned boy on a swing crook his finger at the petite darker woman standing nearby and utter a single word: Push”

Womens’ life experience is an incredible indicator of how a particular society works, from top to bottom.

In India the situation of women and particualrly those who are most socially and economically excluded, in this case, the ones that serve others, shines a spotlight on the social mores, the rules by which we operate, the structures and belief systems that helps maintain the status quo.

It also shows something else.

That is, how these women in often extraordinarily challenging circumstances not only manage but can thrive, can flourish and through that, show their astonishing abilities. In a sense, the influence they subtly exert and how they deal with the changes facing them can also demonstrate to us, on a macro level, how to deal with some of the challenges and opportunities facing contemporary India.

Let’s take a look.


a new direction?


We’ve had a blog for a few years now and while there’s been a fair amount of interest we feel its not necessarily been very focussed (now there’s a surprise, given who’s written it!) and not necessarily too relevant…. thank you to those who do follow us and your helpful feedback.  We’re trying something slightly better as of now, for that read:  The management has instituted a review.

There will be three interwoven (ha ha) threads or broad themes.


Top of the tree will be Manjula’s story.

We’ll start that first with ‘Maid in India’ it’s definitely the one to follow.

Next up will be my take on India and life in this amazing country. So maybe, it might be worth

dipping into (and out of!)42731480-A5D7-4D0D-993F-28592EEDBD5E1

51FEED26-61C2-4E8D-9762-B510F65465D41The third will be Lucie’s view which essentially is the place to find the odds and sods, maybe even the political soap box (she is a dedicated “participant observer’)  and a slightly alternative viewpoint.

We don’t offer a better understanding of anything. We are after all unfathomable people by the very nature of homo sapiens. We are, of course, living in the most wonderful, startling, infuriating, beautiful country full of the most smiley people but whose twists and turns, consistent inconsistencies, joys and horrors creates an overriding paradoxical roller coaster ride.  I hope you’ll find some interesting insights and an entertaining journey. I reckon that you’ll get to know Manjula in a different way and its the connections between the three themes that can provide more insights.

We ask you for your help…..Please do follow us and pass on to friends with an interest in India or those you may wish to punish in some bizarre way. 😉 and equally importantly do give critical feedback: tell us what works and doesn’t, do feel free to provide fresh ideas for content and suggest how we can get it out to more people. Above all please do get involved and create a conversation.

But ultimately don’t get your hopes up!

It’s not really written by Manjula (although I will be delving into transcribed recordings from her made over the last couple of years in Kannada and our own conversations) or by Lucie (she is a dog!)

It’s still written by me.

Yes the man from North England (where’s that? …Yorkshire) who hasn’t quite got the grasp of the English language but who has a wealth of insights stolen from our wonderful guests, the amazing people we meet her in India and frankly anyone else with a half decent idea.

So there you have it, please get involved, watch this space, give feedback so we can learn and improve and pass on to those you think might be interested.

We’ll continue to post on Facebook and our info-insights-tips to help visitors to Mysore have a great time will be on the main site here but the real richness,  if you can call it that, will be on the blog itself.

Wildlife in our garden. 

We have beautiful art both natural flora and fauna on our roof terrace and peeking  through are images from the painted sides of bullock carts.

The new buds on our Brahma Kamla plants are also coming out. We hope to see them flower over one night  in the next two weeks.