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.

Mother Hen

Update 17 Nov 2018

We’re getting so many requests about Manjula’s health. So we’re providing occasional updates.

She’s lost so much weight, I asked the local diagnostic lab to send someone round for an impromptu blood test to check haemoglobin levels.

It checks out ok at 13.1 reference range 11.5 – 14.5 in India with an ill wife one gets used to diagnostic centres, reading results, drugs, records, co-ordinating between different docs, trying to keep track and paying!

Cost was 50 rupees, so that’s great, this time!

A word from our sponsor

Babel fish

I have now developed a long and significant list of excuses for why I’m unable to speak ANY foreign languages:

The British Raj, due to them the English language is so prevalent I can easily get by without Kannada here in Mysore.

British Arrogance, see above.

My parents and therefore my genetical inheritance.

Wax in my ears and assorted other hearing limitations.

A wife and extended team that speaks English and seemingly endless other languages. I get by.

Teachers that couldn’t cram French or German in me.

Probably the top of the tree…. abject laziness combined with being idle, severe inability to stick with anything for more than five minutes and being 🐻 of small brain.

This list is to help whenever I’m questioned why after nine years do I not speak Kannada. (Clearly I cant speak English properly anyway)

STOP PRESS

Manjula reckons it’s because Ive got a short stubby tongue.

Whereas Manjula, with all the languages at her disposal, yes you’ve guessed it, has a long slender one.

I rest my case

Winter

Has arrived…. was the typical headline in the local paper…..when I first moved here. I used to joke that this isn’t winter. This morning on the way to gym I feel the drop in temperature. Maybe a combination of the times are changing…. my body adapts and the climate shifts.

Oh yes, I was going to the gym and yes it is intense.

But I go for my half hearted attempts at yoga not this hectic stuff, it’s still intense.

A Mysore Day….

First stop. Diagnostic centre. These places are all over Mysore. You’ll see patients traipsing around the city with files and bags full of results. Doctors having sent them to their ‘preferred’ centre so the get their backhander. But not here at Kannan, the first established here in Mysore they have a fair and transparent policy of No commissions. Lakshman the head doc has been especially helpful to Manj and I.

Well I deposited my blood and urine samples with the instructions to go have breakfast and come back to repeat the process in two hours.

Next

For Idli, (twenty rupees for two servings, that’s 4 Idlis) at reputedly one of the best joints in Mysore opposite Wellington Lodge (why’s it called that? Find out on a cycle tour…. sooo blatant! Says mythical Ed)

Number Three, chai, eight rupees.

4 shopping therapy, yes I can even get enjoyment from buying a replacement squirty water gun for the toilet. Know what it’s for? This photo is between Ashoka Road and Gandhi Square of the hardware capital of Mysore 🙃

5 next one of my fave places, old trad juice shop for sasparilla soda.

6 hotel Indra Paras for sweets!

And just to proof there’s often action here and we don’t have to wait for the big annual Dasara event which only finished last week…. a great procession brought the centre to a chaotic standstill as opposed to the usual

chaotic movement….

And finally the diagnostic centre to take the piss as they want more blood. Results back at the end of the day. Cost is very reasonable at 2200 rs. That is however almost ten times the supposed minimum daily wage.