Monthly Archives: June 2008

Pic of the Day – Every where’s a toilet!

Yes! That is a cow wandering in the road and yes, he is relieving himself!



Revisiting the Matrimonials

Since the questions I had in my matrimonials post were burning in the back of my mind, I asked about them on IndiaMike; a travel forum made up of Indians, NRIs, Expats and other westerners who love India. It is a great place to get the lowdown on a particular town, hike, cultural habit or whatever.

It seems that the caste thing is not peackock tail wagging, but that marrying within your own caste is a real preference. Everyone wants to be with someone who understands them. Then an Indian NRI posted about a question he had from singles ads in the UK; specifially what someone meant when they said that they were looking for “fun and beyond”. To me, this sounds like a variant on “friendship and possibly more”, which is simply being coy and not trying to sound desperate. Nobody ever posts “I want to marry” in a personal ad in the West.

India is a high context culture and America and Germany are low context. Something that I’d never considered is that there are aspects of life where we are the high context culture; and love appears to be one of them.

Cell Phone

I finally have an Indian mobile phone number. There are a couple of things about phones in India.

Firstly, Indians use the American term “cell phone” and the British term “mobile phone” interchangeably. I’ve started calling it a cell phone again after years of using the German word “handy”. Handy could be regarded the queen of the “Denglish” words, being an English word incorporated into German and then used as a noun in a way that is guaranteed to confuse English speakers; but this blog is about those strange Indians, not those strange Germans. Secondly, everyone expects you to have a cell phone. They don’t expect you to have a land line, or if you do, they simply don’t care about it. So not having a cell phone is akin to having leprosy. You seem to need a cell phone to do anything.

Since I’m tired of paying €5/minute roaming charges to T-Mobile and I’m equally tired of having to work out a hackish solution to “what is your cell phone number Sir?”, I needed a local cell number. Phones can be either prepay or postpay, as in most other places. My initial plan was to get a postpay SIM for my existing cell phone as I was told that foreigners can’t get prepay SIMs. Unfortunately, settling on a house is taking so long (a post for another time) and I wanted to shake my leprosy. So plan B was a prepay card.

The interesting thing about prepay card in India is that foreigners aren’t supposed to have them, presumably because terrorists favor them. My driver hatched a plan. HE would get the SIM card for me. So we went to the shop together. You need a proof of address, two forms of picture ID and a passport photo and he brought these along. It was obvious to the guy in the shop that my driver was getting the SIM card for me (who is obviously a foreigner). He very exactingly made my driver go through the ID confirmation and sent him to go make a photocopy of his voter registration card and driver’s license. Then when all the paperwork was done, the shop owner handed me a stack of SIM packets to let me chose my phone number before putting it in the phone and activating it. The activation signal was supposed to come after a half hour and it never came, so we had to go again today and have them resend it.

The whole time, it was completely obvious that the SIM card was for me and the store owner did not give one hoot, as long as he was able to properly fill in the forms.

What was the point of this rule about foreigners and prepay cards again?

The Classifieds – Matrimonials

One of the little windows into the soul of a land is to read the classified ads in the newspaper. I find the matrimonial particularly interesting. I get the feel of a land that is deeply conservative and caste oriented, but seems to be in transition.

  • It seems that nobody puts out their own ads. One particularly struck me. A woman is working in the HR department of a tech company in Bangalore. The contact email is on an ISP in Australia.
  • Nobody says that they are looking for romance. Often, they are looking for an “alliance”.
  • They read more like resumes than anything like a personal ad in the west. They don’t talk about walks in the moonlight or the kinds of books they read. Instead, they list educational qualifications, profession and income if it is high enough to be an asset.
  • Sikh men – sorry “boys” (only boys and girls seem to be looking to get married, no men or women) – who are clean shaven always state it up front. My best guess is that this avoids the inevitable conversation that happens when Sikh families where the “it is ok to be clean cut” battle has yet to be fought meet the boy in question.
  • People really stick to their own kind. The listings are segregated by language, religion, caste, and profession. There is a category for each of the different religions; Jain, Christian, Muslim and Hindu. There is a category for doctors and others for engineers, management, MBAs and techies. There is an entry for every state, so if you are looking for a nice Punjabi or Tamil boy for your daughter, they are all categorized for you. There are entries for each of the castes. Lastly, there is an entry for NRI/Green Card.

I really wonder about the entries that people choose. I guess that they will choose the one that puts their child in the best light. What does a Brahman engineer put his ad under? Brahman is the top caste, but being a highly educated professional is also highly desirable. I posed this question to my driver and his response was, “He would put it under Engineer Sir”. So being an engineer is better than being Brahman? Or do they put what is the most important part of their identity? Do people who list by state of origin do so because they don’t have any serious peacock plumage, such as high caste or professional qualifications? Lastly, why would someone enter themselves under Scheduled Castes (untouchables) instead of by state? Is it to avoid the inevitable “no way is my son marrying a Dalit girl” or is it because that defined their identity and identity is more important than peacock plumage?

So many questions!

Interestingly, there is an entry for “Cosmopolitan”. These people are early always highly educated, high earning professionals; about half of whom live in the US or UK. They nearly always say “caste no issue”. I presume this to mean that they are more interested in marrying other highly educated professionals. This would put them in line with the west by replacing caste with class.

Lastly, the language use is sometimes loads of fun read…

…seeks beautiful, educated, homely, girl…

Mysore Nuggets

I’m settling in with a cup of coffee made from beans grown in Karnataka. Karnataka is a coffee growing state. The most common form of bean coffee that I’ve found here is called “Mysore Nuggets”, which is an appropriate name derived from a time when Karnataka was called Mysore State. They mix a bit of chicory in to give it a unique flavor. It is good coffee and it is kind of cool to be drinking locally grown coffee, just as in Germany it is cool to drink wine made from grapes grown in the vineyards around our house.

But the best part is the name!

There is a city about 100 miles southwest of here called Mysore. It is known for sandalwood, weaving, tourism and being on the way to the hill stations where they grow tea and coffee. It is an anglicized name that probably gave amusement to generations of Brits before and during the Raj; especially in the late 18th century when it was the capital of Tipu Sultan, who was the biggest obstacle to British domination of south India. Mysore is the Anglicization of “home of demon guy with an unpronounceable name” in Kannada. The city is to be renamed Mysuru, which is a Kannadaization of an Anglicization of a Kannada name. This would be like the German city of Koln (Cologne) renaming itself Kolon; but I’m not sure if I want to ask about the thought process that brought us to Mysuru.

For generations, the administrative district – state – was named after this city. Mysore State was renamed Karnataka in the 1970’s

Now say Mysore slowly. What does it sound like?

Now say Mysore Nuggets slowly!

my …sore …nuggets

Mmmmm… tasty coffee!

Pic of the day – Red Bull

Carts drawn by oxen do exist here. They are more the exception than the rule. There are a hundred autorickshaws and Tata Sumo SUVs for every ox drawn cart, but they do exist. Anyway, there is this guy on Whitefield road with an ox and a cart that we pass every day.

And yes, he did paint the ox’s horns red. Decorating cattle is something they do here. And that is sugar cane that the ox is munching on.

Red Bull

Pic of the Day – Karnataka is Pretty!

A shot of approaching rains taken from Nandi hills.

Nandi Hills