Tag Archives: palmmeadows

Facepalm Meadows

I finally got around to joining the Palm Meadows mailing list. For the better part of a year now, I’ve been clueless to the political goings-on of my neighborhood. It seems to be practical and handy. For example, I now know about the debates over the security processes at the front gate and won’t be surprised by any changes.

It is also extremely entertaining.

One fellow recently actually read his newspaper delivery bill and found that he was paying more than the newsstand price. I pay more than the newsstand price. I pay twice the newsstand price; 10 rupees per issue instead of five. It is worth 5 rupees to me to have it delivered to the door at 6:30 in the morning instead of taking the time to go to the newsstand. I may have lost a nanosecond or two of sleep over it sometime in November. I’m not sure.

But oh did it set off a firestorm!

Soon the topic turned to the milk delivery guy. He does not come to our house, but he does come to a couple of the houses on the street. Apparently, someone ranted that he charges 3 rupees a liter more than the store cost. This rant was met with much general agreement about robbery and how even 1 rupee per liter is too much. One neighbor even went to far as to do an absurd, back of the envelope calculation of 3 rs per house in Palm Meadows per day by 600 houses and came up with over a lakh of potential milkman income; causing him to rant even more. These kinds of calculations were how pets.com managed to get venture funding in the 90’s. Palm Meadows has a high vacancy rate due to the financial crisis and only a fraction of those homes get milk delivery. At best, the milkman makes the middle class income of an ordinary bureaucrat. I wonder how this rage against the ‘dadagiri’ the milkman’s cartel will turn out.

Now I understand not wanting to be overcharged because I’m perceived as an easy mark. I’ve had my own stories to this effect. This however is clearly a case of paying a small premium for convience. The fact that the elite of society can get their knickers in such a knot because an enterprising individual is making a modest living off of others being willing to pay for convience boggles my mind.

There is only one possible reaction…

The Fogger Dude

Every night at 7PM, we have a visitor on our street. A man rides a bicycle along every street curb in Palm Meadows. On the back of his bicycle is an insecticide fogging device which he uses to fog up the neighborhood. An American neighbor two streets over refers to him as the “fogger dude”. The kids have learned to drop everything and come inside when he comes around. A couple of weeks ago, Sammy took half an hour to put on his safety gear for skating. He finished putting on his gear and went out with his skateboard. Two minutes later, he came running back in.

Fogger Guy!

The fogger dude never wears a mask. Daniela told me about a thirdhand story that she got from another German expat who spoke to an Indian who was familiar with the fogger dude system and heard a shocking line; one that seems to be handed down trough word of mouth:

They usually stop coming after a little while. Then a new one takes over.

Professor Rowdy

We had an interesting experience on Christmas Eve. Daniela was making Fondue and needed a bottle of wine. I did not feel like driving all the way to the Cosmos Mall, so I went to the bar across the street from Palm Meadows. I walked up to the bar – an open air roadside bar that is typical here – and asked if they had an inexpensive bottle of white wine.

The bartender suggested a 900 rupee bottle. No way was I going to spend $18 on a bottle of wine to cook with. For that matter, I’d be averse to spending that much on a bottle to drink. Then he suggested a 700 RS bottle. I demurred. Finally, he produced a 600 rupee bottle. I mulled it over and finally decided to buy it. I handed him the money and took the bottle. I expected the price to be inflated. I’d guessed that the maximum retail price (MRP), the maximum price a retailer can legally charge, that was probably 450 RS. When I got home and found it on the bottle, it was 300 RS. They had charged me twice the MRP.

Daniela and my mother were annoyed. Sivakami, who was spending Christmas Eve with us, was absolutely livid!

They are cheating you because you are a foreigner! This is not right!

We debated just leaving it be. Siva wanted to go give the bartender a lecture on honesty and hatched a plan. She would take the bottle in a bag to the bar, ask for the same kind of wine and ask the price. If it was 600 RS, she would ask them why they were charging twice the MRP. We would quietly park in front. If they wanted to charge 300, she would call me over, produce the bottle and ask why they charged me 600. Daniela also played a critical role in her plan. Her presence was needed to prevent the bartender from changing the topic of the conversation to strange nonsense about Siva.

She got out of the car a bit ahead of the bar and walked down the street towards it. We pulled up in front of the bar and turned the ignition off. We watched her speak to them. Then she called us over. Daniela and I got out of the car and walked over. Siva turned to the bartender and asked:

So why did you charge my neighbor 600 rupees?

Siva began lecturing them about cheating foreigners and honesty in general, waving her finger for effect. She did this in English as she did not feel comfortable arguing in Kannada. The demography professor was a force to be reckoned with! Men here generally look down on women who even approach a bar. “After all, only prostitutes would do such a thing, right?” Yet here was a woman – in jeans no less – giving them a lecture about their lack of moral fortitude! The bartender and his two assistants looked like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. They said nothing. One of the assistants took the bottle and nonchalantly started peeling the MRP sticker off. I snatched it out of his hand and snarled:

Don’t even think about it!

Shiva saw what happened and chimed in:

Hey man! If you remove the MRP I’ll call the cops!

Then she resumed lecturing. One of the bartenders regained enough of his senses and put three hundred rupees on the bar. I took the money and the bottle. Then we walked off, but not before Professor Rowdy told them that this would be the last time any of us ever bought anything there again.

The wine – a white grown here in Karnataka – was not terribly good; but it was delicious!

Siva later told us about some more background to the story that she heard from her driver. Apparently most of the Palm Meadows residents won’t actually go pick up a bottle of wine from the bar. If they want a bottle of wine in the evening and are not willing to travel far, they often send their driver to pick one up. There seems to be a system where the bar charges the driver the MRP and the driver informs his employer that it was the inflated price. The bartenders and drivers are in collusion. If a foreigner shows up, they give the inflated version of the price to keep the charade up.

A New Broom

In the past couple of weeks, we have had all new security people here at Palm Meadows. It seems that all of the old security personnel were disposed of and a new batch brought in. The uniforms are different now as the contractor has changed. Daniela noticed that and asked our driver about it to see if anything had happened to provoke the change. He might have heard something through the grapevine from the other drivers or domestic help.

Of course Madam, a new broom sweeps better!

It seems that they practice periodically changing support personnel for its own sake on the theory that those newer to the job will perform better. I spoke with one of the community leaders of the neighborhood the other day and he confirmed this.

Uncle… water?

As I sat at the computer, I heard the jangle of bangles on the stairs. I turned around and nothing was there. Was that sound coming from inside our house, or outside? The walls of the neighboring houses are only a few feet away and they reflect sound very well. Also, the house has many windows and they are usually open. I can hear the neighbor’s speaking and washing dishes as if it is the next room. I looked away for a moment and then a small voice startled me…

Uncle… water?

It was them! There are two small Kannadiga schoolgirls who have taken up the habit of stopping by our house for water during the past week. They asked for water one evening and we gave them water. They have taken up the habit of coming here every day. Daniela (“auntie”) usually gives them chocolates. I think they come here more for the chocolates than the water. They probably have the task of getting water and they go where the sweets are.

As is the ritual of the past week, I took them to the kitchen to put filtered water into the bottles that they brought, tapwater into a big plastic jug that appears to be how they hold their wash water and gave them sweets. They were delighted by a small Cadbury’s chocolate bar that Charlotte brought home from trick-or-treating on Halloween and was not interested in eating herself.

They are cute! Still… I’m not thrilled that they came into the house without ringing. Since I can’t speak Kannada and their English is limited to the words “water”, “sweets”, “chocolate”, “auntie” and “uncle”, it is a bit hard to tell them that I want them to ring at the door, not just invite themselves in.

Back – Kind of…

I’ve been offline for the past five days due to a screwup at BSNL, my ISP. They have been interesting. The bombings kept everyone at home all weekend it seems. The newspaper even showed a photo of a “deserted” MG road that still had too many people for Daniela’s taste. It was however a fraction of the usual hordes. The kids can now find Gudjarat on the map. Newspapers talk incessantly of terrorists; what is wrong with the government’s attempts to root them out, how which groups work, the lucky and unlucky stories. There is even a wikipedia article on the Bangalore attacks, as well as the ones in Gujarat on Saturday.

I’m actually starting to get sick of terrorism. Honestly, I’m more interested in what they are doing about the electricity and diesel shortages in Karnataka. This part of India gets a big part of its power from hydroelectric dams. Until this week, the monsoon rains had more or less failed to make it over the mountains, meaning the reservoirs are low and power production is reduced. There are scheduled blackouts lasting several hours a day. This being India, people are prepared for public infrastructure to fail. Everyone and their pet monkey has a diesel powered backup generator. Palm meadows has kept our blackouts to a minimal duration, though even they seem to run out of fuel on longer outages (and always just 5 minutes longer than my inverter can hold out for). This sudden surge in home generated electricity also means a 50% spike in diesel usage; something that the gas companies have not been able to supply.

So we have a water shortage. Doe to the water shortage, we have an electricity shortage. Due to the electricity shortage, we have a diesel shortage. Most gas stations (called “bunks” here) have shortages. Those that have diesel develop long lines reminiscent of the 1973 oil embargo. My driver spent half a day last week finding fuel for our car.

I never dreamed that the amount of rainfall could affect my ability to get fuel.

Call me cynical, but I think that it is safe to say that more people have died in July due to food poisoning (that would not have otherwise happened if the power had not gone down for an extended time, making refrigeration unreliable) than terrorism. Tens of thousands die every year in India from bites of the common krait and russel’s viper. Terrorism kills a number in the low hundreds. People won’t go to MG road for fear of further attacks, but they’ll walk barefoot in the dark – risking snakebite – and the non vegetarian will risk e.coli tainted meat in an environment where refrigeration has become unreliable. People everywhere it seems worry most about what the newspapers are worrying about and energy shortages are last week’s news.

Ah and it finally started raining in earnest this week! FINALLY!!!

Where’s the snake catcher when you need him?

We moved in a week too late to see a bit of drama on our little cul de sac. Last week a cobra – a big one apparently – turned up in the neighbor’s yard across the street. Just in case that did not sink in, let me reiterate. The neighbors had a freakin cobra on their lawn!!! I joked about that happening in my first post, but did not really expect it. It really did happen here last week! Apparently, the snake got frightened of the commotion he caused, slithered over to the neighbor’s house directly across the street and hid under the propane (cooking gas) tank. A neighbor tried to call the snake catcher, but apparently that guy is out of the snake catching business now and was too far away at the time. Appropriately, he has a traditional snake charmer tune as his cell phone ringtone. Maintenance eventually killed the snake.

The gardeners have gone through the street and cut back the low shrubs to try to make Avenue 3 a cobra free zone.

Yay!