mungbean in india

The End of India


So I recently reached the End of India.

I have just spent the first two weeks of December travelling around Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the South, mostly by train, and taking in Ooty, Madurai and Kochi, with a stop in the middle at Kanyakumari (pictured), the Southern-most point in India.  The end of the line.

And then five days ago I left India. It was four years ago today that I arrived in Bangalore at the start of that adventure, eventually spending two years there and two years in Delhi.

It feels strange, and a bit sad, to think that I won’t be there any more. There are lots of people and so many things I will miss about the place.  Of course, there will also be some trials and tribulations that I won’t miss at all—the appalling air pollution in Delhi for a start.

But I think it’s simply not possible to switch off India and walk away, just like that. So I will be using some spare time in the next few weeks to ruminate, reflect and write about my experiences over the last 4 years.

In the meantime some photos from the trip are here:



Looking Back…

So somehow this blog seems to have fallen off my radar this year. For most of it I’ve been incredibly busy at work, including studying for my PGCHE as well as leading a re-write of our undergraduate curriculum. It feels like I had barely any time to do anything outside of work until September.

I’ve been planning a trip in the first half of December, so I’ve also been looking back at where I’ve already been over the last 4 years.

India is a very, very large and incredibly diverse country, and I barely feel that I’ve scratched the surface, but I’ve certainly been to some very memorable places so far.

I’ve been making a map… (also larger version). (This will be updated to include the places I’m visiting in December as well.)


Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 8.15.18 pm

So I’ve hardly posted anything here since the start of the year… partly due to being unbelievably busy at work for the last 3-4 months, and when you spend most of your day writing documentation, going home and writing more stuff doesn’t really appeal.

Plus I’ve been in India for 3½ years now, and I think I’ve probably reached the point where I’ve already said most of the things I wanted to say about the country, and reported most of my observations about how things change when you move to a place like this as an expat.

Just after moving here, I wrote that while moving to Bangalore for 2 years had been an adventure, I expected being in Delhi to be more of a challenge.

Well it certainly has been a challenge recently…



Weather (again)—Today was the hottest day in Delhi for 62 years.  They registered 47.8 Celsius at Palam airport, although most of the city was “only” around 45 degrees.  It’s been about the same for 3 days now, and some areas are suffering power-cuts, which doesn’t bear thinking about.  Not being able to even run a ceiling fan, never mind a jungle cooler or a proper air-conditioning unit, would make life unbearable.   Especially at night—it hasn’t been below 30 degrees overnight for a couple of weeks at least—it would be almost impossible to sleep.



Dog Bite (again)—Yes, I was bitten by a street dog again this week.  Just like last time, it jumped out at me from behind a parked car and before I had time to even see it, it had hold of my ankle.  This time however, it was broad daylight, 6pm, and I was right in the middle of Defence Colony market, doing some shopping after work.

Unlike last time I was a lot less worried… the dog didn’t draw blood and I had already had Rabies shots last year (on top of the vaccination I had before leaving the UK in 2010), so I went along to the hospital to see a doctor the next day.

Also, this time I went to a nearby private hospital. I got a jab, spoke to a doctor, and was out of there pretty quickly, after paying the princely sum of Rs 300 (£3.00).  And because I’d had the course of 4 shots last year, the doc told me I only needed to have one this time to boost my immunity.


Ropalidia marginata (photo: Wikipedia)

Ropalidia marginata (photo: Wikipedia)

Wasp Bite (first time)—last week when the water delivery man came round with my 20L can of drinking water, he rang the doorbell but it didn’t work.  I let him in, and led him across my roof terrace to the kitchen, which has a separate door.  As we passed the doorbell, I was subliminally aware of something moving at me at enormous speed, followed by a huge amount of pain in my right ear.

The pani-wala was waving his hands and shouting “dangerous! dangerous!” but all I could do was yell.  Very loudly indeed.

It turns out that there had been some wasps nesting in the doorbell, and his ringing (which didn’t ring) must have enraged one of them, and it came out and bit me.  He was telling me to put lemon juice on it but I didn’t have any… a quick google suggested Aloe Vera would soothe it, and I have loads of that growing on the terrace, so after giving it a good wash I slathered it in Aloe gel and then held a bottle of iced water on it to keep the swelling down.

Boy was it sore though… and for a couple of days.  And now every time I see one of those wasps the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!  These are some kind of Paper Wasp, all yellow/orange, with no stripes.  I’ve seen one on the terrace a lot, bumbling around and always apparently looking for water to drink, directly from a dripping tap, from a saucer with a plant sitting in it, or from a puddle.  I’d always thought they were fairly harmless, but I guess they’re not the same when they’re angry.

Also, it was about this time last year when my doorbell went up in flames… if they are making a nest in there at this time of year (out of paper), and especially when it’s 40+ outside, it’s hardly surprising it went on fire.

* * *

There’s quite a backlog of things I’d like to write about, but I never seem to have the time. Sometimes being so backed up makes me consider finding an affordable writing service to help with the load. I have several unfinished posts all sitting here in WordPress.  If anyone’s actually reading this please let me know, and it might give me some incentive to get on with finishing them!



India on Wheels

Testing slideshow from Flickr.

Ek Saal Dilli Mein


Yet another anniversary… today is one year since I arrived in Delhi.

The last 3 weeks have seen cold, grey, damp, foggy weather, and even some rain on Friday, the first for a couple of months. (It was even cold rain—a first for me in India.) But thankfully the weather was great today, with clear blue skies and enough sun to get the temperature up to about 17C.

Meanwhile at night it’s still down to around 7-8 degrees, and I’ve got 2 duvets on the bed, because the only heating in my entire flat is a little electric blower thing.  Another couple of weeks and it should start warming up again.  By March we’ll all be sweating again and I’ll be getting the air conditioning serviced and ready for months of constant use, day and night.

Anyway… Ek saal Dilli mein. One year in Delhi. I was in a celebratory mood today, although it might  have mainly been due to the very welcome sunshine. I can’t ever remember 12 months  going by so quickly before, and I’ve certainly been extremely busy with work, but I think it’s been a good year.

India now feels totally like home, to the extent that I even forget I’m living overseas most of the time. I still get little pangs of homesickness from time to time, but these are invariably focused around people I wish I could see (but can’t), or food I really want to eat (but can’t)… I was craving good Scottish Kippers and crusty bread for breakfast the other day. *sigh*

My Hindi classes have been a bit sporadic for the last few months, but I noticed recently that I am understanding whatever taxi and rickshaw drivers are throwing at me without having to think about it.  Definitely need more practice though.

And so begins the second year in Delhi, and the fourth year in India.  Chalo.

A New Broom Sweeps Clean?

So here we are on the verge of 2014, and quite a historic day in Delhi.  A new Chief Minister and his cabinet were sworn in today, after their party did well in the state elections here earlier in December.

It’s historic for a number of reasons… firstly the party, the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party), was only officially launched a couple of weeks before the elections.  Even so, they managed to take 28 of the 70 seats on offer in Delhi, and the leader Arvind Kejriwal ousted the Congress Party’s Sheila Dixit, who had been Chief Minister for the last 15 years.

Secondly, AAP is running on an anti-corruption stance, and it grew out of the mass protests in 2011-12 which called for a Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman) to be introduced in parliament, with the aim of setting up an independent body that can investigate corruption and protect whistle-blowers.

(The writing on their distinctive and now widely-seen hats says मैं हूँ आम आदमी on one side: I am a common man, and मुझे चाहिए जनलोकपाल on the other: I want Janlokpal).

Despite the “hung” result, AAP eventually decided to form a local government with the outside support of Congress, after holding a referendum of their supporters, and the nationalist BJP party have agreed to form the opposition, even though they won the most seats.

2014 will be a big year for Indian politics.  The next general election to decide who sits in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, has to take place by May.  And with the new Aam Aadmi party on the rise, the previously-assumed 2-horse race between BJP/Narendra Modi and Congress/Rahul Gandhi suddenly gets more interesting.

In Indian elections every party has a symbol as well as a name, presumably for the benefit of illiterate voters (of which there are many).  Congress uses an open hand, and BJP uses a lotus flower.

The symbol chosen by AAP is a twig-broom, something you see every day here. The question everyone is asking is whether this new broom can sweep Indian politics clean in 2014.

aap poster

Three Years in India


Today, 17 December, is three years to the day since I arrived in Bangalore with 2 suitcases, and no idea of what to expect from living and working in India.  Because I had never been here before.

Hard to believe it’s 3 years already–2013 has gone by so quickly.  I’m loving my job at Pearl Academy, which is just the right balance of challenging and rewarding.  And I have a great flat in South Delhi, with a little roof terrace garden.  In general I’m feeling very contented here.

This blog has been somewhat neglected this year due to me being incredibly busy, but we’re coming up to a week’s holiday at college so hopefully I will be able to write up my recent trips to Agra and Nepal…


Happy Diwali

Somehow time has been flying by, and I’ve been neglecting this blog… Not sure whether it’s because I’ve been extremely busy at work, or because I don’t have quite so much to say about India these days.  Possibly both.

Anyway, Monsoon is over and now it’s Autumn.  Sort of.  A couple of weeks back, Monday morning was suddenly cooler and slightly hazy.  The day-time maximum is now less than 30 degrees every day, and overnight it’s comfortably below 20 and falling by a degree every 2-3 days now.

Being able to manage without air conditioning on overnight means getting a much better night’s sleep, which is very welcome.

It’s also Diwali, the biggest festival of the year in most of India…

It began yesterday  with Dhanteras, and tomorrow will be the main day of celebrations with Hindu families celebrating Laxmi Puja.  The tiny diya oil lamps will be lit around people’s homes, and Ganesha and Laxmi (see above) will be worshipped.

Fireworks are now going off constantly outside, houses are festooned with coloured lights all over the outside, the shops are overflowing with hampers and sweets and dried fruits. Lots of people are shopping and visiting family.   It’s a happy time.  I gave Rs 20 to a beggar with one arm today, and he beamed and wished me “Happy Diwali!”.

The atmosphere at work became very relaxed and jolly towards the end of this week, with lots of smiles, gifts and celebrations.  Everyone is looking forward to spending time with their families, and taking a week off next week.

As for me, tomorrow I’m heading to Nepal for the week. And I’m really looking forward to finally seeing some of the Himalayas.


Small Things #9

9.15pm, Delhi.  It’s after dark, a warm and humid evening, and I’m walking to the shops near my apartment.

At the side of a residential road, three men—one of them a security guard—are sitting next to each other on plastic chairs, looking at the side of a parked car, laughing and smiling.

As I walk past them, I can see that they’ve placed a mobile phone in the recessed door-handle of the car next to them, so that it’s suspended sideways.

They’re watching a movie on the phone’s 3-inch colour screen.  Despite the tiny size of the image, they’re enjoying it immensely.