Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Jai Hind! Indian Independence Day

Jai Hind! (Victory to India!) My first Indian Independence Day

The Indian flag is raised during the ceremony in the school gym

Two years ago I was a singleton in London stuck in the daily grind of the rat race, and wasn't even in touch with Kirsten. On Wednesday I stood in the school gym next to Kirsten, my wife, wearing a kurta (long shirt/dress that Indian men wear) singing the Indian national anthem, as part of the flag raising ceremony for the 65th year of Indian independence!! It felt surreal how quickly things have changed...who'd have thought I'd have ended up the foothills of the Himalaya in India!

It was a great day, and you can read more about it and see photos in the article I wrote for the school website here.

The Indian national anthem, entitled Jana Gana Mana, is rather challenging for an Englishman to learn, but I've just about mastered the first line. It was composed and scored by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Sankritised Bengali. I've put the words below with a translation, it basically goes through different regions of India...why not have a go at singing it...this YouTube video should help you sing along, it sounds like someone singing it accompanied by their Casio keyboard in their bedroom.

What's funny about the anthem is that the end note seems to leave it hanging...I'm informed by a musician here it ends on a it sounds it needs a final line which never comes. It's a bit like ending God Save the Queen on "long to reign over us". Have a listen to the link above and see if you agree.

National Anthem of India

Jana gaṇa mana adhināyaka jaya he
Bhārata bhāgya vidhātā
Pañjāb Sindhu Gujarāṭa Marāṭhā
Drāviḍa Utkala Baṅga
Vindhya Himāchala Jamunā Gaṅgā
Uchhala jaladhi taraṅga
Tava śubha nāme jāge
Tava śubha āśhiṣa māge
Gāhe tava jaya gāthā
Jana gaṇa maṅgala dhāyaka jaya he
Bhārata bhāgya vidhāta
Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he
Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he.

English translation
Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Dispenser of India's destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Shindu,
Gujarat and Maratha,
Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bangla;
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is
chanted by the waves of the Indian Ocean.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Thou dispenser of India's destiny.
victory forever!

Greetings of the day! I love Indian English!

Dear Sir/Ma'am,

Greetings of the day! I saw that fellow last week and he has told me to do the needful. Trust you will be able to tell me your timings for the train to Delhi. I must warn you there is a bifurcation at Saharanpur where the train will change direction. What to do? If you can avail yourself of the itinerary and tell me the good name of your wife I will proceed to make the booking, otherwise you may need to prepone, as I'll be out of station next week.

I'm pushing off shortly so kindly revert.

Thanks and regards,

Ranjeet Singh

I've made up the above but it is similar to some of the communications I've received from our travel agent in Delhi. Indian English still uses a number of archaic or unusual words which are delightful to the ear. My father in law tells me "good name" is a direct translation of the Urdu word for name. It certainly makes some conversations feel like a throwback to a bygone era!

Kirsten also receives some interesting communications in her role as admissions director at the school, this is one that came from Thailand recently...looks like it came straight through Google Translate!

hello! yes i giel foe fungus my name is *&^%$ please as i haers to have a person say that the school where India study excellent i will feel like to go to the school if the teacher will come to Thailand helps to contach with seek me bot to letter at I want to go to school very there the will teacher come to speak or feeshness that have interesting substance about the education pleasa now istays mookdahan is studyying the primary school level studies yere that 5 me will go to while 6 graduate of theolongies are help answer with Thank yes

Where is the Monsoon?

We've had a bit more rain in recent days but the Monsoon is still light compared to previous years. Everywhere is green and mossy which is beautiful, and when the mist lifts there are great views of the hills around, with clouds floating in the valleys. Below are some great shots of the Monsoon by two of my colleagues Amy and Abe.

Great shot of mist in the rainforest PIC: ABE OKIE
Mist hangs over the valley looking down from Mussoorie PIC: AMY SEEFELDT

Mossy walls on the chukka PIC: MY DARLING WIFE

Bethany, Kirsten and me holding packet of cornflakes, in atmospheric Monsoon mist Pic: ABE OKIE

More Olympic spirit please footballers

The English football season started this weekend; it seems a bit too soon after the Olympics, when we were all inspired by the fantastic spirit, determination and guts displayed by the Olympic athletes, many of whom had been training for years for this one shot at glory. We were inspired by Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, and also enjoyed the gymnastics and diving. London did us proud!

Such a refreshing change from the lying, cheating and overpaid footballers in the Premier League, they really could learn a lot about sportsmanships from their Olympic counterparts. Saying that though I still watched the Liverpool - West Brom game with the boys at school. Thanks to the school we all have satellite TV, and I can watch five Premier League games a weekend, a couple from the Championship, live French, Spanish and German games (happily for Kirsten, I don't!).

I also watched the Test Match from a blazing Lords as the Monsoon rain fell. Very bizarre watching the cricket in sun-drenched England as we shiver in the rain here in India.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Landslides and the Monsoon

Workers inspect the damage after the landslide outside our house
Slip land-sliding away!

So we arrived back in Mussoorie a week ago (gosh I'm becoming Americanised by Woodstock starting sentences with so!). It is Monsoon season for the next couple of months, which effectively means we are living in a cloud, and it rains incessantly. Apparently though this is a very light Monsoon compared to previous years, and we have had some clear periods and even some sun. But it is still very damp, difficult to dry clothes, and miserable for sun worshippers (such as my wife). It also means there are more spiders, scorpions and leeches sharing our humble abode.

Talking of our house, the other night at about 5am we were awoken by a huge rumbling which seemed very close to our home. We thought it was strange but were too tired to go and investigate, so turned over and went back to sleep. The next morning we got up and found a group of men in our garden area (I use the term garden loosely). I groaned and went outside to complain, fearing more disturbances from builders who had plagued our lives last semester. I was politely requested to look at a large landslide which had occured, stopping just metres from our house. That shut me up pretty sharpish!

Last term a huge amount of earth was dumped in our garden to fill a hole, this was then saturated with the Monsoon rain. This earth was pushing against a holding wall which could not take the weight...hence the landslide. The good news is that noone was hurt, and our house has strong foundations and should be fine (famous last words). But as the photo below shows, it was a bit close for comfort!

The view from our window!

Not pret-a-porter

You know you are back in India when red-uniformed porters try and carry your luggage at railway stations. These guys have an irritating tendency to board a train just as it arrives at your destination thereby precluding all passengers from alighting. They then try and grab your suitcase and carry it for a fee. Getting on or off a train is already tricky as often the whole extended family of Indian passengers board a train to say goodbye, clogging up the corridor, even though they are not travelling. These porters do offer a useful service but will often try and charge foreigners an inflated fee. On this occasion I gave them a firm "nehi donyevard" ("no thanks") as we did not require their services, although my conscience was piqued when one of them opined: "If you people do not use us how will we survive?"

Indian bookworm

I am enjoying reading Indian novels and books on the country while being here. Anything by William Dalrymple is great, currently I am reading Kirsten The Age of Kali which is very informative. We were interested to read that the city of Lucknow used to be one of the cultural centres of India, but sadly has been in decline over the last 50 years. Some of the religious violence which has taken place in recent years is also shocking to read about.

I enjoyed White Tiger by Aravind Adiga and I'm loving A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Set in 1970s Mumbai during the Emergency period, when the Government ruled by decree, it paints an illuminating portrait of India as the four characters from different backgrounds struggle to survive in a modernising India. The book captures the ghastly injustice and violence of the caste system, the grim reality of life in a slum, and the values and priorities of Indian families. It is still remarkably pertinent to Indian life today, and I would heartily recommend it.

I also read One Hundred Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseni, the follow up to the Kite Runner, but that is set in Afghanistan. It's a great, but somewhat depressing, read.

Power problems

Some of you have asked if we have been affected by the recent power cuts affecting most of northern India. Fortunately Woodstock has generators so we have not been had any blackouts, but the nearby town of Mussoorie has been. My brother-in-law pointed out that while many well-off Delhi dwellers were complaining their air conditioning was not working, hundreds of millions of Indians still do not have access to electricity. Makes you realise how lucky we are.

Highway On My Plate

Last term as part of my job I helped facilitate* the visit of a film crew from popular Indian food show Highway On My Plate to the school. You can watch the 20-minute programme online, it gives a great snapshot of Woodstock life and the beautiful campus, and if you watch carefully, you may spot me lurking in the background!

*I use this term ironically. Obviously in my job I also stovepipe out our key messages to our relevant stakeholders etc etc...