Tag Archives: Salem

Birthday Day

The day started with a hearty mutton fry made by Sellappan’s mam, and I gave Sellappan his cookbook gift I had kept secret since arriving. We went for the bus early and I enjoyed travelling back on the 3.33 Electronic City Express in the daylight, watching the scenery change as we left the hills of Salem and went back to Bangalore. We got a phone call from Sellappan’s building manager in Bangalore to say that Holi was being celebrated downstairs – where were we? I had stayed some extra time in Bangalore especially for Sellappan’s birthday and Holi, so I knew what was ahead, but this was a day early, and we certainly weren’t dressed to be covered in powder paint and coloured water!

We got back to Bangalore and took a rickshaw back to the flat, where we saw all kinds of coloured carnage unfolding! The building manager grinned through his colours and approached menacingly – only Sellappan’s cry of “New shirt! New shirt!” saved us from a full on attack! We did, however, receive some green colour on our faces, with cries of “Happy Holi!” We went for the lift before anyone changed their minds!

We unpacked, changed into more suitable clothes and went back out to get supplies for Sellappan’s birthday party. I was pleased I’d brought a backpack for all the snacks and sweets we ended up with! Eventually the shopping was done, and we got back to find another group of about ten people all celebrating Holi. We just managed to put down our bags and take phones out of pockets before all hell broke loose! Between all the different colours of powder, the super soakers and the silver and gold face paint, we were all thoroughly covered in short order!

We must have been playing for a while, as Sellappan’s friends began to arrive – I say began to arrive…three of them walked towards the apartment block and when they saw what was going on they walked slower and slower… clearly not wanting to get too messy! They escaped with some silver paint to the face, and we all headed upstairs, carefully not touching anything.

Sellappan graciously allowed me the first shower, and it took forever to get the colours out of my hair – I couldn’t even tell if they were off my face or not. The soap and shampoo ran magenta into the drain, and I finally managed to come out with some semblance of normality. Poor Sellappan was still standing not touching anything and trying to avoid dropping more powder everywhere. Once he was cleaned up, more people started to arrive and we spent a lovely evening wishing Sellappan many happy returns – with the help of two cakes! Plenty of people managed to squeeze into the flat, and the evening was a great success!

Goodbye to the Salem Network…

While Sellappan ran some errands, I spent the day relaxing and playing with the millions of photos we’d taken on our trips. Zubair popped over and we all had some snacks thanks to Sellappan’s mam.

Later in the evening, Sellappan and I went to see the Doctor at his surgery. As we were chatting there was a sudden rush of patients, so we left and Sellappan took me to a department store where he wanted to get a souvenir for me. He ended up choosing a stainless steel dinner set – I had asked for a plate, which was included in the set – and he got it engraved with the dates of my trip. It’s common practice to engrave cookware with names. As Sellappan’s birthday was coming up, he also needed to get some party supplies like paper cups and plates, so we got those too.

We paid a visit to a kitchen showroom for Sellappan’s mam, accompanied by Zubair. We also went quickly to a CD/DVD shop to get the soundtrack for Highway, the Hindi film we had enjoyed so much. We even managed to squeeze in a few more minutes with the Doctor, seeing as his rush had subsided.

We went to a restaurant and met up with the whole Salem network for a meal. The young waiter ran around for us like the floor was made lava, and we got lots of different dishes. I finished off my meal with a sweet lime juice which was very tasty. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to everyone, and we left to the sound of “Happy Birthday” and “Safe journey home”.

 

Last Minute Rush to Wait – and Geocache 13, not so unlucky

Today we finished up lots of little odds and ends, but first we paid a visit to Naveen and Ashwini, who wanted Sellappan to come with them to view a property they were thinking of moving to. Once we’d had a look around and a chat about it, Sellappan and I went to the Forum mall. We went for a geocache first – my first attempt in India (GLDJ1M23). There aren’t many in India at all, but there are a couple in Bangalore and this one was close to Sellappan’s place so we were able to go for it in the morning before work. Thanks to the hint, we got to the right spot almost immediately. Unfortunately, there were lots of people around, and while we were surreptitiously searching, someone came up to us to ask for money. Eventually Sellappan persuaded them they were on a hiding to nothing and we zeroed in on the likely spot. I couldn’t see anything obvious at first, but sitting down on the wall for a think we dismissed most places around us until only one remained. Sellappan stuck his hand down the back of the likely spot and bingo! Cache in hand! The log was signed and the cache was replaced quickly.

Signing the log book.
Signing the log book at the bus stand.

We crossed back to the mall for the next few tasks. We went to a bookshop and I got some comics as a gift, and got three books for myself in case I needed something to read on the plane. One of these was a second copy of The White Tiger, a book which I had enjoyed before visiting India – I wondered if it would feel the same having been there. We also managed to find a Chumbak store to get the motorbike shirt we’d seen when we were waiting for Sujay and Kallu at the cinema across town. Time was running out, so with everything stuffed into my backpack, Sellappan dropped me off at the flat with some brunch before going to work.

After work, we were making full use of the fact that Mohan and Kowshalya were back in town, and so went out for dinner with them to a restaurant specialising in food from Andhra Pradesh. We had to wait a little while before getting into the restaurant and getting seated which normally isn’t a problem, but we had a bus to catch! Sellappan, Mohan and I enjoyed some non-veg dishes while Kowshalya stuck to the veggie options. We left it at that and paid the bill before rushing back to the flat, picking up our bags and heading for the night bus to Salem via rickshaw.

We made it with some time to spare, and then Mohan and Kowshalya appeared on their bike to keep us company. It was really nice of them to do so, especially as we ended up waiting ages for the bus which was late! Eventually we got on and Mohan and Kowshalya disappeared off into the night.

We hadn’t managed to get our usual seats of 17 and 18, and ended up sitting in the back row of the bus, which felt very strange after always sitting in the middle. Clearly this didn’t bother me as much as I thought, as the next thing I knew I was waking up on the outskirts of Salem, with Sellappan laughing at me because I’d actually managed to nod off before he did. My bus sleeping level: Advanced.

We got off at Salem bus station and got to Sellappan’s house by taxi, and had a nice morning’s sleep on beds that didn’t move.

Horizontal Living/Are we on fire?

Horizontal living in the very, very literal sense happened today, at least for Sellappan. I sat up on the sofa while he lay on the living room floor. Another day of relaxation with home cooking and films was very welcome.

We took Casper up to the roof and Sellappan tired him out with fetch as the bucket filled. Once Casper was just about worn out, he submitted to the dog shampoo, dousings with water and scrubbing quite happily, thoroughly enjoying the attention and rarely soaking us with a shake. He smelled loads better after his bath!

We headed to the bus station late in the evening, and Sellappan bumped into a schoolfriend who had booked the seat behind us. We settled in for our standard commute back to Bangalore. Just as I was wondering if the air conditioning was sucking in fumes from the bus in front, someone came from the back of the bus to speak to the driver, and asked him to stop.

The smell was getting stronger, and the driver eventually pulled over and we turned around to see the back of the bus beginning to fill up with blue-grey smoke. We all got off the bus, and looked around the back where smoke was pouring out. Initially it was thought that the AC unit was malfunctioning, but it turned out that the engine was overheating!

The driver and conductor started making phone calls to the bus company, and sure enough, a couple more buses stopped to help. After a while standing under the stars and speculating what was happening, yet another half-full bus turned up and there was space for some passengers to jump on and continue their journey, which Sellappan and I did. We ended up on the conductor’s hard sideways seat at the front of the bus.

I watched out of the front for the rest of the journey, denied the joy of reclining by having to sit on the strange seat. Sellappan got some sleep (of highly dubious quality) before we arrived at around 4am in Bangalore. After the usual rickshaw ride home we did our standard catch up nap.

Wash It

While I have had the luxury of some quiet times in Bangalore between trips, Sellappan has been working those hours to ensure he has enough leave to travel with me – and to keep his manager on side! This weekend being just over halfway through my visit it seemed reasonable to have a more chilled out weekend at home. That, and he really needed to wash the dog. And his clothes.

We woke up at Ashwini and Naveen’s place at 6 and caught a rickshaw to where the buses stop. This was at a flower market, and we stood on the corner as people were laying out their metres and metres of garlands behind us. The combination of the thick jasmine scent and the diesel of the buses was very odd indeed!

Plenty of buses sailed past until Sellappan chose the one he wanted to flag down, the 3.33, so numbered because that’s how long it takes the bus to get from Electronic City back to Salem. Sellappan caught some extra sleep while I watched the world go by outside, which was interesting as it was only the second daylight trip I’ve taken by bus in India.

We arrived to the house late in the morning, and had a lazy day to top all lazy days. Sellappan washed the bikes with minimal interference from me, and I made a call home while he polished them. Sellappan ran some errands in the evening.

Eat, Pray, Shop (Not in that order)

Another quiet start to the day was followed by a trip out with Saranya and Sudha. Sellappan’sparentsr e went to a temple, where the gods were under a large tree outside. The main god was inside the temple, which wasn’t yet open. We sat for a while under the tree as lots of people made offerings to the gods, lit lamps and walked around the tree.

We went to a restaurant and had a quick snack – I had Bombay kulfi which was kulfi with some stuff in it. It was saffron yellow. The final stop on the quick tour was a fabric shop, which was a special mission for a certain patchworker. I was after patterned cotton, and there was a big selection to choose from! There were also plain cottons in every colour imaginable, and the long, narrow shop stretched back impossibly far from the street. Then assistants were very helpful as I looked at lots and lots of different materials and stacked up the ones I wanted, and asked for a metre or two of each one.

When we got home, there was some time to relax, before Sudha went home and Sranya’s pupils arrived. After they had gone, Saranya prepared dinner (chapattis) and soon Sellappan’s parents were home from their function. As Sellappan was arriving at 3am, I went for an early night.

The Night of the Doctor

After the usual morning routine and lunch, I spent some time writing and doing some origami, taking a look at Sellappan’s dad’s coin and stamp collections (British and American) and watching TV.

At about 4pm The Doctor¹ called to take me to meet his friends and family. First we flew the TARDIS² across town to Ragu’s place (another of Sellappan’s many friends). Ragu is the MD of a rice mill on the edge of town, and is a big fan of green technology. His house water is actually rainwater collected on the roof (though it very rarely rains, when it does it pours) and is powered by solar panels (now this, I can definitely see!) also on the roof. He also rents a second place with similar technology installed. As an added bonus the 360 degree view from his roof comprises the hills of Salem, lots of greenery and the rice mill itself. After meeting Ragu’s lovely family and having snacks and tea we looked through his wedding album, much to the Doctor’s amusement.

Next we went to the Doctor’s place and I met his family, and his tenants³ and we had yet more snacks and tea. Vijay’s mam asked me about my lack of jewellery and showed me her wedding jewellery which she always wore. She wears a necklace and silver rings on both feet every day. She also asked me how often I went to church and showed me the house’s puja room and lit some incense for the gods. Vijay’s parents were both maths teachers before they retired, and his mam was keen to learn some origami.

Vijay, his wife and his mam made a lotus flower each, after I had made a talking crow for Vijay’s son, who has tons of energy. He is top of his class in abacus and drawing, and loves animals just as much as his vet parents do. He also treated us to a dance show with his friend – another of his passions.

After the dancing I took the chance to teach a couple of ceilidh moves to the assembled family, with poor Vijay volunteering to help. I think it’s safe to say that everyone enjoyed that, just judging by the giggling. I also learned some more Tamil words and phrases from Vijay, who was a keen teacher. Watch out Sellappan is all I can say…

Vijay’s wife was feeling tired, so rather than eating at home we went out for dinner, and I had the spiciest dosa I’ve had so far, as well as French onion soup which was packed with chilli powder. The TARDIS materialised again back home, though a few hours later than when we had set off.

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¹ Sellappan’s friend Vijay, Casper’s vet. Sellappan calls him Doctor.
² He drove the Honda Civic.
³ Pun forcibly inserted, Whovians.