Thursday, December 24, 2009


Last night, after I went to bed I was woken up around 11:30pm by Leena yelling...  I opened my eyes and saw she had the front door open and was yelling out into the stairwell at someone.  After she closed the door I groaned "HUH?" and she told me Mrs. R's servants were out there drilling and hammering something, so she yelled at them to not make noise like that so late at night when people are trying to sleep.

Then this morning when she went to go out running errands, one of her car tyres was completely flat.  One that was completely full yesterday evening when she and the watchman cleaned the car, after which the car didn't move an inch.

She got the car to her family's house, after lots and lots of people stopped her on the road to tell her not to drive it that way, and had one of her family's servants take the tyre to be repaired.  He came back with it fixed and a broken key that had been stuck into the tyre to its full length!

And this isn't the first such coincidence.  Most of the times if Leena asks any of the neighors' servants and workers to make less noise, at hours reasonable enough to ask them to make less noise, usually late at night or very early in the mornings, then there's usually new scratches on the car.

It's just one more reason I want to get away from here, someplace where this sort of thing doesn't happen, where neighbors, even if they don't like each other, at least have a bit more respect for one another.  And there aren't a bunch of uncouth assholes who take petty revenge against reasonable requests.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shakespeare, kick-in-the-rear...

My first exposure to Shakespeare was as a little kid in Piscataway, when we used to chant "Shake spear, kick in the rear!". Not that any of us had a clue what that meant.

Then there were the two plays I had to read in different English classes in high school. Those were awful experiences. My freshman year we had to read Romeo & Juliet, which maybe it's a great play, but let's face it, even though 13 year old boys like I was were all lusting after the girls, but we had zero interest in romance...

My sophomore year we had to read Julius Caesar, which with violence and bloodshed had an appealing sound to it. But reading it in class was just a terrible. We sat in rows and each person read a line then it moved on to the next. We had students from the drama club who read their parts with great skill and emotion and we had kids who struggled to sound out big, complex words, like "there" and "Cay, Cay, Cay-E, Cay-E-Sar". And me, I'm a lousy performer so I'd spend the whole time nervously counting students and counting lines to try and figure out which was going to be mine so I could memorize it quickly and get through it as absolutely fast as possible, then panic whenever someone shortly before me would end up reading two lines instead of one, throwing off the count.

By the end of those I never wanted to read or see Shakespeare again in my life, and associated Shakespeare with fear, panic, embarrassment and boredom.

After I started my career in Portland, in the early 90's though, my mother bought season tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Portland, which every year included five or six plays from various authors and one Shakespeare comedy. Those comedies ended up being hilarious and were the ones I looked forward to every year.

Since then I've planned to read a comedy, but never got around to it till a few months ago when I picked up The Comedy of Errors.

I've seen the play performed and thought it was a whole lot of fun, as well as a few movies with similar plots. Unfortunately, once I got into reading it, it was awfully boring. And I realized that by itself there's not much, it really needs performers to bring it to life. I was left quite disappointed.

For quite some time I've read lots of books or seen movies that refer to other Shakespeare plays, mainly dramas, Hamlet, Macbeth (like Scotland, PA that is a modern retelling of it) and others and they've become more interesting. But I think the one that affected me the most was Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson in which one of the characters narrates, to us readers, about how he studied one play in which you can see the fortunes of two characters one going up and one going down, crossing like a big X right in the middle.

So not knowing them very well, I picked up Hamlet, which is one of the names I'm most familiar with. I was disappointed that it was Macbeth that had the witches I wanted to read about, but I can read that later. Unlike A Comedy of Errors, it turns out Hamlet has a good plot, good story and good characters.

Hamlet was a good story to read, and stood on its own without performers.

Now I'm looking forward to reading some more. Definitely I see Macbeth when I next get to a bookstore that has it, and I should dig out Blue Mars and try to find which one Robinson refers to (Richard something or other?).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bloody Mac OS X Snow Leopard...

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard...

I just got my Snow Leopard
package delivered this week... Leena had a relative pick it up from an Apple store in Toronto, and give it to another friend of the family there to carry it here to India for me....

The install went nice and smooth, even though the main monitor on my 13" MacBook is malfunctioning, making some of the text hard to read.

After installing I switched the desktop wallpaper to the new Snow Leopard picture, since I like kitty cats.

But the bad monitor, because some of the pixels are funny, displays funny contrasts, some colours are indistinguishable, some really stand out, and some are just plain weird (why is the snow purple?)

What stood out in this case, was the blood on the right side of the cat's mouth!

A digital photo of the bad screen itself showing this satiated pussy cat...

While the above picture is a small, cropped part of the original image supplied by Apple...

And the box itself, it looks like it's been retouched so there's no sign of blood there... That image is available at the Apple Store....

Oh well, a quick Google search turns up I'm not the first to notice this, either...

So, Apple, was Windows 7 a tasty morsel?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tears Are Falling

I've noticed over the last couple of years that I'm crying a lot. Not really crying out of being sad (although sad parts of books really do have that effect on me (probably none more than The Children of Húrin)), but my eyes water a lot. It happens most if I'm tired, if I have a migraine, if I'm yawning, if I'm really staring intently at the computer screen, or if I'm at my desk looking up and talking to someone who's standing above me. Every time I blink tears come out of my eyes. I wipe my eyes on my hands which come away quite wet.

But then I recently remembered my mother had the same problem at about the same age. She was a high school teacher at the time and was so used to just dabbing her eyes with a tissue that she almost forgot about it, until another teacher brought a student to her to make him apologize for making her cry. Then she realized what everyone thought.

She ended up having surgery to remove a big chunk of some calcified something or other (e.g. similar to a kidney stone) that was blocking a tear duct, so all the normal tears had to leak out her eyes instead of going where they're supposed...

I suppose I should get it looked at, too, at some point. Who knows, maybe the surgeon can stuff me up with the same kind of cocaine pack she got...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Walking to the A.T.M.

I did my usual trip to the ATM this morning. I've never liked standing in line at those machines and in the U.S. did my banking in the wee hours of the morning whenever I could (real convenient back when I walked past them on my way to to work at 3am).

Nowadays, it depends on how soon Leena needs the cash. If she needs it right away we'll go after work some evening, or on the way home from Saturday lunch at her parents.

If I have my way, I stay up all night on a Saturday and walk down there between 5am and 7am on Sunday morning. That way there's less traffic to scare me, a bit less heat and usually no line at the ATMs.

The worst aspect is the stench. From about the exit of my apartment building all the way to the ICICI branch in Kalyani Nagar, the whole place stinks of sewage. About the only part that doesn't is where there's so much rotting garbage that it overpowers the sewage smell. There isn't even a dumpster there anymore, it's been gone for a few weeks, but people still throw their trash there anyway.

And the sidewalks are always covered in dog crap everywhere, and frequently a lot of what looks and smells (even from a bit of a distance) like vomit. I have walk around it all, which often means stepping out into traffic on the street, since I don't want to track any back in my apartment. Ick.

One thing that makes me uncomfortable about walking to the ATM is the number of watchmen who watch me walk past their posts at each building, and probably guess that on my return I'll have a pocket full of cash. They don't make me feel particularly safe.

Sometimes, if I remember to carry small change, I'll get a nice, fresh nariyal pani from the seller if he's set up at the entrance to Joggers' Park.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Small Building in Kalyani Nagar

Maybe part of why I'm having such a bad experience living in Kalyani Nagar is because of which part of it we live in... I don't live in one of those fancy, new complexes, like Fortaleza or Marigold (although before moving here, we booked a flat there, but then I started getting nervous about the idea of borrowing money from a bank and spending my future paycheques, paying interest and all that (but now that I've worked on mortgage software for a few years I do understand it a little better)).

Instead we live in a big flat in a relatively small building near the top of a sloped, dead-end side lane, one parallel to East Street that connects Nagar Road to the bridge to Koregoan Park.

Our building, Keshava Chotani Mansion, has just eight flats, owned by seven families (the one who owns two also owns a third in the next building). About half the people who own flats here didn't buy them here, they bought ones in a fancier building the builder was making a decade or so ago, but he ran out of money to finish that and gave them these flats as a "take this or lose all your investment" sort of deal. One flat was given to the plumber in exchange for him finishing up the plumbing in the building.

Unfortunately, the builder didn't have enough to finish all the legal paperwork for the place, so there are no completion certificates, no legal society, none of the usual stuff.

None of us flat owners can agree on how much to pay a month for maintenance (hardly any of us even speak to each other). Some want it to be a flat fee for everyone, others want it to be based on square footage, and everyone thinks a different amount either way is reasonable. The few times we do come to an agreement, though, half the flat-owners simply don't pay it at all, one says he'll only pay it if we agree to repaint the building (but he won't agree on an amount high enough to afford that!). Consequently, our building is crumbling, our water pump breaks frequently because we get the cheapest repair, the elevator can't be maintained, the building is filthy, we're in arrears with the electric company, and we can't afford an even borderline competent watchman.

On either side of us are two slightly bigger buildings, Madhusudan A and B, built around the same time by the same builder, with the same architectural style. Both are set back from the street a little further than ours, with a wider parking area at the front, so our bedrooms line up with the parking lots and balconies of of the first floor flats in those buildings.

Madhusudan A is slightly farther from us, so there's space in the middle for the driveway leading to Peacock Palace, behind us. And Peacock Palace about the size of all three of these first ones. It's much newer and blocks the view from the back apartments in our building of the famous Aga Khan Palace.

Across the street at the end of the lane is Siddharth Enclave, a big, blocky building in some sort of vague, fake neo-Roman architecture style. I think it's ugly and doesn't fit the area, and looks even worse after they knocked off the triangular bits at the top to make flat terraces, which fit the area but not the rest of the style of the building itself.

Maybe things would be better in one of the big societies. But since we own this outright, with no mortgage or anything, moving out isn't a trivial thing. And given how homesick I am at this point, that wouldn't really make me happy, just a little less unhappy...

Here's the front of Keshava Chotani Mansion, with Madhusudan A in the background. That's our flat on the first floor with the wide balcony. The nose of our former car is just barely visible near the right inside our parking spot.

And here's Peacock Palace behind and Madhusudan B to the left of us, and our watchman on the ladder cleaning the debris dropped on our air conditioner from renovation by our upstairs neighbors... Leena supervising and the stupid maid probably just doing anything to avoid her own work. The gulmohar tree is one of many planted up and down the street by my mother-in-law years ago, when she first bought this flat for an investment.

And here's Siddharth Enclave from our driveway... The metal wall is visible from East Street when the gates of the construction next to Bishop's School are open (usually for people to dump garbage in the open pit some construction crew dug for a foundation of a building that's not being built).

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mrs. R strikes again... Noise, noise, noise...

Ug. I'm on the verge of collapsing today, migraine and a loss of sleep... I can't even see the computer screen clearly, it's wavering in front of my face.

Unfortunately, it was our neighbor, the horrible, wicked, nasty, bitter Mrs. R. again...

The 12 days of mourning rites are still going on in her apartment for her recently deceased husband. Last night was some big event and in the afternoon the caterers came in one of the loudest Tempos I've ever heard. I tried to scream over its noise, but couldn't hear myself.

They made noise cooking till pretty late, or at least, later than I stayed up. I slept in the bedroom on the other side of the apartment, and closed all the windows so it wasn't too bad. The Tempo never came back again in the night, otherwise I don't doubt I would've woken up.

But then at 4am in the morning they started making noise in the stairwell, bringing the gas cylinder down to the elevator, banging it on every step outside our door (our elevator only goes to every other floor, since the front and back floors are staggered).

Then under our master bedroom the caterers and the guests' drivers started hollering, ordering, banging, clanging, scraping, pounding, grinding and almost any other cooking sound imaginable. A deafening racket with no escape on either side of the building.

A couple of times when they were yelling to each other I opened the window to "sssshhhh" them (which was a sign I was really pissed off, I'm normally too shy for that sort of thing) but either they never heard me or the one time one looked up, shook his fist at me and yelled a nasty vulgarity (one that one of my friends taught me before my first trip to India, which others said I'd better not use unless I was armed to defend myself...)

When I left for work and opened the bedroom door, Leena was wide awake and looked awful, not having had a wink of sleep for hours, due to all the noise, and not having gone to bed as early as I did...

Many other neighbors (or at least the ones we're on speaking terms with...) have complained to Leena about Mrs. R. and her guests taking over the building. People come out of their flats to find drivers and servants sleeping by their doors, in the lobby, in the parking area, on the roof, all over the place. The ones living below Mrs. R. mentioned that all night Mrs. R. and her guests, other family, probably, talk and shout and fight late into the night over Mr. R.'s will, everyone believing they're entitled to more and everyone else entitled to less...

Back when Mrs. R. ran the building society she called the police if other people's guests parked inside the premises and she hated anyone else's people making noise. Now that she doesn't, it's her staff that are some of the most obnoxious around. We sent her a note a couple of years ago politely asking her to ask her staff not to drink, smoke, play cards and talk loudly late into the night in her garage, which is right under our master bedroom. She didn't reply directly to us, we got a letter from her lawyer telling us if we persisted in false accusations she would sue us in court.

I'm tempted to ask her, if I see her, "who died and made you queen?". It's easy to riff on death-oriented jokes when you've been betrayed, offended and insulted by the widow, for whom you've lost all respect...