Monday 25 May 2020

May and Mala has moved in.


Mala had rung several times during the lockdown to see if she could come back to work as she was bored and nervous about going out. But, because of the restricted movement she could not come.
Finally two weeks ago, house help was allowed into our community (and by the government) if they did not live in a containment area. Mala got a tuk tuk and turned up as early as she could after 7am as there's a curfew from 7pm until 7am.

We were so pleased to see her and that she was ok. She told us that she didn't feel safe where she lives as it was difficult to actually go out and buy food because the police would question people. Money wasn't the problem as we had paid her, it was the physical problem of leaving her house and the fact that people were not keeping to the social distancing rules when buying food.

Mala has slight asthma so she was very worried about coming into contact with people in her area.
India has said that masks are mandatory when you leave your house but some people are not doing this.
Mala decided that she is safer if she lives in our house and so, for now, she is living in the maid's quarters at the back of our house behind our kitchen and utility rooms.
The room has a pull down bed, a cupboard and an Indian toilet attached. We have given her a spare TV so she can watch all her favourite TV programmes in Tamil.

Most of Mala's family had gone back to their rural village in Tamil Nadu when we had the first trial lockdown. On that day the Prime Minister, Modi, then gave everyone four hours before the first real long term lockdown and Mala's family could not get back to Bangalore. There was just Mala and one of her sisters left in the house. Her other sister lives in Bangalore but in the North. There are 7 brothers and sisters altogether, plus their mum.

Now, Mala loves cleaning and cooking and it has been a fight to actually make her stop and have time off. She silently appears in the evening when we are cooking our evening meal and will take over. She will clear away and sort everything out. Last Sunday, we insisted that is her day off and no working, but we caught her cleaning out the kitchen cupboards.
She was so happy that the cupboard was tidied to her liking that we have decided to keep out of the way and just let her get on with it.
Sometimes she will have a few hours off in the day when she feels tired or it's too hot so everything is going smoothly. But we are very lucky to have her as she is so good at her job.

One of her friends who is a maid is also living in the maid's quarters of another house so they meet up on one of the benches every day to have a chat so she doesn't have to put up with us all the time. She also uses my phone to facetime her family.



Arjun is back at work too but he lives on the outskirts of a town called Varthur and his house overlooks lots of fields, so he has not been surrounded by people. He said that he had made his family get up early every morning to go for a walk down the lane and across the fields which would have been lovely and peaceful.
He was happy to be back and to clean his new car. We had to confess, very gently, that we had both been driving the car to the gate and back to get the shopping. Luckily, he wasn't bothered (or he didn't show it)  When we had to pick up a sofa bed the other day, it wouldn't fit in the car, so Arjun and Andrew had to  carry it back to the house. Arjun gave me the keys and let me drive the car...


Andrew went back to work on the first date that he could go after having to get some help from the Deputy High Commissioner persuading the local District Commissioner to allow the necessary permissions. He had to have a travel pass because the factory is in the neighbouring state and people are not allowed to cross district borders without a permit.

As soon as he leaves the house he has to wear a mask, keep it on in the car and when he is at the factory. He new office is surrounded by glass windows (he says so he can watch the workers arriving etc) but also because it looks out onto some relatively nice rural views. When he got back, it was the first time in this office. Unfortunately, the air conditioning was not very good and he has now insisted that an increased capacity AC unit from the building team. Luckily he takes lots of water with him or he might have looked like a wizened prune by the end of his first day. 

Max and Milo 

Online schooling starts at 9 am and finished at 3 pm and is quite intense. Max now has exams where he has to sit in his PE uniform with his camera is switched on so there is no cheating. School emails the exam paper 10 mins before the start of the exam, we have to print it and he gets ready to start. The problem is that I have to sit in the room with him and then I have to sign a declaration saying that he hasn't cheated. We scan the paper and sent it to the teacher who lets us sign off once the paper is on their computer. We had the first two exams on Friday and as we are not at school today, Monday, the exams start again tomorrow and will finish on Saturday.
Luckily, I have lots of Hindi to study, a new book to read and lots of TV to catch up on....

Eid al-Fitr

So Max should have had an exam today but on Friday school declared that Monday (today) would be a public holiday due to Eid al-Fitr ( Muslim Festival) Now, in my ignorance I was rather annoyed with the school thinking that they were disorganised and as the exams had been a last minute decision to try and do them online, I thought school hadn't planned ahead of themselves. Well, you learn something new everyday day and school wasn't to blame.
Apparently, at the end of Ramadan, there is a set date for the festival but it all depends on the moon's appearance. The holy men keep looking at the skies and if the moon appears in clear skies then they can declare Eid. Each region's celebration date is slightly different. 
Every day we can hear the mosque at Varthur calling the people to prayer and sometimes it is really loud. I'm not sure what will happen today due to the curfew after 7pm although I'm sure we'll still hear the wailing at 5am and 8pm tonight.

Lockdown Animals 

Elephants and Leopards

With the lockdown it seems that the Indian wildlife has been less restricted and able to do what comes naturally.
Less traffic and humans has meant that elephants and other animals have walked freely through villages and across roads. People have been filming them from their houses as they walk down the roads unhindered.

Unfortunately, not all the other animals are quite as safe. In a village 2 hours from Bangalore, a three year old child had been taken from a house. His family had left Bangalore to stay in the village to avoid the corona virus. As it was very hot, all the family had slept outside on the verandah and the leopard had managed to take the little boy. The forest department set up traps around the area and caught two leopards but it appears that they might not be the man eaters because the next week, a woman was killed as she went to answer the call of nature early in the morning. Yesterday, another leopard was caught and they are carrying out tests to see if this the one. 

Butterflies and birds

We spend most of our spare time sitting on our upstairs terrace which is quite large. We have a table, an outside cane sofa, a coffee table, a fan and, at the moment to cope with the heat, a huge blow up paddling pool. We can watch the wildlife passing by and we have noticed far more during lockdown. 
There were a few days when there seemed to be so many more butterflies all going in the same direction. After a bit of research, it appears that every year before the monsoon arrives (June), the butterflies in the Western Ghats all set off together and fly to the Eastern Ghats. Bangalore is on the route and the butterflies stop in in Bannerghatta Park briefly ( it's in southern Bangalore and we visited it in January) and then they carry on their journey. There were so many different colours and types.
After the monsoon, the butterflies or their offspring then reverse the journey and go back to the Western Ghats. So we'll have to keep our eyes open for that.

The birds have been singing their heads off and seem to be getting bolder and coming closer to us. I'm sure they are watching us too. Andrew has bird books, binoculars and cameras all lined up on the table ready for action. We have some French friends and David is particularly good at identification so photos are 'WhatsApped' between each other to try and get the correct species!


It has been about 38 degrees (at least) in the sun and 35 degrees in the shade and it drops to 28/30 degrees at night. That's cool for India. We're so pleased that we moved to this house because of the terrace so we can sit in the shade. After 9am, actually being in the sun physically hurts your skin and as the club swimming pool is closed, it's best to stay in the shade, as the heat can be quite stifling. It's been like this for about 2 months with no let up. I'm not complaining because I really love the heat but it's hard work walking or even moving some days but somehow you get used to it.

During lockdown, we've been allowed to walk around our community but it's only really pleasant either early in the morning or late at night when it's only 30 degrees! During the past week it has rained a few times and we've had a few thunderstorms, it's so exciting because then it cools down a bit. 
The monsoon is predicted to arrive on about 4th June. I don't know how they predict it but the forecasters are usually quite accurate. When the rains arrive the temperature will drop to about 28 degrees which is far more manageable but then it is cloudier (although it does not rain all day nor every day).


We don't actually drink much wine but during the lockdown the liquor shops were closed. In India, the government often close the shops and stop the restaurants serving alcohol. There are many reasons for this; elections, strikes, protests, lockdowns or they just feel like it. We had a few bottles initially but as time went on, we were down to our last bottle , it was a dreadful feeling when we had drunk the last of it. A blackmarket started up with bottles of local wine reaching about 10 times their value. It was trading at higher levels than even the blackmarket hand sanitiser that was also in short supply!
Then, two weeks ago, the shops were open again. On the first day, there was a two hour queue in the hot sun for our local shop. Arjun went to have a look and saw his friend at the front of the queue. The friend managed to get some wine for us.

Then we discovered  that if women went to the shop, there was a separate queue for women only and this meant a quick in and out of the shop. good idea for next time..
Local hotels and restaurants then were given a couple of weeks to sell off all their wines and alcohol before some duty was applied (I don't really understand this) but any wine left is taped up and listed by the customs and excise dept after the set date and they can't sell it. Andrew had gone to his other office and on the way back had called in to the see the manager and he was able to buy international wine at a low rate. We now have lots of wine just in case there is another lockdown. Most expats had the same dilemma but are now all sorted.
I must also explain that you can't buy alcohol from supermarkets and you have to go to the specialist shops. In some states alcohol is banned, but here in Karnataka it is allowed as long as the conditions are not on the said list.
We have never had so much wine (but intend to keep stock levels at appropriate levels in case of another snap lockdown).

Corona Virus

India has been very strict about anyone who has symptoms or has been in contact with someone who has the virus. If someone has the virus then they contain the whole area. So, if someone gets it here in Palm Meadows then everyone will be put into quarantine in their houses and no one is allowed in the community or out. Anyone who has the virus has to go to hospital. Numbers are still rising and this is due to the fact that the government decided to try and ease the dilemma of the migrant workers by letting them go home to their own states. Yesterday was a curfew in the hope that lots of people are home. (it's not the case but they are attempting to get it sorted.)

Migrant labourers queuing for permission to travel documents 

There are still migrant workers with no homes and no food and there's a big initiative to get food sacks to the needy. We are doing it here in Palm Meadows where 1 bag of food will feed a family of four for a month. A bag of food costs about £14. Each week the sacks are paid for by individuals and then distributed by charities with the help of the police.

Last month, many of us were cooking Indian meals everyday and then putting them in trays with lids on and the police would deliver them to those who needed it. It was quite stressful as I had never cooked Indian food for Indian people before and there was rice everywhere in our kitchen. Max and Milo helped put the food into the containers. On average by the end of the time that we were asked to do this, we had managed about 800 meals a day from our community.

Meals being prepped for distribution to the migrant labour camps in the city

Distribution by the community police

Update ! April 2024

  20 people sharing 2 menus! When we go to a restaurant, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to keep a straight face so that we do not ups...