Sunday 29 November 2020


Diwali (In Bangalore they say Deepavali not Diwali.)

Diwali is always a bright and exciting time of the year. It is the equivalent of Christmas and especially important. People put the most beautiful lights up around their houses and gardens. They draw rangoli patterns on the entrance floor and fill them with coloured flower petals (although this is done at other times not just for Diwali). Also, divya lamps are lit and put outside in the porch too. It is very pretty and welcoming. It is to guide Sita home (from the Rama and Sita story) after being kidnapped so light triumphs over darkness. Gifts and sweets are given to friends, family, and workers in celebration.

We had been on a trip to the local bakery to buy traditional cakes /sweets for Arjun and Mala, the gardener (I still don't know his name - he speaks no English nor Hindi, only Kannada, and when Mala isn't there, I have to use sign language and guess-work with him). 

We went in this smart bakery and had absolutely no idea of what any of the sweets were. There were trays and trays of elaborate pastries made with nuts, silver leaf, something that looked like marzipan, coconut, all sorts of unrecognisable ingredients that we did not know. they are behind glass display units ready to be selected and put into fancy boxes. There is no real equivalent in the UK. After standing  wondering what we should buy  and realising that we had no idea what to choose, we noticed some pretty made up boxes all on a shelf . A man approached us and we pointed at the boxes and said " we'll have that one that one and that one..."  All sorted. 

Of course, for Diwali there is special big meal too on the local  Diwali day  (different regions have different days) and people wear their best clothes and give gifts and sweets.

We were invited to Sheetal and Mathias's house to celebrate Diwali and it was wonderful.

Andrew, Milo and Max took about 10 minutes to get ready by putting on their kurtas. I was wearing my sari and it took a lot longer, much longer. I have a stitched saree which is supposed to be easier to put on. Basically the 5 metre piece of cloth is made into a skirt with a petty coat stitched inside and then you have to wrap and pin the spare bit (pallu) on the shoulder of your blouse and the pallu goes over your shoulder and down your back. A piece of material at the end of the saree was made into a blouse. 

How Indian ladies wear these every day without melting I'll never know. I was so hot and bothered I had to stand in front of the fan to put it on. All I had to do was tie it up and pin the pallu. But somehow I had it trailing behind me and Andrew said I was sweeping the floor with it. I then had to put on my jewellery which consisted of ankle bracelets, earrings, necklace, toe rings ( I am a married woman although I don't have any arm bracelets and I need to get some) Regardless of whether my saree was right, we set off so that we wouldn't be late. 

Sheetal and Mathias' house is not very far, but by the time I got there my blouse had started to come undone as I hadn't fastened it properly, I didn't have a spare hand to hold on to it as I was carrying some gifts, the spare bit was flapping everywhere and I had to keep hold of it over my arm and I was wearing stupid sandals that were hard to walk in. Adding to this drama, I was trailing behind the boys because I couldn't take a big stride as my legs were restricted by the tight material. I had to take small steps.

I was not a vision of graceful elegance to say the least. 

On entry and after the welcoming pleasantries, Sheetal got to work sorting out what I had done wrong. Apparently, the pleat in the skirt has to be in the front and in the middle and I had it to the side and round the back and that was why I had too much material dangling down. I also had not pleated the bit that goes over your shoulder  (pallu) ready to pin it. I'm so pleased it wasn't the full 5 metre sari or I would still be there trying to work it out. I think I'll stick to just the one sari as I don't envisage wearing one too often. I prefer my Indian dresses that are free flowing and cool but at least I had Sheetal to help me.

Once I was properly dressed and all pins and ties were secure and I was not going to reveal anything I shouldn't, we went to have our food that Sheetal had prepared. We sat on their terrace and it was so pleasant. 

Traditional meals are eaten from a banana leaf as a range of foods are placed on the leaf, not touching each other. The lady of the house always serves everybody first and would wait until everyone was finished eating before having food themselves, although modern Indian ladies serve others but then sit down themselves to eat. 

(There was a newspaper article recently where it said that in a lot of rural villages the women were suffering from malnutrition as often there was little food left for them when everyone else had had their food first and not left enough for them to eat. There was a campaign to get men to realise that the women needed to eat well).

After our lovely meal we played some board games and then we set off for a walk to look at all the lights outside the houses and to glimpse any fireworks that might be on show. This year the Indian government had asked for restraint due to the Covid situation so it wasn't as spectacular as last year when the fireworks went on continuously for 4 hours, but we still saw some beautiful displays.

We took the dogs. Zaraa (Sheetal's dog) is Andy's girlfriend. She is a couple of weeks older than Andy. Both of them were not bothered by all the noise, so we kept walking with them to help with their confidence.

By the time we left our friends we had been out of the house for 8 hours. The time really does fly.

The Gardener 

Is hard work... he's very good at sweeping leaves, smiling a lot, chatting up Mala and moving pots, but he really doesn't have a clue about how to pot plants or do any actual gardening, he can't even cut the grass properly preferring to use a pair of shears instead of the lawn mower. He likes to hand pluck the weeds too.

Andrew and I went to the garden centre to buy some more plants for the terrace on the Monday after Diwali. We bought some compost too (good stuff). In the back garden we also have some ordinary soil in bags but this sets rock solid when in the pots so it has to be mixed or the plant becomes wedged in and then the water can't get through to the roots. It's difficult to get the plant out of the pot again too. I had some herbs to plant and to put on the terrace too. We have some herbs outside by the kitchen but the water used on these is the run off recycled water and I'm not so sure about its safety as it really smells sometimes. So, I thought it would be better to have the herbs on the terrace where I can water with the "safe" water from inside the house. Now, Mala is not happy with this arrangement as it means she has to walk all the way up the stairs to pick what she needs! She has moved the herb pots downstairs several times, but I have out my foot down on this one. They stay on the terrace.

When we got back from the garden centre, I set about potting the plants up and I had a happy relaxing time positioning the plants as I listened to the radio but I ran out of time to finish them all.  The next day the gardener came and Mala, who had been away for Diwali and had returned, was horrified that I was trying to pot the plants myself and she  made a big fuss about  how it was the gardener's job and that I would get "tired " doing manual work. There is this preconceived idea that the lady of the house cannot do anything, or they will become exhausted, it's like something out of a Victorian novel. Stupidly, I gave in and said he (and Mala ) could sort the pots.

Never again!

First of all, Mala attempted to put down one of the clean  white bed sheets to protect the terrace. I managed to point out that the red heavy sticky soil would stain a white sheet and that we had plenty of newspaper or rough material that they could use. Please do not use the bed linen... It is this lack of joined of thinking that worries me at times. Why would you use something that could be spoilt?

Anyway, they then set about planting the pots. There were two bags, one compost, one soil ready to mix together and I explained this to them and why. "yes madam, we know" was the response.

Milo then called me, so I went to help him with his school work. After that, I had to get lunch ready for the boys.

Not long afterwards, I saw the gardener leave. I went to the terrace and looked at the pots on the far end of the terrace  where there is no roof but it had started raining and the floor is slippery when it rains, so I didn't look closely. As it was raining, I came to the opinion that it would be good for the newly potted plants so I went back inside to do other things. The rain continued, so that was it for the day.

The next day the rain had stopped and I went back to check the pots and noticed that the bag of compost was still there almost intact. 

The 'yes madam' had been a meaningless answer. All 12 pots had plants wedged in their pots. 

So, muttering some very rude words, I set about redoing all the pots and mixing the compost in. As I tipped out the soil (or dug out the soil, I should say) I found stones the size of my hands in the soil. I have no idea where they had come from. By now I was surrounded by the red soil and it was on the floor, the chair, the air conditioning unit, on the wall, everywhere . It is sticky stuff and hard to get off and control, it seems to spread by itself.

Mala came up and saw what I was doing. I asked her why they had not added in the compost and she said they put in a handful into each pot so that there was no wasting. Compost is expensive according to Mala ( its £2 for a big bag, ) and they had put in stones to make the soil go further. I pointed out that I had said to put in the compost and now I had to do everything again or the plants would not grow. Please listen next time as there was a reason for the compost. 

Well that was it, she was in such a huff,  she stomped downstairs to fetch the mop and set about cleaning up the soil. But it was like going around in a circle and never ending, the more she added water the more it spread. So, she stomped downstairs again to throw the hose up to me. Hosing was more successful, and we eventually managed to wash all of the soil down the drain on the terrace. All the moping and swilling had managed to calm Mala down.

I moved the pots myself and put them in position. I have said to Mala they are both banned from touching them, watering them or anything to do with the pots. The herbs are not to be moved under any circumstance. Meanwhile I will try to find out the gardener’s name .

Andy had a new collar given to him from his original owner for Diwali . It is very smart with his name in diamonds. He is only allowed to wear it when he needs to look posh otherwise it would be covered in mud.

Savi Mango Farm

We decided to go with some friends to Savi farms again. We had to cancel the trip  with this group of friends the first time we had arranged it, due to some of us having to quarantine for a couple of weeks but we managed to go last weekend. The week that we were due to go the Farm put a post on Facebook that a leopard had been spotted near the farm. We were so excited but decided that it was not a good idea to tell Milo because he is rather nervous of all the wild animals in India. 

We got there early on Saturday, just in time for breakfast and then it was straight out to go for a walk before it got too hot. We hopped on the tractor and trailer and went to look at the crops in the field. We went to the farm a couple of months ago and radishes were in the field. But now the potatoes were well established and nearly ready to harvest. I'm sure Meena said that they worked on a three month crop rotation. In the hedgerow there were some pea looking flowers and Meena said that they were split peas or lentils. I never knew that they grew just like peas. We opened some pods and ate them raw. They were not as sweet as ' 'peas" but had a nice taste. Apparently, the lentils are taken out of the pods and laid to dry in the sun then the farmers crush the dried product to remove the husk. (lazy farmers drive their tractors over the top of them) You can learn something new every day here in India!

Then, we went we got back in the tractor and went along the track and stopped ready to go for another walk near the lake. Now, this meant walking in single file and the boys and Andrew had been joking about that the person with any weakness would be targeted by the leopard and gobbled up and that I would be the one to be eaten due to my dodgy hip. (added to that I had sprained my ankle tripping over the sprinkler pipe in Palm Meadows when Andy had tried to chase a cat, so I had double injuries) As I tend to gaze around at the rocks and plants, I suddenly realised that I was at the back and the others were quite far ahead. Bad hip or not, I managed to quite speedily catch up  with the line, overtake and get in the middle! But we didn't manage to see the leopard. We did manage to see a very long snake skin that belonged to a Cobra along the path where we were walking. We had a good look and then we all returned intact to the farm. 

We had a leisurely lunch and then spent  a relaxing  couple of hours sitting in the sun, before some of our party set off on another hike. I was advised that my dodgy hip wouldn't make it and that it might be tricky for Andy, so Milo, Andy and I stayed at the farm with JD and Michael.

The others had a scenic trek up a mountain that was quite steep to watch the sun go down. It was beautiful but then they had to go down in the fading light. It got so dark that they had to use their mobile phone torches to help see the way between the rocks, watching out for snakes, leopards and other creepy crawlies. At one point they had to slide on their derrieres as it was so steep and slippery. ( Later, it was quite funny because both Max and Andrew asked if all the spikes had gone from their bottoms – they looked like they had sat on a cactus like they used to do in cartoons.) They got back about 7pm and were all rather quiet as they were so tired and traumatised…

A lovely bright temple close to teh top

The Boys and Hosts 

View of the Micronclean Factory in the distance

After recovering and having removed all the spikes, we had our evening dinner and then we sat outside by a camp fire. The owners of the farm had to go to their homes in Bangalore and reminded us that we were on our own and to shut the entrance door before we all retired. 

It was lovely sitting outside under the stars as the sky was clear. This meant that we had to actually put on a jumper to keep warm. 



 We did let the boys sit with us in the end. The ladies thought that they would prefer to be on their own table, but they are both so nosey and want to join in with our conversations.


   The Cobra snake skin


  The split pea ( lentils ) in their pods


  This was so steep!



I’ve put the festivals the wrong way round on here but I had forgotten about the festival before Diwali. That one is Dusshera. It is linked to Diwali but I get very confused about the facts of the story, but this is another public holiday and a Pooja is performed. 

Basically a person who is from the Brahmin caste (the priest caste, I think) performs a Pooja. It is a bit complicated so here is some information that is more accurate than my interpretation. 

It was a very important day at the factory. Arjun put a garland of flowers on the car ready for it to be blessed. (Although he has three cars to look after now!)

The cabinet was even carried from the office upstairs to be blessed..


 Hard Labour for the apprentice @ Micronclean

A couple of weeks ago Max had a Friday holiday from school, so he was invited to spend a day as an apprentice. We duly sorted him out with a works polo shirt and he started his day with a tour to see the progress and to meet all of the team. 

A little later in the morning was his time for a ‘proper’ science lesson, so over to the lab and a lesson with Meghana the Microbiologist. They managed to look at some water samples under the microscopes and also some DNA from a sample. Very interesting and something for him to remember and maybe recall when school science lesson return some time post Covid.  

After earning his lunch he was then allowed to tuck in to the reasonably spicy Indian food at the works canteen. It seemed like he enjoyed as he went up for seconds too.

As part of his duties Max was also involved in handing out some little Diwali gifts to the employees. It’s certainly a different way to spend a day of holiday, but it probably prevented him sitting for too many hours on the Xbox shooting at virtual random people!

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...