Friday, March 28, 2014

"Jungle" Birds

In Vapi, it's mating season in the avian world. Lon says that the bird calls have made it sound far more tropical and "jungle".

Our two resident pigeons are desperately trying to make a nest on a very narrow window ledge. Their previous home, a rusted out utility box of some sort, was removed when the bungalow behind us was painted in December. Apparently the pair just can't bear the thought of moving out of the neighborhood.

Potential nest site
Old nesting site -- taken down when bungalow was painted. You can see the nest in the lower left corner of the box.

A red-vented bulbul I was able to photograph in Kolkata last September.
I still haven't been able to figure out how to add sound files without making them into a movie.

The bulbuls (red-vented bulbuls) have added two or three new songs to their repertoire. Not only are they new songs (to me, that is), but they are loud songs. Here's one:

Here's a second version -- I had to up the volume to so that you could hear the background. The responding "bird" in the background is actually the little boy who lives next door. Sometimes they have quite a duet going!

Finally, there are the koels, with their upward spiraling whistle. They are not as common as the bulbuls, so I haven't been able to record their song. You'll have to use the link below to hear someone else's recording.

Unfortunately for bird-watchers, these birds are pretty much black and like to hide in the tree foliage. My identification of them comes from a few brief sightings and matching their songs from this website: Drongo Nature Sounds Library.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Holi - Festival of Colors

Holi, the festival of colors, is another celebration of the triumph of good over evil.

For several days before Holi, booths selling colors and sprayers are set up in the market area.
They are brightly lit at night.
It is traditional to light a bonfire on the night before Holi.
The story behind Holi involves a prince who was saved from burning in a fire by Vishnu.

The day of Holi is marked by throwing packets of dry colors, or water balloons full of colored water, over anyone who comes near. In Vapi, at least, it seemed to be largely limited to children and young men. We walked around town for an hour and a half, and except for dodging a few water balloons, came through the experience without much color.

Tossing water balloons from rooftops. That's a water balloon in the sky.

Young men on motorcycles were the most color-drenched.
But young children were enjoying the day as well.
But nothing stops a game of street cricket -- with milk crates being used as wickets.
Pink was the most prominently used color.
And in the spirit of the day -- a "solarized" version with a mango-colored sky.

Monsoon - Non-monsoon Comparison

I was reviewing photos yesterday and came across this photo of an enclosed area I took in August:

Everything is green and lush -- and there's a herd of buffalo in the far back. (It's nearly impossible to see them, but I know they're there -- it's why I took the picture!)

This is the same enclosure that now is the favorite hangout of sleeping dogs, and was used for a Hindu festival in early January. So I took a comparable photo today:

Hot and dry and dusty. Hard to believe there's a pond in there during monsoon! You can also see the Indian preference for "scorched earth" landscaping.

Quite a contrast!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Paving the Road

The road in the main vegetable market area was paved today. I'm not sure how this road was chosen for work -- it's far from the worst road in town.

At first, it looks like a fairly traditional paving project -- a truck dumping asphalt, with steam rollers to smooth out and compact the asphalt.

And a line of trucks ahead waiting for their turn to dump asphalt.

But a little further ahead, things start to look distinctly Indian. Here the oil truck is being pulled by the ubiquitous tractor.

And a bit more ahead, the road is being swept -- by hand with small brooms.

Everyday Life

Nothing special today -- just an accumulation of interesting observations.

Around town:

Typical Vapi garbage truck -- a cart pulled by a farm-style tractor.
The trash is sorted on the cart into food waste, recyclables, and other.
This order of ice gets dropped off every morning. The size of each block is about 1 x 2 x 3 feet. (They're quite large.)
I don't know where it goes from here, but when I walk by, it's just melting on the sidewalk.
Around home:

Vapi air is very dusty, but it does make for nice sunbeams -- and gives a nice golden glow to sunlight.
Our neighborhood feline is usually more inclined to run away than chill out. Must be the heat.

Who knew that mosquitoes loved foot odor? Watch closely as dozens of small mosquitoes come pouring out of the shoes. (This shows up much better in the full-size video, but I'm size-limited here.)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Roads and Trees

This is a Peepal Tree growing over bricks. I don't know if it was part of a wall or a building or just a stack of bricks. Peepals are figs, and usually start by growing over some existing tree or structure. They are "holy" trees in India (and much of Asia) -- the Latin name is Ficus religiosa. The Buddha was sitting under a peepal when he attained enlightenment.

I knew that the road to Modern School (where I "volunteer") was going to be paved this spring. The old dirt road had car-eating sized potholes -- it was actually faster to walk than to drive. But it never occurred to me that it would be paved with bricks -- amazing what cheap labor can do. Lon says the new road takes ten minutes off the drive time.

There are spots where the road is barely one car wide.

I estimate that the whole road is about 300 m long. This is the longest, and straightest stretch.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weddings and More

This is the season for weddings. Last weekend we flew to Hyderabad to attend the wedding festivities of a Ruby Macons connection (it's complicated…).

Hyderabad was having unusual weather. It's supposed to be the dry season, but an afternoon thunderstorm (or "hailstorm") flooded low-lying areas of Hyderabad, making travel difficult.

Knee-deep in rainwater. We were in Hyderabad at the end of monsoon, and don't remember flooding this bad then.
The wedding was extravagant, even by Indian standards. Sunday afternoon was an exchange of gifts, followed by a reception that went into the wee hours of the morning. We left just before midnight. On Monday, things were running 2 to 3 hours behind schedule (which is typical), probably because everyone in the two families were up until 4 or 5 AM. The unfortunate part of that was that we didn't get to see the actual wedding ceremony, because we had to leave at noon to catch our flight back to Mumbai.

The decibel level at most events in India is beyond ear-splitting. The movie below should give you some idea-- be prepared to turn down the volume! This went on for about 3 hours. I'm surprised my cell phone could record the music without getting total distortion. Another indication of how loud it was is that about 100 "crackers" (firecrackers) were set off about 50 feet away, and you couldn't hear them. If I hadn't seen the smoke, I wouldn't have known about them.

The groom atop a white horse (which you can't see), with a niece riding behind him for a bit.
The poor horse must be totally deaf he does this duty regularly.
The horse with his handlers and some of the musicians.

Wedding attire is traditional Indian.

I got help putting on a saree properly from about 4 sisters-in-law of the groom. (It's a large family. Counting the bride, there are 9 sisters-in-law … so far.)
Lon got fitted with a turban wrapped from about 3 yards of fabric. The expert turban-maker is on the left.
How they managed it, I don't know, but children were sleeping wherever there was a flat surface. The noise level was way beyond OSHA-approved, but still they slept.

Back in Mumbai, our hotel room had a good view of the new International Terminal at the Mumbai Airport. It just opened in mid-February after years of delays. It's particularly impressive at night.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

More on Trucks

Since my truck post -- way back in July (here's the link:, I've learned that a documentary ("Horn Please") has been made about how they get painted. (Thanks, Maria. Sorry it took me so long to get around to this post.)

Here's a link to the trailer:

I hope it will be available on iTunes or Netflix or Amazon at some point. I'd love to see it.

A Day in the Life of Vapi

The vacation is over -- it's back to Vapi.

The first thing we had to deal with was "dust". Even with the windows closed, the black Vapi dust gets into the bungalow.

This is my "duster" (dust cloth) after wiping off the coffee table. This is pretty typical of the dirt here.
This is the terrace, which hadn't been swept in two weeks. Of course, it is outside.
On a lighter note, there were some interesting sights in town today.

The trains in this part of India use electric engines. Today they were working on the railroad power lines near our bungalow. It didn't seem to be slowing or diminishing the train traffic!

There was a wedding procession through town tonight. Loud music, lots of people, lots of color, and the groom is riding on a horse (far right). The parade was delineated by walkers carrying large electrically lit lanterns on poles.
A closer view of the groom on a horse. It was night (9:00); I'm surprised that the photos came out as good as they did.
This cow reminded me too much of Dakota's forlorn expressions. Just lying in the middle of an intersection. (For those who don't know, Dakota was my dog -- he had to stay back in the U.S.)