Thursday, January 29, 2015


One of the buffalo herds was walking down Gunjan road this morning.

This one seemed unconcerned that she was dragging a branch caught in her horns.

Two others took time out for a scratch. I only got video of the second buffalo:

At least these buffalo chose a nice big tree. Last time I saw some cows scratching against a tree, it was a small sapling and it didn't take too kindly to the abuse!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Week in Vapi

More interesting items from "Life in Vapi".

One of our neighbors is painting their house. Here one painter is holding the ladder for a second painter. (I took the picture through a screen. That accounts for the strange set of diffuse dots that are mostly notable in the lighter areas.)
On our Sunday walk, there was a parade of a south India cultural and social society heading to festivities at the Ram Leela Maidan (park) next to the Amba Mata Mandir (temple).
We have no idea who/what these children were portraying, but they were all dressed up in costumes.
I've posted a few pictures of air pollution in Vapi, but it's much more difficult to get a picture of water pollution. The small streams in Vapi are basically open sewers -- cloudy, full of trash, and odorous. Water pollution in Vapi is actually a bigger problem than air pollution -- and much more difficult to solve.
In amongst the dirt and trash, there are some truly beautiful trees blooming in Vapi.
You would think that I'd be able to identify this tree from the flowers and leaves. But so far, I'm stumped.
The two trees (yellow flowers and red flowers) are probably cultivars of the same species.
This one I have been able to identify: A Bauhinia (probably variegata). The flowers are striking.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Republic Day

The Indian Constitution was adopted on 26 Jan 1950. Every year it is celebrated as a major patriotic holiday. Almost every school and business has some sort of "flag hoisting" ceremony and program. Lon was invited to the elementary school in Morai and the Morai mill for their flag hoistings. I attended the program at Modern School.

The Morai school program started with a parade through the village of Morai.
Flag hoisting. This is really more of an unfurling than a "hoisting", since the a wrapped flag is already at the top of the pole. The Chief Guest / Guest of Honor tugs on a rope to unfurl the flag, and the national anthem is sung. The hanging leaves are a traditional Indian decoration for ceremonies -- both religious and secular.
The program also included dancing.
The program at Modern School also included dancing.
Modern School also presented a short drama in Hindi where the Raja learned all about healthy food. The two girls obviously were playing unhealthy snacks.
More unhealthy foods -- soft drinks and ice cream cones.
Have to equal time to the healthy foods. Here are tomatoes and carrots.
And spinach and green beans.
The afternoon was the conclusion of MWV's Sports Week. A full day of cricket, finishing with the final play-off. After the play off, the management team batted a few balls. (Nothing serious!)

Improbably, Lon wasn't the worst batter among management.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

To and From Pune

We took a short trip to Pune, where MWV's India headquarters are. We ended up traveling by road to get there, but came back on the train. (My first ride on an Indian train.)

Evening light on mountains and rice paddies along NH8.
We left Mumbai at 5:30 AM -- well before sunrise, which is about 7:20 AM. Here the brightening sky backlights the profile of an interesting mountain/mesa.
A bit later, the sun rises as we ascend the Western Ghats.

The orange road is a 6-lane "expressway" from Mumbai to Pune, which replaced the old yellow road. It was painful enough going up the mountain behind trucks with three travel lanes. with trucks availing themselves of all three lanes.

We were in "3AC", so Lon went to the end of the car to get some fresh air and a good view.
Mumbai is on the other side of those mountains.
Fishing boats in Vasai Creek -- which also shows how dirty the window is. It's virtually impossible to keep things clean in India!
Baby hammock/sling. "3AC" means three-tiered bunks in an AC car. This hammock was hanging from the top bunk and in front of the middle bunk. During the day, the middle bunk swings down and becomes the seat back for the lower bunk, which becomes a bench seat. Six passengers in each open compartment, with another two-tier bunk along the outside wall on the other side of the aisle.
If you look carefully, you can see that the blanket has some initials on it: SWR for South Western Railway. Hmm … where I have seen those initials before?
Same arrangement, but this time with the two lower bunks in seat bench configuration. It looked like the family was returning from a wedding.

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum

Tucked away in a old part of Pune is this delightful, eclectic museum of "Everyday Traditional Art". I had visited this museum the last time I was in Pune (October 2013, see this blog post), but now that I'm much more familiar with India, I wanted a second viewing.

The museum is difficult to find. A parking space is even more difficult. Google maps did a great job of locating the museum, but a miserable job on directions for the last few blocks -- directed us down impassable "gullies" (alleys). I finally got out of the car and walked the last block.
The museum is made up of about 9 galleries (depending upon what you count as a separate gallery) that winds up one side of an old house, then down the other side. Each gallery mostly has a theme, but it's not strictly adhered to. I took almost 100 photos: hand-held in dim light behind glass that wasn't the cleanest (but very good by Indian standards). Documentation is generally not very specific, and English translations can be interesting (crochet = croshay).

The first gallery mostly displayed objects used for grooming and beauty (combs, perfume bottles, and such). But also a few larger items.
This is a "Wheel of Zodiacal Signs". The Zodiac constellations have Sanskrit names (obviously), but the constellations are the same as astrologers use from Europe to north Africa to south Asia.
Next came one of my favorites: kitchen items. I could fill a whole post with photos from this room, but I'll limit myself to just one.

These are vegetable cutters. I now know that in India, the knife is held vertically, the cook sits on the board and draws the vegetables to be cut past the knife. I guess this makes more sense when you don't have a table to chop on.
The next gallery is "special exhibitions", which really seemed more of a "miscellaneous" and too big to fit elsewhere. I'll post a few things from here when I get to Ganesha. The following gallery is another of my favorites: textiles. It mostly held textiles from Gujarat, but also interesting puppets from south India. Another gallery that could fill a whole blog post in itself.

This is a 4 or 5 foot tall horse made of patchwork textiles. I'm not sure what it was used for (decor? toy?).
Next comes the (oil) lamp gallery. Hundreds of standing lamps, hanging lamps, little lamps, lamp arches. It's no wonder oil was needed in huge quantities! This is also where the large collection of "erotic nut-cutters" was found. I'll leave that to your imagination, but they were definitely R-rated!

The musical instrument gallery is one that the museum is noted for. India has an impressive selection of stringed instruments, with many variations on each. They frequently have an animal form.

This harp was identified as a "yaaz", but Wikipedia calls it a "yazh". Regardless, it's interesting!
A peacock sitar.
The final gallery is in two parts. The first is a collection of ivory objects; the second is a collection of antique front doors, including two made of ivory.

Detail from an ivory door.
And finally… Ganesha (the elephant-headed god) is a particular favorite in Maharashtra, and even more so in Pune. Here is a collection of Ganesha art from throughout the museum.

Ganesha's official vehicle is a rat. Usually the rat is represented by a small figure in front of Ganesha, but here the rat is large enough to ride.
Here Ganesha is riding an elephant.
Dancing Ganesha
Another dancing Ganesha.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Miscellany

Somethings are just too good. Here are five unrelated items from the last two days.

It's puppy season in Vapi. I've been watching these puppies grow up for about 3 weeks now. Last time I only saw three, and had feared that the others were "gone". But today, all six were sleeping on the street corner where they live.
I've been waiting to take this picture for months -- when I've seen a chicken delivery, I haven't had a camera within reach. Today I was prepared. Those are live chickens. They get hung by their legs from the digital scale (this is a high-tech chicken truck!) just before they get sold. How my thinking has changed: When I was in high school, we were "grossed out" by a storefront about a half block from the school that sold and butchered live chickens and rabbits. Now that is "farm-to-table" chic!

About a third of the upper school students were practicing marching for the upcoming Republic Day (26 Jan) program. A Sr Kg student, waiting to enter the school, practiced along with them.

This photo really doesn't work, but that thing hanging in the car is a baby hammock. It's suspended from the hooks above the doors and was swinging wildly as the car moved. Such hammocks are fairly common, although I hadn't seen one in a car before. Usually I've seen them hung between two trees while the mother worked construction. Some older homes also have hooks on posts for baby hammocks.
Early morning over GIDC Vapi. Pollution does give a nice warm glow to the sunshine. (GIDC is "Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation" and is the industrial area of Vapi.) Sometimes I think that the famed golden sunlight in India is merely a product of the ubiquitous smoky atmosphere.

Vapi Animals - Domestic and Wild

OK, I'm a sucker for animals.

To keep my nerd credentials current, I'm conducting an informal animal survey in Vapi. I'm counting all the dogs and cows/buffalos I encounter on my daily walks. Most of my walks are about 2 km each way, so I'm scaling up to get an animal density per square km. It's not exactly scientific sampling, but since I walk a mix of busy roads and residential roads, I think it's reasonably representative of Vapi. I figure that averaged over, say, 100 walks, I can at least get order-of-magnitude results.

Regardless, I've taken quite a few pictures of animals in the last week or so.

Buffalo seem to be particularly skilled at walking the center line down the road.
I don't think these two were waiting for a tuk-tuk. Surprisingly, they were ignoring a man who was trying to give them some food scraps. Normally cows are eager for such quality hand-outs.
It appears to be calf season. (Puppy season, too, but no photos.) This very young calf is one of two I routinely see while walking through one neighborhood.
Here both calves are resting.

On to the dogs.

This concrete pad is a favorite spot to put out food scraps for cows. There's usually a half-dozen or more munching here in the morning. Of course, the dogs also know where food can routinely be found.
The dogs seem to be spending more time napping. This one has made a nice bed of dry leaves in the gutter.
And this dog found an even better bed -- a cast-off blanket. Almost looks domesticated!
"Wild" animals get their perks, too. (If you consider pigeons "wild".)

There were two spots in the parking area where we take our Hindi lessons. As we approached, I thought the bricks were probably marking off repair zones. Instead, they are to make sure no one hurts the pigeons as they come down to eat the grain spread for them. (And I wonder how much of the grain is actually consumed by rats.)
And for a final note, today I saw my first mongoose in Vapi. We've seen mounds of dirt with mongoose-sized holes in them, but until today, I only suspected that they might be mongoose dens. So maybe there are a fair number of mongoose in Vapi. They wouldn't go hungry with all the rats here.