Friday, June 25, 2010


One thing to which I just cannot adjust here is the timing of things - of dinner and of store openings, in particular.

For instance, this morning, by 10AM I'm ready to go to the grocery store. After Patch was born, it's no longer feasible to stop at SPAR (my favorite) on the way home from the office (because of his feeding timings), so that leaves weekend mornings. But this store - like so many others - does not open until 11. I end up feeling like I have a dead hour when I'm ready to go, but no one is ready to have me. Hey, at least today it means I'll write this post!

Meal "timings" are another issue. From my travels, I know Americans eat comparatively early, with lunch starting around 11:30 or 12 and dinner at 5:30 or 6 not uncommon. But try finding any lunch spot here open before 12:30 or dinner before 7:30 and you'll be searching a long time. Even if a place does start that early, usually the wait and kitchen staff aren't really ready until 1PM or 8PM.

A colleague from work's last day in HYD was yesterday. Local staff asked him if he would consider a tour in India again. His reply? "Start serving dinner for official functions at 6:30 instead of 9, and I'll consider it." Appears I'm not the only one who prefers the earlier American style timings.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wedding events are over

The wedding events are over. I bet you thought they ended with the wedding reception a month ago! You would be wrong. As far as I can tell, there are seven main dinners associated with the wedding. First, on the eve of the marriage, was the turmeric paste party. Next day, the marriage. Then a day of rest. Then the marriage dinner. Then, for the next four Fridays, the families shared dinner together.

The Friday dinner rules seemed very flexible - the families just agreed who would host, and the hosting family decided how many people to invite. In Sarwari's brother's case, her parents hosted three and the bride's family hosted one. This mostly seems because the groom's family has the right of first refusal. Since the bride's family lives about an hour drive away, and cars are not prevalent here, Sarwari's mom did not want to have to hire a car to drive so far for dinner. So, she went once out of respect, but made the in laws come over the other three times. At least, that's what I think I understood!

I'm totally going out on a limb here, but were I to venture a guess, I think the Friday dinners stem from the fact that the bride and groom have often never met prior to their engagement, if they even met then. So, the dinners are a way for each family to check on the other. Coming from a family of three girls, I have a lot of sympathy for the bride's family - they really have "lost" a child.

I had been told that the daughter is no longer considered a child of her parents after the wedding. It hit home last night when Sarwari said we should call the bride, "Ayesha." I was pretty sure that name was not on the wedding card, as I would have remembered her name. Apparently, her name given by her own parents was too long and cumbersome so Sarwari's parents talked and decided to call her Ayesha. Now, in the family, she is known as Ayesha. I asked Shabu what the old name was, but Shabu couldn't even remember as she had been calling her Ayesha for the last month!

No offense to my mother-in-law, but no way was she going to rename me after my marriage! I didn't even change my last name.

Last night was the final dinner. It was pretty festive, but low key, dinner at Sarwari's mom's house. Ayesha was decked out in a pretty blue and brown sari with silver trim. Some distant relatives who work in Saudi who couldn't come for the wedding even scheduled their annual trip home around this dinner, adding to the party atmosphere.

After this dinner, Ayesha went home to her parents house for a few days, and then she will return to her new family's home for the majority of the time. When she has her first baby (God willing, as they say here), she'll spend the last part of her pregnancy and the first three months post partum with her parents. Otherwise, she generally won't visit her own parents without asking permission of her in laws (who are now considered her own parents).

Sarwari's parents are very kind to share these cultural events with us - and we returned the favor by leaving around 8:30 (William and Patrick need to get to bed) so as not to overstay our welcome :) I've enjoyed learning about it all, but I think Greg is glad for the events to be over. Having William and Patrick out late is somewhat stressful, as we've pretty much acclimated them to going to sleep at 8:30 and 7:30 respectfully. Not to mention it's World Cup season ...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rain! Again!

Last year about this time I posted how I was surprised that the first rains brought an immediate drop in temperature. Amazingly, the same thing has happened this year. Funny how that works. Funny, too, how highs in the low 90s feel comfortable - I'm thinking the 73 outside right now (9PM) is out right indulgent.

Temperature aside, HYD has a funny rain culture. The background: Being in the middle of the peninsula, on a plateau, our monsoon season doesn't compare with the costs. We don't get days on end of deluge and flooding like Mumbai. We don't have 100% humidity even when it's not raining like Chennai. We get the tail ends of both of India's monsoons (north east and south west), making our rainy season (hopefully for the farmers) last from June through September or October. But rains come in bursts like summer thunderstorms in Texas.

I was driving myself home from yoga tonight (double hooray - I've restarted yoga *and* was driving myself during rush hour) when the rain started. With the first drizzle, no change was noticeable. Scooters still clogged the streets, people still walked about. While I saw many ladies carrying umbrellas during the hot months for shade, I didn't see a single person pop and umbrella in the drizzle. My guess is because (a) saris seem to dry pretty quickly unlike jeans and (b) if the drizzle progresses to a downpour, an umbrella is useless except for the neck and head.

Then, the downpour happened. Immediately, scooters pulled to any cover the driver could find. All the pedestrians rushed under any overhang available - a coconut tree, a driveway overhang, a tarp above a chai wallah (tea man). And everyone just waited. Only cars continued, and as I drove home I realized I could see the difference in the pace of life here. A giant pause.

I can't imagine anything causing Washington DC to just pause for 30 minutes. The snowpacolpse seemed to *stop* the city for three days. Regan's funeral or a World Bank convention clogged certain parts of the city. A catastrophe like 9-11 doesn't compare at all. But the evening downpour was just a pause. Twenty or thirty minutes later, all the hundreds of people gathered together trying (probably unsuccessfully) to stay dry would continue on their merry way and the city would spring to life again. Probably not in fast forward, though, to make up for lost time. Just in regular play speed, after a brief pause.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A new level of ridiculous

Believe it or not, 7.5 months later, Patrick *still* does not have a valid visa. Yes, you read correctly. The child of a visa officer cannot manage to get a visa for her own son. The irony rings in so many directions.

I've already written about Birth and Death and the four attempts it took to get his birth certificate. Getting his tourist passport, after we had the proper birth certificate, was no problem thanks to my very efficient coworkers. So, at least I can be thankful that he is a documented American citizen. Now, the final step has been just as challenging as the first step - and this time, my own government is as much at fault as the host government.

Here's the situation in a nutshell. Patrick did have a visa issued in January. But, post-visa issuance, we noticed his passport (which was issued by the State Dept, not the consulate) said he was born in .... Indiana. Yes, Indiana, not India. oops. Naturally, we sent that back for correction. The second passport came with another mistake. The third passport which finally came mid-May, was correct in all respects. Paperwork was sent up to Delhi. Now the Indian government wants to physically cancel the first visa it issued in the first passport.

But here's the catch: the first passport was destroyed. Yes, I looked up my own son's passport files myself (at 7.5 months, he already has four entries!) and in big red capital letters it says: DESTROYED

I'm hoping someone takes pity on me at this point and accepts one of the various work around I've proposed. All I want is for this ordeal to be over. Hopefully Patrick will have a visa before we leave the country for good in December ... otherwise the airport authorities won't let him out. Not to mention my own visa expires 01 Jan 2011!