Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A whole lot of bull

Ray was away speaking at a conference a couple of months ago and while he was there someone told him about the problem excess bulls here in India. Who knew bulls could be such a problem? I have never really considered before and I found the whole thing quite amusing.

As you are probably aware cows are considered holy in India as it is believed to be a symbol of the earth - because it gives so much yet asks nothing in return.

The cow is revered as the source of food and symbol of life and should never be killed. Hindus do not worship the cow, however, and cows do not have especially charmed lives in India. I often see them eating garbage off the street and sifting through garbage at waste depots. In fact the other week I heard of a cow that died being cut open and inside was a multitude of undigested plastic bags that it had consumed while ferreting for food.

Anyway back to the story of cows and bulls…The five gifts of the cow are milk, curds, ghee butter, urine and dung. All of these are all used in hindu worship. The milk  nourishes children as they grow up, and cow dung is a major source of energy for households throughout India. Cow dung is sometimes among the materials used for a tilak- a ritual mark on the forehead. Most Indians do not share the western revulsion at cow excrement, but instead consider it a useful natural product.

So what about the bulls? Well they are not quite as revered as cows but they are still not to be killed (it is illegal to kill cows and bulls in all but two states in India) . The occasional bull is useful as a stud and others as beasts of burden; pulling carts and the like but mostly they are useless. So basically bulls are left to roam the streets. Ray was telling me that the people to whom the male calves are born try to dump them far from where they live but they always find there way home. The sight of homeless bulls is commonplace in Delhi, in fact when I drive Hunter to dance class at a nearby school twice a week there are two bulls that loiter in the traffic and I often have to navigate my way around them. They seem innocuous enough and I have never personally had and problems with cows or bulls even when having to walk past them in a confined area but I have heard that they can charge and trample.
I will end on an amusing note. I was shopping at a market in Old Delhi one day when I saw a cow in a shop. Usually when I see a cow entering a shop I see a shop owner shooing it out. However this particular cow was just hanging about. Then it lifted its tail and I saw a shop owner dive to put some paper on the floor where the poop would land. Not that is did much good as the cow was not likely to have a good diet in that part of town so green goop splattered down its legs and all over the floor. Good times! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Electricity. Shocking, isn't it?

So yesterday I called the butcher to have some meat delivered… like you do. But as it happened my phone was plugged into the desktop when I made the call. Now our butcher speaks pretty good english so we don't usually have any problems understanding each other, however this time I had huge trouble communicating as my phone kept intermittently zapping my ear… and it hurt… a lot.

Electric shocks are a regular occurrence for me here in India. Last night I was thinking it over and I would say I get a good zap at least once a month. In fact two weeks ago I had a doozy… I was ironing name tags onto Sam's clothes for school when my hand brushed the edge of the metal pate of the iron. It was not the heat that stunned me, it was the surge of electricity running through my fingers and up my arm which jolted all my arm muscles leaving an ache for quite sometime.

Now as a kid I was never one to be curious about what it would be like to touch an electric fence. But now I am pretty sure I know what it would feel like. My worst electric shock occurred while we were living at the ashram. I was all set for my shower but when I turned the taps on no water came out. So I thought someone must have turned off the tap that lets the water into the hot water geyser. So I went to turn that tap and when my hand latched onto the knob it was shocked so hard that I could not let go I had to step away to pull my hand free of the tap… not good. In fact the whole hot water geyser thing freaks me out a bit. A friend told me  that once while she was having a shower she felt like little pins were stabbing her all over. The water was electrified. In fact people have been know to die from this.

We have a Mac desktop computer with an aluminum casing. Now the number of times we have all coped a shock from this thing cannot be counted. So after a couple of weeks of being zapped I did some googling… apparently a common problem. The solution is to wear rubber soled shoes or keep your feet off the ground. And as I recently learned do not wear wet flip-flops.
So why do Mac computers electrocute us here in India and not in Australia? Well if you go outside your house to the fuse box you should see a metal rod hammered into the ground with some wiring attached. This is what earths your house and prevents you from being electrocuted when you use your toaster. Here in India, more often than not, they don't bother earthing houses thus we humans become the earth connection and receive electric shocks.

Ray has just asked me about my current blog topic and said I should add that he has been on the phone and yelled in peoples ears when he gets zapped… this is true, I have witnessed it… good times :)

I was reading an article in the paper a couple of months ago that had some statistics about accidental deaths in India. Car accidents are by far the leading cause (13 people die every hour on Indian roads), but electrocution was surprisingly high too. It came in third after road deaths and then murder. I tried to find that article today so I could refer to it in this post… no luck, but there were hundreds more.

Here are a few of the headlines from the past few months...
  • 7-yr-old gets electric shock at Vashi mall
  • Restaurant staff electrocuted
  • Villager dies of electric shock, road blocked
  • One succumbs to electric shock at theatre
  • Electric shock kills domestic help
  • Boy suffers electric shock at school
  • Senior Pak diplomat dies of electric shock
  • One electrocuted, several electric shocks at school function
  • 9-yr-old dies of electric shock while sleeping
  • Man electrocuted while hanging clothes to dry

So basically no activity here is safe… not even sleeping.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Driving in Delhi ~Ray Vs Louise~ Why I win

Ray and I often argue over which of us is the better driver here in Delhi. I specify here in Delhi as it is totally different to driving in the cities of Australia.

I could simply sum up the argument by saying- "Side-swiped truck, nudged motorbikes, bent rickshaw wheels, knocked pedestrians with side-mirrors and a broken cow leg".

And me?…. nothing.

Don't get me wrong, Ray is a good driver and he has the valid argument that he spends more hours driving than I do thus potential for more incidents. But this is not the only argument. The real fact of the matter is we have two very different driving styles. I am an offensive driver (and I don't mean rude) and Ray is a defensive driver. Defensive driving works fine in Australia and is probably the preferred method when 99% of the time people stay in their lanes, check their blind-spot and use their indicators. But this is not the best strategy here. In Delhi you have to drive offensively. You have to expect that everyone is going to change lanes without indicating, cut you off and step into traffic without looking both ways.
In Delhi driving is like playing chess you have to anticipate everyones next  move, not just your own. You need to know when to leave space to pull out from behind a car that randomly stops and when to close the gaps so people don't push their way in.

When it comes down to it driving in Delhi is a hassle and I would much rather be a passenger and let grandpa Ray side swipe other vehicles than have to drive myself. I should also take a moment to mention I can't stand it when when Ray is my passenger… he is the worst back seat driver ever. I pity Sam and his future driving lessons. Several times when I have been the one driving I have just about stopped the car and kicked him out. His commentary has become a little worse lately after an incident where he witnessed a body fly over the car in front of him and land on the road. I understand that this would make you (and me) more careful. The only thing is now when I am driving I am sure he thinks every pedestrian is going to jump right out in front of me and that I experiences a moment of temporary blindness. Ah well...

So when you come to visit let me know and I will come and pick you up from the airport ;)