Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some additional snaps

Here are a few more photos that wouldn't fit in prior posts (we are limited to attaching 5photos/entry). Here are Ashwin and his beautiful cousin Helen at the wedding, Priya in her school uniform with flowers in her hair, Priya and our lovely cook, Parvathi, making chapatis, and a photo of Prabhu and I going out to celebrate our wedding anniversary (thanks Mom and Don). We went to the Raintree Restaurant at the Taj Connemara here in Chennai. (Taj, the premeir hotel chain here in India, also has an outpost in Boston, formerly known as the Ritz) The Raintree has exquisite South Indian food in the chettinad style (very peppery). It also has a wide variety of wines and mixed drinks, which are available at outrageous prices due to the local taxes on liquor. The amount we spent on dinner was roughly equivalent to the monthly salary for 50% of India($100). Nevertheless, we had a great time.

Our First Wedding

This week, we were invited to the wedding of Sheba, the daughter of some old family friends. Sheba and her new husband, Robin, were married on Wednesday, Sept 24 at Lutheran Adaikalanathar Church (the church Prabhakar grew up in, with a reception at a nearby marriage hall following. We all enjoyed the wedding. The bride was gorgeous in a red and gold silk sari, with a flowing white veil. The groom was handsome, but looked awfully warm in the sultry 90deg air and his black suit. At the end of the ceremony, the couple was showered with rose petals by all the guests. Ashwin and Priya loved that part - Priya helped distrubute the petals to the guests. At the reception, there were speeches (no toasting - Indian wedding receptions lack the lubricating effect of alcohol generally found in the west...), then the obligatory cake cutting (pretty much like cake cutting around the world) and finally a sumptuous feast with the preferred Indian wedding main dish, Biryani. Thanks so much to Sheba, Robin and their families for inviting us to share their special day. The photos above include - the bride and groom during the ceremony Ashwin and Prabhu watching Priya in her new pavadai, Ashwin in a handsome kurta Prabhu's sister and brother-in-law, Rani and Raja, with Ashwin and Priya

Saturday, September 27, 2008

animals in chennai

This post is dedicated to my niece, Jennifer. Jennifer loves all types of animals, particularly horses and dogs. Along with her parents and elder sister, she is taking special care of our dog, Phoenix, while we are away in India. Thank you Jennifer, Emily, Leslee and Todd - we are so appreciative of your loving care! Historically, feral dogs have been a major problem in large cities in India, including Chennai. These poor creatures roam the streets eating garbage, and I suppose hunting rats and squirrels. They are not treated well by the locals, and are not unjustly feared, given the high incidence of rabies in the country. In the past, we have frequently seen females with a litter of cute little puppies on the streets or in the parks. During our present stay, we've seen lots of strays, but interestingly, no litters of puppies. When we investigated this change, we found that actually significant progress has been made on the feral dog problem here in Chennai. An organization called Blue Cross of India has partnered with the city and for the past several years has been picking up strays, treating them with birth control, and vaccinating them for rabies. Consequently, fewer strays, and less rabies. If you want to read more about this, see . They also have an adoption center, where they keep rescued puppies and put them up for adoption. There is a growing awareness of the "Indian Dog", and it's desirability as a pet. They tend to be short haired, 20-30 pounds, and in two basic colors, tan or black and white. The photos accompanying the blog show a guy on our block in the basic tan variety. I also included a photo of the preferred Indian purebred variety, the Alsatian, who was taking a walk down our street the same evening I photographed the tan guy. And now, on to the venerated Indian cow. These too are in much less abundant supply in the city then when I first visited ten years ago. I imagine this is due to increasing congestion and traffic in the city. However, one still frequently sees bullock carts (water buffalo) pulling loads through town, and the occasional stray cow. One of the latter is pictured here. I took this photo across from the entrance to Prabhu's sister's house. It's in a neighborhood called Pursawalkam - a very crowded area with lots of shops and neon. Think Times Square with vastly narrower streets - then impose a cow in your image! Finally, there is a photo here of a lovely katydid, approximately 4" long. We found him (or her) in the corner of a bedroom one night this week. It seemed to have strayed indoors from the mango tree just outside the window (a quick web search informed us that katydids are nocturnal, and some Asian varieties are very fond of mango and hibiscus trees, both of which we have nearby). Prabhu went and hid in another room while Ashwin, Priya and I trapped the offender, and then released it on our balcony. If Ashwin's science teacher, Mr Cassie, reads the blog - we included this picture especially for you! Cheers to all - Leann

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Onam!

Greetings all - Here in Chennai we have had an unexpected four day weekend.  All you parents will love how school holidays are announced here.  Although there is a calendar for the school year, holidays can be added at a moment's notice.  So, last Thursday, when I went to pick up Ashwin and Priya at school, I got a notice that school would be cancelled on Friday in honor of the Onam Festival(more on that later).  Additionally, since the next two weeks are exams, school would only be half days that entire time.  So, we settled in to enjoy a long weekend.  Then, this morning we awoke to find that the state government had decided to declare today a holiday too!  (this is in honor of the one hundredth birthday of Annadurai, a renowned political leader here in Tamil Nadu).    Of course, Ashwin and Priya were crushed to hear that school had been cancelled!  
So, Onam is a Malayali (people from the neighboring state of Kerala) festival which celebrates the harvest.   People decorate their homes with elaborate floral creations, but the thrust of the celebration seems to center around a lot of eating. Apparently 36 dishes are customary, with several special types of payasam for dessert.  It started last Friday, and goes on for ten days.  We hated to pass up the opportunity to celebrate a holiday centered around food, so on Friday night we went out to a local hotel for an Onam Buffet.  There were literally dozens of dishes, all wonderful - 10 or more salads to start, appam (special coconut based crepe type items), many types of vegetable and meat curries, special rices, and of course, the kids favorite, a dessert bar with at least eight types of dessert, including a special cake and ice cream.    The photos accompanying this blog show us with some typical Onam decorations in   hotel lobby.  There are also pictures from this Sunday's harvest festival at our church.  After the church service,  large numbers of the congregation adjourned to an open area nearby for a festival with games, a bazaar and lots of food (of course!)  There are photos of Ashwin and Priya playing some of the games(Ashwin is trying to knock downcoconuts  with cricket balls,and Priya is playing kids roulette), and also of our friend Rebecca making what must have been one of hundreds of dosa (another crepe type snack, this made with a lentil/rice based batter).  Yum...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Breakfast with Champions

Thanks to  ESPN and Rupert Murdoch ; we get live events on TV from all over the world. For example the English Premier League has a big following in India now. ESPN India also telecasts Yankees baseball games during  the weekends ( some link with the YES network). Ashwin likes to wake up to those games, and the games which end at midnight in the US conveniently finish at 8AM Indian time. It was also great that Ashwin got to see the home run derby during the All Star Game.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Joyful Reunion

On September 2ND, at 2:30 in the morning, I finally cleared Indian immigration in Chennai and collected my 135.5 pounds of luggage.  No visitors are allowed in the airport, so a large throng waited outside of the international terminal.  As I exited the building, standing atop the gates were Ashwin and Priya with the colorful welcome signs they had made, and Prabhu, our family photojournalist right behind.  Needless to say it was incredibly wonderful to be back together, with giant hugs all around.  The next morning, Ashwin and Priya eagerly combed through my luggage - Priya was thrilled with the birthday gifts and Ashwin was elated that the Wii had survived the trip unscathed!  Thanks so much to everyone who sent packages from the US - they are being thoroughly enjoyed. 
I have spent the last few days adjusting to the time, heat, etc.  I am so impressed with how thoroughly Ashwin and Priya have adjusted to life here - they are very comfortable at their school, both are learning Tamil, and both have made new friends.  I am also amazed at the fact that in the time that they've been here they have never complained about the heat.  I have been struck at how hot and humid it is - with very little cooling at night.  Prabhu told me that he had hoped that by September, it would have cooled off more, but a friend explained to us last night that "September is our second summer in Chennai".  You would have thought that one would be enough....  Ah well, so happy to be here in spite of the temp.  
More soon.   Leann

Monday, September 1, 2008

September 1st

We have been waiting for this day for a long time. We are all so excited to go and meet Leann at the airport. Two and a half months has flown by so fast. Ashwin and Priya have been working on the welcome signs. Incidentally Priya is sitting on  the Indian version of the lazy boy chair called the easy chair. 
We had a couple of  birthday celebrations in August ;  Helen and Raja ( Raja Mama  to Ashwin/Priya).  Have included  pics of Priya choosing a gift for Helen and one with cousins and friends who attended the party.
Ashwin had a disappointing loss 3-2 in the soccer league  semifinals. It was a great match  and the game could have gone either way. Ashwin scored both the goals and set up some great chances. Coach Doug would have been proud of the play.