Change of scene

This year will have been split into 2 – the tough first 6 months and the more relaxed, much more liveable second 6 months. I’ve had a change of lifestyle now that I am in another flat and working for another NGO in the same area of town.  The drama of the expired visa took a few years off my life, with its accompanying Kafka-esque visits to various Indian bureaucratic offices, bribes and all. The side of India that almost does you in.  Having a valid visa is such a feeling of contentment. Not having a valid visa is your worst nightmare .

The new flat is in Kalyani Nagar, a small area north of the river, residential, and incredibly green. It’s more expensive so I am sharing a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with Rozoo, a Tibetan mature student, who works in a lounge bar to finance his studies. His girlfriend from Kazakhstan, Diana, has gone home. I think she is coming back but who knows. It’s a little delicate so I don’t ask too many questions. Rozoo is very nice, cooks well and is usually cheerful. However today he has an ear infection and is like a bear with a sore head. Poor guy, he is very worried about money and doesn’t know if he can afford the x-ray the doctor says he needs.  You can forget how little security there is for people in other countries. His money from the bar just covers all his expenses, not much left over. He wants to open a bar in Goa one day, I’m sure he’d be great. He has a big smile and when he’s in the kitchen, there is a lot of banging and crashing then he produces really good simple dishes with next to nothing.

I can walk to work! My feeling about Pune has shifted as I’ve moved away from the pollution and noise of the city centre, and the intensity of Indian life has changed to a more comfortable rythmn. It’s certainly a relief not to have the screaming kids in the flat below and the horns blaring day and night. Now noisewise,  I’ve got a building site and dogs barking! India and noise go together, it’s part of the relentless, fascinating, irrepressible, frustrating,  impossible dynamism of the country.  I’ve also got a balcony with gorgeous trees outside, teeming with wildlife. There are small stripey squirrels, various beautiful colourful birds, all sizes from tiny to huge. One bird is very big, black tail and red wings, and it hops around the trees. At night there are huge bats that arrive, to drink the nectar of the red tree flowers. They pull themselves through the trees using their wingtip hooks, it was alarming at first, the trees swaying and rustling.  Now I’ve got used to them.

I’ve also met some more people and some Scots at that. Will, Rebecca and baby Jasmine are great and live in – wait for it, a proper house! Their lives as ex-pats are so different from mine, and it’s lovely to dip into a little luxury now and again. They have a driver and various people helping around the house. One of their friends, Paul who is from Detroit, and works for GM, says India is considered a hardship country posting at GM. He loves it here, but his parents came for a holiday and apparently after various stomach problems, left early, vowing to never return. Paul kindly lent me his car and driver to be taken home one night after a dinner at Will and Rebecca’s.  I felt I was in another world, gliding through Pune in a limousine with AC and leather seats.   I’m usually bouncing along in an old rickshaw with no suspension, trying to make sure my vital organs are still in their rightful place after rattling through potholes and swerving to avoid dogs. The contrasts of India indeed.

Why so much sugar? Everything here is loaded with sugar – chai, fruit juices, biscuits, puddings, cereals. Many affluent Indians are having problems with obesity and diabetes. If you buy a Tropicana juice here, it has about 3 times as much sugar as in the UK. A longtime national habit, surely.  Recently, in a hotel in Kerala, I watched a podgy toddler demolish a huge bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk for breakfast. Father had an enormous belly and was on his mobile phone all the while, paying scant attention. It all seemed quite normal apparently. Roll on the epidemic…..


2 Responses to “Change of scene”

  1. Lisa Byrne Says:

    Hi Alison,

    So enjoyed reading your blog, fascinating and what an eye-opener for me to learn more about your year so far. Keep me posted, I look forward to hearing more from you.

    All the best,

  2. Zoe Arden Says:

    Hi Ali — wow, so many ups and downs! What a rollercoaster of an experience. I’ve scanned through the blogs and they are beautifully written — I look forward to a more leisurely read through soon. Incredible to think you have already been there for 9 months. I also can’t believe how near bloody impossible they make it for you to work there for virtually nothing! I’m putting you in touch you someone called Samina who is about to start her VSO journey in India… I’m sure she will be keen to get in touch. Missing you. Stay well. Zoe xxx

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