Living in India, I had forgotten that Christmas was coming up. I knew it was soon but had forgotten how soon, as there is very little indication here of the approaching festival.
Unlike in Europe and I am sure in the U.S, the streets aren’t decorated and most shops don’t display anything Christmassy at all.
Even when I lived in Auckland, the Christmas decorations were pretty sad. To be fair it may have changed now as I haven’t been back for 6 years, but there used to be a few lonely stars strung up in Queen St, (the main shopping street) and there was a large and creepy animatronic Santa on the side of one of the buildings. Creepy because one of his eyelids went up and down in a very slow wink as he beckoned passers-by with an equally slowly bending fore- finger, giving the impression of a dirty old man inviting you to sit on his lap.
Asia does Christmas really well. If you are ever in Hong Kong at this time, for example, you must take a boat trip on the harbour and see the massive skyscrapers lit up with different Christmas scenes; 40 storey Christmas trees, or Santa and his reindeer flying around the building (in light form) Last year one of the malls had even built a mountain complete with a working Ski-lift ferrying half-size model humans up and down it’s slopes.
I used to deliberately take a route home that meant crossing through the Lobby of the old Mandarin Hotel so I would be given a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts by the Hotel doorman.
It was only when I arrived in Singapore last week and left the airport that I realised what time of the year it was. It was the herds of red Reindeer gambolling under the Banyan Trees that gave it away.
The decorations here are fantastic and it doesn’t take long to get over the incongruity of Snowmen, Reindeer and Christmas trees in 32 degrees heat. The main shopping street Orchard Rd looks stunning at night with beautiful lights strung all along it, icicles hanging from the trees and outside every mall beautiful Christmas trees, each one different and many of them 2 or 3 storeys high.
I am always appreciative of elite sportsmen and women and the dedication they have to reach the pinnacle in their chosen sporting fields.
It is always inspiring to see them performing and whenever I get the chance to see them in action I jump at it.
I was very fortunate yesterday to see one of the premier local sporting teams in action. Gold medalists at the Asian Games and runners-up at the London Olympics, these athletes are still in peak physical condition and performing at the top of their game.
I was sitting by the side of the road when their team transport (a small white hatchback) pulled over in front of me. All 8 members of the team, 5 players and 3 reserves, jumped out, ready for action. With clockwork precision they lined up equidistant from one another, each angled slightly to avoid distracting eye contact and as one, began their performance. Hours and hours of dedicated training and practice evident in their skill and dexterity. Every movement performed in exact synchronicity with their teammates. With a flourish, their performance ended, they filed back into the team transport, and headed for their next public performance somewhere up the road.
I had just witnessed the Men’s Synchronized Urination Team in action!
A few months ago I had posted about a Rolls-Royce I had spotted in Hong Kong reminding me of Lady Penelope‘s car in the children’s series Thunderbirds ( read here ). Some of you probably thought I had an over active imagination or had been inhaling the fumes of something hallucinogenic.
Well I spotted this on the web today which proves that I am not completely loopy!
They loved their young daughter and hated the fact that financial circumstances meant they both had to work. But needs must and they did the next best thing they could, which was to hire a Nanny to look after their child while they were at work. It broke their hearts to leave her every morning and they would rush home as soon as they could after leaving the office in the evenings.
Things seemed to be going ok but after a few weeks they were puzzled to find their child was always very tired and drowsy when they got home. Thinking it was maybe just a phase or the approach of an illness they decided to observe her over the next few days to see what happens.
That weekend while washing his car, the child’s father was greeted by one of his neighbors. During the course of conversation the neighbor asked “Are you sending your child to daycare every day?”
“No, why do you ask” replied the father
“Well, every morning after you and your wife leave for the office, the Nanny goes out with your child and doesn’t come back until just before you return home in the evening, so I assumed she was going to daycare”
The father was understandably concerned as the Nanny had strict instructions not to leave the house, so after discussing with his wife they hatched a plan.
On Monday morning they left for work as usual, but instead of driving to the office they drove around the block and parked up a little distance away from their home, just close enough to watch the house but far away enough not to be observed.
Sure enough about half an hour later they watched as the nanny left the house with their daughter.
They followed at a distance and what they observed next horrified them!
For the last couple of weeks, the Nanny had been taking the child every morning and renting her to a gang of beggars at a nearby traffic signal. There they dosed her up on cough medicine so she would sleep all day and handed her to a young “mother” who would then spend the day approaching motorists stopped at the signal, tapping on the car windows teary eyed and beseeching the occupants of the vehicle to, “please give me money so I can feed my baby”. At the end of the day they would return her to the Nanny who would bring her home still drowsy from the after-effects of the overdose of cough syrup.
By the way, this is not a work of fiction!
We have been getting constant power cuts over the last two weeks. Up to 4 times a day and lasting for hours at a time.
It’s extremely frustrating of course. Although we have a backup battery supply, with power cuts this frequent it doesn’t take long before it is drained out. Also a lot of the appliances that we need to use don’t run off the battery supply and inevitably it is just when we need to use them that the power disappears. When the mixer is needed for the cooking for example or I have just put a cake in the oven.
However we have discovered a puzzling but effective solution.
There is a complaints number you can call when there is no power supply. The complaint is then sent by the call center to the area power station. If we register one complaint nothing seems to happen. So what we do is this. We have 4 mobiles in the house so we phone from each mobile and register a complaint, giving a different neighbor’s address each time. This way they will take it a bit more seriously and won’t think it is the same person complaining all the time. It usually takes about 2 -3 complaints and the power miraculously comes on almost immediately.
I have this mental image of a man in the electricity department falling asleep in his office and as he slumps at his desk he knocks the power switch off. He is a deep sleeper so the first call doesn’t wake him. The second or third complaint call finally rouses him from his slumber. Realizing what he has done, he turns the power on again!
I have been fortunate enough to live in many different countries in the world and I have learnt that deep down we are all the same. No one race or culture is good or bad.
As the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “there are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of ‘pure race”.
Being a white guy I was pretty insulated from racism growing up. My school and college were fairly multi-cultural and kids any way just get on with life. It doesn’t matter where your class mates are from, they are just your mates.
However once I started travelling I encountered racial discrimination more and more. While living in Hong Kong for example I often saw Hong Kong people holding their noses while sitting next to Indians on the bus and even refusing to sit next to anyone from the African continent.
When I returned to New Zealand, a country I thought was open and accepting of all, was shocked to see my (Indian) wife refused service in shops and excluded from conversations because the other person assumed she couldn’t speak English.
Now living in India where my skin color puts me in the minority it is my turn to experience discrimination. I have been excluded from temples (See here), had distant relatives refuse to shake my hand at my wedding, and of course I have lost count of the numerous times I have heard that many of the problems in India are because of the West. To top it all off, yesterday I was told that as I am a Westerner I have no manners, values or culture. This too by a man I caught stealing the neighbor’s water from their storage tank!
To be honest the majority of the people I come into contact with treat me very well, and I have been welcomed and accepted into people’s homes, families and communities.
But it makes my blood boil when small minded people make a judgment about someone based on where they were born and brought up.
Come on guys! Get on with it, stop discriminating and judging. It doesn’t matter where you are from or what you believe in, at the end of the day we are all pink inside, bleed red when we are cut and all have to sit down to take a dump!