Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Fishing Fleet"

Passenger List of Eligible British Ladies known as the Fishing Fleet

Young eligible English ladies of marrying age, daughters of wealthy Britisher’s living in India, who traveled back and forth from England to India, were known as the “Fishing Fleet”.

While what I have read about them is quite interesting, this entry is about one of India’s actual fishing fleet that dot the coast of this incredible country.

The history of boat building dates back in the Indian region to as early as 2040 B.C. as evidenced by artifacts uncovered of the Harappan civilization that thrived in what is now southern Pakistan and western India.

This Indus Valley civilization was so advanced that they not only built docks and warehouses, but there is evidence that they conducted trade via ocean going vessels to faraway places.

For nearly 4200 years, from 2500 B.C. to 1700 A.D., India was considered the “Proud Mistress of the Eastern Sea’s” until the European powers took control of Indian shipping and the East India Company prevented the construction of large ships which were competitors to the English ships of the 18th century. Until then, boat building was undertaken in nearly 200 ports along India’s 6000 kilometer coast.

My trip to the port in Vizag gave me a glimpse of some of today’s boat building activities, where future vessels in Vizag’s fishing fleet were being constructed.
The construction yard was void of many of the modern tools and equipment that one might find in other boat yards in the western world. The boat yard also serves as home to many as well; living and working in the same place, in crude conditions is the way of life for those in fishing communities.

Boat Builders home in the shadows of the vessels

The wood being used in the construction of the fleet appeared to be crudely cut and riddled with flaws and would not be considered acceptable to use in other parts of the world where blemishes would be a clear sign of poor workmanship.

Eventually a thick skin of fiberglass will cover the flaws and gaps that exist between the planks and make it more seaworthy. A final coat of colorful paint will be applied to further enhance its beauty and provide it with a unique identity among the many boats that grace the port.

The boat builders were as interested in me as I was of them……they stopped working and yelled down at me in Hindi, and while I did not understand the words they used, the body language of the foreman of the crew indicated that he wanted me to take their picture.

There were as many as 5 boats being built, all in various stages of construction; some nearly complete while others resembled the skeletons of upside down whales……….the keel serving as the spine and the ribs reaching outward and upward toward the sky.

Scientist reconstructing skeleton of a Blue Whale in a museum

I am sure that the commissioning of a boat in India does not include a bottle of champagne being broken on the bow…….but it would surely involve a puja.

Shortly afterwards, the colorful addition to the Vizag fishing fleet will provide a captain and his crew the means to make a living in the waters of the Bay of Bengal.

"On the Dock of the Bay"

Otis Redding and Steve Cropper penned the lyrics of the song; (Sitting On) THE DOCK OF THE BAY……Otis recorded the song on December 7th, 1967, just three days before his untimely death in a plane crash outside Madison Wisconsin.

On my most recent visit to Visakhapatnam (Vizag), Shoeb took me for a drive to the port of the city…….where the larger fishing boats dock safely from the vast expanse of the Bay of Bengal.

It is home of the just one of the many fishing villages that dot the coast of Andhra Pradesh…….and provides for the livelihood of many of the residents of the area.

It also provided me with the opportunity to capture the some very interesting photographs of the people of the village making a humble living from the bounties of the sea.

The area was flourishing with activity……….fish being unloaded, nets being made and mended, boats being built …… being dried, scraped, weighed, packed and readied for shipping.

“Fisherwomen” are everywhere…… they perform most of the duties after the bounty from the sea makes its way to land.
Like most work in India, the work at the dock is performed manually………and the work is not easy.

While doing research, I learned that the women who work in the fishing industry in this area earn an average of 206 rupees per week….approximately $4.12 US…….$16.50 per month.Hard work for very meager earnings……….but such is life for many throughout the country.

Small fish by the thousands are spread out to dry on the surface of the dock…….some on the hot dark surface of the asphalt……carefully arranged to allow for vehicular traffic to make its way in the area……creating free lanes to support the rest of the dock activities. Larger species of fish are dried on a very rough canvas like surface.

After they have reached a certain stage, the fish are scraped from the smooth surface of the pavement, scooped by hand and placed into large round baskets.
The smaller of the species of fish are dried and sold for the production of “fish meal” used as a fertilizer or for poultry food. The larger of the species are dried for human consumption.

Depending on the species……..the village will earn $0.20 to $1.20 per kg…………..not a huge amount for the work and expense that goes into making a living from the sea.

There is a certain beauty about the area………….ladies in very colorful sari’s working amongst the silvery carpet of dried fish……….the designs left on the surface like small dark rivers winding lazily between silvery banks…….. Entangled forms reflecting the light from the sun that has reduced them to sinewy silver ribbons lying stiffly on a canvas bed.

I hope you enjoy the beauty of the photographs without the interesting smells that I endured taking them.

When....... "The World is Your Oyster"

I attended the 15th birthday of someone very special to me the other evening.
His name: Shad
All of you will meet him in a moment………in the meantime, let me share with you what makes him so special to me.

For this, I must take you back to October 2008……..I had begun my new adventure in India just a short 17 days before…….having arrived in India without my family……..needless to say, I was missing them…….my wife and my two sons.
The reason for being in Visakhapatnam (Vizag) was to attend the puja commemorating the birthday of Sarat’s father. (see blog entry of October 19, 2008). It was during this visit to Vizag that I had the occasion of meeting Shad, the eldest son of Shoeb, our General Manager for the Four Points by Sheraton – Vizag.
Shad and I quickly became friends……..perhaps it was because he was very close in age to Preston, and I was still in that initial period of missing him…………but I credit it more too how well spoken, engaging and delightful he is as a person. Shad was just 14 years old at the time………..eager to know all about me, my family, my boys………how I was enjoying India…….my career…….we had such an enjoyable conversation, we could have continued it for several hours……….but it was interrupted by a delicious dinner prepared by Sheena, his mother.
Shad has also been very keen on meeting Preston as well……….but the many miles that separate us between Delhi and Vizag, and the various demands of school and sports schedules of both boys, has prevented them from meeting. But I am positive that they will meet in the very near future………as a matter of fact, Linda and Preston have yet had the chance to visit Vizag…….the place in India that is dear to my heart for so many reasons.
Back to Shad……… most 15 year olds, he is in that in between stage of boyhood and manhood; the time when you are still young enough to be a child yet you are on the cusp of becoming a man……part of the reasons for this is the Indian education system……..the preparation for BOARD EXAMS and a time of decision for young men and women to commit to a path to their future education…….similar to in colleges in the US when one must declare a field of study (major) and eventually settle on a career path. In India, this happens in the 10th Standard (grade). These Board Exams are grueling………months of study to prepare……and then the anxiety of performing well enough to progress. The Indian education system is highly competitive. Shad will do well……..and he has kept his options open…………happy to proceed in either Science or Commerce, depending on the outcome of his Boards.
When he speaks of his future……..he would be very comfortable following in his father’s (Shoeb) footsteps……..he is very proud of his father and looks up to him and what he has accomplished……and he should be. Shoeb is a very talented hotelier, and someone I am also proud to have on our team.
In preparing for writing this entry, I decided to do some research into famous people who were born on January 28. The list was quite long and very impressive. Kings, politicians, famous cricket players, footballers (both American and soccer), writers, poets, actors, scientist’s, astronomers, astronaut’s, inventors, composers, artist’s, Olympian’s, musician’s, and even some famous military men. The extensive list begins in the year 1457 with the birth of King Henry the VII……the first Tudor King of England………….the last date…….1985 the birth of Athina Onassis, daughter of Christina Onassis.
Shad………..the year 1995……..the year you were born is still open……it is not occupied by any other famous person or celebrity….…the opportunity is your to make a special mark in history………if it is your desire to be a part of this very special list.

“The World is Your Oyster” means that you can you can do or achieve anything you want in life because you have the ability/opportunity/freedom to do so.

However……….as far as I am concerned……….regardless of whether you officially make this list or not, you will remain special to me. I am very proud of you and I know your parents and grandparents are as well.
I hope your 15th Birthday was very special…..and I feel honored to have been invited to share your special day with you.

Uncle Lloyd

Shad with "Cake on his Face"

Shad sharing cake with Sarat (Shoeb, Shad's father in the background)

The wonderful dinner prepared by Sheena - Shad's mother

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

I am putting the final touches of this blog entry sitting in the airport in Hyderabad, India.
I never pictured myself as the type of person to be working /blogging in an airport, but such is the case in January… airports in India. This is the second such masterpiece I have either started or finished at one of several airports that I have traveled too in the past three weeks. Why so much time you may ask?
Winter weather in India is plagued with FOG………not just any type of fog………this is a special fog….thick, dense and aromatic fog………hmmmmmmmmmm aromatic……an interesting word to use to describe fog you might think………but it does have a very interesting aroma. Here is the recipe.
Grassy, woodsy, smoky, incense infused, earthy, a touch of diesel, a dollop of burning “eau de’ garbage”, a hint of fireworks, and a pinch of the fine alluvial dust that covers everything in Delhi year round.
It is like nothing you have ever smelled ……..unless of course you have been to India.
This FOG causes mass transportation chaos in India………on the road, by rail and especially air travel. It puts every form of mass/modern transportation at a complete halt……..causing massive cancelations or huge delays…….and while my current travel schedule has been somewhat non-stop since I arrived back in India, things have honestly been rather unpredictable and my schedule as I have known it has been thrown for a toss.
There have been occasions that the fog is so thick, while driving it is difficult to see any further than past the hood of the car. While I have been guilty of possibly exaggerating topics in the past, those of you who currently live in India can attest to what I have written.
The fog in India is unlike anything that you may have experienced……….while you may have been in fog as thick………..I can almost guarantee it is not as aromatic as what India has to offer.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ronald McDonald - Amritsari Style

I grew up eating McDonald’s food…………Over the past 48 years of my life, I have probably averaged purchasing something from McDonalds at least once per week……..
If you live in the United States, it is hard not to eat at a fast food establishment of one type or another……….they flourish due to the way of life in the US……everyone is on the go at 100 miles per hour.
Drive up……..Drive thru……Drive and eat……eat on the run, eat in your car…….
Here is an interesting statistic……….there are over 50,000+ McDonalds Restaurants in the United States.
India…………with a population of over 1 billion people……..has only 156 outlets!!!!!!!!!
Ronald McDonald………India style!
For those of you who have not visited India, I thought that I would share with you the Punjabi version of Ronald McDonald…….he doesn’t serve hamburgers……….the fries are very much like those in the US…….but not much else is the same.
Even Ronald……….
One more interesting fact…………….after a year of being away from India……….I didn’t stop at a McDonalds when I was back in the USA.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hall Bazaar, Amritsar.........and a guessing game at the end

What a place!

Have you ever been to a place and just stood in amazement at what was happening around you?

Anywhere?.........take a moment and think about it.....a place where you were just astonished and just stood still...maybe with your mouth partially open....gazing and perhaps uttering words to yourself about the events unfolding before your eyes?

Such is the case of HALL BAZAAR in of the city's oldest markets, and still perhaps one of the most popular places for people to shop.....

We are currently working with an owner who is opening a hotel in the center of HALL BAZAAR......

Before catching the plane back to colleague wanted to purchase some food items to bring while he was shopping business, I began venturing further into the market.

I drew the normal stares and glances from shopkeepers..and patrons....curious as to what a 6'3 blonde "gora" was doing! It was one of the coldest days in Amritsar, and picture me strolling in a very busy place, with a long black woolen top coat walking in HALL BAZAAR......polished in hand.

To the shopkeepers and patrons I am sure that I appeared to be out of place....but I was certainly in good company.

Mishri, Kesarian, Saraiwala, Kathian, HALL? Does something in this list look out of place to you? These are the names of the other popular markets in Amritsar

It struck me as odd that such an ENGLISH name would be given to a market; so I decided to do some research as to how the market received the name "HALL".

What I found was scarce....all that I discovered was that it was named for a Deputy Commissioner of Amritsar who held his position in the late 1800's. That's where it ends.

There were two articles...each with differing I am not sure which is correct."C.D. or C.H."......some confusion, but that is where the information ends.

I am not sure how he contributed significantly to Amritsar; his notoriety, his place in history, his fame......but yet his legacy still stands today.

Hall Bazaar is an exciting place.....and definitly worth visiting should you find yourself in Amritsar.......and the hotel.....will be right in the center of all the action!

Now for some fun!


While I was there I noticed an interesting man from a distance....perhaps it was his orange turban that originally caught my eye......but I was also amazed at why he was sitting down and cutting sticks and putting them in little bundles..........

I finally asked someone....was so intrigued I snapped a few pictures.

ANY GUESSES? First person to guess correctly.......wins another fabulous prize!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Dyer Consequences!

The Narrow Entrance to the Park

Imagine the following..........

A crowd of 15,000 to 20,000, gathered on a parcel of land surrounded by buildings. While there were several entrances to the area, most of them were kept locked.....on this day....only one way in and out....and although the largest of the entrances, it is rather narrow itself.

What had began as a peaceful, unarmed gathering to protest the recent arrests of two leaders in Amritsar; the result of the authority given to British Viceroy's by a recently passed law known as the Rowlett Act....ended in the massacre of many.

The year.....1919.....the perpetrator of this horrendous Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry DYER.....hence the reason I used this spelling in the title of this blog entry.

I had the opportunity to learn about this tragic event on a recent visit to Amritsar after concluding our business for the day......we managed to fit this in to a rather busy schedule just before boarding our plane back to Delhi.

I used the word horrendous for a the aftermath of the incident a formal Commission was convened and the then Brigadier-General was called to testify before the panel. The Official transcripts of the inquiry revealed the true atrocity of the event.....and Dyer, instead of being reprimanded for his actions was actually rewarded militarily for his shameless acts of murder.
Painting Depicting the Scene after the Massacre

General Dyer, while on the stand, revealed that he was aware that the gathering would be taking place and did not do anything to stop the event from 4:30pm, shortly after the meeting began, Dyer organized his men to block the only entrance into the area with vehicles and ordered his riflemen inside the area to form a "picket" and block the entrance.
Marker Designating the Site Where Dyer's Soldiers Stood While Firing on the Crowd

He stated that he would have used the machine guns, but they were mounted on armoured vehicles that could not make it through the narrow enclosure leading into the area.

Dyer gave the command for his men to start firing and the order to not stop firing until they ran out of ammunition......some 1600 + rounds of Mark VI ammunition.
Bullet Holes that Remain in Walls

DYER: "I think it quite possible that I could have dispersed the crowd without firing, but they would have come back again and laughed,and I would have made, what I consider, a fool of myself"

The result of his "foolish arrogance" left many innocent dead. The Hunter Commission reported the official figures at 379 killed(337 men, 41 boys and a six-week-old baby)and 200 injured. The British expected people to come forward and report the casualties, but many Indian's did not due so in the aftermath for fear of being branded rebels and facing further consequences. The Indian Government conducted an investigation of their own an estimates were quite different....and are perhaps more accurate given the size and density of the crowd and the close-range of the riflemen. Statistics provided by the Indian Nation Congress put the casualties closer to 1000 and wounded at nearly 1500. Some were wounded and killed not by the bullets themselves, but as a result of trying to escape and being trampled to death. There is also a lone well on site in which over 100 bodies were later found...many whom drowned in an attempt to escape the hail of bullets being fired at them.
The Water Well used by Many to Escape the Hail of Bullets

During the inquiry, General Dyer was asked if he lended aid or had tended to the wounded in the aftermath.

DYER: "Certainly not. It was not my job. Hospitals were open and they could have gone there"

The Hunter Commission leniency towards Dyers acts paved the way for the Gandhi peace movement to gain momentum. The massacre ultimately became an important catalyst of the Indian Independence Movement.

Today....a beautiful park stands has been built to honor those who lost their lives...Jallianwala Bagh.....a visit to Amritsar would not be complete should you fail to make a visit to this very important site.
The Eternal Flame in the Park Honoring Those Who Lost Their Lives

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Do You Know What it Means to Miss ________"

Linda and Baby Claire

Parker and Baby Claire

My Sister, Baby Claire and my Mom

Baby Claire celebrating at her 1st Birthday Party

Go ahead…….fill in the blank……..wherever you are…….whomever you are… are bound to have something that you could fill in this blank with…..anything!
If you are an expatriate…….living in a different country……….the list may be much longer than you could imagine.

I think Dorothy summed it up best in her famous line spoken at the end of the movie…. “Wizard of Oz”……….”There’s no place like home”!

However, for an expat family…even the definition of “HOME” get’s blurred! Trust me……

Back to the title of this blog entry…………these eight words form the beginning of the title of a song written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter……the complete title….”Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans”…….catchy huh?

I chose it for the title of this blog entry for several reasons…….but the obvious reason is because….NEW ORLEANS is my home.

Home means family…….and other things……..but, family above everything else.

Is it appropriate to “round up”?

Is it breaking any rules by stating that I have not been home in a year, when actually, the plane landed 8 days short of one continuous year of having lived in India? Is a 2.19% variance acceptable? Close enough for me.

So….after having lived away for 1 year…… was great to see everyone…and even get the chance to meet the newest addition to our immediate family……Baby Claire…who was born in January of 2009…...just after we had arrived in India. Until this visit, I have only seen her in pictures or on Skype, neither of which could ever replace seeing her face in person.

For those of you who were expecting a boring list of items that might be found gracing the pages of a “whining expat” in some other part of the world……you will be disappointed. No boring list of items I miss from me!

Experienced expats "adapt" to their new environment....embrace the culture and accept that they will live like the "Romans live when in Rome". They also develop special skills at finding replacements/alternatives for those things that they miss the most......but there are some things that even the most experienced expat cannot!

Our leave back to the US gave me the opportunity to spend some much needed time with my family.......those I have been away from for for 357 days.......but whose counting. The visit recharged my batteries......and hopefully supplied me with enough power to make it until mid year....until Parker comes in the summer....and perhaps I can make it back to the US for another family "fix"!

The more I write......It has just dawned on me that in one way………my family are like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups………IRREPLACEABLE....……the only problem………….they don’t fit in suitcases! No temporary supply to hold me over until I see them again!

May the New Year bring you much joy and happiness......and special times spent with your family!

Standing: from L to R
Woody(My Brother), Me, Maw Maw(My Mom), Rebecca(Scott's Girlfriend), Scott(My Nephew), Wayne(My Brother-in-Law), Andy(My Nephew), Arlene(Wayne's Mom)
Kneeling: from L to R
Betty(My Sister), Linda, Preston, Jennifer & Baby Claire(My Niece & Great Niece), Katie(My Sister-in-Law),Parker(Our Oldest Son),Brent(Jennifer's Husband)

Missing - Nick(Nephew), Gretchen & Will(Niece and her husband)