Chennai Journal
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Happy Holidays

The first night of Hanukkah and Christmas fall on exactly the same day this year, which hasn't happened since 1959. We lit the first night candles tonight--and also attended the Madras Club Christmas celebration, which was largely a Hindu affair. There was meat, though, which Marty enjoyed.

I'm posting a couple more pictures of the elephants of Sri Lanka---the one on the right is the herd heading to the river for their morning bath, and the one below is my favorite of the ones I took.

Have a happy and peaceful holiday!

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Sri Lanka

Marty and I spent the weekend in Sri Lanka, which is only about an hour's plane ride from Chennai. (It surprised me to learn that it has been almost 35 years since the name changed from Ceylon.) Sri Lanka was badly hit by the tsunami a year ago, but as our stay was limited to Colombo and an inland trip to the hill spot of Kandy, we didn't visit any of those areas. Although the road to Kandy was every bit as chaotic as what we experience in Chennai, Colombo was considerably more urbane, with modern electricity, sidewalks, and much less honking. Plus the motorcyclists wore helmets, which few of them here do.

On the way to Kandy, we stopped at the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, where abandoned and orphaned elephants are cared for and many returned into the wild. There was one poor guy who had lost one of his back feet stepping into a land mine, several who had had their tusks stolen, and one who was old and blind. We got there in time for the baby feeding, and at 10:00 a.m. the elephants are herded down to the river for bathing. You can see me next to a young fellow ---the little ones are not at all shy--and the keepers helping with the bathing in the river below.

A steady downpour kept us from exploring the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy where (supposedly) a tooth of Lord Buddha, snatched in the nick of time from his funeral pyre, is encased. The rain and clouds had Kandy completely socked in, so we also weren't able to see much of the scenery---according to the guidebooks it is quite beautiful. But the rain did let up long enough to permit a short stop at the Royal Botanical Gardens, which feature a gigantic fig tree, lush flower gardens, and beautiful tree-lined boulevards.

Besides the weather, the other downer in our stay was the hotel in Colombo---the Galle Face, which other than its views of the ocean and the park at the left, has little to recommend it. Built in 1864, it was obviously once a grand old colonial place---kings and queens and even Gregory Peck all stayed there. But it has obviously been resting on its laurels for at least 15 years---frayed carpeting, leaky plumbing, and very tired furniture. The air conditioning in our room had no controls, and we had to practically beg for an extra blanket. The worst insult was this morning when we were having breakfast on the veranda and both of us got up to refill at the buffet---only to have a flock of crows land on our table looking for leftovers! If ever you make it to Colombo, try another place.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Dad's 88th Birthday

On Wednesday Dad turned 88. We had a nice dinner at home and Leela and Ganesh gave him cards. Here he is reading a birthday message from my cousin Millie.

Marty and I are going to Colombo, Sri Lanka for the weekend, so I'll write a longer post when we return.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Marty Joins the Rotary and Let's Get Giddy

It's official---Marty was accepted by the Rotary of Madras, which is the largest and most active Rotary club in the city. This process took several months, unlike the States where service clubs take in new members without a lot of protocol or fanfare. Marty's installation was on Tuesday and it was a quite a formal affair--he had to wear a suit. He also had a special orientation the previous Thursday.

On Wednesday the Rotary International Governor from Chicago was in town and there were dedications of two projects: one that was a combined effort of several Rotary clubs and the other the work of Rotary of Madras, which is rebuilding one of the tsunami-affected villages along the East Coast Road. One of the photos above shows the fishing boats that the Rotary donated to replace those lost in the tsunami. However, they are doing much more than this---building homes, a school, hospital, and cold storage facility so that the fishermen don't lose so much profit to the middlemen. They are also providing scholarships and trade programs for village children. Marty attended the dedication ceremony and was deeply moved by the gratitude of the people, showing how big a difference can be made when people not only care but take action.

On a lighter note, the other thing I have been meaning to show is the Giddiness Research Centre, which is located on the road into the central city. The Centre is run by my thyroid doctor and her husband, and it gives me a chuckle everytime we go past. Recently I finally remembered to take my camera AND to have Antony slow down so I could get this shot:

Sunday, December 04, 2005

It seems like a lot of my posts lately have been about rain, but unfortunately we aren't done with it yet in Chennai. Yet another tropical depression formed over the Bay of Bengal, the leftovers of a cyclone that had started near Singapore. A number of low lying areas in the city are flooded (this picture was taken yesterday on the way into the central city) and as of today the bridge that I take to work over the Adyar River is closed---the water only has a few inches clearance under the bottom of the bridge. Half of the track at the Madras Club is under water. On the other side of the river, thousands of people have been evacuated. It is a combination of poor planning---the water has nowhere to go and seems to pour OUT of drains instead of into them---and extraordinarily heavy rains for this time of year. The only good news is that fewer trees seem to have fallen than in October. (for more pictures of the flooding see www.princeroy.org)

In more positive news, below is a picture of our new vehicle, the Fiesta. It is getting great reviews and we have signed on a famous Bollywood actor, Abhishek Bachchan, as the brand ambassador. (He is an Elvis sort, a real hearthrob). Below you can see me inspecting a test vehicle under a management drive program that is part of the certification to release vehicles to the dealerships. The car has fantastic drive qualities, is very quiet, luxurious interior, great sound system, and just purrs. We should do very well with it here.

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