Wednesday, January 20, 2010


That's a word, in India. "Updations." They figure, if you can locate something in a location, why can't you update something with an updation? It is, in fact, grammatically correct.

It's the same logic that produced "pre-pone." If you can postpone something by moving it farther away in time, why not prepone something by making it more near? (That sentence, in fact, may not be grammatically correct.)

All of which raises the question: "What the hell is a 'Pone,' anyway?"

Anyway, this week's updation is of my Cool People Link Here links. I have dropped some that exist no more, and added a few new ones.

The photo has nothing to do with any of this. It's a man with his bicycle, crossing the vast dry Niranjana riverbed in Bihar, India.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pongal O Pongal!

(The following column originally appeared January, 2008.)

Today is PONGAL, and I am not in Tamil Nadu! Not even close, not even in South India! Where can I possibly eat sweet pongal or ghee pongal? Guess I will have to experiment with recipes at home.

'Thai Pongal', as it is popularly called in Tamil Nadu, is a thanksgiving ceremony celebrated by Tamil farmers to thank the spirits of nature, the sun and farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest all through the year.
The festival is spread over four days, from the last day of 'Margazhi' to the third day of following month 'Thai' as 'Bhogi', 'Thai Pongal', 'Mattu Pongal' and 'Kannum Pongal'.
"We may have settled here, but we haven't forgotten our traditions. Almost all Tamils in Delhi celebrate Pongal the same way it is celebrated in Tamil Nadu," Natesan, secretary of Tamil Youth Cultural Association, told.
It's also Makar Sankranti, which involves the movement of the sun through the Jyotish (Vedic) zodiac, and the approach of spring. I believe the sun is entering the sign of Capricorn (the Jyotish or Indian zodiac calculates differently from the Western one).

The best Makar Sankranti ever was at the Kalachakra initiation in 2006. The whole town of Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh was alive with Tibetan and Buddhist festivity anyway, and then added to
that was the Makar Sankranti observance (dressed-up cows and bullocks, street musicians, and special, extra- elaborate kollam designs in front of doorways). Here's the best picture I got that's one of my best "India" photos ever.

Pongal is not just one day, but several, including my favourite, Mattu Pongal or the day to honour
cows and bullocks. In the Madurai area of Tamil Nadu, this has traditionally included a kind of bullfight or bull-run called Jallikettu. In 2008 the whole area was up in arms (declaring a "black Pongal") because the Supreme Court has banned the practice, declaring it inhumane and cruel.

I have a suggestion - they should do what Nepalis do at Gai Jatra, and instead of using real cows, dress up humans as cows. Then they could see how much fun it is to be chased, poked , stabbed and have their tails pulled. It's quite amusing to see all the Madurai Hindus defend their "400 year old tradition" - what about the much older Hindu tradition (about 4000 years old) of honouring the cows?

Related reading: 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You must be in America when...

1. You have a table you can't set anything on, a floor that can't get dirty, a yard you can't sit in, and shoes you can't walk in.

2. You buy fake snow to spray on your windows, then complain when it actually snows a couple inches.

3. Even the yogurt is not vegetarian.

4. Your passport is useless, but your entire life hinges around your Driver's License.

5. People offer to "give you a ride to your car."

6. Small is Medium, Medium is Large, and Large is Jumbo.

...more to come....

Monday, January 11, 2010

Meanwhile, back in the Valley

Look what fun I'm missing back in Kathmandu!

This just came in email from the US Embassy of Nepal.

January 10, 2010

Important Security Announcement for American Citizens in Nepal

The Regional Security Office of the U.S. Embassy has informed that
National People's Front demonstrators have formed in key intersections
throughout Kathmandu valley. This morning in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur
cities, protesters set several vehicles on fire. American citizens are
advised against movement via any wheeled vehicles and to monitor the
situation closely on local media outlets. If you must walk somewhere,
please be cognizant of your surroundings and avoid large crowds.

"Wheeled vehicles" -- as opposed to those with four hooves, or something?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Don't call it a comeback

Yes, I've been gone four months. Various family situations made it necessary for me to first leave Nepal and go to Delhi, then leave Delhi and go to Tennessee. It may not be a valid excuse, but it will just have to do for now.

It was my first Christmas and New Year in the United States in seven entire years.

In the meantime, I am trying to figure out how to encode my photos so no one can steal them right off the site anymore. Any clues from code-savvy friends are most appreciated.