Tag Archives: india

NEW PROJECT, MORE MONSOON

A mixed post today.  First on knitting, I’ve embarked on a quickie project – a pullover for Younger Daughter.  I’m starting with this commercial pattern, the Empire Waist Top Down Pullover, from Vermont Fiber Designs (#172):

pattern-1

But I’m making two changes.  The first is that I’m knitting it in Cascade Yarns UltraPima cotton DK.  The original is written for a wool or wool blend DK.  That means that the piece will be more massy and less elastic than the original designer’s intent.  The other is that I’m shortening the sleeves.  I’m moving the garter stitch band up somewhat, so that it aligns better with the band at the waist, and proceeding with the belled sleeves from there, so that the whole sleeve is closer to 3/4 length than back-of-knuckles length.

And here’s my initial progress on the back:

Red-pull-01

On the yarn – I like it.  It’s relatively painless for a multistrand cotton DK.  It isn’t splitty, and it’s a bit more forgiving in stitch irregularity appearance than is Cotton Classic, my go-to all-cotton DK.  It’s also shinier than the Cotton Classic. 

On the pattern – I note that the range of sizes it includes is superior, from extra small all the way up to 6X.  This does make for a confusing pattern presentation though.  I made a photocopy and have highlighted all of my chosen size notations.  Those who struggle with tiny type will probably want to photo-enlarge this one, too.  (To reassure copyright protection advocates, under Fair Use provisions I can do this provided I own the original, and either keep the resulting copy with my original, or destroy it after I’m finished.  I cannot give away, sell or otherwise share the copy). 

So far the pattern has presented no problems, although I would not call this a pattern for those who have not worked from an classic style one before. For example, you’ll need to know that a hypothetical direction that states something like “increase 0(2,4) stitches 0(3,1) times” means that for the smallest size, you’d increase nothing no times (in effect, skip this direction); for the middle size increase 2 stitches 3 times; for largest third size you need to increase 4 stitches 1 time.  The “increase 0” direction can cause distress.

I’ll keep posting progress here as I wade deeper into the project.

 

On the India Travelogue side of the house, I present more monsoon scenes and contrasts.  First, It’s been pretty uniformly cloudy here over the past month, with only one morning showing a breakthrough sun. But there have been many afternoons of spectacular cloudscapes.  This is a view over my shoulder:

monsoon-3

And here’s the promised view of the hills near Younger Daughter’s school, near Manas Lake in the Bhukum area on Pune’s outskirts:

monsoon-2 India-Jan2013 073

Contrast this lush verdure with a dusty shot of the same area taken this past January.  And January isn’t even the depths of the dry season.  The driest time is May and the beginning of June, just before the rains arrive in mid-June. 

LINES, EDGES, AND BELLS

I am back from over a week of waiting on lines at the government visa office to renew our residence paperwork.  Let’s just say I’m relieved not to be up close and personal with the bureaucracy today. Sadly, I was unable to take my knitting with me to civilize all those hours.  It would have helped.

Here’s my latest progress on the big blanket knit from Marble.  The current state is on the left, the previous attempt is on the right. 

Marble-07  marble-04

You can see that true to my word, I’ve narrowed down the edge treatment.  I’ve also eliminated the mitered corners in another bid to conserve yarn.  Instead I just ran the I-cord along the edge of the corner unit diamond.  Much faster and simpler that the previous treatment using short rows.  In order to prevent cupping, I did do a couple of rounds of I-Cord “free” at each corner point of the diamond, to provide extra ease.  I’m at roughly the same point in yarn consumption as my earlier attempt (seen on right, above), but you can see that I’m further along the march around the piece.  Fingers are crossed, but with what I’ve got left, I think I’ll be able to finish.  I do prefer the older treatment though, and if more yarn was available, I’d have continued with it.  Those extra four stitches between the fill-in diamonds and the I-Cord, plus the thicker I-Cord and mitered corner made a smoother, more uniform presentation, and “absorbed” some of the natural rippling that happens when the fill-ins are made.  So it goes…

Monsoon continues here, with heavy rain days interspersed with misty, overcast days.  The humidity is through the roof.  I’m experiencing a bit of climatic dissonance.  We do get long periods of grey, dank skies in New England, but they are in the dead of winter, usually when temperatures are down in the low teens or below (that’s -10ºC and under for you Celsius folk), accompanied by intermittent snow.  To have this many dark but warm days in a row is new to me. 

In spite of the greyness, the omnipresent mud and the acne-like spread of potholes in the imperfectly footed brick surface streets, I’ve mentioned the up-side of the monsoon before.  Everything is quite lush, and the city is transformed.  Even the dusty, trash-strewn vacant lots in town are covered in deep growth, with occasional splashes of wildflowers.  This weekend past we went to a patio restaurant, where we dined under a large open air tent.  There was a large tree just outside the tent, hung with dozens of child-size umbrellas and spans of tiny bells.  Rain fell throughout dinner, making music as the drops hit leaves, umbrellas and the bells.

Today we travel out into the surrounding hills where Younger Daughter’s school is.  Because we went back to the US before her last semester ended, she had special dispensation to take her 9th grade finals all this week, before school resumes at the beginning of August.  I’m looking forward to seeing what effect the rains have had on the countryside and hope to take pix to share.  And in addition to my camera, I can bring my knitting!

WORLD IN AN ONION

So, I’ve been back in the US now for roughly four weeks, with several more to go before returning to India for a year.  I’m seeing things differently, with the new perspective afforded by the five month stay just completed.

Take the humble onion.  Onions are everywhere, and just about every really tasty recipe in just about every food tradition starts out with “take an onion…”

Onions in Pune are small and red-skinned, with white flesh. If you find one the size of a billiard ball, you’ve found a giant. They’re neither as sharp nor as sweet as selected varieties here. But they’re very tasty.  And it doesn’t matter where you shop for onions.  The same variety is available everywhere, from the most exclusive supermarkets catering to the well-heeled elite, to the smallest street vendor’s basket.  I’ve also seen the same variety, picked when the bulbs are barely there (but larger than scallions here), and sold as spring onions. Now to be fair, there may be more available after monsoon season, and what I saw may be just the tail end of the agricultural year.

In contrast, I counted the variety of onions available in our local supermarket here in Arlington, Massachusetts.  It’s a plain old supermarket in a standard suburban area, and not a fancy gourmet store.  There are plain yellow keeper onions, big white Spanish onions, huge red sweet onions, Vidalias, tiny white boiling onions, the small, ovoid yellow Cipollinis, Bermuda onions, ordinary white onions, scallions/spring onions, shallots, and leeks.  Plus several of these varieties are also available as “organically grown.”  Counting the organics, that’s about 15 separate and distinct onion types, for sale side by side.

One or two of these might be considered local.  The Pine Island area of New York near Hudson Valley is still considered a major onion growing area, but by and large – this embarrassment of onion riches is trucked here from all over the country, and some of it is even imported from Mexico, or even flown in from South America or Europe.  That means there’s a huge perishable-goods transport and storage network, enabled by cheap shipping, and established distribution channels.

India is evolving very rapidly, but it still has a long way to go before it can match the infrastructure required to support this variety.  Produce there is local.  Intercity roads and trains exist, but what’s there isn’t sufficient for major distance transport of perishables.  Even the sturdy onion.

For example, Mumbai and Pune are major cities, about 95 miles apart – about six miles closer together than Boston and Hartford, CT.  Googlemaps shows the travel time between Boston and Hartford as being about 1 hour, 45 min.  Having done this trek many times, I know it’s 4-6 lane interstate highways all the way, and (unless it’s rush hour) most folk exceed the mostly 65mph speed limit where they can.

The road from Pune to Mumbai is well traveled, and is considered a major toll highway.  It’s 2-4 lanes throughout, with some interchange areas a bit wider, and for India is pretty uniformly paved.  It twists and winds a good bit, ascending up steep hills, and goes through several rock-cut tunnels.  However, traffic moves extremely slowly, even on this best-of-roads. Traffic moves slowly, winding around lumbering trucks, three-wheeled goods transporters (Tempos), and a sea of two-wheeled vehicles.  On parts there are even local three wheeled taxis and animal carts, although other parts of the highway are restricted. Googlemaps says that it should take about 2 hours and 25 minutes.  However cars even in uncrowded times would be lucky to 80kph (about 50mph), tops, and that only on the few straight sections with good visibility, if no slowly lumbering trucks are around.  The trip rarely takes less than three hours, and often significantly longer, with mammoth multi-mile traffic jams of the type seen in the US mostly on holiday weekends being the daily norm.

Now, if travel on this best of highways is “twice as far” in terms of travel time compared to US roads, you can begin to see the logistics challenge.  Add to that the high cost of fuel, the lack of refrigerated trucks, the average size of a farm’s plot being something smaller than a third of a football field, lack of distribution centers, and the challenges really pile up.  For a supermarket just to obtain onions in a quantity sufficient for its sales, it would have to deal with a middleman who collected produce from several smallhold farmers.  Then the goods would have to make their way over land to the city.  Slowly.  So it’s no wonder that eating in India is a localvore’s experience, that produce is only available in season, and that varieties are limited.

I’m sure that there are other cross-cultural lessons to be learned by peeling back the layers of this onion – land ownership and transfer, relationships between agricultural and urban areas, the economics of small vs. large scale farming, how limited transportation on the part of consumers shapes retail buying, and the like.  But for now, I look at the wealth of onions and marvel at the profligacy and indulgence, and have a First-World Guilt moment as I mince my way through some while cooking dinner.

THERE (BUT NOT BACK AGAIN ANY TIME SOON)

We’ve made it to Pune! 

The flight didn’t set any high bars for comfort or food – in fact the tastiest item served on both Virgin Atlantic flights was called GU. 

GU

It was a prepackaged chocolate/banana pudding thing, the only edible object on the tray.  In general, Lufthansa should rejoice.  Amenities were so poor on Virgin that the German carrier has been promoted out of my basement ranking for long haul fights.

But you aren’t reading this for airplane food rants.  Not only are we here, but after two days of aggressive power napping interspersed with cleaning and unpacking, we’ve managed to achieve relative sentience and order.  Proof of the unpacking:

boxes

Proof of relative sentience and a virtual apartment tour, not necessarily in that order.  First, the kitchen, with the soon to be infamous Pigeon Porch at the right.

kitchen

The living room, with legacy non-working TV left by the landlord:

living

A couple of offspring-infested bedrooms:

Mroom

Younger daughter is already entertaining herself with the paint set she brought with her.

aroom

Elder daughter, doing what comes naturally.  Note my knitting and stitching stash bin in the foreground, and yet another landlord abandoned dead TV in the background. Our bedroom is the same, a bed, a wardrobe wall that includes both hanging space and shelves behind wood and mirrored doors, and a king size bed.  No student desk in ours, though.

The Resident Male needs to do a lot of work after hours, synching up with colleagues on US time, so we’ve turned the fourth bedroom into an office:

office

The office is off the entry vestibule, on the far side of the living room, so he can do phone meetings without disturbing the rest of us.  I’ll spare you the pix of the dining room, in which I sit and type this; maid’s room, turned laundry room, with its curiously mobile washing machine and drying racks; and of all of the bathrooms.  Every bedroom comes equipped with its own, with a separate one off the laundry room.

And finally – the view off the balconies:

view

There’s no road behind the building – just a strip of shrubby ground between us and the Indian Army’s athletic training facility.  Most mornings there are groups of cadets out there doing dawn calisthenics.  On a couple of mornings they’ve had loudspeaker music accompaniment.  Other mornings a full military marching band has rehearsed, complete with bagpipes.  I haven’t seen them yet, although we can definitely hear them.  I suspect they are training on the field on the other side of the grandstand.

So there you have our post-settlement tour.  We’re here, finally (mostly) adjusted to local time, feeling out local resources and schedules, and starting to branch out on adventures.  More on those to come!

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