The Sheep and the Goats – an Indian goatherder

The village goatherder

Sheep and goats are a valuable commodity in Tamil Nadu, and it is no exception for the villagers around Lakeside.

The animals follow their owner without the need of a sheepdog to keep them under control, and they spend the day moving from one patch of grazing to another.  Favourite grazing is the fresh sweet grass at the edge of the lake as the waters recede during the hot season.  Some of the roads in the area can become a little overgrown during the year but the sheep and goats act as natural pruners when the lake is full and they can’t get down to the shore!

Children often help their parents with the animals at weekends and during the school holidays.  It is not so long ago that children like this would not have been able to afford to go to school, but now that education is free there is a chance for all to make a better life for themselves.  You can see from his expression however, that it is still fun to be out in the countryside with the animals!

The Fickle Frangipani

I love the gardens at Lakeside (we have 4.5 acres of landscaped gardens and 3 acres left wild for the local fauna). One of my favourite plants in the gardens is the frangipani tree.

Although a native species of the Americas tha frangipani has been transported all aorund the world and now grows in most tropical countries, including India.  It has a wonderful scent which is strongest at night to attract moths – but as they have no nectar the poor  moths just flit from flower to flower, pollinating the frangipani but getting nothing in return!

Indian incense with frangipani scent in it has ‘champa’ as part of its name ( for example Nag Champa).  There is a story in Hindu mythology which says that the frangipani is as beautiful as Radhika who is the wife of Lord Krishna; honey-bees are the servants of Lord Krishna and so they don’t sit on the frangipani out of respect for her.  I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve never seen a honey-bee on a frangipani!

A taste of the past – traditional coracle fishing in India

The pumping stationLakeside is situated literally on the side of Kamarajar Lake in Tamil Nadu, South India. It is a man-made lake which provides drinking water for the local town of Dindigul. It is (supposedly) treated on arrival, and we certainly hope so as we often see locals washing their clothes (and themselves!) in the water, as well as the water buffalo taking a swim!

One man pays a very large amount of money each year for the fishing rights to the lake. He is responsible for keeping it stocked with fish and employing the local fishermen. There are two types of fish in the lake which are good for eating, one

Lake fish

rather larger than the other (I have seen fish of 7kg+ and that is not a fisherman’s tale!) Both kinds of fish taste very good but seem to be full of tiny bones so we only eat them when we are on our own, when we have guests we buy sea fish which are brought up overnight from Tuticorin (on the east coast of Tamil Nadu) in refrigerated containers.

Coracle

The method of fishing is traditional and probably hasn’t changed in centuries. The fishermen use coracles (some from woven beanches then waterproofed, others are sadly now made of fibreglass). They go out in the evening and lay long nets across the lake. In the morning they are out

A good catch!

again pulling them in. The fish are then landed at the pumping station on the dam (where the boats are also moored when not in use). In the summer, when the level of the lake has dropped, they often wade out with the nets during the day and then haul them in from the shore – in the same way that is often seen in Africa.

The fish are carried up the steep slope of the dam, weighed and sent by lorry to local markets. Some of the smaller fish are sent to Kerala where I believe they are made into a fish sauce. Locals can buy fish at the dam, but it there is always an official sent by the man with the rights to make sure that everything is properly recorded in his books!

The one that didn't get away!

                This official also makes sure that none of the local people try to take fish from the lake.  In monsoon season though, when the lake is overflowing, they are allowed to take any fish that are swept over the overspill.  As David Attenborough would say ‘this is a seasonal event which they seem to be able to predict, the strongest get the best fishing stations and take their fill before the weaker move in to take the rest’.  (I saw that on a programme he narrated about grizzly bears and the scenes of jostling Indians vying for fish are amazingly similar!)

Coracle and fishing nets by the pumping station

South India Tour with a difference

Hi, I’m back!! It’s been a busy week which meant I couldn’t really find the time for a decent post.

Why so busy? Well, we own a company in the UK called South India Tours. We currently have a group of 10 travelling on a 21 day holiday with us, and they have just spent 6 nights at Lakeside. They are a great bunch of people who were combining a holiday in South India with a visit to some charity projects which they support.  The charity was started by the previous owner of Lakeside in the 1960’s and has educated thousand of children who would otherwise have had no hope of a decent future.

Our manager, Kennedy, has gone offf with them on the final leg of their holiday so now I only have a few guests and can find the time to get back online!  Took a lovely walk this morning to enjoy the warm spring weather – and the great views around here.

Kamarajar Dam

Versatile Blogger Award – Thank you!

I’ve only been blogging for a short time so I am utterly thrilled to have been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. It is quite humbling to know that your thoughts/pictures are appreciated by others. Thank you dml Books for the nomination. I must admit – I like your work too!

In my short blogging life I have seen some incredibly photos and read some thoughtful and thought provoking posts. Thanks to everyone who has opened my mind to this new dimension of sharing with people around the world. It is highly unlikely that I will ever get to meet most of you in the flesh, but I will be able to consider you all as new ‘friends of the ether’. Please do send me a message if there is something about life in India that you would like me to write about and I will try to oblige!

So, to live up to the terms of the Versatile Blogger Award here goes: Seven things about myself

1. I trained as a teacher of religion and history and spent most of my working life teaching secondary school kids in England until I moved to India in 2008

2. I’ve lived in India for three years and still can’t get over the depth of spirituality which seems to permeate this country

3. But…living in India I miss the opportunity of live theatre which I loved in England

4. I have very eclectic tastes in music. Right now I’m listening to the sound track of ‘Band of Brothers’ and loving it

5. I love singing and have been part of a number of great choirs since my early teens

6. The one sport I’m passionate about is fencing – chess with exercise!

7. I love taking photos and would class myself as a ‘quite good amateur’!

Some of the blogs I’ve enjoyed recently are also worthy of this award so I would like to nominate the following:

1. doudoubirds

2. photobotos

3. gerryfrederickdigital

4. maryannepale

5. googsy

6. chris campell photography

7. aisling jennings photography

8. slaven photography

9. painted stork

10. ian whittaker

11. breathe, dream, go

12. Project 365 by Kenneth Todd

13. wild ventures

14. where do you want to go birding

15. trip base India blog

Watching me watching you! – Indian Chameleon

We are very busy at Lakeside

 at the moment so just a short post today!

I thought you might lilke to see this Common Indian Chameleon. He sometimes sits on the wall outside my office and watches me while I work!

Drunk drivers are safer than those who have not taken a drink.

If you have ever experienced or even heard about the standard of driving in India this might help to explain it. We were told this by an Indian visitor to Lakeside. To put you in the picture, the road from Kodaikanal comes down a mountain; it is steep and winding with hairpin bends and poor visibility in places – a bit like some of the roads in the Alps.

Visitor – I went up to Kodaikanal for lunch and had a couple of beers and a couple of brandies before driving back down.

Us – Wasn’t that dangerous?

Visitor – No. When you’ve had a few drinks but are not drunk you know that it will affect you so you concentrate very hard on the road and drive a little slower. If you haven’t been drinking you know you can drive well so you go faster and don’t pay so much attention.

That just about says it all!

Indian village wedding

The ceremony took place at a very small temple just a few yards from the brides home.  The building was so small that the wedding took place outside.  It all began with the gifts to the gods being blessed during puja (worship).  Coconuts and bananas feature heavily in the ceremony.  The priest rings a bell and carries a flame to signify the presence of the gods while the couple exchange beautiful garlands of flowers.

The father of the bride placing a tilaka on her forehead.Everyone present places a tilaka, a mark of ‘good luck’ on the foreheads of the couple.  This represents the ‘third eye’ or minds eye’ which is associated with the gods and is a sign of meditation and spirituality.  A photo is taken of each one – and no-one smiles except us westerners!

 

The bowl on the right contains coloured rice which is thrown over the couple – a sign of luck and fertility – and all share in the items blessed during puja.

 

This old man is the village drummer who was beating his drum throughout the ceremony.  A village wedding is a noisy affair with loud music and with everyone telling the bride and groom where to stand and what to do.  It is difficult to equate this noise and movement with the weddings we are used to in the west; there doesn’t appear to be any reverence but that is the same with much Hindu worship.  This is just a difference of custom however, there is a deep spirituality which runs through life in Tamil Nadu and respect for the gods is not lost just because there is movement and noise, after all a wedding is supposed to be a joyous occasion and so  there is a great deal of excitement and happiness!

The bride and groom process through the village behind the drummer with all their friends and family following behind.

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance to the ‘marriage hall’ where the reception takes place is always flanked by banana trees with great bunches of bananas hanging below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Once inside the bride and groom receive their wedding gifts.  Some are actual gifts but the majority of the guests give money which is recorded in a little book.

Then on to the reception.  This is the same for most weddings with people sitting at long trestle tables.  They don’t all eat at the same time, as soon as they have eaten they get up and someone else takes their place.  The only difference between weddings of the rich and poor is quality of the venue and food.

Here the meal is a very simple one consisting of idli (a steamed rice cake), rice and samba (a sort of vegetable stew) with payasam (a sort of sweet rice pudding).  All of the food is served on the banana leaf at the same time by the catering staff who are constantly moving round serving, clearing and setting new places.

 

 

It is still the custom for the family to give the bride a lot of gold on her wedding day, and weddings are as extravagant as they can afford (usually more than they can afford).  This was a relatively inexpensive wedding but with the gold given and the food for the reception it still cost about the equivalent of around 16 years wages for the father.  For someone in the UK on a minimum wage that would be roughly equivalent to a wedding costing over £177,000.  And if the family have more than one daughter then they have to spend the same on them all.  This is not a problem for the rich, but poverty is still a huge problem in India with the poor having to get into debt in order to do the right thing for their daughter.  I believe that there is little hope of many of the poorest of the poor ever improving their lives until this custom changes.

P.S. Please excuse the standard of the photos, they are really just ‘snaps’ as I didn’t want people to feel that I was treating the wedding like a ‘tourist photo opportunity’!