Saturday, 7 March 2009

Trivandrum Shirts 'n' Coffee

This is a photo of a building in Trivandrum, designed by architect Laurie Baker. Apparently he's someone in architecture, awarded an MBE, with lots of accolades to his name but I'd never heard of him. Bet he'd be pleased to see the corrugated iron lean-to that's been attached to his work of art! I read about the building a few days ago and then happened to see it in the distance on my trip to Trivandrum today. Purely in the interests of academic research you understand, and not because I was desperate for a good coffee, I decided to pay it a visit. Inside, it's just like a giant Archimedes' screw, with the floor corkscrewing up from bottom to top. There are tables and bench seats attached regularly to the walls and the waiters stagger up and run down, serving light snacks, chai and, occasionally, sweet coffee. You can peer out of the slots in the walls at people below but the view is quite restricted. The blurb for the building says its design keeps the place naturally cool - so it's not the ceiling fans over each and every table then...

Today was a Trivandrum day. First thing though was a trip to the beach to take some photos of the Belgian TV crew who are here filming various aspects of Indian children's lives. They were persuaded by Jelle (the white Rasta Belgian surf dude) to film at SISP and the publicity will do us no harm. Although all the relevant players turned up the waves were too small for decent surf shots so maybe it will all be repeated tomorrow or the day after.

In Trivandrum I went to a clothes shop I'd been recommended - Parthas - but as soon as they saw me it was a case of out with all the expensive shirts. OK, Rs2,100 is only £30 in real money, but that's bloody expensive in Indian terms. Next was a cheaper shop but the same thing happened. To be honest, it puts me right off buying anything! But eventually I ended up in a shop so cheap that the most expensive shirts were the price I wanted to pay. After rejecting the vile, shiny, dry-clean-only ones, I found something half decent. When I eventually undid the thing I discovered that half the weight was cardboard and a quarter was pins! But no matter. It's one of those colours which either looks cool or it's hideous. I'm trying to persuade myself it's the former.

What else...? Well, I tried to buy some Palm Sugar for my mother but the price they wanted was higher than in the specialist shops in the UK, and I'm not convinced it was pukka Palm Sugar either (though a crystal of it tasted like fudge - nice!). There were three men serving in the "shop", all egging each other on with all the appearance of trying to sell me crap and rip me off. I gave that one up. Then I bought a good padlock from my favourite hardware shack. It's to replace the horrible cheap (but typical for India) padlock on the door of SISP's computer lab. That is small and circular, so difficult to hold in sweaty hands, and the hasp doesn't click into place - you have to hold it shut, against the internal spring, and try to turn the key with the other hand. Inevitably I fail and I curse it every single day. But no longer - it's bin-bound!

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