Two New Yorkers spend six months 18 months!?! in Bangalore and other places in India.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Hurrah! I'm back.

Bangalore is the same. Well, there are a few changes. Some major roads now have designated autorickshaw lanes, and for the most part, the rickshaws are staying in them. Even more astonishing and wonderful is that a pedestrian crossing signal has been installed on Cunningham Road in front of the Sigma Mall, making my life a whole heck of a lot easier. Not so great is that the Food Bazaar has stopped carrying Coca-Cola products and has joined the evil Pepsi empire. So my grocery business is going to the scruffier but Coke-carrying Food World.

Oh, and the city's name is changing. As of November 1, Bangalore will be rechristened Bengaluru, which is the Kannada version of the name. This follows the trend started back in '95 when Bombay went local with Mumbai. Calcutta officially opted for Kolkata in 2001. Somewhere along the way Madras became Chennai. Now several cities in our state of Karnataka are jumping on the bandwagon next week, which will coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the state.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


So I think I saw a pamphlet or brochure for SeventyMM back when I was in Bangalore, but I didn't really follow-up on it. A recent post on the blog Hacking Netflix jogged my memory.

SeventyMM is a company modeled on Netflix. You subscribe for a monthly fee, and then create an online list of movies you'd like to see. The movies are delivered, two at a time, by hand. When you're done with those two, the DVD-wallah comes back for those and gives you the next two on your list that they have on hand. You can keep the movies as long as you want -- there's no late fee.

The biggest difference from Netflix, of course, is the hand delivery. In the States, all the movies come via post, one at a time. Delivery by hand means that the company is going to be limited only to urban areas -- the company is now up and running in Delhi and Bangalore.

Also, since a lot more people in India can watch VCDs than can watch DVDs, most of the movies come in the VCD format. [This might also have something to do with the problem of getting the right region code on the DVDs -- not sure about that.]

And finally, and very handily, you can SMS SeventyMM to arrange a pickup. You can't do any SMSing of Netflix and expect anything to happen.

There's a hokey registration fee of 499 inr, and a deposit (for what?) of 999 inr. After that, you pay 549 inr per month for as many groups of two movies that you can watch that month. Most VCDs in the store were at least 200 inr or so, I believe, so the pricing seems pretty reasonable to me, at least for people who are buying VCDs already. I didn't see any places to rent DVDs or VCDs in Bangalore, so there probably isn't much competition. There's also a scheme by which you can get other people to sign up and then have your monthly fee reduced.

Has anyone tried SeventyMM and had a good time with it? I think we'd like to sign up, so if anyone wants to "refer" us and get a little bit off their monthly fee, email us at bangaloremonkey @

When Do I Get to Go?

It's been a weird couple weeks. Don's been finishing up at the office, and I've been cleaning up stuff around the house and running errands in between doing some freelance work. There have been several hiccups with getting our apartment sublet and ready for our absence. As a result, I'm not quite sure when I'll be heading off to India. Don flies out this Friday, and I hope I don't have wait too long to follow him.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Back to Bangalore

We've been holding out a bit on you, but the truth is we're heading back to India -- for six more months. Don will be working at the same publisher he worked at before, and we're mainly be in Bangalore again, with some stays in Delhi and Chennai and as much other travel as we can fit in.

Naturally, another trip back to India first meant another trip to the consulate. Don paid his call about a month ago, but I just went last Friday. Because the visa "clock" starts ticking the day you get the thing, and because it seemed likely that I'd get another six-month journalist one, I needed to wait until just about the last minute.

Figuring that I had nothing to lose, this time I applied for the 10-year tourist visa. And to my surprise I got it. When I applied back in January, I was working as a travel-book editor -- enough to tag me a "journalist" in the eyes of the consulate. This time, it was easier to be correctly seen a tourist instead. I'm very glad that I won't have to leave before six months, and I'm also glad that I won't have to apply for another visa for quite a while.

By the way, anyone who might have their own visa issues should first check out the India Mike roundup.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Magic Mango Splitting

Mango SplitterIt took an old Cook's Illustrated magazine to alert me to the fact that the world now has such a thing in it as a "mango splitter." Made by the Oxo company, which makes an excellent vegetable peeler, among many other things, the Splitter does what it claims, according to Cook's Illustrated. In a flash, your mango is sliced up into pieces, with the slippery seed all on its own.

All the same, I'm still not convinced enough to plunk down my $12. Isn't a big part of the fun of eating an Indian mango watching it slide halfway down your face and all over your arms? True, it can be hard on your clothes, what with the staining and all, but surely that's a small price to pay, although maybe a bit more than $12.

NPR thought enough of the thing to cover it last year (I can't make the audio or video play, but you might be luckier).

And here's a video of the splitter in action. As you might notice, the mango is pretty firm -- I think that ones in the Americas tend to be a lot less soft than those in Asia.