It’s been awhile – sorry. But I do have a doctor’s note.  More on that below.

Sad News

My grandmother, Grace Nolan, who I mentioned recently, passed away last week.  She was (almost) 92 and died in her home, with many of her children nearby.  She came a long way, from her home in Aranmore, Ireland to Salamanca, New York (with a few stops in-between).  Here’s a link to her obituary.   I wish she could’ve somehow met Farhana’s family here in India.  She and Farhana’s parents would’ve hit it off, I think.

The smell/taste of Cream of Wheat – with brown sugar and melting butter on top – always takes me back to her house on River Street in Salamanca.  And she’ll be forever associated in my mind with Elvis, because I was sitting in the kitchen in that house when the radio announcer broke in to say that The King had just passed.  I don’t think Grace was a huge fan or anything, but she was sad, nonetheless – and worried about “that poor girl” he left behind.

She spent most of her working life cooking and cleaning for the many priests who lived in the rectory house down the block (St. Patrick’s church, where my parents got married – and which is now closed – was a stone’s throw from her place).

So, unsurprisingly, she had three priests co-celebrating her funeral mass.  And bagpipes!  When I was a kid, one of the priests she worked for – Father Hogan – was my favorite.  He had a couple German Shepherds and he’d have them sit in chairs at the table and eat dinner with him – no kidding.  My grandmother was aghast, of course, but we kids loved it.  And though she’d tsk about it, she’d always laugh when she told us about his latest eccentricities.

I wish I could’ve been there for the funeral.  She will be missed.

Bad Back

Last week I started having some serious back pain.  It wasn’t completely new.  I’ve had similar pains before, including here in India, back in late-September/early-October (did I blog about it back then?  Can’t remember, and can’t check now, for reasons I’ll mention below).  And the doctor back then thought it was a bulging (spinal) disk, pressing up against a nerve.  It went away pretty quickly that time, though.  This time was different.  It started slow, but got worse and worse – none of the medicines from the last episode relieved the pain this time.  A few sleepless nights followed, and finally I went for an MRI.  Turns out the bulging disk diagnosis was correct.  I got some additional meds, and started physical therapy a few days ago.  Things are finally getting better – but slowly and incrementally.

Throughout the whole episode, I could stand and walk around without much trouble – in fact, walking seemed to help a bit.  But I couldn’t sit for any period of time, nor find a comfortable position lying down (thus the sleepless nights).  Unfortunately, I had to cancel a trip to Delhi that I was going on for Fulbright activities.  Luckily (sort of), I had already cancelled my classes for much of the week because I had that trip scheduled.  So I didn’t miss as much school as I otherwise might have.  But I was really looking forward to seeing Delhi, even though the trip was only for two days – much of it taken up with meetings.

Anyway, since typing on a computer is difficult if one cannot sit, blogging has been a bit light.  I’ve writing this post in 15-minute increments – and some of it lying down – which is still a great improvement from where I was a few days ago.  And, back to the topics of MRIs – I’m not claustrophobic at all, or at least I never thought so before, but that’s a tight fit!  For 30 minutes.  With machine gun/lightning/klaxon submarine alarm sounds going on the whole time.  It was one of the longest 1/2  hours of my life.

Not the actual machine I was in – I think mine was smaller!

Bad Internet

For the past few weeks, even when I have been able to get online it usually only lasts for a short time before the damn internet goes down.  At first I thought it was just my ancient (5 year old) MacBook acting up, but I did some experiments (my wife’s a scientist) and realized it was happening to every other device in the house as well.  It’s maddening because the signal strength stays high and everything says you’re connected – but nothing is accessible (note to self:  don’t forget to keep hitting “save draft” here).  My wife’s family tells me that this is not uncommon, and that sometimes it’s a result of competitors sabotaging each other’s equipment, to get people to change internet providers.  If we hadn’t paid for 6 months in advance, it might well have worked.

  Republic Day

On a more positive note, today was a national holiday in India called Republic Day.   The holiday is the anniversary of when India’s constitution went into effect in 1950.  That’s three years after India gained independence from Britain (Independence Day here is Aug. 15).  India’s constitution, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before, was written primarily by a man from the dalit caste  (i.e. untouchables – who are actually below the lowest caste, I think) named B. Ambedkar.

Anyway, there are huge parades in Delhi (India’s capital) and throughout the rest of the country.  We were watching on TV this morning and the Delhi parade was much like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, with incredibly detailed and imaginative floats (though without the massive balloon cartoon characters).

I didn’t spot anything like that in Pune, but there were lots of vendors out selling Indian flags and other knick-knacks with India’s colors (orange, green and white). Farhana and the kids got in the spirit:

The only orange I had was my Milton Alumni baseball cap, which I proudly wore (don’t tell anyone from Syracuse!).  I have some green, but it’s nothing at all like the green in the Indian flag.  I was lying (laying?) on my back most of the day, anyway, so not many people noticed.

Kelkar Museum

Right as my back attack was coming on, we were visiting a museum in Pune that some of my students had told me about, called the Kelkar Museum.  It was a private collection that got turned into a public one and contains artifacts from all over India.  Great stuff – I highly recommend it if you’re ever in Pune.  Here are some pics:

Zak doing his elephant pose

Remembering his “crib” days fondly



Eli loved the old, carved chess sets

Making a new friend

The card above goes with the quilt next to it.  If you look closely, you can see what remains of an American flag sewn into the center of the quilt (mostly the stars on blue background, with just a touch of the red stripes still attached).  Eli said “that looks like the American flag” which prompted me to look more closely at the card.  Sure enough…

Zak was tired on the way home and I got lucky and snapped this pic in the rickshaw mirror on the way home:

Until next time – which I hope won’t take so long.