Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Diwali!

Yesterday was India's biggest Hindu holiday - Diwali!

As with all Hindu holidays, it seems, the backstory of Diwali depends on who you ask. In general, Diwali is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Also it has to do with the goddess of wealth, maybe. And it's also the new year, but only to certain people in certain parts of India. Oh Hinduism, you're so confusing to me.

In terms of scale, fervor and celebratory style, Diwali is to India what Christmas is to the U.S. People deck their houses with fairy lights (read: Christmas lights), stores bustle with shoppers buying gifts for family and friends, there are parties every night, and there's a big emphasis on sharing of dessert foods. Also like Christmas, it's very much a family holiday, celebrated in the home. Or on the street in front of the home, as it were...

Diwali being the festival of lights, and India being a country of relatively few safety regulations, the holiday is celebrated in part by lighting firecrackers. Gigantic, loud, terrifying firecrackers. I'm talking about massive fireworks worthy of 4th of July in DC, being shot off in front of every house. For the last several nights, it has sounded like a war zone in my neighborhood. What it does to the air quality is horrendous, but the fireworks really are quite beautiful.

My celebrations were pretty low key. I spent the day with the Ks, then in the evening went to a friend's apartment in a very tall building, where we had an amazing view of the fireworks being set off all across the city. When I got home, my roommate and I sat out on our balcony and lit the candles our neighbor had given us (along with a bottle of wine!) as a Diwali gift. It was a lovely way to spend my first Diwali in India.

Apartments decked out in Diwali lights.

Candles on my porch.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Khanna (खाना)

Translation: food

At the office, we all eat lunch together at a big table in the conference room. Everyone brings his or her lunch (actually, we leave it in the kitchen and the 'office boy' sets it out, but that's a story for another day...) and passes it around for sharing.

I've stopped sending mine around. There's just no point. No one is willing to try non-Indian food (too bland, no spices, blah blah) and my Indian food isn't up to my coworkers' standards. I simply can't match the talent of the lifelong cooks each of them has working in their houses (no joke).

Back when I did send my food around, unsolicited critiques flowed freely. Some gems include:

"You didn't cook the mustard seeds long enough."

"What, you didn't put any salt in?"

And my all-time favorite..."You like this?"

So I stopped sharing. I think we were all grateful for that.

Considering these past experiences, I was a little stressed coming up with something to bring to yesterday's holiday (more on that tomorrow) potluck party. I clearly couldn't go Indian, but non-Indian wouldn't have gone over well, either. In the end, I found a compromise, using ingredients common to Indian cooking but in a non-Indian dish. I whipped up a fantastic homemade salsa.

I figured chips and salsa would be a safe bet - tomatoes, onions, cilantro, chilis and lime are in half of the things my coworkers eat anyway. I added extra onion, salt, and chili peppers to adapt it even more to their tastes. And yet, despite my cheerful, constant prompting, no one would eat the damn chips with the salsa. Everyone took the chips, but the few who took the salsa ate it as salad. As usual, the salsa was the only thing left of people's plates.

I officially give up.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Parantha Gali, or The Night I Gave In and Ate Street Food

Since arriving in Delhi almost 4 (!) months ago, I have been (obsessively?) meticulous about what I eat. No unpeeled, fresh fruits or vegetables, no ice in my drinks, and most definitely no street food. This has been rather frustrating, because Indian street food is my favorite kind of food. I adore pani puri, bhel puri, papri chaat, and all of their street snack siblings. But I adore not getting sick much, much more. And since I've seen the guys selling these snacks stick fingers up their noses and pick some deep, deep wedgies, it hasn't been, like, allll that difficult to just say no.

A couple of weeks ago, though, I finally succumbed. I was with some friends in Old Delhi after the Ramlila procession and one of them suggested we grab something to eat in this little alley that is famous for its paranthas, a pan-fried stuffed bread. Paranthas, which can also be found in more high-end establishments, happen to be my latest food obsession. So with just a little bit of peer pressure, I ended up on Parantha Lane.

We chose a place called Pandit Dayanand Shivcharan, which has been open for 6 generations. We got a brief history lesson from its proprietor, who then proceeded to give us a warm welcome by feedings us (yes, feeding us) all a spoonful of curry. From the same spoon. Our attempts at politely declining were met only by a forceful jab of his curry-laden welcome mat.

The paranthas did not disappoint. I had one stuffed with radish and another stuffed with potato. Maybe it's not technically street food, since there's sort of a three-walled building surrounding a small seating area. But I'd say it still counts for my street food initiation. Take a look at the photos and you'll understand why.

Radish-stuffed parantha with chutneys, pickled vegetables, and a curry. The sauce on the bottom left was made with banana and tamarind and it was fantastic.
View from my table of the street.
Our maitre d.

Making paranthas.

Leg hair adds extra flavor!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Ghumana (घूमना)

Translation: to walk/to stroll
Pronunciation: ghoomana

Yesterday, a friend and I went on a guided walking tour of ruins in Hauz Khas Village. I wish I could convey to you the look and feel of this...enclave, if you will. I read a description somewhere that called it a 'faux bohemian' market and that strikes me as a fairly accurate representation. The place is crawling with expats (myself included) and well-to-do Delhiites who eat at the trendy cafes, drink at the hipster-esque bars and shop at the boutiques that sell expensive clothes and ironic Bollywood-themed home goods. I think of it as the Delhi equivalent to DC's U St.

More than just its trendy, modern incarnation, though, Hauz Khas Village is also the site of ruins dating back to the 13th century. The name comes from the large reservoir that the ruins surround - Hauz Khas means Royal Tank. The main building houses a tomb and a madrasa (aka school) and is situated in the middle of a park where kids play soccer, families have picnics, and couples display a surprising amount of affection. It was lovely strolling around the ruins in late afternoon, my favorite time of day. I'm looking forward to going back for a picnic once the weather has cooled down a bit more.

The tank, part of the ruin, and some modern buildings in the background. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

A little music for your Friday

This is Chammak Challo, the song of the moment over here. According to S, my coworker/adviser on all things Indian, 'chammak challo' is slang for 'a girl who is beautiful and always well-dressed, with lots of make-up and jewelry, even at small gatherings.'  

The popular music industry in India is driven by Bollywood; all of the major movies are released with original soundtracks. Chammak Challo comes from a new movie starring King of Bollywood/maybe the world, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK). In the movie, Ra.One, he plays some sort of superhero. I don't know. I find him intensely irritating, so I don't plan to watch it. But I do love the song!

Oh, and in case you're wondering why SRK doesn't sound exactly, um, Indian in the song, that'd be because he's not actually singing. Bollywood singers don't do their own signing - pretty much every song is dubbed. In this case, they've added an international twist - much like the ever popular "Smack That," this is an Akon song.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


It's festival time here in Delhi, folks! We're in the middle of the Hindu holiday Navratri. To the outsider like me it's a rather confusing holiday, so I'm not going to even begin to try to explain it (Wikipedia can handle that). Suffice it to say that it's a big holiday celebrated differently in different regions of India. Because Delhi draws people from across the country, there are a lot of different celebrations going on. And this means that there are a TON of fun goings-on to check out.

Tonight I ventured into Old Delhi to see a procession of floats depicting the gods/characters from the story of Lord Ram, one of the Hindu gods. His story is important to (the basis of?) the holiday (and back to our trusty online resource for a more extensive explanation). It was a festive experience filled with music and lights. It was not dissimilar from a parade in the U.S., though the floats were all trailed by noisy generators to power the lights and at least one float was towed by an ox. Because we're not as familiar with the story of Ram as we clearly should be, my friends and I didn't always know what was going on. Luckily, the friendly people standing around us offered explanations for each new float.

I tried to take capture some photos of the parade but I clearly haven't figured out night photography yet. Regardless, here are a few shots from the evening.

Either the good guy or the bad guy. The bad guy, maybe?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What is jalebi, you ask?

It appears that in my recent post about Dilli Haat and jalebi, I failed to explain what jalebi is, exactly. My b.

Jalebi is an Indian sweet made by drizzling a basic batter into a pan of hot ghee (clarified butter), where it deep-fries until crispy. Once fried, it is then immediately soaked in a sugary syrup that is usually flavored with cardamom or rose water. Jalebi is best eaten while piping hot. It's crispy but delicate and practically melts away. It's like heaven in your mouth. 

For a recipe and step-by-step video, check out Manjula's Kitchen. (Note: Manjula doesn't use ghee in this recipe. You should.)

New movie, yay!

Have you seen the trailer for this new movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel?

Spot-on portrayal of the shock (and wonder) that is adjusting to India as an outsider. Less spot-on is (British-born) Dev Patel's accent. What is that? I could do it better.

Can't wait to see it!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dilli Haat

There is a surreal little market in Delhi called Dilli Haat. Part tourist attraction, part market, it's a place where artists (or middlemen?) from all across the country come to sell their regional art, jewelry, and textiles. For Rs. 20, you can spend an afternoon perusing the stalls and enjoying food from all parts of India. The craft vendors rotate out every couple of weeks, so it's worth going back every once in a while. I first went with Mrs. K, who was in search of a certain type of sari that isn't traditional to North India. We did some shopping (she bought saris, I bought a shawl, we both bought colorful wooden bangles) and stopped for some chai and jalebi. I returned a few weeks later with my roommate, F, who wanted to explore. I wanted more jalebi. Below, some photos of our jalebi-fest (most taken with my camera by F).

I'm super excited about jalebi, less excited about the 95+ degree heat.

He doesn't seem to be as excited about making the jalebi. Maybe it was the hot oil and 95+ degree heat. 

Post-jalebi chai in the original disposable cup - terra cotta.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Vapas (वापस)

Translation: Back (e.g. I'm back!)
Pronunciation: Vaapas

Heeeeeeey. I realize I was a little light on the blog entries these last few weeks. My excuses are as follows:

First I got a cold.
Then I was irritated with Delhi (and when you don't have anything nice to say, you don't say anything at all).
Then I had a lot of work.
Then I got another cold.

But I'm all recovered, my work has calmed down, and I'm liking Delhi again. Phew!

I have a lot to catch up on. But for now, let's start with yesterday, which was a nice Delhi day. After a leisurely morning that included a self-pedicure and perusal of Newsweek (way cheaper here), Indian Good Housekeeping (more on that later), and a cooking magazine, I ventured out with my roommate to go swimming.

My roommate's friends found an Olympic-sized pool open to the public in a neighborhood close to mine. I think its a private school that allows membership and day use of its gym and pool facilities. So for Rs. 300 (about $7), you can pay for an afternoon of pool time. Now that I've translated that into dollars it feels a bit pricey, really, but I'd say it was worth it. It was a beautiful afternoon - humid but not stifling, hot but not unbearable. It felt as close to summer weather at home as I've felt here. Standing in the water in the shade, I almost felt chilly for the first time in Delhi.

We swam for a while, I investigated the gym membership prices (reasonable enough that I'm considering joining), and then we headed off to see a play at the Alliance Francaise. Turns out the play was in Hindi, not English (oops), so we went to dinner instead. When I got home, I turned my air conditioner on, made myself some hot chocolate, and pretended it was fall. 'Twas a relaxing way to end the weekend.

I leave you now with some fascinating pool-related trivia. Turns out the reason fingers turn wrinkly in the pool may not be a result of the skin soaking up water so much as a neurological response to help with grip. SO COOL. See here.

No photos allowed at the pool so, instead, an unrelated city cow shot. Will I ever tire of these?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Safe and sound

As most of you know by now, there was a bombing in Delhi today. The bombing happened at the Delhi High Court as people were waiting to enter; more than 10 people have died and more than 70 were injured. I was less than a mile away at the time but am completely safe and sound.

Bombings aren't frequent in Delhi but they're not necessarily rare. A bomb actually went off near the High Court this spring but didn't injure anyone. The last Delhi bombing with significant loss of life was actually right around the time when I was here last, in 2008, when several markets were bombed and many people died.

Here's an article about today's blast in the Hindu, one of the better Indian news sources. Word of warning - the photo on the main page is graphic if you look up close.

To top things off, Delhi was hit by an earthquake tonight. I was about one sentence into this post when my house began to shake. Nothing fell off the walls or tables and the news isn't reporting any injuries, thank goodness. But after a day in which my nerves were already a little fried, experiencing my first earthquake didn't help. Time for bed now. Here's hoping tomorrow is a better day for Delhi.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scenes From My Commute: Part 3

An international chain. Who knew? 

My apartment is decked out with this furniture. Chairs and tables outside, bookshelf inside. They're sold just like this, by a guy on a bike.

I have no explanation for this. I can only hope the stickers are not indicative of the vehicle's true purpose. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

A gay-friendly sandwich!

Photo courtesy of my roommate, K. 
A sandwich for sale at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, my second favorite coffee shop (because though it doesn't have as much character as Mocha, it does have unlimited wifi).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Happy weekend!

I'm back to a two-day weekend, but that's ok. Nothing can get me down tonight because I now know that I get 30 Rock on cable. My life is complete.

I hope you all have a lovely, natural disaster-free weekend. I'll be working a lot in preparation for a very busy upcoming three weeks, but I'll be sure to find time for some fun and dancing, Lemon style:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I've succumbed...

When I started this blog, I joked that I'd keep it up until jet lag wore off and I got cable. Well, jet lag wore off around day five aaaand I just got cable. Only $7 a month - split three ways - for 150 channels! How could I pass up a deal like that?!

I actually debated the merits of ending my TV viewing hiatus. I've been pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed being detached from TV (and, gasp, Hulu) since early July. In the end, though, I've felt too disconnected from everyday Indian life without television. In all my travels I've found that I learn a lot about a culture through TV shows and commercials - not necessarily by how life is portrayed but by what is shown (or not), how things are advertised, what sort of programming is popular. And TV is big in India. Even among in urban slums, where my work is focused, most people are exposed to TV. By not watching TV, I felt as though I was missing out on a part of every day life. Plus, watching Indian TV will help my Hindi, right? 

But don't panic - I won't actually disappear from the blogosphere. I've created a rule for myself whereby if I watch TV, I must also blog or do several sets of crunches. Considering that my exercise hiatus is reaching the 18 month mark, I think it's clear how this will go. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day Off

Monday was Krishna Janmashtami, a Hindu holiday celebrating the birth of Krishna. My roommates had to work (poor things) but my office was closed, making this my second three-day weekend in a row. After determining that there were no major public celebrations of the holiday in my area (a coworker told me that she just celebrates with a small prayer ceremony at home, if at all), I decided to celebrate the day by being lazy. I woke up late, made some French toast, and lounged on my couch reading a book. I love the view from my couch - through the French doors to the balcony I can see our pretty potted plants, the colorful houses across the street and lots of leafy trees. With the ceiling fan providing me a cool breeze, the peaceful view, and a good book, I had a wonderfully relaxing morning.

Eventually I decided I should leave the house, though, so I continued my day of relaxation and went to get a manicure at Lakmé, a chain of salons found all across India. 'Twas a lovely experience, complete with a complimentary coffee. Though my three-day weekend is now over, it's not so bad going back to work when I have ruby red nails to admire as I type my reports.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Long Weekend and Lodi Garden

Last Monday was Indian Independence Day, so I had the day off. I spent the three-day weekend relaxing at the Ks house, a wonderful respite from my usual routine. We did some shopping, went out to eat, watched TV, and rested.

Independence Day is marked by a speech given by the Prime Minister at the Red Fort, a famous Delhi monument. Not realizing that this happens at the crack of dawn, I slept right through the television broadcast. But I did attend the "flag hoisting" at the Ks apartment complex. My own neighborhood held a flag hoisting in the park, so I'm guessing this is something most neighborhood associations do to honor the day. It was windy and drizzling that morning (this is monsoon, after all), but we went down at the appointed time and watched as the little children from the complex raised the flag, which unfurled and released flowers as it hit the top of the pole. An elderly man gave a speech, the national anthem was sung, and then we headed back in for some chai.

The day before, we spent the morning in Lodi Garden, one of my favorite places in all of Delhi. I'd equate it to Central Park in New York, though it's much smaller and I actually find it to be more peaceful. In addition to the beautiful flora and fauna, jogging paths and green lawns, it has several old tombs and ruins - that you're allowed to climb all over. Below, a few photos from the day.

Pretty petals that I found on the ground. 

A tomb from the 15th century.

Photo credit goes to my 8 year old friend M, who loved the geese. 

So gross, so cool.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chuha Part II

Immediately after writing my last post, I went into the kitchen for some water before going to sleep...and found the mouse in the sink. We held a 10-minute stand-off, I using my most powerful weapon - a bucket - and he using his - a striking resemblance to lovable fictional characters.  I finally managed to get him into the bucket, which I placed on the counter while frantically looking for something to cover it with. And in that brief span of time, the mouse managed to catapult himself over the edge of this 18-in. prison and into freedom. Frustrated and exhausted, I set the trap again with sturdier bait and went to bed.

This time, it worked! The next morning, my new frenemy was huddled in the corner of the cage. I was already late to work, so I didn't have time to deal with him. The bread and peanut butter were still in the cage, so I figured he'd be fine until my roommates and I got back from work. And so I ended up with a pet mouse for about 12 hours. A pet mouse who left behind his weight in droppings when my roommate and I finally set him free far, far, far from our house that evening.

Photo of Fievel from here. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Chuha (चूहा)

Translation: Mouse (rat, technically, I think)
Pronunciation: choohaa, or, from time to time, #*$%ing @#*$^&

This is one of the reasons I've been a little MIA this week - a couple of little chuhas seem to be making my home their home. Rather than spending some QT with Blogger this evening, as planned, I spent an hour with a broom and a bucket trying to get a chuha out of my roommate's bedroom. I'm happy to report that we were successful! A little too successful, roommate's enthusiastic bucket maneuvering accidentally resulted in the untimely demise of our uninvited guest. We did the right thing, though, holding a little 3-person funeral procession that ended in chuha-ji being laid to rest in a pile of trash by the park in our neighborhood.

On the bright side, my search for mousetraps this afternoon led me to a neighborhood near mine that I'd never been to before. And I do love an adventure! I ended up on a bustling street filled with all sorts of shops and people. I must have gone to at least seven stores - the general stores sent me to the hardware stores, who sent me back to the general stores - before I found a kitchen supply store (makes sense, doesn't it?) with a humane trap that I bought for $1.50.

Unfortunately, about a half hour ago I discovered that the peanut butter and bread bait has been removed from the trap without triggering the cage mechanism. Uuuuuuugh. Time for bed. With my bedroom door tightly closed, lest we have a repeat of this evening's bucket and broom battle. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I just don't see "mild dew" soap going over well in most markets. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bollywood Hair

I took the plunge today and got my hair cut in Delhi. To hear the expats tell it, you might as well wait until you're back in your home country to get a hair cut, so I didn't have high hopes. On a tip from a Delhiite former roommate, though, I found a salon near my office and booked an appointment. 

I arrived a little early and was ushered right in. With sleek furniture, fancy lighting, and black-clad stylists, the salon was quite snazzy. After having my hair washed, I was offered my choice of beverage and then sat down for the actual cut. Now, I'm not the chatting type when I'm getting my hair done. I like to sit there quietly and watch other people in the mirror. To my great delight, after my hair stylist said hello and asked me what I wanted, he didn't say a single word to me. It was perfect. 

After expertly trimming my split ends, the stylist called over his assistant to dry my hair. When it was mostly dry, the stylist came back and I assumed he'd be taking over hair dryer duties. But no. Drying my hair became a team effort. The stylist used a brush and his hands to shape my hair while the assistant directed the air flow, occasionally hitting the target. I can't say it was the most efficient process, but it resulted in a style the likes of which my hair has never seen. 

Alas, I don't have a photo of the end product. By the time I got home, the auto ride and humidity had done too much damage to my 'do. But basically, I looked like this:

Just like that.

[Photo of Bollywood uber-star Priyanka Chopra from here.]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Gulabi (गुलाबी)

Translation: Pink
Pronunciation: gulaabee

This is the color of every wall in my house.

That is all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


On Sunday, my roommate C and I spent the afternoon at one of the markets close to our neighborhood. GK-1 M block market is a shopping center with an assortment of clothing and home goods stores, salons, restaurants and coffee shops. After perusing a lovely book store with no obvious order to its stock (and where I bought a Daniel Silva book - hi Dad), we window shopped, bought some groceries, and stopped in at my favorite cafe. Mocha is everything I love in a coffee shop - fun music, mismatched furniture, good drinks. It's like Open Eye without the cranky hipsters.

Indoor swings!
Mocha is a peaceful respite from the sensory overload that is Delhi. If you happen to stop by, I recommend the milkshakes and the Maggi noodles with garlic cream sauce. It's like Ramen with Alfredo sauce and I swear it's delicious :-) 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rub a dub dub

This is my shower on at full blast.

Don't see any water?

That's because there isn't any.

On several occasions during my brief tenure as a Delhi resident, we have run out of water. Something about the city working on the pipes in the neighborhood. As it is, we get water service twice a day. At the appropriate hour(s), my upstairs neighbor turns on our building's water pump, allowing us to store water in tanks (somewhere, maybe the roof?). That's the water we use over the course of a day. Normally it's not a problem, but the once-a-day supply doesn't cut it.

On the upside, I've learned certain lessons about cultural differences. When I told a coworker that I'd run out of water halfway through a shower one morning, she looked at me confused. "You don't just fill a bucket?" Apparently I was doing two weird things: a) assuming water would be available most of the time because I live in a normal middle-class neighborhood and b) showering American style.

It's difficult to learn the intimate details of appropriate bathroom customs in foreign countries. No one is going to show another adult how to use that hose that's affixed to the wall next to the toilet. Nor are they going to demonstrate proper use of an Indian squat toilet (Seriously, like, how do you not have to take off your pants? I don't get it.). The same goes for bathing - since you don't see anyone else do it, you don't know what's normal.

Luckily, when it comes to bucket baths, the internet is full of advice. Some of it is bad (stand in the bucket) and some of it is good (stand over a drain). There's a bucket, along with the smaller pitcher for pouring the water, in my bathroom, but it had never even occurred to me to use it when there was a "normal" shower available. And I still don't know what a typical Indian girl would do with my bathroom set-up on a good day when the option of an American shower is a reality. Bucket or nozzle? Until I make some close Delhi-native friends that I can ask, I guess I'll just have to wonder.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Oh hey, monsoon, there you are.

Last Thursday, it took me an hour to get home instead of the usual 20 minutes. This may have been why:

The intense humidity fogged up my camera lens as soon as I took off the lens cap.

Clearly not moving anytime soon.

Before I started learning more about India, I thought that 'monsoon' meant 'crazy never-ending rain storm.' The word actually refers to changes in wind patterns (thanks, Wikipedia), but, as evidenced by the photos above, the changing winds do bring rains this time of year. Delhi is having a bit of a dry spell compared to last year, though if Thursday was any indication, it's going to start catching up.

Since arriving in India, I've also learned that monsoon season is an actual 'season' season, too, just like summer or winter. Parliament has a monsoon session. Clothing stores have monsoon collections. And Indian Cosmopolitan magazine offers suggestions on "How to Make This Your Best Monsoon Ever!" I think I'll buy the magazine and find out how. I'm imagining articles on the best anti-frizz products and "Who Wore It Best" umbrellas. I'll let you know.

For now I'm off to jump in some puddles and catch malaria. Happy monsoon, everyone!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Chai (चाय)

Translation: tea
Pronunciation: I don't think I'm very good at this phonetics thing.

Chai is the generic word for tea in Hindi; to say "chai tea" is actually redundant. When you order chai in the U.S., what you're drinking is masala chai (or some fake syrupy equivalent - I'm looking at you, Starbucks). "Masala chai" basically means "spiced tea."

Usually served in glasses like the one in the photo above, masala chai in India is often sold from little stalls on the street. I haven't had much time to venture out to areas where it's sold, but I've decided this is one type of food I'm willing to try on the street. The milk and water are boiled so...low risk, right? We'll see. In the meantime, I've been enjoying my chai at restaurants and at home.

If you want real masala chai in the U.S., I'd recommend avoiding the American brands at all cost and instead finding an Indian store. Fantasy Chai kept me going through grad school. Or you can make your own! There are a lot of recipes out there, but I like my masala chai with fresh ginger and cardamom. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear Prem,

Thank you for the fancy phone. You rock. I promise to try not to drop it.

I'm very excited to figure out what this Angry Birds is all about. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hindi Word Highlight: Film (फ़िल्म)

Yeah, it's the same in English. Look, you already know some Hindi!

Last week I went to a movie theater in India for the first time. Let me tell you - the US is doing it wrong. In India you get assigned seats, so there's no need to arrive hours in advance just to sit with your friends. The seats (in the really nice theaters) do that lean-back-slide-forward thing, optimizing both comfort and space. And in addition to the standard popcorn and soda, they have fresh corn (a popular snack at malls and markets here) and...Baskin Robbins. It's lovely.

The movie we went to see has been generating a lot of talk over the last month or so. It was produced by the ever so dreamy actor-turned-producer Aamir Khan (So what if he's 46? He's hot.) and stars his nephew, the equally dreamy and more age appropriate (yet sadly married, I checked), Imran Khan. The movie is called Delhi Belly. It is dirty in every sense of the word and it is, dare I say, fantastic.

Here's the trailer:

It's basically the Hangover and American Pie mashed up masala style. Action, bodily functions, sex, suspense, humor, violence, more bodily functions. I don't know if I would have thought the movie was so funny if it were a Hollywood film. Part of the appeal was the shock of seeing and hearing things that Bollywood normally wouldn't go near. In Hollywood, such topics are old hat. In Bollywood, a multi-second kiss is about as wild as it gets. Until now, apparently.

I don't know when Delhi Belly will roll around to the grocery stores of Cary and Murray Hill, but if you want to see another Aamir Khan-produced movie (this one starring him, too), I'd recommend Dhobi Ghat. I think it's called Mumbai Diaries in English and it's definitely available on Netflix instant play. It's not a comedy. It's actually really depressing. But it's a non-Bollywood (and non-Hollywood) look at India and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

And I'm off!

Flying to Mumbai today to take a certification exam, the culmination of a course I took this last year of grad school.  I'm all set - I have my two pencils, my pencil sharpener and my eraser.

And please don't worry that my pencil sharpener might fail halfway through the exam - it has Japanese technology.

Headed to the airport soon. Wish me luck, folks. I will need it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Completely Frivolous Post

This is the notebook I use at work. Isn't it purty? It's hand painted and it cost $2.

It's going to be difficult for me not to bring home an entire suitcase full of stationary.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scenes from My Commute: Part 2

On my way home each day, I see at least three men peeing. 

Roadside shave.