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.