October 20, 2010

About being back home...

Yesterday r~ and I went for a walk in the evening and while she chatted on about the sky and the moon and Avaiyar paati in the moon, I hugged myself bracing against the already chilly air and I guess against the winter to follow. The neatly lined cookie-cutter houses looked orderly, well-maintained yet distant. And that's the thing about this country. You can see the chandelier on inside the houses and the table already set for an early dinner but it's as if the house is bereft of conversation and sounds and people! An evening walk at this time in Madras would mean a friendly hi from at least our watchman and the few maamis rushing to the Krishnar temple right outside our house there...

I had this similar feeling of loneliness when I sat staring at the five huge suitcases that had to be unpacked. Suitcases filled with bits and pieces of home that I hoped would fill my house here with the same scents and colors that I had left  behind in India. We have been busy socially the one weekend that we have spent since we came back, thanks to Navaratri Golu but what now? It's as if this indescribable aura is all around us, when r~ says "Ellayum Indiala irukaa" or mentions people back home or when k is away for an evening, this aura pervades our house, shooting questions at me, "Is it really worth all the trouble?" But then, I could just be consumed by a sense of nostalgia and homesickness and attributing every small annoyance to the fact that this is not India. I would probably be fine in a few weeks when things have fallen back into a predictable routine here...I just don't know yet. All I know is, the evening when k had a bowling game was well on its way to being a pretty boring evening for me until I decided I needed to head out of the house and search for some people to talk to! So, I did that. Packed r~ in her cute blue sweater and went to drop by the Indian family's house that's just a few houses away from mine. After spending an hour there catching up with that maami, I felt better and headed back home feeling not so distraught.

I feel like k and I are picking up on small things to fight about because we are still fighting to settle back in this country after a supremely satisfying vacation in India. And as my dad predicted, r~ bravely adapted to the country change and is busy running about doing what she considers is her business for the day :) Although, I can tell she realizes more than she lets on -- she acts so excited and happy when people drop by home here, I can tell she wants the attention she had back...

So while I deal with the change and I guess myself, expect similar themed posts and feel free to speak your mind!

October 15, 2010

India - Days 23 - 30.

You heard of the phrase, "Mera dham gud raha he idhar?" (Not sure if I said that right) I think that's about how I feel here. I don't want to be back. I don't want to be home sick. But mostly, I don't want to be going back to work. Let's wrap up the India trip though before I talk about my current situation.

The remaining days in Bombay were just a whirl of shopping, good food, relaxation, luxury and Endhiran! I went to Shopper's Stop about 22 times to buy/return/alter r's cute salwaar kameez among other things. We spent a pretty fabulous day at the Taj Mahal palace, thanks again to L~. If all you have to do is live a life like that, am all for Bombay ;) It's a different world inside the hotel. It's actually a different world for super rich folks in India. If I could be rich in India, that would really be like having the cake and eating it too...but even the not so rich have full time help in the house, something I sorely miss in the US.

I must mention the eating binge I went on in India. I think I covered all the must-eat desserts, malai kulfi, malai kulfi rabdi, gulgand rasmalai, peda and even the chili icecream from Bachelor's (I do not recommend it unless you want a mix of reactions flooding your palate like this: it starts off with a nice "icecreamy" sweetness and then the cold sort of morphs into chili heat once it's down your throat! I could only take 3 spoons of it!)

I experienced monsoon rain in Bombay (although only for a short while) which was pretty cool. I got introduced to k's mom's tailor who functions from a small space in a "gali": rent Rs.500 per month. I visited k's uncle who lives in one of those uber cool houses at Church gate, a stone's throw from Nariman point: house value: 5-6 crores maybe? I walked down Nariman point and took r for a ride in the ghoda gadi at her request :) c tells me, Nariman point is where SRK looked at the stars and dreamt that he would be a star! So now people come here and talk big hoping they could pull off what SRK did :)

We had a teary farewell in Bombay as well (k's mom). r had a blast the whole time except for a pretty painful constipation situation. Oh! We also drove on the Sea link road (what's it called?) twice! That was pretty cool. Almost like driving in US because you get off it and see all those high rise buildings and you can't really tell that you are in India -- could be mistaken for any downtown view in the US. k's mom and I did a couple of auto rickshaw trips. At one point, we waited for 15-20 mins calling for autos and being ignored by the auto driver clan for some mysterious reason!

The surprising part was meeting someone who used to live in Lex, catching up with another friend who is still iving in Lex :), another friend who seems to be living the r2i dream :p and an old School friend!

It's 4 PM here and am sleepy, so rest of the story later. For now, pictures...

Inside Shopper's Stop watching the rain outside...

@ Taj Mahal palace

Fruit tart that vanished in a flash!

Laundry @ Taj -- can't get enough of these photos!

October 04, 2010

India trip - Days 20 - 22

Jotting down random notes before r wakes up or I have to run:

* I met an 85 year old lady who lives next door to k's parents. Her small 1 BR apartment has a showcase lined with neatly wrapped books. I asked her if I could take a look and saw that the books were not only wrapped in brown paper (remember the brown wrapping paper we used to cover our school notebooks?) but were also labeled with numbers. She then produced a ruled notebook that had an index of all the numbers matching them to the titles and authors of the books. I thought that was pretty neat. She said a girl who had just passed 12th standard had helped organize her books and offered to introduce me to the girl :)

* I bought Eat, Pray, Love from a dude selling a huge stack of books car to car while stuck in a traffic jam. Apparently, that's quite common in Bombay. But we usually don't get much time to negotiate. I bought this book for Rs.100!

* The other day while on our way back from Sab Kuch which is a cool restaurant that serves as it's name suggests, pretty much everything, and c was pointing out the sights of the city when I saw some 30 people sleeping right in front of a closed store -- Bombay is a mixed bag like that, you sort of never know what to expect. Back to Sab kuch...if you order pani puri here, a guy rolls a pani puri cart towards you and serves sanitized pani puri gloves and all! I ate falooda with kulfi here and decided I didn't care much for it.

* We went to p & c's house and the highlights there were the oonjal (swing) for r and seethaphal basundhi for us! Oh! I forgot the stick kulfi which r insisted on eating on her own!

* If I had to give one big fat reason why we wouldn't move to Bombay, that would be commute. If you don't have an AC car at your disposal, you are stuck. Yes, you can call from a cool cab but that takes between 30-45 mins to come and it's point to point. If you own an AC car and you drive, that's cool but parking is a pain. Day before yesterday, we decided wisely to go to InOrbit mall in Malad. Air conditioned, nice games, eats and I thought I'd spend an evening relaxing in the mall. But apparently, Bombay goes to InOrbit or one of it's sister malls on Saturdays and Sundays. Since the whole of Bombay was there, it was pretty much like being in an un-airconditioned place with loads of people creating loads of conversation noise and add to that the noise produced by all the gaming consoles. I had fun playing on the dancing game thingie -- what do you call it? But a half hour later, we were all set to leave the mall. The visit to the mall was anything but relaxing.

* Today went to Shopper's stop which is pretty much like any other shopping mall in the US except for the startling variety of colors and designs that you can never find in American clothes. Took an auto today and sweated my way through the afternoon heat and traffic fumes. Yup, traveling no fun here.

* The disparity between rich and poor is stark here. Even the kids learn that they can order some people to do their commands like the maid servant or the cook. If you are a rich kid in India living in a nuclear family, there is a high possibility of getting "spoilt" because you can get away with not cleaning your room, picking up your clothes ever or even setting foot in the kitchen. A maid serves you hot rotis or cold milk shakes and you get used to service 24/7. If there isn't a grand parent around to caution and if the parents are busy with work and life, then it's an easy easy life for the kids. Today I saw a teenage kid lying in bed watching TV at full volume while a maid swept and cleaned his be fair to him, he probably did do his share of work but maybe he didn't and all he had to do is ask the maid to clean up after him...hmm.

Checkmarks and eats: Sab kuch restaurant, seethaphal basundhi, western express highway, corn kachori and stick kulfi, Temptations ice cream, InOrbit mall

October 01, 2010

India - Days 13 - 19

We celebrated r's birthday at New Woodlands Hotel in Chennai. My dad had hired a magician, Mr.Raja aka Kingzz for the day which was fun. His show was entertaining to the kids and adults alike. This was followed by a short video clip of r that I had put together -- sort of catching up on her life for my friends and relatives in Chennai. On 26th evening, we went to Parthasarathy temple again and from there to Ratna cafe. k took a second dose of the coffee there and I must admit, that was the best filter coffee I had during my Madras trip! That night we went to the beach to say bye bye before leaving Madras. r~ did her regular running-running in the beach and then we headed home.

The next morning passed in a blur. Before I knew it I was at the airport and although I had resolved to not cry this time, predictably I burst into tears just before waving good bye :( On the short flight to Bombay, I intensely disliked k for not wanting to move to India. Anyway we landed in Bombay and it didn't seem to have changed much since the last time I was here. The traffic and crowd here is a bit more than in Madras. New Bombay roads are cool, pretty much like US highway roads. I spent a couple of hours shopping with p~. The store, Sajani had a good collection of materials for salwaar kameez and the dude there was extremely agreeable:

p: "This dress doesn't need lining, does it?"
Him: "Yes, yes, you can wear it without lining, no problem"

p: "Hmm but will it look better with lining?"

Him: "That it will (वो तो हे)"

Then, when p is busy looking at a material, he tells me, "Buy your sister-in-law one more dress no?" and when he thinks I am not looking, he tells p, "You should ask her to buy more dresses, she is going to US no?"

Then, p took me to a tailor shop and like most places in Bombay, there was an infinity fit into a finite space. The small room had another smaller (3 feet by 3 feet?) room where I saw one tailor working on a tailoring machine and then I peeked some more and found two other tailors also sitting and stitching there in that impossibly small space. There were cloths and dresses lying everywhere in that tiny room. Finally, I asked him how he managed to keep his orders straight and he showed me how he stapled small bits of each dress material to the bill and another small matching bit to the customer bill. He also said something about writing the customer order number on the dress although I didn't see him doing that. He rolled up my salwaar and kameez material in a bundle and tossed it carelessly next to several other bundles. So, I asked him what happened if the salwaar and kameez material got misplaced and he said he can tell with a glance which salwaar material goes with which kameez material. And then there were the complicated patterns to select from -- how do you want the front next? V? U? Boat shape? Back neck? Hand -- puff sleeves? Sleeveless? Transparent sleeves? Short sleeves? We let him pick most of it since it was too confusing to decide!

We headed to Lonavala for a few days and stayed in a co-op housing bungalow there. It took me a while to get used to the concept. Basically, rich  man x wants a vacation home where he will stay probably a month a year. The rest of the year since the house needs someone to stay in it for it to be in good shape, rich man rents the bungalow to other folks. There is a cook who lives in the premises and you can ask him to cook what you want (and that is paid) and you have the house to yourself. We managed to co-exist with several life forms in that bungalow (humongous cockroaches -- now I sort of see why he wants people to actually live in the bungalow else it will be overtaken by cockroaches and their cousins and relatives!) and then headed out to Ambi valley (a nice scenic drive), had masala chai on the peak and headed back home. The drive back was tiring and we got stuck in traffic. Poor c (p's husband) drove all the way home and we collapsed on the bed (except for r who managed to take a nap in the car). Lonavala and the drive to the peak reminded me of Smokey mountains and Gatlinburg. Of course, you don't get the "world's best vada pav" in the Gatlingburg shopping strip!

Exhausted after a long day, so rest in pictures...

Best vada pav ever, recommended by c -- k had like 50 of them!

Cute pizza ad at a shopping mall in Lonavala

Malai Kulfi Rabdi at Kailash Parbat, Lonavala -- too rich for words!

Road side vegetables -- seeing this scene after ages!

The creator of the vada pavs!
Eats and Treats check marks :) -- Shir sagar (paav bhaji), Kailash Parbat (Dahi papdi chat), Raam Krishna @ Lonavala (regular punjabi fare and kulfi), Mega mall food court (Vada paav, "rose"), street vada paav and bhajia @ Lonavala, masala chai & corn bhajia @ Lonavala peak.

Chennai: filter coffee @ Ratna Cafe, samosa and gulab jamoon from Gangotri, South Indian parotha and mosambi juice @ Saravanas, Kashmiri pulaav and triple sundae @ Brindavan, Woodlands
© Ramya Sethuraman, All Rights Reserved.