Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is not strictly in sequence, for in an ideal world, this post would have come before the one immediately before it. Yet, Oh-Ye-Who-Still-Arrive-Here, this is not an ideal world.

Very far from it, actually.

I shall now proceed with the post.

As an unabashed supporter of Delhi, and an unofficial tour guide (read here), I often take people around Delhi (sometimes by the scruff of their necks.) Happily, once in a while, I meet those who-
a) Actually want to see Delhi (or are too polite to refuse), and
b) Don't think my company palls on them (Or ditto).

and so, we set off.

In the present case, One Sowmya Rao and I decided to See The Sights Of Delhi.

So far so good.

We met at The Big Chill Cafe, at Khan Market. After a delightful meal, consisting of a plate of Spicy Chorizo Penne and half of Sowmya's vegetarian pasta- the name of which escapes me now- she wasn't too hungry, one hopes, we decided to set forth. The question arose- where to go first? After solicitous enquiries about her health, for she had hurt her ankle, we got up well-fed, and ready to go around Delhi. Where, though, should we start?

Being me, I decided to suggest the house (and now the museum) of Indira Gandhi. I was unsure how this would be received, my fascination with the Gandhi family being among my more annoying habits. However, Sowmya, rendered weak by injury and malleable by good food, fell in with this plan. To Indira Mata's, we went.

The house is tiny, and is crammed with photos of Indira Gandhi and her children, along with two rooms full of newspaper clippings praising "Indira Gandhi and the World", and "Indira Gandhi at home". Interesting things were seen there- including a speech made by Mrs. Gandhi in Canada in 1973 where she spoke about India and Canada being united, not only by the Commonwealth, but also by having to deal with expansionist neighbours (!), and Hindu Headlines on the declaration of the Emergency, which had Internal Disturbances underlined. Unfortunately, more interesting press-snippets, such as The Economist's portrayal of Our Mother here, were not on display. Ah, well.

It was already evening, however, and that made our having to go to Old Delhi immediately, if we wanted to see the Jama Masjid, which Sowmya did. While finding autos in Lutyen's Delhi is a problem, even this superhuman feat was achieved with not too much difficulty. Before we reached the Jama Masjid, however, I decided to puncture Sowmya's romantic notions of Old Delhi, and attempted to explain to her it was nothing but a squalid slum. It is very disappointing to see people who've read Dalrymple look at Old Delhi with a dazed eye, and mutter "I expected something more...historical!"

I needn't have worried, however, because the lady decided to take in all the atmosphere she could find. At the Masjid, she seemed delighted at everything- the pigeons, the serenity (undisturbed by the children running around inside), the beauty of the architecture, and the sense of peace that pervades so many places of worship. Subsequent events did little to dim her joie de vivre-I don't think I've seen any vegetarian look so delighted at Karim's, or at the Food Stalls outside Jama Masjid. where even my eating very tough beef failed to disconcert her.. We visited the Meena Bazaar, now chiefly a mart of gaudy looking-glasses, burqas, kaajal,itr cassettes of naats, and (since we visited it just after Eid) goats. I proceeded to expound on Delhi, and the poor girl had no option but to listen. She also claimed she loved the atmosphere, so I decided to play a nasty trick on her.

While walking to Karim's to pack food for people, I stopped adjacent to a a Men's toilet. Public toilets, in much of India, are not known for their hygiene, and tend to announce themselves to that part of the world that is not olifactorily-challenged. This loo was no exception, and possessed, as it were, one of those fine, broad-shouldered up-and-coming smells which stand on both feet and look the world in the eye. We had just been talking about the atmosphere, the flavour, the essence, as it were, of Old Delhi. I asked her to breathe in.

She did. Her face changed.

She then looked at me expectantly.

I congratulated her on having smelt Pee.

Hysterical laughter then ensued.

Sadly, the evening went by too fast, with our realising we had to go back. Dropping Sowmya on one of Delhi's most beautiful roads- South Avenue- I went back, and a wonderful day ended.

Oh, and since none of us had a camera, all I have are two blurry photos on a mobile phone. Gah.

PS- Photos might be the topic of the next blogpost.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hello, All.

At long last, I return. Do people still come here- Blogger tells me they do. I must commend them on their patience, and thank them for still bothering with it.

Much has happened since the last post. I was selected (Thank you NALSAR, for the one good thing that you have done for me!) for an exchange programme- which currently means I'm not in Santa Clara, California. For those who don't know where this is- its a few miles of San Francisco. Those who know me well will know how fortuitious this circumstance is-Joy is me!

Whilst here, I've been having a ball. I'm staying (temporarily) with family, which means that I live a carefree existence, unconcerned with the prices of food d other essential commodities. What this also means is that I get to fritter my money on minor extravagances- read food, books, and the other B word which shan't be mentioned- this blog attracts and has the potential of attracting a varied audience, some of whom have WILDLY skewed notions of who I am. To them, I say: "Namaste Ji, Sab Changa, tussi dasso".

This brings me to my first observation- American food is awesome- in the sense of gooey, polysaturated-fat-filled-delicacies which bring cholestrol in their wake and will no doubt lead me to an early grave (And yes, I mean grave. Thank you, but I'd rather not be cremated). The helpings also seem like the aim of American kitchens is to increase the earning capacity of cardiologists and undertakers. Well, I'm not complaining.

The second- and related observation- is as follows: B---e is plentiful, and cheap. I wallow. I wade. I guzzle. Again, with the same consequences as mentioned above- this time, it's curtains, liver.

Besides that, the people are very friendly, academics seem ridiculously simple after the 7th semester in NALSAR, and so far, its a ball.

However, living in America has its downside too, and it can be pithily summed up by the following line:
The Unbearable Awfulness of American Chocolate

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't pretend to be a connoisseur of chocolate. I've had a wide and varied experience with it, and at best can be a discerning amateur. However, while private American companies may be good, America's biggest chocolate makers have clearly lost their way. Hershey's makes the sickliest chocolates one can eat- something that taste like sugar-substitute flavoured gooey cardboard. Certain other companies need to be told that icky goo,peanuts and coconuts are not, perhaps, the best things to quote chocolate on. Liqueur with chocolates, yes. Truffle, Yeah!. Hazelnuts, YES! Coconut?! Give me a break.

I vaguely recall a post by Aadisht, I think it was, a few years back that dealt with development or culture or something being measured by the type of chocolate countries produced. While some Indian chocolates can be pretty dire too- Pre-liberalisation Amul bars that had turned white in the Freezer spring to mind- Hershey's and Mars together take the cake. In future, I stick to Lindt and Dairy Milk, and not some vile chocolate that tastes like its been rubbed on nani's oiled hair. Along with closing Guantanamo Bay, President Obama must also target America's chocolate industry- who knows, it might even (as a complicated discussion I just had, pointed out) end the recession.

No, the discussion was too long for me to summarize here.

Sometimes, life has inconclusive endings. Blogposts, too. (With apologies to Mr. William Bryson, Jr.)