Here in Hyderabad, there's an interesting (and slightly alarming) situation going on: politically, certain groups are trying to split the state into two. So there's a lot of protesting going on all over the city, and even worse, they are declaring frequent bandhs. Apparently, this is when the protesting group(s) declare a sort of siege on the city, in which anyone out on the roads on a bandh day is fair game for harassment or even violence. So who goes out on these days? Well, pretty much everyone who has to work or go to an appointment or has an emergency, etc.--i.e., most of the population. This leads to a "safety in numbers" kind of risk. There is talk of an indefinite bandh beginning this Wednesday, to last until the protestors' demands are met. If that lasts more than a couple of days, we will be on the roads (en route to and from the airport several times, as we are leaving Hyderabad for Jaipur tonight for New Year's) during the bandh. Wish me luck!
Besides my fur babies and friends, I am really missing good chocolate, and the ability to simply walk out one's front door and take a nice healthy mellow walk. The pollution in much of India--air, water, noise, litter--is so horrendous that it is a wonder the entire subcontinent does not simply implode. I have always savored the irony, too, of the fact that Indians everywhere are wonderfully clean and groomed and wearing spotless clothes, perfectly ironed...while daily traversing some of the dirtiest streets in the world.
Speaking of clothing, there is a marked decline in people wearing Indian-styled clothing (e.g., salwaar kameez and saris) since we were last in India about six years ago. I am bummed to see this happen. For me one of the most marvelous things about India is looking at all the women like bright, sparkling multicolored gems amidst the dust. Last time we were here, I wore salwaar kameez myself to avoid being stared at too much; this time, I didn't bother, and I fit in better in my usual clothing. I feel that within just a handful more generations, the sari will be relegated to the role of the symbolic, like kimono in Japan, donned only for the most formal occasions and self-consciously at that. It is also much harder to find tailors working in holes-in-the-wall, whipping up shirts and salwaars at a moment's notice (we are actually looking for this service while we're here).
As part of our trip to India this time, we decided we would do a bit of "medical tourism." The Husband is out getting his broken crown (tooth) repaired as I write this, for about a thousand dollars less than the U.S. price. (I've never personally experienced dentistry in India, so can't vouch for it.) I had forgotten some medication which in the U.S. costs around four hundred dollars a month (without insurance), and here cost me two dollars. We also went to go get our eyes checked, as we were overdue. The fewest savings occurred here: the exam was perhaps only ten or twenty dollars less than in the U.S., and I am finally caving in to wearing progressive lenses (oy! I'm old!) for the first time. The price is exactly what was quoted to me in the U.S., so zero savings there.
I always gain weight, perversely, when in India. The food is carbohydrate-rich and everything is cooked in ghee (clarified butter)...and delicious. I'm always careful however to eat at only-vegetarian places with a good reputation, to avoid Delhi belly. We're vegetarians anyway, and India is the only place we can travel around without spending hours just trying to track down a vegetarian meal.
Below is a video of me trying golgappa for the first time. The Husband's mother (world's best cook) stuffs a fried empty ball with a spiced potato mixture, then you have to pour in some spiced water and quickly shove the whole thing into your mouth. If successful, no liquid will leak out of your mouth and you'll achieve a loud crunch.
There's a short video of a mahout feeding an elephant. Notice the similarity to me eating golgappa.
There's also a video of me trying nangu for the first time. I'm still not exactly sure what those things are or what you'd call them. I can't believe the seller wasn't cutting his fingers off. The guy holding the little frond "boat" is our taxi driver, and The Husband was taking the video. You can see from my expression whether I liked it.
More art on my website: jalapfaff.com