Monday, December 28, 2009

Eating in India

As usual, the colors are more vibrant in this pastel than on the screen. Done two days ago from nicely ripened memories of the island.


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:


Janelle Goodwin said...

Well you succeeded in getting that loud crunch! (I'm not sure you liked it though) You're on a fascinating adventure. Thanks so much for showing us this part of the world. You probably already know it's cold and snowy here, so it will be a huge change when you get home. May your guardian angels surround you and your husband coming home.

Sheila Vaughan said...

Really enjoying your stories Jala. Takes me back to my own small visits to Asia. Hope you continue to have a wonderful experience. Don't worry about "not painting" - you are painting - "in your head" - really !!

loriann signori said...

Hi Jala!!! I have missed you. I LOVE this much I just bought it! It BEEEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!
Your post was interesting as well.
Here's wishing you a safe return my friend.
Wow, I can't believe I finally own a Jala Pfaff! I'll say I knew her when.......

SamArtDog said...

I'd like to see you gulp a golgappa with your left hand! Saving more chat for when you get home. 'Tis easier to say more faster. Travel safe.

Anonymous said...

Jala beautiful art; fascinating post with with lovely humour:)) what more can one ask for?

Mary Anne Cary said...

What a great experience you must be having Jala, sounds fascinating! New sounds, smells and colors and such a different culture will stimulate your senses for some wonderful art I'm sure. Love the latest pastel and your stories of traveling with them! I will be traveling soon and was wondering how to take my pastels (only in US) hearing your story has been an education! Good luck coming back!

Anonymous said...

So much to see, to say.
This pastel reminds me of your photo in the previous post of low tide.
That you're getting any drawing or sketching done is a feather in your turban.

What a stark dichotomy of descriptions- the orderliness of individuals against the teeming hoards of crowds in festering streets. Seems to not fit somehow.

Great photos in the last post, vivid descriptions and loved those impromptu sketches.

To your travel travails, spilled pastels, irritated security guards, and internet challanges, I say:
Jai Ho!!

Happy New Year Jala.
Travel home safely.

L.Holm said...

Love the videos...also left a previous post that didn't seem to take, so will try again.
Love your writing..your descriptions are so vivid. Had a good laugh over Dehli Belly. You're funny. Wishing you fun, and safety during your forays out. The bandhs sound spooky.
Happy New Year!

eLIZabeth Floyd said...

Happy New Years! and keep safe while enjoying yourself. When I lived in South Africa in the 90s they had similar unrest and the days alotted to potential violence were called "stay-aways"

Jala Pfaff said...

Janelle - I did like the golgappa (weird but good) but didn't like the nungu.

Sheila - I hope you're right. Can't wait to feel well enough to get excited about painting again. It's been toooo long.

Hi Loriann - I am so flattered!

Hi Sam - I bet it would be even messier than it was.

Rahina - Glad you enjoyed it!

Mary Anne - I hope you have better luck with your pastels and don't spill them all over the conveyor belt. ;)

Hi Bonnie - Thank you. Happy New Year. I got very little art done there.

Hi Liz - Delhi belly is funny until it hits YOU. :D

Hi ELIZabeth - That is really interesting about S.Africa. I had no idea. Indeed, the same tactic! Happy New year.

Kelley Carey MacDonald said...

Jala, I'm glad you're having a ball in India - this blog is so much fun to read! And I love the commentary on the way things are changing, and just little everyday things that I would never know about. This pastel is so beautiful (my favorite colors) I can't believe it is even more beautiful in person. Happy New Year to you, The Husband, and the Menagerie!