Monday, December 14, 2009

Shopping in Old Delhi

Lesa and I have been exploring some of the market streets in Old Delhi. We do this on Saturdays when the kids have school - which gives us about 5 hours to explore some of the slightly sketchier parts of town without worrying about keeping track of children. One of our favorite areas includes the streets and alleys surrounding Chandni Chowk.This is a famous Old Delhi market street that runs into the massive Red Fort (Lal Qila). It is always full of shoppers looking for "cheap and best" prices.
One of these alleys is called, Kinari Bazaar. Also known as "Wedding Street," this alley is ground-zero for fancy Saris, ribbon, beads and special decorations and garlands. Its also a great place to shop for a man's turbin. This is the same place where I recently found capes for the kids' Halloween costumes.

Once you start wandering these streets and alleys it becomes quite a maze... These passages are often narrow and snake their way through the neighborhood. I often think of an electrician-friend of ours back in Austin when I see the wild web of phone, cable and electricity lines tangled above us as we walk. (see above)
The smells are memorable - usually good ones! Paratha Walla Marg (translated as "paratha sellers street") smells wonderful. One of the open-air restaurants here is well over 130 years old. (1872) Parathas are made of unleaven bread stuffed with vegetables, spices and sometimes cheese (paneer) - pretty much a meal on the go. These are often eaten for breakfast here in north India.
On our last trip in, we took one of our friends, Jane a little farther up Chandni Chowk to the Fruit and Nut/Spice/Pickle Market. This neighborhood smells incredible. Once you hit the spice stalls you often find yourself sneezing from all of the wonderful spices drifting in the air! Our favorites items are definitely the nuts, though. We go for the cashews, pistachios (pista) and almonds!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Do You Speak Hindi?

Next week we will have lived in India for an entire year! As a family we've accomplished quite a bit, but I have to admit, one of my big goals is still unrealized... my Hindi is still really bad. Our Indian friends and neighbors are very polite and encouraging, but it's still a thorn in my side that I haven't done better with the language.
I know a good deal of vocabulary now, but I just can't seem to get it together. And finding a conversational tutor in Noida has been a challenge. Everyone wants to teach, but no one seems to really know how to teach Hindi as a second language - conversational Hindi.
I'll side-step my guilt for now and bring you to the real topic of this blog... After being so exposed to this ancient language, it's been interesting to discover how much of it can be found in spoken English. We use it almost every day and don't realize it.
I'll give you a few quick examples... "Bangle, jungle, cot and sentry." These are all Hindi words and mean essentially the same thing in English as they do in Hindi.
The word "khaki" (light brown or tan) was not a surprise to me... probably adopted by the British Army, but the words "bandanna" (a scarf) and "bungalow" (a house in the Bengal style) were.
The word "cushy" (soft) is from Hindi, as well as "thug" (meaning thief). If you have kids, you use the word "pyjama" almost every evening - I know I do... but then again I live here. I'm supposed to be speaking more Hindi. I should note that Indians wear these during the day, not necessarily to sleep in... And of course we all wash our hair with "shampoo." - this word has its origins from the sub-continent as well.
We listen to the 'pundits' on radio or television - also a Hindi word meaning "scholar" - although I'm not sure its original meaning holds very true. Anyone, it seems, can now be a "pundit."
"Cheetah" and "calico" (colorful fabric) are also words from India. And finally, if you're into computer imaging, or online communities, or maybe are aware of the new James Cameron film, you've also used the word "Avatar." This is Hindi word meaning "incarnation or embodiment." As the story goes, Hinduism's Lord Vishnu projected himself in the form of the original "avatars:" Krishna and the Buddha to name just two.
Oh, and for the language purists who may be reading... yes, many of these words are not only Hindi, but may share common origins in the rich Urdu and/or Persian languages as well.
OK. I guess I'd better get back to trying to speak the Hindi language, rather than just be fascinated by it...
Meri Hindi kucch khaas nahi hai! (My Hindi is really bad!)