Saturday, December 4, 2010

Haircut 100

I really don't like to get my haircut. Not sure if it has to do with the sharp instruments, the smell of salon chemicals, or maybe even the feel of a barber's chair. Maybe it was that old wooden board my father's barber, Roy made me sit on... Roy used to lay the board across the arms of his red barber's chair. I'd sit on that board instead of in the chair. This made me tall enough so poor Roy wouldn't have to strain his back while he clipped my hair. Whatever the reason, to this day, I usually wait until my hair is getting a bit too shaggy before feeling the urge to get it cut. My problem has nothing to do with living in India. I've just never enjoyed getting my hair cut. Which brings me to today.... I looked in the mirror this morning and figured it was time to go...
There are a few options in India for getting a hair cut. The easiest one (and the most expensive) is getting an appointment at a nice, European-style salon. (these are often called "Saloons" here - no whiskey, just shampoo and mousse) These are usually located in expensive hotels or malls, but still cost less then a salon in a western country. The skill of the stylist may still be a crap-shoot. Lesa has actually finally found a pretty good one who is from France.
The next option is probably the most common, and the most colorful: the Indian street barber. These guys can be found in almost every neighborhood and have very little overhead - literally. They usually set up shop with a makeshift wooden table and chair. A mirror is often tacked to a tree or wall at curbside. Hygiene is not a main concern, but a customer gets a neat, quick haircut for about fifteen rupees. (that's about 30 US cents.) A shave will cost you another 10 rupees. Using a street barber is actually quite a spectator sport. A haircut and shave will almost always involve a small crowd of friends, neighbors or just simply curious onlookers...
Not being brave enough to take the sidewalk salon route, I have always opted for the neighborhood barbershop. These are a little more expensive - my haircuts cost 100 rupees (US$2) including tip. These shops are mostly clean and they smell just as bad as a barbershop anywhere. I wait with men who read the local newspaper, or style magazines with pretty girls on the cover. Conversation is usually minimal. My current barber's name is Sanjeet. His shop is only 2 blocks from our flat and he can cut my hair in about 15 minutes.... He even still knows how to use a straight razor. My kind of barber.

Hopefully I won't wait so long next time to get my haircut...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Turkeys in Nepal?

You can actually get an American Thanksgiving Dinner in Kathmandu. Although we decided not to sample the three-course dinner offerings. Momos, Chicken Tikka, wood-fired pizza and nice lean steaks were more to our liking and what we happened to choose. We took a 4 day trip over the Thanksgiving weekend (25-28 Nov) to Kathmandu - while taking advantage of some new airline deals on direct flights between Delhi and Nepal's capital.
It's an easy trip - only one hour - fifteen minutes. You spend more time wading through security and customs then you do in the air... We traveled with our fun, English friend, Jane. The kids love her, and Jane is the best person to have around when you're exploring stalls and shops in local markets!
If you're not familiar with Nepal, it is the small, very mountainous nation north of India, wedged in next to Bhutan, and Tibet. Nepal is 81% Hindu, 11% Buddhist and 5% Muslim (.5% Christian). It has been a democracy since 2006. The country is probably most famous for being home to the world's tallest mountain: Everest.
For this visit we just stayed in around the main city of Kathmandu. The Valley of Kathmandu is home to several UN world heritage sites. Durbar Square was a former seat of Nepalese royalty. Beautiful buildings with delicate-carved wooden frames, shutters and decoration surround you as you walk through this once-royal section of the city.
We spent some time exploring several Buddhist Temples, including Swoyambhu Nath, where you must climb many old stone steps to get to the large Stupa built high up on the edge of the Kathmandu Valley. Monkeys and souvenir hawkers follow all around you as you ascend the broad stairs.
We hired a car one day with our friend, Jane and drove out to the nearby town of Bhaktapur. Also a UNESCO World Heritage site, the architecture here is even more beautiful and much better restored than what you find in Kathmandu. Narrow, winding streets connect multiple market squares (Durbars). Our favorite of these is famous for pottery.Pots, bowls and oil lanterns cover the cobble stoned sidewalks as they dry in the sun. Once they are dried, they are stacked and buried in straw and wood - fired in a make-shift oven that is more of a ditch than a kiln.
I think we had the most fun wandering from market to market, browsing and shopping for clothing and handicrafts. It's all inexpensive and mostly quite useful. Except, maybe for the wooden ties Audrey and Evan managed to find hanging in the doorway of one shop...
My own personal favorite was all of the bogus "North Face" outdoor gear... Fleece jackets, coats, rain-pants. This stuff was just everywhere. The stitching is a little off, The quality is mixed at best, but for $5 who cares? I think my jacket is guaranteed to survive at least 2 spin cycles in a washing machine... Great trip.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Rangoli is a traditional art form here in India. Made of fine colored powders, flowers and candles, they are decorative designs placed on the floors of living rooms and courtyards during Hindu festivals. The designs are meant to be a sacred welcoming place for deities. Rangoli add color and beauty to one's home and are thought to bring good luck.
Lesa got rather ambitions this past Diwali - the wonderful Hindu festival of Lights.After winning a Rangoli competition at work with her team at Freescale, she dove into designing and making a rangoli for our living room to help celebrate Diwali. Our driver helped us shop for colors, flowers and diyas (small lanterns) for added decoration.
Lesa laid out her design on the floor, and with the help of Audrey, carefully spread the colors and laid out what became quite a beautiful work of art!

Lesa's design added more, beauty, light and meaning to our Diwali evenings!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More than just Pork

It's not easy to find consistent meats in India - especially, lean and hygenic. But after many attempts I have finally found the perfect shop: "The Taste," in nearby Defense Colony:Pork, chicken, fish and... Lingerie? Leave it to India to come up with creative, more complete ways to meet customer appetites...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We had a nice Halloween this year. We all went to the American Embassy School's "Fall Fiesta." This is essentially a giant kids Halloween romp. All of the students wear their costumes. There are games, prizes, contests and a lot of kid friendly food.
This year Evan went as a ghoul....
And Audrey went as a Vampiress. One of her favorite incarnations! Audrey also went trick or treating with her friend Mariam on the AES Campus. Both the kids helped me design this year's pumpkin. (banner photo)
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Scouting Merit Badge!

Evan and I recently joined New Delhi's Pack 3060 Boy Scout Troop. Evan is a Bear Cub and I have become an Assistant Den Leader for the third graders. We meet about 3 times a month and usually do an additional activity as well... this month we are doing a hike at a local Delhi wildlife sanctuary... next month a camp out in Faridabad, etc.
At this month's pack meeting Evan was awarded his first merit badge: The Bobcat! In order to earn the badge, Evan had to learn the Cub Scout Promise, Pack Law, Motto, hand shake and salute among other things! He did a great job!
The boys in our "Bear Den" are from all over the world including India, the US, Nepal, England, Australia and South Korea! The boys are all in the third grade.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

the Nizamuddin East Market

I took a little walk with my camera today while the kids were in school. Thought I'd show you some of my daily sights... I stopped by one of the many ironing shops on my way to the market. This fellow is only about a block from where we live. Most of these these are open-air stalls. They are covered by a tarp "roof" if it's raining. These professionals iron the same way people pressed clothing 200 years ago. Hot wood-coals are placed inside a heavy-cast clothes iron. Of course there are no temperature settings so you need to be careful giving these folks your delicates or any many-made fabrics. In the past, Lesa and I both have had parts of clothing melted from the heat these irons put out!
You can get almost all of your daily shopping needs met in Nizamuddin. The only exceptions to this are probably music, electronics and good paper products. But there are other great markets nearby for these sorts of items. One of the shops I frequent is run by Rajesh. He supplies me with bottled water, dry food goods, and even fresh chapattis to order. Sort of the 7-Eleven of Nizamuddin, Rajesh's store is open long hours each day.
Just down the street is my vegetable-fruit man. He's always there on his corner. He sets up around 8am every morning and is still selling until 8 or 9 pm most evenings. Everything is fresh and most of what he sells is grown in India. Alas, the mango season has ended, but nice apples and pears from Kashmir are starting to be available.
Another stop I make about every other day is to the "Mother Dairy" store. My Dood Walla is almost always in good spirits, even though his days are long ones. He's open from about 5am until around 8pm (although he always takes a lunch break from 2-4pm). His shop sells everything from milk and Dahi (yogurt), to ice cream and butter. It's all fresh and very inexpensive.
The marketplace includes a Chemist (Pharmacy), Hair Salons, a cafe-bakery that also sells new books, a nice clothing store and even a small toy shop. All of this is only within two blocks of our flat. These shops deliver to your home, or you can purchase items like fruits, vegetables and even brushes and brooms from cart vendors that travel the quaint streets and alleys of Nizamuddin East each day!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Damp in Delhi

I guess I'm writing about the weather.... but I'm not just killing time... Really.
Last year was our only experience of the supposed "Monsoon Season" in New Delhi. It was dry. Very dry. Lesa and I recall only two days last year when we had an honest downpour of rain. Both days were in August, and that was about it aside from a few scattered showers.
The Monsoon season for the Northern part of India is typically July and August. Most of the year's supply of rain is supposed to happen during these months. Well things seem to have tipped in the other direction this year. We had a little rain in July, but since the second half of August it has rained almost every day.Long downpours. Sometimes what I would call torrential rains... And it is still raining as I write this. In fact it is the wettest year on record in India since 1978! The season is not expected to swing to dry weather until the end of September.
I wanted to write about this because there just aren't many places in the US where it rains quite this much for such an extended period of weeks (except for maybe the Pacific NW).
Commuters clothing gets soaked. Streets and underpasses are routinely flooded. Traffic lights fail. Motor Bikers and rickshaws hide under bridges. There are issues with power and drinking water, and mosquitoes. Dengue Fever. Commuter traffic is a muddy, soggy mess.
Lesa the kids and I have been dowsed with walls of fetid water from passing cars... and drying clothing after you wash it includes the acceptance wearing clean, but slightly damp underwear.
There is a brighter side of the Monsoon, though. Everything is beautifully green and alive. People seem more cheerful. The streets are washed clean of soot and trash, and the temperature becomes a relief. Although humid, the temperature has been about 10-15 degrees cooler (Fahrenheit) than normal. Typically 75-90 instead of 95+ degrees.
And with the noticeable drop in temperatures everyone's thoughts begin to drift towards the start of the long festival season in India... Eid, Durga Puja, Diwali, the wedding season and of course, Christmas.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Celebrating Eid

We had a wonderful experience on Sunday evening. Our neighbors, Rizwan and Irfan - (brothers and flat owners) invited us to join their family in Eid Celebrations. We weren't too familiar with the Muslim festival called Eid. I thought I'd better do a little research before we went to the family gathering!
Eid ul-Fitr is a three day holiday marking the end of the 30 day period of Ramadan. The word Eid means "festival," and Fitr, "conclusion of the fast." In my mind, Eid is most similar to Christmas. It is considered one of the 2 most important Muslim holy celebrations. As with Christmas, many wonderful foods, prayers & well-wishes, gifts and thanks are shared with family and friends during this joyous period.
We all got dressed up - typically you should wear a new outfit on this occasion to mark a new beginning. Eid ul-Fitr follows the reserved, reflective time of Ramadan, which is not unlike the Christian period of Lent).
After removing our shoes we were warmly welcomed by the family into their home. We sat on large cushions and pillows surrounding the edges of the large, open living room/dining space.
Beautiful tablecloths were spread out in the center of the floor - and the "table" was set. A feast of spiced chicken, mutton, rice, yogurt and bread was spread before us - all traditional foods. The meats were roasted or simmered until delicate. Not too spicy, but the dishes were full of flavor from complex mixtures of herbs and masala. There is no alcohol in a proper Muslim house, so we were refreshed with cold water and icy Coca-Cola.
The family of five brothers and three sisters, their mother, and all of the children (and the 4 of us) gathered around the "table" and shared this large, wonderful meal. Audrey especially liked the chicken, and Evan the mutton and rice! The meal ended with Indian sweets (similar Gulab Jamun).
After the meal there was conversation - the children all speak English quite well, as do most of the eight siblings (our hosts). But after the meal had ended and the table was cleared, I noticed there was a subtle excitement in the air - and it was growing by the minute.
The children were keeping a close eye on their uncles. Waiting for a cue. The kids were anticipating what is known as "Eidi." This is the blessing of good tidings and often the exchange of gifts between family and friends.
In Rizwan and Irfan's family the tradition of Eidi includes the passing out of rupees... in small bundles of ten rupee and 100 rupee notes. Each uncle and then each aunt, and finally the family matriarch (grandmother to all the younger children) each handed out little bundles. There was much laughter, teasing, children jostling for position (the kids had to line up before receiving their Eidi from each relative) and a little wrestling - all in fun.
We really had a blast! Evan and Audrey were included in the Eidi gifts (which was very, very generous!). Lesa and I loved watching all the antics, sharing conversations, joking, and getting to know our neighbors, their families and their culture a little better.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Big 4-6 in Bollywood

Yet again, my family has shared an unusual birthday with me in India... this one is actually my third one here (hard to believe). I have no complaints - they all seem to be celebrated in nice locations...
This year was no different. We all flew down to Mumbai for the weekend. We found a great deal at the Taj Palace hotel. When we arrived (and were still not sure why) the hotel proceeded to give us a raft of upgrades... A sea-view room, a butler service, welcome drinks, breakfast, High Tea (which is basically a late-lunch buffet) and even Happy Hour. None of this seemed to be related to the fact that it was my birthday.
The staff at Souk, the Mediterranean Restaurant on the hotel's top floor, made a special dessert for me, and then our evening "Butlers" brought us chocolate cake and Champagne. Who knew 46 would be so extravagant, (and paid for by the Tata family)? Lesa and I went out for dinner while the kids got a baby sitter and had the run of the room for the evening... everyone had a great time in the rather cosmopolitan city of Mumbai...
Meanwhile, back in the USA... we weren't able to be at my Dad's birthday celebration this year (5 Sept). My sister Melanie recorded the event for us in far away Georgia! Mel, her beautiful daughter, Sarina and Dad's lovely wife Carol all enjoyed a nice meal (and of course some BIG Margarita's - see photo below!).
As you can see, at 76, Dad and Margarita are doing just fine... Love you, Dad!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raksha Bandhan

We just celebrated Raksha Bandhan with Evan and Audrey this morning. This day's name literally means, "bond of protection" in Hindi. I like it because the day is dedicated to building the bonds between brothers and sisters. Raksha Bandhan is when siblings pray for each other's well being and for each other's happiness.
In the short morning ceremony, brothers make a pledge to their sisters to protect them from harm and troubles. Then the sister prays to God to protect her brother from evil. Sisters go on to tie a thread, called a "Rakhi," around their brother's wrist and say a prayer for his well-being. The ceremony concludes with the brother promising to take care of his sister. Usually the brother then gives his sister a token gift of thanks.
The thread, or Rakhi, is often gilded or decorated. It is usually tied by one's sister, but a wife or mother can also apply the Rakhi.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Shoe Repair

Audrey and I were in Sarojini Nagar market (one of our favorites) to do some shopping a few days ago. As we walked I noticed that the tips of my sandals were starting to come apart. Good footwear is essential in a place like India. This particular pair are made by "Keen" and I wear them almost everyday. I figured I'd take a chance and try out one of the local shoe repair guys. They usually sit along the curb near the Mehndi (Henna) artists in this large, rather famous, central Delhi market. Audrey wanted some mehndi on one of her hands anyway, so while she picked out her design (and negotiated her price) with one of the artists, I walked a few steps down the street to see the shoe man about my problem.
He gestured for me to sit down on his small stool and then had me take off my sandals. He examined them thoroughly, and then rummaged through his many tubes, canisters, brushes and bottles. After obviously not finding what he wanted, he looked up at me and put his finger in the air saying: "Aik minute." Then he stood up and disappeared down the street leaving me to sit alone on his stool in the hot sunshine.
I glanced over my shoulder. Audrey's mendhi-artist was still working on her hand, so I just sat there and wondered where my shoe guy had disappeared to... and if I would ever see my sandals again?
But sure enough in a few minutes he re-emerged from the crowded market street with my shoes in his hands and sat back down beside me. "Hanji," (Good) he said waggling his head. "New and best." I wagged my head back to him grinning and saying: "Teek, teek hai. Hanji!" (Ok, okay. Good!) My shoe guy also had a big smile on his face. The sandals looked as good as new. He must have used some sort of glue on them and then buffed and polished my sandals back to their original state in just a few short minutes. The man smiled and asked me for 20 rupees (about $.40) for his time and talent.
Then I turned back to see Audrey now standing next to me proudly displaying the beautiful new henna-design on her hand. Since we were both done, we decided we'd venture back into Sarojini Nagar to see what else we could discover...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Moving in India

I figured I should give readers a view of our recent move from Noida to Delhi... Since we used international movers when we first came here, this was our first move using local resources. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. After meeting with four companies, I chose a Noida-based company called "Sai Movers and Packers." To prepare for their arrival, Lesa and I boxed up anything we were afraid might be damaged or tempting. We put our winter clothes into our many suitcases. But we left most of the rest for the movers.
Five guys and the truck driver appeared on the scheduled day at the scheduled time (8am). Not bad. The moving crew came in and after a little review of what we expected (as interpreted by our driver, Chauhan) they went to work.
Most of our clothing was bundled into sheets - big bundles. All of the dishes and kitchenware were wrapped in bubble-plastic and packed into well-used cardboard boxes. Although placing heavy, marble housewares on top of kitchen glassware would not have been a packing strategy I would've used... nothing seemed to break as it went into each box. Furniture was covered with cardboard and taped for protection. And all of our "wall art" was first wrapped in Styrofoam (Thermocol) and then covered with bubble-plastic. This process took about five hours.
The crew then hauled everything down to the lobby, using the service elevator of our ATS tower. The contents of our entire apartment was there in the lobby on display.. until the truck finally arrived at about 2pm.
Then the real action started - Everything was loaded somewhat haphazardly into the back of their small, open freight truck. The loading was interupted occasionally by loud arguments about what to put where in the back of the truck. Everything was eventually stacked in the bed of that truck. The "Beverly Hillbillies" comes to mind.
After it was all roped down our driver gave the movers directions to the new flat and a little cash in case they needed to bribe the transport-tax collector at the U.P. - Delhi border.
All of our belongings made it across the river into Delhi and to our new apartment in Nizamuddin. The guys carted the whole lot up two flights of stairs and placed everything where we directed. The only slight damage we found after all of this was to the heaviest piece of furniture we own - our Indian-made, wooden sofa bed.
The move was over before 6pm. The price? High for India, but only $275 including tips.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Officially Counted

Just a few days before we moved from Noida to Delhi, I heard a knock on the door. We usually don't get many visitors during the day unless it is a courier so I was a little curious.
It turned out to be a fellow from the Census Board. He had come to officially count us for the 2011 National Census of India.
The man came carrying a briefcase filled with very large, multiple forms with well-used sheets of carbon paper slipped in-between. All of the forms were printed in Hindi. Fortunately my census taker turned out to be a High School teacher on assignment with the government for a year. He spoke English quite well and helped walk me through all of the forms and the simple questions about our family. After about 15 minutes we were finished. Off he went, with a polite smile, a soft handshake and a wag of his head, to the next flat in our building.
The experience immediately made me think of my Dad, a retired High School teacher. Dad became a Federal Government census-taker in the mountains of rural Georgia during the 2000 US Census. If you know my father you know he has the gift of gab, and loves to explore back country roads - perfect man for the job.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First Day at the New School!

Evan and Audrey had their first day of school this week... No more uniforms, but a new schedule and this was the first time the kids have traveled to school on a bus! Audrey is now in 4th Grade and Evan is in 3rd. AES has a "no homework" policy for grades K-5, so the kids are pretty excited about this too! Daily homework only includes reading everyday after school for a minimum of 30 minutes and as much after-school physical activity as New Delhi weather permits... This seems a little more practical than what typical kids are doing - lugging a heavy backpack full of books and notebooks back and forth from school.
I think both of the kids are going to sign up for an after school gymnastics class (2 days/week) and continue with swimming on Saturdays to round out their week...
Only about 30 percent of the kids at AES are actually American. The other 70 percent of kids represent 52 other countries from around the world!

Here's Audrey's first-day picture - she looks all ready to go!

Here's Evan's....
Unfortunately Evan wound up with a 103 degree fever Sunday night (still 101 Monday morning) so he rested with Dad at home the first day.

But he made it in on Tuesday.
Although he is maybe a little less gung-ho than Audrey about AES, he seems to be enjoying getting back to more western-style classes and teachers.
Oh, and did I mention the school cafeteria? - tossed salad, fruit salad, homemade ice cream, bakery fresh breads, rolls and veg or non-veg main courses... Makes me want to go back to school.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Little Blue Button

When we first set up a household in India, we wanted to purchase only what we thought was practical. We also wanted to be a little more "green" with energy consumption. So we made a few choices...
We purchased a small, Indian made car. We decided not to get an oven, but to cook in a normal Indian kitchen. And we bought a small, simple refrigerator. At the time these all seemed like reasonable decisions.
The results:
The car has turned out fine. It's a little tight, but is efficient and reliable.
Life without an oven has run its course.... We really enjoy Indian food, but we've concluded our family needs a routine with a few more familiar foods in it. So we plan to get a little oven for our new apartment in Delhi.
This brings me to our little Samsung refrigerator. This is the choice that just won't leave me alone. The fridge is small, but functional. And it's very efficient with its four star energy rating. The problem is with the auto-defrost function... there isn't one. But there is a little Blue Button.
When India is hot and humid (like it is now in monsoon season) the ice can really build up fast, turning the refrigerator's little freezer compartment into a small, frozen cave. The small freezer door refuses to shut and then, finally, ice crystals begin marching their way down into the main compartment below. I can extend the inevitable by chipping away at the edges of the ice around the freezer door, but this solution doesn't last long.
When I start losing site of ice trays and the few odd items that will actually fit inside our freezer, I just push that little blue "defrost" button.... And I wait. For about three hours. Then I open the door to what has now become a slushy, drippy, watery mess.
If you are older than 35, you probably know what it means to manually defrost a freezer. Your mother used to put pots of hot water inside the top of your kitchen refrigerator to defrost the freezer box... And there were lots of old towels to keep the water from getting all over the floor.
To defrost our little fridge everything must come out of the icebox and the upper shelves. The Blue Button shuts off the fridge and warms the case surrounding the icebox. Then ice and slush surrounding the icebox must be chipped, shovelled, swept and finally toweled out.Once done, this icy slop is carted across a wet kitchen floor to the sink where it winds up as a mound of melting snow. The lower shelves, also now all drippy and wet, have to be dried off. Then I have to drain and dry the puddle of nasty freezer-water that has accumulated in the bottom of the fridge. The final task is to dry condensation off containers, vegetables and frozen items that I have tumbled and stacked on the kitchen counter. All of the items get returned to their respective places once again inside the refrigerator.
I do get some pleasure out of this whole cold, soggy, sweaty choice: The sight of a freshly cleaned and dried icebox, followed by the sound of that little Blue Button popping out. Our small Samsung refrigerator has turned itself back on.
Lesa says I put the "man" in Manual Defrost.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chatting with a Mahout

My driver and I were in downtown Noida yesterday when we spotted a "Mahout" riding his very large male elephant past one of the newly completed metro stations here. Chauhan (my driver) and I were finished with our afternoon errands so we decided to see if the guy would stop and 'visit' with us for a few minutes on the side of the road. To be honest, I just wanted to better understand why I keep seeing these giant animals casually strolling through city traffic.
It turned out that the elephant driver (or "Mahout") was really nice and very willing to talk with us. He was apparently from southwest Delhi (about 15 km away) and was on his way to a large party on the other side of Noida in the neighboring community of Ghaziabad. My driver says the mahout was probably making about 10,000 rupees ($200) for this very long walk and special appearance.
Chauhan helped translate my questions while we spoke. As I was standing there on the edge of the street, the elephant stepped closer and touched me on my shoulder and hand with his long trunk as if to say, "hello." Then the elephant reached out past me and wrapped his trunk around a small tree that had been recently planted by city at the side of the road. He gently tugged and pulled the tall sapling right out of the ground.... just a small snack.
At this point we realized we had started to draw a small crowd of curious onlookers: "What's the white guy with the camera doing with that elephant on the side of the road?" I think there were maybe 25 people closing in on us...
So we thanked the Mahout for his time. Then he gave Chauhan his card and said if we ever want a ride to please give his son a call. Then off the two of them lumbered, man and beast, on again to their scheduled party appearance. Just another day in suburban Noida.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Gotta Get the Dood.

What seems like the simplest of tasks can actually be a bit more complicated in India. Drinking milk is a great example. Because there isn't a guaranteed 24 hour power supply in most places here, the concept of buying fresh, refrigerated milk in the grocery store doesn't really exist. But, as with all things here, there are always unique alternatives.

The most expensive option is to buy milk in a box. Essentially "irradiated" milk, it comes in whole or skim varieties and the brands range from Nestle to our local Amul. I have to say though, that because it can sit on the shelf at room temperature (read as anywhere from 50 degrees to 120 degrees Fahrenheit) the taste is less than spectacular. When chilled though, Audrey and Evan seem to like it despite the altered taste.
The second option (and least expensive ) is having a guy deliver your milk at your doorstep each morning. This stuff is straight from the cow. It's still warm and carried in a classic aluminum milk jug. He ladles it out from the jug and into your container of choice. Probably costs about 20 cents for a quart (litre) of milk. Because we aren't sure where this milk actually comes from and how its collected we haven't tried it out.
Here at ATS, the best option for buying milk has materialized in the form or Mr. Tyagi. Or "Tyagi-ji, the "Doodha-Walla." "Dood" is the Hindi word for milk. As I've noted before, the word "walla" means, "seller of." In this case, Tyagi-ji is a seller of milk.
He is set up in our complex every morning at about 6am with milk crates filled with varieties of fresh, homogenized milk. The milk is cold and has been sealed in 500ml plastic bags. Skim Milk, toned milk, double toned milk and milk with vitamins A and D added are all available. The word "tone" has to do with the fat content of the milk.
Each bag costs 13 to 15 rupees (about 30 cents) depending on the kind you want. Although it is supposedly processed for safety, everyone here boils their milk and serves it hot. Even breakfast cereals, many of which are the same as what we get back in the US, exclaim: "Goes great with hot milk!" We chill the remains of the boiled milk in our refrigerator so the kids can have a little cold milk the following morning.
It's a lot to go through for a glass of milk, but Lesa will be the first to tell you that freshly brewed coffee with fresh, boiled milk delivers the best morning cuppa- joe you'll ever have.
My only only complaint about this whole "Dood-thing" is the boiling of the milk. It's normally my job to do it each morning and I tend to get sidetracked... Boiled-over milk is a mess to clean up.