Archive for the ‘ThingsIndiansLove’ Category

Mango Mania!

Summer and India. Those two words don’t usually play nice together. However, once you get past the unbearable heat, there is something to be said for this particular season…

ITS MANGO SEASON!

When I was growing up in North Carolina, I thought I knew what mangoes were. Mangoes were those delicious fruits that were shipped up from Florida once a year. Right? Wrong.

Mangoes in India are an entirely different beast. Even in off seasons, restaurants have staple beverages like thick mango nectar, mango milkshakes and mango lassi. In season however, the sheer abundance of mangoes is a sight to see. To celebrate the onset of mango season, Jeremy, a new friend Rodrick and I went to a mango exhibition at the Hyderabad Exhibition Grounds.

You walk into a little area that is lined with mango vendors from various neighboring districts. Each district flaunting their local brand of mango. A few of the vendors were wise enough to offer free samples, and I rewarded them for their willingness to share. You wouldn’t believe how inexpensive these mangoes were! You could get 3 massive mangoes or enough to weigh 1kg for about 50 cents. Needless to say, I got a LOT of mangoes. My favorite was this one that was on the smaller side but you could squeeze it and it would pop right out of its skin. You affix your mouth to the part where it starts to pop out and voila, as jeremy affectionately called it, you have a mango “juicebox”.

Finally, I went to the indoor part where the mangoes were not for sale. Inside, there was a room full of over 100 varieties of mangoes. It was pretty awesome. I felt like Bubba from Forrest Gump in the part where he goes on about shrimp. I mean, they had round mangoes, red mangoes, bumpy mangoes, tube mangoes, cherry mangoes, pickled mangoes, mango pulp, monster mangoes, you think of it and it was there. Check out the photo.

 

I leave you guys with a poem.

Is there any fruit like the Mango?
It makes my taste buds do the Tango.
Although it takes some work to slice.
The effort makes it twice as nice.
whether you bite into that delicious pulp
or grab a juicy one and take a gulp
whenever you get a hunger pang-o
there’s no other fruit like the mango!
 

 

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Things Indians Love: Oil

First let me start by saying “Happy New Years!”, as today marks the first day of the new year in the Telugu calendar. The holiday is called Ugadi, and best of all, I had the day off work to celebrate! How did I celebrate? Apart from the traditional practice of tasting Pacchidi, a fruit juice concoction that my driver prepared for the holiday, I decided to get my hair cut. Big time.

This post may seem like its about a pretty trivial activity, and it is, but maybe writing about this will let you know how ‘ordinary living’ can be a lot different here.

I finally came to terms with the fact that my hair will never look like McDreamy’s, no matter how much my sister wants it to. So in an effort to combat the Indian heat, I went with a buzz cut. You’ll probably see some pictures soon enough, but for now I’ll leave it to your imagination. I think it’s been over 5 years since I have had my hair this short, and I forgot how nice it feels.

What ever made me think I could pull that off?

Now that's a look I can get behind.

So instead of going to the usual place (as in, I’ve been there once before) up the street, my driver Narsiah suggested I patronize his former classmate’s barbershop. After arriving I tried to use my Telugu to tell the barber what I wanted. Risky, I know. After trying three times to tell him not to bother with the scissors, just get the razor out (scissors vaadakudadu ani cheppenu!), even pantomiming with a buzzing sound the motion of an electric razor going over my head. I sighed and watched for ten minutes as he trimmed at my hair with scissors. Finally when he asked about my side burns and pulled out the little trimming razor, I somehow managed to convey the meaning across that I wanted a bigger razor on the rest of my head. These communication problems happen pretty frequently here, and the best thing is to just try and be patient. After the cut was done and I was starting to get up, the barber quickly interjected that I shouldn’t leave without having an oil treatment done to my hair.

In contrast to the U.S, where at least I get the feeling that oily hair is considered gross, in India most people apply oil to their hair at least once a week. Apart from making a big mess and smelling weird, they claim it is good for the hair. Sure, I’ll go with it. I agreed to the rough head massage and left feeling like the newest member on the cast of Jersey Shore. Apart from whatever the oil was that they put in my hair, Indians use a wide variety of other oils (but not olive oil). The grocery store has a whole aisle stocked with bags of oils from various seeds and other things from which I had no idea you could get oil.

Speaking about oil and head massages, I would be remiss to not mention the amazing massage I had yesterday. Since I had a three day weekend and didn’t go anywhere, I decided to at least make this weekend somewhat special by taking Jordan to a nice brunch and a massage at some local upscale hotels. After a delicious brunch that included STEAK (visit me and I’ll take you there) we went to another hotel for our two hour massage. It was my first professional massage and now I wish I lived the life of the country-club housewives who get these massages weekly. After a salt scrub, swedish massage, and facial, I felt like a snake that had just shed its skin. The entire day made me forget I was in India, which can be a nice feeling to have sometimes.

Well that sums up my weekend. Hmm, am I missing anything? Oh yeah, INDIA WON THE CRICKET WORLD CUP! Massive celebrations ensued. No big deal. Maybe I’ll write more about that later.

Jiminy Cricket! Howzatt?

2549 to 20 – that is the number of Olympic medals the USA has won total compared to the number India has won.

India has 16% of the world’s population and they have only managed to win 20 medals, primarily in events like field hockey and shooting. How is this possible?

Indian culture doesn’t value athleticism to a great extent. While the models here are undeniably gorgeous, they are also much curvier than their American counterparts. Women wear saris that unabashedly display their extra rolls of side-skin. The English tradition has left people here with a passing interest in sports like tennis, rugby, field hockey, and badminton, but the health-craze that is firmly entrenched in America hasn’t made its way over to India yet.

Since I have gotten here, I have found the no-exercise culture to be contagious. Long work hours combined with the abundance of food-coma inducing meals has left me little time to focus on my fitness. Those who knew me in DC, where I was free after 12:30pm, won’t feel any sympathy for me, but this has been one of the hardest things for me to adjust to in India. I blame the heat. How can one be expected to work out when you are sweating all day?  While my initial fears of gaining weight have subsided a bit, I know I am slowly losing any semblance of muscle mass that I have worked years to develop. I wonder if I could get paid to take pictures of before and after my 2 years here, reverse their order, and then send them to some workout plan infomercial.

Now to get to the point. Any discussion of sports in India would be remiss without mentioning cricket. This past weekend I accepted my friend Aditya’s invitation to watch the India vs Bangladesh World Cup cricket match. I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Without getting too down into the weeds about the rules of cricket (excuse me, the laws), imagine a baseball game where there are 50 innings, and one team bats all fifty innings before they switch sides. Unlike baseball though, reaching the cap of 10 outs is very rare and making runs is common, so scores often end up being in the 200-400 range. I found that cricket was a bit slow for me, and lacked the back-and-forth that basketball, football, and come to think of it, most other sports have. Thankfully my friends just wanted to see India at bat, so 4 hours later (1/2 done with the match) we turned the t.v. off. My nitpicking aside, cricket does have some charm. Maybe its the subliminal effect of the ads I see every day, or the constant background noise of cricket on televisions in corners of restaurants, but having an entire nation united behind one team IS exciting, and part of what I always enjoyed about the Olympics in the first place.

There are different formats of cricket, one of which only lasts about 3 or 4 hours. I think this would be just the right dosage. Come April, I plan on being in the crowd supporting the Deccan Chargers (Hyderabad’s local team) in the  intra-national play. Until then, unless I can find a treadmill to watch a televised cricket match from, I think I’ll just peruse the highlights.

Things Indians Love: Ketchup

This is the first of another column I thought up, “things Indians love”, trust me, there are many. Today’s column is about ketchup.

One thing I have noticed here is that Indians love their ketchup. Just as I think Europeans have a thing with Mayo,   Thankfully, the ketchup here is pretty normal. Occasionally its a little thin and runny, but usually its about how I expect it to be. Still, when you hand me a packet of ketchup at subway, I don’t really know what to do with it. Thankfully they only give out packets of ketchup, and don’t apply it themselves. I think its interesting to see how different cultures use their condiments differently, especially when their have their own, like sriracha sauce. I wonder how long ketchup has been in India, because thankfully its not in any Indian dishes.  After a bit of google research, I find that apparently Indians are not the only ones suffering from this obsession, there are pockets of loonies all over the world. Still, someone who puts ketchup on waffles would at least be looked at funny in the US, here they wouldn’t bat an eye. In my family we always joked that ketchup counts as one of your daily vegetables, at least according to Ronald Reagan.

Before coming here I heard a lot about how spicy the food in South India is. So far, I haven’t met my match. Perhaps its exaggerated? One time I went to a restaurant and placed an order and the waiter flat out told me, “you can’t order that, too spicy”, so I acquiesced and ordered something else. Maybe I should try again… In telugu class we read about ‘Guntur’, the city famous for its red chili powder, and also where my teacher hailed from. Guntur has tons of these chili warehouses (or godowns, as indians say). One day, a giant chili warehouse had a tremendous fire and in addition to millions of dollars in lost goods, the entire town was immersed in a haze of red chili mist that made the town practically uninhabitable for a few weeks. On a side note, that was probably an effective form of crowd control because despite the British legacy, Indians know how to strike like the French.

Unlike my semester I spent studying in Copenhagen, food here is for the most part extremely inexpensive. The price of food in restaurants is inversely related to my incentive to cook for myself. Couple that with me not knowing the grocery store layouts and you have a recipe for me only cooking once in my entire month here (and it was macaroni and cheese). Thankfully, not only is the food cheap, but it is pretty tasty too. Mostly veg, but I can cope with that. I am slowly putting together a list of favorite restaurants for anyone who comes to visit me. Don’t expect me to cook anything for you.

I realized that my blog’s audience is mainly village moms at this point, so if my audience wants to hear about anything in particular, feel free to leave a comment on my blog posts. Otherwise, you will continue to get random musings like this one.