Tuesday, January 11, 2011

India Days 9 and 10- Thiruvannamalai

On Day 9 I flew freakin' early in the morning from Delhi to Chennai, and then hopped in a rented car for a 4 hour drive to Thiruvannamalai to visit my friend S's family -- her grandparents live there and her mom and bro and sis in law were also visiting. I felt so honored to be asked to visit!

This is short, as I have limited internet time, but... TV malai, as S's family calls it, was Spec.Tac.Cu.Lar.

things I remember, no particular order--
  • drinking fresh green coconuts, just picked from the tree in S's grandparents garden (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • eating fresh hot dosai
  • visiting the ashram of Ramana Maharshi... I have no words for the peace that descended as the devotees chanted...
  • Visiting the main temple and being blessed by a baby (girl) elephant! (it involves giving a coin in return for a gentle thump on the head!!!)
  • having S's tata (grandfather) show us around the temple, telling us the history, and even get us the opportunity for special pooja of the main deity as well as of the goddess
  • playing with S's 1.5 year old daughter
  • getting a (mild) electric shock - (Note: Be VERY careful when removing your phone from being charged!!!)
  • the gorgeous Arunachal Mountain
  • walking to the little temples next to S's grandparents' place and learning about her family's guru...
  • Taking time with D and S to hang out in S's grandfather's study... a timeless place that elicits thinking and contemplation, while staring out at the beauty of Arunachala
  • being blessed by S's grandmother and mother
  • the l-o-n-g car ride back to Chennai with little M and S, singing songs to little M to pass the time! :-)
  • The lovely dinner with S and big M in Chennai (even it was North Indian!!!)

Sunday, January 09, 2011

india day 8 - Delhi

In the morning, P and I went for an excursion to old Delhi... We saw the Jama Masjid. It was beautiful, with a vast stone courtyard, picturesque arches and ornate stone window screens. It was also freezing cold, as we had to remove our shoes. Thank god for socks, which protected our feet not only from the numbing stone vastness, but also from the product of thousands of pigeons which swoop over the courtyard.

After that we took a walk around the nooks and gullies of Chandni Chowk, the market of old Delhi. As it was a Sunday, many shops were closed, but that had the advantage of making the traffic easy to navigate, both by foot and car. Also, we focused on the beautiful if decrepit architectural details. (Again, I don't have the photos downloaded, but in due time some will be attached to this entry.)

Then we went to the very close by Kitab Bazaar (book bazaar) that's held in the area known as Daryaganj every Sunday. These guys spread out their wares (of secondhand books) and wear socks, to make it easy to traipse over the books to pick up the one that an interested customer is pointing at. P noted that most of the books were about computers, computer programs, business, or some type of educational book. Very few humanities represented, except for the ubiquitous "trashy novels." The librarian in me noticed that some of the books being sold were in good condition while others were so far gone that they would have been weeded asap, had they been discovered lurking in my library.

Then we found this guy who sells old stamps, not only Indian, but from over the whole world. That cheered us a bit, to find something we considered of real value out there, amidst all the detritus of C++ et al...

Lunch was with the whole gang and some of their friends and some of my friends, all at the Habitat Centre, specifically at the Delhi, O Delhi restaurant, which has an excellent buffet. I was stuffed when we left -- with good conversation, new friends, and a great meal. Yum.

Then we came home and S and M promptly put me to work, helping create a fairy treasure chest. It's hard work, you know! :-) Much talking and laughing happened, despite the taskmaster's strict orders to focus on the task at hand -- of painting the treasure chest as many bright colors as possible.

After dinner, it was Harry Potter time again, and today we read all about Grawp - Hagrid's half brother. Much giggling happened alongside the reading, due to the antics of both Grawp and of 5-year old S, who was in a zany mood. The goodnights were bittersweet, as I depart (fog allowing) for Chennai tomorrow morning...

Then a little more conversation, a lot of readjustment packing (keeping in mind the warmer weather in South India) and now off to sleep... Good night!

oh, and p.s.... Forgot to mention that I started off the morning with a short brisk walk around the track at Gulmohar Club. There were swings too, so I got in a few swings before the security guard informed me that the swings would break if adults went on them. I don't know... it seemed sturdy to me!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

India day 7 - Delhi


  • birthday party for my friends' 5 yr old... complete with an indoor bouncy castle and to-die-for chocolate cake made by a Canadian bakery
  • Making a string doll with the 5 yr old's nine year old sister
  • dinner at a chic Italian restaurant to celebrate the 5 yr old's dad's 39th birthday. Yum!
  • a before sunset stroll by myself in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood
  • drawing bunnies, genies, and puppies with my 5 yr old and 9 yr old nieces
  • watching the five yr old's eyes glow as her birthday presents towered in front of her
  • talking with my friends M and P about their newly-found grudging acceptance of Barbies
  • going to a party being held by a writer at her barsati, and meeting journalists, artists, anthropologists, and even a former race car driver there!
  • going to sleep!

Friday, January 07, 2011

India day 6 - Delhi

As today I was (shakily) feeling better, I was up and about, but cautiously. I took a short trip to a local market... (Didn't feel up to going to a museum or anything more touristy). Bought some birthday gifts and clothes to wear when I go to South India (which is warmer)

Then came home and spent time with five year old S., making a string Bharata Natyam doll, complete with a flying house. Much fun was had.

But I must say, 5 year olds have a LOT of energy. Who knew? :-) I ended up taking a 2 hour nap in the evening to compensate.

Evening routine was the same, with the Harry Potter and chat with P and M...

Pictures to follow.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

India day 5 - Delhi

I was sick all day... Just lay in bed with a fever and other things... And was taken care of by P and M. I couldn't ask for better friends, who talked with the doctor on the phone, got the meds, made me take them, fussed and hovered...

Today was.... achy sleep.....

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

India day 4 - Delhi

  • explored Dilli Haat some more and shopped for some more gifts
  • watched a fun dance program in the courtyard at Dilli Haat - Rajasthani bhavai - wherein there was singing, whirling, whirling with pots (6!) balanced on head, and accomplishments of feats of balance, like dancing on top of two swords! I have photos galore, but not on this computer, so if one were to return to this blog, in time there would be photos to see...
  • went to Khan Market to revisit Manzil - a youth empowerment and learning center. This time my friends P and M and P and S came with me. Manzil is just an amazing organization, and if I were to return to volunteer, this would be an excellent place to come. I'm so glad my friends came with me, as they're in Delhi longer, and I think they might volunteer. The kids there are so confident in themselves. It is a beauty to see. We first had a nice talk with Ravi, the founder of the center, and then were given a tour and an opportunity to observe a couple of English classes by R, a 13 year old with an intrepid gaze and surety beyond her years. It also gives one pause to think, that Manzil is located smack dab in the middle of Khan Market, a hustling bustling capitalistic enterprise... It's a great metaphor for what is possible in life, if one chooses to focus on the important things...
  • came home, had a nice dinner, a nice Harry Potter reading, and a nice chat with P and M by the "fireplace" (actually a radiant heater) (The indoor temps here hover between 40 to 55 degrees, sometimes feeling lower due to the dampness of things.)
  • Then... at night, things started to fall apart, leading to..... my first sickness of the India trip.
  • All I can say is, thank Spirit of the Universe that I was / am with friends who took amazing care of me, despite my stubbornness.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

India day 3 - Delhi

Some cool stuff (not necessarily in chronological order):
  • hung out at the American Embassy School with P and M - their kids go there. and there's a cafe there, with yummy food and a relaxed vibe, called Open Hands. I walked around the beautiful campus too, taking fotos of pretty New Year's rangoli made with flower petals as well as several beautiful sculptures and some lush plant life.
  • ate a yummy yum guava for lunch
  • went to Dilli Haat to meet an old friend (MK) who's living here... As we caught up on our lives, we shopped a bit for gifts as well as ate momos at the Nagaland booth, amaranth cutlets at the Navdanya booth, and bought some organic foods from Navdanya, (founded by Vandana Shiva) including haldar (turmeric) for my mom... Also, since it was freezing cold, we drank cup after cup of mint and lemongrass tea. Yum.
  • went to GK 1 to do some clothes shopping at Anokhi and another store (kurtas)
  • listened to another cozy installment of the Harry Potter reading series with the whole M, S, P, M family
  • ate a vegetable pastry puff at a bakery (it's like a croissant with a warm / spicy samosa-y filling, but not too much of the filling, so it's just right and hits the spot)
  • took the Delhi metro for the first time ever! by myself, too! and it was easy! and clean! and efficient!
  • night time conversation with M and P about the reality of adjusting to life in India, especially when it comes to bureaucracy... and formulating theories as to why things are the way they are...
  • ate Mango papad squares that MK kindly purchased for us from a booth at Dilli Haat
  • watched admiringly and chatted with M and S as they biked and scootered their way up and down their courtyard, showing me their squiggly wiggly moves

Monday, January 03, 2011

India day 2 - Delhi

Highlights of day 2 --

  • meeting up with old friends P and M and their kids M and S after a very long time (I'll be visiting them for a while!)
  • eating exquisite tomato basil risotto at Khan Market
  • visiting the expansively gorgeous and thought-provoking Humayun's Tomb - which I learned from my friends was the only place Barack Obama had time to see when he v. briefly visited Delhi
  • braving the whole getting a sim card / exchanging money deal with trusty friend P at my side
  • a yummy homemade dinner of karela and cauliflower and kadhi with rice and rotlis
  • eating juicy India oranges after dinner
  • being treated to a cozy family story hour of Harry Potter read aloud by M as my nieces cuddled in to sleep, P made expressive facial expressions to go along with Hermione's characterization, and i blinked, woozy with jetlag, but happy to be with all...
Hopefully, I'll download some photos soon(ish) and add them to the respective posts.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

India day 1 - Delhi

  • waking up at 6 a.m. and not being much jetlagged through the day.
  • eating guava on a sunny-chilly-fresh Delhi terrace
  • working out with friends
  • getting an oil head massage
  • eating yummy food at Ai (Japanese)
  • giggling with my 18 year old niece
  • talking and chilling with my Delhi friends