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My first week in India


Today it’s exactly a week since I left home to spend some time in India with my family. I feel I have enough to talk about and now that I have a minute I’d like to share a few thoughts with you. When I reached the airport here in Delhi I got a phone call from Gagan (he was already here) with the unfortunate news that his grandfather’s brother also passed away. While it is sad, the mood here is that of acceptance and everyone is just happy that we are here. To be able to spend time with family members who have flown in from everywhere is what matters in the end. Nobody here is mourning Babaji’s passing. Instead they are all celebrating his life. There are people who stop by everyday to offer their condolences. And Dadima as always the hostess makes sure that they go back home well fed and hydrated 🙂 She IS the greatest woman I’ve ever met.

As for me, I am falling into a routine gradually. I work for a few hours early in the morning and then at night. Gagan has gone back to the US so I do miss him a lot but it’s important for me to be here right now and I am surrounded by so many people who have nothing but love and admiration for me so it’s nice to be here.

I am happy and I notice that I am smiling a lot. And it’s the little things which make me happy. And when you ask what Happiness is, I’ll say this:

– Happiness is not having a plan for each day. Waking up in the morning and letting the day happen to me.
– Happiness is taking an afternoon nap and not having to set an alarm to wake up.
– It is reading a book and not worrying about what else I should be doing. (This took a little bit of an effort).
– Happiness is having 4 meals a day and not having to cook any of them!
– Happiness is sitting kicking back with feet up on the couch and just hanging with Dadima (grandmother). Smiling when she reads Babaji’s old love letters to her. Wishing I had saved my old hotmail account when Gagan used to send his love letters to me electronically.
– Sensing the smell of mangoes from a mile away!
– A Laburnum tree in the front yard which makes me smile whenever I look at it. The pretty yellow cluster of flowers which seem to disappear into infinity, ever so gracefully.

While I make it sound all nice and pretty, it isn’t like everything else in life. In the past 3 days I’ve had horrible stomach infection and now I have cold and fever. I am on antibiotics. Being sick in over 100 degree weather is not a happy thought. I am feeling pretty drained right now barely able to move around. But… I feel loved. I feel cared for. So while I am not enjoying the food this time eating very carefully only light meals, it is okay.

It does help that I am reading “Eat Pray Love” and kind of associate with the author and her story quite a bit and I am loving every minute of my time here.

Today I helped my mother in law research washing machines, fixed a facebook setting for her. Helped an aunt run a youtube video on her computer, shared some favorite recipes with her and got some in return. Shared 3 meals with Dadima. Showed some family photos to another aunt and talked about my life in the US with her, my gaze fixed at her radiant smile and somehow I feel more productive than I do after working 60 hours a week! If this is not happiness, what is?

I have no agendas, no plans, no idea what I am doing each day and it’s N.I.C.E.! I am not even missing my sewing machine. So something must be terribly wrong or right 🙂 We’ll find out next week. Thanks for listening and letting me share my thoughts with you. Hope your week is full of smiles too.

Stuff I got from India

So yes, I am back from a rather short trip to India to visit with my family and my new nephew! I bought the ticket on miles so there wasn’t much flexibility but I realize now that going thousands of miles away only for 12 days is not worth the travel hassles. Next time its two full weeks or nothing 🙂

I did enjoy blogging when I went last in April but since it was only 6 months ago, there was not much new stuff happening, other than my nephew! YES I have now become one of those people who constantly talk about their kids. This one’s not mine but how can I help it? He is adorable!!!

I thought that this time I’d share with you some of the stuff I brought back home with me. Most of these were gifts but some I bought in the few days I went shopping with Gagan.

There is a crafts bazaar which we always go to whenever we are in Delhi. I didn’t take pictures but this time there was this nice exhibit going on there in which award winning artists from all around the country came to sell their crafts. There were silk shawls, wood workers, jewelry artists, henna artists, pottery and so many other craftsmen, it was quite inspiring. It’s a shame that most people don’t think much of crafts these days in India, especially big cities, but for me it was HEAVEN! I was thinking of you at that market that how much you’d all enjoy it. I really should have taken photos.

Lets start with Fabric shall we? Because I travel a lot, I have a rule which I follow (most of the time). I only buy one piece from wherever I go. It keeps my stash under control and I don’t feel deprived. And because I only buy one fabric, sometimes I splurge. And that’s what I did on this one. It’s a hand embroidered piece of Tussah Silk. The photo doesn’t do justice to this lovely piece. It’s quite narrow but its 2.5 meters long. I am thinking that a lined version of the Built By Wendy tunic might show this fabric to it’s best. What do you think?

Note to self: Beware of the circles!

I also picked up 2.5 meters of this Sanskrit Fabric. I’ve been intrigued by fabrics like this. I liked the color and it was super cheap so I bought it. This will be another tunic, although not sure what style.

From the same Bazaar, I just couldn’t resist bringing home this little piece. How adorable are those little drawers. I don’t really know what I’ll do with it, but I just had to have it. The frame is wood and all the little drawers are ceramic. Isnt it cute? I am thinking, I’ll glue felt to the bottom of all the drawers and keep my jewelry in it.

Speaking of Jewelry, check out these adorable earrings my Mother in Law bought me…

This particular style of earrings is called “Jhumka”. It’s one of the many forms of classic Indian Jewelry. I have one in gold too which I got at my wedding. I’ll post a picture of those too later. You can see the similarity…

And these are not any particular style, just very cute…

Mary, a friend here in the office teaches pottery. She asked for some wooden blocks. Last time I went there, I couldn’t find any so imagine my surprise when I spotted not one but two vendors selling these blocks. They are primarily used for printing on textiles but can be used on many other surfaces as well. These are some of the blocks I picked up for her.

I got a few for myself too. I want to experiment with stamping on knit pants and shirts.

My mom gave me two saris and I know you’d love to see photos of the saris too but I still haven’t unpacked them. I promise as soon as things are more settled I will post some nice pictures.

And now, of course the reason I went!

Isn’t he a cutie? And he is wearing one of the sweaters I knit for him. Oh how I miss him! I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve just sat at my desk looking at the 100+ pictures I took capturing his every mood. I am a very happy aunt!

More later…

Joys of Being in India Part IV – Shopping in Delhi

Whenever we go, Gagan and I try to take a day off just for ourselves and this is when we explore the markets. The first market we went to is in the town called “Lajpat Nagar”, named after one of the famous leaders of India – Lala Lajpat Rai. This market caters to everyone. There is even a mini mall there. I go there for FABRIC! So like I mentioned before, I didn’t have time to go to the wholesale Fabric Market, but this was good enough. Some stores haggle as well 🙂

I didn’t look like a tourist so people were pretty surprised when I was taking photos of everything! So enjoy my friends, these are for you. Flickr has complete descriptions of each photo, so if you click on them you’ll be taken there.

These were a little too loud for my taste but I just wanted to show you the different styles of salwar kameezes.

And HELLO, what do we have here? A TRIM SHOP!

And then some shopping in a FABRIC STORE!

Gagan likes to bring back candy and snacks from there. And this shop has really good quality dried fruits and nuts in bulk bins. You tell them what you want and they’ll weigh and package it right in front of you! Did I mention that we are FOODIES!

Too much? Or too little 😉

Only in India can you find MASALA CASHEWS!

From Lajpat Nagar we went to a slightly more “Polished” Market, which is more a hang out place for younger crowds. You can tell by the stores here. Most of the American and European brands are here. Retail is very competitive in India which is why they didn’t let me take photos here! This is all I could get without anyone objecting. I must mention that Delhi is very brand conscious! People don’t like to wear anything if it doesn’t have a label on it 🙂 I don’t get it… but it’s the way it is. When I buy gifts for my friends and family back there, I only buy brands they would like 🙂

HANDBAGS!

It was getting late and we still had some time before dinner so I decided to have a snack in the market. Momos are north eastern street food. They are basically steamed dumplings. Momos themselves are bland but its the sauce they are served with which is REALLY SPICY! How spicy? You’ll find out soon…

Wait for it…

And there you go… OMG!!!

Gagan stayed away from it after seeing my reaction 😉

All this in just one day. Quite a feat don’t you think?

My mother in law got me some fabric from Rajasthan – the most beautiful place in India. So while I was there, I decided to get the outfit stitched. Yes, there are tailors everywhere. That’s why nobody sews at home. You can even pay them to come to your house for a whole day and get anything stitched! I went to a boutique close to the house where my in-laws live. The lady who manages the boutique is also a designer. She is quite a talented woman.

The concept of patterns is foreign to them. They do sewing the “REAL WAY” i.e. from measurements! So I stood patiently while she took my measurements and 24 hours later, she had this gorgeous outfit ready for me! I’ll have to take a photo later and post it here.

The next few days I took a break from playing tourist and decided to kick back and enjoy my family. There were numerous hours spent chatting with my mom, dreaming of new baby outfits for my new nephew/niece. I shared some of my joys and sorrows with Dadima and in her lap I found comfort and relief I’d been craving for my whole life. Among other things, she is strength personified, never gives up on anything, anyone, including me 🙂

I also hung out with my BFF – Jugnu. She has been my friend since high school and is my source for what’s in and out in the Indian fashion scene 🙂

And here’s my mother-in-law, another pillar of strength and wisdom. I can talk with her for hours! The shop owner was quite the photographer!

Thank you for letting me share my trip to India with you. You know what made this trip even more fun for me? Besides the news that I am going to become an Aunt in December? Well, its because I got to re-live it with you and because I took the time to explore the simple things which I otherwise take for granted. So my advice, enjoy the time you have with your family, doing the little things they love. It’s what life is all about! It’s what we go back for. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Live for Today!

More photos in my Flickr Album

The Joys of being in India – Part III DELHI

OK, so now I am back in Delhi – The capitol of India. This is my territory 🙂 I grew up here.

Why is Delhi not a vacation for me? Well for starters, because you can’t really call a place where you grew up a vacation spot 🙂 Both Gagan and I have large families and extended families ALL of them settled in Delhi. Have you seen the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”? Well it’s sort of that AND MORE! Everyone is in everyone’s life and nothing is ever a secret. It is impossible to have a small gathering. We just don’t do it.

Which is why, when we found out that my sister in law is pregnant, my father decided to celebrate in a big way. He was already psyched that I was there and on top of that, he was going to become a grandfather. Now, before we go any further, there is something else you should know about India. Religion is it’s backbone. From affluent to the poor, everyone bows to the “big guy” in their own way weather it’s a happy day or a sad one. It’s what keeps Indians grounded and safe. And it’s customary to dress up whenever you are praying, as a token of respect. So my dad organized this big ceremony at home where you chant the holy “Ramayana” non stop for 24 hours. Yes, even at night. We all took turns reading it. Because it was day 5 of my trip, my throat was already hoarse from all the talking so I gave up only after reading for about an hour or so. We had over 100 people in the house who came to pray with us.

You remember my husband’s grandmother – Dadima – my favorite! She wanted us to go to this famous temple 3 hours away from Delhi. She has been asking us to go for the last 5 years and this year Gagan and I decided to go. Unfortuntely she was not well enough to accompany us but Gagan’s parents went. It was a really fun drive out to the country. We packed some sandwiches and decided to picnic on the way. On our way back we even bought some onions from a farm stand! My father in law is really adventurous. He wanted to get there sooner so instead of taking the highway, he followed a map and discovered the back roads. Of course this was not before we got lost a few times. But we still got there much sooner than anyone else. All thanks to my FIL! We won’t talk about the useless map though 😉

That’s Gagan, trying to figure out where we were! The big map was no help either.

We finally get there. That’s the temple in the back. Because it’s so hot there, I only wear cottons when I go there. I was super comfortable in this salwar kameez.

The wish tree!

In my next post, I’ll talk about my shopping experience in Delhi… Stay tuned.

Joys of Being in India – Part II – Bombay

“The spirit of Bombay”

It’s what keeps this city alive and running. Otherwise how do you think 19 million people crammed into this west cost city of India survive? The short two day visit to Bombay was one of the most memorable visits of my life. What made it so good, was my stay with my cousin, his wife and their son ( my nephew ). Like New York, traffic is a nightmare here in the city and a usual 15 minute drive can take upto 2.5 hours in peak traffic!

My sister in law and I decided to play tourist after my nephew left for school. That is of course after I promised him that my time is his after he comes back 🙂 We had until 5:30 that day, so we sat in the car and Uma (my sister in law) played the guide and I enjoyed the nice ride 🙂 We only stopped at a few places to take some photos and breathe the fresh air. I was just so fascinated by it all. See in Delhi, things are very different. Its hard to explain but folks here in Bombay are more chilled out, they enjoy every minute of it. Whether its the affluent or the slums, speaking of which slums are an integrated part of Bombay. There is no denying that. You see them everywhere, from the highway to the sea shore to the beach… everywhere. With the recent success of the movie, Slumdog… Bombay (Mumbai) has come into somewhat of a limelight and everyone wants a piece of it. Indians however are not so crazy about the movie. It sort of paints a very dark, dingy picture of India 😦

OK back to the sightseeing, I’ll let the pics do the talking…

The Nariman Point ( so hard to find a place where its so quiet and no people!, I just had to take a picture here )

The Gateway of India – on the shore, Taj Palace hotel (in the pic above ) is right opposite this.

Bombay is also the home to Bollywood – India’s biggest film industry, so the second day I was there, my cousin decided to take me for a drive to see the houses of film stars 🙂 It was a lot of fun that way, as we reminded ourselves of the old hindi movies and to look at where they live. Normally I am not much into star watching but it was the company which made it fun. We also went to Jogger’s Park – one of the nicer parks in Mumbai which is also frequented by a lot of film stars 🙂

This appealed to the child in me and I decided to climb up this tower with my nephew. Oh boy, it looked much simpler than it really was!

Bombay is also where you find the best Mangoes – Alphonso! OMG I was so busy eating it, that I never thought you’d like a photo, but then I care about you, and if you’d just seen me eat it, you would have HATED me. Seriously, I was transferred to a very Happy Place! I also enjoyed some of the local snacks one of which is called “Vada Pav” which is basically a sandwich with lots of garlicky chutney spread inside a burger bun and the stuffing was a fried potato dumpling. Oh boy was that yummy or what!

I am not much of a night life person but like New York, Bombay has some of the best clubs in India, and that where most people like to unwind after a tough day at work and commute 🙂

Each night I was there, we never slept before 3 AM reminiscing about our childhood days and how cool we thought we were 😉 Sleep deprivation has never been so much fun!

I left Bombay with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, for this was one of the warmest visit to a brother’s house ever!

Next up – Delhi, also known as “A city of people with big hearts!”

Joys of being in India

When I posted a month ago with all my plans for my vacation in India, I skipped a very important factor. I have a family who loves me way too much 🙂 So… as a result most of the last two weeks have been spent catching up with my aunts, grandmother and my cousins reliving my childhood with them, realizing that I was indeed a VERY PAMPERED girl 🙂 And now, when I have my nephews and nieces, it is my turn to pamper them, so when the opportunity arose for me to choose between going shopping or making train tracks with my nephew, there was no question what I was going to do 🙂 One look at his pleading eyes and I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

How the last 13 days flew by, I never noticed. So today when I have some time to myself, I thought it might be fun to go back 2 weeks and take you with me.

April 2nd – I flew in to Delhi, where my family lives. I had just enough time to meet my parents and pack my bags for my travel within India. No time for Jetlag!

April 3rd – I arrived in Hyderabad, home to ISB (Indian School of Business), voted 15th best B-School in the whole world! This is where my brother was graduating from. Graduation cermony was amazing!

ISB Library

The next two days were spent in exploring the campus with my brother, going pearl shopping with my mother and sister in law.

We also went to a craft bazaar. It was over 100 degrees though so we came back within an hour.

I really wanted to bring one of these back but I was afraid they would break in travel.

Fabric sold by the piece

Hyderabad was the home to Nizams in the 17th century India. They were among the wealthiest people in the whole world. Which is why Hyderabad has a rich culture and is known also for pearls, architecture and museums. I visited a museum consisting of collection from one of the Nizams of Hyderabad. How one individual can possess so much was mind boggling.

Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad

Unlike the US, museums in India are very affordable and cater to the masses. A ticket only costed 15 Rupees which is equivalent to 0.30 Cents! Of course this is also not a big city so that might have something to do with it. Photography was prohibited but I bought a CD which I will upload later. Unlike the museum shops in the US which are filled with made in china crap, the shop in this museum was run by the Govt. of India and contained books and CDs and local crafts. It was obviously boring to most people but to me it was fascinating!

Modern Hyderabad is one of the fastest developing cities in India. It has a HUGE IT sector and home to many bio tech companies. Microsoft has a HUGE campus here. So much so that they coined the IT town “CYBERabad”..

Whenever I travel I always sample some of the local foods… One of the things Hyderabad is famous for is BIRYANI, which is basically is a rice casserole layered with really HOT spices, lots of vegetables, coconut (its the south so there has to be coconut). It’s really yummy, but you need a glass of cold milk to suppress the heat afterwords 🙂 It is traditionally made with beef, but I had the vegetarian version which is equally good! Atleast in India I didnt have to worry about meatless food 🙂 I didnt take a photo, but that just means that I have to get the recipe from my sister in law and try it here at home.

Even though I grew up in Delhi, India, I never took the time to travel within India and now that I am, it is just so fascinating! The culture so rich, the history so divine and the people so warm. I wish you were here with me to experience this all.

I have to run, my cousin is coming to visit. I’ll continue this later with tasty bites from Bombay!

More photos in my Flickr Album.

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