Category Archives: food

Easter in India

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We celebrated Easter morning at a Muslim mosque and mausoleum–the Taj Mahal! Many more pics of this trip will be shared in future blogs.

We got an e-mail from Daddy while in Agra  that the Easter Bunny had arrived in State College even in our absence and brought much loved treats that cannot be found in India–Peeps, Jelly Belly beans, Bean Boozled beans (is it peach flavored or vomit flavored? You won’t know until you try. Oh what fun for a 7 and 10 year old!).

Many thanks to the Sheehan family who so thoughtfully offered to have Pat deliver our Easter Baskets during his business trip to Bangalore this week!  What a treat! Carson even received a much wished for Mark Henry wrestler doll and Kaden got a Tamagatchi, which she loves! The kids found the baskets waiting for them when we returned from our trip up north! During our travels, the kids kept studying the picture below to see what delights awaited them!

But BEFORE all that good news, last week the kids were wondering if we’d have Easter at all.

Christianity comprises only 2.3% of India’s population. Albeit that is still 24 million people. Most Christians are Catholic, and are located south in Kerala, as well as the Konkan Coast and pockets of the North East. Still, Bangalore has a big Basilica and many other churches scattered throughout town. My friend Kathryn even noted that the church near her house changes Mary’s sari and Baby Jesus’s sleeping clothes every week. They are a well-dressed family!

Despite all of that, we had great trouble finding Easter Candy. Because of this concern, we told the kids  that the Easter Bunny doesn’t come to Bangalore.This warning was important to explain since the expected treats of Easter in our family–Peeps and Jelly Beans don’t seem to exist in India (my kids are not big chocolate fans–especially Kaden). Easter is not Easter without marshmallow chicks!

After much searching and finding NOTHING, we also found one fancy hotel–the Lalit Ashok–that had chocolate Easter Bunnies and eggs. Plus hot cross buns and Easter breads, although we didn’t get those! Although we have learned that in the hot Bangalore summer time, all chocolate must be kept inside the refrigerator or it is a puddly mess–even inside the house! Temperatures these days average about 95 degrees and we don’t have air condition but in one bedroom.

 

Still, since Easter didn’t feel like Easter without  some baskets, Mom and I surprised the kids with Easter, Bangalore style. So on Good Friday morning ,the morning before we left for our trip, the kids awoke to treats that Mom and I had found around town.

The goodies included an Easter Egg dying kit that I had saved from Easter last year, gold coins and jelly candies for the grocery store, a blue Hanuman Statue, an Indian purse for Kaden, Ganesh coin banks, and little jellies and candies that we found at various stores.

So Good Friday morning we set about dying eggs in earnest! Easter isn’t Easter without some spirited egg dying, and at least one pot of color being spilled across the table!

    

So in the end, not being home, the kids got two sets of Easter baskets instead of one this year!

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Food, books, dancing, swimming, riding a bus–Indian style

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With the kids only in school for one more week, it was time to tackle some of the restaurants that might not be viewed as so much fun to them. One experience that I wanted to try was a traditional thali lunch. With circular plates lined with a banana leaf, the veg thali lunch here at Bheema’s Restaurant on Church Street was standard lunch fare for the tables of workers that filled the restaurant. With mounds of rice and dal and papadam as the main staple, I was also presented with little bowls of yogurt, spicy sambar soup, a little desert and pudding. I realized that at my office, we basically have a thali lunch everyday, since that’s just what they serve–rice, a bread, a sambar, curd, cukes and tomatoes and then two or three veggie dishes. But the thali is special because of all of the cute little bowls and the banana leaf presentation.

  

Plus a guy would come around with buckets of food–beet root, more dal, chutney. The food was very spicy. The meal wasn’t over the top amazing, but quite satisfying and a fun experience.

After the meal, we braved the crazy sidewalks, some of which were as high as my shin, to get to an incredible used bookstore. Three floors of every book imaginable for no more than a few dollars. Not that we need anymore weight in our suitcases, but I got some paperbacks of the hottest Indian writer right now, Chetan Bhagat. Plus we found some of Kaden’s favorite Nancy Drew graphic novels.

On the way into town, here was a bus of workers on the highway. This bus was moving. No room inside, so people hung to the outside. Wild.

Here, Kaden is swimming with her new neighbor and friend, Diya. Sometimes in India I feel like I have stepped into the 1920s. And her family is modern–the girls actually have swimming suits. When dry, the suit dries out to be baggy shorts. And swim caps–de rigeur.

Neighbors Diya and Ecta, in their standard matching outfits, enjoy Just Dance on the Wii with our kiddos. The Bollywood song is now a huge favorite in our house!

Norwegian death metal meets Indian classical dance

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Mom and I took the kids to a most unusual musical performance on a Sunday evening. But first we had a lovely dinner at an outdoor cafe in UB City called Cafe Noir. It felt like we were in Paris. Delicious pommes frites, omlettes, quiches, and fancy bubbly mocktails.

   

On the way to the concert, Kaden insisted she didn’t feel well and wanted to go home. The nightly swimming plan with friends awaited, I think. She perked right up at the concert, but all the way to the auditorium, she insisted on wearing a plastic bag around her ears–just in case she might be sick.

Then it was off to the show, called Questionings. The show was a fusion of Norwegian death metal and Indian classical dance.

The performance took place in Chowdiah Memorial Hall, a concert hall shaped like a violin.

Inside about 200 people attended this free show.  Choreographed by an Indian dancer, the stage included a tabla player and another Indian drum player, the full Norwegian death metal band including three guitar players and a shirtless drummer all dressed in black, plus three Indian dancers. Two of the Indian dancers mainly spun in circles–amazingly so. Sometimes 25, thirty times in time with the music. They all had bells on their feet and their movements were entrancing.

I took some videos of the evening to try to capture what it was like. The first video shows the spinning of the dancers to tabla music. The tabla player is shouting out the notes and rhythms that he is playing. That kind of rap, almost, is used to demonstrate how tabla playing works but does not usually happen in performances.

The second video shows the main dancer with the death metal dancers around her and also pans out to show the tabla players as well.

The kids loved the show, although it was so loud we had to stuff cotton in our ears. Carson was bouncing his legs and nodding his head to the metal music. Kaden was entranced by the dancing.

Manju’s cooking class

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Since arriving in Bangalore, I’ve been wanting to take a cooking class. I finally found the time to do so. I attended Manju’s Cooking Class, which she runs through her home. The topic today was Tandori. I learned how to make many declious marinades for grilling chicken.

I was thrilled that we were going to learn to make Todd and my favorite kebab–Hariyali (which means Green). Here is the  marinade recipe with my notes from the class.

We watched Manju prepare the marinade for the Hariyali and also for the Malai Chicken Tikka. Here are some of the steps of the process. I can’t wait to try these on the grill back home.

   

We also made Seekh kebabs out of mutton. 

I am excited to try out some of the ingredients in these marinades, including black salt, fruit salt (citric acid), asafeta, mace powder, and mango powder. Hopefully I can attend at least one more class before heading back home!

Lions, Bengal Tigers, and Sloth Bears, Oh My

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Today was zoo day at Bannerghata National Park. We packed up the van and headed south, early on a Sunday morning. The park is south of town; we live north of town. Usually that is a two hour crawl through traffic, but leaving by 9 on A Sunday morning and we drove through a shuttered downtown without even slowing down. Bliss.

We stopped at the Indian Institute of Management to pick up our friends Rahul, Sharmila, and Ria.

With eight of us packed into a minivan that sits seven, we made our way to the zoo.  The Bannerghatta park is a part of the cluster of parks that includes the Kabini Lodge where we took our safari and the Dubare Elephant Camp where we bathed and fed the elephants. But this place is more of a traditional zoo.

We began our adventure with the Grand Safari tour.  The queuing was the most organized that I Have seen in India. Shaded, orderly, no pushing or shoving. It felt strange, actually. We boarded the bus and set off.

The animals are not wild in this park, but they live in vast natural habitats on the safari. The bus is covered in grating and you enter and exit different areas of the forest through big double gates that keep the animals in their respective ares00the bear area, the tiger area, and so on.

  

While they have houses and are fed regularly, I was amazed at just how close these buses got to the animals. We had remarkably up close and personal views of animals that we saw from very far away on Safari, including:

Very adorable sloth bears


Bengal tigers

White tigers. This male looked through a dividing fence….

To his love…..

And my personal favorite, the lions. This lion was lying across the road that we had to travel.  It refused to move until the bumper of the bus gently nudged it along. I did not cropping of this photo—we were truly this close.

After our adventurous safari ride we visited the butterfly building. While the room did not have as many butterflies as expected, we enjoyed the beautiful architecture.

  

The kids had even more fun climbing a mango tree and picking its sweet fruit outside of the building.

We got just as delighted by the wild monkeys as all of this big lions and tigers and bears! They are so funny.

  

  

Then we headed off to have a delicious pizza, pasta and salad lunch.

 

A really, really big Shiva

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When we got up for our adventure this morning, Kaden said, “Promise me you are not going to add anything extra on to this trip!” I do have a habit of doing ‘just one more thing.’ She’s on to me. I’ll only agree to the original plan!” So we stuck to the plan today—see the six-story high Shiva, look for art supplies and have a nice lunch.

I was stir crazy and ready for an outing. Yesterday was Ugadi—the New Year celebration in the Deccan region of India—south Central India. The traditional calendar of this region starts the new year at the beginning of spring. All schools were closed. People headed out of town. The driver took the day off. We were stuck at home. Not so terrible except the day before I was home all day as well with a head cold. For 48 hours, I had hoped to be lazy. But the television as usual had nothing on it. I read three books, emptied my email inbox, and took a nap each day. I was ready to get out of the house.

So off we went to find the six foot tall Shiva. This temple was not an ancient, historical relic like others that we had visited. Rather, this was like an amusement park holy site. The place seemed brand new. To enter you had to wander through several craft stores (which much to my delight had incredibly cheap prices).

We then reached a ticket booth where they advised us to buy the six in one ticket so that we saved money. Sounded like a racket, so we said no.  Ahead of us was indeed a six story Shiva, all done up in bright colors and plastic perhaps, with a fountain streaming out of the back of his head.

Shiva is the creator and destroyer and we learned that day that you pray to Shiva to control your anger.

  

To get to Shiva, we had to navigate a series of activities. Pay 60 rupees to put 108 coins in successive bowls while chanting the manta, “Om namaya shiva.” We skipped that.

Buy Prasad as an offering to the Gods. We did that and saw the woman smash the coconut for us and give it back to us. We walked up some steps.

Then they told us to buy a ticket to get down to Shiva, but it was through what seemed like a Haunted House. It was a dark cave in which we crowded a foot bridge, took little twisty turns, and walked up and down steps. Kaden chose to skip that part. I took Carson. The focal point was a stalagmite made out of ice that you were to touch for good luck (like an upside down icicle). The ice felt nice and cool on a hot day. Imagine my surprise when I told my mom about what we found and she told me that the ice was to represent the linga of Shiva. As in, please touch this phallic projection of the God. What????!!??  Turns out that often Shiva is only presented as a linga and not as a full God.

The kids then asked to throw a coin in the fountain for good luck. The sign said to chant “Om Namah Shivaya” seven times before chatting the coin. Carson did so and threw in his coin. Kaden threw her coin and it missed. She wanted to go get it and try again. But since the coin was offered to the God, my mom worried there would be quite an issue if Kaden went crawling for the coin. So she found her another one.

The temple had several other activities, such as pouring milk, going into another cave.

Everything was written on English placards. The Temple seemed more like a “how to” set of Hindu activities than an actual place to worship. Plus, you could take photos if you paid another fee.  True temples do not allow photos.  But, the kids had fun. And the shopping was good.

We then made a stop at MG road to an Art Supply store to get Kaden some supplies for her Science Fair Project. This shop was our third try. Kaden wanted a tri-fold board to display her project.  After trying the Office Depot in the mall, the Reliance store and now the oldest book store and art supply store in town, it is clear that trifold displays do not exist in Bangalore. So she bought a couple of thin boards of canvas and we hope we can keep them together.

Then we headed off to lunch. Kaden insisted that we had to eat at the restaurant where Uncle Kinjal walked into the glass wall. I was less than excited about this plan since I had just eaten there a few days ago. In fact, we had caused a bit of a scene again there during our last visit. My parents and I had limited time to eat there since we had to rush back to the kids’ school for Kaden’s soccer game. There was a huge IT conference happening at the hotel.

 

I had forgotten my phone at home, and our fabulous new driver was unable to park at the hotel. He didn’t know I was missing my phone and was awaiting my call around the corner. We couldn’t find him. He wondered why we weren’t calling. My mom got in such a state that she asked the hotel to hire us a car. I finally wandered out of the hotel gates and found Shiva. Meanwhile, the air conditioning had since broken and he had called another van to come to bring us home.  We had to transfer our packages and the new driver said, “Please buckle up. I will get you to that football match!”

So fast forward to our most recent visit. The doorman recognized us from a few days ago and said welcome back. We walk into the restaurant and make a big fuss about wanting a table by the window. Carson is starving. He starts toward the buffet and heaps a big pile of rice on his plate. Kaden bursts into tears. This wasn’t the restaurant she had thought. She had confused this restaurant with the Taj West End where they had the best ice cream in town. She didn’t want to be here at all. She didn’t even like the French fries here. We had to leave.  With her grandmother present, we did indeed leave. Carson left his plate of rice sitting on the buffet. And we slunk back to our car.

The meal at the Taj West End was delightful though. Carson got his favorite Pasta Bolognese. Kaden ate rolls, French fries and ice cream to her hearts content. And we chatted with a couple from Mendocino at the next table.

Mumbai, Oh My….

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When our responsibilities, we headed into Central Mumbai to do some sightseeing. While I had really, really hoped to see the Elephanta Caves, it took a long time to arrange a meeting with the TISS director and we were only able to get down into Mumbai at 5:30. First stop in any Mumbai tour–the Gateway of India. The Gatheway was built to honor British Royalty at the turn of the century. It is right at the edge of the sea.

  

Above is the first Taj Hotel, located right next to the Gateway of India. The Taj is one of the fanciest chains of hotels in India. It was built by an Indian businessman who was turned away from a British hotel. The Taj claims to allow anyone in it’s doors–if you have the guts to do so. They are very fancy, intimidating places!

  

Some people sitting by the Gateway of India. The guy in the white outfit was really giving me a look!

This guy was shouting “Samosa chat! Samosa chat!” If only we could eat street food and not get sick. They looked delicious.

Sunset at Nariman Point.

  

This section of land by the sea is also called the Queen’s Necklace was the lights come on and dot the curved bay.

   

As we drove about town, we saw this Wedding Chariot. Plus some gorgeous British architecture.

  

It is kind of sad that the most beautiful buildings in Mumbai are emblems of British dominance. Below is the Victoria Railway Station. It is now an official historic site.

Hali Aji Mosque–right at the edge of the sea.  You can only reach the mosque during low tide via a small causeway. The place is famous for snacks and juices at night for locals.

These horse rides reminded me of the carriages in New York’s Central Park. They paraded around the Gateway of India area.

We ended a very long day in fabulous fashion–an INCREDIBLE seafood dinner at one of the best seafood restaurants in Mumbai: TRISHNA

White Salmon–to die for

  

One of the best garlic butter sauces I have EVER had.

We thought our night was done, but then we saw a street lined with clothing stalls, just closing up for the night. Using the camera-as mirror trick, Kim and I ended up with $4 shirts. Leti got the steal of the day. Three elephant handbags for the price of one!

  

We left for Bangalore the next day after more meetings and a bit of shopping. I wasn’t a huge fan of Mumbai. Although I did LOVE the food that I had there. I think if I returned I would try to focus my visit on eating in as many fabulous places as I could! I also appreciated that the city was built to be a large city. The roads were the appropriate size for the traffic. The sidewalks were in better shape. Bangalore is a garden hamlet that has exploded into a large city and completely lacks the infrastructure to do so–the roads are too small, the water is insufficient. But still, I was happy to return to Bangalore–my home away from home!