Wednesday, December 29, 2010

India made me smile yesterday! Wait, thats not right, a country can't do that! :-)

Yesterday I had gone out to run some errands. I had to get my hair cut, and pick up a few things for DH.

Well, at the salon (the same one I have normally gone to for like the last 3 months...) I had the same 2 girls that took care of me last time. There is a trained professional (who does the actual cutting / eyebrow threading) and her helper (she holds the hair up and does the little jobs...) who take care of each customer. Well, this time they remember me, and they go on jabbering in bangla. No biggie, I just sit and listen and they thread my eyebrows first. Then the fun starts.

The trained girl starts asking me if I wear sindoor, and I say no. Then they ask me if I wear the shakha (which in Bengal, married women wear red and white bangles. The white bangle is beautifully crafted from conch while the red is made either of coral or lac. While the red and white ones are quite important as a symbol of matrimony, what is crucial is the loha or iron kada that is worn along with them. Some Bengalis get the loha gold-plated rather skillfully, giving it a more contemporary look). Then where I was from and then if I had been married long.

Then when I came home yesterday I had a auto-wallah who was irritable and yelling at some man on the street (I have no idea why...) and was just plain ornery. When one of my fellow passengers got down, she gave the driver a 10 rupee note, and the driver was rooting through his change, mumbling something, and so I gave him my 6 rupees, and then he gave the lady change. He looked back, and smiled and said, "thank you".


Then, when I got home, I went to take a rickshaw to my house and when I got to the stand, the rickshaw-wallah looked at me, and turned and hit the seat of his rickshaw, and said "bosun, bosun" (sit, sit in the polite form).

It made me smile and come home and tell DH about it. :-)

Christmas 2010, or what passed as Christmas

This year...well, honestly, Christmas was a bust!

Both DH and I *HATE* crowds with a passion, so before Christmas I flat out told him I was not interested in going out anywhere (and the same is holding true for New Years...we will probably spend the night drinking at home, and watching movies). There is always the potential on holidays that :

- the food will be horrible (undercooked / overcooked / not up to normal par) due to excessive crowds
- crowds
- prices will be raised

so we tend to stay in. Well, we met up with a friend the day after, the 26th, because I was wanting turkey. Well...we ended up at Mainland China, where we had heard they were serving turkey. Needless to say, we had the buffet. We had some yummy soup, which I can't remember the name of at the moment, along with some dim sum. That was delicious!!! I have never had appetizers and soup from a buffet served at the table before, so that was a unique experience.

Then...time for the turkey. Well, needless to say I was disappointed. The turkey was prepared with some chili plum sauce and was cubed. It was horrible, it tasted like chicken, and wasn't what I wanted at all. Also I had some garlic crab (and how the heck do they expect you to get the crab out, with out those cracking things??) that was pretty good.

Then I went on to dessert, I had fresh cut apples with chocolate sauce, from a chocolate fountain...that didn't work half the time. *sigh*

Needless to say I was disappointed. The owner of this restaurant is the same one that owns Flame and Grill (which we love!) so I was very annoyed to see the quality.

Also, the area was so small and so crowded.

Christmas was better when I sat at home and spent the time with the hubby and ate bengali food! :-) Next year, if we are in our own home, I will make it like I am used to. I have vowed I will not have turkey until I either prepare it myself, or when we go to visit my family. Which, when the visit occurs, my mother has promised to prepare me a proper Thanksgiving dinner, even if it is in the middle of the summer! =D yeah! That means, roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, black olives, and pickles!!!

YUMMY!!! Good thing it's almost lunch time, and I will have alu paratha's today (except mine have no stuffing, the alu (potato) has been mixed in the dough!)!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas



Merry Christmas all!!!

Enjoy the holidays with your family, and eat too much food!! =D

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Road side shopping

Well, today DH told me he needed a screen protector for his phone. So being the dutiful wife that I am, I went out and got it.

This is how it happened.

First, I went to the mall and asked, at one store they wanted Rs. 395!! What?! I had paid Rs 90 at a road-side stall last time, so I gave it back and wandered out to the street. I got on a bus next, and went to Gariahat.

Here I went to the same stall I had purchased it from last time (remember I paid only Rs 90 then!) and asked the guy if they had the appropriate item. He didn't have it in stock at the moment, but once the other customer had completed their transaction he went into the main store and brought the requested item. Here is how the conversation went.

Me: Koto? (How much?)
SK: 160
Me: Dada, aami age 90-ta taka diyechhi. (Dada, I have given 90 rupees before)
SK: 90?
Me: Haa, 90. (Yes, 90)
SK: 120
Me: Kintu Dada, aami *ekhon* theke age kinechhilam, aar aami 90 diyechhi. (But Dada, I have purchased one for 90 rupees from here before)
SK: 120
Me: Fine

and I started to walk away

SK: thik achhe didi, ayk sho (ok didi, 100)
Me: ok

So I gave him the 100 rupees and walked away.

I felt relieved, I had seen that he was trying to rip me off, and I didn't let it happen. I bargained (and successfully I might add, saving 60 rupees!) for the first time. :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One of those days...

All in all I would consider myself quite lucky. In the transition after the move from the US to here, I haven't had many bad days. I haven't had many emotional breakdowns.

But, the last few days with being sick and a lack of sleep, since Saturday we went out with some friends at 5am for breakfast (more in a minute, will give it a post of its own =P) and not sleeping, I was a mess, and I should have expected.

I was feeling very sorry for myself, and wondering why I had given up all I did to come here? I was feeling very lonely, as DH works a lot...and I don't have many of my own friends, and I didn't want them. I just wanted to be alone and sit in my pity. I suppose its this time of the year, I mean it's almost Christmas, and I'm so far away from my family.

Anyways, I was a major b***h. I admit it, I was, and I apologized to DH a lot. I was just missing my mom, and siblings, and M & J. It was just everything. I have also had a lot of other things on my mind.

I am much better today, but I broke down and cried a lot. I wanted to go home, I looked at prices of round-trip tickets to go home for Christmas (Rs 60,000, way too much right now!!!) and texted my family and told them I missed and loved them.

I even told DH I wanted to get away, and I am hoping that perhaps we can go away for Christmas weekend, or if nothing else, we can get turkey?? Let's see :-)

Last weekend and our accident

I wanna say it was Saturday, but it could have been Sunday, not the ones that just past, but the ones from before.

I don't remember the exact happenings, because the accident pushed everything else out of my mind.

I don't remember where we were coming from, or who we had been with, or any of that information.

I just remember driving down the road to go to our house and that it was night, and I was sitting with DH in the back-seat of the taxi.

All of a sudden there was this auto that sped in front of us, and the driver slammed on his brakes and we hit the auto. Well, the auto didn't stop, it didn't cause severe damage (well...that we could see...) and it kept going (without stopping). Then the driver and DH got out of the car, agreeing that the auto-wallah must have been drunk to assess the damage. Well, nobody was hurt, but the left headlight of the taxi was broken. Not major damage I was told, but enough that the driver would be having to pay for some damages out of his own pocket. I was shaken to say the least. We were almost home, so we continued home, and the driver admitted to DH that he was also shaken, so he was going to take the taxi back to the garage for the night and then go home.

That's all I remember...*sigh* I hate car accidents. At least nobody was hurt, and DH wasn't shaken and he was there! :-) All's well that ends well, right??

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

US Consulate Town Hall meeting

Monday I went to a US Consulate Town Hall meeting. Basically it was just a bunch of American citizens (and by American citizens there was only like 10 white people, and the rest were Indian's who either had kids who were citizens or something of that nature).

We started out with a quiz about America. Then we went on to a speech about the Consular services. It was boring, but informative. :-) I met a few new people.

Then there were some questions asked. Many people were curious about Indian visa regulations (about which nobody knew in the US Consulate, except one ACS (american citizen services) officer).

Among the really stupid questions were :

  1. Does the US Consulate pay for the US citizens education in India?
  2. If my minor daughter, who is a US citizen, wants to go to school in the US, can the parents come with?
  3. If the Consulate can help at Calcutta International School (CIS) to get the younger US citizen students to be able to meet with International schools before their senior year?
These questions I found interesting. I mean, seriously, they were dumb, but...people aren't always sure of the answers. :-)

I enjoyed making some new friends, but also was bored out of my mind.

Now, thanks to going out for the day for this meeting, I have a cold and a slight fever. *sigh* such is life I suppose

Will have a few more posts coming up soon about going for Nihari and other adventures around Kolkata. :-)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Living with the In-Laws and miscommunication

Who do you have communication and cultural problems with? When it comes to communication and culture differences, one would assume that it would be with your significant other, but that is not always true.

For me, it's with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. I have a much different sense of humor than they do. I understand that my mother-in-law is 75 and I shouldn't expect her to change, but I have changed who I am and how I do things for her.

How does one deal with this? How do you deal with the constant cultural barriers? I'm not going into specifics, but I am not sure what to do, or how much longer I can deal with this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Litti Chokha at Dalhousie & subsequent food :-)

Last Saturday DH and 2 friends of ours went out for some street food. :-) I admit, I'm stealing the captions for the photos from DH :P (sorry! NOT!) since he has a much better way of explaining them than I do.

The Coal India Bhavan can be seen in this picture. Owned by Govt of India, Coal India Limited is the world's largest coal mining company. It recently launched its US $3.5 billion IPO which was over-subscribed at $48.7 billion.







Standing across the street from Gillander House at the Clive Row and N.S. Bose Road crossing - our first destination.

Built for Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co (established in 1819 as a managing agency), its is now a company in the G.D. Kothari group. The architect was Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel (courtesy http://tinyurl.com/25e9xal)

Vidya Prasad (alias Sadhu Baba) prepares Litti Chokha under a banyan tree opposite Gillander House
 
Readying a plate of litti chokha
 
 A signature food from Bihar, it is eaten usually as a snack, but can also be a meal onto itself.

Baked gram flour (chhatoo) is mixed with chopped onions, green chillies, lemon juice, daniya (cilantro) leaves and ajwain (thyme). This is placed inside a thick dough of atta (wheat flour) + besan (gram flour) and usually baked on a BBQ as in this case (it can also be deep fried).

In this case, our littis were served with liberal helpings of ghee (clarified butter), mint chutni and aloo (potato) chokha (spicy mashed pototoes).

Waiting for our turn at the littis

Littis being prepared. I noted an "innovation" - the barbecuing grills were simply cooling grills from old refrigerators. Interesting!
Vidya Prasad's young helper uses the manually cranked air compressor-cum-blower to turn up the temperature of the fire

 At the end of our meal, he offered us each a piece of "thekua" saying "Chaat puja ke prasad lijiye" or "Have a bit of Chaat puja's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhath) prasad (sanctified food that has been offered to God)"

Thekua is a popular dry sweet eaten in Bihar, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thekua

 
Finally it is ready to eat - the litti off the BBQ, crushed and dipped into ghee (clarified butter) and aloo chokha with pudina (mint) chatni, served up in a bio-degradable saal leaf plate. I'm getting ready to take my tentative first bite of litti chokha

Hailing from Gopalgunj district in north Bihar, Vidya Prasad has been preparing and selling litti chokha under this banyan tree for the last 40 years.

This small shrine stands underneath this banyan tree. As Vidya Prasad pointed out, the little oil-fired earthenware lamp (the glimmer inside the shrine), apparently is never let to go out. Burning 24 x 7, it has been going on for 35 of the 40 something years that he has been there making and selling littis.
Dangling, long aerial roots of the banyan tree under whose shade the small litti shop stands.
 
It was yummy! After this we went for beef, which I think made me sick!
The teenaged waiter who may not have been more than 17, seated us in the "Family Section" given that we had 2 ladies in the group. And it prominently said "Ring the bell to call waiter".
 
 Our parathas arrived, along with this tiny, deep fried little cricket (ucchingrey in bangla). Hmmm... we know that insects might end up being important protein sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entomophagy) but today we weren't ready to eat it yet ;-)
 
A plate of beef bhuna. It wasnt anywhere near the best I have had so far though. (DH's comments remember...)
 
 
A friend of ours decided to try the gravies first before hitting the meat.
 
Our friend digs in into his paratha.
 
 
DH's plate with a crisp, flaky laccha paratha, with the yummy dahi gosht and a green chili.
 
 
As usual, I make the wrong choice of the meat. Opts for the bhuna and finds it too tough to handle
 
the table at the end of the meal

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Bong Connection and surprises

So, the last few days I have been bugging DH to take me to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, but no luck yet. :-) I'm still holding out hope for sometime this week or this weekend.

Anyways, I am pretty sure he was sick of me nagging him to take me out, so he said, I want to watch "The Bong Connection" so look and see if you can find it. I'm quite used to him requesting strange movies, so I didn't ask, I just looked, and upon finding nothing (since this was like the second time I had searched for it) he asked me where the nearest Planet M (since we have a membership card there and get a discount, plus we rack up points!) we found out that there was one close by on Prince Anwar Shah Road. We assumed it was in the South City Mall, so off we went.



Well, we didn't locate the Planet M, but instead, mainly because the mall was closing, we went to the Starmark and purchased the movie.

The movie was a decent movie, not my favorite by far, but decent. We were watching, and I was feeling bored, and sleepy. Although, I was enjoying the fact that I had visited some of the places that were being shown in the movie, such as Flury's and the Park Street area, especially a well known pub, Someplace Else (SPE).

All of a sudden, I see people I KNOW IN THIS MOVIE!!! They are the members of the band, Cassini's Division. The members of this band happen to be friends of ours, and one is our neighbor! Talk about exciting! I turned to DH and asked him why he didn't tell me! He told me, I'm good at keeping things a surprise. :-) Talk about making my night!


So, DH had decided to watch the movie because he wanted to surprise me with the fact that our friends were in the movie.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Have you ever...?

Seen something that infuriated you the second you saw it?? Well, let me tell you today that happened to me. We went to the Lower Circular Road (Christian) Cemetery. Well...first let me upload the photos, and you can see for yourself before I go off ranting and raving (which I fully intend to do!)



This is what made me furious! You can see in the lower left corner the state of some of the graves!!!
 And here! The state of the grounds! :-(
 This is a sign dedicated to Charles Freer Andrews. He was a English priest for the Church of England. He was one of Gandhi's closest friends and confidant, and a Indian freedom fighter. Incidentally, he is also buried in this cemetery, which we didn't get to see because I was done. I am hoping to go back and visit his grave at a later date.
 And here, you can see an old man laying on a blanket listening to an english cricket commentary! ON A GRAVE!!!
This is the sign that leads to the final resting place of yet another famous man named John Elliot Drink Water Bethune (and yes his name is really Drinkwater!!!) He was a Anglo-Indian lawyer who promoted women's education in India. In 1849 he founded a school that would later would become the first women's college in India - Bethune College.

We went here today, for the architecture and a sense of history of Kolkata. Now, I will grant the cemetery this, there are some nice memorial stones, as you can see from the above pictures. However, there are also some that are in COMPLETE RUINS!! I am talking about graves from the late 1800's! This is history my dear friends! The letterings on the graves, although this is probably due to the acidic rain during the monsoons, is eroding and is getting hard to read. There are some grave sites that are completely shattered, where you can see the ground (and in some parts 1/2 - 1 foot) under the cement blocks that are placed under the headstones!

I am astonished! The way that these dead people are treated! Grant you, and I thank my DH for pointing this out, that many of the descendants of these families have migrated away, and are not here to care for the grave sites. But the way this cemetery hit me with a force, the force that here are people's loved ones, who are NOT being taken well care of. There are some that are being taken care of and are in very good shape, even some dating some 160-170 years ago. I am quite positive that by the elaborate headstones that these people were well loved and cared for while they were alive, but now they are not being taken care of. Also, the fact that some of these graves are of well known and famous people of India!

I will give the cemetery this one positive note, they did provide indigent burial plots. I was surprised at this and the fact that the people buried there had a very nice, although not as ornate as the rest, large white cross for a headstone. Much more than one would have gotten in the US.

Who is supposed to be maintaining this graveyard? And why are they not? I am horrified at the state of this cemetery.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My meet-up with an Australian bengali wife :-)

Today I met up with a friend of mine (who I've only ever spoken to on Facebook before) who is Australian and is also married to a Bengali man!

We were talking about how long we had been married and what visa we were on, she happens to be on a Entry (X) visa while I'm on a tourist visa! She has been married for 4 years and for the first few years the husband's parents didn't even know they were married! Actually, the parents had sent the husband to India to interview prospective brides, when in actuality he went to marry her without anyone knowing!

Also, we talked about our in-laws reactions to us, her's were a bit upset and mine were completely fine with it (they had given up all hope that DH was going to marry...ever!) And we discussed how there are many cultural differences that cause problems, like staying in our rooms with our doors shut, she while studying, and me because I like to be alone, and how that causes the family to feel insulted. However, in American and Australian culture, that is perfectly normal and acceptable.

We also spoke about her first experiences living and visiting with her husbands family in the US! I feel for her because she lives in Australia and her husband in the US and they can only see each other for 3 months at a time (because Australians get 90 days on arrival!) but they are planning for the husband to move to Australia next year.

It was just fun to be with someone who know how it felt, and to just compare how it had been. All in all it was a fun trip! :-) Her husband comes into town on Sunday, so maybe DH and I will get together with the 2 of them sometime while they are here.

Thanksgiving??

You know, I think one of the things I miss the most about home is the food. The food on regular days, the food on holidays, just the food!!

Like I miss :

  • Dr Pepper
  • Taco Bell
  • Mexican food (in general, the stuff you get here is HORRIBLE!!!!!!)
  • turkey
  • stuffing
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • green bean casserole
I was thinking today...and I was craving Thanksgiving food sooooo bad...anybody want to send me some? I'd love you forever! Just kidding really...but I do miss the food.

Now don't get me wrong, I *love* daal, rice, and the veggies / meat we eat here. I mean, why else would I have gained almost like 20 pounds in the last year and a half? But really, today is just one of those days that I'm feeling homesick! :-) So, I'm going to see what I can about finding turkey for Thanksgiving, if not, I'm sure I can get some around Christmas time!!!

Happy Early Thanksgiving everyone!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Flame and Grill

Last night DH and I went out with a friend for some drinks at Oly Pub on Park St and then we headed over to Flame and Grill for dinner. There were just 3 of us, but oooohhhhhhhh, damn the food was good.

The cost was about Rs 1525 (or something like that...) but we were able to have unlimited kebabs and then a buffet...with both dinner items and a delish array of desserts!


 Here is a view of the inside of the restaurant.

Here are the condiments a yummy green (mint) sauce, and red (tamarind) sauce, with oil and brush for basting the kebabs!

 
The red flag reads, "Please turn down to discontinue starter service." This was the first thing DH tested. :-)

The waiter is placing the kebabs on the table. If you look closely on the right side of the grill, you can see the blue flame. :-)

Prawns, boneless chicken, chicken wings, amritsari fish, mutton sheek kebabs.

 The waiter is serving the kebabs.

 DH's plate full of kebabs! After this we had to stop eating kebabs!

After eating all those chicken kebab's I had chosen to eat veg! It was yummy!!

 DH's plate of succulent lamb done about just right and served at exactly 18 deg Centigrade with the chicken biriyani. It wasn't the Kolkata biriyani. Anjan Chatterjee and his planners have decided to give the quinessential aloo (potato) a miss from the biriyani. Good stuff!

My friends plate, with a different variety of food!

DH always needs to visit the bathroom in between, what he found was a pleasant surprise!

They used a copper handi for wash basin with a quaint brass tap and the wrought iron knocker for the door handle.


(ok, the sign not really ;-) more the sink!)

Then after the bathroom break it was on to dessert!!!

 
We were spoilt for choice, as we were the only ones there! 
This was my first round of dessert, lots of mousse!! Mango mousse, strawberry mousse, chocolate mousse!!!

 This was my second round of dessert! More mousse! This time more mango mousse, and some litchi mousse!! FANTASTIC!!!

 All my empty dessert bowls!
DH's plate of suji halwa and langcha.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to meeee!

Ok, my birthday was the 12th. I only turned 27. :-) It was a fabulous birthday, complete with birthday wishes starting at 12am! Oh, the phone calls and the texts! I promptly turned my phone on silent when I went to bed so as not to be woken up by the many wishes!

But, wait, we must go back one day! On the 11th, my baby sister sent me a text message, at 2am! It read, "Call the house" well, I saw it and freaked out because you know, its 2am, and thats all it said...and yeah, well 2am is a strange time to get a text message that says to call! So I called, and my mom and my sister answered the phone....well, turns out they just wanted to wish me a happy birthday!!! I love it!!

Anyways, back to the 12th. I slept in late, and my sister-in-law made tea for us all, (since at this point our bengali cook had taken a 4 day leave for the Bihari puja called Chhath Puja, which celebrates the Hindu Sun God, Surya and is to "thank Surya for sustaining life on earth and to request the granting of certain wishes." So basically we were on our own to handle the food...what we had for lunch that day, I can't really remember, maybe that was the day DH made noodles with a vegetable stir-fry chinese meal, yeah I think it was. lol

Then anyways, we went out to a favorite restaurant of ours, Mocambo's because I wanted beef!! :-)

Here are the photos that were taken :


The sign that sat on our table! 

DH taking pictures of me while I'm snapping photos...

the drinks....
 This is the *delicious* pepper devilled crab that we had. YUMMY!!!

The Chateaubriand beef sizzler before I started the "procedure" to remove the peas!
This is me picking out the pea's out of my sizzler and this is how DH described it - "like a surgeon removing bullets from vital internal organs"

The yummy mushroom sauce that came with the sizzler, all drained!!


This is the ham steak that DH ate.

We had also ordered a mutton cutlet to be served for the appetizer, but due to a mix-up (either by the kitchen staff or the waiters...) it arrived AFTER the ham steak did...and there were 2 of them, and they were huge. We promptly cancelled the order and they took it back to the kitchen.

Then last night I went out with a group of my good friends to a hangout in Tangra, called Kafulok. The food was delicious and the company wonderful!!!

This is the delicious green sauce they serve. It is a combination of cilantro, garlic, chili and sweet vinegar.

 This is the chicken babycorn mushroom dish we ordered.
All in all, it was a wonderful birthday full of friends and good food!!!