Two Months Gone

The puppy that keeps me sane.

It’s been two months since I packed my entire Indian life into three green suitcases, lugged them through Abu Dhabi, endured a 15-hour flight with no functioning entertainment system and moved back into the house I grew up in outside Chicago.

So, at the risk of sounding overly sentimental, here is a brief list of things I miss:

Rickshaws: I don’t actually miss the rickety deathtraps themselves or their occasionally awful drivers, but I do miss the convenience. In Bombay, I could find a rickshaw at literally any hour—and I’ve tried. In my currently suburban existence, it’s next to impossible to get anywhere without a private car or a bike—of which I have neither.

Street Food: Specifically, the dabeli walla outside Khar Station and the coconut stand near Khar Gymkhana. After buying some heinous canned coconut water at the grocery store, I’ve given up trying to find a replacement until I’m back in a tropical country. Sorry Chicago, you get zero points for coconuts.

Small shops: While it’s great that I can find 20 different kinds of Greek yogurt at my local grocery store (read: warehouse-sized megamart), who needs 20 different kinds of Greek yogurt? And can somebody please explain what on earth Icelandic yogurt is? I miss the days when I could walk down the street, ask the guy behind the counter for dahi (yogurt) and be done with it.

My apartment: Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents, my little brother and our house. I do not love sharing a bathroom with my little brother, the suburban location (though it was great as a kid) or the freezing temperatures the rest of my family loves. I miss waking up to palm trees, the giant window in the living room and the shine of the newly cleaned marble floor.

That being said, there are things I love about being back in the States. I love being able to take a 30-minute hot shower if I want, I love being able to text friends just because I want to, I love hanging out with our new puppy, and I’m really excited to start the next step in my career—even though it’s taking a little longer than I’d like to get to that step.

A Year Ago

Last night, I landed in Mumbai’s international airport on a flight from New Delhi. A little over a year ago, I landed on a flight from Chicago.

The humidity smelled the same, the big open greeting area looked the same, but it felt very different. A year ago, these were my first smells, visions and sounds of India. A year later, they seem almost old hat. After spending two weeks in the North, the humidity felt almost comforting.

Last year, I had someone waiting for me. Last night, I was very much alone—and not necessarily worse off. I know how to get a prepaid taxi, and I know the directions to my apartment. I wasn’t nervous or anxious.

Tomorrow, I’ll go back to that airport and leave India without knowing when or if I’ll be back. A year ago tomorrow was my first day at a new job, in a new country.

It’s amazing how much changes in a year.

Off To Manali

Hey everyone,
I am off to Manali for the next two weeks. Expect pictures, stories, etc when I get back!

One Way Chicago

Dear friends, family, fellow bloggers and whoever reads this:

It hasn’t been an easy decision, but for a variety of reasons—both personal and professional—I am moving back to the US. So, as of July 12th, I will no longer be a resident of Mumbai. The original plan was two years, but plans have a pesky way of changing. There are still a lot of things I wanted to do, places I wanted to visit and food I wanted to eat. But isn’t it always that way? I have rarely left a place I enjoyed being without wishing for more time.

Friday is my last day at work, and I leave on Monday for my last little Indian adventure in Manali. Any travel tips welcome.

The Old Cafe in Ballard Estate

From the outside, Britannia’s doesn’t look legendary. In fact, it looks downright shabby. A faded awning welcomes you into a no-frills dining room with paint peeling off the walls and a chandelier that looks as if it hasn’t been bothered since it was hung when the restaurant opened in 1923.

Like any truly fantastic restaurant, it’s the food that matters, not the décor.

Last week, I took my second trip to the famous eatery in the Ballard Estate area of South Bombay. I arrived a few minutes before it’s generally acceptable to eat lunch—around 12:30—so I had my choice of tables.

Boman Kohinoor—who was born the same year the place opened and inherited the restaurant from his father—toddled over to the table to ask me where I was from and what I was doing in Mumbai. He’s famous for his chit chat and taking patrons’ orders. Continue reading

Off to the Village, Grassroute Style

This weekend, I’m headed into a village with Grassroutes, a social enterprise organizing tours to villages in Maharashtra. It should definitely be interesting.
 
Here’s the itinerary:
 
11:30 – 12:00 Arival at the Village. Welcome by the Villagers(Tilak, Gandhi Topi’s).
Welcome drinks (Refreshing drinks made from Aaam Pana/Imli) .
Welcome kits (Neem Datun, Slings to Practice Aiming practice and Pluck Fruits, Odomos).
12:30 – 01:30 pm – Authentic Village Lunch.
02:00 to 03:00 pm – Jeep ride through the Village. Village Estyle..
03:00 to 04:30 pm – Swim in River, Feast on bucket loads of Mangoes.
04:30 to 05:30 pm- Fruit Hunt in forest. Hunt/Gather your fruits with Slings (Karvanda, Jamun, Mangoes)
05:30 to 07:00 pm – Trek to Sunset point. Evening Snacks, juice, Tea.
08:00 to 09:00 pm – Dinner by bonfire.
09:00 to 11:00 pm. Night Trek to Fireflies mountain.
(Next Day morning)
05:30 am to 07:00 am – Sunrise trek.
07:00 am to 08:00 am – Breakfast & Tea
09:00 am to 01:00  – Village activities (Wood chopping, sowing/ploughing, milking goats, de-husking rice, Swim in River)
01:00 to 02:00 pm – Lunch,
02:30 pm : Mementoes made by the Villagers (Locally grown organic rice, locally found Crystal stones)
02:45  pm. Send off in Jeep to Kasara.
 

A Great Bombay Day

I had a great day today. One of those days when I realize how much I’m really going to miss this city when I leave.

Itinerary:

  • Meeting with Echoing Green fellow Dhruv Lakra at Mirakle Courier‘s Churchgate office
  • Lunch at Cafe Britannia: sweet lime soda, mutton berry pulao and caramel custard
  • Call with the head of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People for work
  • Call with Nandu Madhava, CEO of mDhil—a great social enterprise using mobile technology to spread health information
  • One-hour reflexology massage at a spa employing only blind therapists. The cost: less than $7.84 without tip.