Thursday, March 15, 2012

incredibly, India: Day 1

Possibly one of my favorite pictures I've ever taken.
I love you guys! This was right after getting back
from picking me up at the airport.
I know this post has been long awaited by the three people who read this blog, so thank you for your patience! It's kind of wordy, but I threw pictures in, so get comfortable! Maybe with a cup of tea?

When you read or hear about India, what images come to mind? The Taj Mahal? Gandhi? British Trading Companies? Saris? White safari suits with elephants and camels? I ask because I am a visual person. Often I have to picture something to understand it or remember it.

India was, as the title of this post implies; incredible.

I saw so much over a short three days that it's hard to believe that I saw so much and encountered so many new and wonderful things.

It wasn't perfect, by any means, but to me, that is why it was, and is, beautiful.

I'll start at the beginning, shall I? I think it'd be easiest for me to go chronologically because I don't remember the names of all the foods we ate, or even all of the places we saw (the ones I do remember, I hesitate to say because my pronunciation is atrocious and does nothing for the beauty of Hindi). Perhaps my friend (hint hint* anusree) will read this and supply names for me to add so that I can try to order them here. Or you can try them.

I started from Singapore. The planning (here) and first legs of my adventures (parts I, II, III) can be found on previous posts listed above.

My family left at midnight, and the sadness of their departure was offset by my excitement of leaving for India at 8am on the same morning. The airport was, for the most part, sparsely populated but the waiting area for our flight was not. Mostly, there were Indian couples and families and a few non-Indian businessmen. I felt a little out of place with my clearly non-Indian, female, unaccompanied self. But that's ok, seems to happen a lot, so I just go with it. I knew going into this, with my two friends who are Indian and Filipino, that I was going to stick out any way.

I dozed some on the plane, since I hadn't slept much the night before. That is, until a violent dipping and jerking of the plane woke me and made me very thankful for my seatbelt. One of my neighbors muttered that the pilot must have dozed off. As scary as that possibility sounds, that was a very good way to describe it; like veering on a road, except in air, not on a flat plane (pun unintentionally intended).

I arrived with no other mishaps around noon local time, got through customs and got my luggage with no complications and proceeded out. I was a little unsure what to do from here because I had no rupees (Indian currency) and wasn't sure how to find my friends. Anu had initially mentioned one place, then emailed a last minute switch. I figured if I couldn't find them, I would just have to find a money changer, and make a phone call. I walked out and saw a large crowd of people waiting. I didn't see them at the front of the crowd, where I knew would be the only place they were easily recognizable since they're...shorter in stature (I love you Nikka and Anu!), so I passed through the crowd and circled around it to see if I could find them.

There they were. Tippy-toe-ing to see over the crowds. Their backs were to me so I decided to wait and see how long it would take them to see me. They were gesturing to each other, deciding where to go to get a better view of the arrivals. They turned to circle around and... started walking right past me (seriously guys, how many lone white girls are there at the Delhi Airport?)! So I politely asked, "Are you guys looking for someone?"

In a slightly annoyed manner, they turned to brush me off, and that's when the squealing and shouting began (good thing I actually knew them otherwise I might have gotten an earful). After much hugging and laughing and expressions of disappointment at not being able to use their sign to wave me down, we loaded up and headed to Anu's home.

These are pani puri shells. You can see the lime-y juice in the bottom
left corner and the tangy sauce directly above the shells.
Then I proceeded to have my first authentic, made in India meal. Oh. My. Satisfied. Digestive. Organs. Where has this food BEEN my entire life? Apparently what we had is normally eaten as an appetizer, but we had two appetizers as one meal. Let me just say, I could have eaten pani puri every day that I was there and still want more. Pani puri was this potato and bean stuffing in a crispy egg-shaped shell with this lime-y juice and tangy sauce over top. A perfect combination of crispy and soft, savory and tart and a little sweet; moist and so "MMM" evoking (that's the sound you make since your mouth is preoccupied with keeping all the food and drool in your mouth). We also had these round crackers that were topped with yoghurt, potatoes, cilantro and spices. So crunch-tastic. I didn't want to look like a pig so I tried to control myself, but I really wanted to scarf down the whole plate (I'm not kidding, you know I would). Anu also made Tiramisu for us and as much as she said it was terrible, I really enjoyed it, and I'm not a coffee fan (see how she helped me with my own rendition; here).

These were the crackers covered in yoghurt, corn, potato, cilantro and spices.

Can't you just feel her distress? This was the scrumptious, absolutely wonderful tiramisu that Anu made for us.

Then we were introduced to masala chai. Magnificent. It was a milk tea, but it had flavors of cardamom, ginger, mint and cinnamon. It was fantastic. We got it every chance we could.

Then Anu almost made me take a nap, but c'mon, I was in INDIA. Girl can sleep on the plane when she leaves. I had to take advantage of every minute!

So for the day, Anu had planned Sarojini and Dilli Haat (pronounced sah-row-gin-ee and dilly-hut, as far as I can hear. I might be way off). These were a street market and a craft bazaar, respectively. Hooray for bargaining again (Even though Anu did most of the bargainning because I speak zero Hindi)!

We took a subway into the city, since she lives on the outskirts. I took some pictures while the train was above groud. For those of you wondering about the poverty, it definitely existed, and quite often right next to the well manicured lawn of a mansion. This juxtaposition really struck me because it was common, whereas I feel like in other places I have been, officials and people try to hide the poverty, or push it out; that didn't seem to be the case here. It may have been because the population was just too high to do this or it was an accepted way of life.

Here is one example. Sorry for the blurriness-- our train was moving. It was common to see something like this, then right past the right edge of the photo, there would be a wall and a green backyard, maybe even with a fountain or a pool set in front of a large house.
Something else that struck me was the subway system. There is a lot of violence and sexual harrassment against women in India. It often goes unpunished and it is commonplace-- I would never consider traveling around India as I did, by myself. Unless I earned a blackbelt and invested in mace and a teleportation device. Then I'd consider it. Just kidding. But only a little. Back to the subway. The first car of every subway is a women's only car. Asking Anu about it, she said that women spoke up and demanded it and the subway officials had to put this in effect if they wanted to be successful with their customers. If ever a man above the age of about 6 stepped into the car unaccompanied by a woman, the glares they got were borderline comedic, and they would be curtly informed that this was the women's car and they had to move down. Even when an adolescent boy got on the car with his sister and mother, women stared at them for a long time. This was very seriously enforced. For lack of a better word, I thought this was a cool concept.
Sign denoting the women's car. It's sad that a woman traveling on her own feels unsafe, but this measure put in place to protect women was neat.
We got off the train and took a three wheeled motorbike to the markets. I like to see where the locals shop and some of the handcraft that is unique to the area. I laid down some rupees for jewelry (I'm a sucker for cute earrings) and scarves (so pretty and practical at the same time). I saw so many things that I loved, but didn't get. There were beautiful hand crafted leather shoes (I caved later in the trip), leather lamp shades that were handcrafted and painted, kurtas (tunic style shirts), saris, fabrics, metalwork decorative pieces and many more.
Sarojini; Here they have a mixture of branded clothing and local goods. I thought these three ladies were striking.
We went on to Dilli Haat. We had to get tickets to go in. Here, the price was the same for everyone, though in most every other place we went, foreigners paid a hefty bit more than nationals. As it should be, I suppose; I would want the opportunity to visit these places more often if I was a native and not have to spend a fortune.

All these pretties. I could have browsed this eye candy for hours.
Metalwork decorative pieces. I really have no place to put them, but I wanted to take 5 home with me, they were so pretty!
Leather, handpainted. This was one on a string of similar pieces. I think this design might be religiously affiliated, but I can't say that for certain.
This was something neat. There was a booth that sold miscellaneous items (laptop cases, small bags, decorative items,purses, mats) that were all made from recycled materials. This bag was made with cassette tape film. They were made by a people who were deaf or mute or had another disability. I was encouraged to see a social cause as a part of the bazaar.

I could have stayed for hours, just looking and taking pictures. I would say for most of this trip I wish I had more time, if only to take more care with my pictures. As it was, I kept my camera out most of the time. It got bumped against doors and other things more than once, but it's still intact and I have some priceless (to me) photos I wouldn't have caught if my camera had been safely tucked away.

I'm not sure exactly what time we headed back, but I want to say around 8:30ish. We were pretty hungry at this point, but Anu was pretty adamant about not letting us eat street food (except for two occasions, which I will tell you about later) because she wanted us to avoid all possibilty of Delhi Belly. Which, as much as I often think street food is the best food, I nonetheless obeyed her edict since I didn't have the time to adapt by going through the runs and didn't want any of my precious time taken away by an upset tummy.

It was dark and kind of late at this point, so we ordered pizza for dinner (yes, it pains me to admit I ordered pizza in India, but it's the truth). This pizza was not your average pizza. Again, much of India is veg, so the pizza options catered to that. We had one that had paneer (a type of cheese) and veggies, and one with just vegetables. It wasn't too bad. Though, I still like regular Indian food better than Indian pizza.
This was the paneer pizza. And I'm pretty sure this was either a large or regular size order-- you can see the difference in serving sizes.

Wooden birds.
We finished off the evening with masala chai and cuddled up in her big bed. Maybe it was just big because those two don't take up a lot of space (KIDDING. you guys are perfect as you are. and you are very slim). We went to bed a little early because our morning was scheduled to start at 6:30am. But, you'll just have to wait for the adventure to continue.

All in all, a very good start to this wonderful trip. As always, stay tuned!

I leave you with one last photo from Dilli Haat.


  1. I wanna go there! First thing I think of when you say India is all the yummy food and the beautiful saris.

  2. wow- these photos are amazing! Very good insight! - Grace