Our goals this week: understand the difference between hai (nasalized) and hai (not nasalized), ta (dental unaspirated), ta (retroflex unaspirated), tha and tha, da and da, dha and dha, and so on. It's amazing how almost completely unrecognizable differences to a western-trained ear can be critical phonemic distinctions to someone else's.

A New York Birthday

My oldest and dearest friend in the world, Dan, had his birthday on January 16th, so naturally we took the ghetto Connecticut bus down to NY.

Please allow for manual frisking.

— Nirmal Lifestyles cinema notice before watching The Iron Lady.
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Finding the past and the future in the present

While my folks were here, we went to visit family friends of my dad's, Lata and Parag, in Dadar. On their porch overlooking the quiet area of Dadar, with cars on the expressway whizzing by to our right, we considered the hubbub of the day. If order comes out of chaos, what will India's new order look like? Lata mentioned that the highway had actually made her neighborhood more pleasant. She said the traffic noise had subsided because people could now travel expressly (on the highway) to their destination and were not stuck in a glut of horns and diesel exhaust in front of her home.

Lata and I went on to talk about what Matt and I were doing in India. Taking off from a job, traveling, and not having 100% quantifiable goals is very strange for most Indians (and parents, sometimes). ... View Post »

Bucks? What is bucks? You mentioned this on the first day we met. I went home, and I was confused. I thought, 'What is bucks?'

— Our teacher Sanjay, regarding our request to find a Hindi book.
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I like you secretly.

— (Not in public.)
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Oh, the different sounds we make

In the first few weeks of being in Mumbai, we walked around saying Dhanyavad and Shukriya all the time. We'd get responses anywhere from a flurry of giggles to blank stares. Gracious people (or those used to Brits and other westerners) would respond with "Yaur Velcam." We also used, in greeting, the only other Hindi word we knew: Namaste. To which people would generally respond with "Halo" and "Bai" depending.

It wasn't until we started taking Hindi classes that it finally dawned on us that it wasn't our terrible pronunciation, but that our uses were completely inappropriate. In English, our Hindi teacher has not once said "Please," "Thank you" or any other such pleasantries. During our classes, he says "that's completely wrong," and "that's exactly right," respectively. When he wants ... View Post »

GalleryFood, folks and fun

A Rajasthani Sturbridge Village filled with camel cart rides (to rock your spine), Rajasthani hand-spun pottery (pssst, don't mind the motor), tightrope walking, doll and bangle shops, Rajasthani dance and a fire breather, puppet theater, Indian-style carnival attractions (apparently the world over this involves shooting things) and even a palm reader (who, not surprisingly, gathered the longest lines). After our tour, we went inside for some Rajasthani fare - thick curries, kichiri, chole, thick roti, and halva that the waiter even fed to each guest.

Here's a look at some of the highlights of week two in Mumbai. I'm lovin' it. View Gallery »

Sweets for all

Sezwan, Szechuan

We traveled to the local sweet shops Nagrik and Krishna Sweets today to get my brother an edible souvenir. That also meant buying a whole basket of other sweets and snacks that we'll need to eat before they spoil in the heat. What?! The samples we tried were just so good.

Matt has been diligently sampling all manner of sugar and milk since our arrival. There are so many sweet shops in Bombay to choose from, but many of them don't go through their products fast enough to keep them fresh. Knowing where to go can be the difference between a melt-in-you-mouth milk treat and a hard, gritty piece of something that tastes like old butter.

In such a social culture, people are always stopping by each other's homes for chai, snacks, dinners, celebrations, etc and bringing little gifts. And ... View Post »

One green square

Keep your park clean

We love this little oasis of a park that's an 8 minute walk from Mohana's. Yes, you have to brave rickshaw traffic, maneuver around exposed piping, cross three rather heart-stopping intersections and one big gross, trash-heaped mud puddle, pass through another park of sorts, and then head down a lane with stray dogs, but it is 100% worth the effort. 

It's a wonderful enclave of big, old trees and - most fortunately - a padded track loop of ground up old tires, 8 laps of 'em to a mile. We love to come in the morning after breakfast and watch all the women in saris and salwars except for their tennis sneakers, power walking in small groups. A group of older men congregate there most days, all in white cotton, chatting away. And dotted here and there are students or professionals taking ... View Post »