Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Last Monday night I spoke with Swati, and she informed me of the trip to Manali. Well, it turned out to surpass anything I could have possibly began to imagine. It was another foray into the Himalayas, and we even roughed it a bit too. We left Tuesday evening about 7, and we reached Jaho at about 9 in the morning. It was a whole lot of bus ride. We had cabin seats which meant we got to spend a whole lot of time in a confined space; not that buses aren't already cramped. At one point in the evening I even left the cabin to lay down in the aisle of the bus as most people were sleeping, and I wanted a piece of the action also. There was one action extended that didn't appeal to me in the slightest. Earlier in the evening we were in the cab merrily rolling down the noisy road, and another cabinmate offered me and my company a 'smack' joint. Well, yea, no interest in the slightest. For a while thereafter he was pretty messed up. Although, it was quite something watching him so closely with nowhere else to go. He kept to himself. So much so, that I had to ask him to return to me several things that had 'fallen' out of the waterbottle pocket of my bag and neatly ended up in the corner under some other water bottles and papers. Yea, well, I'll just repeat what Nathan said after my Ipod got nicked in Bombay: there are assholes everywhere.

When we got to Jaho it turned out to be Swati and her other friend, Anouj's buddy Nitin we were meeting up with. He is a horseman, and he has a family of 23. Some are himalayan something or anothers and the rest Geldings (if that is even right; biology was always tough for my forgetfulness). And, then there is Pi who's a sweetheart of a girl. Using her shorter quadrapedal stride and furry tail she helps warn of danger in the evening and assists in trekking. It was a beautiful family. With any luck I will have some beautiful snaps to share with everyone when I get them back. While there, I consumed some bad water. It was not pretty becasue the following day, when it hit me, we were taking another six hour journey through the foothills to reach Manali. Yikes. Not a pretty subject, but calmness and a taxi for the last four hours of the journey helped ease some of the difficulty. We reached Manali and stayed a couple days time before I decided to head back to Delhi. My friends got sucked into a k-hole of sorts because Manali is one of the primary regions for Hash in India. Thus, it is no surprise that during the drive back I was picked out by the inspectors that entered our bus. I had had five days of facial growth at that point, and I can only imagine what my complexion looked like a couple days after my draining experience. So, they made me unpack my bag in my lap piece by piece by piece. They asked where my other bag was because clearly my fanny pack wouldn't be enough to travel with, and when I explained I stay in Delhi they turned their attention to the next dope suspect in the line. So, then after a succesful dinner stop and a middle of the night tire change we reached Delhi in the early hours of Sunday morning. It was great because I was back in time to hang with Gayatri a bit before she headed on to see another friend of hers in Allehbad. My friends throughout traveling have been so wonderful to me and so supportive when I have needed them. I would like to take the opportunity to express my happiness for knowing each person I have met along the path.

Monday was great because I got into the kitchen with Shivi at home, and we womped up a feast. I was explaining Chaat in an earlier entry from this month, so it should be no great surprise that one of my first undertakings in a home kitchen was to tryout Palak Patta Chaat, or deep fried spinach leaves with saout chutney (Jaggery, tamarind, and raw mango), mint chutney (Mint, green chilli, and corriander), sweet dahi (yoghurt and sugar), black salt, chaat masala, and a bit of Kashmiri red chilli. Damn. Add to that a butter cream dal, Kashmiri eggplant, beans and potatoes, and some romani rotis. Who Damn. It was some kind of fierce.

Tuesday I had my last day at Chor Bizarre. I want to focus on some of the projects I have been discussing with people, and I have gotten a good sense of the kitchen and cuisines in the ten days I went in. It will be nice to Thank Prashast's aunt tomorrow for helping arrange that. It was a really wonderful experience. I am still thinking about what I would like to say, but when I have that I will put it up here also.

This morning I woke up to a relapse of my illness from last week. I don't know what has brought this about, but despite big ambitions for tearing things up today I am taking it a bit slower in hopes that all will balance out in the world. I don't want to hover near a toilet to much more in the near future.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Life on the move again! I am abandoning kitchen duty for the remainder of the week, and I am heading north with a couple friends to Manali. This is a greener cooler area than Delhi. It has been nearing 100 each day for the past two weeks here, and in Manali you still need a sweater, yea! So, I'll head there for a couple three days then head back. It ought to be a great outing, and hopefully, I'll be able to take some nice pictures. I have been shooting quite a bit of late, and I am happy with some of the results. I have been meaning to change up the face of my website as well as it's contents, but other projects are moving along a bit better like this one on creativity. Thus, for the time being I am happy to maintain a steady level of productivity and pursue many projects simultaneously. Somehow, even when I am at home there are more things to do than get accomplished. At one point or another they come together or go to the idea graveyard. Either way I’m aware of where I am, so here I go. There is more to come from the road. Bisous.

Monday, March 22, 2004

I played two games of chess today against an unorthodox opponent. He won the first, and then the computer was restarted amidst the second game, which he was also winning. It was not too satisfying, but the owner of the internet cafe took the brunt of it because he was overseeing the electrician that flicked the power on the outlet. He was working while everything was turned on. It didn't speak highly for the respect of the individual having his hands on live outlets and all, but it also irked me that I couldn't even lose my game in its entirety. Well, after that I got a game in with Upendra, Prashast's father. While Prashast and I were out gathering some new pens we came across a game shop that we peeked into becuase we had board games on the mind. I had wanted to bring a set home because his father told me he enjoyed playing. It was a nice change of pace to sit with someone who didn't want to bicker over a game. I can appreciate the movements rushing through my head, and I want to sort them out. I want to order them. Slowly, this will happen and my game will strengthen. I still have aspirations of attaining a higher level of play. My time on yahoo games is good, and the games can be quite interesting. However, I appreciate the slower games; I envision a parlor room set with drinks and music. It will be a lovely affair.

Prashast and I just got back from a visit with Karim, and we had some interesting conversations about generalizing. Karim was espousing on the positions of Jews and their influence in America, and it made me a bit edgy. It was not threatening in any way nor was it slanderous. It was quite complicated to discuss becuase there are so many facets intertwined in the statement. Yes, I do believe Jews are well networked together in the US and I also think it is part of the communal sense to assist one another. However, I deny the idea also because it sets up a paradigm for people being different than one another. The three of us sat discussing, myself, Prashast and Karim. A Jew, a Hindu, and a Muslim were talking it out, but we were all the same in a way. Are all of us different? Are any of us the other? I appreciate my experience and also that it may be unique. However, why am I so different from anybody else? So we believe in different faiths. We may enjoy different life experiences, but aren’t we all people asking the same questions in life? We all want to know who we are, what we are, and where we come from. These inquiries and similarity in life experiences makes us fundamentally the same in human terms. When we set up the notion of the other and maintain it as being fixed I think we prevent progress from occurring if only subtly. When beliefs are strongly founded without infringing on anybody else’s rights, only then may we all see a peaceful state existing between all of us. So, the conversation went the way of the dodo, but before that I was told not to be so specific all the time and generalize a bit. Um, I am not so sure about this one, but I do hope one day happiness will be a general feeling shared by all.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Injury has ensued a bit. I managed to cut my fingers not once but twice today. I thought I would take it easy after I sliced a noticeable although small piece of my index fingernail, so I headed for browner pastures away from coriander towards peeling potatoes. Yea, well, that's where the second small nick occurred. I repeat small. These were not significant cuts in any shape or form, and I was particularly careful in cleaning them because drinking the water is treacherous enough cleaning a cut with it can be a very prolonged mistake. So, I was told Turmeric powder is antiseptic. With any luck my finger will not be a balloon tomorrow. Aside from that the kitchen was pretty quiet today. I came back on the bus again and really felt the onset of Spring/Summer. It has been reaching close to 100 Fahrenheit, and soon it will far exceed that by about another 10 to 20 degrees. Thankfully, I'll be on to greener wetter pastures by that point. Thailand which is also a nice hot clime this time will only be a temporary stopover on the way to Amsterdam for my Aunt Jan's art show. It ought to be a hella good time. We're cheering for her from all corners of the globe, and it will be a family affair of support for this next great achievement of hers. Her site is chock full of beautiful works I highly recommend you enjoy.

In other news Prashast and I are working with his father to develop a website on creativity. It is an interesting project with a strong lean to education. We'll see how that comes along in the next some weeks.

Sadly, India lost today against Pakistan in the third One Day Invitational cricket match. Everyone was pretty solemn around town. This is an historic rivalry deeply reflecting the political rift between the nations. Their players are given the same stardom credit and foray into politics as Hollywood actors find themselves. Thankfully, the cricketers have a bit more sense one of them commenting, "We'll leave the diplomacy up to the diplomats."

Monday, March 15, 2004

With great satisfaction I can say last week was amazing. I accomplished a whole lot. I have changed the directions in my travel a bit, and I am playing the game a lot more. By the game I mean I had removed myself from any sense of obligation when I began traveling, and that even extended to areas I didn't intend or perceive. I think the air is pretty clear here despite being thick. Air is not all that we see and breath. I have been contacting many people regarding different matters, and my wheels have rarely stopped spinning. If it's any indication what state I am in I have purchased another cell phone. Anyone that can remember last impression of them may need to take a double take. Here is probably not the best place to put it; let me know if you would like it. I have a Dehli number while I am here for the next three and some weeks. Then I'll move to a Thai number, etc. This will be good because it seems everywhere I go I am meeting people who are trying to coordinate at some level or another. It is somewhat common in India to say you'll be reaching, and then it happens as though unexpectedly. I tend to do things a bit differently and a phone will aid to that end.

Cooking is going along wonderfully. I spent Tuesday through Friday in the kitchen then I took the weekend off to run errands and frolic a bit. I need my frolicking time while it has been afforded me. I was at my dad's office one day where I met his boss, and he asked what I do with my time in India. I responded that I rest. He and dad looked at one another as though everybody was in the wrong role. Well, okay so I am a bit young to be so leisurely, anway things are looking a bit more productive these days. We'll see what comes of it in some time. I'll keep this up to date best I can!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A couple great things happened in the same day. Yesterday, I began my cooking apprenticeship at Chor Bizarre, Noida, and I found out our friend Dorothy is leaning towards moving to New York! Unexpectedly I got to begin a day earlier than I thought, and Shivi and I headed into the restaurant. Everyone was very welcoming to have me in the kitchen. Noida is one of three Chor Bizarre locations. They have food brought in from one of the other locations, and the management company Old World Hospitality has several other facilities including a bakery and sweets location that delivers to Noida. So, a lot of the food that they plate there is combined from prepared foods. Don’t let that deceive anybody, there is still bucket loads to clean, chop, and prepare. Most of the time yesterday it felt like I was in the way, but Shivi explained to me that it was only the first day. Hopefully, today will be a little different. Thankfully, the kitchen has fairly tall ceiling levels, so height is only an in issue in several places because of the paper chef’s cap I’ve been required to wear. Funny enough a chef from the Chinese section of the kitchen noticed my predicament and offered a pair of scissors to trim down my hat that fell off every time I went into the lower part of the kitchen. I need to trim it a bit lower, and then it won’t be a problem at all. The kitchen is broken down into several different sections all of which are unfamiliar to me as far as cuisines go. There is a Kashmiri section; there is a curry section; there is a tandoori section; there is a Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, Korean, and several other oriental styles section; there is a dishwashing section (this one I am pretty familiar with); there is a sweets section (this one I plan on becoming intimately familiar with!). One of the executive chef’s went through the menu item by item with me and offered me tastes of many ingredients. And, and, and, he suggested that I walk around with a spoon to taste everything produced in the kitchen. Anybody that remotely knows me can understand this ranks up there with ultimate pleasures. I mean come on tasting fiery Kashmiri curries, mutton, chicken, ginger, garlic, peppers, chilies, everything, everything, everything!!! Amongst all of the tasting yesterday there was one thing that absolutely floored me. There is a type of food called Chaat (pronounced like ‘Chart’). This is often referred to as street food. There are small venders in the cities, train platforms, and in restaurants throughout India that offer this small dishes as a snack or several combine to make a nice fully belly meal. Anyway, the typical additions to the base are a coriander jaggery sauce, sweetened dahi (curd or yoghurt), and several other spices like cumin seed powder. So, the base he had me taste that absolutely floored me was a deep fried whole spinach leaf. I am not sure what the batter was that they used, but it was out of this world. I intend to become more familiar with this for sure. Yes, I am enthusiastic about this apprenticeship and all that I will take from it!

So, our friend Dorothy, Dot, Dot the Bisnot is considering New York finally. We, Dana and I told her when she was leaving Boston last year to come to New York, but she insisted on returning to Dallas. Thankfully, she will not to continue drudging through Dallas with disdain for the boufon hair and blue eyeshadow. Instead she will be taking up residence at 125 Seaman Avenue for the summer. We’re all very excited for this transition, and I wish her the best of luck. It’s nice when people realize the inherit beauty and opportunity available in New York. Yes, I too crave the frenetic New York day and nights. Amazing how you have to leave a place sometimes to see how deep-set your love is. New York and I will continue to explore our possibilities when I return!

I need to run and great ready for a great day cooking. I send my love to all.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Yesterday was Holi. And what a festival it was. It is aptly dubbed the festival of colors for all of the gulal or colored dust that is tossed about. Kids and us alike were running around with gulal and water guns filled with dyed water. Much of my body is still colored from the celebration. It ought to be gone in the next week or so. Good fun the whole day. We celebrated over at Prashast's brother's house. Gaurav and Pearl were delightful hosts to myself and a slew of their other friends. Drinking began somewhat surprisingly early, around 11AM, so the afternoon was a wash, and I crashed around nine only to find the room filled with another gang of friends. Prashast opted to spend the day with some other friends as he had not gotten up in time to head over to his brothers. All around it was a great day; although, if I were you, I would pass on Mila Jovovich's The Messenger, agh not worth losing sleep over.

Today was great for cooking. Shivi and I got off to a rocking start with a masala gravy mixed vegetable dish, then I watched further as he prepared Mung Dhal (lentil beans) with some Masala. The rice had slowly been cooking all morning, add some curd, and you have a great meal for everyone. Tonight we're moving on down the line to Mutton. Perhaps I'll be a bit more hands-on this time; although, I am still copious notes while he works, so we'll figure out the balance. And, in a great development today, Prashast's aunt gave me the approval to work in either of the Chor Bizarre restraunts here in Dehli. So, I will be heading into apprenticeshiphood on Wednesday, when Shivi next goes to work. Then, after a week or two if I would like to delve into more specific Kashmiri cuisine I may shift over to the other restaurant located in Old Dehli. This is all very exciting.

Things have been going pretty good in the last several days, and I feel a real surge upward in my motivation and excitement. It's a nice feeling. Deciding to stop traveling through India and settle in Dehli until I depart April 10th has offered me some peace of mind. Traveling constantly is not the most suitable thing for me. I like being connected to a place and establishing good relations. Dehli has offered me a lot, and I intend to keep learning more about this expansive city. Time during this trip has really revealed a lot about my love of big cities. New York is a very suitable place for me despite all the trash talking I did before leaving. And, you won't hear me complain about having difficulty breathing the City's air after some of the places I have been. We've got it good comparatively!

Friday, March 05, 2004

Today is the 10th day since the passing of Prashast's grand-uncle. This is a special day in the Kashmiri tradition as much of it will be spent commemorarting the deceased. Earlier in the week after the cremation his remains were brought 250 kilometers north to Haridwar. There was a ceremony there releasing the ashes into the Ganga. This morning the entire family gathered at the Yamuna river where prayers were recited. There is a break now before everyone regroups this evening. There will be a large selection of the deceased's favorite food, and I am not all that sure what else may take place. I have been invited to honor this man alongside the rest of his family. It has been enlightening to witness the way the family has processed the whole experience in the past week. Many family members have been visiting each others' homes to be with one another. It is nice to see everybody so supportive in this time.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Kearouac’s On The Road was fantastic. I had started it some time back, before leaving New York last July in fact. When I was last there in February I picked it up again as I did several other titles. I have gone through phases of reading and not reading on this trip, and I decided that I would finish several pieces before returning home again in April. I can relate to Sal Paradise’s frenetic travels and though I have not encountered anyone as crazy as his Dean Moriarty I have come across quite the character or two. It was great when they arrived in Mexico and how they freak out about being able to enjoy life in greater abundance. I have experienced that also along my way. That was what it was like for me when I was in Ukraine; I saw the rows upon rows of inexpensive quality Vodkas, what a sight that was. Now it means high quality professional photo processing at inexpensive rates. Yesterday I got back the first role of black and white film, and I was quite pleased with the quality of their work. When I was in Nikolaev, Ukraine I told Laura the processing quality was lacking. She told me that I didn’t take very good pictures. Well, I can’t argue for the content’s quality so much; even though, I do know what I like to see in a picture. There is a distinguishable difference in the care that this lab is taking in their work from that of Nikolaev. Speaking about content with Prashast he said 10% good pictures in a role constitutes a ‘good role’, and I was pleased at the printing potential for around 10 to 12 shots out of 36. It is decidedly a good role!

My cooking lessons have commenced. Trilochan and I began with the traditional Indian gravy’s. There are four which are the start for most dishes: Masala, Butter, White and Yellow. As he was explaining this he emphasized the color of the dish a great many times. This would appeal to Dana’s aesthetics more than my own initially, but perhaps as we spend some time in the kitchen it will begin to ring a bit clearer with me also. Then we proceeded to a spice shop where we collected most of the ingredients we discussed earlier, and I acquired a nice stash of Kashmiri saffron to dole out back home. I have a meeting tomorrow with the people that own the restaurant Trilochan works in for permission to apprentice in the kitchen with him, and I am hopeful that they’ll approve.