Saturday, September 4, 2010

My first weekend in Ludhiana.  A few evenings ago I went on a fruitless expedition for the internet.  Feeling defeated, I returned to campus to find myself facing a glorious pink sky - the kind of pink you might dress your newborn baby girl in, just tinged with a bit of purple.  The evening had been cooled by an afternoon downpour.  Normally, such showers bring more humidity and make the air feel even more damp and thick, leaving a sticky film on your skin.  But tonight we had been given a little treat (perhaps from Krishna, as it was his birthday and a national holiday), so I found a bench and watched the sky change from this light pink to something darker, to a warm yellow, much like an old Edison bulb emits, and then a pale blue.  As I was contemplating my new life in India, two students introduced themselves as Canadians attending the vet program here.  Numbers and discussion on pizza delivery and the finer points of attempting to blend in to a city where we clearly stand out (me more than them, as they are Indian-Canadians) were exchanged and then we parted ways.  Slowly I am beginning to meet people; mostly it occurs in this fashion of random encounters, where strangers approach me and ask me where I'm from (If they're Indian, the question tends to be, "From what country you are?"  I'm realizing, with the little Hindi that I know, this is due to Hindi word order).  I have been in nearly a dozen people's photos - just curious Indians who, I guess, rarely see white people? If an Indian landed in America's Hometown, Charles City, Iowa, I imagined she/he would get a similar reaction.

Last night I had plans to go to dinner with a student I met on campus.  I invited the Canadians to join us.  We piled into a car and drove to the West End Mall where well-heeled Ludianans shop for American-styled clothes.  There's a theater there that I think I will find my way to soon enough (Unfortunately, the English offerings at the moment are Avatar and Sex and the City 2. I don't think movies about pagan creatures from the future and promiscuous shop-a-holics really need my rupees.)  After all the various compartments and nooks of the car were seemingly violated by mall security, we were able to park.  Indians take security very seriously at malls.  Before entering, you stand on a line (women and men separate) and go through a metal detector; your bag is searched, and then sometimes you are frisked.  We took the escalators to the top floor and went to the only restaurant in the mall, whose name is now escaping me; but it was subtitled A Family Restaurant.  This was one of the rare Indian restaurants where you could find beer and wine, besides the mocktails and juice offerings most restaurants carry.  The food was excellent, and accounted for the belly ache I felt the next day due to over-consumption of heavy, Punjabi-style gravies.  A picture would bring all of this more to life, but I forgot my camera, so you'll just have to imagine: me, four India/Indian-Canadian guys, and table full of naan, tandoori chicken, this peanut dish I plan to recreate at home (peanuts, onion and some spices; I think lime too. Making a note for when I open my Indian-Mexican snack shop in NYC), a smattering of King Fishers, and several rich, deep coral-colored gravies with chunks of paneer and chicken bobbing in them, the ends poking out like icebergs whose warning I mistakenly ignored.  We returned from our little outing around 10 and I soon succumbed to the beer and gravy sloshing in my gut and passed out in a mild food coma.

I'm writing all this at Barrista, where the barrista (not to be confused with Barrista) just delivered my second iced latte - so good was the first that I had to order a second.  Hopefully the ice was made with mineral water, as the good man pulling my espresso just assured me it was. 

Speaking of: I suppose it is a relic of the Raj, but I'm not sure…The way many Indians will ask for your name by saying, "May I know your good name?"  This tickles me; and I enjoy it every time.  My response often elicits the classic Indian head-bob, which tickles me even more.  I should really get this head bob on video for you all.

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