The other face of India

The image of India as a country is plagued with cliches. I’d be damned if I don’t admit that a lot of times, these stereotypes are fueled and perpetuated by travelers who visit the country.

For a very long time, I have felt the need to speak about this issue. As someone who has grown up in India, I have wanted to raise this question and also offer another perspective.

My article about the same titled- The other face of India, went live on The Expeditioner Magazine today. Here an excerpt from the same:

“Every country has elements associated with it that represent and symbolize it — something new that it has to offer. In the case of India, the novelty element manifests itself in the form of the elephants on the road, the beggars on the traffic light signals, the sadhu on the ghats and the villagers carrying pots of water in sweltering summer heat.

The exoticism of India lies in the picture of the old, emaciated rickshaw-puller or the eunuchs dancing on the streets. This is the picture of India that sells.”

-The other face of India- The Expeditioner Magazine- 23rd July 2012

Please click here to view this entire article and offer your comments.

Advertisements

How to stuff your face in Delhi, India

English: India Gate, Delhi

English: India Gate, Delhi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love food. I grew up in Delhi and was spoilt for choice when it came to lip-smacking fare.

Since Delhi is home to food from almost every state in India, the choice is mind-boggling. What I would really love to do however is to go back home just for a day and stuff my face with as many dishes as I can.

In lieu of this, I wrote an article titled How to stuff your face in Delhi, India, that has been published on Matador Nights today.

Go and check it out but here a small tip- Don’t do it while you’re hungry.

Music and Sport- The legacy of Punjab, India

(Tip: Watch video first.)

Music. Sport. Energy. Agriculture: the essence of rural Punjab in India.

This video, recently composed by musician Sneha Khanwalkar for Sound Trippin, a music show on MTV India, captures all these elements powerfully.

Sneha and her team traveled to Qila Raipur, a village located six kilometers away from the city of Ludhiana in Punjab, to record sounds and visuals at the Qila Raipur Rural Olympics. The Rural Olympics are an annual event hosted by the village since 1932. Along with regular events like foot races, gymnastics and jumps, there are special events and races by various animals such as bullocks, camels, horses and mules amongst others.

The most anticipated race of the Olympics is the bullock-cart race. The event is popular amongst Indian and International Sports enthusiasts.

Sneha spent three days at the event recording real ambient sounds including those of the commentator and then fused them together to create this song using DubStep technology.

The State of Punjab in India is the largest agricultural state and is well known for its robust culture and high-energy. It is also the state popular in India for producing a large percentage of sportsmen especially in the heavy weight category sports.

The song, sung by two sisters who are folk singers from the village, was composed over a day at their house. Sneha had met the sisters four years ago, when she spent time in Punjab composing music for a film. The sisters who had learnt music from their father growing up in the village, had impressed her even back then, and this time she went out looking for them.

The different sounds recorded and used in the video complete from the siren, the tractor, hand pump along with traditional Punjabi instruments such as the DhadhTumbi and the Algoza are culturally ingrained in Punjab.

The music, the smiles, the people, the atmosphere offers insights into the life of rural Punjab, something even I as a city-bred Indian was not aware of.

Now that I am, I know for a fact that it’s worth sharing with the world.

Writing and I

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: jjpacres)

Writing and I were old acquaintances.

We first met years ago, spent some time together, enjoyed each other’s company, kept in touch for a while. Then, we drifted apart. I believe it was my doing. I liked writing, not enough though. My effort towards our relationship was half-hearted and inconsistent. Inevitably, we lost touch and did not meet again for a long time.

Six months ago, writing re-entered my life.

It happened by chance one fall morning while I was sitting alone having a cup of coffee in my small apartment. I must have been lonely. I had been flipping through old pictures on my laptop for nearly an hour, stopping at nothing. And then I did, to read something I’d written two years ago. It was the last time writing and I had seen each other.

We spent the morning together.

This was the first of many such meetings. We started slowly, every other day for a start, few stolen hours in the day. I had commitments and responsibilities. I had to choose at most times. Writing lost out on more occasions than one. This time however, it lingered.

Our relationship was growing slowly and I was more aware of it than I had ever been.

Writing

Writing (Photo credit: Pascal Maramis)

I’d think about writing often. I’d think about what I’d say the next time we’d see each other. I’d think about how I would approach our conversations. More than that I’d think about how I felt when we were together. The answer was always the same.

Writing made me feel one with myself.

I felt guilty, more with each passing day. I knew I wasn’t giving writing the place it deserved in my life. There was always something else to be taken care of, something else that needed my attention. I was scared.

I wasn’t prepared to lose again.

And then it changed. Not in a moment, not in a day or in a week. Somewhere, somehow the realization came- the fate of our relationship lay nowhere else but in my hands. It always had been me and this time was no different. Writing had always been there, silent, undemanding and giving. I was the one who had failed it in the past.

Finally, I made another commitment, for the love of writing, for the love of me.

I have been reaping the rewards of our friendship ever since.

Summer in North India: A Survival Guide

Summer in North India is hot. Temperatures can go up to nearly 45 degree C or 113 degree F and visiting North India in this season is not high on the most travelers’ agendas. Despite the heat, summer in India is a vibrant time and can be enjoyed if certain guidelines are followed. Here are a few tips on what to do in order to survive the heat and make the most of your trip.

Clothing-

Dilli Haat in New Delhi is a great place for buying summer clothing and footwear
Dilli Haat in New Delhi is a great place for buying summer clothing and footwear

Stick to light weight cotton clothing. Fabrics like linen work best as they allow the body to breathe along with the fact that they are good absorbents. This helps when one is sweating, and sweat you will, be absolutely sure of that! If you plan to travel light there is a huge variety of cotton clothing available in India itself which is affordable and easy to maintain. The best places for buying such clothes is the handloom shops and the haat bazaars  and every city in India has more than its fair share of these. Examples of such markets are Dilli Haat and Janpath in New Delhi. Along with the fabric, it is a good idea to stick to light colors preferably whites and pastels. You might have to wash them more often but once there you will realize that it is well worth the hassle.

Footwear-

a pair of Kolhapuri chappals
a pair of Kolhapuri chappals

When it comes to footwear, it is best to wear something more open ended like flat sandals or floater sandals as opposed to shoes. While on the one hand, shoes might be more comfortable when walking long distances, wearing a pair of sandals will mean that you will sweat a lot less on your feet. Shoes tend to trap heat and with socks the problem is actually aggravated. Like clothing, there are a number of economical footwear options available in India for summer. Most of these are budget-friendly and even if they only last you through your trip you will realize that eventually it was money well-spent. Some popular options include, ‘Kolhapuri chappals’ for both men and women, as well as ‘Jootis’ which are traditionally from the state of Punjab but available all over India. In addition to these you will find various modern styles to choose from.

Fluids-

North Indian summer can be highly dehydrating and it is absolutely important that you keep your fluid intake high. While water tops the list of beverages that you should be consuming, do enjoy the flavor of the country by trying come local delicacies like ‘Nimbu paani’ ( sweet and sour lime water) and ‘Lassi’ (flavored buttermilk). Be careful of where you choose to have these from as variations are available all over- from five star restaurants to the roadside local vendor. It would be a good idea to go for a clean, sanitized environment and give the roadside vendor a miss! If you end up in the state of Punjab, you can also try ‘Ganne ka Ras’ which is basically sugar-cane juice as well as ‘Chaach'( a thicker, creamier version of the flavored buttermilk). Drink as much as you can to keep your body temperature cool and to avoid dehydration.

Food-

By all means, eat what you want- but also make sure that your diet includes a lot of citrus as well as seasonal fruits. Fruits such as Watermelon and Rock melon should find a place on your daily platter as these help the body to stay cool internally. India has a wide variety of seasonal fruits in summer and ‘Litchi’ also known as ‘Lychee’ is one of them. This belongs to the soapberry family and is made up of delicate soft whitish flesh. A big summer favorite among the locals, make sure you try this as the benefits are many when it comes to taste, nutrition as well as fighting the heat battle. It is important to buy and consume fruit that is either whole or covered if cut in order to avoid any stomach problems.

Head-

draped around the neck here, the dupatta can be use dot shield head in summer
draped around the neck here, the dupatta can be used to shield one’s head in summer

Finally, keep your head covered to avoid any heat strokes. Shielding one’s head is a common practice even amongst the locals and there are various methods that one can employ. You can use an umbrella but that can turn out to be an obstruction to free movement. A cap or hat is another alternative. One of the best methods is to use a ‘duppatta’. A ‘duppatta’ is a rectangular piece of  fabric that is usually 4 ft by 2 ft in size. Available in a multitude of colors and fabrics it can be used by women to wrap around the neck and then lift an end from the nape to cover the head. For men, it can be tied around the head like a ‘saafa’ or a ‘pagdi’. These words may seem alien while reading but are very commonly used in the country and help can be easily sought in order to learn the correct methods of draping.

With the help of these guidelines, a summer trip to North India is very much a reality for any traveler and can be a very enriching experience as well.