Thursday Tidbits

Posted on November 10, 2016 under Thursday Tidbits with 2 comments


One of the many street level farmers’ markets


Food.  Lots of food. Lots of spicy food.

It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in India and my stomach is slowly adapting. While I haven’t had any problems with the intake of food so far, I know my body is going through culture shock as it tries to figure of what in the hell I’m up to. As I said in Monday’s post, “ life only begins at the end of one’s comfort zone.” I’m sure if you’re in India as a tourist and are only staying a short time, you can work around food issues, especially  if you’re in the big cities. But if you’re staying awhile, then you better be prepared to adapt. “ When in Rome….”

I think breakfast is the biggest adjustment. At home, my breakfast is bland to the nth. degree. I start every day with a cup of black coffee ( more on this later ), and a slice of raisin toast with peanut butter. Then it’s out the door for a brisk 8K walk. The walking here is very challenging. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Hyderabad is known for its spicy cuisine and breakfast is just another meal laced with all manner of wonderful seasonings. It just feels weird washing down breakfast with curd ( sort of like yoghurt ) just to cool the mouth down a bit. I now have a fairly intimate knowledge of idli, dosa, sambar, coconut chutney and wada. And I have now nearly mastered the art of eating with my hands… one hand that is. I have not progressed to that rarest of art forms of eating with one hand and texting with the other , which is as common as walking and  chewing gum around here. It took the CEO and the Executive Director to demonstrate the refined art of eating with one meat hook! It’s amazing what you can learn when you’re hungry. One of first nights that they let me out in public with Nagendra,  we went to a small outdoor restaurant to have chicken biryani, and a gaggle of young boys chortled the whole time watching me ( try to ) consume this popular entrée with my mitts.

My new best friend, Nagendra has been my go to guy for food. His English is limited and my Hindi is not what it used to be (!) , so ordering food is a delicate mix of gesturing, pointing and translating. Somehow we’ve made it work and I am now comfortable enough that the last few days, I’ve been able to wander off and get my own grub. A major grocery store is a few miles away and I am able to get whole wheat bread and a jar of peanut butter… for emergencies. Oh yes. My breakfast haunt is Bheema’s hotel. The café opens at 7:00. By this I mean , the doors open at 7:00 but they do not begin to serve until a small shrine in the corner is prepared. Candles and incense are lit and the incense is carried to different parts of the room as a sign of reverence, I believe. The first day I found it odd but now I have come to admire this ritual. Take time and give praise before eating seems pretty sensible to me.

One thing that has struck me, and I’m not one bit surprised, is that language is so crucial. I have a much deeper appreciation for our new Syrian friends as they try to make their way in a language that is completely foreign to them. Most times I have a translator with me but I don’t want to use this as a crutch or else I won’t learn anything. I have learned how to say “ my name is Len MacDonald “ in Hindi. It’s a start.

Ok. I have one eeny teeny complaint. Coffee. I love the thimble sized cups of coffee that I can get at breakfast ( for 15rs or about .30 ) but there’s not enough caffeine in it to get a squirrel’s heart started. In order to lock in some kind of routine ( an early morning cup of good, strong, black coffee ), I must acquire a coffee maker. The quest began in earnest on Tuesday. Qadheer is my designated chauffeur at the office and a really nice guy. We went scouting and after a few unsuccessful attempts, a drip coffee maker, very much like the one we have at home, was sitting in front of me. Having just purchased a big bag of coffee moments earlier, I was salivating at the thought of a large cup of java at suppertime. There was a small problem. They didn’t have any others in stock and the young clerk was adamant that I could not buy it. Very menacing thoughts ran through my head. The poor unsuspecting young man probably had no idea what a two week coffee drought looked like. I took a couple of deep yoga breaths and left the store. I will let you know when “ the eagle has landed.” !

Have a great day.

P.S. I must admit that I shed a tear when I watched the CBC video of Alaa’s arrival at the airport in Halifax.




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