Monthly Archives: June 2010

Indian Snacks

Almost everyone who knew I was going to India advised me to bring carbon pills. Apparently there is a high probability of diarrhoea. I should avoid eating anything from street hawkers and drink only bottled water.

Except for one chick pea I took off the hand of a street hawker, the rest of the food I tasted were all prepared in the kitchen. I think it’s not necessary to be overly paranoid, and I had no incidences of diarrhoea throughout my 10-day trip.

If you are not used to spicy food though, you might want to check beforehand if the dish you ordered is spicy because spicy food is true to its name in India. Don’t let the appearance of the dish deceive you because what looks mild and green can burn your throat!

Most dishes were a tad too salty for my liking, so you might want to ask for less salt if you’re like me. The thing I really like about eating in India is that you can specify what you want, or not want, in the dish and you will have the dish tailored to your preference. Try doing that in Singapore and sometimes you get puzzled looks from the waiters or end up with your order, requests ignored. I’m talking about requests like less salt, less spicy, sauce on the side, no cheese…nothing ridiculous like chicken in a vegetarian dish or mussels in fried noodles.

I was told this is a summer drink, great to cool off on a hot day. It’s green mango with sour plum. It didn’t taste sweet or sour, just a little salty.

Vegetable pakora. The Japanese equivalent of “Yasai Tempura”. This particular dish had potato, onion, cauliflower and eggplant. I’m usually not a fan of onion, but this one was thin and crispy and smelt really good.

I forgot what the name is for this, I remembered it to be a kind of fried vegetable pancake.

These are sweets you get after your meal. Aniseed is a natural breath freshener.

Does anyone know the name of this dish? There’s something that looks like crispy rice, mixed with beans and some kind of sauce — rojak-style.

We stumbled on this after dinner and had absolutely no idea and no guts to try it. The man told us that the lump of brown sticky thing was rose petals. We could smell the faint scent of rose too. I don’t know what makes up the rest of this interesting snack. Does anyone know?

Reflections in New Delhi

People work for their money. Some probably harder than others.

My impression of India, based on what I see on the surface in Delhi, is that it doesn’t have the environmental and societal factors conducive for building the kind of life that we have frequently been exposed to as the “ideal”. You study hard, get a degree, find a good job, settle and start a family, and the cycle continues with the next generation. (It’s a preaching I grew up with since I was in primary school, so it was the only path I knew I had to take.) Yet I observed many happy faces and a vibrant community spirit when I took a walk around India Gate.

If what I see is a true reflection of what is, then what should I make of this so-called structure we have here in Singapore then?

We are blessed to have some sort of structure in place, where education, jobs and homes are not unattainable for most. All this supposedly makes it easier to build the “ideal” life, but how many people willingly pursue this path because they are happy and stay happy in the pursuit?

If living this “ideal” life will supposedly make us happy, then what seemed to be unfavorable factors discouraging the lack of an “ideal” life in one place, may not necessarily produce much different end results as favorable factors aiding the pursuit of an “ideal” life in another. It is a matter of perception and the value we place on what is important to us.

In Delhi, toys are uncomplicated. Balloons and toy birds in hand-made cages light up the faces of the children what a PSP would to a young nephew here. Which brings me back to a part of my childhood where we made our own “toys” like five stones and zero point. Such were the games that were fashionable then.

What was most endearing is the people’s curiosity of the world outside of their own. Random adults, young adults and kids would approach me to ask for a picture to be taken, even though it wasn’t always with their own cameras. I think being warm, friendly and unafraid to ask questions to strangers are precious qualities the locals have. Communicating excitedly in their own language with me even though I don’t know what they are talking about and neither do they know what I’m saying, is typically an embarrassing situation, but if they felt awkward, they showed none of it. It was really nice to be able to express and communicate without the inhibitions of perceived social decorum.

I was surprised to see matrimonials in the papers. It suggests that this is a society where people are not just looking for friends but partners for life. People actually want to get married. At least that is my understanding of the word “matrimonial”.

I couldn’t comprehend all of what was written because it wasn’t all in English, but one had a “H’some” as the opening word. As much as we say looks don’t matter in a partner, it is probably still what we base our first impressions on, amongst other things. This man obviously used it to his advantage. Or disadvantage maybe?

I’m curious though. How many people successfully find partners this way? What is like to get a response to your personal ad? Do people actually fear who they are going to meet? Do they start off as friends and see if it progresses to marriage or do parents and relatives all go along on the first date?

Streets of Delhi

abundance (noun): a very large quantity of something

That was the first thing that struck me as we drove around the city. Nothing was quite in moderation.

Congestion, poverty, pollution, heat and colours.

People were either buying a lot or a lot were not buying.

A lot of curious stares.

Then I thought, perhaps “in moderation” suggests a kind of average condition and the average rarely gets noticed in the presence of extremes.

At this open air bazaar, I caught a colourful glimpse of bustling New Delhi. Tourists were passing through, families and groups of friends shopping, locals trying to make a living, illegal peddlers dodging the police, people having an evening snack before dinner, it was so crowded yet everyone was in harmony.

I’m not sure of the exact location. I would describe this place like Chatuchak in Bangkok, but less extensive.

The were many stalls selling similar items but some seemed to do better than others and I’m guessing it has something to do with the word ‘sale’.

This lady was really endearing and kept trying to sell me the piece. I am very fond of hand-made items, but in India, I will always wonder if such items for sale are hand-made at the expense of cruel exploitation. Regardless of its source, it is undeniable that every hand-made piece will always come attached with some level of dedication.

I was talking to these two ladies in front and I noticed that the men behind all cast curious looks our way while enjoying their evening snack. It’s interesting because while I’m having all these questions in my head about them, they must be thinking the same about me!

I don’t know what is the right term to refer to these vehicles. Electric taxis? Our local guide told us that it’s not advisable to take these ones in Delhi because a lot of the drivers refuse to go by the meter and you have to argue with them to agree on a price.

Most of the public buses I see are somewhat battered in the front, with the mechanics often exposed. In fact, many cars on the road have dents or cracked bumpers. Drivers don’t quite keep to their lanes and everyone horns but no one really gets hostile or aggressive, which tells me that this is a way of life, rather than an exhibition of road rage.

Now in the midst of all that chaos, illegal peddlers would weave dangerously in between traffic to sell coconut, books, magazines, jewellery etc. How they manage to sell anything successfully baffles me, because despite the congestion, there still wasn’t enough time to make a selection, search for cash and make payment that didn’t require change.

Part of me was compelled to buy because I felt that these people were risking their lives just to earn a livelihood, but would making a purchase from them be an act of condoning this illegal trade?

Arriving in New Delhi

When I told friends that I was heading to New Delhi, most of them were hardly envious. Some who have been there told me there are cows everywhere and I will be greeted by the scent of their dung the moment I walk out of the airport. Not to mention the unrelenting heat at 40 degrees Celsius (and above) that would intensify discomfort of being in a country so culturally different from Singapore.

One exclaimed, “Imagine Mustafa, but 100 times worse!”

It is a country where poverty is undisputedly blatant and I have been warned not to give to beggars, who will tug and pull and follow me till their legs couldn’t take them.

I was mentally prepared for the worst conditions, yet none of us on this trip were prepared with a visa to enter the country. See website for more information about Singaporeans applying for visa to India.

When we arrived in India, we were stuck at the customs for more than an hour. It wasn’t easy finding someone who could guide us to right counter to settle the problem and when we finally did, the paperwork took a long time.

My advice for those of you traveling to India next time:

1. Apply for a Visa in Singapore first. If you, in any case, don’t have it when you arrive in New Delhi, look for the Visa-on-Arrival counter.

2. Make sure you have a copy of your e-Ticket printed out with your arrival and departure flight information printed clearly. Keep it with you until you leave India because the levels of security you have to go through is unthinkable and every security personnel need to look at papers.

3. Carry an extra passport photo along if you have spare. You need not have them taken specially if you do not have. This is just in case they have no photocopy machine to print your passport.

Upon clearing security, we met up with our driver.

Our driver didn’t know much English and also had to stop many times to ask for directions to our hotel.

This kid was the first beggar to come up to us the moment we stepped out of the airport. He was really tiny and it really broke my heart but I was also afraid I would get mobbed if I stopped, so we just kept walking.

I didn’t see any cows, nor smell anything foul in the air. There were a lot of locals hanging around and we got a lot of stares probably because we look different.

Our driver tried to squeeze our luggage in the back of the car.

But this is how the locals do it!

We took a night flight (5 and a half hours from Singapore to Delhi) and I was quite zoned out by the time I got through the “trauma” of almost becoming a rejected tourist of New Delhi.

It wasn’t very hot that morning and the roads were quite clear.

Thankfully we arrived at a really clean and comfortable hotel. Will be putting up a full review on Tripadvisor soon.

Next up, I will be writing about the streets of Delhi.

How I Battled Flu

The worse thing that can happen while you are on holiday is to be down with some kind of illness. I was the unfortunate passer-by to my brother’s flu virus.

I refused to cower to the horrible bug because that would mean staying in bed while everyone else explore the ruins, learn history and snap gorgeous summer pictures for keepsake.

So I battled the virus with what I could get out of the buffet table at Pam Thermal Hotel in Pammukale.

I helped myself to the lemon slices (meant for salads) and made my own “lemon drink zero”.

My mom swears by lemon honey as the ultimate Vitamin C booster but unfortunately we had no honey then, and I’m not a fan of sugar, so the family had to put up with a prune face at the dining table.