Archive | October, 2010

Eating, Sweating, Diarrhea-ing

29 Oct

I met Dan last week when we were both setting up our cell phone connections.  He is from Germany and also a researcher affiliated with the same university that I am.  We exchanged e-mail addresses and decided to have dinner this week.

Tuesday night we met in front of the university gates and discussed where to go.  My landlords had suggested Orchid, a restaurant that is a short rickshaw ride away.  There is also Vijay Punjab, just a block away and right across the street from my apartment.  It’s a cozy little restaurant, lit by paper lanterns.  The host sat us in a booth in the back by the kitchen, under a fan as I requested.

We opened the menu.  I didn’t understand most of it, but there were plenty of meat options, so I was all set.  I asked if they had chicken kabobs, my craving of the day.  Affirmative.  We ordered a salad, rice, and naan, and the waiter suggested a lamb curry as well.  Why not?

The salad came first, along with a huge bottle of water.  I began drinking it immediately.  Sitting under a fan really did nothing to keep me from sweating.  Those of you who know me know that I don’t sweat in the cute way that most girls do.  You know, how they say, “I’m sooo sweaty,” and wipe one little bead of sweat off their foreheads. No, no.  I SWEAT.  Let me paint you a little picture: A few years ago, I came home from the gym one night and my roommate met me at the door.  “Oh, wow, I didn’t know it started raining,” she said when she saw me.  “It didn’t,” I said. “I’m just sweaty.”

The chicken kabobs came out.  There was an assortment of flavors, spiced mild, medium spicy, and hot, which were doing nothing to keep me cool, but they were delicious–so juicy and perfectly seasoned.  I continued to sip water.  I was about to finish the last two pieces of chicken on my plate and just stopped, fork midway to my mouth.  I heard my stomach growl and felt like it was doing somersaults (a la Bradly Cooper in Wedding Crashers after Owen Wilson puts something in his wine).  Uh oh.

“Sir, where’s you restroom?” I asked the waiter, trying to stay calm.
“The loo?”
“Yes, yes, the loo,” I said.
“Come, I will show you.”

He took me to the front of the restaurant then through another section of booths and finally through a door that led to the kitchen and the loo.  The door was locked.  “Someone is in there,” he said.  Oh, dear God Please don’t let me puke or crap all over myself, I prayed.  A man, who happened to be sitting in the booth behind Dan and me, joined me in the queue.  Great.  I was feeling lightheaded and on the verge of getting sick in one form or another.

The door to the loo opened.  The smell alone was enough to make me vomit.  I held my breath and unbuttoned my pants, then noticed there was no toilet paper.  Fuck!  I couldn’t do it.  I had already drip-dried once in a public loo, but this situation would require toilet paper.  Shit, shit, shit!

I unlocked the door, and walked to the front door as quickly as I could, trying not to look panicked.  I reached the entrance of the restaurant and sprinted.  I ran across three lanes of traffic and into the median; I waited for my chance to cross the other lanes, then ran even faster, straight to my front door.  I unlocked the main door to the house.  My landlords were sitting at their table having dinner.  “Back from Orchid already?” they asked.  “No, no,” I said as I began running up the stairs to my apartment, “I was across the street but I don’t feel well.”

I lunged through the door and into my bathroom.  I was so thankful to be in my own bathroom with toilet paper and to have only been across the street from my apartment.  It was not a pretty situation.

Then I remembered Dan was sitting there, alone in the booth, probably eating the lamb and wondering where the hell I was.

I splashed some water on my face and made my way back downstairs.  I felt so much better.  He better not have eaten all the lamb.

“Are you ok?” my landlords asked as I ran back out the door.  “Yes, I’m just adjusting to India,” I laughed.

I went back, and the guy at the neighboring booth started clapping.  “Welcome back!”

“This guy told me he saw your run across the street,” Dan said, pointing to the guy applauding my return. “But I told him you just went to the bathroom.”

“Well, both are true,” I said.  “I live across the street and this situation warranted a trip to my own bathroom.”

Feeling much better, I scanned the table to see what remained.  “There’s another piece of lamb left,” Dan said.  Perfection!

I proceeded to eat the best lamb curry, naan, and rice I have EVER tasted.  I had the pleasure of listening to the guys in the booth behind us–who were pretty intoxicated–sing “Strawberry Fields.”  One of them even gave me a present–a mouse that he fashioned out of wire earlier in the day (I didn’t understand, but just went with it).

So, aside from Mother Nature getting the best of me for a little while, I had one of the best meals of my life.  And, I’ve granted Ann’s wish of finally writing about diarrhea in my blog (and justifying its title).


The Bus to (Almost) Bandra

26 Oct

Given that this post is about public transportation, I would like to give my friend John in NYC a shout-out.  He has a blog called etummoc: thoughts and tales of a reverse commuter (  He mentioned my blog in his latest post, so it’s the least I can do.

The rain had stopped only a few minutes earlier.  I make my way to the front of the house to the bus stop.  I am dressed in form-fitting capris and a fitted top with ruffled sleeves, unlike the other women dressed in traditional, loose-fitting Indian clothes.  As usual–not that I had gotten used to it yet–I am the subject of many stares: from the passers-by to the men waiting at the stop.  Even if I were to wear a burka, I probably still would not be able to avoid the staring.

5:35p.m.  Traffic is already backed up.  I had hoped to get on the bus soon so that the ride to Bandra would not take any longer than the usual 45 minutes.  After fifteen minutes, I actually consider getting on the non-AC bus that comes by but decide to wait it out.  I check my phone again.  5:56.  What happened to the buses coming every 10 to 15 minutes?  I resist the urge to start pacing, thinking I would just draw more attention to myself.

6:12.  More than half an hour after I began waiting, I see a purple bus approaching.  A sure sign of an AC bus.  As it gets closer, I notice the words on the top.  “Bandra Rly Station (West).”  YES!  Finally.  I step off the curb and head toward the front of the bus.  The doors opens.  I barely make it on.  The bus is packed.  Once again, Indians have figured out a way to double the capacity of a finite space.

I stand in the doorway.  I have no choice.  At the next stop, the doors swing open–folding into the bus, not out of–and I almost fall over.  I scoot to the side to let a couple more people in.  I watch them as they hop over passengers and climb on seats to get to the back.  I stay by the door.  At the next stop, about six people get off and a few more try to get in, but I block them until I can push my way through to an open space a few seats back.  I grab onto an overhead handle as the bus lurches forward.

I am in the aisle sandwiched among I-don’t-know-how-many people, trying to ignore the smell of body odor.  I glance to my left.  A white person!  I hadn’t seen one of them in my neighborhood since I moved in.  She catches my eye and smiles.  We both say hello.

Her name is Tina.  She’s from Austria and appears to be around 40 years old.  She has long, thick, auburn hair and wears a kurta.  She is visiting a friend for a few days.  This is only her second day there, and she is taking the bus!  It took me a week of being in Bombay to get up the nerve to take the bus by myself.

Standing to the other side of me is Harish.  He is wearing an “I (Heart) NY” T-shirt, a gift from a friend.  He has never been.  He smiles a lot and asks me what I am going to do in Bandra.  I tell him I was meeting up with a couple of friends who live there and then we are headed to a food festival in Dadar.  He is on his way to a poetry reading.  He is going to recite a poem he wrote to his mother-in-law about being in love with her son.  Uhhh.  Of course, the first tall, beautiful Indian man I meet is gay!  Harish is a gay-rights activist and speaks out against child sexual abuse.

He is a Twitter and Facebook addict and has garnered much recognition for his causes and projects.  In fact, he met Tina through Twitter.  Harish began making a film about these issues and ran out of money midway through the project.  He posted on Twitter that he fell short of the film’s budget, and Tina replied to him asking how much he needed to finish.  Then she sent him a check.  Harish finished the film, which ultimately was shown at the LGBT film festival in NYC.  Aside from being a filmmaker and poet, he is working on a book based on his own life.

“Did you say you’re a writer too?”  I turn around and notice a young guy curled up on a raised platform in the space between the backs of two seats .  He looks completely uncomfortable.  He and Harish discuss their books, their work, and their love of poetry.  He continues to move his legs around.  I offer to switch places with him.  The way I am standing, I can no longer feel my toes.  I slide into the spot against the window and Tina sits down near my feet.

Karan asks me what I am doing in India.  I tell him about my project, that I’m studying the process of using the Web to arrange marriages and comparing it to the traditional process.  “Why would you ever want to do such a thing?  You like arranged marragies?”  I explain that I am just interested in the topic.  I am not advocating for arranged marriages.  “Let me ask you this,” he continues.  “Let’s say I have been with a girl for three years, and I am madly in love with her.  Then, one day, my parents say, ‘We have a girl for you to marry.’  What would you do?”  “I wouldn’t get married to my parents’ choice,” I explain, “but a lot of people still do, and that what I’m looking into.  Just because I’m studying it, doesn’t mean I agree with it.”

“You should get out here if you’re going to Dadar,” a woman from the seat behind me says, interrupting.  I look out of the window.  I see six lanes of traffic and an overpass.   “Here?  Where am I?”
“Almost in Bandra,” she says.

I don’t like the word “almost.”  It’s completely relative.  Remember when you took roadtrips with your parents as a child and asked, “Are we there yet?”  And, mom would say, “Almost.”  Then, two hours later you arrive at the Grand Canyon.  Yep, that’s my problem with “almost.”

“Come on, I’m getting out here too,” Karan says and begins to push his way through the aisle and hops over a seat to the exit.  The door starts to open.  I am still stuck in the middle of the bus.  I follow his lead and climb over the seat.  I turn around and wave goodbye to Harish and Tina.

I follow Karan down the sidewalk.  He agrees to wait with me until I got a cab.  We finally wave one down.  He tells the driver where to take me, and I am on my way.  I arrive only 15 minutes late to the dinner, quite the accomplishment here in Mumbai.

Next up:  You will all find out how “diarrhea” fits into my blog’s title.

In Search of Sanity

24 Oct

About a month before I left for India, an e-mail with the title “Essentials in Bombay” came through the Bombay Expats message boards.  My new friend Andrea posted the message:  I am writing with a novel question- what are some items that are difficult to find in Bombay, but which you relied on back in your country or origin- particularly if you come from the States. In other words, what should I “stock up” on before my arrival? What’s really hard to find in Bombay?

First reply:  Sanity.

There’s a definite shortage of that here.  At least there has been during my first 10 days here.  As I’ve mentioned before, it supposedly takes two to three months to adjust to living in Mumbai, and “adjust” is a relative term.  I think it probably means that you no longer notice that you’ve gone mad.

So, for the last 10 days, I’ve been trying to find ways to mirror my old life–my life back in the U.S.–in order to have some brief moments of sanity.  Some have worked, some haven’t, and the ones that have worked are not fullproof.

For instance, last Tuesday I joined a gym in my neighborhood.  Previous tenants of my flat have suggested Gold’s Gym because it’s the nicest around, so I joined.  I waited nearly a week after arriving in India to join a gym for two reasons: 1) I haven’t paid for a gym membership in the last 5 years, because as a fitness instructor, I always had free membership, and 2) I had to come to terms with the fact that I will not be able to teach or participate in Body Pump classes while I’m here.  Since March, when I went through Body Pump instructor training, I have been obsessed.  The longest I’ve gone without doing it, until now, is five days.  So, I now listen to the music while I run on the treadmill or “climb hills” on the elliptical.

For the last few days, the gym has been my escape.  I leave my flat, hop in a rickshaw, and tell the driver to take me to the Jain Temple.  Gold’s is next door, but I learned quickly that no one knows Gold’s, but everyone knows the temple.  I take off my shoes and carry them into the gym, since shoes are not permitted inside until you enter the workout room.  I put my shoes back on, choose my poison (elliptical, treadmill, bike, weights), and get down to business.  I see the same girl on the neighboring elliptical every time I go.  We must have the same schedule.  I haven’t introduced myself yet, but the familiarity is comforting.  So, I hop on one of the machines and zone out.

Now, if I don’t want to be interrupted, I go for the cardio workout, because as I’ve learned, if I do the weight machines, the trainers come to “help me.”  They tell me how to lift weights.  Show me how to do exercises “properly.”  I want to yell at them and say, “HELLO, I am a FITNESS INSTRUCTOR.  I know how to lift weights.  I know how to kick my own ass and other people’s in class five times a week.”  But I don’t.  I let them count my repetitions, and then I let them tell me to do two more sets, and I do it with a smile as they watch.  But, I really just want to be left alone.

Today, I went to the corner of the gym, where it’s dark and mats are laid out for stretching.  I decided to do some push ups before cooling down.  I had just finished my fifteenth, when I looked up and saw the trainer watching me.  “You need to go lower,” he said.  “I know,” I said, “I’m working up to that.  I just finished my chest workout for the day.  I’m tired.”  “Try this,” he said and proceeded to demonstrate a proper push up, lowering himself within just an inch of the ground.  So I did 10.  Then he told me to place my feet differently.  Another 10.  Then he told me not to spread my fingers out while doing it.  Another 10.  I hated him.  So, after the gym, I walked to Baskin Robbins.  I found a moment of sanity in a scoop of Chocolate Chip Mousse.

And, just for fun, goats take over an unattended rickshaw.  Not an unusual occurrence in India.

courtesy of Anita Arenson

Getting More Than I Bargained For

22 Oct

At little after 9 p.m. on Sunday, I decided to take a cab back to my flat.  The cab had no meter, and we agreed on a price of 400 rupees.  At nighttime on most evenings, because traffic is significantly lighter in the city, it should have taken me about 40 minutes to get home from Bandra.  I expected a ride complete with fewer honks and mostly clear roads, except for the dogs, which sleep in the middle of them at night.  I still haven’t learned to set my expectations low enough.  I didn’t get home until 10:45.

As we exited the interstate, traffic was at a standstill.  I could hear what sounded like gunshots not so far away.  People were gathered around in the streets.  “Dussehra,”  my cab driver yelled to me in the back seat.  “Dussehra?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.

A few minutes later, still parked in the same spot, I heard music and saw a huge, ornate float crawling towards us.  It was a parade.   Dussehra is the Hindu celebration of Lord Rama’s defeat of the demon Ravana, the victory of good over evil.  The procession includes the burning of Ravana effigies, accompanied by fireworks.

Trailing behind the floats, which towered over the city buses, were hoards of people dancing to music booming from the sound systems attached to the back of the floats.  The road and sidewalks were packed.  Street vendors were cooking for the masses.  It reminded me of Mardi Gras without the drunken escapades and flashing.

Children ran through the stalled traffic cheering, waving, and dancing.  They even brought food from the vendors to the car windows.  It’s an all-inclusive festival.  By the time we reached my flat, I had two bowls of I-don’t-know-what-and-couldn’t-try-it-because-I-didn’t-want-to-get-sick and half of a coconut.

“900 rupees,” the cab driver said as we pulled up to the flat.  “What?  We said 450,” I replied.  “Yes, but all the waiting.”  While a metered cab probably would have cost me quite a bit with nearly an hour’s wait time, I wasn’t giving into that kind of fare increase.  “It’s not my fault people were celebrating in the street,” I said.  “Not my fault either,” he argued.   I handed him 100 rupees extra (a little less than 3 USD), and opened my door to get out.  Silence.   He knew he wasn’t going to win that battle.

Madness in Mumbai

19 Oct

My apologies, loyal readers, for not updating you sooner.

Let’s start with the Mad Men party. On Saturday night, I met my friend at her chic apartment in Malabar Hill, “the most expensive place to live in all of India,” she told me. My flat looks like a cardboard box compared to hers, complete with marble floors and a view of Marine Drive. Hugging part of the Arabian Sea, the C-shaped road is nicknamed the Queen’s Necklace because, at night, the streetlights resemble a string of pearls.

She had ordered food well before I arrived, so I dug into that and she poured us some drinks, which were much needed after my first experience in Mumbai traffic. At 5:30 p.m., I called a cab to pick me up at 6:30 from my flat. When, at 7, the cab had not arrived, I called back. I finally got in touch with the driver, who had been sitting at the gas station down the street for half an hour because he couldn’t find the place, and of course, couldn’t call me on my U.S. cell. My landlords explained to him in Marathi how to get here. I didn’t understand how he could be so confused when the cab company’s website says, “cabs equipped with GPS.”

But, they lie. And, so do their cab drivers. They will tell you that they know where you need to go, but that doesn’t mean that they do. I gave him the name of the neighborhood, Malabar Hill, and a point of reference, Teen Bati, as well as the address. Twelve miles and an hour and half later, we arrived at Teen Bati. He had no idea where my friend’s apartment was. He got out of the car asked several shopkeepers and other motorists, while I called my friend. She spoke to him and tried to explain. Then she gave me directions, so I asked him to get back in the car and told him I would help him find it. Finally, thanks to my friend’s guidance, we arrived.

So, after dinner and drinks, my friend and I got ready for the party. She put on a sassy little one-shoulder number and I wore the only outfit I could come up with that was dressy enough for the occasion. She called her driver, and off we went.

We arrived at a nice apartment in Colaba, and everyone was dressed to the nines. Most people had even managed to dress for the theme. These expats where serious! There was great music and good booze, and I managed to meet some people who were really nice. They all reassured me that I would get used to Bombay, but not to expect to feel comfortable for another two to three months. I had read that advice in books but hoped it wasn’t true. Who has patience for that?

We partied until it was pretty late and my friend gave me the nod that we should leave. We went downstairs and found her driver. She, a few of her friends, and I headed back to her apartment. We had a couple more cocktails and called it a very late night at 5 a.m. Thanks to jet lag, though, I didn’t sleep one bit.

The next morning, my friend convinced me to attend brunch with the expats at Indigo, a very nice restaurant in Colaba, not far from the iconic Gateway of India. The brunch was delicious—there even was beef!—and a jazz band played everything from “Killing me Softly” to “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.” By the end of the brunch and countless glasses of champagne, the whole group was dancing and singing along to jazz/funk covers of the Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, and more.

For most of the weekend, I never really felt like I was in India. I mean, yes, it’s impossible to forget you are in India. For instance: At a red light on the way to Malabar Hill, a begging child came up to the window and started tapping on it. In between taps, he made gestures from his belly to his mouth while repeating something in a language I didn’t understand. That’ll snap you out of la-la-land really quick.

So, yes, you can never forget that you’re in India, but for 24 hours, I didn’t really have to experience it…until the cab ride home on Sunday.

More on that tomorrow.

Sleepless in Bombay

18 Oct

Jet lag is a bitch.  I was really stubborn and thought that if I fought her by not letting myself sleep during the day, I would sleep at night.  Wrong.  I went to bed at 2 a.m. Friday morning and set my alarm for 10.  Wishful thinking.  I was wide awake at 6.  I read a book, hoping I would get tired.  That didn’t work.  I listened to my ipod, trying to drown out the traffic noise–the motorbikes, the buses, and the never-ending honking.  I forced myself to lay there, and then around 9, I gave up.

Friday, after a walk around the housing complex, I called it a night.  It was 6 p.m.  I read a book and fell asleep with it on my chest.  I woke up at 7:15, popped a Tylenol PM, and surrendered to sleep.  At midnight, I woke up ravenous.  Fortunately, Shama and Shilpa accompanied me to the grocery store on Thursday.  The store was no bigger than the size of a 7-Eleven and was chock-a-block (that’s for you, Cindy!) with Indian and imported goods.  We began with the cereal, and when I discovered that my favorite from back home, which I normally paid $3 a box for, was $8, I put it right back on the shelf.  I opted for the Indian brand.  When in Rome… By the time I left the store, I had three grocery bags, filled with dal, chickpeas, rice, fresh veggies, and the must-have Indian spices–turmeric, cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds.

Before I could finish paying, a young man from the store had taken my bags and was waiting outside to put them in the car for me.  This was the first of many times yesterday that I felt completely useless.  He loaded them into the trunk of the family car, we hopped in, and rode back to the house, where the driver brought all of our bags to the foot of the stairs.  When I lived in D.C., I would carry 8-10 bags of groceries on my arms for blocks, until I bought a little cart and began grocery shopping in the suburbs.  Here, I didn’t even have to bring my three bags to the front door.

Within an hour of returning to my flat, Shama and Suhas summoned me downstairs for lunch.  While I ate, the first maid arrived at my flat to dust and clean the bathroom.  Yes, the first maid.  The second maid, who cleans the floors, came by at 5.  I felt completely spoiled, although I will never complain about someone dusting for me, as I absolutely abhor that chore.  I felt awkward being around while the maids were, something I know I’ll have to get over eventually, so I went for a walk around the housing complex.  The great thing about living in Deonar, a neighborhood in east Mumbai, is it is not a concrete jungle.  There are plenty of trees and flowers, and I’ve seen quite a few butterflies.  By the time I returned, the maid had left and I got ready for bed.

When I woke up at midnight, I tore into the box of cereal from the grocery store.  I was wide awake.  I signed into Gchat, and a friend I met through Bombay Expats, a Yahoo Group–sent me a message.  We invited me to go to a party Saturday night at The Hots’ house.  That is a nickname, not a typo, she assured me.  The theme of the party is Mad Men.  Theme?  I came to Mumbai with suitcases filled with long skirts and flowy tops.  I brought one skirt, a pair of black paints, one nice top, and one pair of heels.  I was not prepared for a theme party.  “You should dress up.  I’m wearing a cocktail dress,” she says.  “Whoa, this is serious stuff,” I said.  “Yeah, Mumbai is like NYC in that sense,” she replied, “everyone dresses up.”

I didn’t get the memo.  All I was told was to bring leggings, comfortable clothes that could breath, and tampons, since they are nearly impossible to find here.  It look like if I’m going to keep up with the expat party scene, though, I am going to have to rethink my wardrobe.


I took another Tylenol PM at 2 a.m. and slept until 6.  I signed on to Skype and talked to my mom to inform her that I will need a care package sooner than I thought, complete with heels and dresses.

I promise to update you on the Mad Men party tomorrow.  For now, I must go.  My cook is here and I want to learn to make these dishes.  That’s right, a cook.  I am officially spoiled.

More pics of my flat.  Living room/office & kitchen:

Let Me Introduce You to My New Home

15 Oct

October 14, 4:00 a.m.  The driver honked the horn and the guard opened the gates at the housing complex.  We pulled up to the front of the house, and Suhas and Shama–my landlords/ host “parents”–were there to greet me.  I hauled all of my bags to the foot of the stairs that lead up to my apartment.  He and I lugged my two 50-pound duffel bags up the two flights of stairs, I unlocked the door, and stepped into my flat.  It was exactly what I expected based on the photos Suhas had sent me weeks ago.  I was already drenched in sweat, not only from from bringing my bags upstairs, but also from the 100% humidity.  Suhas promptly turned on the air conditioner in my bedroom.  Ahhh!  Shama offered me tea, which I turned down in favor of a shower and sleep.  “Come downstairs, and I will feed you lunch when you surface later,” she said.  “I’ll set my alarm, so it’s not too late,” I told her.

October 14, 2:00 p.m.  I surfaced.  I turned off the alarm that I set for 11 a.m. and continued to sleep.  I suppose this is the jet lag that I’ve heard so much about.  I got up, put on clothes, and headed downstairs to the main house, where Suhas and Shama were visiting with their daughter Shilpa (who also lives upstairs in the other apartment), and her six-month-old baby girl.  Shama went to the kitchen and heated up lunch.  There was rice, several vegetable dishes, and bread (not that I can remember the name of it, but it wasn’t naan.  It was so much better than naan).  I ate as much as I could, then had to cut myself off.

Because my laptop battery was dead and the converters that I paid an arm and a leg for at Radio Shack did not work (despite their packaging that reads, “For use in India.”), so Suhas came upstairs with a collection of them.  We found one that matched and decided to go for a walk to the electronics store later in the afternoon to get more.  I had only seen my neighborhood out the backseat of the SUV at 3:30 a.m., so I was looking forward to getting acquainted with it during the day.

We headed out at 5:00.  Things I forgot about India since my last visit:
1.)  Drivers sit on the right side of the car and drive on the left side of the road.
2.)  Very few crosswalks exist.  In a city of 20 million people, crossing the street during rush hour can be tricky.

If you want to witness a miracle, visit any Indian city during rush hour.  It is amazing that people don’t get run over, that rickshaws don’t hit each other, and that most drivers make it home without a dent or scratch on their vehicle.

Not far from the electronics shop, we passed by Sweet [Something].  I didn’t even see the store’s full name because my eyes fixated on the word “sweet” and the dozens of chocolate cake sitting in the bakery’s glass counter.  “Should we go in?”  Suhas asks.  “No, no,” I said, “It’s just good to know this exists.”  Suhas walks in the door anyway.  Air conditioning and chocolate.  What more could I ask for?  He picks up a loaf of bread for dinner.  I resist the urge to purchase anything made of chocolate.

I found the outlet converters and purchased a new hair dryer at the electronics store, since mine did not work with any adapter.  As we walked out, Suhas pointed across the street to a sign.  The word Natural in big, bold letter crawled across a photo of fruit.  “That’s the best ice cream,” Suhas says, “it’s made from fresh fruit.”  My jaw dropped.  There is a pastry shop and ice cream store on the same block.  “If we did not have ice cream in the freezer at home, I would get some,” he says.

From there, we head to a watch shop and then to the neighborhood mall, which isn’t much different from one in the U.S.  There was an electronics store, a bookstore, clothing stores, and more.  The only difference is they had Indian names.  On the top floor of the mall was the food court, complete with Domino’s, Subway, KFC, and McDonald’s.  No hamburgers, of course.  But, you can get a Chicken Maharaja Mac.  And, mom, when I finally convince you to come visit, don’t worry, you can get a Filet O’Fish.

We took a rickshaw home from the mall, I went up to my apartment to finish unpacking, and at 8:30, went downstairs for dinner.  Fried fish, sauteed mushrooms, rice, and leftovers from lunch lay on the table.  The closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games played on the living room’s television set.  To top it all off, there was sherry and chocolate ice cream.  Everyone keeps telling me I’m going to come home from India as thin as a rail, but I’m not so sure.

Pics of my flat (I love saying flat!), Part 1:

From left to right: My air conditioned bedroom, the toilet room, the shower room, the view from my bedroom (note the red bus through the trees.  That’s the bus I will take to Bandra.  More on that later.)