Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kallu, Kappa And Meen Curry

Trip home was short but I did try and make the most of it and it was good to have a partner in crime for the most part.

Tired the local toddy from the local liquor shop referred to locally as "kallu shap", thanks to my friend who was adamant and insistent. I tried to discourage him from drinking too much because I knew what is sold in these local shacks are not the authentic tapped toddy but the locally distilled "killer" (literally speaking) stuff. I could only take a few sips as it not only tasted disgusting but also had a distinct stink. My friend purchased a couple of bottles for later consumption and I am so glad to report that he is still alive! Although I must say I chickened out from going inside the shop and trying it. Blame it on the slightly derelict, shady look it had. So, thanks to my cousin's friend who acted as our delivery guy. Much later I came to know from one of my neighbors of a popular place in Cochin where you get the authentic stuff but by then time was short so that was shelved for later. Anyways, one experience checked off the list ..well partially. The original plan was to get into one of the “shaps” and try it . All said I am sooo glad my mom does not read my blog.


Visited the local market in town after a really, really long time. Maybe the last time I visited I was in 4th grade?! It was great to be in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and was particularly exciting to check out shops that sold indigenous kitchen ware, farm tools and other household goods. If baggage limits was not an issue I would have gladly shelled some INR and carried them over.

After the market expedition, took a trip down memory lane and went to one of the local coffee shops and had chai, South Indian style, served in steel cups with deep saucers. This was my old school/college hangout place. We went to (as I like to call it) the vintage section of the cafe and it was an instant hit with my friend. Adding to the experience, on our way out, we were approached by a stranger asking us if we would like to exchange some dollars. I guess seeing a white guy he automatically presumed. Although it was tempting as he was offering us a pretty good price compared to the exchange value at Delhi airport, better sense took over and we said thank you but no thank you and went our way.

It was elephant tail ring (embedded in silver or gold) next in the agenda and so one early morning (by jewelery shop standards) we landed in front of one of those humongous gold stores scattered across Cochin asking if they carried these rings. Apparently it is out of fashion and the couple of pieces they had did not fit. And so we decided to do the final thing on his to-do-while-in-Kerala-list which was to see the Chinese fishing nets but since he also had a plane to catch in a couple of hours we decided to take the route where he could see them en route. We had not even left the city when we figured traffic was going to be challenging and dropped the idea of taking the fishing net route and instead took the regular route.

Unfortunately/ fortunately (all relative) by the time we were done with our morning adventures, my friend missed his Delhi flight and had to rebook on a later flight. Getting into the next flight was an adventure in itself but not interesting enough to blog about. But then if he hadn't missed the flight we wouldn't have had a chance to try out some amazing boiled tapioca with red fish curry for lunch! All is indeed well that ends well.

(Title translation- Alcohol, Tapioca/Cassava and Fish Curry)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Research and Crushes

I just got over my jet lag. Yes, this time I was hit pretty hard. Getting up everyday, until two days ago at 2:30 in the morning and then walking around feeling like my head swallowed a rock that was weighing down on my eyes all day. Weird description perhaps but if you can imagine it then that's how I felt. But the diligent, hardworking kid that I am (oh Come On! humor me), most of my waking, reasonably clear headed moments were spent preparing for my research proposal seminar.

I had to give a public seminar on my research proposal. Nerve racking is how I would describe it in a word. A bunch of students, professors and ofcourse my committee was present. It went well I think. Got some good questions and tried to give some good answers. Except, there was this one professor who was in ballistic mode but I managed to dodge all the missiles she was shooting at me. Anyways, as the saying goes "All is well that ends well".
But, alas! good endings don't happen all the time, sometimes not even good beginnings. My point being---
I have a serious, major crush on someone. I am hook, line and sinker in crush. Yes, crush is a good word for now. Desire, love....too intense and dramatic! It is so bad that I am having conversations with him in my head. Yikes! (and I thought I was avoiding drama). The sad part is, many girls feel the same way about him and it is double sad that I don't hold a significant presence in his life either *sigh*. One of those, one way, long distance crushes doomed to fail from the start *sigh again*.

And call this being self-destructive if you must, but I am listening to Norah Jones singing "come away with me" over and over again. What can I say- sometimes despite my age and maturity I go through these teenage emotions. I know many does but not everyone admits it. Right?

I need to blog about my India trip. Ah! happy thoughts!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Happy (Jet-lagged) New Year!

Back after a short trip "home". The traveling was ridiculously long this time; something that could not be helped since the entire trip was done on a super tight budget and when budget is tight in air travel it translates to longer time in the air and at airport lounges. But, despite the long transits, the lack of sleep and not to mention the multiple time zones crossed, I am grateful to my kind, generous professor for sponsoring the trip. I made this trip with some specific plans in mind, but considering the limited time I had, the unexpectedness of events that is typical of my lovely, sprawling country, or the casualness with which pre-set appointments are treated (a nicer way of saying how they are forgotten) and as if I asked for more, my mother's minor accident that left her rather helpless and needing help with pretty much everything, not all of what I had in mind was accomplished. Nevertheless it was exciting. Someone new to the country had joined me this time and although he was there only for a couple of days, it was great fun showing him around Delhi and Kerala..well, a bit of both. Perhaps a separate post on that later.

But I would say the cherry on the icing for me was getting to see the Himalayan peaks at 36,000 ft, sticking above the clouds!! Majestic, grand all these adjectives fall short, really. We were flying from Tokyo to New Delhi, scheduled to reach Delhi at 6:30 pm and our flight route was over China, Tibet, Nepal and finally New Delhi. This sighting was possible as it was a day flight and when the pilot announced I requested the old Korean lady sitting next to me to open the window. She did not quite understand what the fuss was about, but the two people in her travel group sitting in the front row got all excited and although they did not speak English and me Korean we still managed to communicate our excitement. The guy in front looked at me and said excitedly "The Himalayas!" and I responded excitedly- 'Yes! The Himalayas'!. That was all that was needed to be said and we all sat silently observing the never ending sight in awe until it became a bit monotonous!

The other slightly exciting and unexpected event was the overnight stay in Tokyo. The plan was to spend time at the airport to save on hotel but reaching Tokyo we were told by the airport staff that overnight passengers are not allowed to stay in the airport. With no hotel reservations, no transit visa and no local contact info for Tokyo it was rather unnerving. Luckily the airline ground staff were the understanding and the helpful kind and they made the hotel arrangements and after going through immigration the night was spent on Tokyo soil. I can now claim that I have a transit Japanese visa on my passport, stayed in Tokyo for a night and saw a bit of Tokyo (this is the 15 min bus ride from the aiport to the hotel). Domo Arigato JAL!

Short trip yet I can go on for ever. Lots to share but work awaits so latersss!