Free hit counter

Ok

By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

09/12/2013

Learning to enjoy a cup of chai in a dhaba

I can proudly say that my dad has now become an expert as a tourist travelling the less travelled roads of India (which means going to amazing hotels which are empty because difficult to access, being the only foreigners in the trains etc.). And here is the story that allows me to say that… 

The other day my father was having a conversation with a fellow tourist, a French woman in her fifties, visiting India because her daughter was doing an internship here. Otherwise she would have never come, she told us with honesty; not her cup of chai, India… 

 

So my dad wants to test her “touristittude” and goes: 

- Have you tried chai (the local beverage made of milk, sugar, and a bit of tea (and cardamom and ginger))? 

- Yes, yes. 

- But have you tried the real one? Like the one you drink on the side of the road? 

- Yes, yes, of course! 

- (My sceptical dad insists:) In the dhabas, these small dirty places serving dishes, authentic, tasty and cheap but prepared with complete despise for any hygienic rule? Are you sure? 

- Yes, yes!! 

- And did you pay more than 15 rupees for your chai? 

- 15 rupees?? Of course we paid more!! Much more even! 

- Ah! I knew it!! You didn't go to a dhaba!! 

 

I sense a trauma here… 

I

 think my parents will never forget the day I threw a fit in Rajasthan because we had to pay 150 rupees for a watery chai in a tourist hotel by the side of the road!! After that our driver only took us to the shadiest places, where you get the best chai! On top of this, if there is one safe thing to have in India, it is the chai, boiled and boiled again… 

 

And here is what happens when foreigners go get a chai in a dhaba in a small town of Madhya Pradesh (they are fixed like if they were coming straight from Saturn): 

India,Madhya Oradesh,chai,tea,dhaba

And here is what the dhaba down my building in Mumbai looks like:

 

india,madhya oradesh,chai,tea,dhaba

 

 

09/04/2013

Imli-ji in Madhya Pradesh - Part 3

To conclude, what made our trip in quite untraveled Madhya Pradesh – who has heard of it? – very pleasant is that we discovered I could actually speak Hindi! 

I started by throwing in a few words to the herd of rickshaw wallahs jumping on us at Gwalior train station. Till there nothing too unusual… But then in the car, while the driver was chatting restlessly to impress us with his tourist guide skills, both my parents, in turn, told me one: “I don’t know what is happening I understand less and less English?” and the other: “They really have a strong accent in Madhya Pradesh don’t they? I don’t understand a word he says.” The driver had been going on and on in Hindi and I had been ‘ha-ha-ing” all along to encourage him! So here I was, able to kind of understand Hindi!! (With the valuable help of the English words sliding in here and there ;) ) 

 

And guess what? We had a very chatty driver the day we spent 10 hours in the car… Ah, dear Ravi, who hated Muslims and truck drivers, and who almost threw us in a river. He kept calling “Imli-ji” (“ji” being a mark of respect) to make sure he had my attention.

The ultimate was the lesson I got on how I should hurry up with my marriage and kid plans because if I waited more the age gap would be too big and all. My Hindi was not good enough to explain that in my case I can’t first fix a date and then look for a husband to fit in the plan… 

 

On a more serious note, throwing in some Hindi with everybody opened a lot of doors and got me a lot of nice smile!!  

 

Great trip!

08/28/2013

F... me I'm famous!

 Something funny happened in Gwalior… As I was strolling around the fort, on Independence day, some local reporter spotted me and asked to take a picture of me. I was in a good mood so I agreed to the same! I was even so “nice” that he got bolder and gave me his Indian flag, then moved me twenty meters so as to have the fort in the background. All the while dozens of people were clicking dozens of pictures… 

And here is the result:

 

india,looks,photos,gwalior,delirious delhi

india,looks,photos,gwalior,delirious delhi

Dave Prager described in Delirious Delhi this whole tourist picture thing perfectly (in my opinion) so I will just quote him here: 

 

“ There's a middle-class India that thrives far beyond Saket Citywalk Mall, we learned, and many of them are just as interested in their narion's attractions as we are. And as they'd come to Delhi from around the region, these domestic tourists had the same goals that we foreign tourists did: they wanted to take pictures of things they can't see at home.

But while our list includes sidewalk tailors and roadside shrines, their list includes Western tourists like us. So as we'd rest in the shade at the Red Fort or Jama Masjid, it wasn't usual for a mother to place a baby in our lap and a father to take a picture. [...]


At first we were offended by all this unwanted attention. We wondered how people could be so rude as to take pictures of us as if we had been posed there by the Ministry of Tourism. Jenny initially made sport of teasing the men who approached her, agreeing to 'take a picture' and then pulling out her own camera and snapping shot after shot of the baffled men until they left her alone. Sometimes we'd scowl and chastise people who approached us with their cameras at the ready. 

 

But as time went on, and our own photo album swelled with pictures of vegetable vendors, wandering saddhus and streetside omelette makers, we realized how hypocritical we were being. If we found the people around us to be fascinating, beautiful and photo-worthy - subjecting them to the sudden blink of our black lens and then disappearing without so much as a moment of eye contact - it was disingenuous not to accept ourselves as objects of equal interest. We vowed to happily accept photo requests from that moment onward, putting broad grins on our faces while anybody who pleased put their arms around our shoulders and stared into the cameras. [...]

 

After some time, we realized that it was much nicer when people asked permission to take our photo as opposed to when they attempted paparazzi-style photos from far. Which taught us that we owed our own photographic subjects the same consideration. Instead of suddenly stopping, snapping and speeding off, we began requesting permission for pictures and then thanking our subjects and showing them the output on the screen. Not only did that make our interactions with people more satisfying, but our photos got better as well.”