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04/08/2014

Stories of rape and watermelon

A French friend and I, both leaving in India for a long time in India, had an interesting conversation with an Indian guy, in his thirties, nice, owner of a resort in Goa. A bit agressive (to say the least).

Dialogue about the rapes in India (topic that the media have been extensively covering in the past few years – now I personally don’t know whether the number of cases has been tremendously increasing or we have just been hearing much more about it or if the fact that there is more publicity around it empowered more women to come forward as victims:

-         Him: You don’t understand anything to the Indian culture, how justice functions in the villages. The media have turn into business companies and rape makes sell.

-          Her: ...

-          Him: For example, if a village woman gets raped, the village authorities (the Panchayat) make the culprit to marry his victim, so that she is not marginalized and is protected (by her husband)!

-          Her: There you see, it may be just my point of view as a Westerner, but as a woman I find it atrocious that not only you are raped but you have to spend the rest of your life with your attacker. And the fact that this is the only way I don’t get all the drunkards of the village to fuck me hardly sounds like a consolation... It is kind of sad that a woman has no status, no life, as a person and has to be married to be someone...

 

Dialogue about cutting a watermelon:

-          Him (who is fasting today and can only have milk (and not packaged milk) and fruits): Fuck, I can't cut this watermelon!

-          Me (as a well-mannered host): Wait, I’ll do it for you!

-          He: Ok! But could you wash your hands before? Nothing impure should touch my food today and maybe your hands have touched your mouth or something like that and that would pollute my food.

-          Me: Ok! Well you know what, you can cut it yourself your watermelon!

Those balls! I know that there are special rules in India, especially when it comes to food. The Brahmins should only eat food cooked by a Brahmin. Hindus fast on some days – most of them choose a day in the week, depending on their “favorite” God. It kind of makes sense as from what I have heard, it is medically good to fast one day a week. It also makes sense when people can not afford food every day; it then gets justified by the religion and then people forget why they do what they do.

That my hands may be impure, I can live with that. Apparently, after starting food, you (and it is true for everybody) are not supposed to touch anything (pan, bowl, bottle) that the others may touch. No ...contact, no contamination and it is all for the best...

But here the point was that MY hands got declared impure on one day, the day HE decides to fast. I found that exceptional! He could have asked whether I had my periods while he was at it (in Hinudism, more impure than that you die...)…

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03/28/2014

Fake cow milk!

india,milk,buffalo milk,cow milk,packaged milk,cow,packagingThe discovery of the century! I’ve been drinking buffalo milk for years!

I didn’t believe it at first... But it is true: in India is not mandatory to mention the source of the milk on the packaging so when manufacturers do not indicate the source it means it is not cow milk. And I trusted Nestlé to give me “proper” milk like at home (I gave up milk in plastic bag the day when after learning that I had to boil it, I forget it on the stove and I burnt everything).

Cow milk and buffalo milk are not the same! Even if it is so much pasteurized that it tastes almost the same. First of all, since my cat discovered cow milk, he snubs buffalo milk, the best proof ever!

Secondly, buffalo milk has twice more fat than cow milk (hence it is less digestible). And it contains less cholesterol and more energy. I don’t  know what is best for health – Indian websites praise buffalo milk (well of course, 50% of the world buffalo population live in India) – but whatever said and done, it's cheating to sell packaged milk without saying it's buffalo milk!

And I like milk. Even though nowadays we keep hearing that adults should not drink milk (because it is not so digestible). And in India when you see what garbage cows eat, you’d rather stop drinking milk at all (apparently some people cut buffalo milk with water to lower the fat content and claim it is cow milk – cow milk has good reputation because foreigners only drink this one).

 

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Sources: http://profwaqarhussain.blogspot.in/2012/08/comparison-of-buffalo-milk-ND-cow-milk.html; http://www.nddb.org/English/statistics/pages/population-India-species.aspx; http://www.fiapo.org/downloads/dairyreport.PDF; http://www.aavinmilk.com/dairyprofile.html; http://www.fssai.gov.in/portals/0/PDF/food%20Safety%20and%20standards%20%28Packaging%20and%20Labelling%29%20regulation, %202011.pdf; http://www.caiindia.org/PDFs/MILKEnglish.PDF; http://Lite.ePaper.timesofindia.com/mobile.aspx?article=Yes & pageid = 2 & sectid = edid = & edlabel = TOICH & mydateHid = 13-10-2011 & pubname = Times + of + India +- + Chennai & edname = & articleid = Ar00200 & publabel = you

03/24/2014

Interview "Must do things in Mumbai"

The Indian (great) magazine Culturama, "Your cultural gateway to India", featured me in their “Who is in Town” and asked me to answer some questions about “Unique/Must do things in Mumbai”! So here is what I prepared... Here in PDF.

1)     A brief background of how long have you stayed in Mumbai, first impressions of the city and what the city means to you today?

When I lived in Pune, I used to take visitors to Mumbai and I hated the city: too big, too hot, too humid, too congested! Being in Mumbai was all about being glued to the plastic-covered seat of a tumbledown taxi, gasping for air and dozing off helplessly.

So I was quite apprehensive when my new job took me there in January 2009… Luckily the “winter” weather was merciful and I quickly grew to appreciate the liveliness of my neighborhood.

2)     Could you tell us a little bit about the unique things you get to do in your home country? And how has that changed in India?

 Whenever I plan a visit back to Paris, my parents offer to book a play, an exhibition, a museum, a concert etc. These activities are still pretty rare in India so you need to be creative to keep yourself busy on week-ends!

In France sport facilities are also easily available whereas in India, unless you are a member of a club, this British legacy, or willing to sweat your butt out running on the busy roads, being sportive is a challenge.

 3)     What are the three must-do unique things for an expat in Mumbai?

 1.     After visiting the 10 spots every guidebook recommends, just forget your map (which is not of much use anyways in Mumbai), hop in a local train and get lost!! Walking is not easy – the pavement is uneven (when there is pavement), the traffic insane – but you may just stumble upon a heritage ‘village’: quiet lanes with exquisite old bungalows*.

2.     Once your face is red, your shirt wet, your feet killing, your ears buzzing, take a deep breath and remember you are an expat! Rise above by visiting a rooftop bar (FourSeasons). Sipping a Mojito watching the sun set over the slums below is not as easy as it seems; it takes time to overcome the guilt feeling of spending in one drink what most people earn in one week… But spending time (and money) in relaxing experiences like brunches at a Five-Star pool by the beach, afternoons at the spa, diners at the Peshawri may actually prove very useful to make the working days easier!

3.     Mumbai is famous in India for her street food so don’t be shy! Try bhel-puri, pani-puri, vadapao, dosa, goat brain (Bademiya). You may experience some digestive turbulences but the risk is less than in the capital where getting a ‘Delhi-belly’ from street food is almost unavoidable! As you turn into a Mumbaikar, eating is likely to become your favorite past-time and will make you a restaurant-hunter**.

 4)     What are the three tips an expat needs to keep in mind while exploring these must do options in Mumbai?

 1.     Mumbai is quite safe, so don’t be paranoid over your bag…

2.     Drink a lot of water as the city can drain your energy very fast!

3.     Ask locals for help rather than your phone. If possible learn some Hindi, people will really appreciate…

 5)     Is there a funny, memorable or endearing anecdote that you encountered while exploring Mumbai?

 I once took my parents to see Victoria Gardens. I didn’t know what to expect so after seeing the elephant statue from Elephanta caves, I thought we were done. But then I spotted a very big queue and assumed there was something to see so we just joined in… Twenty minutes later we found out we were at the zoo and us, three white nitwits, immediately felt like zoo animals! We were out in fifteen minutes, suffocated by the heat and the attention of the crowds (to top it all, it was a Sunday and a day-off for Eid and it seemed that all the Muslims of Mumbai (and there are quite a few) had decided to celebrate it at the zoo!).

 6)     What are the three things an Indian needs to keep in mind while exploring your home country? And the three best unique things to do you would recommend to an Indian?

 1.     The French are shy and may react rudely when accosted in the street. If you learn a few words to break the ice, they may actually be helpful!

2.     French food is amazing. If there are not many veg dishes on the menu, ask the waiter and he will know what you should order! Do carry Tabasco if you really fear the blandness!

3.     Discovering France requires a lot of walking so bring good shoes and energy!

 * Try Chor Bazaar, Banganga tank (Malabar hill), Ranwar village (Bandra), Khotachiwadi (Girgaon).

** You will then hunt the best Italian pizza (Metro Pizza), French crêpe (Suzette), Belgian bread (LePainQuotidien), Japanese sushis (Aoi), Mexican fajitas (Sancho’s), American hamburgers (HardRockCafé) to forget, the time of a diner, that you live in India! (and sometimes (only sometimes)) you need that!)

 

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