Barack Acceptance Viewing Party

So this evening, I'm off to Priya to watch the Barack Obama Acceptance Speech. It will be old news by the time we gather to watch, but I'm very excited to watch in the company of my american democrats here in Delhi. It really is quite fascinating to think that halfway around the world, there is an active community of Democrats who are interested enough in the election that they have organized a viewing party at a hotel in town.

Now, I don't think the US embassy will be well represented - after all, the embassy staff is largely republican today - so this means that normal folks are going to make up most of the crowd. I had promised myself I wouldn't view his speech in advance, but of course I did (the last 5 minutes anyhow). And my initial response was pretty positive. The spectacle of it all was quite impressive - to think that more than 75,000 folks would gather to hear a future president speak says a lot about the renewed interest in politics this election has stirred.

Anyhow - I'll take some photos & give you all the look into politics abroad.

Mccain & Hitler?

DENVER (Colorado): John McCain's campaign hit back at Madonna after the pop diva kicked off her world tour with a concert that bracketed the US presidential candidate with Adolf Hitler.

Madonna's swipe at McCain came during a performance of 'Get Stupid', when McCain's image was flashed up alongside images of Hitler and Mugabe.

Towards the end of the song, pictures of John Lennon, Mahatma Gandhi and Barack Obama appeared. "The comparisons are outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive." McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

More Safe Sex Education in India

Thanks for the Article Sally:

NEW DELHI (AP) _ A cell phone ring tone that sings "Condom, condom!" has been launched to promote safe sex in India, where condoms carry a strong social stigma and HIV and AIDS are growing problems, health experts said Tuesday.

The a cappella ring tone features a professional singer chanting the word condom more than 50 times, a playful approach that public health activists hope will spark discussion and make condoms more socially acceptable.

"We've made a conscious effort to move the concept of the condom away from negative association, like HIV and sex work," said Yvonne MacPherson, country director of BBC World Service Trust India. "Condoms are actually health products and if you have a condom and you use it, you are seen to be smart and responsible."

Nearly 2.5 million people in India are infected with HIV and the disease is still largely taboo.

The BBC group, which is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hopes the condom ring tone can make people in India more comfortable with safe sex issues.

More than 270 million people use mobile phones in India and ring tones, especially those featuring hit Bollywood songs, are extremely popular.

"A ring tone is a very public thing," she said. "It's a way to show you are a condom user and you don't have any issues with it."

The ring tone was launched Aug. 8 and has been downloaded 60,000 times, MacPherson said.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

I stumbled across this article today about a crazy group of foreigners here in Delhi. I have to admit, it sounds like fun!

It was an unlikely sight - autorickshaws trooped into the elite JW Mariott on Thursday, and out jumped dozens of foreigners in glee.

To the uninitiated, it was bizarre. But the jumps and squeals were justified, as the 39 foreigners had braved a 2,000-km drive all the way from Chennai in the rickety three-wheelers. And for a good cause: to gather funds to improve the living standards and education opportunities for villages between the two metros, as part of the CEAT Mumbai Xpress-2008.

The incentive was not just this, but also adventure - and madness.

"The event's brief said that you should be really mad and based on that criteria we thought we qualified pretty well," said Greg Callaghan from Britain who was dressed as Batman. Callaghan and his partner Keir Admonts (dressed as Robinhood) adopted seven villages on the way.

Full Article here

Big Dips

Big Dips. This is what my Driver Dharmender calls Potholes. "Big Dips Sir, roads really bad," he often exclaims on our way to and from the office.

As you can imagine, in the middle of rainy season, the road is FULL of big dips these days. On Thursday, we experienced especially bad rainfall & the roads deteriorated even more. The roads were so bad, that cars were blowing their tires left and right on the road back to Delhi.

In fact, the Newspaper reported that the road to the International Airport was so flooded, that visitors from abroad were left carrying their luggage through the rainstorm down the completely flooded access road in order to catch flights.

In front of my office, we have an especially big dip, one that was caused by construction crews digging to lay a new pipe in the road. For the past several weeks it has been left open, a gaping wound in the pavement large enough to cause traffic to merge to one lane.

On Thursday, this hole was filled to the brim with water in the heavy rainfall. Suddenly, the huge hole appeared to be nothing more than a small puddle - which is when things started getting very strange...

Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Unfortunately, at least 2 cars had succumbed to this hole by the time I left work. It should be noted that no traffic cones were placed in front of this hole, simply a few stones. Thinking this sort of accident would encourage something larger be done to alert drivers, I looked again this morning. Still no sign had been raised.

Singh is King, Singh is King, Singh is King!

So, new movie on the airwaves these days. For the last week or two, I've been bombarded by commercials, spam text messages, ringtones & spam phone calls for the new Bollywood moving Singh is King. I have a prepaid account here with Vodafone, and so I am particularly susceptable to the spam mesages - it is just a part of life in India. At least 3 times a day, my phone will buzz & a long hindi message will await me. So, I decided to look a bit further into Singh is King - proof advertising works - and this is what I found on wikipedia. I'm giving you advanced notice, that I can't decipher a storyline - so you probably wont either. But, be sure to read to the end - there is a surprise at the end.

Lakhan Singh "Lucky" is the "king" of the Australian underworld, a position which he reaches after being jailed for a wrong offense, when some one keeps drugs in his bag, as soon as he reaches Australia. He takes the revenge after completing the jail term , by killing those involved, and eventually he reaches to the position of King,. The high point of his journey is when he Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) promises to bring Lakhan Singh back to his village. However his boarding pass gets mixed with someone else and then meets Sonia (Katrina Kaif) whom he starts loving but upon reaching his destination things take a precarious turn when a series of comic misadventures run him out of any money.

He finds lucky's house and lucky tells him that he cannot come back to India leaving his buisness and throws him out. He is fortunate to find warmth and affection in a elderly lady (Kirron Kher) whom Happy treats like his mother. In a strange turn of events Lucky is saved from a life threatening attack by Happy risking his own life.

Inspite of this, Lucky is paralyzed and Happy becomes the new "King". The elderly lady comes back to him saying that her daughter is comming from India but doesn't know that she is poor. Happy gives her a conslolidates her and gives her a home to find out that her daughter is Sonia and she is engaged to Puneet (Ranvir Shorey).

Puneet comes to know that Happy is the king and tells Sonia whom upon hearing this gets dissapointed because of her harted against criminals. Puneet hires Mika Singh (Javed Jaffrey) Lucky's brother who is hungry to become the "king" (the only thing stopping him is his partial blindness and deafness) to kill Happy.

Mika tells one of his men to kill the paralyzed Lucky where as he will kill Happy at Punnet's and Sonia's wedding after he recives his specially ordered hearing and eyesight aid. When the hitman attemts to kill Lucky, Lucky snaps out of paralysis. At the wedding Mika's men attacked, the cowering Puneet runs away and leaves Sonia alone Mika's men try to grab her but Happy protects her and fights them at the end the preist unknowingly declares Happy and Sonia married.

Happy tries to ask for forgiveness for this mistake but Sonia accepts him as her husband. while they are leaving Mika encounters them, now with his aid. Lucky then comes and shocks them all Happy tells Mika that being the "king" is no great thing Lucky always found sadness being the king. Mika then cries and hugs his brother. The credits scene shows that Happy brings Lucky back to India.

Got that?
I didn't think so. But here is the greatest part of this movie. The Bollywood studio got Snoop Dogg to record a track for it. Yep - Snoop D o Double G.


I'm Nesting

Wow, in a sign I've officially started to consider India home, I took advantage of the Independence Day Holiday (now celebrating 60+ years of British Free Living!) and cleaned up around the house. I guess clean isn't the right word (although, for having a guy come daily to clean my apartment I sure found a lot of dust bunnies), but more like re-arrange. Nest even.

I finally got around to removing the hideous wooden fake flowers & glittered birds on a stick that were in a vase. I moved a few lamps into the main family room to let a little light in, I found a few pottery pieces I'd never noticed & even figured out how to open some of the curtains.

In the process, I decided I detest the random Chinese jewelery box that has been sitting in plain sight for two months & so I unceremoniously put it away. I will say, the place looks much better. Now, it still has a bit of the "serviced apartment" feel to it, but it does look lived in. I don't think I'll be in this particular unit for much longer, I may move out in January, so I'm going to leave the pictures in place for now. But, I will say the place looks much more welcoming and inviting. It looks like I live here.

Rainy Weather & Hot Samosas

I've been patiently sitting in the office waiting out the crazy monsoon rains. We've been getting rained on most of the day & the roads are being punished for it. With tomorrow being Indian Independence Day, many of our office co-workers headed out early today. The early reports have been streaming back in of commutes upwards of 2 hours.

So, in the middle of blogging, surfing the web, and twiddling my fingers, I get a call from Alfred. He's given up on making it home & instead parked his car nearby. The best part? He has a bag of fresh - piping hot - Samosas. Now that is the way to wait out traffic!

Bangalore is the new Footloose!

In a move reminiscent of the movie Footloose, Bangalore is continuing to enforce it's ban on dancing... at least in bars where music is playing.

This is what protesters are claiming anyway. It turns out that in Bangalore, a city where officially alcohol sales must end at 11:30 (but unofficially can be purchased on MG road at all hours) also has a rule stating that for dancing and alcohol to co-exist, you must have a special license. A license that is rumored to be impossible to get - apparently in four years, not one has been granted.

Couple this with the noise ordinance (I hope you like not dancing in bars with music less than 6 decibels), and what is a young, hip & wealthy crowd to do? Protest.

This Week in Hindustan Times

From time to time, I like to enjoy a newspaper on my way to and from work. More often than not, at least 1 or 2 articles jump out at me - and I am forced to share them with you. Now, don't get me wrong, if you picked up the USA today, you would find equally bizarre articles, like that man who was too fat to be executed, or the town that wouldn't deliver water to the black side of town (yes, these are both true!).

If you've been following the Olympics, you may have heard that India won it's first ever individual Gold Medal at the Beijing Olympics. the lucky athlete was Abhinav Bindra. He won gold in the 10 meter Air Rifle. This victory has whipped the Indian Press into a frenzy. Wednesday's issue of HT featured many interesting articles for my blog. Here are a few snippets.

Bride for Bindra:
Young, rich, good looking and the man who will go down in history as India's first Olympic Individual Gold Medallist, Abhinav Bindra now also heads the country's list of most eligible bachelors.

The phones in the Bindra household haven't stopped ringing from Monday and it's not just congratulations that are pouring in. So are the marriage proposals. Abhinav's Mother Babli Bindra says that they've got quite a few offers. "We have been receiving calls," she says.

Babli on Tuesday was quoted as saying t hat, after his glorious win, her son was "the most eligible bachelor in India today."

A Flyover Named After Olympic Champ:
Olympic Gold Medallist Abhinav Bindra would soon have a flyover named after him in the capital. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has announced a cash award of Rs 5 lakh for the sportsman.

And then, the not so funny...

I Am Better Than Bindra, He Said And Killed a Man:
Drunk landlord in Gurgaon wanted to show his shooting skills to his tenants...

...Satyanarayan told the police said a drunk Sant Ram (38), armed with a pistol, entered their room on Monday evening and started bragging about his shooting skills. He claimed that he was better than Bindra who had won an Olympic gold a few hours earlier, he told the police.

The landlord then allegedly ordered the two brothers to place a water tumbler on their heads so that he (the landlord) could take an aim.

"He barged into the room and waved the gun towards us. He kept on saying that he was a better shooter than Abhinav Bindra. He ordered us to keep a tumbler on our heads and said that he can shoot it without harming us. He even shot the wall clock in our room trying to prove that he could shoot accurately," said Satyanarayan.

He added that when they did not oblige, Sant Ram allegedly shot at him, missing him by a few centimeters. "Then he aimed at Satyajeet and shot him in the abdomen. He told us he could shoot so accurately that the bullet would pass through our legs without hitting us," Satyanarayan said. source

Has Obama Fever Swept India?

Wow, two vaguely political posts today... Sorry about that!

I attended a Democrats Abroad event last week - and registered to vote. At the event I picked up an Obama button that now sits on my bulletin board at work.

Today, one of my office mates came by & saw the pin. "What is that?" she asked. "This Pin?" I responded. "Yes That!" I took a moment to process the fact that she clearly had no recognition of the Obama name.

"It's a political pin, Barack Obama is running for US President." I informed her.

"Oh." she said, before quickly perking up and adding, "I really liked the design, I would like to wear it on my jeans."

India Least Popular Among Expats?

According to one survey yes - at least for the long haul. It seems that in at least one category - the number of expats who settle down for the long haul in a country, India fares pretty poorly. However, in several other categories, it ranks quite high.

India ranks the highest in the world (major markets) for cheapest accommodations. It also ranks highest in terms of expat savings (bonus!). India comes in third (after UAE & Singapore) for luxurious living. Besides this, Expats in India earn the second highest salary in the world - after Hong Kong. More than 42% of Expats in India earn more than 100,000 pounds annually (189,000 USD). Source

So, why don't folks settle down for the long haul? Well, maybe it is the overall standard of living. You can only keep yourself in a bubble for so long, right? Or maybe all these folks are saving such large sums of money that they can afford to go home and improve their status of living . Either way, I think this survey says a lot about the experience of living here.

You can create such a wonderful lifestyle, surround yourself with amazingly talented people, have wonderful travel experiences, but it is still a drastically different culture and country from wherever you arrived from. While Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore & others have successfully transformed their cities into showstopping marvels, India has remained decidedly Indian. And frankly, there is nothing wrong with that!

Despite All The Money Spent By Chinese Authorities...

Their Olympic Doping Committee missed the biggest dope of them all.

Vegetable Wala

Last night, I decided to give my local vegetable walla a try. I've been buying my produce from markets so far, but the quality is frankly pretty poor & the price is outrageous! I knew both of these things were true going into the transaction - but was shocked by just how outrageous the produce prices were.

I picked up 2 lemons, 3 tomatoes, 2 potatoes & 2 onions. Total cost? 20 rupees (47 cents).

Image courtesy of :

Chocolate Axe - Coming Soon

This Advert just hit the airwaves. I tracked down some information on it, looks like if originated in Argentina. I hope to go this is playing in America - because it makes me laugh every time I watch it.

Sexy White Folk make GREAT Chocolate!

One thing that is very common in India is to highlight Caucasian, or at least VERY light skinned Indian people in the television ads. Sometimes, it is just a re-use of a commercial from somewhere else - but very often it is custom created for the Indian market.

In India, light skin tone is considered by some to be a sign of beauty. This is shared among many countries where the common skin tone is wheatish or darker. You see this same trend in Mexico, with many ads featuring folks of European decent. China/Japan adverts often feature women of extremely milky skin tones. In fact, in India nearly every commercial break features an ad for a skin whitening cream. These ads are almost identical to teeth whitening adverts in the states. In just 7 days, your skin can be 7 shades lighter....

You would think then that after 2 months in India, nothing could shock me. Until I saw this Kit-Kat Chunky Ad. It is overtly sexual & features only white folk making the chocolate. Of course, the white folk happen to be scantily clad & making borderline erotic facial expressions.

Another trend in India? Using Caucasians for all sexually deviant roles.

This Officially Kills Fiddler on The Roof For Me

Monsoon Shots

So last week was one wet week. After returning to Delhi, it rained nearly every day. This put tremendous strain on the roads of Gurgaon. They area already in a pretty dismal state during dry season, but with rain comes erosion and potholes... GIANT potholes.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my video recorder with me to capture some of the zaniness, but I hope these photos help you at least understand what monsoon rains can do to a developing city. In most places, traffic simply stops while the gutter system is in overload. My average commute time of 45 minutes nearly doubled if not tripled on several days last week. I managed to escape the worst of it by taking refuge in a friends house Friday evening allowing traffic to thin out before attempting to make it back north.

Main Lobby, 8:30 am - 12 story building

What's Cooking?!

If I had a cheesy public access cooking show, I think I would call it "What's Cooking?!". Of course, to pull this off, I'd probably need to grow crazy hippie hair, talk in a stoner accent & have trippy guest hosts like Suzanne Sommers. Unfortunately for you (or maybe fortunately), I don't have a TV show - only this blog.

And so today, I thought I'd give you another look at one of my recent culinary creations. As you probably read, I brought back some delicious Truffle Salt from Chicago. So, last week I decided to make a batch of truffle fries along with some fresh Mutton Kebabs.

I purchased the Mutton from a halal butcher here, and I'm fairly certain they were pre-cooked. However, not wishing to press my luck (no whammies) I made sure to heat them very well. As for the fries, I found some great potatoes which I shallow fried for a while before seasoning with truffle salt. They were of course delicious.

I'm struck by how easy & delicious the kebabs are here. It seems like a perfect staple for Whole Foods or some other adventurous grocery to offer. They are simple to prepare, tasty & certainly bring variety to the table.

What Happens When The Army Goes On Vacation?

Apparently this!

I've never seen camouflaged Samsonite before - have you?

Am I Addicted?!

So, this weekend my internet went down... What can I say - I think I'm addicted! I must have tried restarting my router at least 30 times. Once, in the middle of the night, I woke up and decided I must restart then - maybe it was the time that was working against me?

In any case, look for some updates this evening New Delhi Time. I have some good stuff from the last week or so, including a camouflaged suitcase, ridiculous flooding & a trip to Old Delhi to blog about.

So, sit and wait for the fun to roll in!

8:40 am & I'm the first one in the office

In fact, I'm one of the first folks in the entire building!

Work hours here are closer to 10-7 than 8-5, which makes for a great commute at 8 am. Unfortunately, you can't get anything done when you are in this early! Although, frankly - it is nice to be in so early on a rainy day. The odd office hours have been one of the most difficult adjustments for me. I'm not much of a morning person, which you would think would be great in a culture that comes to work at 10 am.

Unfortunately, if I have the option to sleep until 8:30 am, I will. And so, despite my best attempts to shift my sleep schedule back, I still seem to fall asleep at 11. Since everyone works until at least 7, I'm in the office later & so, I'm getting more sleep than ever before - but I seem to have lost 2 hours of my life!

In other news, I spent the better part of this morning entertaining myself in the dark. My power cut at about 5 am, which normally would be no big deal - but as my body is still a bit off, I woke around 4 am. So, I made myself breakfast, boiled water for instant coffee & watched sunrise. My hope is that by tomorrow I'll be back on a schedule & be able to sleep until at least 7 am. I'll keep you posted.


Things I snuck through customs....

On my trip back to Chicago, I loaded up on some old favorites from the spice house in Chicago. Now, I know what you are thinking - why would someone leave India to buy spices in Chicago?

Well, despite the fact that spices are grown all over India for export, I've found it difficult to find the spices I like to cook with. Maybe it is because I don't know the local names, or sheer ignorance about where to shop for spices. Either way, I am perfectly content to visit one of my favorite Chicago stores on all future visits home.

The Spice House is one of those great local stores that you never seem to visit enough. It stocks all sorts of spices from around the world - and they specialize in hard to find unique spices. It is the kind of place you will spot the local celebrity chefs, folks like Charlie Trotter & Rick Bayless. Now, I'm personally addicted to their blend of Truffle Salt & so I went to purchase some. Unfortunately for me, Italy is on vacation, and so the Spice House is out of stock.... So instead of buying a new jar, I selfishly stole back a jar I bought for Sally.

If you've never purchased good truffle salt, do so immediately. It is simply a course salt infused with truffle oil that imparts a truffle flavor when added to dishes like Eggs, Potatoes, or pasta. It is not nearly as potent as Truffle Oil, but at a fraction of the cost & triple the shelf life, it is well worth the splurge.

Oh, and in case you are keeping track of items I carried back across the border, the list also included Cheetos, Dental Floss (of the ribbon variety), 6 cookies from Sweet Mandy B's and about 65 granola bars (for breakfast).

Things I Love: Baladoche'

While back in Chi-town, I visited everyones favorite Belgian Waffle shop. Well, my favorite anyway! Baladoche' opened about a year back now & is on Clark Street in the Lakeview neighborhood. They specialize in "Zucker" waffles - which roughly translates to waffles made with enough sugar to make you diabetic.

Since opening, they've branched into the Gelato racket (doesn't it seem like everyone is serving Gelato now?), but the waffles are really where they should stay focused. There is something so decadent about a waffle covered in sugar and cinnamon. I'm salivating thinking about them now....So, if you ever find yourself in Chicago - pay a visit to Baladoche'!

Crazy Ants! Not Aunts!

I made it back to Delhi - it is amazing how much sleep you can get with Tylenol PM in your system. I passed out somewhere over Canada & woke up over one of the three Stans... TurkmeniSTAN, AfghanisSTAN, or maybe it was PakiSTAN.

It was a pleasant trip home, and it was great to catch up with old friends, eat Taco Bell (weird craving, right?), eat pizza from Piece, More good Thai food than I could imagine, and of course Salad. Lots and Lots of Salad!

So, this morning I am back at home & discovered that there are some crafty ants here in Delhi. I left a sealed, unopened bag of sugar on my counter. I bought it at the grocery store before leaving, and hadn't bothered to put it away. I noticed a few ants on the counter & couldn't figure out what they were interested in. But then I realized they had found a way into this bag of sugar. I have no idea how they did it, maybe a few of them sacrificed their lives by eating the plastic so the rest could load up on sugar?

Thankfully, only about 5-10 seemed to have made it inside, so I chucked the bag - but again, I am very impressed with the ingenuity of the bugs here in India. Also, Thanks Aunt Mary T for the links into the blog. Much appreciated.