More Jugaad

I found this Bicycle cum Moped cum Flat Bed truck in DLF corporate park today.

Sarah Palin Selling Contact Lenses

look at the top left corner.

#6 Labor Arbitrage???

Everyday I drive past hundreds of businesses taking advantage of the Global Labor Arbitrage situation here in Delhi. Businesses across Delhi NCR (National Capital Region) thrive on the cost savings they can offer their customers (or their corporate offices) by employing high skilled workers at a dramatic cost savings.

This is a hot topic in America, one that is debated constantly in the press. Is it right to shift local jobs from Main Street, USA to Mangalore, India? I am not going to try to offer an opinion on this matter, or state opinions on this practice.

This blog post is going to discuss a far graver labor arbitrage situation... the outsourcing of machines.

Yes, you heard me Heavy Machines, be on high alert. Your jobs are in danger of being outsourced to low cost labor across India. Cranes, Steamrollers, and Bulldozers beware. Your jobs are no longer safe. I hope you have invested wisely, and put money away in an emergency fund - because across India construction foremen have found a way to replace you.

We no longer have a need for your heavy lifting abilities, no need for your fancy hydraulics & earth moving potential. Your have been made redundant. It turns out we can do your job more cheaply with a hundred men.

Sure, it takes a bit longer (years longer in fact), but the job is done the same in the end. And besides, the cost restructuring opportunities are huge. I'm sorry, but we can no longer be bothered to be experts in non-core business functions. We thank you for your years of service, but unfortunately we would much rather shift these roles to "business partners" who can augment our "operation expertise" while effectively allowing us to cross-synergize our capacity management.

So, enjoy your last few months of work. After the Commonwealth Games have come and gone, you can pack your things and move on to Vietnam - I hear they still have need for the general skill sets you posses.

As for us, we've already begun replacing you. Just have a look around - and you will see your replacements hard at work.

click to view full size image

#5 - Trust Your Staff

Trust is an interesting thing to have learned while in Delhi. As I've alluded to before, living in Delhi can afford you some luxuries. For instance, a driver, a maid, home pick-up and delivery of your ironing (press wala). But with each of these people we employ, there is an element of trust. This morning we learned that we can't trust one of our employees.

Last night, Sally and I stayed in and watched a movie. At about 8 in the evening, Sally ran to the ATM to pull out some money for the week and money so that we could pay our maid's salary in the morning. Our maid has been a Godsend for us, and does a great job without even making us aware she is there. She is a vast improvement over our last maid - who quietly stole 200 USD from a locked cabinet over a few days. But I digress.

With the money placed in her wallet, Sally set her purse on the counter in our entry way & we finished the rest of our evening. Around 6:30 am, Sally rose for her morning jog. She left the front door unlocked, while I snoozed for another hour in the bedroom. Eventually, I woke up and joined Sally for coffee in the family room.

She asked, "Did anyone come in while I was on my run? As I returned home, I saw the press walla leaving the apartment and he muttered something about my husband." I assured Sally that I hadn't heard anything - but did notice the newspaper was on the counter in the hallway. Maybe he had just placed it inside the house as he has done before. Thinking nothing of it, Sally and I finished our breakfast & I got ready to leave for work.

"God Dammit!" Sally shouted as I stepped out of the shower. "The maid's Salary money is gone. I think the boy took it." I was sure the boy hadn't taken the money, so I insisted we must have misplaced it last night. The boy has always been so kind and nice, with a smile on his face. He is probably 17, but looks about 15 and is always eager to collect our pressing. Just last week he seemed to have taken a new job, He had showed up at the door with a new uniform from the Dry Cleaners at the local market.

"I'm sure it wasn't him," I told Sally, "He wouldn't come in the house and take money from your purse. Why would he risk his families business over something like that." But Sally was convinced, and I should have been too.

We decided that we would both go over to their stand in the neighborhood and confront him. I felt it was only fair to give him a chance to admit the theft. I didn't want to make a scene, but simply to give him a chance to return the money - no questions asked. With our Driver Dharmender, we drove over to their shop and shared the news with his Father. We suspected his only son of taking money from our house. Without a note of concern, the Father asked us to wait for his son to come home.

Soon the boy returned home and we confronted him. For 20 minutes the boy denied the claim, and seemed appalled that we would accuse him of theft. The discussion never got heated, it was simply a calm discussion between the boy, his family, Dharmender, Sally and I. After the 21st minute, the boy suddenly had a realization.

You see, he said "I did accidentally pick up the 2500 INR. But, realizing I had this money, I returned to your house before coming to my shop. Sir, while you were driving over to my shop to accuse me of stealing, I was returning to your home to return the money."

And so, Dharmender Sally & I climbed back in the car to race home. The boy and his mother mounted his bicycle and cut through the pedestrian gates giving them a speed advantage. By the time Sally, Dharmender & I reached the top of the stairs, the boy had already reached. He gingerly pointed to the fuse box outside our apartment.

There sat 2500 rupees. It was all a simple misunderstanding...

yeah, right.

Merry Christmas India

I spotted this little fellow on the way to the office last week... In August.

#4 The Meaning of Jugaad

You only need to exit a plane at Indira Gandhi International Airport to begin noticing the ingenius solutions Dilli-walas have come up with to solve problems such as leaky faucets or broken down vehicles.

These ingenius solutions are referred to as "Jugaad" by most Dilli-wallas. It sometimes feels as if these 'duct tape' solutions keep this country moving forward. Here are a few funny & inspired "jugaad" solutions I have spotted in my year.

1) This is an extremely common sight. An autorickshaw being towed by an even more run down autorickshaw with only a rusty chain connecting the two.

2) In Gurgaon I frequently see potholes being re-filled with only stones & sand - sometimes leading to disaster.

3) Every handyman we have called seems to have no plug on their power drill. However it is never a Problem. They just cram the two cord ends into an outlet.

4) I found this chap who was eager to transport a car & keep it looking clean and new. He simply wrappepd it in tape & burlap.

5) Although sometimes, the solutions are truly inspired. Like the famous Soulabh Toilet which can be built for an extremely low cost using locally sourced materials, and no running water source.

6) For another inspired solution, look at this retail stores answer to the plastic poly bag ban in Delhi (which only lasted 10 days from what I can tell...).

Unfortunately, sometimes there is no Jugaad solution for your problem, and eventually you must give up. Check out this beauty of a vehicle that is parked outside the Foreign Regional Registration Office as if to welcome you to your extended stay in India.

#3 - The Importance Of Giving Back

WOW - it has been a long time since I got on my soapbox and let my readers into my life here in Delhi. It has been a busy couple of months since my visit to the US. It has been both good and bad.

If I'm being entirely honest, it has been a rough couple of months. There is an old story that is often shared regarding the frog in a pot of boiling water. The story says that a frog who enters the pot when the water is cool, will become acclimated to the water and not be tempted to jump out of the heat. Eventually in this story, the frog dies.

Alternatively, dropping the frog directly into a pot of boiling water will cause the frog to leap from the pot, scalded - but alive. I've learned this year that I am a bit like a frog.

You see, when I first moved here everything was new, exciting & different. I was so consumed by the newness of it all that I never once noticed the water was getting hotter day by day. Little things like infrastructure issues, the heat, the dust, the crowd didn't bother me. They each were gradually turning up the heat on the water while I was too busy being distracted by the "newness" around me.

However, eventually work or family brought me away from India for a visit. Upon returning, I found entering Delhi was a bit like jumping into a pot of boiling water. OK, I know - it is a bit of a bad analogy - I don't die after all.... But the point is, the return is a shock. I find myself leaping into the comforts I've left behind. I crave the relative simplicity of life and home & bury myself in the comforts of five star hotel restaurants & malls.

Now eventually, I'm coaxed out of my shock and become accustomed to Delhi. Usually it is due to some emotional experience that reminds me the life I live in Chicago is not normal. It is not the way 90% of the world live. It is a privileged life. And so slowly I let real Delhi, real India back into my life.

One of those Emotional kick-in-the-pants experiences for me is Pardada Pardadi. And so, today, I am re-publishing an earlier post on Pardada Pardadi Educational Society in hopes that you two will take a moment to think about the life you don't lead. And please - think about giving back.

This past weekend, Sally and I paid a visit to Pardada-Pardadi Girls Vocational School in Anupshahr, Uttar Pradesh. Located near the Ganges River, the area is largely agricultural in nature.

The Pardada Pardadi Education Society (PPES) was established to provide education to girls who would not normally be afforded an opportunity to attend schools. Enrollment has exploded through a variety of novel programs including, guranteed job post graduation, 10 rupee placed in saving account for each day of school attended, and vocational training (in addition to academics).

Here are some shots of the school & Children.

To learn more about the school, visit


St. Patricks Day, originally uploaded by shelmes.

I've been unplugged for two weeks now. I leave for Delhi again on Saturday - but until then, you can find me on the streets of Chicago.

Don't worry - I have 28 more posts to go on my first year in India. But for now, soak up the view in my hometown.

#2 - Sometimes, Smaller is Better.

The first thing you notice when you go to a fruit & veg market in Delhi, is how small all the fruit and veg look. Bell Peppers are barely the size of a women's fist, onions are half the size of US, and tomatoes come in one variety (mostly).

Frankly, I was a bit disappointed on my first shopping experience. None of the veg looked particularly tasty. Frankly - it looked a lot like the leftovers on a Sunday night at your local Piggly Wiggly.

Determined to cook for myself, and unable to stomach another meal of pasta, I bought a bit of everything from a veg stand in Gurgaon and headed home to experiment. After washing and slicing a few bell peppers, I put together a plate of hummus and sat down. With one bite, I was a converted man.

You see, in the US most produce is often treated with pesticides, insecticides or herbicides. It is frequently genetically modified & almost always seems to grown to weigh as much as possible - and last a really long time on a shelf (a really, really long time - I once saw a show on Food Network which showed how Potatoes were stored for nearly a year before being made into french fries - Yuck). All this leads to giant grocery stores stocked with monstrously sized - flavorless produce.

In India, the supply chain is altered. Generally speaking - produces travels significantly shorter distances to end up on your dinner table & is much more flavorful. It is certainly more "ugly" - with spots & perhaps actual signs of transport - but I assure you - the taste is phenomenal.

This is my second of 30 things I learned in India. I learned how produce is meant to be grown & meant to taste. Funny, it took moving to India to discover how amazing a bell pepper could taste, or to learn how tasty raw onion can be(try it at home with lime juice & salt).

Before moving to Delhi, I paid good money at the Green City Market in order to put together a Seasonal Menu of locally sourced produce. Now, I just visit any street corner.

#1 - The Value of a Dollar

As most of you know, I'm an American. To be more specific, I'm a 29 year old male, raised in an upper middle class suburb, who traded in his 19th floor condo in Chicago's River North neighborhood to move to India about a year ago.

Full Disclosure: I moved as an expat with my company & have been sheltered even here. I'm not living the Peace Corps lifestyle or anything.
The town I grew up in provided a wonderful childhood, but definitely left me (and many others) sheltered.

It was the sort of place where as a child you met your friends for coffee at Starbucks... Before there was a Starbucks on any corner. In fact, you could almost classify a suburb's ability to shelter children based on when the first Starbucks arrived. We got ours in 1991.

Perhaps that is where my perception of the worth of a dollar started. After all, if a dollar didn't even buy you a cup of coffee as a tween - imagine my perception of it's worth at 29.

That all changed in India. In Delhi, a dollar (let's say 50 rupees) can buy you more than you could possibly imagine. In fact, I've quietly been making a list of things one could buy for a dollar here in Delhi. Ironically, a cup of coffee isn't one of them (at least not a cup from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf - the closest thing to a Starbucks here in Delhi).

  1. 50 minutes of mobile to mobile calling (vodafone pre-paid)
  2. 6 days of satellite TV (Including HBO, StarWorld, CNN, etc)
  3. 9 pounds of Onion (@12 INR a kilo)
  4. 1.4 personal pizzas from Dominos (starting 35INR)
  5. 5.5 miles in an auto rickshaw (Delhi Rates)
  6. 7 (update 16) pressed shirts from neighborhood press wala
  7. 3.5 loafs of bread
  8. 1/2 pound chicken or Bangalore Beef from high end shop
  9. 4 bottles of premium bottled water
  10. 16 issues of Hindustan Times (INR 3 per issue)
I could go on and on - in fact, I encourage my Indian followers to do so. Tell me, what is 50 rupees worth in your life?

I am not naive, a dollar can't possible buy you the same amount of goods in the United States. I do understand the economies of producing products in these markets are very different. I'm simply illustrating how the perception of a dollar's worth, when seen in the broader context, can change your life.

I can assure you that when I visit Chicago next week, my new value of a dollar will certainly play a role in my consumer behavior. This time I'll pass on my triple grande non-fat latte at 200 rupees. Instead, I'll buy 36 pounds of onion upon my return.

This post is part of a 30 part series called 30 Things:
June 4th is my 1 year anniversary of living in India. I'm taking a few moments each day to reflect on the year, piece together my thoughts on living here as a quiet observer of Delhi lifestyle. I can't promise this will be the most profound list of things I've learned about myself, India, or life - but it is sure to make you smile.

So, with that, June 4, 2009 - my 366th day in India. Time to start reflecting.

30 Things: Observations on 1 Year in Delhi

Today is my 1 year anniversary of living in India. I want to take a few moments and reflect on the year, piece together my thoughts on living here as a quiet observer of Delhi lifestyle. I can't promise this will be the most profound list of things I've learned about myself, India, or life - but it is sure to make you smile.

So, with that, June 4, 2009 - my 366th day in India. Time to start reflecting.


Someone commented on my prior post regarding the Pig Po, which made me realize I hadn't shared another disturbing, but mostly funny story about India.

Some time back, Sally developed a terrible rash on her hand. The rash started innocently enough, a few bumps between her fingers, but soon spread across her palm. Before long, her entire hand felt like a basketball & was bright red. Needless to say, at this point - we paid our first visit to an Indian doctor.

Taking advice from our friends over at, we visited a doctor in Hauz Khas. His office was inside his sprawling home, in a quiet upscale residential community. Upon entering his home, we were greeted with an 8 foot high tiger pelt, complete with taxidermied head on the wall. Immediately, we knew were were in for a fun visit!

The doctor was GREAT! He was extremely helpful, understanding & quickly diagnosed the hand rash as a food allergy of some sort. He gave us a prescription recommendation for us & we talked for a bit about his children - both of whom are now in US. Thinking we were done with our visit, we started to pack up, when he asked us a question that nearly put us into a fit of giggles.

When was the last time you de-wormed yourselves?

We took the pills, and seem to be worm free. I've asked around and it seems a common thing for children to take these pills to keep them free of worms. I can only assume we were encouraged to take them as we would be particularly susceptible to food borne parasites given our recent introduction to India. From what I can tell, we are now worm free & will probably take another dose in 6 months time.

Beef in Delhi

Ok, so I hate to admit this, but for the last 2 weeks I have been eating an unidentified meat. The label lists it as Ground Lm Tender Lion (yes, lion - not loin). However, when cooked it tastes, looks and smells exactly like beef.

I am not an idiot, I do realize how stupid I sound saying I've been eating an unidentifiable meat. And that just sums up living in India as an expat. What you thought were your boundaries are simply no longer your boundaries. Yes, 11 months on and I am now comfortable eating random ground meat product.

Another example of my ever shifting boundaries involves a shop called the Pig Po. This shop is a pork butcher, and as far as I know there are two locations. One, is right at the end of my street while the other is in Jor Bagh.

Some time back, Gurgaon Connection - an expat group in Gurgaon - had a chain of mails about where one could procure good pork. Several members chimed in that the PigPo in Jor Bagh was a great option. I quickly chimed in that the Shanti Niketan location was significantly closer to Gurgaon and could save the drive further into Delhi for everyone involved.

Soon, someone took it upon themselves to post that they would never eat pork from the Shanti Niketan location as they had seen a cockroach in the shop case once. Now, if this message had reached me a year back and if the Pig Po had instead the Whole Foods in River North (Chicago), I would have been appalled and considered switching to another yuppie super market.

However, after a year in India - my response was simply - "Oh well, get over it!" What store/restaurant doesn't have a cockroach, mouse, critter lurking around the corner. Nature didn't intend meat to be kept in a freezer for weeks on end in India's heat. Apparently, I was not alone in my get over yourself response - several other expats chimed in with similar stories of rodent spotting in the most Hygienic of shops & restaurants in Gurgaon (Ambi mall, etc) - all indicated they continue to eat out.

On my way home that night, Sally & I discussed dinner. I stopped & bought some fresh pork. Despite what the alarmist in Gurgaon had to say - it tasted great. But definitely not as great as my mystery meat.

It's Electric!

I am sorry for the deluge of photos today, I finally had a chance to go
through my phone & pick out a few of the winners. This is another of my

At the end of our block is an ICICI bank atm. I happened to notice the other day that there was a large poster behind the ATM with instructions on how to treat an Electric Shock.

After reading the poster, I began to wonder. Have people who've overdrawn their accounts been shocked by the ATM? Is the room full of live wires just waiting for someone to grab them. Should I use rubber gloves when entering my
pin code.

Truthfully, I probably should. Although, not for fear of electric shock!

If I'm indeed shocked, should I expect a man to mount me from behind and then proceed to pull my arms over my head? And if after all this, I am still having problems - will I be driven to the White House?

With such a frightening poster at ICICI, I've decided to start using the Citibank ATM, it seems a safer option. Plus, it has better A/C - a win/win.

When clean just won't do...

What Not To Do:

If you encounter an office fire, I highly recommend you not follow the directions posted in DLF Corporate Park (pay attention to the third item):

Best Car Ever!

Amigo Was Robbed!

I struggle to understand how Times of India can release a book of restaurant reviews & seriously label TGI Fridays as the best Tex-Mex restaurant in Delhi. Did the reviewer get a personal check from TGIF for this honor? Amigo GKII, you were robbed.

Editors Note to Amigo: Don't get too excited, I'm not saying you cook mexican food like Rick Bayless, but you certainly perform better than anyone else I've tried in Delhi (Sancho's & TGIF included). Oh, and please change your Tortilla Soup recipie stat - here's a better one.

As if the inclusion of TGIF wasn't a big enough insult to Dilliwalas (Delhi Residents for my non-desi audience), the book seems to have named any restaurant at a five star hotel in India as the best in every serious category. I've eaten at all of these (I know, die yuppie scum), and I assure you the best Italian in Delhi is not the characterless Italian restaurant at the Hyatt. If you want to know my recommendation - just ask.

Shame on you Times of India. Shame on you for sloppily naming restaurants to your list & then asking consumers to shell out money to read it. Shame on you for finding another way to slap your name onto a poor product.

I made the mistake of buying your book last year - don't expect my money this time round.

I now know why Indians are better at math than Americans

Ok, no shocker here. Generally speaking, Indians test better than Americans in Math.

In America, we are told it is because of the rote math lessons that the educational system favors here in India. This sounds convincing enough, and manages to make the American Education system sound progressive. Rote methods are inferior, we are told. So, if India favors rote methods - and America favors highly engaging teaching lessons, we can explain our poor math scores away as a necessary evil of our superior educational system, right?

Well, after my experience last week, I'm convinced, that this "rote" system produces a love of math, or at least - produces curiosity about it. This is something that is clearly lacking in the states, despite our "progressive" teaching style. Let me explain.

I've been studying for the GMAT. Sally has to pass a language test for INSEAD next year, and so I decided to join her and study for the GMAT. The scores are good for 5 years after all - so why not?

Last week, I had a business trip which brought me to Chennai. Since I knew this would provide a few hours in the plane & a slow evening in a hotel, I brought my study materials along. I've been using the Kaplan 800 Review book, and pulled it out in the Chennai airport on my way back to Delhi.

The gentleman sitting next to me couldn't help but stare over my shoulder at the materials as I . I found this a little odd, but thought nothing of it, until he asked to see the book. Mind you, this man was well beyond 50, and here he was reviewing my test prep materials & asking me where I purchased them.

About an hour later, I realized the man across the aisle was following along in my book. Sure enough, after I solved a particularly tough problem, he asked to borrow my book so he could try the question himself. I obliged, and for 10 minutes, the man scribbled notes and slowly solved the data sufficiency problem.

Shortly after touching down in Delhi, yet another Airline passenger, asked to review my book. He took it, and spent 5 minutes carefully scanning the pages of the book.

Now at this point, I was truly baffled. I can think of no circumstance in the states, short of a GMAT prep course, where I could find so many people interested in Math. Am I the only one who has experienced such a strange reaction?

United Customer Care Gets It Wrong. No one is surprised.

From time to time I deviate from the general theme of the blog to vent. This is one of those times. It seems that every chance I have to interact with a US Airline leaves me with a headache & an hour of time wasted on the phone.

Today, Sally and I went to book tickets from Chicago to Savannah in June. We are spending two weeks stateside to visit the family, and decided that it was more fun to visit them at the beach!

After learning that it would cost me 25 dollars per ticket to book free tickets on miles, we decided that booking online was a better idea. So we selected our flights, Sally on the desktop from her account & I on the laptop from mine. We coordinated to select our seats, filled out the credit card details & hit purchase.

Surprise! Sally's went through, and mine didn't. I grabbed the phone and called customer service. It seems Sally booked the last available seat on the plane for mileage purposes. You know, the airline needed to save room for revenue generating passengers (From the look of the seatmap, there is still PLENTY of room).

After many calls & pleading we were left with three options. Leave at 6:30 am the morning after a wedding we are attending in Chicago (yeah - not an option), pay almost 400 bucks to buy a seat on the "full" flight, or leave the next day. So, I rather begrudgingly asked for Sally's flight to be changed to the next day & the man to book me on it. After more than an hour, I thought I was finished.... But NO! It would STILL cost 25 bucks for him to book my ticket. Yes, he was unable to wave the booking fee that sent me on this long stupid path in the first place... The rest I'm willing to forgive, but seriously, you can't enable your staff to waive the booking fee?

Back From The Dead

Well, I've fallen off the map for a while, sorry about that. It has been extremely busy for me for the last 2-3 months. But thankfully, I've been compiling blog post ideas and am ready to hit the ground running. So, stay tuned over the next few weeks & I'll try to keep my end of the bargin up!

More Yuni-Net Ridiculousness:
I've previously mentioned Yuni-Net, a yahoo group of expats & internationally minded people living in Delhi. It is a resource for finding service providers, getting restaurant recommendations, finding drivers & houshold help, or simply meeting people.

Most posts are very normal, but from time to time, there are some crazy posts that make you laugh. Here are a few of those posts.

Subject: Help! Geckos are eating my airconditner!
Dear Yuni Net -- does anyone know of a gecko repellent? I watch helplessly as our geckos go into the air conditioner and throw out bits of foam and wire and they have also,unbelievable as it sounds, eaten though 2cm diameter electric cable. At first I thought it was mice, but our AC guys have confirmed it is geckos and if you bash on the AC when they are doing it ( they are very noisy), they come running out. I dont want to kill them but would just like to keep them away from the split unit, as their "gnawing" keeps shorting the electrics. The pest control people say they have no anti-gecko agent.

Has anyone else faced this problem?

Subject: :-) Yuni-Net -- looking for a female cocker !
hi... i want to get my cockerspaniel mated, anyone looking for a handome male to mate their bitch with?

Subject: :-) Yuni-Net -- PANAMA HATS IN INDIA?
I realize this is a far-fetched possibility, but I thought I'd try anyway. Does anyone know where I can purchase men's Panama hats in India?

Subject: :-) Yuni-Net -- Want Hair Extensions?
I'm part of a team for a new human hair extensions company that is
launching in India and will begin my training next week, which means I need models to show my work on.

I am looking for 2 people who would be good candidates for bonded
extension, which, if taken care of properly, can last up to 6 months.
Being a model for this product, you will be offered an awesome deal
on the price of hair and installation cost.

Models will be needed for a full day next week. The exact day is

Lie Flat Seats In A Car?

Yep, sure enough - Mahindra Xylo features lie-flat comfort! Their advertisement campaign also features a television commercial showing the tray table for in-car dining.

While I admit to wishing I had a lie-flat seat during the morning rush on NH-8, the positioning on this car seems all over the place. On the one hand, it is a luxury car with all the comforts a busy executive could need. However, they also are running an ad showing young people partying in the car... Mahindra! Make up your mind, you can't have it all!

Only in Delhi

Imagine my surprise to find this man running through Chanakyapuri recently. I made my driver come back around so I could capture video of him. Only after turning to did I realize he was already famous.

Wayne's World.... Cream of Sum Yum Gai

I should have brought my lunch today. I meant to pack one, but waited to long and instead grabbed a yogurt & some all-bran on my way out. Of course, that was good enough for a snack, but now find myself craving a proper lunch.

Which brings me to, a great little / clone. It has a nice interface which allows you to search for restaurants across Delhi by location, cuisine, price, delivery etc. This has been a savior for me when looking for a good new place to order lunch from to break the monotony of left-overs.

Today, I executed my search and stumbled across a restaurant that is straight out of the movie Wayne's World. Yes, this is dating me (certainly making me look old to some of you, and frightfully young to others), but I can remember going with some anticipation to watch Wayne's World at the Lombard General Cinema *before* they added Valet Parking, Starbucks & in-theater dining. Yes, that's right - I slummed it in Lombard, Illinois as a tween.

For those of you who didn't grow up in the States, or who had enough taste to not watch Wayne's World - I've embedded a clip of the movie for you to watch.

All of which brings me to the name of the restaurant I found on Foodie Bay... Yes, there is a restaurant in gurgaon called Sum Yum Gai. I'm fairly certain the humor is lost on most people, as the restaurants menu is decidedly un-ironic.

I guess I'll have to make a decision soon on lunch though the competition for Sum Yum Gai is tough. After all with other options like Mo Station & Kwality Foods - how can anyone choose just one.

Happy Holi from the Gora Desi

Brought to you by our Driver, Dharmender.

Ole! - More Mexican Food in Delhi! Plus - Off To Cabo

I'm working my last day before a week long trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Sally & I will be spending a week relaxing (hopefuly) on the beach & recharging for what is sure to be a long - hot - Delhi summer.

This week, we ventured out to a new restaurant to get in the mood. You may recall, I formerly raved about Sancho's in South Ex, Delhi. At the time, it was a promising new entrant into the Delhi scene, but since my review - it has gone through a change in the kitchen - and now serves mexican food that would pass as Mexican food only at TGI Fridays.

So, it was with some excitement that we gave Amigo a try. This restaurant just opened in GKII near Smokehouse Grill (best, and almost only, steak in Delhi). The entire menu wasn't a hit - their Chicken Tortilla Soup tasted decidedly Indian - but on the whole our evening was fun - and tasty.

Sally and I split the Chicken Quesidilla, I had a soup that tasted like the filling of a chilli cheese burrito at Taco Bell (in the best way possible), and we stole a taste of Michelle's Enchillada. All were spiced authentically, had a nice soft cheese, and were served with traditional sides. The Tortilla chips were made on site, and were light, crisp and tasty.

Amigo New Delhi
3 Local Shopping Centre, Masjid Moth,
Greater Kailash II, New Delhi- 110048
Phone: 91-11-29216220, 91-11-29216221

Jai Ho! Slumdog Millionaire Takes Over My Facebook?

Just this week, I realized just how big of a crush the US has on India right now. If India were a teen starlet, she surely has gone from the Disney Channel to starring in the Twilight Movies in the last 3 months.

While in the States over Christmas, I saw Slumdog Millionaire. Infused with excitement I left the theater and proclaimed my love for the film on my facebook account within minutes. I eagerly told anyone who would listen that they should run out to see this movie. Not surprisingly, it fell on deaf ears. It seemed that everyone I talked the film up to responded with a nod that seemed to say, "We get it... you live in India."

Dejected, I boarded a plane to head back to India without convincing a single person to see the film. I guess the US just wasn't ready to embrace this film, or India...

A month later, I started noticing signs that people at home were beginning to take notice of this film. The first to comment was my cousin Tricia, who after watching the Golden Globes acknowledged my comments about the film. My parents chimed in asking me if I had seen this new movie... "Yes" I remarked. "Remember the Indian film I raved about (if I were still a teen a major eye roll would have been inserted at this point)?". Soon, support and commentary on the film seemed to gain speed like an avalanche.

With last week's Oscar win, it seems the whole country has stood up and taken notice. The blogosphere was full of Oscar Party menu planning tips and psuedo Indian Dancing was brought to the Jay Leno Show (What? They couldn't find 10 actual Indians?). An informal survey of our American friends here in Delhi yielded a pattern - many of our parents have even begun learning to cook Indian cuisine at home!

Today, \ even facebook status updates are in love with Slumdog Millionaire.

Congratulations America, I'm proud of you. Welcome to the India Fan Club.

Delivery Sushi In Delhi

Today I gave another try.

On my first order, I tread extremely carefully into the world of Indian delivery sushi. After a few days of normal digestion, I decided it was indeed safe to eat. To be honest, my anxiety over potential stomach revolt completely overwhelmed my ability to decipher if the sushi was even good on the first round. It was for this reason, I skipped out on blogging.

Today I placed my order for a Spicy Tuna roll & a California Roll and eagerly awaited the delivery boy. The menu has much more variety than this order of course, but let's be honest. I was going for safety on my order. After about 20 minutes, my $14.00 USD Sushi & Miso Soup arrived.

The verdict?
Tasty - ok, not like Nobu or anything... but Tasty. Lets put it this way, if you've been in India for a long time, miss sushi as much as I miss sushi, and desperately need to introduce variety into your diet... Then call them.

My only complaint?
The price is just to high for me to justify this as a regular part of my routine. I guess when you can get 3 dollar chinese delivered to the office, 14 for 2 rolls is just highway robbery.

For delivery dial 4005000 from Gurgaon.
Or visit:

Happy Valentines Day?

For the last week, I've been reading articles in HT regarding valentines protests here in India with some trepidation. It seems, Shiv Sena & Shri Ram Sene feel Valentines Day promotes Western views of love, dating & is generally against traditional Indian moral code. As the week progressed, their cries for banning of Valentines Day grew stronger & increasingly deranged.

What are Shiv Sena & Shri Ram Sene? As a rough generalization, both are far right political organizations - both now follow Hindutva doctrine - rejecting western culture in favor of Hindu ideals. For more information on Shiv Sena, check this, this or read this. Shri Ram Sene can be researched here.
The news of Valentines Day protesting came on the heels of last month's attack of women in a Mangalore pub by Shri Ram Sene. In both events, the relevant parties have issued statements about their desire to protect traditional Indian values - by rejecting the westernization of Indian youth. The irony of both claims is of course that the tactics used by protesters are anything but representative of good traditional values.

In the last week, Shiv Sena has announced they will shut down businesses (by force) participating in Valentines festivities, confront canoodling couples, and generally cause a scene across India. So, it was with great interest that I opened the paper this morning to see just what craziness would be documented in the news.

Generally speaking, it seems that Valentines day came and went with less disruption than years past. There were however a few incidents worth noting. In Agra, 6 protesters ran through a park & cut the hair of overtly romantic couples. In Madhya Pradesh a mob beat up a brother and sister they mistook for lovers.... (great move for your cause's PR there...) Elsewhere, one teen was married to a Donkey after protesters found him walking with a girl, and several couples had their faces blackened by protesters.

Now, yes - I do realize how ridiculous this sounds - especially to those of you reading from the States. But again, as is the case everywhere the actions of the few are not representative of all billion Indian citizens.

I was extremely pleased to find that those Indian's who are not exactly "down" with Shiv Sena had their own protests planned. Now of course they had planned your typical parties, pub nights, petitions & protests. However, none of these protests come anywhere near the impact of the Pink Chaddis (Pink Underwear) campaign.

In this campaign, scores of women from across India sent pink underwear, often with handwritten notes, to the desk of Shri Ram Sene's leader. Truly a case of guerilla protesting - and highly inventive. Mobilized on facebook, orkut, and blogspot - the campaign took off & received extensive press coverage. Below is the group's logo from their facebook page:

Not to be outdone, Shri Ram Sene has begun collecting pink Saree's to send back to those who sent in their knickers. Hey, I'll have to give them credit for creativity!

Ladies, If you would like to send a pair of your knickers, here is the information from the Pink Chaddi Campaign:

To: Pramod Muthalik,
Sri Rama Sene Office
No. 11, Behind New Bus Stand,
Gokhul road,
Lakshmi park,
PIN 580030

Sahelion ki Bari - Udaipur

DSC_0185, originally uploaded by shelmes.

Karim's Old Delhi

So, not to start a firestorm here, but I've eaten at Karim's several times lately (Tourist Season - so loads of visitors). For those of you uninitiated, Karim's is "The Place" to eat in Delhi. Co-workers, Neighbors, Strangers, Flight Attendants - they will all ask if you have dined there.

I haven't had a meal there I thought was bad, but I'm definitely starting to think it might be overrated.... Does this make me a bad person - Or, is this the secret truth every Dilli Wala knows - but won't admit?

What are your thoughts?

Local Celebrity

DSC_0077, originally uploaded by shelmes.

While in Udaipur, I came across this man. He was quietly sitting on a corner, and for some reason piqued my interest. I politely asked to take his photo and he obliged.

Afterwards, he invited me to sit down. He motioned that he had something to show me in his knapsack. Unsure what to expect, I reluctantly agreed and what he pulled out shocked me.

In his bag he kept hundreds of letters, postcards & photos from tourists all over the world. Each was addressed specifically to him and usually a letter accompanied the picture. This man had spent years as an Auto Rickshaw Driver, and had been collecting these items to document his journey.

Impressed, I wrote down his address & soon he will have this photo to add to his collection.

Cute Monkey?

Perhaps even more than the Taj Mahal, India's most popular tourist attractions are Monkeys. Americans, Brits, Japanese - they all have an obsession with the local monkeys. Outside Delhi, every tourist attraction has a resident monkey gang that is all to eager to pose for photographs with the visitors.

This weekend, we took a trip to Udaipur and visited the Monsoon Palace around sunset. As we arrived, I saw a crowd hovering near a tree & looked to find the Monkey I supose I already knew was there. After taking photos, and feeding the guy, the crowd dispersed and the little guy was left alone.

Soon, the Monkey started approaching a group enjoying a picnic on the lawn. He cleverly and quietly snuck up to the crowd before making a bold attempt to steal food from the crowd. Unable to resist, I steadied my camera and captured the ensuing madness.

In the end, the Monkey stole food from three seperate parties, including a bag of Lay's Potato chips. Soon, the crowd dispersed & as the next bus load of tourists arrived, the camera's returned & the monkey posed dutifuly for the camera once again.

Our Visit To Pardada Pardadi Educational Society

This past weekend, Sally and I paid a visit to Pardada-Pardadi Girls Vocational School in Anupshahr, Uttar Pradesh. Located near the Ganges River, the area is largely agricultural in nature.

The Pardada Pardadi Education Society (PPES) was established to provide education to girls who would not normally be afforded an opportunity to attend schools. Enrollment has exploded through a variety of novel programs including, guranteed job post graduation, 10 rupee placed in saving account for each day of school attended, and vocational training (in addition to academics).

Here are some shots of the school & Children.

To learn more about the school, visit

The River Ganga (Ganges)

DSC_0275, originally uploaded by shelmes.

Just returned from a weekend in a village on the banks of the Ganges River. We were touring a wonderful girls vocational school for children in the area. The foundation is Pardada-Pardadi & can be visited here:

It was a wonderful trip with much discussion about wealth creation amongst India's poorest rural citizens. I will try to post some thoughts on the experience soon - in the meantime, enjoy this shot from a boat on the Ganga - India's national river - significant for Hindu Religious purposes, and for creating the fertile agricultural plains.

Step Wells Near Ahmedabad

DSC_0040, originally uploaded by shelmes.

Kite Wala

Kite Wala, originally uploaded by shelmes.

This is the local kite seller near our friend Rohan's house. From what I gather, he has been selling kites for years from this corner. As you can see from this photo, the variety of kites available is pretty large. This is a small portion of his overall stock.

I realize this photo is a few weeks late (given my earlier post about kite flying), but it took Rohan some time to get me his photos as he recently got engaged. Congrats Rohan!