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Dal Paranthas & Dilli Haat - 12.31.07 - CG

Learning to make dal paranthas and visiting Dilli Haat

semi-overcast 18 °C
View India Dec. 07 - Jan. 08 on petalsong's travel map.

New Year's Eve 2007


The day started with an exciting event - learning to make Dal Paranthas, which is a whole wheat bread mixed with leftover Dal (pea soup or stew). In the morning, Bela (the mother) had everything ready to go for the lesson. The ingredients are:


1. whole wheat flour
2. leftover dal soup
3. ghee
4. salt

Potato Filling:

1. boiled potatos
2. ghee
3. mustard seeds
4. turmeric
5. salt
6. chili powder

For the dough, mix the flour and dal until a moist but solid consistency is acheived. Set aside for 1/2 hour. Tear of golf-ball sized pieces, roll into a ball, then roll out onto a board. There are 2 ways of "folding" the dough. In half then 1/4 pieces (triangles). Dip lightly into reserve flour and roll out again, then cook on a roti pan with ghee. The other is folding the dough in a fan shape, then twinting into a "turban" shape, pressing it down, rolling out and cooking on the roti pan.

For the potato mixture, saute all ingredients together and season to taste.

This is DELICIOUS! And it was a wonderful experience being taught "at home".


After savoring the meal together, Ron and I decided to go to the Dilli Haat, which is a crafts market. They had a festival going on with crafts people from all around India.

The handwork here is incredible. From colorful, almost whimsical drawings/paintings - to finely detailed Mughal style miniature paintings - gold-threaded sari's - yak wool hats - rajasthani puppets - black clay ganeshas...the list continues on and on. We bought tons of things, and tried to bargain hard. But I gave up after realizing how much time goes into making some of these precious things. The bargaining becomes more "symbolic".

For anyone coming to Delhi, Dilli Haat is a perfect place to find unique gifts for anyone - and yet help support the crafts people that make them. It's a good place to bargain, but please keep in mind that the items here are hand crafted.

It was nice wandering here because they are more used to foreigners. We weren't such an oddity. The crafts people really appreciated when we purchased something and then hung around to chat and learn about their art and process. In talking, I came to recognize how beautiful their eyes are. Full of expression, whether it is joy, mischief, anger or wonder. Indians all have tremendous soul that emanates through the eyes. And this is a trait that transcends the caste/financial boundaries.




When we returned home, we were greeted by a feast in our room. It was absolutely the most delicious Indian meal we ever had. Chicken curry, basmati rice, dal, rotis, pickles of various kinds, salad with lime juice, cauliflower masala...and ice cream! Ron and I sat in rapt silence through the meal, savoring all the layers of flavors. Indian home cooking seems to be healthier than the restaurants. Less oil and grease, more attention to the fine details of flavor.

Bela and Pami were very kind to invite us to join them for a New Year's party at a friend's house in Noida. It was a patio barbeque. Where Ron came to save the evening by knowing how to light the fire! One thing we learned - this group of people (of which I am speaking of the men), can drink any Westerner under the table! Needless to say, there was a lot of laughing involved while trying to cook and drinking glasses toppling withh whisky or rum! I am not a drinker, but I had a nice warm-up with some whery nice Indian Rum called "Old Monk".

We finally got to meet Mansi's younger sister, Sohani. Who is also a very beautiful and warm young lady. Ron and I are deeply impressed by the Mahajan family. As e ach day goes by, we get to all know each other better. And the warm feelings continue increasing. We are blessed to have found them.

At the end of the party, I was asked to sing. I sang the Ganapati Bandana (in Sanskrit) and the Romanian blessing song "Un Pom Ramurat". Ron tells me that people were very moved. I felt very moved to be singing an Indian prayer...in India.



Posted by petalsong 10:02 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Lotus Temple and Old Fort, Delhi - Ron



India is in the initial stages of an explosive transition from a third world country to a country that will in time be a leading player internationally. There is new construction everywhere and a rebuilding of its infrastructure, which it desparately needs. Everywhere you turn there are new buildings going up. The methods of construction are primitive by western standards, but having unlimited, cheap labor compensates for their lack of progressive materials and methods.


After the initial shock to the senses, there is a strange kind of order to the chaos that surrounds you everywhere. It does take some getting used to seeing a Mercedes driving down a boulevard next to a man riding his camel.The traffic is like nothing I have experienced. Every conceivable type of mortorized and pedal driven vehicle known to mankind on the road. Although the roads do have lane markings, one wonders why, when they are never used. Perhaps they are for decoration!!! I don't think I will ever use the horn on my car again after this trip. Every driver in every car constantly honking at each other to either let the other drivers know he is "coming through" or perhaps its some sort of national amusement?


I still havn't gotten over the stares of curiosity and wonderment on everyone when seeing us. I think that coming from New York, where we see so many diverse nationalities on a daily basis has somehow desensitized us. Their curiosity will dissipate over time as the western world and the internet invades their society, although it will take a very, very, long time before this happens.



Posted by petalsong 07:36 Comments (1)

Lotus Temple and Old Fort, Delhi - CG


-17 °C

Today we started out late. We did some exercise (running around the rooftop in circles!), Bela and the helpers (Pushpi, Ram & ?) made an incredible breakfast of whole wheat rotis, spicy scrambled eggs and a whole grain sauteed with green beans and spices. We watched the BBC for a little while, and headed out. We had a driver for the day, named Krishna. He was very quiet and didn't speak English, but Ron and I tried to communicate with him in sign language and some in English. He responded in very fast Hindi and didn't make as much effort in communicating!


Our first stop was the Lotus Temple. On our way, we were stopped at a light and a very old woman approached, begging and trying to sell two packs of incense. She stopped at the window on the driver's side while a small boy stopped at Ron's window. Ron and I looked at eachother and decided to give one of our nutri bars. While we were giving it to him, Krishna signaled that Bela (Mansi's mother) had put the bag of bisquits in the front seat (as discussed last night). As we started getting a pack, 3 more kids showed up. We gave each of them a pack of vitamin cookies and the grandmother as well. It was a long light, but in that time the group went from begging and displaying their suffering, to smiling and waving. The grandmother folder her hands in a sign of "Namaste" to me as the Taxi rolled away. Ron and I felt relieved that we were able to give something to them. This is the right approach from now on.


Then at another light I was able to photograph a family on packed on top of a motorbike. Hopefully I can figure out how to upload photos here. The Lotus Temple is beautiful. Glistening white marble petals, blossoming against a blue sky. The meditation/prayer hall was serene and simple.

People were staring at us everywhere. Today we got a little more used to it - the curiosity of people was incredible. Ron commented on that a lot through the day.


The next stop was supposed to be the Craft Museum, but Krishna got lost and we ended up at the Old Fort instead. I am actually not sure if it was Lal Quila instead! I will show Mansi the photos and ask her. But the architecture was amazing. The fine stone engraving. But the most memorable moment was a group of children ran up to us, excited yet very shy in saying hello. They were not street kids. The oldest, a girl of about 11/12 years (named Vishal?) of age was striking. Very strong and warm personality, expressive and direct eyes. When we responded warmly to them, they exploded with happiness and cheerfully demanded for us to take photos of them - which I was happy to have the opportunity of doing.



Upon leaving, they called out to us to introduce us to their smallest sister with a huge red bindi placed lopsided on her forehead - but even larger eyes. Kohl (black eyeliner) rimmed eyes, and about 2/3 years old. Her brother pinched her cheeks to pose her for the camera. She looked like a small, wise goddess.



Then we had dinner right outside India Gate, at an excellent place called Gulati's. Wow what deliciously spiced and grilled chicken.


We were supposed to stop at the Akshadan Temple on the way back, but I was exhausted from not sleeping enough last night. We cam right back and talked to the family about the after dinner digestive mixes that are popular in India (Supari?).

More tomorrow...



Posted by petalsong 06:17 Comments (0)

First Impressions

Settling In

overcast 15 °C
View India Dec. 07 - Jan. 08 on petalsong's travel map.

Where to begin with a description of this country of contrasts?

The scent...from the first moment we stepped off the plane, I noticed a scent of burning wood mixed wth sandalwood and spices. It is everywhere, always - either strong and full on, or a subtle scent that stays in the back of the throat. On the streets of Delhi, that scent is mixed with a powerful wave of urine, and incense. They actually don't mix - but come in waves one after the other.

Yesterday we settled into our "home" in Greater Noida, which is about 45 minutes from central Delhi. It is a new development area of many silent, half-built houses and shopping centres. The new face of middle and upper class urban India. We picked "House of Kapaali" for the modern amenities: wifi, 24 hour back up electricity, water filtration system, home cooking and in-house laundry. But above that is the personalised attention of a family B&B.

I developed a warm friendship with Mansi, a beautiful, intelligent young lady who runs the business of this B&B. We began writing emails before the trip. It turns out that her aunt is a famous sitar player, Anupam Mahajan who teaches at Delhi University. I will hopefully meet with her next week, and have a chance to share my Indian Classical singing with someone who specializes in the music here in India.

From the relationship developed with Mansi prior to visiting, I knew we would be taken care of and somewhat protected as we explored. The house is a very nice, clean, nicely decorated place. Our room is quite large, with a very comfortable firm bed and a brand new bathroom. Beautiful fabrics as bed coverings and cushions. Ron was a little frustrated with the distance we have to travel to get to Delhi. But I think that after meeting the family and having such a wonderful evening sharing stories, laughing and last night, he is now happy to be here. We spent over 2 hours talking.

Mansi's parents are very intelligent, sweet, and open people. After a chaotic, intense day - it was a great comfort to return, drink tea and talk with the family. They also have live-in helpers who are also very nice, full of smiles and very ready to help us. Hopefully by the end of today, we will have memorized everyone's name here.

Now, for our observations of the day:

Assault of the senses. Visiting Connaught place was supposed to be a good place to transition into India. It is the most Western, commercial area of this sprawling city. But we soon found out that there was no "easy" transition. The poverty that lives in front of you on every street. The desperate and angry eyes of those that are suffering. The afflicted bodies with lost limbs and eyes - it shuts you down while piercing the heart. One beggar was curled on a staircase landing, writhing in pain. His right leg was a small stump of a skinny upper thigh, pulsing and throbbing. Some bystanders watched, some reached out.

Street children, all very dark skinned, wild eyed, with manes of tangled hair and bloated malnourished bellies. Their mothers tired, dusty and angry. But the most difficult moment yesterday was when an old man, over 80, bone thin and dressed in torn white clothes, hobbled with a cane through the halted traffic at a stoplight. Begging at each car and shaking violently. He stopped at our taxi and started tapping at the window. His fingers were too feeble to move, it was the shaking of his body and cane against the window that made the tapping. His eyes were glazed over in pain. Ron sat next to me, whispering "Oh my God" in his sadness and shock. I was too stunned to do anything. As the taxi pulled away, I was very upset at myself. Why didn't I open the window and give him something?

Ron and I decided to carry food with us wherever go at this point forward. That is what Mansi's mother does as well.

On the streets we get constantly approached - by shop owners, hustlers as well as those who are simply curious. They want to know where we are from, where we are going and what we are doing in India. We are not sure who to trust enough to respond to while walking. At one point we decided to get a drink and rest a bit. THere is a new espresso bar "Barista" which is a hang out for foreigners as well as young local IT professionals. We did a little shopping and bought a lot of handmade paper - beautiful colors and textures rolled up an lying across our table. A well-dressed man in his late 30's stops to look at the paper and strikes up a conversation. We were not sure how to respond, but he had an air of comfortable confidence and we soon started chatting. He apparently works at the coffee house and is one of the "managers". He sits down and we are soon swapping stories. He is from Nepal, his mother Nepalese, and his father Italian (?!). Raj has a slight hustler air about him, but I think that he enjoyed talking to us so much that he forgot his original intention. He treated us to an extra cup of tea, and told Ron that he had very warm and kind eyes. He turned to me and said that I found a great man - I reponded that I knew that very well.

He gave us tons of advice on where to shop, how to avoid hustlers and where to eat good, safe food. He gave us his cell # in case we "needed anything", and recommended a restaurant next door: Ambar restaurant, which was EXCELLENT! Then he took off, without waiting to see if we would give him money. I really appreciated that. When people are open here, they are so open, curious and warm that it touches the heart (once the skepticism dissolves). But we are constantly wary of being scammed.

Funny/interesting observations:

-The trucks have signs painted on the back that say "HONK PLEASE!". Everyone honks as a way of saying"Hey, I'm here and I coming through!" It's a form of communication and chatter - almost friendly!

-We saw a camel and rider plodding thrught the traffic at Connaught Place. Even Mansi and the family were surprised when we told them. It's a rarity in the city.

-Families on motorbikes. The father drives, the child clings on to him desperately, the mother sits gracefully and side saddle on the back. Amazing. In the middle of the most chaotic, loud and crazy traffic anyone could imagine.

There are contrasts everywhere. And this was only our first day...

Posted by petalsong 17:52 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)


It is Christmas. Ron and I are taking off for India the day after tomorrow. We are both pretty much packed. In the last minute, I have decided not to take the standard malarial pills (Malarone). Instead, I am taking an herbal tincture by Quantum "Worm and Parasite Formula". It has Black Walnut Hulls and Wormwood, which are both well known in prevention and treatment of malaria. If it were peak malaria season, and we were in the prime geographical area, I would take the regular pills. But I heard of some very uncomfortable (and common) side effects and do not want to be knocked out from the pills.

Ron started his malarone treatment today. 34 pills to go!

Posted by petalsong 20:05 Comments (0)

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