Monthly Archives: September 2012

Gauri Puja and Ganesh Visarjan

More pictures of Ganesha festivities and Mahalaxmi or Gauri puja from my parents house. You have to be here to see the elaborate decorations made for the occasion, to listen to the sonorous chants of ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’, the fragrance of jasmine and roses mixed with incense and taste the puran polis and dal vada prasad for Laxmi puja.

The rituals are age-old and followed to the T under my mom’s watch. We reached a bit late and missed the actual puja but were right on time for lunch and to meet all visiting relatives.

In the evening, we had neighbors and family friends come over for darshan. Memories of childhood came flooding when I used to visit neighbors with mom and come back with plateful of sweets and snacks and skip dinner!

After spending a short day with my parents, we went to Lonavla to meet Vipuls parents. That being visrajan day for Gauri and Ganpati, we got to see elaborate processions to send off Lord Ganesha  in style. Varun was excited to see groups after groups walk down to the river for the send off.

This was the first time I saw Gauri visarjan with ladies decked in their fineries carrying Gauri on their heads in woven baskets – reminding me of our recent Bali trip where we saw Balinese women carrying offerings in similar baskets balanced on their heads.

Puja, family, plateful of prasad, cool monsoon climes of Lonavla it was the a refreshing weekend trip from Hyderabad. Even Mumbai seemed cooler and cleaner this time. Varun couldn’t get enough of his cousin sister and grand mom’s. The only hard part – coming back to Hyderabad and trying to get back to routine!

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Ganpati Bappa Morya!

R2I – What NOT/TO Get

Quite a few folks asked me to send them a list of things to get from US while returning back to India.

The below is the list I had emailed a friend who moved back a couple of weeks ago to Hyderabad. You may need to tweak it a bit if you are moving back to Mumbai , Delhi or Banglore where generally  more things and variety of NRI friendly things are available. You may leave out a few things if you are returning back to your hometown (as Facebook calls it ), as you would be familiar with shops/quality/services available. Lastly, I knew that the apartments/condos in Hyderabad are typically bigger than in Mumbai, especially the kitchens. So I didn’t worry too much of getting things back and being worried about lack of space. Even then,we knew we would be moving into an apartment here and downsizing from a single family home to an apartment is not easy – you don’t have that giant black hole called a ‘garage’!

So we sold all our outdoor furniture ( patio furniture, sun umbrella and grill), sports gear ( cycles, ski’s) and whole bunch of stuff that was generally in the garage.

Also, we were not able to get any liquids ( oils, paints, thinners etc), batteries (even rechargeable ones), alcohol ( no vino or beer either) as part of the shipment. So we had to give those away.

WHAT TO GET:

Furniture: Bedroom and Living room furniture ( especially if it is contemporary and sturdy stuff that will not accumulate dust in its nooks and crannies).

TV’s:If getting them , check to see if it supports PAL signalling. Else geta TV signalling converter as well. The ones available in US is of better quality/reliable.

Other electronics: Printer, Professional grade stand mixer, Home theater system, Phone

Small electronics:  Iron, alarm clock, kitchen electronics such as toaster/blender , slow cooker, crock-pot, immersion blender etc. If you are willing to use a converter, bring it along. Else best to donate it.

Latest  gadgets – Cell phone, tablets, DSLR (with its lens, filters, diffuser, cleaning kit etc)

Baby Diapers:  Especially if you use ‘Sensitive’ or any ecofriendly ones due to irritants issue. You do get Pampers and Huggies in India but you will not get larger package sizes and so will need to stock often.

Baby Needs: Diaper cream, infant/toddler safe sunscreen, baby toothbrush and training toothpaste, mosquito or bug spray like OFF

Baby Clothes , Shoes and Toys: Daily wash and wear clothes that are 100% cotton, age appropriate toys, Books, starter puzzles. Generally you will get more age appropriate, kid safe and non toxic versions of toys in US for cheap. If shipping is not an issue, stock up on these for 6 months.

Baby Feeding needs:  Kid safe forks/ spoons, sippy cups/bottles etc. Avent brand is available everywhere but I haven’t seen Dr. Brown’s. So if you do use that then best to stock a few extra. Non perishable snacks like Cheerios, teething biscuits etc

Baby swimming gear: Do get SPF swim clothes, pool toys, sand toys, inflatable arm safety bands, inflatable pool ring etc. We didn’t have this in our list and to get a size 0 swim ring was such a pain in Hyderabad. Oh, and don’t forget swim diapers if your kid is not potty trained.

Other baby gear: Small foldable stroller, a good diaper bag, potty and car seat.

Food: Any artisanal food item that you love ( cheese, chocolate, hot sauces, mustard, dressings, balsamic vinegar) or specific brand you or your kids like (especially for chocolate and cheese, pancake, waffle, cake mix that you swear by) or even specific version of standard product ( aluminium free baking powder, sodium free soy sauce, low sodium spice mixes etc). If you love cooking, trust me, you will miss US.

Kitchen ware: Non stick cookware, baking pans and molds, cupcake liners, measuring cups, knife set, non-Indian spice mix etc. They make great gifts as well.

Party supplies: Michael’s and Party City–  I miss you. Also get paper plates, disposable spoons and forks – the quality in India is pathetic ans they droop in hot food. when the maid doesn’t show up second day in a row, you will thank your stars for having good quality disposable stuff.

DIY supplies – My pinterest board is full of  arts and craft activities that I can do by myself or with Varun if only I had small canvas-es, glitter, non toxic glue, non toxic paint etc. You can get them here, just not in one store.

Perfumes and Makeup – Again, based on our brand of choice you may find that with a 15% luxury tax here.

Other stuff – Curtains, fitted sheets, contemporary frames etc. We got what we had and didn’t buy anything new. But I know folks who stock up on fitted sheets, quilts, frames etc before moving back. They make great gifts as well.

WHAT NOT TO GET

Electronics – Fridge, Washer, Dryer , microwave, Cooking range – Some folks who did bring them back experienced issued within months of bring them here. Best to sell them. Fairly decent variety available here for almost the same price.

Other electronics – Fans, Lamps, vacuum cleaner

Woolen Rugs – Unless they are expensive which you want to save for future use. Most likely you will end up storing them to protect them from dust.

Baby food – Gerber bottles are yuck. Having a cook to make fresh baby food everyday is so much easier.( Other than sweet potato and berries which you don’t get in India, but can’t really bring back either ). Also string cheese, yogurt puffs melt in the heat here.

Diaper pail and liner – Everyday garbage collection makes it easier to dispose diapers.

Formula – I have seen Similac at most medical stores.

Baby Wipes – After much trial and error, we have settled on Johnson and Johnson ones. Single packs, no economy or costco sized versions here. But pretty similar to Kirkland baby wipes in texture and ahem…wetness.

A lot of this may vary by your hobbies, family needs, kids age ,willingness to adapt to Indian versions and by the city where you live. For now, we still miss US and have got a few parcels thanks to generous friends. Over the months we hope to adapt better. Else, we know who to ping 😉

Tranquility in the City – Anand Buddha Vihara

Reality Bytes: Six months later

It’s hard to believe that we left US 6 months ago. We left before spring and now it’s almost time for Fall.

I miss Seattle all the time, the friendly faces, familiar neighborhoods, stores, organic produce and most importantly all our friends. I miss our home – I wonder if the lilies bloomed, and the blueberries ripened on the bushes, I wonder if the new owners sit down on the deck with a cup of tea after work soaking in every bit of August summer, if horses still trot down the trail behind our home…and then Vipul gently reminds me that it’s no longer ‘our home’. Someone else lives there and are making it their own.

As far as our Hyderabad home goes – it’s actually good, once you get used to the life in India.

Traffic

Traffic is gnarly. Vehicles of every size possible (trucks;  mid-sized,  mini and nano sized cars; cycles, auto rickshaws and bikes/mopeds) form 5-6 lanes (where there are 3) and weave in and out of each others’ path just in the nick of time. People jay walking and sometimes even buffaloes join the fun. Driving is stressful as you have to be alert all the time.

To add to this chaos, the local municipal corporation, decides that monsoon is best time to dig up roads for utilities work. There are no advance warnings, re-route information or anything. You see these massive dig outs along the road side. Traffic jams around these work areas are the norm and what should take 10- 15 min ends up taking at least 30-40 mins.

We use this time to point out tiny shops, vehicles and even butterflies to Varun in an effort to ‘edutertain’ him!

Restaurants, Groceries and Lifestyle

Hyderabad has many good Indian restaurants but for anything beyond that the choice is limited. I long for a good salad bar, dumplings at Din Tai Fung, French food at Rovers, brunch at Cafe Flora, thin crust gourmet pizza from Serious Pie, good cheesecake, Can-am pizza  and assorted wines from all over the world. Oh, and all the home cooked /baked goodness by my best friends! I think you make tastier fare than most restaurants in India – I kid you not.

I sorely miss  Trade Joes, Fred Meyer and Costco. You get decent variety of ‘international foods’ at QMart for a premium (Rs 600 or ~ 11 USD for a box of Cheerios? No, Thank you.) but if you need anything beyond standard stuff ( good quality baking chocolate, aluminium free baking powder, non stale tasting frozen berries…)- tough luck. I have heard Bangalore is better than Hyderabad in this respect but till then I have to beg friends to get me things from US  when they come visit.

India is expensive for folks like me who have champagne tastes but don’t have quite the budget (or should I say paycheck) to match. Before we moved, we had an excel spreadsheet that listed typical expenses and ball park range of what we thought we will pay and it seemed that we will be able to live happily and have some money to travel. Now , it is possible to live within that budget – just not in the same lifestyle that you are used to in US.

In US, food, beverage, and most necessities in life (clothes, medicines, shoes, even entertainment) are discounted. Most folks never pay full Retail price for anything – there is always a coupon or a discount code available – yes, even for designer clothing, perfume, accessories and more. I haven’t found any such things here (other than air line travel and credit card rewards) so yes, paying full price is painful. It would not be as painful if I get the same quality as in US, but for most stuff that I have shopped for ( Varun’s clothes, toys), the quality is a hit or a miss.

Working at IDC

Working at IDC is almost the same as in Redmond. In IDC, we have more exposure and access to senior leadership team – be it working with SLT on campus recruitment, or GM reviews, demos and compete study’s.

Work life balance is still a bit off. Mainly because Vipul’s team is in release mode and he spends most nights on call followed by emails etc. And then he travels at least once a month on recruitment trip. Add to that Varun’s activities that seem to go in a high drive in the evening, we almost get no evening to sit down and have a glass of wine 😦 At least in Redmond, Vipul never had evening/night calls so he could share in ‘Varun caring’ activities – nowadays most evenings I chase him around and have no energy left.

The other challenge I see at work is that as folks want to be polite to each other, they don’t say ‘no’ enough. So either they burn midnight oil to deliver, and this happens over and over again or when shit hits the fan complain about impossibility of the task.

Chores and Help

Oh, and you will do a lot more chores in India than you ever did in US – inspite of having to do your cooking, laundry, ironing ,dishes and much more yourself. You see, you will have to manage the maids that come to do all these chores for you. One day, they will call in sick, next, they may not show up at all. You can get the clothes washed and ironed, but you have to be careful not to give your favorite shirts lest there is an iron mark or worse a tear due to high heat.

You will have to track and pay various bills – by check as online bill payment is still in its infancy and may not be accepted by the provider ( rent, daycare, electricity, maintenance, water is all paid by check on various days of the month).

Also, you will act as marriage counsellor, financial advisor, teacher , doctor and a shrink to your maids. They will tell you about their families, kids, in-laws, extended family etc. While its fun to share and listen to every day stories, it’s very hard to react when one of them comes with a swollen cheek as her husband got drunk and beat her for money. As an outsider, I don’t know whether to help her cope through this or help her out of the misery.

But all these issues are overshadowed by getting to meet family often and spending festivals and birthdays with them. Having them around is a blessing as then I get to catch my breath and do something fun and creative (like the photography class we took!). Varun hates when grandparents leave and this time around he is missing them more than ever.  every evening when we come home he runs into grandparents room to see if they have ‘returned’. Can’t wait for mom and dad to visit in October!

Someone had told us that have a clear reason in your mind as to why you are returning to India. You will question yourself over and over again, at every turn, as to why you uprooted a perfectly happy life and moved to India. For many its  taking care of aging parents, following a particular religious sect, or even a better career opportunity. For us it was to experience work life in India, being closer to family and travelling in and around India.

When I watch Varun play with his grandparents while I sit back and enjoy a hot cuppa of tea made fresh when I arrive, I think  our reasons for moving back are playing out perfectly as imagined! Now, on to the next trip planning 🙂

Mavshi’s Mouthwatering Malpuas

For years, I have been wanting to eat Malpuas – fried dough pancakes.

Every Janmasthami, newspapers and magazines will have pictures of malpuas frying in generous amounts of ghee – Mom is not a big fan of frying and we never had Malpuas. Vipul is not fond of fried sweets – so Malpuas have largely been out of my life.

Then we went to Bikanerwala. It’s THE place in Hyderabad to go for Rajasthani style food and for North Indian chaat in a clean hygenic setting. Of course they had Malpuas on the menu and I got to savor perfectly done, syrup soaked malpuas. Firm, not too sweet, chewy in center but not squishy and with crispy edges.

Vipul’s mavshi (aka aunt) , who was with us, mentioned she knows the recipes of low -sugar, non syrupy kind of malpua  and we decided to make some on my birthday.

And they were a hit…I finished half of them as she was frying them.There are as many variation of these as a curry recipe  (with and without cream, milk, khoya, condensensed milk, dry fruits, coconut, mango or even pineapple) and I am sure each family swears by their favorite ones based on where they are from (Bihar, Rajasthan or even Gujarat)Following is the  no fuss recipe we tried.Try them, they are simple to make and easy to eat.

Recipe

  • 3/4 cup jaggery – grated
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup – whole wheat flour
  • Ghee or Canola oil (for frying)
  • Poppy seeds (for garnish)

Heat the water, dissolve jaggery in water.Mix with whole wheat flour. Set aside for 2 hours. Heat oil till hot in anon stick pan, reduce flame till it is medium hot. Ladel the malpua batter with a small bowl for even edges. (Or use a spoon if you don’t care about smooth edges).The dough will bubble. Fry till golden brown on each side.

Savor! I promise, they wont last long.

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