Pani Puri Party

Last night the Diwali festivities continued with more parties late into the night. We started the evening at Vir and Malika’s apartment (Vir is the COO of Babajob). The place was decorated with flowers, candles, and multi-colored chalk at the entryway. We arrived early enough to help set the table. As we were arranging the food, Malika offered us some pani puri. While pani puri is one of the most popular street snacks in North India, it is also the most dangerous to foreigners’ bellies, so this was our first taste of them in India. I used a spoon to punch a hole in the top of the puri, spooned in some potato/onion mixture and chutneys, poured in a little flavored water and popped the puri into my mouth. Delicious! Then Malika taught us a new variation on pani puri – using vodka instead of flavored water. They go down all too easy and are a great way to start your Diwali party.

After many hours of celebration, good food, beer (and pani puri vodka shots), we left for our second party, at a farm house outside the main city, after midnight. Sean once again instigated the fireworks display and we had an entire rooftop to use as a launch pad for pyrotechnics. I think we finally got home around 6AM, marking the second time this week that we’ve glimpsed the sunrise. No more party plans for tonight, though the locals will likely be setting off firecrackers all through the night!

Diwali food Diwali decorations
Diwali food and decorations

Downing a pani puri vodka shot
Enjoying my first (but not last) pani puri vodka shot of the evening

Vir and Lauren in Diwali clothes
Vir and Lauren in their Diwali finest

Babajob

For most of our time in India, Kenny and I will be in Bangalore helping out at Babajob, a startup founded by a very good friend of ours from Seattle. Sean left Microsoft about 2 1/2 years ago to focus on Babajob full-time. Babajob’s mission is to help service industry workers rise up out of poverty by connecting them with better job opportunities. It’s basically monster.com for poor people who don’t necessarily have computers but rely heavily on their mobile phones and especially SMS.

Sean has a whole array of possible projects for us to choose from while we’re here; I think we’ll end up creating a mixture (a masala, if you will) of new feature work, some site redesign, some dev hiring, and some IT support while we’re here. One thing I’m excited about is the opportunity to learn a bit about how business gets done in India. And of course we’re both excited to work with Sean.

Peanut Butter Chappaties

As many people know, Kenny and I eat a lot of peanut butter – it may be our main source of protein. A few friends at work teased me about this, implying that I wouldn’t be able to survive without it in Asia. Well, it turns out I don’t need to! We found a locally-produced peanut butter (without sugar – a very important qualification) at our local FoodWorld in Bangalore last night. There are even some great local recipes on the jar:

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We had some on toast for breakfast this morning, but will need to pick up some chappaties next time we’re at the store.

In Bangalore!

Yesterday we flew from Kathmandu to Bangalore via Delhi. It was much more of an adventure then we expected. To kick things off, even though we had booked the entire route through Jet Airways, they weren’t able to check us all the way through to Bangalore. Which meant that when we arrived in Delhi, went through customs, and caught the shuttle to the domestic terminal (a process of about 1.25 hours) we still didn’t have our boarding passes for the Delhi->Bangalore flight.

When we arrived at the domestic terminal, the guard wouldn’t let us into the terminal without a printout of our confirmation page. Which meant we had to go to the ticketing building next door and have them print out our confirmation page so that we could get into the main building. Of course, the ticketing people can’t actually check you in for the flight. Time check – 18:25 (flight was scheduled to depart at 18:45).

At this point we assume we’ve missed our flight, but this being India we rush to the checkin desk with our bags and find out we’re ok, they haven’t started boarding yet. They mark our bags with “Late Arrival” tags and away we go through security.  Delhi’s domestic terminal is basically one big room (the advantage of shuttles taking you from the gate to your plane), and you don’t go down to the gates until boarding starts. Around 19:05 (20 min after our scheduled departure), we start boarding. Then boarding stops after 15 people. Then we are dismissed back to the waiting area since there’s a problem with the plane. Finally our flight is rescheduled to 22:30 since they need a new plane.

The new time works, however we now land at 1:15 instead of 21:30. Originally Sean was going to meet us at the airport, but with the new late arrival time we decided to take a cab to his place instead. Turns out our adventure wasn’t quite over yet.

Cab drops us off at the address we gave him, but the description wasn’t quite how Sean described it. If we had been more alert we would have used the cabbie’s cell phone to call Sean, but instead we got out and started looking for Sean’s apt. No dice, but there were some people awake upstairs from where we were dropped off and we went to see if they could confirm we were at least in the right general neighborhood. Turns out they are good friends of Sean, invited us in for a drink, called Sean over, and we wound up all hanging out until 4:30AM. Ah, India!

Khan Chacha

Rating:

For dinner on our first night in Delhi, Meera recommended that we try out Khan Chacha, a hole in the wall that serves grilled meats either straight up or as roomali rolls. A roomali roll is meat with onions and yogurt sauce wrapped in a large roomali roti.

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There are basically three choices at Khan Chacha – Seekh Kebab (ground mutton), Chicken Tikka, or Paneer Tikka. Normally 1-2 rolls make a meal. Given that this was my last meal before Yom Kippur (and I didn’t really have a proper lunch), I ordered one of each roomali roll. Lauren had the chicken and paneer tikka rolls.

They were absolutely delicious! The Seekh Kebab was the spiciest and got me sweating a bit. The chicken was charred, very flavorful, and medium spiciness. The paneer offered a softer texture variation along with very mild spices.

So far this is my favorite “fast food” in the region, and we’ll be sure to come back on our return trip through Delhi!

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The Salim brothers at work making kebabs

 

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Happiness is double fisting Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka rolls

Khan Chacha
New Delhi, India

Dussehra in New Delhi

Tonight, after our Yom Kippur break-fast, Meera took us to the neighborhood celebration of Dussehra, where the locals celebrate the victory of good over evil on the final day of Navaratri.

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We settled into a nice vantage point behind the large crowds, where we could observe the festivities and still make a quick escape at the end.  Over the next hour, a parade of characters arrived to act out the story of Rama destroying Ravana and saving his bride.

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The whole evening is a build up to the burning of effigies of Ravana and his two brothers.

Rama symbolically shoots an arrow into the effigies to light them on fire. First the brothers go down.

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Then the evening culminates with Ravana going down in flames.

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Gamar Hatimah Tovah

We are in Delhi for Yom Kippur. After a delicious (though non-traditional) pre-fast meal of kebab roomali rolls, we headed to Delhi’s sole synagogue: Judah Hyam (note the probably unintentional but brilliant double-entendre of their URL).

The Jewish community in Delhi is a small mix of locals and ex-pats. The service was intimate, and everyone was very friendly. There were a few differences from your typical American services though:

  1. There was no English during services. Not that there was Hindi either. The entire service was conducted in Hebrew, and there were no sermons to be had.
  2. The prayer book used was Sephardic. I’d never been to a Sephardic service, but the arrangement and choices of psalms was noticeably different.
  3. The tunes being chanted (outside of Adon Olam and Oseh Shalom) were completely different then any service I had partaken of. It was similar to my Mom’s descriptions of the Catskills (lots of very fast, guttural Hebrew).
  4. The torah scrolls were held inside of upright cylindrical boxes. To read the torah, the box was placed vertical on the bimah, the clamshell opened up, and the scroll is read while still vertical.

Hope that everyone had an easy fast and a happy new year!