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Welcome back to Delhi!

Again, its been quiet for a while. Mister and I hopped a flight to New York for some wedding planning business. While we were in the West enjoying snow storms, spring came and went in Delhi. Blooming trees are already hemorrhaging flowers, dogs are taking refuge in cool stairwells, and our cat has shifted from the sofa to the marble floor.

photo (16)But all I want to share with you today is this. The glorious welcome we all receive when arriving at Indira Gandhi International Airport. Much has been said and written about the carpets at this airport, and rightfully so. You can’t wheel suitcases on them, which is slightly annoying when you’re at an airport. And its a CARPET. In Delhi. A dusty, dirty, did I say dusty place. It takes a special kind of genius to come up with these ideas. And did I mention that it is a particularly ugly carpet?

I can’t wait to walk on it again tonight as I board my flight to China. 


Winter’s waning (or, Winter: A re-cap)

photo (13)I may have mentioned in an earlier post that I was suffering through Delhi winters. But it doesn’t really get that cold. It’s just that it’s as cold inside as out. Which has been a little bit difficult to accept for a Nordic person (despite spending 4 winters in Rome, with equally poor ‘insulation’).



photo (11)Being a new kitten in Delhi winters is tough, which is why we built Billy a house and fed him high-fat milk, and eventually just took him in and adopted him. For dogs, it seems to be a whole different story. Street dogs in Delhi are the most spoilt of any street dogs I’ve seen. I provide you evidence: street dogs in jackets. 

photo (15)Delhi winters can also be pretty great for us humans. It means you can actually sit in the sun and enjoy, rather than avoid it like the plague like you do another 9 months of the year. That means picnics! Chai in the park! Lingering at the market! And going down south to get some sun on wintery white bodies!

photo (14)Now, winter seems to be drawing to a close – jackets are off during the day. Personally I am very much looking forward to walking barefoot on marble floors again. But I have a feeling I’ll regret wishing for warmth soon enough .. 




Smells of India

The second thing people think about when they hear India, after sights, is smells. Its one of the many things abundant in India. Good smells, bad smells, and the really, really bad smells. There are certain junctions where I’ve learned to hold my breath, and a couple of roads I’ll make a detour around if I can.

Most developing countries smell the same to me. When I go on mission and get out of the plane, it always smells like third world (usually a good thing, if you ask me). It smells of sand, heat, tropical greenery, old buildings and new spices . At least that’s what I like to imagine that it is. Delhi, then, smells like developing country +. And today it was marvelous.

Despite the smog that’s had me coughing for a few weeks, everything smelled just right. My four autorickshaw rides were all olfactory delights. It was just that perfect temperature outside, where the heat brings out the smell of the plants and the dirt, but its still cold enough that you get a lingering smell of last night’s roadside fires. Every dhaba was cooking up a feast. Hints of the sweetest incense flowed from every corner. No animals seemed to have defecated anywhere. And my kitty learned to use the litter box, so there wasn’t even a hint of cat urine when I got home. How about that?

All in all, today was a good day to be on the road. I will enjoy it to the fullest before the heat sets in and the rot inevitably takes over.

Summer of ’99?

bryancelineWhen I first came to India in 2006, one of the first things I noticed was the music.  Not the old movie soundtracks that the rickshaw wallahs play (which I absolutely love, by the way). No, I’m talking about the pop music. Of the 1990s. Still being played in every single coffee shop. Every day. In 2006, Bryan Adams was the hottest act on the music scene. For your ringtone, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On was the number one choice – 9 years after Titanic was released.

Celine Dion’s popularity may have faded somewhat (I’ve only heard that ringtone once or twice this time around), but Bryan Adams’ star never fades. I’m pretty sure playing Summer of ’69 on an hourly basis is required to obtain a liquor license in Delhi.

There’s a restaurant bar that serves decent western fare just a short walk from our house. Unfortunately we cannot dine there. The 10 songs on loop, which include Summer of ’69 of course, also includes hits by the Village People and Baha Men (I dare you to guess which ones). Their cheesecake is served with a side of boybands,

You see, the Backstreet Boys and Boyzone never grew old in India, but followed their fans (all 1 billion of them) as they grew up to become adults – who should know better! I can’t tell you what the top pop songs of 2012 were, but I can sing you ‘As long as you love me’, word by word. Thank you, Cafe Coffee Day.

This is the essence of India, I tell you. India is the country where grown men in suits and ties keep Boyzone albums in their car, and pump up the volume for ‘Words’.

India’s power cuts explained

Although not as frequently as before, you can still rely on the occasional power cut in Delhi. They’ll usually happen just as you hit ‘send’, or in the last 5 minutes of the match.

Our resident pigeons use our electricity line for their loo

The conventional explanation is that there just isn’t enough power to go around – and the grid is outdated and cannot handle the demand from millions of AC-hungry people. I believe a lot of it can actually be explained by pigeons, oversized trees and a lack of ladders.

Delhi has no shortage of tall trees, and with so many trees around, putting up telephone poles seems like a bit of a waste, doesn’t it. This tree used to be a telephone pole. Now this car is a telephone pole. 




Someone’s getting a power line – maybe

Our corner does have poles – and cables – and cables on top of cables. The cable knots are a familiar sight for anyone who has been to India. How do they come into existence? Like this. When you dont have a ladder, just lasso your cable around some existing ones and it gets the job done. Until it doesn’t. Which is right now. And I’m sweating.



How to drink beer in India

Anyone who has been to India, or any developing country for that matter, can attest to the difficulties and pleasures of having a nice cold beer. Drinking in India is more complicated than it is in the North America or Europe. Although it’s certainly possible to have a good beer here, one is much more likely to get a bad brew.

The single most important factor when purchasing beer in India is deciding between bottles and cans. In the US, bottled beer is typically more expensive than canned beer – it is also supposedly tastier and of better quality. The reason for this is that the aluminum used for making most cans oxidizes and slowly contaminates the beer with which it is in contact (sidenote: stainless steel cans and beers using nitrogen gas instead of CO2 (think Guinness) avoid this problem, but are much more expensive). Usually this is not a big deal, because in order to taste the difference, a can would have to be sitting on a shelf for a very long time. But still, American consumers are willing to pay a premium for knowing that the glass bottles have not adulterated their beer at all, even if they can’t taste the difference.

In India, however, the situation is the complete reverse. And it has to do with transportation and storage. Ideally, a beer should be brought to consumers through an effective cold chain (a temperature controlled supply system) – when unbroken, it is good, when interrupted, it is bad. Although beer does not require a true refrigerated cold chain (the way milk does), it must be insulated from heat and light to preserve quality.

In countries like the US that have good transportation and storage infrastructure, one can be confident that the beer sitting on the store shelf has not gone through repeated temperature changes. India, by comparison, has a poor supply chain. Although it’s easy to know when a beer was manufactured (all Indian beers have the date on the bottle or can), it is difficult to know how it was handled along the way. It is much more likely that an Indian beer experiences irregular temperature and exposure to light.

But what does light have to do with this? Ever wonder why most beer bottles are dark? This is to limit the amount of light entering the bottle, which would increase the temperature. Think of it like a mini greenhouse – light goes in and traps heat inside. The fact that Corona bottles are clear is a testament to the company’s confidence that their beer will always be fresh. Either that or those Mexicans just don’t care what you think. A can, on the other hand, would not let in any light, thereby maintaining a more consistent environment for the beer.

Cans good, bottles bad (in India)

In conclusion, if you are living in a part of the world with a reliable and effective beer supply chain, it really doesn’t matter whether you get cans or bottles. For most casual drinkers, the decision is more social and psychological than anything related to taste. If you’re living in a part of the world with a less than superb beer supply chain, opt for the cans – they are more likely to have treated the beer well on its journey to your mouth. If you’re not sure what type of country you are living in, drink whiskey instead.


Its Sunday and we’re still apartmentless. A potential candidate popped up on Friday, which we’re considering. An unsuccessful trip to a few new neighborhoods was made on Saturday, but nothing was to our liking. We’re making another trip tomorrow with … Continue reading