Several people in India asked if my blonde hair is natural, or if I use a dye. (It's
Lots of people were fasting for religion! Some people eat only one meal per day for several
weeks or months before a big puja (prayer). More extreme was Kaushal's
friend Kappil who was not eating any food for seven days. He was only drinking
water for seven days. AMAZING.
Most Indian diets are insanely carb-heavy. Rice and chappatis (tortillas) make up 50% of the calories in most traditional Indian meals. Even the meat dishes had very little meat (with the exception of
I remember the billboards in Mumbai; I miss them now. I think 65% of the
billboards were purchased by the newspaper and cell phone companies. Lots of
the same ads, which didn't help when I tried to use the signs as directional
aides around town.
Speaking of driving... It is nice to be able to sit up straight again. I
always found myself a little hunched over in a rickshaw, and especially
hunched over in a taxi in Bombay.
Back in the USA, spending big dollars! I probably racked up $80 in little
expenses yesterday; things like gasoline, tuna fish, milk, and sandwiches.
The Georgia World Congress Center is really a nicely designed
architectural space. Convention centers are huge and they always tend to inspire me.
Monsterous ceilings tower above you in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Atlanta. My two favorites convention centers are Atlanta, Georgia
and Palm Springs, California.
Going to meet my aunt and uncle in Smyrna now, then (if I am lucky) downtown for some dancing tonight.
From September 24th to 28th, I will be staying in a condo in downtown Atlanta. Our company is exhibiting again at the NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention. The NBAA Convention is a trade show for business aircraft, like private jets and corporate shuttles. This will be my fourth year in a row attending the NBAA convention.
Apologies in advance to those of you looking for an India trip post-mortem. There is a lot that I want to say, but I have been so busy with work that it will be another week before I put my thoughts down. Thanks for reading.
Here is a video that I shot one week ago on my last full day in Mumbai. This
was the first night of the Ganesh Chaturthi festival. It totally lived up
to my expectations! The streets were filled with drummers, dancers, and huge
Plaster of Paris elephant-god statues.
The closest American comparison to Ganesh Chaturthi is perhaps Christmas.
Just like most families purchase a Christmas tree and decorate it in a
prominent location of their house, many citizens of Mumbai purchase an elephant-god
idol and decorate it in a prominent location of their house.
Many neighborhoods and organizations will pool their money to purchase a huge
elephant-god statue, up to 20- and 30-feet tall. Then they march it through the
streets and dance along the way, as pictured in my video. Perhaps most
interesting is what happens at the end of the 10-day festival: Everybody helps
to carry the statues to the ocean, and they throw them into the sea.
When I cut my hair short last year, I noticed two habits that I had. The first action was
tucking my long hair back behind my ear. The second action was pulling my hair back into a pony-tail behind my head. Even without long hair, I noticed my hands mechanically doing these actions for several days after cutting
Talking in American English to the flight attendants on my way home, I noticed
that I had two new Indian conversational habits. Instead of acknowledging a question with a "Yes" answer, I simply
cocked my head to the right. And when I did answer or agree in the affirmative, it was with a "Ha" sound instead of a "Yes" or "Yeah."
A few days later now, and I am still rolling my head in the affirmative.
I am sure it will wear off in another few days.
I am now in Atlanta for a few weeks (I do not know where I will be or what I will be doing starting in November). Here are some notes from my first few hours back in
I sneezed, and someone nearby said "Bless you." That felt
When I made eye contact with someone, and I gave a half-raised smile
the woman immediately returned the half-smile gesture. That also felt nice. (By contrast,
whenever I would look back at people staring at me in India, hardly any
strangers smiled back.)
Our arrival terminal at JFK Airport was not very clean. The carpet was old,
two escalators were either broken or turned off, and I saw cracks in some of
the walls. Really not a whole lot nicer than the international terminal in
Father and son wearing matching Dallas Cowboy's football jerseys at
the grocery store. Very cute.
Diet soda being the same price as regular soda = awesome.
$4 for a gallon of generic skim milk. WTF happened?! It was only $3.29 two
American beggars = Boy Scouts outside the grocery store trying to
sell me popcorn.
Automatic checkout machines!! I forgot about these.
The suburbs seem dead. I can drive through my entire neighborhood and not
No joke, but temperatures in the 70's seem very cold to me. I got
comfortable and lazy in the Bombay swelter. I actually miss that heat a lot
Within an hour of reaching home, I already had two different invitations
to eat beef for dinner. I am sticking with chicken for now... easy does it.
I like the description that Gregory David Roberts gives of Mumbai in the book
"The impression was of a plodding, indefatigable, and
distant past that had crashed intact, through barriers of time, into its own
Here are some other notes from a week back in Mumbai.
Mumbai has a city-wide network of air raid sirens that are
currently used to mark the time on the hour. I think if there really was an
air raid, people would just think it was noon-time.
I have seen people eat silver. Some of the sweets here are served with a
thin layer of silver metal foil on top; you eat it for the vitamins.
Everybody tells me that eating a little bit of silver and gold is very
Magazines and books in the bathroom is a funny idea. I would never want to
relax in the bathroom here. And the idea of girls going to the bathroom
together, to gossip and prune... that is a uniquely Western concept that
only works where you have big, clean bathrooms.
Dhost means friend in Hindi.
I had 12 new shirts, three new kurtas, and 10 new pairs of pants tailored
for me. In the States, this would be something to brag about. Tailors
and raw materials are rather expensive in America, after all. I always
thought that having a tailor was an upper-class status symbol.
But here in Mumbai, when I tell my friends that I am meeting my tailor to
get a fitting, everybody looks down on it. My friends all say,
"Why not buy from the store?" and "Why would you use a
tailor?" Nobody understands why I would progress backwards, in their
mind, since brands are cooler than a custom fit. I really like my new
Oxford shirts and linen pants, thank you very much.
There is a huge Hindu festival starting on Saturday morning. My Delta
flight back to Atlanta leaves on Sunday at 12:30am, so it will give me the day
to explore Ganesh
Chaturthi at a friend's home.
American English and Indian English are rather different. Here are a few uniquely Indian twists on the English language. They are listed in the format of Indian
phrase - American translation.
Goggles - Sunglasses
Tension - Stress (example - "Do you have
Out station - Out of town
I will drop you - I will drop you off
I will take your leave? - Can I go now?
Will you have? - Do you want?
My favorite Indian English word is fired. It means scolded. You
fire someone as a reprimand. So one could say, "We were all
late from lunch, and the boss was waiting for us. The entire office got
I saw five different types of bananas for sale in the market -
Green, small yellow, big yellow (and pointy), Light red (like an apple), and
Brown. My favorite were the small yellow bananas.
I finally had South Indian coffee at the Cochin airport. It was
delicious and gave me a good caffeine buzz for about 10 minutes.
South Indian Coffee is filter coffee and milk. Regular Indian coffee is
just powdered Nescafe and milk; that's what you get if you order coffee at
any restaurant or roadside stand.
I am really going to miss Indian food. I had a very tasty lunch on the
train from Kayamkulam to Ernakulam. It was a tray of rice with two sides -
some green vegetable, and one big bowl of sambar.
I gawked at the Western tourist girls wearing bikinis on the beach in
Varkala. Honestly, I did like a triple take. I have not seen that much
skin in a long time.
Because there are so many scheduled events at an ashram, being aware of the time is
very important. I even bought a cheap digital watch and began wearing
it at the ashram. For example, at the ashram, I never wanted to miss the
daily tea times at 6am and 4pm. This scheduling reminded me of being at a Club Med or on a
cruise ship, where there are important meal times and social events every
From the cliffs of Varkala, I can see dozens of fishing boats. Eagles
soar above me, in and out with the tide and the breeze. The beach is almost
empty, and the weather is perfect.
During my stay at the ashram last week, I decided to take a day trip to the
town of Varkala. Varkala's beach has become a tourist attraction for Westerners
on the India circuit. My trip was during the monsoon months, so it was low
Here are some notes that I wrote down on a napkin at Varkala Beach.
The waiter at Sun Rise Restaurant is asking me about the movie A.T.L.
He wants to know if we really have skating rinks in America where
people congregate to ride around a large room in circles.
A lot of Westerners at the ashram have taken up Indian guru names.
My new roommate Chris prefers to be called Prabakash. I think it would be
funny to give Indian people American celebrity names. Thus, I Christen my
Nepalese waiter T.I.
Juggling green lemons for a small audience.
Big, early-breaking waves.
Never being able to remember all the Hindi the waiter just taught me!
Tibetans and Biharis work at the tourist shops and restaurants.
Tourist towns as refugee camps?
The two big live lobsters in that brown box. 1kg of fresh lobster with
butter and garlic will cost about US$20.
Zinder means "alive" in Hindi; attra
means "How much?" in Malayalam.
If you felt that Goa was too crowded and too big, check out Varkala in Kerala
state. I highly recommend it.
I uploaded A LOT of photos from my trip to Kerala. Click here to see the photo album (51 photos). To make it clear- I am not joining a religious sect in India. I just went to enjoy the experience (which I did). Thank you everyone for emailing your concerns.
I have also shared these two videos, Part 1 and Part 2 of my first Indian wedding.
I am currently at Amritapuri in the south of Kerala state. Amritapuri is an ashram to a guru woman named Amma. She gives her darshans by giving hugs! I met her yesterday and she gave me a big hug. She also gave $23,000,000 to the tsunami relief fund in 2005.
I arrived yesterday and the place is starting to warm up to me. There are lots and lots of interesting people to meet. Over 2,000 students and pilgrims and casual visitors like me stay here. Many people wear all white and walk around with smiles on their faces.
I return to Bombay on Friday night, and then I am going back to Atlanta on September 15th to do some work for the family. Right now I am enjoying my vacation and happy to be here. As always, thanks for reading.
Home-cooked Keralan food in three words: Coconut Oil Bath.
Now I really like chai (Indian tea). I drink it without sugar whenever possible. After two small cups, I can even get a good caffeine buzz.
Payyambalam is a really nice beach in Kannur district (northern Kerala state). It was totally undeveloped and picture-perfect with palm trees along the shore. There is also a driving beach about 10km to the south, but I forget its name. It seemed nicer and less filled with litter.
I have seen a lot of people littering. The first time I witnessed someone throw a plastic bottle out the window of our car, I gasped.
There was an empty gasoline tank floating on the beach, in and out with the tide. I smiled when a friend ran out before me to pick it up. But then he just threw the plastic container back into the ocean as far as he could (like that would get rid of it?).
More trash cans might help. I usually have to carry my rubbish with me in my backpack for a few hours until I can find somewhere to dispose it.
Driving south to Cochin, we passed a few road-side fish and prawn stalls. The fish and the shrimp were raw for the buying in the open air.. I could smell each one at 50 km/per hour.
Another example of make-work jobs in India... There were three people employed at each toll booth on the highway. One to collect our fare, one to issue the change, and one to record the transaction in a log book.
A lot of these bullets could be interpreted as negative, so I will try to think of a few positive bullet points.
A delicious Keralan snack - banana pancakes.
The Malayalam script looks really cool. Each letter is rounded and squiggly.
For the budget traveler, you can't beat Indian trains. A 2nd-class ticket for a 3.5-hour ride cost me Rs36 (less than US$1). When I got on the train, I quickly upgraded my ticket to a 1st-class Air Conditioned bed-seat for only US$8.
There were hawkers selling pre-paid SIM cards outside the airport in Kozikhode.
My first Indian wedding lived up to all my expectations. It was a huge ceremony with loud music and a fantastic buffet afterwards.
The wedding itself only lasted about 45 minutes, but there are three full days of ceremony surrounding it. For example, after the wedding, everybody drove with the bride to drop her off at the groom's parent's house. This symbolized the bride leaving her old family and joining her new family. This is where people cried. The bride had her feet washed by her new family, she was fed some sort of sweets, she went through a prayer ceremony, etc.
The rickshaws here are decorated very nicely. I have seen nice flowers and colorful stars on the ceilings.
Surprisingly, I have seen a handful of Communist flags around town.
Thus far, Kerala feels the most like a jungle than anywhere else I have been on Earth. The palm trees and foilage are thick and the roads are even more terrible than Bombay. Houses are deep in the forest off questionable muddy roads. I like it.
The neighborhood houses in Kannur have large 5- to 10-foot walls that border the road. The three houses I have been in are sturdy and spacious, entirely made of brick and concrete.
One house had a 35-foot well for drinking water. Someone told me that most houses here are self-sustainable; if the power goes out, life can go on for a while without a problem.
On Friday, I flew from Mumbai to Kalicut (Khozikode) on Jet Airways. This was the first time that I got to see the new domestical terminal at BOM.
First, let me tell you about the international terminal at BOM. It is a hot, dark, dirty, and generally dilapidated welcome hall. The building gives a bad first impression for foreigners.
But the domestical terminal is beautiful! Amazing marble and glass walls adorn the entire huge, spotless lobby. Cute Indian girls are everywhere, dressed in flight uniforms to assist you with check-in procedures. When we arrived (10:00am on a Friday), there were virtually no lines at the ticket counter or at the security clearance. We literally cleared security in three minutes.
As a bonus treat, Kaushal's sister treated us to guest passes at the Jet Airways executive lounge. We had a nice full egg and toast breakfast with waitress service. Free magazines and newspaper were also available. Even this impressed me.
Two interesting notes... One, we were never asked for identification. Not at the ticket counter or at the security check. Two, there were absolutely no signs indicating the location of the Jet Airways lounge. In true Indian fashion, we had to ask several people and wander around halls and up stairways before finding the entrance.
Anyhow, it was a great experience and the flight was very good (full lunch!). I highly recommend that you try a domestic flight while you are in Bombay.