Thursday, March 16, 2017

Lavasa


In communist China, the gov't used to own pretty much everything.  This made reform paradoxically easy....  They could knock down, rebuild and sell just about anything they wanted to.

Not so in India, which has to be bothered by such things as private property and elections.  This has slowed down reform in India, where terrible (or nonexistent) electricity and water supply lines are covered by homes and businesses that can not be moved.  When I was in China and would hear this story, I often felt that it would make sense in India to build whole new cities on uninhabited land, getting the infrastructure right.

When I arrived in India, this is exactly what I observed being promoted at an advertising booth in a local mall.  One group was to introduce a full city built out of nothing- Lavasa.  I never visited Lavasa (which is right near Pune, so I guess I could have), but the pics look nice.

When I asked folks about Lavasa, the response was that it was primarily a vacation spot for rich gov't officials.  I didn't know what to make of that comment, as many Indians I met aren't yet fully comfortable with a wealthy class pulling ahead of the poor....  As one guy put it, it is a "crab" like mentality, if one crab is crawling out, the others all pull him back.


It would be interesting to see how Lavasa turns out....

Limca Imitators

When I was a kid visiting India, there were basically two sodas....  Lemony "Limca", and the coke knock-off "Thums Up".  No American soda could be found, and my parents told me a kind of nutty story to explain the situation (which a quick internet search seems to partially verify).

It seemed that India, in a kind of socialist madness, started nationalizing various industries.  Air India was brought under the gov't, and the quality plummeted.  Then India set its sights on Coke, which was doing a decent business in India.  They informed Coke that it was to hand over the secret formula to the the gov't, who would make the beverage itself (presumably giving coke a cut).  Coke refused, and was kicked out.

The gov't then introduced its own soft drinks- Limca and Thums Up (.... yes, there is no "b" in "Thums Up").  Supposedly the first incarnation of Thums Up was terrible, though I like the version being sold right now.

About 20 years ago the Indian economy opened up, and Coke once again flooded the market.  Coke itself has bought Limca and Thums Up, which remain so popular that Limca has spawned some imitators.  We did a taste test between the original Limca and its copycats.  We personally still prefer the original....

N's Childhood




Last year, we visited the town where I was born in Illinois.  In India we can now see where N was born.  Here is the place where it all began....


Here is where N's grandparents (and N herself) lived for a while.  The building has been renovated a bit.  The woman who lives there now nicely brought us inside for a tour.


Here is where N's father lived.  Similarly, the building has changed a lot, so much so that N didn't recognize anything.  Many of the two story apartments have been extended upwards, this is one of those places.


Here is where N went to school.



The Red Fort



The Red Fort is another iconic Delhi structure, which we *of course* had to visit.


A couple of decades ago we visited the red fort.  A monkey ran to my sister, grabbed her ice cream, and ran off.  The current visit was less eventful.


Inside, the Fort didn't seem so red.  It was almost village-like.





More Scenes of India










Interesting Plants

India has a tropical climate, and its plants always seem otherworldly to me.



....or perhaps prehistoric.  I think a giant multihorned dino should be nibbling upon these plants.




Qutab Minar


India has no shortage of ancient palaces.  "Qutab Minar" is in the middle of Delhi, and has become Delhi's symbol.  We were actually staying near it, so had to make a visit.







Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chaat


Smug Indian friends are always telling me that the best Indian snacks are available on the street, but that my wimpy American stomach couldn't possibly handle the shock of Indian germs (which, supposedly, is where the flavor comes from).  As a consequence, I wander India angrily eyeing deliciousness that I am am not allowed to partake in.

Instead I get brought to 'family approved' locations, with carefully filtered and wrapped items, sanitized for my protection.


OK, the chaat at this place was pretty good, perhaps too much so....  I overate.



Chinese Food


Like the US, India has its own mutant strain of "Chinese" food (picture me making air quotes while saying this).... Indians and Americans alike seem to think their "Chinese food" is the real deal.  We, of course, had just spent the year in Beijing, so I came to India with attitude, like I was the master of China, and smugly informed everyone that their Chinese food was fake, sadly disappointing the lot of them.

OK, I actually really like Indo-Chinese food (perhaps better than actual Chinese food....  I beg you not to tell my Sino-Chinese friends that I wrote that!)

The pseudo-Chinese food world possesses some global myths- like fortune cookies and folded paper boxes.  Who (except an actual Chinese person) wouldn't immediately recognize the following container as Chinese:


Mmmmmmmm, chili paneer.


Here is a menu at a "Chinese" (air quotes again) restaruant, which strangely includes Thai and Japanese items.



English Written in Hindi


English has always been common in India, but I saw more on this trip than ever before.  Some will (strongly) disagree, but I got the sense that English may take over as the only language in the (distant) future.

Bookstores seem to sell books primarily in English.  (Side note- why is a copy of "Mein Kampf" in the middle of that pile of books being sold?)

The omnipresence of English has created an interesting paradox....  Visitors to India benefit greatly from learning to read the Hindi script....

Why?  Because a lot of the written "Hindi" was actually English written in Hindi script.

(ie- the script below spells out "National Insurance Company Limited" exactly).


Apparently some regional laws now *enforce* that the local language (Hindi, Marathi, etc) be included in store signs....  The existence of these laws themselves is more evidence to me of English's dominance.

Often even "real" Hindi itself is half in English, so you can usually figure out what a sign says.  The sign below says "5 saal tuk pregnancy se tension free"

Chandni Chowk


I once watched a Bollywood film where the protagonists went to Chandni Chowk on Holi then started dancing and throwing colors (Oh, wait....  I think this was *every Bollywood film ever made*).

At any rate, I wanted to see the place.  We subway'ed up and wandered a bit.


These guavas were really good.