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Archive for December, 2011

Pablo the Great

First news—Pablo’s here!
Second news–I’m terribly sick.
Third news—Christmas was the day I missed home like I never have before.

Pablo came on a cool Christmas night, running out of the airport with the classic confused look.  We started screaming “Pablo!  Pablo!” and he could hear, but he couldn’t see us.  Cutest kid ever.  Right as he saw me, he jumped into my arms.  The thing you realize after seeing a kid after a few years is that kids grow–a lot.  Pablo is heavy, but I think he still likes acting like a baby.  What surprised me the most is how much he talks now (he’s 4, but he started talking late because he’s surrounded by three languages).  More importantly, he is a kid with attitude–cute attitude, but attitude.  The 2 hour car ride home was more than amusing, as he tried to figure out where he was, why I was in India, and where Sam and Wookie were.  My dad and Pablo are best friends, yet my dad is the one Pablo is the most scared of.  We always joke that Pablo “keeps his friends close and his enemies closer,” since he’s always asking where my dad is.
Yesterday, Pablo spent the entire day in our apartment, jumping on beds, dancing around.  We had a dance party to “Waka Waka” and now he goes around singing “this is Africa, this is Africa.”  Pablo is pretty extreme about claiming his, and other’s, property.  If someone plays with his things, he wisely lectures, “you have to share!”.  If someone touches my things, he’ll run up to me telling me that someone is touching my things.

Pablo’s cousin, Tanya (on his mom’s side), came to visit yesterday.  She’s 2, and the moment Pablo saw her, he covered her face with kisses, and hugged her, which eventually prompted her to scrunch her nose and start crying.  Pablo ran to me, exclaiming “look how big I am!  Look!”.  There were times when I think Pablo was trying to treat her like I treat him.  Towards the end of her visit, Tanya finally gave in to Pablo’s hugs, as Pablo won her approval as “a big brother.”  At one point, Tanya was walking around with a purse her parents gifted me, causing a rage in Pablo.  He spent a solid 20 minutes trying to win back the purse, and when he finally did, he hid it behind me and guarded it.

In our culture, 1st cousins are treated like siblings.  Pablo is my only 1st cousin, so he’s clearly like a little brother.  Regardless of our 11 year age difference, we have definitely had our fights.  Yesterday I got mad because he was being naughty, and not only did he not talk to me for an hour, but he went and told the entire family on me.  Of course, when Pablo’s mad, I resort to the tickle monster…which always works.  My mom, when growing up, had about 17 or so 1st cousins.  When she was young, she used to tell everyone at school she had 18 siblings, causing a lot of confusion at parent conferences.  Pablo knows Tanya to be his ‘sister’, but I think he gets confused about our relationship.  He told us he has two sisters, one is Tanya, and the other he “doesn’t know.”  I think he considers me more of a friend, which we are–we are best friends.

Sometimes I like to think of what Pablo will be like when he’s older.  I wonder if he’ll still let me hug him tightly, or will I be embarrassing.  Since I don’t have a little brother and he’s the closest thing to it, I’m absolutely okay with embarrassing him.  In fact, I’m embracing this fact.

Fact 2–I’m sick.  Sick sick sick, with a terrible cold.  In fact, my entire family is sick.  My face is a mess.  Oh boy oh boy.

Fact 3—I was so sad on Christmas.  Where was the snow?  The fire, the Christmas PJ’s, coffee cake, sitting on the fireplace, Sam and Wookie, waking up at 5, watching The Polar Express?  Where were the texts about what everyone got, reading Harry Potter on the couch, watching snow fall as everyone calls to say “Merry Christmas?”  In fact, if it weren’t for my parents waking me up early to open presents, I probably would’ve forgotten.  I’m just not in that holiday spirit this year…

But I still hope everyone is having a great holiday season/vacation.  Hopefully I’ll be back before New Year’s, but if I’m not…Happy New Year!

 

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Classic Calcutta

Some of the best food in Calcutta (officially called Kolkata, but I am still old-fashioned in this sense) is found on the streets.  Actually, this is true for almost anywhere in India.  But, understandably, people are tremendously cautious when visiting India–often avoiding the infamous “Delhi-belly”.  Yet, for some reason, I never get sick from street food (knock on wood).  Regardless of the fact that there’s bound to be plenty of bacteria and dirt in the food, this, for some reason, never stops me.  Well, nothing can stop me from food, really.  One of my favorite street foods ever is called pani puri.  I’m not so sure how to explain pani puri.   I would google it, probably.  Nor can I describe the taste of it: how rich the flavors are, and how incredible.  I actually don’t think google can explain it, either.  But it’s beautiful–indescribable.  Every time I visit, pani puri is the first thing I spring towards.  But, for the first time ever, I’ve become wary.  I’m (I can’t believe I’m saying this) scared to try street food.  Usually, I have a steel stomach.  Maybe I’ll try it today….wish me luck.

In general, my food intake significantly increases in India.  It’s probably because my thousands of relatives insist on shoving sweets and home-made Bengali food down my throat, especially my grandma.  One by one, she subtly hands me food, and before I know it, I’ve consumed her entire kitchen.  With our new apartment (we bought an apartment here!), we have plenty of my usual food–pasta, soup, etc etc.  That brings up my total food intake to regular food intake+sweets+forced=stuffed.

Staying on the topic of food, or drinks, the best drink in the entire world is Thums Up (yes, spelled like that), which is a soda almost identical to Coke or Pepsi, but even better.  And one of the best parts about going to stores in India is that they always offer complimentary drinks, which is the perfect opportunity for Thums Up.  There’s another soda called Limca, which is similar to Sprite, but a bit more tangy.  And lastly, Fanta is popular as well, but we get that too.

People never believe me when I say that Christmas is huge here.  Believe it or not, there’s a huge Christian population in India.  The “main street”, or the “downtown” in Calcutta is a street called Park Street.  There, you can find all the liveliness of the city, with restaurants and stores all around.  During this time, Park Street is beautiful, festooned with lights and sculptures of Santa.  There are santa hats sold by street vendors, ones that light up, as well as wrapping paper and anything Christmas-y.  On the day of, it’s customary for people to go on picnics.  Except it’s so cold, that this might be difficult.  Usually the heat in Calcutta is unbearable–it’s humid and plain hot.  But, for the first time in years and years, it is so cold.  The temperature during the day is as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which is brutal for a place like Calcutta.  At first, I assumed that “cold” was typical Vermont summer weather, which it usually is, but this is out of the ordinary.  To make it worse, buildings here don’t have any form of insulation, because they rarely ever deal with coolness.  However, being on the 13th floor of a building, nights are almost unendurable.  If you look outside, people are laden with sweaters upon sweaters, working the ‘eskimo’ look.  It’s almost amusing, but definitely necessary.

Here’s one thing about me–I could never live in a city in a million years (except for my beloved New York).  I enjoy peace and silence, sitting in my room reading a book with nothing but Vermont nature making sounds (which, unfortunately, sometimes includes packs of foxes and coyotes).  Calcutta re-reminds me why I don’t like cities.  In Calcutta, driving seems like a death sentence.  Drivers buzz through sidewalk-sized streets, through bikers and street dogs.  Yet, never are there any accidents.  It’s miraculous–I think this is real driving.  But the trick to this is holding down the horn.  Basically, the horn says “Get the hell out of my way, because I’m not stopping.”  And it works perfectly.  But, tell me something–is it really necessary to hold down the horn constantly?  Even when there’s no one ahead?  It’s as if drivers can’t stand the sound of silence.  I swear, I’m going to go deaf.

Something else about a city, Calcutta particularly, is the amount of people.  Here, there are always people ringing the doorbell–coming in and out.  There’s the maid, the cook, the electrician, the milk man, the driver, the relatives, etc etc.  There are always people.  The thing is, I’m so self conscious of having people in the house–which I’m scattered across the couch on my laptop, belting out showtunes, tap-tap-tapping away at my laptop.  Yet, they don’t care at all.  It’s as if you’re invisible–which is good, but I don’t buy it.  All these people working in the house must have some opinion, some judgement.  Oh well, some things will just never change.

 

Okay, this has been a long blog post–you can blame that on my laziness.  But I love writing about what’s going on–writing about a culture that I’ve seen a lot of.  Usually, I keep a travel journal, but my blog works pretty well for that.  Good news is that Pablo (my cousin) is coming tomorrow, which is even more exciting than Christmas for me (and that says a lot).

Have a very merry Christmas!

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Immigrations

I would just like to say that the start to my time in India was not good.  

Dear over-smart Immigrations officer,

To answer your question, I understand Bengali perfectly so there is no need for you to talk about me not knowing Bengali in Bengali.  To further answer your questions:

  • No, I do not live in India.
  • No, I am not from Bangalore even though I flew out of there last time I was here.  And even though I had family living there, I cannot remember where…I was only there for a few days.  So, you can really stop pestering me about where I was for those few days.
  • You would never be a good lawyer.
  • Do you realize that you are asking these questions in Bengali and I am answering in English.  So, to restate my point, obviously I understand what you’re saying.
  • Half of your questions are irrelevant.  I’ve been traveling for 30 hours…I would like to get out and see my family, and I do not need your snarky questions and smirks to waste my time.
  • You can stop addressing me as “Madam” and you can stop smirking when I answer in English.

Going even further, as if my irritated expression wasn’t enough, it was completely unnecessary for you to tell me to take pride in my name because Mukherjees are ‘royal Bengalis’, and learn my language.  I know Bengali, I would like you to let me go through, and for the record, I understand your Bengali better than your English.  I’m going to ignore this offensive narrow-minded-18th-century comment, and move on with my life.

Sincerely,
A very irritated traveler

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*note, wrote this on the plane, posting it many hours later

Have you ever had that feeling of being on top of the world after watching an inspirational movie?  Interesting enough, this happens to me all the time.  I have been on this godforsaken plane for 10.5 hours now, and I’ve watched three movies, all of which have forced e to reconsider my life in that confined space.  Gave up on Midnight in Paris, shed a tear or two in Something Borrowed, scratched my head in confusion at Source Code.  The last movie I watched was a Bollywood movie, surrounding the idea of Carpe Diem and friendships.  And now, here I am on my iPad, frustrated at my inability to type with fake gel nails, trying to make something of my trip, and of myself.

Do you know that I’ve been trying to make a story out of Opal for the past six months?  Fail.  I started a new story in the Cape this summer.  fail.  My inspirational-quote-infested diary is a book of failed attempts at my (ideal) future career.

It’s always funny to see the reaction on people’s faces when I tell them that I want to be a journalist one day.  Sometimes it’s an incredulous expression–“but I thought you would go into math!”.  Other times, people just hate on the career–“oh, writing.  Journalism is, uh, a nice field”.  And then there are people who ask me why–sometimes out of pessimistic curiosity, and other times out of honest interest.  Why is a good question.  I used to want to be a lawyer for the longest time.  But when I discovered that I loved to write, like truly loved it, I realized I couldn’t just become a novelist.  Let’s face it–that doesn’t go too far.  But I also realized that I love to meet new people and  learn new things, so why not journalism?  It’s a long reach–I still have to build up my courage.  One, it’s extremely competitive.  Two, you have to be pushy.  Three, you can end up anywhere, like it or not.  All three require plain and simple guts, which I, to be honest, lack.  If you’ve known me for a while, you probably are aware of my obsession with geography (I’ve got three years of GeoBee to thank for that).  I love it–I love seeing places on the map and figuring out capitals, then seeing it in real life, and how nerdy do I sound right now?  I’m looking a map of where we’re flying over.  We’re just over Kuwait and the Red Sea, and as I look out the window, I can see city lights and signs of an infrastructure.  It’s real–putting names to reality–and so exciting.  You know, one day, I’d love to be a travel journalist–but maybe in the first few years of my career because who wants to travel their entire life?  Who knows, I could even end up at law school and write for a law journal….all while traveling, of course.

Now that I’ve divulged into my angsty personal life, I think I can wrap this up.  My dad has taken a pre-trip and a during-trip picture of me, and I can assure you that there is a significant, and very negative, difference between the two, in terms of bags under my eyes, my hair, etc.  When we land in Calcutta, I’ll have him take a post-trip picture.  It definitely won’t be a pretty sight–30 hours of travel.  So I most likely will not be putting them on my blog anytime soon.

See, I thought I would finish like three books and write a novel and do all my homework during this trip.  Yeah, that’s funny.  I’ve read a chapter of Gatsby, written one pretty crappy poem, and watched three movies.  What I have been doing is prewriting blog posts, so the minute I get to some WiFi, I’ll post (clearly, I’ve reached WiFi).  I think I’ll have a lot to say about India, probably even more than Italy.  So, keep coming back for updates, or sbuscribe (though, for some reason, some people have told me they haven’t been able to subscribe), and definitely pass this aong to your friends for total immerision into a new culture and country for two weeks!

Look at me, being all promoting and all.

(oooh, we’re near Saudi, where I used to live, and bahrain, where I always used to visit.  This is so exciting–after 12 years!)

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Ta-Dah!

10:57 pm JFK, 7:57 am Dubai, 9:27 am Calcutta

I am more than exhausted a mere three hours into my trip.  Flag football in gym in the morning, and off to Dubai in the evening–you know, just a typical day of a high schooler.  You can see why I might be tired.

I took my first Jet Blue Flight!  Right before boarding, I realized, perhaps too late, that I truly despise airplanes.  Having flown hundreds of times, I feel like this is a phobia that I should overcome.  Clearly it hasn’t happened yet.  However, the most frightening part of the entire trip is that inaugural step onto the aircraft.  In between, there is a gap, the tiniest gap ever, but I can’t help think that for a split second, I am completely and utterly vulnerable in the hands of bad luck.  This is too much for me to handle–I am NOT spontaneous.

My flight to JFK was delayed, which required my dad and I to stride through uninhabited side walks of the Big Apple.  Just picture it: solemn alleys, running with bags, 9:30 at night–not to mention my dad is 6 ft. tall so his “running” (speed-walking) is tremendously difficult for 5’5″ me to keep up.  This exact moment was when my body decided to yell out, “go workout, you lazy bum.”  And simultaneously, I realized how alike my dad and I are.  In the midst of burning calves, questionable alleys, and 30 lbs of goods, my dad decides to start belting songs from the Lion King.  At this point, it didn’t even matter that I was out of breath, about to collapse–I started singing along.

Walk into Terminal 5 at JFK and you’ll feel like you’re in a train station in Europe–and I don’t necessarily mean this well.  But as we stepped through the security gate, murmurs of familiar languages emerged, and I became–a majority.  Here were five basic generalizations of the people there:

  • The young guy with Beats and a leather jacket/sweat pants, walking with his “swag” only to sit down and call his mother.
  • The young girl with faux Louis Viutton, Fendi glasses (I’m actually making the Fendi part up; I wear Fendi glasses, but this isn’t me…), on her phone (most likely iPhone) talking to a galfriend about, clearly, pressing matters.  Every time a sentence starts with, “Omigod, guess what…” you can pretty much figure out how ‘pressing’ it is.
  • The family with four kids: “Mommy, where are…” “Daddy, can we…” “I’m bored…” “Are we…?”
  • The cute elderly couple who make the young feel a bizarre sense of nostalgia and emptiness.
  • Me, who stares incessantly and tries to figure out the world.  AKA, in less favorable terms, the awkward-creepy-staring-people-watcher-because-he/she-has-nothing-better-to-do.  AKA, me.  The worst part is, the people I usually observe somehow make it into my blog posts.  I swear, they’re gonna become famous because of me someday.

As I write this post, my flight is taking off.  Sometimes, taking off is the worst part of a trip.  Other times, it’s the best.  I’m sure in the past year, you’ve established the fact that my mind is convoluted.  That reminds me, another thing that’s stricken me during this trip is the new era of technology.  You know how once a flight lands, there’s a string of phone melodies as people turn their devices on.  Well, with the age of iPhones, this is nonexistent.  Look around you, and I’m sure about 75% of people have an iPhone 4 or 4s.  And this void in music at the end of a flight is really depressing.  In the words of August Rush, “Music is all around us; all you have to do, is listen.”  (though I’m being a hypocrite because I have an iPhone)

I’m looking through the list of movies on my flight, and it’s endless.  The Help, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Toy Stories, Glee, Marley and Me, Insiduous, Source Code, it’s endless.  But I’ve chosen one of my favorites: Midnight in Paris.  This movie is incredible, but I feel like only certain people would appreciate it.  Quick synopsis–a writer (Owen Wilson) dreams to live in Paris in the 20’s.  Magically, in the hands of Hollywood, he ends up going to the 20’s every night, meeting his favorite authors like Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  It’s ironic because we’re reading Gatsby in class, so I understand the subtle references.  But everytime I watch this movie, it makes me angry at myself for not writing anything worthwhile ever.

Okay, thus begins post #1 of an incredible journey.  I’m sorry if my mind’s scattered–it’s midnight, I’m watching a movie, and in truth, it always is!

“You’ll never write well if you fear of dying” ~Hemingway

Amen, Brother

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Dear Blog…

It’s approximately 1:50 am on Sunday night/Monday morning.  I have a bio presentation & a history test soon.  Suddenly, I’m inspired to write…something feels wrong.

(Plus I’ve been trying to Tweet all weekend…which I’ve never done before)

Something is obviously wrong.

#typicalSundaynight

(Side note: I’m reading articles about how to increase my blog traffic.  I’m pretty sure this goes against everything they say.)

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I’d like to consider this my last official post of Thanksgiving week.  Yes, it’s December; yes, break is over; yes, I was tremendously lazy in posting (what’s new in that).  But (there’s always a but), I hope this post will be a worthwhile conclusion to the string of posts.

I’ve been running out of topics lately.  But I’m not letting go of this yet–not after 12 months of my blood, sweat, and tears!

*Okay, I’d like to make a quick note.  I started writing this post on December 2nd.  It’s December 9th, and I’m back to writing it!  Welcome to my world of procrastination and distractions.  Anything above this is written on December 2nd.  Anything below is written, well, now.

December is busy–and it’s FINALLY starting to feel like the holidays.  One of my writing pieces was chosen to be read at the Winter Tales show at the Flynn Space this past week.  Let me just say that usually I hate my writing.  Absolutely hate it.  Nothing seems to be eloquent or seems to make sense.  In spite of this, I really enjoyed having my writing read.  I was anticipating cringing the entire time, but seeing my words come to life was truly exciting.  There were times when the girl acted out a certain line, and I thought, “Wow, I didn’t even think of it like that.”  So, I suppose I don’t completely despise that piece any more.  If you’d like to read it, here’s the link.  Winter tales is really amazing in general.  There wasn’t a moment during the night when I didn’t feel amazed, by the stories, actors, decorations, cookies, hot cider (particularly the last two).  The demography of the audience was primarily over 55 years of age, but interestingly, and oddly, enough, I felt like I belonged there.  I’m not sure what that says about me…

As I said in my last post, I’m going to India for the holidays!  Though I’m tremendously dismayed that I won’t be seeing snow, my house, or my dogs during Christmas, it’s exciting to be able to spend my first Christmas with my entire family!  That also means Christmas shopping for my family.  I’m most likely the most indecisive person there is when it comes to gifts; that should sum up my Christmas shopping for you.  Anyways, that’s my plan tomorrow, in addition to making lemon cookies for a cookie swap!  Here’s the recipe I use, which is amazingly spectacular, to say the least.  It melts in your mouth, and it has just the perfect amount of lemon.  Not to mention, the lemon icing is incredible.  Last time I made these, it took me…three hours.  It should, ideally, take only one.  That should say something about my cooking skills…

I’ve already planned on buying another notebook to write down things in India.  Lately, I’ve noticed that I like writing by hand more than typing–which is completely opposite from how I used to be.  It seems more free, almost.  But I will definitely update my blog as soon as possible!  I might even try to post some pictures 🙂

If I’m not back by the beginning of the holidays (which hopefully won’t happen), I just want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season!  (I’m not saying Happy New Year; I better be back before then).

 

 

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