India

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(Looking for Iceland? You can read our 2015 detour here.)

Namaste! After China, India is the second most populous country in the world. Like China, India is an amalgamation of diverse cultures, which will make covering the country in a single blog post challenging. I think we did okay in our globetrot to China, but my familiarity with some aspects of Chinese culture definitely helped. I’m far less knowledgeable about India, though we definitely enjoy Indian (or Americanized Indian) food. Therefore, I’ll apologize in advance for the gaps and inaccuracies this post will inevitably have. We tried!

We’ve also seen India’s cultural influence on several other countries we’ve already covered: Bangladesh, Fiji, and Guyana. India has also made a lot of contributions to the world as we know it today, including major religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, yoga, cotton cultivation, and the modern number system.

India also has biggest population of vegetarians in the world (and more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together), so I was definitely looking forward to eating this weekend.

We started our Indian weekend with a breakfast of besan ka puda, which are like savory pancakes made from chickpea flour and veggies. I was conservative with the amount of spice I added to the batter because it seems that both Derek and I had heartburn, possibly from the previous night’s non-Indian but spicy dinner (my fault). The joys of being in our thirties, I guess. But some sweet and mild Major Grey’s chutney helped liven up the pudas.
After some morning errands, Derek and I watched the India episode of Geography Now, in which Barby also acknowledges that covering everything there is to India in a tidy little package is impossible.

For lunch, we went to Golcha Cafe, not too far of a walk from the university campus where I work. There are numerous Indian restaurants in the Buffalo area, but I chose Golcha Cafe for this globetrot because it offers something I haven’t seen in other Indian eateries: Kolkata-style kati rolls, which essentially are wraps made from paratha (an Indian flatbread) and some sort of filling, like egg and chicken, or spiced chickpeas. The restaurant also serves some more typical Indian dishes as well. I ordered a roll with paneer cheese in a mild chili sauce, and Derek ordered a vegetarian thali, a platter with rice, roti (another kind of flatbread), dal (a type of stew with lentils), paneer, and what I think were some sort of spiced yellow pigeon peas. His dish also came with some yogurt on the side as well as a gulab jamun, a type of Indian milk-based sweet that’s kind of like a donut hole soaked in syrup. I also had a pineapple lassi, a refreshing yogurt drink, and Derek had a hot masala chai tea.

Here’s a shot of our lunches. In case you think one looks much bigger than the other, we did share:

We headed home from lunch full and content. I had a haircut appointment in the afternoon so I left the apartment again, while Derek did some grading. After I had returned, Derek made us dinner, chole palak (chickpeas with spinach) and butter paneer masala (subbing cubed tofu for the paneer cheese), which we rounded out with basmati rice and naan. The naan was store-bought, but a brand we’ve had before that we think is quite good. Everything was delicious, and we also had some lovely instrumental music playing in the background.

After dinner, we watched the 2009 Bollywood comedy 3 Idiots, about three young men at an Indian engineering school, who are misfits because they don’t conform to the highly competitive, grades-are-everything mentality of the school. While the movie was goofy, it was also entertaining and touching. And of course, a Bollywood film wouldn’t be a Bollywood film without some song and dance numbers.

The next morning, we had more pudas and chutney for breakfast, this time with some black tea.

We watched the first episode of the BBC documentary series The Story of IndiaOne of the most interesting things Derek and I learned from the episode was that all non-African people can trace their origins to India, as some early humans migrated out of Africa, around the shores of the Arabian Sea, and into South India.

I turned to my copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian to make lunch, preparing a carrot raita (raita is a yogurt-based condiment with vegetables–this one had grated carrots, though I’ve often had raita with diced cucumber) and a vegetarian dalcha (stew from the southern Indian city of Hyderabad) made with red lentils and zucchini.

We were out on a walk for a large portion of the afternoon, which I suppose helped us make room for dinner, more chole palak, butter paneer masala, naan and rice. We wound down our Indian weekend with one more video, a travel documentary of one YouTuber’s three-week journey through cities in northern India.

We definitely didn’t cover everything about India, but alas, we reached the end of the weekend. Nevertheless, Derek pointed out that India touches our personal everyday lives even when we’re not globetrotting, since I try to do yoga most days, and he meditates. So in a way, our time in India isn’t quite coming to a close. And as we continue globetrotting to other countries, we know we’ll come across India’s cultural influence again. Perhaps it’s appropriate not to say goodbye. Instead, we’ll say dhanyavaad–thank you–for the time being, and see you again!

–Jess

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