Tuesday, January 04, 2011

My Head is Spinning

Started our first real day to hang out with family and dive in to the wedding madness.  We slept in a bit and joined the gang for brunch in Sonal’s backyard.  Because the wedding had not officially begun there was some non-veg cooking happening in the backyard.  A little gas burner was setup so Tina and some of the less dietary-restricted aunties fried up some ham/bacon, a type of sausage and omelets.  Apparently during the actual wedding time no one is supposed to eat meat, or something. This was the big opportunity to get in some non-veg while it was allowed.  Let’s talk about veg and non-veg.  To this American the phrase ‘non-veg’ is one of those logic puzzles that cause my brain gears to seize up.  In this largely Hindu country the default assumption seems to be that the food will be vegetarian.  So if it’s anything but that then it’s ‘non-veg’ which means meat, eggs and cheese…or something.  I’ll not belabor the point of how unimaginable I personally find the concept of vegetarianism but will say that non-veg sounds like some kind of triple or quadruple negative.  During brunch a clamoring for Bloody Mary’s began and so we set off to town to find ingredients.  I guess clamor isn’t the right word, it was one guy but that guy has a big personality and I think is a little awesome.  Before the store we stopped by to visit Sonal’s husband Haresh who was in a little clinic above a grocery store (of all things) getting an IV treatment for malaria.  He told me he gets this every 15 years or so and after a few days of treatment is fine.  Gulp.  After the clinic, we set off in search of tomato juice and worchestchisre.  We failed to find anything so we stopped at a roadside vendor and bought his whole load of tomatoes.  They got chopped, vodka was added and we called it bloody mary.  Don’t judge us.

In the afternoon we went shopping for clothes for all the events.  Some earlier arrivers had ordered tuxedos and we stopped for a fitting at a place called Raymond’s.  Raymond’s must be a chain because I saw a few around town and even a reference to it in the book from 1973 I’m reading (Great Railway Bazaar).  Nice place doing all sorts of formal wear and made to measure suits and shirts.  We spent the most time at an ethnic wear (their term) shop getting the kurtas (link). Shopping is a very different experience here.  They brought us water, tea etc and I heard the girls were brought sandwiches and snacks.  Meanwhile all our measurements were taken (video) and the clerks began slapping cellophane wrapped packages onto the counter.  You basically tell the guy what sort of color you are looking for and either simple or whatever the Gujarati word is for not simple and he starts pulling down packages to which our leader would rapid fire ‘no, no, no, yes, no, no’ scanning through dozens at once.  We got the whole pile put together and made a side trip through the old city to have a different tailor make me a jodpuri suit.  The shop was in one of the tiny alleys of the old city and we got to watch some monkey mamas w/ babies in tow scamper down 1 side of the alley and up the other.  Never been that close to a real monkey before, despite the cuddly image they portray up-close they seem mean.

I’m still not ready to talk about driving in India but driving through the old city of Vadodara was totally nuts.  The streets are inches wide, lined with parked bikes/scooters/motorcycles, congested with pedestrians and somehow through all this squeeze lanes.  I’m not exaggerating to say that 1 average street lane in Tucson would be 2.5 here.  There are not many side mirrors and clearances between oncoming traffic is measured in mm.  There was tons of cool stuff to see but I’ll cover Vadodara generally in a later note.

The girls got back late from shopping fairly exhausted, we had some standard Gujarati food and off to bed.  Big first day.

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