Mega Store – Indian Style

“Mom, we have to take you to Spar,” my kids kept telling me. Well, I finally made it there, and it sure was another cultural experience. Spar is India’s version of a Wal-Mart, but with some major differences. Unlike Wal-Mart this store is in the Mall.

The next thing I noticed was the grocery carts. They have these 2-tiered baskets which are rare in the US. The regular basket carts have bigger wheels that rotate 360, making it easy to move the cart sideways, but harder to push straight forwardly. I am not a fan. In the picture below, you see refrigerators for sale. Yes, they are that small.

Another unique part of this experience is seeing women in Burkas. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a woman in a Burka in the US. Muslims make up about 20% of India’s population. The men wear these white knit caps. I have to say, the Muslim rickshaw drivers are the most honest.

In the US we buy things in bulk, however, they are never displayed in this fashion:

That is rice, who knew there were so many varieties?? Also interesting is the size of their washing machines. Check this out:

Having small washing machines make sense here because very few people own a dryer. They do it the old fashioned way by hanging them outside. Dislike.

What I like about Spar is, it has everything! They have clothes, electronics, toys and a huge grocery section. They even a delicatessen! Sandwiches are not a popular food item here, so finding sliced meat is difficult.

Not-so-great about Spar is the service. I can’t watch the guy at the check out station, it’s too painful. But this is typical. Most service in India is slow. At one of my local stores, the guy HAND WRITES each item you buy and adds it up on a calculator. It’s like going back in time. A good lesson in patience. What is the hurry anyway?


End of Ramadan

On Monday, August 20th Ramadan ended with a huge celebration. Ramadan is a month long holiday where the Muslim’s  fast and pray all day, only eating at night. The locals call it Ramzan and the final day is called Eid. We live close to a Mosque and we never saw such a crowd.

At first all these beggars were lined up along the road to the Mosque, some with a small blanket or scarf laid out before them. Alms to the poor is a part of the celebration. Then the “men in white” came, parking their motorcycles and completely blocking the road. They shut down the street as thousands of men flocked to the Mosque. We stood on our balcony and gaped.

The whole time the men were walking you could hear chanting coming from the speakers. Then, since apparently not everyone could get INTO the mosque, they stood on the street. In the picture below, toward the top, all the white is all the men in the street.

Then, without warning, all the men got down on their knees to pray. What a sight. Within an hour, the road was deserted. I’m not sure where the women were, perhaps at home preparing food? I’m not sure what else happens for the holiday, but it was quite fascinating.

Musical Fountain

One evening this week, Annie, Jor and I hopped a rickshaw down to Indira Gandhi Musical Fountain. I had read about it in the travelers book from my Overseas Women’s Club. That book has turned out to be super valuable.

We arrived just a bit after the half hour show began and sat on rock risers/steps, with a sparse crowd of people. We had been to a musical fountain show at WonderLa, a local water amuesment park, but I still didn’t quite know what to expect.

I’ve never seen a musical fountain in the US, though Jor says he’s seen them in Las Vegas. The water show reminds me of fireworks, with the colored lights and variety of  types of explosions. It is really hard to describe, but they play Indian music and the water jets up here and there, creating patterns with colored lighting. Quite delightful.

On the way back, we stopped to get an ice cream cone and ate it in the Rickshaw. Yum. When we came home, we watched a Bollywood movie. If you like musicals you will like Bollywood. Living in India and watching Bollywood is especially cool because we recognized certain locations we had visited in the movie.

I have to say, despite the culture shock, major inconveniences, the poverty, litter and smells – we are having the time of our lives. A trip never to be forgotten.

Commercial Street

Commercial street, as the name connotes, is where there are numerous retail shops encompassing several blocks, here in Bangalore. Annie and I went there to look for souvenirs last week. For the first half hour or more, I followed Annie around like a deer in the headlights. There were streams of Indian people, narrow roads, holey sidewalks, beggars, along with constant horn-blaring  traffic. SENSORY OVERLOAD.  Eventually I acclimated and we were able to make some purchases. WHEW. The upside to this experience is that the prices are quite low. One hundred rupees = $2.

After wandering around for awhile, we ducked into a local McDonalds for rest and refreshments. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have that touch of America.  Though I have to say, they DO NOT SELL HAMBURGERS THERE!! Ha ha, you definitely know you are not in America when there are swarms of Indians and no beef! Only chicken burgers. Hello.

We purchased some gifts and finally found a Rickshaw driver to take us home. Drivers like to overcharge foreigners and/or give you a free ride if you stop at a shop on the way, where they insist that you don’t have to buy anything. So we had to walk away from several drivers before we plunked into one which cost less, but still too much. Whatever. Still super cheap. We paid 40 rupees one way ($.80) and 80 rs on the way home, ($1.60).

Annie will be leaving soon (back to college), so I am cherishing the time we have in crazy, exhilarating, India.

Exotic Fruits

Well, it has been awhile. I’ve been sick and I also am taking an online writing course, so I haven’t been blogging. But I’m back.

A lot has happened since I’ve blogged last, but I will keep this re-entry post short. One day Matt brought home a bunch of fruits we had never eaten before. It was really fun to try something new.

We tried a custard apple, which I enjoyed. You eat it with a spoon and spit out the seeds. It reminds me of mushy pear, but better (see photo below, on the right).

Then we tried Lychee, which is hard to explain. You cut off the top of the rough outer part and squeeze it out. There is a good sized pit, so you just kind of suck on it and spit out the pit. They are pretty good, they are citrus-y tasting.We also tried Dragon Fruit, which reminded me a little of Kiwi, but more bland tasting and much larger. I’m not a huge fan, but I’d try it again.

We also tried Mangosteen, which is like Lychee, with the white stuff and the pit. It was pretty good.

Back home we eat mangos a fair amount, but we’ve totally chowed on them here. SO terrific! Probably my favorite tropical fruit, next to the mango is Papaya. I never eat papaya back at home. It reminds me of cantaloupe, it is pretty mild and sweet. For breakfast, I tend to eat plain yogurt with fruit and nuts. My newest concoction is papaya and pomegranate seeds. Yum!

I bet we can find some of these fruits in the US, I just have to look for them. I’m looking forward to adding more tropical fruits to my diet when I return. I hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of India.

Jaipur and the Taj

Our family enjoyed touring Jaipur. Our second day in Jaipur we saw a Foundry, where kings had their weapons made.

We got to see wild monkeys up close. So cool!

Later that day I got to ride an camel!

The next day we drove about 7 hours in a van to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. We stayed overnight in this fancy hotel and arose early to see the Taj at 8:00 AM. It was very hot and humid, so we were glad to have gone early. The Taj was fantastic. I had the same feeling that I did at the Grand Canyon, this feeling of being in the presence of something wonderful. Hard to describe.

After that, we drove to Deli, another 6 hour van trip, to fly back to Bangalore. Since it was Sunday, we had a little devotional time in the car and sang some songs. We played Angry Birds on my iPad, taking turns passing it around. That was fun. Since we had some time to kill before our flight, we asked our driver to take us to a Mall. Wow.  That was an experience. The mall was jam packed with people and most of the Indian women were wearing Western clothing. I even saw some people wearing shorts! I have never seen an Indian wearing shorts in Bangalore. Annie commented on the fact that she and I were wearing Indian clothes and Indians were wearing Western clothes. It seemed ironic. So my guess is Bangalore is more traditional than Deli. We flew back and arrived around midnight – a very long but fulfilling day.

Jaipur, India

We took a 2.5 hour flight to Jaipur, in northern India. Jaipur is also called “The Pink City” because hundreds of years ago, the king had the whole city painted pink to welcome a foreign dignitary. They’ve been painting things pink ever since. These are the gates to the city.

On the drive to our hotel, we noted quite a few differences between Bangalore and Jaipur. The Auto Rickshaws mostly had black tops and they also had the original type of rickshaw – the bicycle with two covered seats in the back.

In Bangalore, you always see cows wandering around and an occasional ox-cart. In Jaipur we saw a camel-cart. Camels!! I was so excited to see them. If fact, we got to ride one!

The weather in Jaipur is significantly more humid than Bangalore, making touring around a bit uncomfortable. The main attraction in Jaipur is Amber Fort. The Fort has a low wall all around it and houses a military barracks as well as palaces and court buildings.

We got to ride on elephants up into the Fort. That was pretty fun. The down side was getting somewhat assaulted by the hawkers who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

More about Jaipur in the next post.