Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Next Year

I am pleased to announce that I will be returning from Hyderabad sometime during the first half of 2009 and will be heading to Chapel Hill, North Carolina over the summer to start business school at Kenan-Flagler (UNC's school).

My Fabulously Tacky Hyderabadi Christmas Tree

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Yes We Did!

While it would've been amazing to be in the U.S. to watch the historic election, being in Hyderabad with a group of Americans was pretty spectacular too. There was a sense of pride in our American status that many of us hadn't felt in a very long time. As the Chair of the Hyderabad Chapter of Democrats Abroad, it was a proud morning for me on 2 counts. I was proud of my country for electing Barack Obama, and proud of myself for helping expats in Hyderabad do so! I organized 7 events leading up to the election including debate screenings and ballot collections and I fielded countless calls from nervous expats trying to figure out how to cast their ballots. Thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and the personal strength, charisma, intelligence, and eloquence of Barack Obama, I had tears of joy on the morning of November 5, 2008. (Yes, in India the election results weren't in until Wednesday morning. Here are some pictures of the 100+ American who gathered to watch the election results early on Monday morning:
We had significant press coverage of our event as the Indian news services wanted an American perspective of the momentous occasion:
Unfortunately, some members of the Indian press proved themselves to be less open-minded than the U.S. electorate. While taking a photo of the celebrations, a photographer asked an Indian-American woman in a saree to move out of the picture as he wanted "Americans only". I quickly corrected him and told him that if he wanted any pictures of our event he was not going to discriminate on racial grounds. If there's one thing this election taught us it's that Americans don't all look alike!
Congratulations Barack and congratulations America!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Diwali, the celebration of Ram's triumphant return to his kingdom, was on Tuesday. It is the closest thing that India has to Christmas as far as I can tell. People decorate for it, buy gifts, visit friends, and eat lots of sweets. Most businesses pretty much shut down for the week just like the week between Christmas and New Years in the U.S. However, one major difference is that for Diwali, people light fireworks. Fireworks are not regulated the way they are in the U.S. so anyone can buy any type of firework they want and set them off at home, which means the sky is filled with them and the air all across the city gets thick with smoke (even worse than the everyday smog)! Here are some photos I took of the fireworks:

The fireworks felt a bit more like this though since the explosions all around were disorienting and the fireworks were going off literally all around us (one even fell on the roof about 10 feet from us):
I make a nice daal for dinner and we lit lots of candles per tradition. Lamps were lit all over the kingdom to recognize Ram's return:Motichoor ke laddu is the traditional sweet that is eaten at Diwali. Since they happen to be little orange balls and Diwali happens to be near Halloween, I decided to decorate some as Jack-o-Lanterns. I'm starting to get lots of good ideas for Indian-American recipes, celebrations, etc.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

24 Hours of Panic

Last year I applied to business school. I was accepted and decided to decline the offer in order to spend a full year in Hyderabad. Upon deciding not to enroll, I corresponded with the admissions committee about deferral and re-application options. I was told that re-application was an easy process and in many ways a formality. So, about a week ago I sent in an updated resume and an application re-open form. On Monday night I was emailed a username and password to access my online application and was told that because the essay questions had changed, I needed to submit four new essays. Considering the application deadline was 3 days away, panic set in. I emailed the director of admissions to confirm and took a day off work to write feverishly. On Tuesday night, right as I was about to send my essays to my sister and dad for editing, I received an email from the admissions director. New staff members were unclear as to the re-application process; no new essays were required. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and slept peacefully.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Pressure Cooker Incident

I’ve always been scared of pressure cookers. My mom has had one for years and raves about it. The idea of pressure and the horribly loud sound they make have always kept me far out of the kitchen when she’s using it. But, I moved to India. Here, daal and other beans are staples of the diet and they all come dried. Getting your hands on cooking fuel is no easy task and spending hours in a hot kitchen when temperatures are already in the 90s is not appealing. The solution: the pressure cooker. Quick and efficient, you can make a delicious daal in 15 minutes flat.

And so I reluctantly agreed to purchase a pressure cooker. After using it a few times with supervision and slowly learning not to jump every time it whistles, I decided to embark upon some pressure cooking on my own. I made daalma, also known as lentil soup. My vegetables, lentils, spices, and seasonings were in, I sealed up the cooker and lit the stove. After about 4-5 whistles, I figured my soup was done. That’s when it dawned on me. I had no idea how to open the pressure cooker. I’d never used it on my own before and had never taken the job of opening it upon myself. All I knew was that I should probably let out some pressure before opening it and that it would probably pop when I did open it.

I started by removing the little nob that jumps up when steam builds up inside. There was very loud hissing and a steady stream of daal broth going straight to the ceiling. I decided that covering the ceiling with broth was probably not the appropriate way to use the cooker and quickly replaced the nob. Then I let the cooker sit for a bit thinking it just needed to calm down a bit and then I could open it.

Being impatient, I only let it sit for about 5 minutes before deciding to try to open it again. It wasn’t easy. I had to put some serious muscle into getting the handle to turn. I was prepared for a bit of a pop when I finally got it open and was careful to stand back. I was not at all prepared for what happened next. When I finally got the lid turned to the open position, the entire thing exploded! The lid flew out of my hand and there was boiling hot daalma raining down on me. The pressure of the cooker was so strong that my entire kitchen, floor to ceiling, was covered in lentils, vegetables, and broth. Needless to say, I was shocked. It took me a minute to regain my composure and figure out if I was hurt. Luckily there were only some minor burns on my shoulders and back from flying potatoes. My wet hair had protected my head and somehow my face had managed to avoid any contact with hot soup.

After a few deep breaths and accepting the fact that dinner was ruined, I cleaned up my soupy kitchen. I got the floor, counters, and most of the walls clean. However, I must admit that there are still tomatoes and potatoes stuck to my kitchen ceiling. While the kitchen is a little worse off, there is no permanent damage to me or to it.

And yes, I did learn how to use the pressure cooker properly. That little nob gets gently lifted up with a spoon to let all the steam out without causing a fountain of broth. Once the steam is out, the lid opens easily and there are no explosions. I can happily report that I have successfully opened the pressure cooker on numerous occasions since that fateful day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Welcome to the Neighborhood

This is the street where I live. Just like the rest of India it is quite the assortment of large houses, tents, garbage dumps, and expensive goods.
Here's the dumpster where we put our garbage. Notice the cows "grazing"nearby. This is the Audi dealership across the street.
Here's one of the many donkeys that roam up and down the street.
We also have our very own organic foods store. The only one in Hyderabad!
And of course, there is a Hindu temple on the corner.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Financial Turmoil

The other night I was out to dinner with a variety of young Americans who were members of Democrats Abroad (of which I am chair of the Hyderabad chapter). we were introducing ourselves to one another and talking about what we're doing in Hyderabad. One of them said "Well, I was working in mortgage backed securities at Lehman, but now I'm here living with my Grandparents and looking into microfinance." Everybody laughed until someone said "no really, what brings you to Hyderabad?" "I'm serious" was the reply. Awkward silence ensued. So, all of you who are reeling from the financial crisis on Wall Street, don't worry, we feel your pain! All the way across the world in Hyderabad.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bomb Contol

I'm at a workshop on capacity building for PPPs. The morning went off without a hitch and was uneventful. We came back from lunch to find a metal detector up and bomb sniffing German Shepherds. Why? The keynote speaker is the Minister of Urban Development. It seems like pretty heavy duty security, but then again, every mall has metal detectors and there have been lots of bombings in India.

Coming soon (soon being open to interpretation and really meaning "coming as soon as my high speed wireless is fixed"):

-welcome to the neighborhood

-my cold cold heart

-the pressure cooker incident

Monday, August 11, 2008

Out the Window

Monsoon is in full swing here in Hyderabad. There have been 77 weather-related deaths in Andhra Pradesh this month and it didn’t stop raining all weekend. The wind was howling and there was significant thunder and lightning.

On Saturday night, I was in the kitchen doing dishes when there was a loud “boom” and the power shut off. Freaked out and confused by the noise, I went to investigate with a tiny LED keychain flashlight. I soon discovered that the Ethernet cord that usually comes in through the window and hooks into my wireless router was gone! (Yes, my internet connection comes into my house through the window. No, it is not an illegal connection, that’s just the way they install things). The router flying across the room and out the window had been the source of the noise. Moreover, the wireless router itself was missing.

I went outside to look for the router and investigate what could’ve had such force to pull the cable and router out the window when it had been wrapped around the window bars fairly securely. In the rain and dark everything looked fairly normal and it was impossible to locate anything. So I went to bed thankful that my wireless router was connected to the Ethernet cord and not my laptop. Who knew internet connections could be so dangerous!

In the morning, the wireless router was discovered... it had merely hit the window bars and ricocheted across the room. What happened to the Ethernet cord is still undetermined. All I know is that when they come to reinstall the internet, they better find a more reliable way of securing it!

India: where all your IT outsourcing needs are met. India: where internet connections literally fly out the window.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bali Part III

On one of our day trips to central Bali, we went to one of the most beautiful places I have ever been: Lake Bratan. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the gardens were pristine, and the mountains were magnificent. The sun made all the flowers glow like this: The tall pines created a dramatic shadow effect on the lawns and gave a feeling of great size in this lovely garden.
The bathrooms at the garden were even polite enough to omit the end of the sentence describing the cost to use the facilities.
The highlight of Lake Bratan, however, was the spectacular water temple which appears to float just off the edge of the gardens.
After enjoying the beautiful lakeside gardens and temple, we went for a short hike to an incredible and dramatic waterfall.
To finish off the day, we played in the natural hot sulfur springs nearby.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bali Part II

On our third evening in Bali, we went to Uluwatu temple, which is on an incredible majestic cliff with spectacular views: There, we saw a Kecak dance performance of the Ramayana. I'll definitely remember the story more clearly now that I've seen it live!
While the views and dance were amazing, perhaps the highlight of the evening was the sky. The sunset was dramatic and almost every imaginable sky condition was visible within the horizon. Unfortunately, this picture does not do it justice:

Friday, August 1, 2008


While we were happily in paradise in Bali, 4 of us decided that a day trip to Java was in order so we could see a bit more of Indonesia. Upon arrival, we were amused by the incredibly phonetic spelling of taxi at the airport:
First order of the day was to see Borobudor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur), the very impressive Buddhist temple.
We also made sure to think like anthropologists and observe the visitors. Our favorite fellow tourist was Madam Sparklehat with the tight jeans. (I never said I was a nice person). We also visited the Sultan's water palace, a.k.a. massive swimming pool complex:
We learned how batiks are made and got to roam through the racks of beautiful silk cloths:
We even meditated and did yoga at Prambanan Temple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prambanan): On the way home, we embarassed Dyl and attacked her with puppets:
Finally, back in anthropologist zone, we observed this fantastic billboard, which is apparently a tobacco ad. The translation: "Man has desire"!:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I realized the other day why I was so emotionally unstable and frequently upset in India. I know now what is so hard about living there (for me, anyway). It’s the lack of control. This probably won’t surprise any of you who know me as quite the control freak and I’m sure you’re all quite thrilled to hear that I am (slowly and reluctantly) learning how to cede control. Here are a few examples of the ways I’ve been frustrated with my lack of control:

-Transportation: I don’t have my own car, bike, or scooter here, so anywhere beyond walking distance, I am dependent upon finicky rickshaw drivers. Trying to negotiate a fair price, the correct route, and safe driving is not always easy considering they see me as a giant dollar sign and there is often a significant language barrier. Giving up the freedom and control of going where I want, when I want, has been a struggle.

-Language: In addition to trying to negotiate with rickshaw drivers, I need to go shopping, make negotiations, work, and generally communicate with the world around me. This becomes very difficult with I don’t speak Hindi or Telegu, and many people don’t speak English. I no longer have the power of conversation, which leads to a significant loss of control in communication.

-Appearance: I get a lot of attention in Hyderabad based on the way I look. Stares, cat-calls, and lewd comments are part of my daily life every time I leave the house. At first, I thought that this was perhaps based on the way I was dressed. I dress conservatively by American standards, but my propensity to show my ankles and upper arms is quite scandalous in India. So, I started covering up and dressing in traditional Indian attire. Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed anything. It doesn’t matter what I wear, I get the same lewd comments and inappropriate stares all the time. Unlike in America, where I blend in, I can’t control the way people see me in India. I am a white girl. Therefore I am rich and slutty in the eyes of many Indians. No matter how much I try to blend in, I can’t control the stereotype.

-Daily Hassles: I recently bought a new water filter which needed to be delivered and installed to my home. When I asked when it would be delivered and installed, I was told “tomorrow.” So, I took the day off and waited at home all day. When I called to enquire about a delivery time I was told “in about an hour” or “first thing tomorrow”. This went on for five days. My attempts at yelling at people on the phone or going to the store where I bought it were completely fruitless. It didn’t matter. They would get to it, when they got to it. In my utter frustration I complained to a friend “what is wrong with these people, do they think I have nothing better to do than sit around all day and wait for a delivery?” Their response: “Well, in India, people who have the money for appliances also have large extended families living with them. There is always someone home who could deal with the installation, so, a weeklong wait isn’t a big deal.” I can’t control the fact that I have to take a week off of work to accomplish something by myself that a large Indian family would jointly share responsibility for. Moreover, most installation technicians are not educated enough to speak English. So trying to understand how something works or what they need to install it properly is quite difficult. Again, the control of communication is lost.

So, as you can see, I’m struggling a bit with my loss of control in India. However, it’s definitely good for my control-freak self to learn how to handle losing control. I’m also on vacation in Bali at the moment, so I don’t really have much room for complaint :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bali Part I

Monkey baby in the monkey forest! The monkeys pretty scary and aggressive and definitely felt up one of my friends! Being Jane in the Monkey forest:
The most amazing red curry I've ever eaten. Total cost: $1.50
Sunset at Kuta beach, where I went surfing!
Falung Dafa protest parade on the beach:
Bintang in the pool:
Rice Paddies:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Health Care

This morning I went to the dermatologist. The entire process went something like this:
9:15: walk into hospital and tell reception I want to see the dermatologist (no, I did not have an appointment, and yes, she was trained in the U.S.).
9:20: give them my name and and pay 300 rupees (~$7.50) for my appointment and 2 follow up visits as necessary.
9:30: see doctor.
9:45: leave doctor's office with good advice and a prescription.

That's right, the entire process took 30 minutes and cost me $7.50. At home in the U.S. I imagine it would've gone something like this:
Day 1: Call PCP and make an appointment.
Day 8: Pay $15 copay (insurance pays the other $200), spend 2 hours waiting, see PCP and get a referrral to a dermatologist. Call and make an appointment with the dermatologist.
Day 16: Pay $25 copay (insurance pays the other $300), spend 3 hours waiting, and finally see the dermatologist.

Total Cost in India: $7.50 and 30 minutes
Total Cost in America: $40 (plus insurance), 16 days indirect waiting, 5 hours direct waiting

Its no wonder our health care is the most expensive in the world!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend in Bangalore

Last weekend, Uma and I went to Bangalore to meet with some of my friends from Boston. They are spending a few months in India with an MIT program and so we had some fun times at historic sights and just being silly around the city.