Indian Vignettes

A chilled bottle of Sula Rose, just what we needed

Try the wine! – That is, if you know it’s been decently well kept. I asked for a bottle of red and upon tasting, I realized it had been cooked just by being left out. I asked if it was stored in a refrigerator and the haughty waiter said, “Only white wine needs to be refrigerated.”  Oh and by wine, I don’t mean the local moonshine!

Sula, the vineyard owned by our friend Rajeev, is ubiquitous and offers an intriguing example of terroir.  Sula’s Zinfandel rosé has an interesting note of salinity followed by a subtle creaminess that definitely lets the taster know that this rosé was made far from France. Their wines are available at some restaurants in New York, including Jean-Georges’ Spice Market. I had Sula’s Chenin Blanc at a restaurant called Mint in Midtown and its zippy citrusy edge went perfectly with the curries my friends and I ordered.

The mother of all switchplates at Stomach Chinese - we couldn't stomach staying there, so we left before the food came

Light switches and plugs – is this an electrician’s nightmare or triumph? A hotelier told us that structures are wired this way so rooms will always have plenty of electricity options. However, judging from number of the switches we flipped that did nothing at all, perhaps future contractors should adopt to the less is more school of thought.

Bridge from the outdoor yoga studio to Villa River Cat

Go to Goa! – Or your idea of it in India. There are scores of questionable “ashrams” and “resorts” so depending on where you want to go, try to get someone on the phone versus going purely over email or online recommendations. A hotel we had booked in Mysore seemed lovely online and the correspondence was swift and professional over email, but when we got there, we were dropped off at a cheap-looking motel and greeted by a teenager whose nametag read “Intern 001”. However charming it was to see 001 reset the router with a broomstick in an attempt to get us wifi, his efforts were always for naught and we got the hell out of there after one night. But of course you can trust what we are about to

Villa River Cat Entrance

recommend below…with a grain of salt as we’re not responsible for your enjoyment. ;)

We flew to Goa from Bangalore and stayed in Panjim one night, which was decent as far as former colonial outposts go, but had we known that the restaurants would be mostly closed or have only a fraction of their menus available as it wasn’t “the season” yet (arbitrarily set to begin November 15th annually), we would have gone straight to Mandrem. Mick Jagger has been going there for ages so we figured we’d probably like it. We stayed at Villa River Cat, a cute place run by Renu,

Renu's Aloo Gobi

an Indian man who insisted on calling every man staying on his property “Baba-ji.” The animals that live here are happy and well looked after; you will be as well. Renu learned how to cook via remote teachings and suggestions from his mother when he was living in Europe and homesick for her food. He tries to offer dinners to his guests every now and then but these are closely guarded affairs as he doesn’t want non-guests to show up. Unfortunately, he didn’t cook a

Diwali on Baga Beach

meal while we were there but he did teach us how to make Aloo Gobi on our last morning, and on our last night, he drove us out to a bustling restaurant for dinner and then to a popular beach to watch the Diwali celebrations going on there.

Bucket Showers – sheer genius. You really do only need about 5 gallons of water to take a shower; this has been proven by the dual bucket method common across India. In many showers, you will see a five gallon bucket with what appears to be a four-cup measure hooked on the edge of the larger bucket. Fill the big bucket up with water and proceed to splash water over your body with the four-cup measure. This saves water and reduces shower time to less than five minutes. Cold water decreases this timing even more!

Driver wonders if he has enough gas (he did)

Autos – can’t stand them, but can’t get anywhere without them. A friend who lives in India told us that auto drivers zoom around without checking their gas meters. When they run out of gas, they hook one leg around the frame of another auto and that guy is now in charge of dragging your auto to the nearest gas station. We never saw such a symbiotic feat but I believe it – India seems to be the incubator of all nonsensical ideas that work just well enough to become common practice. You may want to bring ear plugs or a face mask to shield yourself from pollution from other vehicles, not to mention the noise:

But try keep your camera on hand because you may come across this type of scene, an impromptu parade that we saw on the third day of Diwali:

Shipping goods via FedEx – Leave plenty of time to do this. The FedEx employees are very thorough and literally examine both sides of every napkin in a set of six, sometimes twice. This is aggravating to witness.

This is one of the best sidewalks in Bangalore that we walked on - imagine all the slabs upended and you'll have an idea of what some of the others look like.

Broken Sidewalks and Overpasses – I was so busy looking at the ground that I didn’t notice this glorious piece of architecture spanning Residency Road! For some reason, the sidewalks are modular in Bangalore – each slab is a few feet wide with a few holes in it, presumably so workers can lift them up and access whatever is down below. This seems ingenious, but as a result, many of the slabs are wobbly, uneven and downright dangerous to walk along. On some particularly neglected stretches, the slabs resemble Stonehenge so keep one eye

A glorious overpass!

on the ground and one on the sky; you never know what pedestrian salvation you may find.

Delicious Airline Food Exists! Jet Airways has the best airline food we’ve been offered so far. I’ve Hoover-ed every ceramic container of food that’s come my way from Jet – veg and non-veg are both excellent. I haven’t had the Western cuisine and on some of the short hops, such as the Goa-Mumbai flight, only Indian cuisine seems to be offered. The Mumbai-Bangalore flight we took earlier in our trip departed at 3pm but we were still served a full lunch, also a nice touch. The best part is the delicious mango pickles, which Chris doesn’t like so every time we’re fed inflight, I get a double dose of eye-watering sourness. Yum! Jet Airways, if you’re reading this – Namaste. How about an upgrade next time so we can taste your business class cuisine?

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