Saturday, October 6, 2007

Lasagna is an objective good

I made about a metric ton of lasagna on Wednesday night for no good reason, and boy are my cold, leftover vittles tasty.

I feel numb.

My jade plant, in kitschy faux-Ming vase, just fell off the window ledge. The pot broke. I don't feel well enough to sweep up the dirt.

I've been dizzy all day.

My phone is ringing. It's my mother and I won't answer it. I don't want to answer any calls. I don't want to talk to anyone. I don't want to listen to weeks-old voicemails, or see the annoying message notification on my phone, or really do anything but suck on a lime in between shoveling pasta into my gullet.

What do I do now?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ay dios mio!

So, I'm going to be an aunt. Again.

Yup, my eldest sis is preggers, which will bring her count up to three. My other sis just had her bebe, Charlie, and at three weeks old, he may be the cutest and most advanced boy I've ever seen (I swear to god he sighed "Oh yeah" as he was nursing the other day). Dennis and Emma, Misty's kids, are also suitably adorable.

In Oregon, and leaving for NY again on Sunday. Didn't realize just how much I missed the Northwest, but...surprise. I do. The trees and the clear air and the sheer awesomeness of Powell's Books. Hrm.

Also, my parents have really great cable. In honor of fall premieres, watch the season 2 opener of Friday Night Lights. Sigh over the cuteness of Matt and Julie. Relive the awkwardness of high school. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 8, 2007



It's been a super-long time since I posted here. Part of this is a function of having a life (I no longer come home and blog; instead, I take walks, or call friends/fam, or go slumming at Goodwill), and part of this is related to some nasty comments left here and elsewhere that weren't great for my frame of mind; I was also trying to keep the India theme alive, which is difficult when the news source closest at hand is so abysmally poor at covering the subconty. (Really, a critique of the "Kerala model" of development on your front page, NYT? That's sooooooo 2002.)

Then I went through a phase of trying to create a new blog, rebrand myself, etc., but all the good names were taken (leaving me with, oh, I don't know, Then I got preoccupied with hummus and mozzarella, then I forgot about everything, and then I realized a month had gone by and I should get off my ass.

So here we go again. Last weekend, we went to Coney Island, so you get a picture of that. I don't know whether this is going to be a personal journal sorta thing, or a roundup of interesting news stories about topics I'm interested in, or some agglomeration of both, but I suppose we'll see. As time goes by.

(Also, an anecdote from Overheard in New York that well illustrates why I love Queens:
Female barista, scrubbing floor boards: I hate doing clean sweep 'cause I get all sweaty... Especially in my butt crack.
Male barista: You should employ the butt tissue. Just slip a paper towel in there at the start of the shift, and then just toss it at the end.
Female barista: I already do that.
Customer: Now that's legendary service.

--Starbucks, 67th & Queens Blvd)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I don't think I'm in Kansas anymore

Umm, in case you haven't heard, a tornado hit New York. What the bloody Jesus?

It took me three hours to get from the hovel to the office -- and then when I got there, I was one of only five or so people in my department resourceful enough to navigate the wild, wild world of thousands of stranded subway users, fighting for a bus heading for the Midtown Tunnel.

I did walk about two miles, snicker at a woman trying to vanquish a foot of standing water with a small mop, invite myself to share a taxi with three people who had only limited English skills, and lost my leg to the jaws of the 7 train at the Jackson Heights station, but so be it. Delhi crowds prepared me well; whereas claustrophobic Americans were hysterically imploring fellow riders to "Act like human being, not animals!", I was smugly listening to Golmaal Golmaal ... Everything's Gonna Be Golmaal and wiggling around frenetically, my eyes glazed in bliss.

That said, I thought I would stop dealing with woefully inadequate infrastructure when I left the "third world." So much for conventional notions of modernity and backwardness ...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

It really IS a Wallyworld

After months (years?) of speculation, it's official -- Wal-Mart is setting up a B2B joint venture with Bharati Enterprises to enter to the Indian market.

I'm not sure what the impact will be, but one of the most interesting things to watch may be how W-M's reputed supply chain organization will link small farmers and manufacturers to retailers. (It's estimated that 30%-40% of India's food rots in the fields or spoils in transit due to insufficient infrastructure.) It's not an incredibly sexy topic, but it certainly could have an incredible impact.

An endnote: I have to say, I have to delight in the thought that in the near future, whether in sleepy old Sonora or dusty Delhi, people like my grandmother will be able to unite in pursuit of an ever-better buy (Grandma: "Why would I spend $70 on a pair of jeans when I can get them for $12.99 at Wally World? Are you crazy?")

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Scenes from a company picnic

Co-worker's new husband to my beloved S: "So, you're with IT?"
S: ", I'm married to her. She works with your wife."
Co-worker's new husband: "Wait, so you're not in IT?"
S: [perturbed silence]
S to me: "Is there something wrong with this guy?"
Z to group: "Hey, don't worry about it folks, he's doing something better than IT -- he's unemployed!" (Ba dum ching!)

Big fat Sikh wedding (Get it? Sikh and Greek rhyme, and there was that movie ...)

The Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Management Committee is urging the Sikh community to make weddings more modest in a bid to end female foeticide, on the precept that the burden on the woman's family to pay for such celebrations is driving the community's sex ratio down.

Their suggestions? No meat, no alcohol, and festivities finished by noon.

It's an interesting suggestion, and certainly one that I might support (if I knew slightly more about the political machinations surrounding the proclamation); however, I don't think it will do a whit of good, based upon an informal poll of my husband.

"No kebabs? Lamb roast? No rara ghost? Why else would I go to a wedding?"

(Addendum: I know that the reporter probably didn't insert the helpful callout box on Sikhism ["Sikhs are forbidden from drinking, smoking or taking drugs and should not cut their hair," "Every male should add Singh after his name and every woman should add Kaur," etc.], but bejesus. If people are interested in learning about the religion, isn't it more effective to do a little informed Googling than to spout four or five platitudes alleged to represent an entire system of belief?)

Picture: My modest (and modern) wedding to a Sikh.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Forgive me, fam ...

... but this is simply too good not to blog about.

My grandfather has decided, for reasons unknown, that he wants to be baptized. Which is cool, you know, I respect his decision, and he wants it done on our family property (through which the Tuolumne River runs), so I suspect it will be a rather beautiful occasion.
But he was talking about it with my mom (Grandpa: "Daughter, would you also like to be baptized?" Mother: "Hell no!"), and my stepdad, a former Mormon mucky muck of some repute, steps into the conversation. "You know, when I was in the church, I used to do that; maybe I could be of some help."
So now, my stepdad is officially baptizing my grandfather. As if I needed MORE to talk about in therapy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The displaced subconty celebrates in style

This weekend? Midsummer Masala, Six Flags Great Adventure. Rock to the sounds of RUDE (Rutgers University Dhol Effect, totally in the running for Z's inaugural most awesome acronym award), eat Udupi dosas, slurp up Kwality ice cream, and then try not to puke when you plunge 155 feet on the Great American Scream Machine.

Yeah, it sounds corny as all get out, but it would be an interesting place for sociological observation. It's authentic India as interpreted by what is presumably a bunch of Americans of Indian heritage, presented as a galvanizing community event at a ridiculously overpriced, plastic family-fun factory. There's a lot to unpack there.

The absurdity relativity theorem

I used to roundly mock the government-run ads in India's print media -- the bad Photoshopping, the hilarious art, the poorly written copy, the absolutely nonsensical causes being championed/events being celebrated ...

And then I opened The Village Voice and noticed a lovely pink display telling me I could feel confident again. Hm, I thought, I am rather lachrymose right now ... what could be the cure?

Apparently, female genital surgery, including labia reduction and beautification, so I can "wear tight clothes comfortably." (Obligatory link to the NYUI Female Genital Surgery Center, so you can explore should you be genuinely interested.)

Yes, the laws of absurdity are the same in one system as in another system in uniform motion relative to it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Uncomfortable conversations with a recent immigrant

Partygoer: So, S, you've just gotten here from India. How do you feel?
S: Well, it's still a little overwhelming, you know. I'm fresh off the boat -- only been here for a few weeks.
Partygoer: (Uncomfortable silence)
S: Great to meet you!

Z to S, in hushed tone: Ummm ... so Americans are a little more PC than that.
S: What do you mean?
Z: It might make people feel weird because you're talking about your recent immigrant status in what could be construed as a derogatory way. Wikipedia says, "The term "FOB" has been used with offensive intent, often to those with a foreign accent or ethnic style of dressing. Depending on the person's attitude to the culture in question, he or she may or may not take offense at these statements. The term may also be used by people who themselves were immigrants years ago, in a way turning the insult once hurled at them onto the new arrivals, and in so doing emphasizing their own progress in assimilation or improved language skills."
S: Can't we just tell them to fuck off?
Z: ... And never the twain shall meet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Little India in NYC

At the behest of, well, just about everyone, S and I finally made a trip to Jackson Heights to see what all the fuss was about. Verdict? Not much.

Sure, Patel Brothers is great. We got lots of spices and made aloo mattar last night, which we mopped up with some precooked aloo parathas, since I am categorically unable to get the hang of traditional breads. And there are lots of stores glistening with ostentatious jewels of all kinds, and there are curry-a-minute shacks a grotty as those found in the back lanes of Old Delhi, but for some reason, some how, it just doesn't ring true.

In Chicago, when I went to Devon, it felt like I was stepping back into the insane traffic of the subconty; it felt like an outpost of civilization in a otherwise upturned world. In New York? I spent hours gazing at the RED palak paneer (red? since when is spinach RED?!) waiting for the buffet-hungry consumer in its ubiquitous chafing plate, feeling outside, outside, always outside. I know that yes, I'm technically not Indian, and yes, maybe I should feel like an outsider, but ... I can't put my finger on it; something just felt wrong to me there.

Any suggestions? Places to go for a delicious, authentic slice of South Asia? Or am I just being fussy, projecting my suspicions that Little Italy is really a tourist's playground, onto other supposedly "ethnic" (a term I don't particularly want to employ here, but so be it) neighborhoods?

Monday, July 23, 2007

A victory for Indian women?

Figurehead position or not, congratulations are in order for Pratibha Patil, the new president of India. Patil is India's first woman president (though the subconty is not unfamiliar with women leaders, such as Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi).

(And, of course, obligatory mention of how ironic it is that India is by and large perceived [in the U.S.] as oppressive to women, while we Americans struggle to wrap our heads around the potential election of Hilz and default to either calling her a bitch or a lesbian.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Salivating in anticipation

I love burritos, I love crepes, I love manicotti, so it's no surprise that I love another log-shaped delight, this one South Asian: puttu, a cylinder of steamed, compressed rice sprinkled with flakes of coconut and usually served alongside kadala, a spicy chickpea stew.

I've only had the dish in Kerala, but apparently, it's popular in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka -- or so holds The Village Voice, which tipped me off to a must-visit venue: Bownies, 143-05 45th Ave., in Flushing, Queens; they note, "Sri Lankan food in Queens at this luncheonette, serving the broding, spice-laced 'black curries' (pick lamb); mellow, coconut-laced fish curries (pick kingfish); and breads like appams (weekends only) and outsize rotis that make Ceylonese cooking delightfully unique."
... I think I know where I'm headed this weekend. Smell ya later, Colombian bakeries of Sunnyside! I need a little spice in my life!

Monday, July 16, 2007

NYT: Telling us things we should have known about a year ago

Only three months after the Indian embassy announced that the first consignment of mangoes exported from India to the U.S. was on its way, The New York Times is reporting the trend.

And they offer such enlightened reportage such as Nandu Patel's observation, "My customers are really happy." Patel is the manager of Patel Brothers, a grocery in Jackson Heights that is capitalizing on the desire for a taste of home by selling a box of 10 mangos for $30. (When I left Delhi, mangos were about Rs 60 [~$1.50] a pound.)

Brava, NYT. Good thing you waited three months to get the story right.

Ads by hand

I know it's an ad, but I love this hand-painted sign nonetheless (found in Brooklyn, perhaps Williamsburg, if I recall my weekend meanderings correctly). It lacks the vibrant colors of the Limca and Coke visuals defining the urban imagination in India, but olde tyme fishing with a whiskey bottle? Words can't describe how awesome I find this.

That said, India isn't averse to eye-catching billboards for booze. Attaching a picture of one of the ubiquitous mountain billboards for Himachal Pradesh fruit wine; I love how the juice bar is requesting a bit of a tipple (god knows it's cooler than hippies here requesting a shot of wheat grass in their damned bougie pina colada smoothies!).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Words can't express ...

... how hard I laughed when I saw this image in the latest issue of The Village Voice.

Mr Zoey adds:

Bhaaji aa ki?

Should I be enjoying this ironically?

The other day at work, someone started a long yarn about how she saw a restaurant the other day that served rice pudding. And only rice pudding.

I half thought she was joking (still getting accustomed, again, to the American brand of wry cynicism) until, when taking the inimitable husband on a whirlwind tour of the Lower East Side, we chanced upon Rice to Riches.

What I suppose are considered tongue-in-cheek flavors -- Sex Drugs and Rocky Road? Corner of Cookies & Cream? -- seem a bit pat. It's novel, yes, that the proprietors can support themselves by selling a product that frankly probably isn't that great by merely appealing to the fact that if you build it in a cool neighborhood, hipsters will come; at the same time, are we really so post-everything that people will pay $6 for a cup of pudding topped with fruit?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hugs for all! (Love me? Please?)

Hugs for all, courtesy Amma.

(Although I, humble little Zoey, promise to give you hugs if you help me figure out my life. Or even just my blog. Yes, that's right -- India, Kerala, and my new life in New York, all coming together. With the loving wisdom of a mother. Maybe we'll do a darshan together?)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

So what if there are human bones in his medicine?

... he IS wooing New York, you know.

That's right, at his camp in the U.S., Swami Ramdev attracted more than 1,000 guests.

I'm just saying ... I went to look at an apartment the other day, and I mentioned that I had lived in India for two years, and my potential landlord was all, "Oh! India! I have a friend who's spent time there, and he has a number of gurus. And we talk about it a lot, but I can't pick which guru is right for me."
You know, if you can't figure out which guru you want to follow, perhaps you shouldn't follow one at all.