During our first week in Chennai we discovered the Renga Lending Library here in our own neighborhood (Click here to read that post: “Saved by the Neighborhood Library“). The following week we trekked a little farther afield to three other book sites: The Anna Centenary Library, built in 2010; The Phoenix Mall Starmark, one of the newest bookstores in Chennai; and Higginbotham’s, India’s oldest bookseller.
The day after we arrived in India, a hotel clerk directed us to the “In & Out” convenience store at the gas station near our hotel. “They have everything,” he promised. Indeed, besides the convenience store, the rather deluxe complex includes a juice bar, a sweet shop, an ATM, and a florist shop.
Later it occurred to me that what you’re likely to find in a convenience store is a mix of the frivolous–cheap candy and fast food–and the essential—items you would pay double for if you left them behind on a trip. A survey revealed some interesting similarities and contrasts with what we would expect to find in the U.S. Continue reading →
We have, of course, been doing a lot of things besides eating. But as a basic requirement of life and an important element of culture, not to mention an enjoyable social experience, food naturally commands a lot of our attention. So here are a few of our dining experiences thus far.
Every morning starts off with the phenomenal breakfast buffet provided by our hotel, the Radisson Blu GRT airport hotel:
At least a dozen cooked Indian dishes (more on those in a later post)
Waffles, omelets, dosas (see below) and pancakes made to order
Halvah (a sweet dish made from sugar, ghee, and pumpkin, carrot, beets, or other starches)
Tea, coffee, lattes made to order, “South Indian filter coffee” (see below), masala chai, fresh squeezed orange juice, fruit smoothies, a salted yogurt drink, a sweet yogurt drink that tastes like my mom’s eggnog (way better than the fake store bought stuff you get at Christmas time), watermelon juice, grape juice …
Assorted curries, adai (a sort of spicy pancake), idli (a fluffy white South Indian cake made from rice- and lentil-flour), parathas (fried flat bread), savory porridges, and noodle dishes
On our way to Mahabalipuram a week ago (see the previous post) we stopped at a more recent but equally fascinating site: the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Center for Herpetology, established in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker. Its initial aim was to aid in rehabilitating the diminishing numbers of muggers (also known as “marsh” crocodiles in the wild). Now it is home to representatives from eighteen of the twenty-three species of crocodiles and alligators worldwide.
Last Saturday we visited the site of sixth-century stone carvings about an hour south of Chennai. It’s a striking testament to the creators’ artistry, technical ingenuity, and sheer dedication. Local craftsmen still carry on the tradition of granite carvings.
Before we left home, I made several trips to the Eugene and Springfield public libraries to return the 80+ books we’d accumulated at home. (One is still missing; I think we’re going to have to pay the replacement fee–I can’t believe I’m confessing this in public!)
It did make me a little insecure to leave home relying on my phone and e-books for my principal reading material. But today Brianna and I stumbled across a goldmine: the Renga Lending Library.
Stories from the Land of Springs(Dushanbe, 1996) is the memoir of one of Tajikistan’s most prominent 20th-century folklorists. Rajab Amonov (1923-2002) describes his boyhood in the northern Tajikistan city of Uro Teppa. The book’s attraction lies in its both cultural and historic value. As a folklorist, Amonov details cultural practices still observable in many parts of Tajikistan. Written in the late 20th century, the account also discloses Amonov’s perspective on the changes that took place during the early years of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, Amonov knew the value of story, so his descriptions are couched in engaging narratives. Continue reading →