Posts tagged "food"

Tovo Infusions in Chennai Review – Basically it’s an Indian Nandos

Tovo is a fairly new restaurant in Chennai on RK Salai just opposite the Woodlands and Savera hotels. I had the opportunity to check it out one Sunday evening with my wife and our friends. I didn’t read any reviews about the place before hand, I just knew that it was vaguely related to fusion food – whatever that means.

Having dined there, I can tell you that what it actually offers is chicken and it’s basically Indian version of Nandos.

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The 1000KM Wedding – Part 2

This is Part 2 of the 1000KM wedding, if you haven’t read Part One of this scintillating story then I suggest you head over here and read it before continuing here.

We arrived in Tiruppur about 6:30am, my body was running on auto-pilot from lack of sleep and I was thankful when I collapsed in to the hotel bed – and even more thankful that the hotel was really nice, none of the 5 star nonsense you get in Chennai but clean, neat and modern.

The hotel was really nice!

There was a bit of a who-hah to check in, I didn’t have my passport on me and the hotel insisted that they needed to have a xerox copy of my passport and visa in order for me to be able to stay. But rules in India are made to be flexible and when we said we’ll find another hotel suddenly passports were forgotten. It wasn’t as if I was going to be staying over night anyway, it was just a place to crash and get refreshed on the Sunday.

In India the wedding reception tends to be held before the actual wedding ceremony, I’m not entirely sure of the reason for this but it probably has something to do with the astrology and auspicious days which many people rely on for the timing and date of the actual ceremony. The astrology charts of the bride and groom will have been consulted way before they’d met each other to check that the two people are compatible and it would also reveal the best day and time to get married. Invariably the ceremony would take place at some ungodly hour like 5 o clock in the morning so instead of asking guests to attend at this time, a reception is held the evening before at a much more sociable time.

We now had 6 hours to kill in Tiruppur, I wanted to be a tourist and go around snapping photos but it turned out one of the guys I was with had an old university friend living in the town so he asked me to join them for the afternoon.

It soon became apparent that the old university friend came from quite a wealthy family; my first introduction to him came when he asked if he could come in to my room to check the decor and furniture because he wanted some ideas for the hotel he was constructing within the town. Next we went to the modern cinema complex that his family owned and then on to his family house on the outskirts, although not before passing several Vodafone stores which his family operated.

The guy was 28, married with a young son, drove a Volkswagon Passat and was realizing his life’s dream of building a hotel while simultaneously managing a chain of Vodafone stores. It’s very difficult not to compare yourself!

The family home was built on a colossal scale, I think they gave the architects a picture of the Empire State Building or something and said: Think big. And big it was, the lounge alone was 3 stories high. The whole house was spotlessly clean and was completely devoid of any kind of ornaments or clutter, come to think of it I didn’t even see any family photos or any other kind of pictures hanging on the wall, I’ll have to ask about that and find out why.

The living room was just massive

You can’t beat a bit of Indian hospitality and even though the guy came back home with two random people (one of whom was this bloody foreigner) his wife and mother set to work in the kitchen immediately and within 30 minutes lunch was ready to be served. In keeping with tradition, despite the opulence and obvious wealth, it was served on a banana leaf. Banana leaves are often used as plates in homes and restaurants because they are clean, waterproof and are obviously bio-degradeable so can be quickly disposed of – they don’t need any kind of processing or packaging like paper plates so all in all 100% environmentally friendly!

After lunch (I had seconds!) we went to see the guy’s new hotel that he was building. Most of it is a building site still but he’s currently got the headache of trying to work out the best light switches to use in the hotel rooms and what kind of laminate finish to use on the furniture. By comparison, my biggest headache seems to be am I going to have enough time to clean the house, do my laundry and get the grocery shopping done on a Sunday afternoon. Different worlds!

One of the many differences that I’ve noticed between the East and the West is the attitudes towards ownership. We would always call the home where our parents lived our parents home, in India, the parents home is often referred to as ‘our’ home. Similarly when this person was talking about the various businesses his family members ran it was always ‘our’ business, even when it was completely operated, run and managed by another family member. The cinema is completely run by his Dad, which in a western sense would make it his Dad’s business, but it was still referred to as ‘our’ business. The hotel was his idea from conception to execution and he alone would be responsible for the running of the place when it was done, but it was still ‘our’ hotel.

Back at our hotel (no, not the Claridge family hotel, the hotel where me and the guys were staying) we ran in to a spot of bother. It was coming up to 6pm and we realized we had no transport to get from the hotel to the reception which was about a 30 minute drive away – everyone thought everyone else was going to organize it. This being Tiruppur, a small tier 3 kind of city, there were no call taxis available and no auto driver wanted to go all the way out of the city.

The bus back to Chennai left at 9pm so we had to get to the reception quickly to allow enough time to get back to catch the bus. After half an hour of frantic phone calls to friends and acquaintances (after eating, India’s second favourite pastime is networking and building contacts) we found someone who would give us a lift to the wedding but he couldn’t make it until 7pm. This should give us enough time to get to the reception, get photos taken with the anxious bride and groom to be, eat dinner then race back to the bus station.

Of course, if it actually went as smoothly as that then this wouldn’t be India and there would be no point writing this story.

The timezone for India is referred to as IST, officially known as Indian Standard Time, but colloquially it’s referred to India Stretchy Time because it’s very rare for people or events to ever be, or start, on time.

Of course, 4 years in India and I haven’t lost my British sense of time so at 7 o clock sharp I was suited and booted in the hotel reception area waiting to be picked up. The rest of the gang was upstairs watching the cricket and generally laughing at me for getting ready so early. By 7:30pm a couple of them came down to the reception and started making phone calls to find out where this guy was who was supposed to be picking us up.

“5 minutes” he said.

5 minutes is a word you hear a lot when you ask how long something is going to take or when the person will be done by. It basically means I don’t know, so we settled back down in the chairs in the reception while my work colleagues decided to do all kinds of poses infront of a camera which was frankly embarrassing.

7:50pm we get a phone call from the person picking us up. He can’t find the hotel. No one I was with knew their way around Tiruppur so we handed the phone to the receptionist who explained where the hotel was. “OK, 5 minutes” he said.

7:55pm he phones again, he still can’t find the hotel with the new directions. More explaining from the receptions. “OK, got it, 5 minutes”.

8:05pm and this guy finally turns up in a rude boy Suzuki Swift with blacked out windows, over the top spoiler attached to the roof, 20 inch sub woofers in the boot and of course the neon yellow go faster stripes.

Boring engineering fact for you here: A spoiler (or more accurately a rear wing) put on the back of a road car is more about show than anything else. It has the effect of increasing the weight of the car and the drag while producing none of the downforce since a road car doesn’t go fast enough so basically you end up spending more money on fuel, drastically reduce the re-sale value of your car and has the side effect of making a car owner look little bit, well, silly

No one seemed the least bit bothered that it was now impossible for us to get to the wedding and come back in time to catch the bus. India has chilled me out a lot (no, really it has!) and I know that if a show starts at 7pm then it will be gone 7:30pm before it actually starts (thanks to India Stretchy Time) so why rush, but the fact that I was 500KM from home and knowing that we would be hard pushed to catch the bus in time started getting me pretty anxious.

The useless spoiler on the top of the car apparently wasn’t just for show because the guy really did drive like he thought he was on the race track. Squeezing through the narrowest of gaps, overtaking on blind bends, forcing the on coming traffic to veer violently out of the way, it’s either a miracle we didn’t hit anything or I’ve discovered India’s new Formula 1 driver.

At last we reached the reception, I glanced at my watch, it was 8:30pm, just about enough time to say hi to the bride and groom and hop foot it back to the bus station.

The wedding receptions are held in big halls with a stage

The way the wedding receptions work in India is that there is a big hall with a raised stage at one end. The married couple to be sit on a big sofa and a never ending queue of guests pour in from far and wide to get their photos taken and give gifts and wishes. Fortunately when we entered most people had wandered off to take advantage of the free food (see above, India’s favourite pastime) so we scrambled up on the stage, said our congratulations and then raced back to get the bus.

Can you spot the Johnny Foreigner in this photo?

Or at least that’s how I saw it going in my mind. We spent about 2 minutes on stage with the bride and groom but with so much free food on offer the temptation was too much, everyone had to dig in, go back for seconds and thirds, try out the four different types of desserts and then discuss what had been eaten at length.

Myself, on the other hand, worried about the 9 hour bumpy bus journey back to Chennai with limited toilet stops, opted to play it safe and had just plain idlys.

By this stage it was almost 9pm and the bus was due to depart the bus station 30 minutes away so with my anxiety getting the better of me I went over to the person I was travelling with and asked him what we were going to do about catching the bus. He looked at his watch for probably the first time that night and made a sort of “oh” sound. He dug out his phone and the conversation went a little something like this (paraphrased of course):

Friend: Hi, we were supposed to catch the 9pm bus but we can’t make it to the station on time, can we get a later bus?
Company: No, sorry sir, all services are full you must come to the bus station
Friend: Aiyyo, but we are too far away to catch the bus
Company: Sir, you must come to the bus station
Friend: Can’t the bus sort of pick us up as it goes past? We are near the Perumanallur cross roads
Company: No sir, it’s the rules, you must come to the bus station
Friend: Err, ok, how about if I pay a small fine to the bus driver?
Company: Wait let me call you back

And so it turned out, for a small ‘fine’ we were able to catch the bus at a major cross roads as it went past us. It was silly of me to worry about getting to the bus station on time because in India everything works out in the end.

This is the beauty of India and I’m constantly amazed by how everything just seems to work out. No matter how bad you think you are in the dodo, some how it will work out. I don’t know how and I don’t know why, but I love it 🙂

Social Media Summit 2011

Today was the Social Media Summit in Chennai and you would be quite surprised by how many young male students suddenly became super interested in social media when it’s held at an all girls college. Kudos to the organizers for thinking of that unique selling point to bring the punters through the doors!

I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 7am this morning; 7am’s don’t normally exist in my life unless there is a real good reason like having a plane to catch or the party from the night before was so good it’s still going on (although sadly nowadays it’s more of the plane catching and less of the parties). Infact, people back in England seem rather envious that I start my day about 12 noon, I protest of course and say “we’re a company working with UK and US clients, so I need to be closer to their timings“, which is a incredibly useful excuse and I don’t know if they’ve cottoned on yet to the fact that I’m in marketing and don’t speak to the clients.

So got up, got dressed, had extra-super-strong coffee which brought enough neurons to life to be able to go and find an auto driver who could rip me off only a little bit. It’s monsoon season now so the autos can add “standing water, boss” to the never ending list of reasons why they have to charge me 150% more than a local.

The conference was fantastically good, a big shout out to Sorav and his Echovme staff for putting on an excellent seminar. The speakers came from all different backgrounds, young and old wise and they really knew their stuff. I felt like I was back in Uni again as I furiously scribbled notes, although at least this time I was actually enjoying the lectures and can see the value in it rather than calculating yet another partial differential equation.

I think I’ve just realized how long I have been in India now because while this blog post is supposed to be about the social media seminar, I’ve found myself writing a sentence about the food that was served. That’s one thing you’ll find about India, whenever you meet someone in the south, they’ll ask you “sabdi-aah?“, which is Tamil and it translates to “Had your food?” (people in North India will ask you “khana khaya?“). Food is never off the menu of conversation topics in India, it’s so deeply ingrained in to the culture. So yes, the food. It was a very good buffet above and beyond what I was expecting. Desi Pete!

I’ve been to a couple of social media seminars in the past few months and the way this one differed was that the people giving the speeches were really able to give real life, concrete examples from big business that would prove useful to B2C and B2B marketers and delved in to the specifics. If social media is an area you are interested in I strongly recommend that you go to a paid seminar because you’ll easily get several years worth of knowledge in just a couple of days.

There’s more going on tomorrow, so I need to wake up again at o-silly hundred hours. I better get to bed now!

Oh yes, here’s a few snaps from the day, I know you were really keen to see them 😉

British Teenagers Living In La-La Land

A couple of dates ago I asked people to sign a Government petition to teach school kids about financial literacy. Today a report has been published that says most teenagers don’t even know the cost of basic food items like eggs and bread along with washing powder with 1 in 10 thinking that a loaf of bread costs just 29p! On the other hand, they knew to the nearest pound how much things like iPhones, iPads and PS3’s cost! Fair enough, it’s not like it matters too much since they are not going to be doing the weekly family shop, but it could have implications when they head off to uni or how much free cash they’ll have to spend when the get a job.

The price of bread? It's 29p, says one in 10 teenagers - Telegraph

The price of bread? It’s 29p, says one in 10 teenagers – Telegraphhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/consumertips/8745318/The-price-of-bread-Its-29p-says-one-in-10-teenagers.htmlA new survey has found that over half of teenagers did not know that bread costs more than £1 a loaf, with one in 10 believing that it costs around 29p. However, eight in…

A Ramadan Feast

On 31st August it was Ramadan (or Ramzan as it’s referred to here in India) when Muslims celebrate the ending of the month of fasting. Normally it’s not an an event of note for me except that this time I was lucky enough to be invited in to the home of a Muslim family and eat with them.

The traditional Muslim food is mutton biryani and they cook it by the bucket load. I was advised to wear special stretchy pants before I came because I was expected to eat a LOT and yeah, they weren’t kidding. The food was served on a banana leaf because that was traditionally used for serving food (in actual fact the entire banana tree is used for some purpose or another, not just for the fruit it produces) and it sure beats paper plates in terms of the environment.

On the banana leaf in the picture below there is mutton biryani, chicken 65 (so called because it’s supposedly 65 days old), brinjal and raita. The absence of cutlery means one thing: you eat with your hands. In actual fact there was cutlery available but the family thought it would be far more hilarious to watch this foreigner try and use his hands to eat rice, something which I not only failed miserably at but also completely failed to keep any ounce of dignity while trying to do it.

Not content with the huge amounts of food that had been placed on my plate, I was given a massive bag which contained enough food to feed the entire Indian army for a month and was affectionately referred to as a “midnight snack” incase I got hungry later! I’ve taken a quick photo of all the food given to me for the ‘snack’, but actually better served me as lunch and dinner the following day. And the day after. And the day after that.

In the photo below we have a whole load of yummy stuff. Starting from the top left and working clockwise we have a dessert called gulab jamum, which is definitely not made from cottage cheese (sorry readers, a little inside joke there), then there are two boiled eggs in a tangy paste, then some more fried chicken 65, then another dessert which I don’t remember the name of, then 45kg of mutton biryani, then another dessert called payasam and finally a bowl of raita. Oh, and you’ll probably recognize the Cadbury’s chocolate bars so no need to explain them!

Wow, so much food and so much hospitality. You’ve never known true hospitality until you’ve visited an Indian family home. In this case I was taken in and made to feel like part of the family, fed until I could eat no more and then given even more food to take back with me. I lost two kilos in August from going to the gym consistently, looks like I’ll need to do it all again in September to shed the 2kg I put on from all this food!

Thanks to my adopted Indian family for taking care of me on Ramadan, making me feel so welcome and making sure I wouldn’t go hungry for a week!

I Still Find Stuff Like This Funny

You know, after two and a half years (flipping heck!) in India, I really shouldn’t be finding the hodgepodge approach to the English language funny anymore, but every now and then I feel compelled to photo and share some of the unique ways English is being used here in India.

The photo below was taken from a nice little vegetarian restaurant around the corner from my apartment that I went to last night. I can’t believe I’ve not been before because it was really cheap and the food was good. My whole meal, which included a dessert and coffee (I know, I really went crazy) came to Rs 155 – about £2.20.

thank-you-come-agin

As a sidenote, I’ve been here so long and seen first hand just how expensive things can come when you have double digit inflation. Two years ago the meal would have probably cost about £1.80 – so nearly a 25% increase. You know things are getting bad when the middle classes start to complain about how expensive things are getting.

If You Go Down To The Beach Today

Given the utter lack of things to do in Chennai (ie. the pub) on Sunday evenings, Chennai, as a whole, converges en-masse to a place known as Marina beach. I often forget that Chennai is a coastal city but it’s just a short 10 minute train ride to get to the beach.

Marina beach is the place to go, it’s like Blackpool but not as bad. Families play with their kids, newly weds and secret couples sit slightly closer to one another trying to look nonchalant (but no touching!) and groups of lads do whatever it is young men do and talk about in India. Talk about cricket I guess. Amazingly you’ll also find small groups of young lady’s on the beach – quite what they are doing out of their hostels and on their own I don’t know! :p

When I went to the beach this weekend I did notice a large mixed group of young twenty somethings – presumably MBA students – sitting in a circle and chatting away to one another, however, true to the norms of the society in this part of the country, dignity was maintained by having all the girls on one half of the circle and all the guys on the other.

The beach is like India everywhere, the rich rub shoulders with the poor. If you sit or remain stationary for more than a few minutes, hawkers converge on you like the plague, peddling everything from food of a dubious quality to palm reading and even parakeets that can foretell your future by selecting cards from a pile. You’ll even get the unfortunately disformed beggars trying to touch you and ask you for money and as a foreigner you are definitely seen as a walking ATM!

Oh yes, and as a foreigner if the hawkers don’t get to you first then it’s because some locals have come over to speak to you. Some of my friends can find this quite tiring but I personally love the attention and curious nature of the people here! However, the questions are always the same…

  • “You are from?”
  • “How you like India?”
  • “You like our food?”
  • “How you find our climate?”
  • “This is your wife?” (pointing to my friend)
  • “You have been in India how long?”

Then when they learn that you’ve been living and working in India for the last two years the focus of the questions change…

  • “You have a smart salary?”
  • “How much you earn?”

😀

And then, after chatting for you for 5 minutes, during which time you grow more conscious of the fact that you have not asked them a single question they ask for “your good name” and ask if they can exchange contact details with you – as a result my phoneboook is stuffed full of numbers for young and middle aged Indian men who I’ve met for all of 5 minutes, answered the same questions and never spoken to again in my life…if only it was this easy to get women’s numbers!

Back to the beach.

While the Indian middle classes are still learning about recreation, downtime and life beyond the office / shop / factory, the deep rooted traditional values of the south remain intact. Women do venture in to the sea but this being India they keep themselves covered from head to toe – yep, they go in to the sea fully dressed, it’s quite bizarre!

Unfortunately, from a personal point of view, no where sells buckets and spades for creating massive sand castles, so one of my few talents is completely wasted on the beaches of Chennai 🙁

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Things That Make You Go ARAGH!

Today has been a very frustrating day. The God of Karma has been saving up all my bad luck from the 14th August and rained it down on me all day. They say things come in threes, and I wouldn’t want to disapoint an old cliche with my own series of three unfortunate events.

(I do find it a little odd that both this post and my previous one talk about bad luck, but hey ho, that’s the way the cookie crumbles)

The first happened early this afternoon. I went to a friends house and she was complaining about the internet password used by her former housemates. Without going in to too many details, it was sick, wrong and twisted. No problem I said, I’m a guy (of the deadly hunter-gatherer variety), we enjoy fixing things for women.

Changing the password for your wireless internet is a job of about 30 seconds, access the router (duh! By going to http://192.168.0.1 stupid!) update the password, click save then update the passwords on the computers accessing the wireless network. No biggie, I’ve done it loads of times before on other routers.

Except this time, sods law caught up with me and what should have been a 30 second job turned into 2 hours of frustrating, hair pulling, pleading and bargaining time spent trying to get the damn computers to work. My friend was convinced I’d broken her internet, but it’s not supposed to work like that, it’s just damn unlucky that the moment you mess around with someone elses computer to ‘fix’ it, everything goes wrong.

After wasting two hours of my time, I did eventually fix it, but the lesson was learned, never offer to fix anyone elses computer. Even if it’s for a girl.

The second round of bad luck came early this evening. I invited a Kenyan expat over to watch the Man U v Arsenal match and we decided to order a take away. Calling up, I was unconvinced that they understood the order. Regardless, we opened a couple of beers and settled down to watch the game.

A couple of hours later, it was apparent that no food was going to turn up, so we got an Indian friend to call up the place. Typically, they had no record of our order, so we went ahead and tried to place it again, the conversation went something like this.

Friend: “We want 3 chicken rolls and a mutton biriyani. M-U-T-T-O-N. Oh, no mutton, umm, ok, fine, chicken biriyani.”

A few minutes later we get a phone call.

Friend: “oh, no chicken biriyani either. Fine, we’ll just have 5 chicken rolls. OK? Good”

I should point out that this is a very regular occurance in restaurants in Chennai, it’s really not uncommon to have the waiter come back to you after placing the order and tell you that that dish or drink is not available. A classic case is illustated in one my previous posts about my quest to get some idlies. Anyway, you can’t get stressed about it, it’s just TII 🙂

Eagerly expecting our food, the phone rang again a few minutes later…

Friend: “What? No chicken rolls? OK, what about paneer rolls? OK, fine. No paneer rolls. This is a take away restaurant you are trying to run here, right? You’re not moonlighting as a stationary shop or something? What? Oh never mind. No, we don’t want anything else, cancel the order. No, we don’t want to order anything…No, we don’t want the paneer rolls because you said you didn’t have any! Sorry, am I talking to a chimpanzee?”

Sidenote: Anyone searching for information on Tandoori Wala in Chennai, avoid at all costs! They don’t speak English or Tamil (we were lucky we had a Hindi speaking friend), they don’t take down your orders and they never have any of the food on their menu! What kind of mickey mouse restaurant is this? On top of that, the prices are at least double what you would pay else where.

So another lesson was learned today. Tandoori Wala in Chennai should be avoided like the plague.

By this point the God of Karma was having a field day and looking down on me in glee as I carried on watching the match, albeit very very hungry. Still, I had my beer, right? Well, so I thought…

The final round of bad luck came during the game. In what can only be described as a freak series of unfortunate events, the way everthing came together at the right moment to create utter destruction verged on the poetic.

First off, we were watching the Man U v Arsenal match. It was the second half and I went to the fridge to pour a couple more cold beers. As I stood behind my friend to hand him his beer, Arsenal decided at that exact moment to have a very close shot on goal and my friend threw back his arms, knocking the beer flying across the room and smashing against my baby laptop (my wonderful Asus eeePC 🙁 ) spilling beer all across the floor and all over my keyboard.

Without thinking, I carefully (even your unconscious mind cares about beer) put the other beer glass down by the chair I was sitting in (which was on the other side of the room) and scampered over to my netbook which was making a worrying crackling noise. Meanwhile my friend also leapt in to action and rushed to get a mop and bucket to clean it all up. As I was tending to my netbook, he shoved my seat out of the way, sending the other beer glass flying and giving about half a dozen shoes a proper beer shampoo.

I learned my final lesson of the day (and hey, every day is a school day, right?): don’t invite Kenyan expats round to eat, watch football and drink beer!

The rest of this post is only for uber-computer geeks. Normal people can stop reading now.

(seriously, unless you actually own a minimum of two computers and have a computer parts graveyard somewhere in your (moms) house, don’t even bother continuing)

After spilling beer on my precious baby laptop, many of the keys became stuck / stopped working, for example the Num Lock key was permanently on with no way to switch it off (which rendered the U, I, O keys useless unless I planned to do lots of spreadsheets) and so was the F1 key, so every programme I opened up, it kept opening the help pages and would go in to a loop of “help automatically opens” => “manually close help” => “help automatically opens” => “manually close help” (you get the idea).

So I did some research and found that you can manually remap (change / swap) keys on your keyboard. I downloaded a free program called KeyTweak and was able to disable both the Num Lock and F1 keys, making my keyboard usable again. This is probably very useful if you’ve spilt your drink all over your laptop keyboard and some keyboard keys have stopped working or default to the ‘on’ status.

TII – Sorry boss, we’ve run out of idli’s

This post is part of my TII series, where weird and wonderful things happen that can often only be explained by the phrase: This Is India.

On Saturday I was heading over to see my friend. I called her up and asked if she wanted me to pick up anything along the way. She did. Some Indian fast food, namely sambar rice and idli.

I stopped at an Indian equivalent of McDonald’s, which serves Indian fast food – probably faster than you get it in McDonald’s. I’m convinced that a lot of Indian food in restaurants has the same health problems as the Western equivalent, but many people here disagree. My argument stems from the fact that so much oil and carbs are used in Indian food that it’s just not healthy to eat all the time.

Anyway, I digress.

I go up to the counter and the conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Hi, can I get one sambar rice and…” I’m cut off

Staff: “sorry boss, no sambar rice, have curd rice?”

Me: “err, yeah, sure, whatever. ok, one curd rice and two idli’s”

Staff: “boss, no idli’s. you want dosai?”

Me: “no idly? fine. dosai. sure.”

Staff: “one curd rice and one dosai. 60 rupees”

I handed him the money and went to the food counter to wait all of 5 seconds for my order to arrive (seriously, McDonald’s, if you are reading this, come to India and study how quick fast food can be!).

Off I toddled to meet my friend and handed her the bag of food. The conversation begins…

Me: “Oh, I’m really sorry, they didn’t have sambar rice or idli, so I got you curd rice and dosai instead, hope that’s ok!”

Friend: “Haha, yeah sure, it’s fine. Thanks!”

My friend goes to the kitchen with the food to put it on a plate and returns a few seconds later…

Friend: “Pete, did you say you got curd rice and dosai?”

Me: “yeah, they’d ran out of what you asked for. why?”

Friend: “Because they’ve given you sambar rice and idli’s!”

I no longer waste time trying to work things like this out. It can be summed up nicely with…TII 🙂

Expat Grocery List

I thought I’d try and come up with the most boring and most mundane thing I could to post on my blog. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you:

This week’s grocery shopping list 😀

Maybe a few people are interested in finding out how much everyday things cost here, I think you might be quite surprised!

At the end of my road is what is rather optimistically referred to as a supermarket. In India, it’s still very much a case of one shop, one product type. You buy fruit and veg from one small shop, rice from another shop, toiletries from another shop, etc.

The shops are truly old skool; if you can imagine the store front about 2.5 metres in width with a counter across the front which the owner sits behind and you queue up to tell him what you want. Each one of these family shops is probably about 2-3 metres square at the most.

Getting back to the ‘supermarket’ at the end of my road, if it was in England, it would be called a corner shop. I would say it’s smaller than a Spar and maybe a tiny bit bigger than a shop at a petrol station.

The supermarket concept is just about taking a hold, but as you can probably imagine, there is quite a fierce opposition to it – India is a nation of shopkeepers.

Anyway, my grocery receipt. Here goes…

8x Red Delicious Apples – 160 rupees (£2)
5x Bananas – 15 rupees (£0.19)
5x Oranges – 68 rupees (£0.86)
1kg Basmati rice – 140 rupees (£1.76)
2x 330ml Diet Coke – 50 rupees (£0.63)
Kellogg’s 450g Honey Cornflakes – 125 rupees (£1.58)
Nivea Anti-Perspirant – 160 rupees (£2)
2x Navaratan Kurma (curry) – 98 rupees (£1.24)
Aloo Mutter (curry) – 48 rupees (£0.61)
Chicken Biriyani – 95 rupees (£1.22)
1ltr Tropicana 100% Orange Juice – 85 rupees (£1.07)
1ltr Nestle Milk – 38 rupees (£0.48)

So in total it comes to around £15, to buy enough food to last the week. Sometimes there are additional things I need to buy like toilet paper, shampoo, shower gel, tea bags, coffee – and in that case it can add another few pounds to the bill.

In recent weeks my total expenditure on food has been going up since I now buy fresh fruit to take to the office for lunch and I have stopped going to restaurants in the evening for dinner, so need to prepare (heh! ok, heat up) food at home.