Eat, Pray, Love: Damn You, Elizabeth Gilbert [en]

[fr] J'ai aimé Eat, Pray, Love plus que ce à quoi je m'attendais. Le trip "spiritualité indienne sauce occidentale", je m'en passerais, mais il y a plein de bonnes choses -- outre l'écriture, que j'aime beaucoup. Pour plus de détails... lire l'article complet en anglais!

Damn you, Liz Gilbert. I didn’t want to like your book, but I did. I even like you (well, the narrator you). Yeah, of course I can relate: 30-something heartbroken woman finds peace and love. Which single woman in her mid-thirties wouldn’t?

It annoys me, though, that you found them through faith, because I can’t do that.

I don’t doubt that you had a life-changing experience. I’m not either against religious or spiritual paths journeys per se, as long as they actually serve to grow us as human beings. But like the friends you mention near the end of your India book, I *cannot* believe anymore — believing there is a God or some other power, personal or not, is too incompatible with my worldview. A part of me would *like* to believe, so that I could find the peace you found. But I’d be faking it, right? Because another part of me is *certain* that there is nothing up there — or in there, aside from ourselves.

Bangalore 016 Gandhi Bazaar.jpgTo your credit, you do not proselytize, nor try to tell us that your way is The Only Way, and that we should all be doing it too. You bear witness of your own personal path, which involved a spiritual adventure in an ashram in India. I can appreciate that. But I have trouble relating to that aspect of your journey. (There is the Siddha Yoga issue too, which bothers me, but that I won’t delve into here.)

Also, whether you want it or not, your spiritual journey is coloured by a very specific — and modern — Indian school of thought (and by that, I don’t just mean Siddha Yoga). You acknowledge that, but in some respects you are blind to it, for example when you serve us truths about Indian spirituality or religions in general — you are talking from the inside of a specific religious tradition, not giving us access some kind of general truth. It’s a mistake many make, and I guess I can forgive you for it.

I personally believe that our conversations with God are conversations with ourselves. I believe we are much bigger than we think, and probably much bigger than we can ever know. And I say this not in a “mystical” or “magical” or “supernatural” sense, but in a psychological one. So for me, any religious or spiritual path is no more than a path within and with ourselves, using an exterior force or entity (“God”, “energy”) as a metaphorical proxy for parts or aspects of ourselves which are not readily available to our consciousness. Yes, it’s sometimes a bit complicated to follow for me too.

So what I can relate to, clearly, are your conversations with yourself in your notebook. I know I am a good friend. I’m loyal. I can love to bits. If I open the floodgates, I can love more than is possibly imaginable — just like you say of yourself. But I do not let myself be the beneficiary of so much love and care. “To love oneself,” not in a narcissistic way, but as a good friend or a good parent would. I know this is something I need to work on, I knew it before reading Eat, Pray, Love, but your journey serves as a reminder to me. It’s also reminding me that meditation (even when it’s not a search for God or done as religious practice) has benefits — and that I could use them.

So, thank you, Liz Gilbert. We may differ in our spiritual and life aspirations, but your journey has touched me, and inspired me. I didn’t expect it to. Thank you for the nice surprise. And damn you, because now I can’t look down quite so smugly anymore on those who rave about your book.

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I'm Home [en]

[fr] Je suis rentrée. En Suisse, il fait gris et froid et Bagha est mort. Retour à prendre au jour le jour, en me félicitant d'avoir prévu une reprise en douceur après ce mois de décrochage.

I’m home.

Back in cold grey Switzerland, back to my dead cat and other losses that were put on the back-burner while I was in India.

Sorry for the gloom. There isn’t even snow to make things a little fun and exciting.

To be honest, I don’t feel really home. “Home” has lost a bit of its “homeness” without Bagha.

Part of the love I’ve had for my cozy flat these last ten years was because Bagha was here. Not all of it, but part of it. I used to always look forward to coming home after a trip, because it would mean being back with my cat. I missed him when I was away.

OK, maybe I’m painting the picture a little rosy in hindsight. Maybe I didn’t always look forward to coming home from my travels. But I was always happy to see Bagha again. I always looked forward to that.

Of course, it’ll get better in the coming days. I’ll see my friends again, rediscover the comfort of Swiss life, get working on my projects here (both personal and professional).

And scatter Bagha’s ashes in the garden.

Even now, all is not bad. It’s quiet. I have privacy. There is cheese.

I miss India already, though. You know, Nicole, I think I understand what you meant a couple of months back when you told me that you loved and hated it here, because I think I feel the same about India. I love it there. But some things also drive me nuts and make me thing “OMG I’m so glad it’s different at home”.

I’m going to spend more time in India. Two weeks scheduled in October (Delhi, Hindi tutoring) and most certainly January 2012, like this year. I have plans. Go back to the lovely homestay in Mysore. Visit a village near Pune where a friend has relatives. Go to Goa (yeah, even though it’s your cliché tourist destination). Spend a couple of days in Mumbai with Reality Tours and Travel. Plan a trip to Rajasthan (a lead and contacts showed up a week ago). In Pune, visit Parvati temple, the Aga Khan Palace, and one of the hill forts without giving up halfway there. Take Marathi classes. I could go on.

India is huge, diverse, exciting, chaotic. It’s a mess. The disregard for safety and rules can be maddening, but it’s also a healthy release from our coddled and controlled lifestyle here in the West.

I’m home now. A little anxious about how the next days will go, but I’ve decided to take it day by day. Today: unpack, check the state of my bank account and bills to pay, make a few appointments, go to judo. Tomorrow: go to a few appointments. Wednesday: dive into three days of Lift.

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Indian Stretchable Time [en]

[fr] En quelques mots? Pas envie que mes vacances se terminent.

You what what they say about time in India: IST doesn’t stand for Indian Standard Time, but for Indian Stretchable Time. I think it’s pretty obvious to anybody who spends enough time here that the perception of time is very different here than in Europe, for example.

Pune 142 Laxmi Road Shopping.jpg

Holiday-time is also different from work-time. Days stretch ahead when your holiday is long enough. You forget what day of the week it is. You lose track of how long you’ve “been here”. You spend a whole day in Lightroom and fooling about online without worrying about being “productive”. You get up when you get up, don’t worry too much about mealtimes (especially if that is taken care of by your hosts), forget about your upcoming plans and deadlines.

And suddenly you realize there is less than a week left before you’re back in Switzerland, back to work-life, back to processing e-mails, back to a catless flat, back to earning money and paying attention to how much you spend, back to the cold and grey winter, back to everything you left behind.

Let me say it clearly: I don’t want my holiday to end and I don’t want to go back.

Of course, I look forward to seeing my friends again — but I’ll miss the people I love here. And I am very grateful I took example (partially) on danah and decided to send all my holiday e-mail into the black hole — meaning I will be coming back to work without an e-mail backlog to catch up on.

But right now I really don’t want to go back to my life.

We had a really nice time in Bangalore and Mysore. My Bangalore photos are online now, but I haven’t got around to sorting through the Mysore ones yet, or writing all the articles I want to write — as if putting it off was going to extend my holiday. (Articles? Bangalore Walks, Hillview Farms Homestay, Security Theatre in India, some thoughts on Indian culture in the light of independence and colonial legacy, a whole bunch of Indian recipes…)

I’ll go back to reading my book or hanging out on Quora now, while Nisha makes lovely-smelling chapatis next to me and the dogs nap on the cool stone floor.

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Choc culturel à Bangalore [fr]

Cet article a été initialement publié sur le blog de voyage ebookers.ch (voir l’original).

Après plus ou moins 14 mois en Inde si l’on met mes séjours là-bas bout-à-bout, j’ai vécu la semaine dernière un de mes plus grands chocs culturels indiens: Bangalore.

Bangalore 126 Fancy Buildings.jpg
Tout en vitres et en hauteur.

Après Pune, Bangalore est immense, moderne, et ressemblerait presque à l’Occident. Grands boulevards (même s’ils sont surchargés de voitures), bus neufs climatisés roulant à toute vitesse (autant que les embouteillages le permettent), tours vitrées chatouillant les nuages, population jeune et habillée à l’occidentale, arbres majestueux, restaurants luxueux et chers, immense chantier du futur métro en plein air au-dessus de l’artère principale de la ville, aéroport à faire pâlir certains d’Europe… Certes, on trouve à Bangalore des coins qui me font penser à Pune. Mais ma petite semaine sur place m’a laissée presque un peu déboussolée.

Bangalore 076 Street Views.jpg
Rickshaws rutilants et bien alignés près de Commercial Street.

J’ai commencé à mieux comprendre cette ville lors de mon dernier jour sur place, à l’occasion du Victorian Bangalore Walk auquel nous avons participé (fortement recommandé, je vous en reparlerai). Bangalore, comme les Etats-Unis par ailleurs, est une terre d’immigrés. Au tournant du 19e siècle, les Anglais y installent leur centre militaire (cantonment) pour l’Inde du sud. Forte population Anglo-Indienne, donc, afflux par la suite d’immigrés du reste de l’état du Karnataka, installation précoce de l’électricité (1906), arrivée d’entreprises comme Tata et Texas Instruments, sans compter les prisonniers italiens durant la deuxième guerre mondiale qui ont grandement contribué au développement du football dans cette ville… Quelques éléments d’histoire disparates et un peu en vrac, n’empêche: Bangalore est une ville qui s’est développée à travers ses immigrants — et ça continue aujourd’hui. Moins de 30% de la population de Bangalore parle le kannada, la langue locale.

On comprend donc mieux l’occidentalisation rampante, l’esprit entrepreneurial et le développement fulgurant de Bangalore, centre de gravité technologique attirant entreprises et cerveaux du sous-continent et d’ailleurs.

Mais qu’on ne s’y méprenne pas: la ville reste indienne, surtout dans ses infrastructures. Coupures d’électricité, maisons construites les unes sur les autres, ascenseurs et connexions internet en panne, vaches déambulant sur des routes souvent en mauvais état, rickshaws et leurs mythiques conducteurs (surtout ici!), offices postaux inintelligibles aux non-initiés, et surtout, mondes parallèles qui se côtoient sans jamais sembler se toucher, ou tout juste du bout des doigts. La nourriture y est excellente, et Bangalore recèle bien entendu des quartiers de petites ruelles (surtout dans la vieille ville) et des marchés détendus où il fait bon se balader, comme le Gandhi Bazaar dans le Basavanagudi.

Bangalore 040 Gandhi Bazaar.jpg
Gandhi Bazaar.

Je vous l’avoue, j’ai de la peine à l’aimer, cette ville trop occidentale à mon goût, même si pour beaucoup d’indiens elle représente le futur, le progrès, et la direction que doit prendre leur pays. Mais je ne doute pas qu’il doit faire bon vivre dans cette métropole multiculturelle, pour qui a un revenu lui permettant le train de vie qui s’y étale.

Bangalore 068 Street Views.jpg
Panneaux d'affichage.

A visiter? Oui, certainement, surtout si le côté “rustique” de l’Inde vous intimide un peu et que vous désirez conserver quelques repères en matière de confort occidental lors de votre séjour.

Depuis ici:

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What's Up? [en]

[fr] Occupations, réflexions et choses intéressantes des derniers jours.

Keeping myself busy in Bangalore, either by eating in posh restaurants, buying too many books, conversing with fellow travelers, learning to use Lightroom correctly and uploading my photographs, and hanging out on Quora.

A few random things for today.

Bangalore is a real culture-shock for me. Big, new, shiny, orderly and expensive compared to the India I’m familiar with (Pune).

I’m still dumping my photos on Flickr without much sortage (or they’ll never get online!) but I’ve started organizing them into sets. Check them out.

Instagram.app is just wonderful for taking snapshots when you’re traveling. I’m getting my friends hooked on it.

Blossom Book House in Bangalore is a book-buyer’s paradise. They even prepared my book parcel for me (I just need to go to the post office and send it, praying it won’t cost an arm and a leg).

Magazines Store has cats. Meow! And they’re on Facebook!

Cats

I have a backlog of Indian recipes to write up.

2011? More travel, more reading, more writing, more photography.

Want excellent (really excellent) Western food in Bangalore? Go to Chamomile. It’s pretty pricey (by my Indian standards) but absolutely delicious. I think this was our biggest culture shock so far: we were really worried when we saw the place and the menu, but ecstatic when we started eating the food. My dad had an extraordinary T-bone steak, perfectly cooked.

EXCELLENT rare t-bone steak

I’m hooked on Quora. Tell me if you want an invite. (Can you get in without a Twitter/Facebook account, by the way?) I spent all morning two days ago answering cat questions, and have started getting replies to some of my India questions (asbestos, anyone?).

India is a great place to get stuff repaired. My chappal (Indian sandals) which cost around 12 CHF to buy cost me 45 CHF to re-heel in Switzerland. Here: 20 Rs (1 CHF = 46 Rs). Need to replace a broken screen on an otherwise functional laptop? Quite affordable, labour included. Next time I come I’m bringing all my old sandals with me. And any laptop that needs repairing. Oh, and scanning slides? See:

ScanCafe looks like an excellent slide/negative/photo scanning service. They built their scanning centre here in Bangalore. Pity you can only use their services from the US/Canada for now. I am going to see if there are good slide scanning services in Pune/Delhi though, for next time I come (I have 1000+ slides to scan from my year in India). Spend some time reading their website — a model of what a company website should be.

Two other great websites I encourage you to spend time visiting, and great projects:

First, the Ashraya Initiative for Children, a small non-profit in Pune that helps street kids. They’re doing extraordinary work, both by housing selected children (Residential program), supporting Yerwada children’s education (Outreach programs) and improving life in their community. My friend Mithun is their Social Media Manager, which is how I came across them. I’ll be paying them a visit when I go back to Pune next week and am eager to see how I can support their work. Oh, read their blog too and find them on Facebook.

Second, Reality Tours and Travels Mumbai, a travel agency which specializes in small guided tours off the tourist track: Dharavi slum tours (80% of the profits from those tours go to NGOs working in the area, mainly Reality Gives, the non-profit sister organization they set up for that purpose), village tours (2 days and a night in a local village outside Mumbai), as well as the more traditional market and sightseeing tours. All that with guides from the local communities who speak very good English, in small groups (less than 6 people). Anita’s friends from Australia, whom we spent the day with yesterday, did the Dharavi slum tour and were very enthusiastic. I’m definitely planning that and the village tour for my next visit to Mumbai/Pune.

In the same vein of “non-touristy tourism”, my dad and I will be taking a Victorian walk through Bangalore tomorrow morning.

Taking photos from a train, like I did on the Udyan Express? Some tips gleaned from Twitter and experience: wide angle, manual focus to infinity, speed locked on 1/1000th, shoot facing direction of travel or opposite (rather than at a right angle) to minimize motion blur. If traveling in an AC carriage like we were, do not hesitate to go and open the door between the compartments. Forget about shooting through the dirty tinted windows.

Udyan Express From Pune to Bangalore 16.jpg

Plans?

  • Come back in October to spend two weeks in Delhi to brush up my Hindi. Got good Hindi teachers there to recommend for private lessons? Let me know.
  • Travel through India by train. Or maybe, travel to India by train. Or by car. Anybody done this?
  • Do stuff other than helping people communicate better (just a vague desire, I’m not looking at a change of career right now, but I’d like to… do stuff, rather than just talk all the time)

Indian food is mainly carbs. Not much veggies in fact. A few veggies, tossed in spices, and lots of bread to eat them with. And rice and daal. And if you’re eating non-veg, it means “no-veg” — meat and bread. (Bread = Indian breads.) Nice, but not very balanced.

Fashion seems different in Bangalore. More Western clothing. Much more. Women in business suits. Way less salwaar kameez.

Going to Mysore rather than Pondicherry after all. Happy with the change of plans.

Internet-enabled India is very different from non-Internet India (ie, my experience 10 or even 7 years back).

Very happy with Cleartrip for booking train and flights in India.

It’s lovely to have lots of “empty” time to do things without having to worry about being productive. I guess that’s what holidays are, I’d forgotten!

OK, back to sorting my photos and learning how to use Lightroom 🙂

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A Quick Survival Guide to India [en]

A friend of mine mentioned she might be going to India for business next year, which prompted me to dish out a few “Indian culture survival tips” to her — how about a quick blog post about that? Also, being here with my dad (who is in India for the first time) has made me notice things I’ve grown used to but which aren’t “obvious” for the first-time-visiting foreigner. So, in no particular order, while I sort through the 500 somewhat blurry photos I took from the train to Bangalore…

Pune 268 Street Paparazzi.jpg

Warning to my Indian friends: this is full of stereotypes and clichés. I know not all of India and not all Indians are like this. This is just to prepare people to things that do function very differently from in the West.

  • expect everything to take longer than you expect
  • in general, expect things to go slowly
  • expect plans to be derailed and changed and modified and cancelled
  • be patient
  • we’re in a part of the world where saying “no” amounts to some degree of loss of face — so expect people to say yes or give you an answer when in fact they mean “no” or “I don’t know” (classic: ask for directions, people will point you in some random direction rather than saying they don’t know)
  • don’t plan on accomplishing more than one thing a day (you’ll exhaust yourself and make yourself sick)
  • people don’t generally make eye contact unless they want something — so don’t look people in the eye when saying “no, I don’t need your prepaid taxi” or “no, I don’t want to give you money” (just shake your head, say no, ignore them — and try and pick up the “negative” hand wobble if you can)
  • people don’t usually shake hands or hug or kiss or anything like that, so take the cue from the person you’re meeting rather than sticking your hand out
  • expensive services or goods does not necessarily mean they will be quality (ripping people off is generally not viewed as “immoral” as it is in our Judeo-Christian culture)
  • eat when you have a chance, pee when you have a chance — you don’t know for sure when the next occasion will be
  • the weird head-wobble means anything from “of course, you moron” to “yeah… may-be” — context will help you (or not)
  • direct confrontation does not work very well
  • expect people to make plans for you without asking you if it’s OK for you
  • expect people to assume you can’t eat “normal-spicy” food (but if you can’t take hot food at all, it will still be way too hot for you)
  • bottled water is called “bisleri” (whether it’s proper Bislery, Kinley, AquaFina or anything else — down to the shadier brands)
  • don’t expect western-style toilets or toilet paper (carry some around with you if you can’t do things “Indian-style”)
  • people will be wanting you to “sit”, have a cup of water (politely decline if it’s tap water, but say yes to chai)
  • the horrible loud midi tunes you hear outside are cars reversing
  • it’s noisy
  • beds aren’t really private places
  • wash your hands, don’t drink unbottled/unfiltered water, don’t eat uncooked stuff (the general rules — bend at your convenience and at your own risk)
  • expect to freeze in A/C places (trains, busses, hotel rooms, offices)
  • verbal communication is often kept to a minimum — lots of hand gestures (people will gesture you to follow them instead of saying “would you please follow me”)
  • most Indian food is eaten with your fingers (rip a piece of chapati/naan, pick up food with it, put in mouth) or a spoon — your fingers are more sensitive to heat than your mouth, so if you can pick it up without dropping it, you won’t burn your tongue
  • men: jeans/trousers and shirt are fine — t-shirt is trendy for Indians, but makes you look touristy if you’re white; women: jeans are starting to be OK with long-covering kurta, but I recommend going a little more classy and getting a salwaar kameez in the fashion on the day stitched — it’s pretty and it makes you stand out a bit from the 100% touristy crowd (leggings and kurta are in fashion now too, but I feel I get treated differently when wearing a pretty flowing salwaar kameez — maybe it’s just me)
  • expect things to not go as expected (did I already say this?)
  • life is complicated enough without making it more complicated: if you’re trying to buy something and have a chance to buy it, don’t think “let me first shop around” or “I’ll come back later” — just get it then and there (if you really need it, that is)
  • expect commuting to be not as simple as you imagine: rickshaw drivers might refuse to take you where you want, specially in the evening (we had three local guys flag down about 20 of them the first evening my dad was here before we found one who would take us home by the meter)
  • you’re not supposed to tip left, right and centre — ask a trusted local or a well-adjusted foreigner when to give extra (again: not often)
  • at stations and airports, take prepaid taxis or rickshaws if your transport has not been arranged (you’ll find the prepaid stand by yourself, don’t follow the guys who ask you if you want one)
  • in general, don’t go with people who come up to you offering services (e.g. flagging down a rickshaw on the road is much better than taking the one who just drove 100m to come to you; and no, you don’t want to go to the shop this guy who just walked up to you is suggesting you buy from; etc.)
  • the country in general is not designed to help people figure out “how it works” — you just have to know (hence how precious local help is; don’t expect instructions to be written down anywhere to tell you how to take the bus)
  • expect to be stared at, by children and grown-ups alike
  • be ready for paperwork; tedious and seemingly useless paperwork
  • the person you interact with and the person doing things is not usually the same person — big division of labour: you talk to a guy in the store and ask to see something, he tells somebody else to take the thing out, and that person might in turn tell somebody else (perfectly normal, just feels weird at first); also, in a restaurant, not the same person who serves meals, seats you, picks up the dishes, cashes in the bill, etc.
  • expect many occurrences of “not my job” brokenness
  • what locals expect you to want and like is probably not what you will want and like…

Did I leave anything important out?

India is a lovely place once you’ve understood how it rolls. Main piece of advice? Be patient, and if you can hang around with local friends or well-adjusted foreigners, observe them, and try to learn by example.

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Nisha's Fried Kingfish and Red Fish Curry [en]

[fr] Poisson grillé et curry rouge de poisson. (J'avais d'abord écrit: "curry de poisson rouge", cherchez l'erreur.)

Here’s a dish Nisha made almost a week ago, but I’ve fallen behind in publishing recipes I took notes about. Here we go!

Start with the fried king mackerel (kingfish) as it has to marinate:

  • wash the fish
  • put the fish on a plate, sprinkle with lemon, salt, turmeric, chilli powder and a good spoonful of garlic and ginger paste: mix it all up and leave to sit (half an hour? an hour? more? something like that)

Lemon, salt, turmeric, chilli powder, garlic and ginger paste on the fish

  • mix rawa and rice flour, and dip the marinated fish in that mixture before frying at a low temperature on a tawa (it really takes quite a while, a good 5 minutes per side, so depending how much fish you have and what size your pan is…)

Pune - Kingfish Frying

Now for the red fish curry (you do this in parallel, actually, you want both dishes to be ready as they’re eaten together)

  • grate the coconut (not sure how to do it without the special coconut graters they have around here — by the way, Nisha says that for chicken and lamb curry, which is a different recipe, you can use dried coconut, but fresh coconut is mandatory for fish curry)
  • soak lots of red chillies (about ten) with two spoonfuls of coriander seeds in some water
  • add garlic and make a paste in the mixer
  • add half the coconut (or more, depending on how much paste you’re making) and blend — add some water to help liquidize, you need make a very smooth paste
  • heat oil, put crushed garlic and curry leaves in, then add paste, salt, 1 small spoon of tamarind paste (or dried tamarind) and cook about 5 minutes (the paste needs to boil)
  • add in a few pieces of fish (like the less nice bits of king fish after keeping the nicer parts for frying)
  • boil another 5 minutes or so.

Pune - Red Fish Curry

To eat, pick up a piece of fried fish with some chapati, and dip it in the fish curry. Yum again!

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How to Order Pizza in India: a Rant [en]

[fr] 45 minutes au téléphone (et 5 appels différents) pour commander une pizza. Mais j'ai réussi!

This is a little rant while I wait for said pizza to arrive. Yes, I actually did manage to order pizza. Here’s how I did it.

Called Domino’s Pizza main customer service line, told them where I was (IUCAA, near Khadki-Aundh Road), and was transferred to Aundh branch, where I was promptly told delivery was not possible and that DP Road branch would deliver to me.

I took down DP Road’s branch number, called them, and was told that Aundh branch was the correct branch to call for my address (this required me to be transferred to somebody who spoke English I could more or less understand — I hate doing stuff by phone in India). I told them the Aundh branch had sent me to them, but was told to call them and that they would deliver to me.

I took down the Aundh branch number and called them again. The service rep’s English was minimal (he quickly told me delivery was not possible, but I insisted, and told them I had already had pizzas delivered here — true, ate a lot when I lived here with Aleika) so I ended putting Nisha’s niece on the line to improve communication (Hindi/Marathi). After a long conversation, the conclusion was that they would not deliver because the pizza would be cold.

Enter Twitter: should I expect to be able to get delivery? Well, yes, here’s the closest branch: SB Road.

So, I gather my courage and call the general customer service number (which I’m starting to know by heart) again. (Side-note to readers: the pizza has arrived and I have eaten it since starting to write this post — I’m feeling less ranty and more proud of myself. A full stomach will do that.)

I am told that SB Road branch does not exist or is not in the system. Will DP Road do? No, DP road will not do. I explain what I’ve already been through, and that I would like to know which branch to call to get a delivery, and that I suspect it might be SB Road. No, no, it doesn’t exist. Again, as I’m having a lot of trouble understanding the CSR on the line (not just their fault — my Indian English is not 100% and I’m particularly bad with accents on the phone), I put Nisha’s niece on the line.

It doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere really interesting, and looking at the website again I see the direct number for the branch is provided. We hang up, I take a deep breath, and I call again. This time, I am not told that delivery is impossible. My order goes smoothly — understand: it takes me about 10 minutes to give my address. The street name is Akashganga. OK, Akashganga. What is the street name? Er… Akashganga. In IUCAA. So, IUCAA ### (flat number). No, Akashganga. In IUCAA. IUCAA is the housing complex. So, Akashganga, IUCAA, near what landmark? Er… IUCAA, the astrophysics department. Near the University Campus back gate. So, Akashganga, IUCAA, near physics department. No, near the back gate. (10 good minutes of that. I’m patient. I explain everything in detail. I double-check they have my number right. I explain there are security guards who can direct the delivery boy. I say again it’s right at the back of the University campus.)

I give my order. This is about 45 minutes after my first call to Domino’s Pizza. What’s wrong with this picture?

But everything seems fine. I put down the phone, take a deep breath, and go and take a quick bath to wash of a full day’s roaming in the polluted city (a lot of it on foot, including beggar kids grabbing me and wiping their hands all over my clothes — worse begging in the space of 5 minutes near the top of Jangli Maharaj Road than I had in months when I was living here).

Totally surprisingly (I have to say), the pizza arrives reasonably quickly, still warm, and without the delivery guy having to call us. If only ordering had been so simple.

(OK, next time I’m ordering online. I was put off by the fact they required an Indian number, but thinking of it now, I could have provided the landline to where I’m staying — which I did on the phone anyway. Oh well. One learns.)

Basically, once I was on the line with the right branch, I was pretty much OK. But the service provided before that was disastrous: pillar to post, and nobody able to send me to the right place or provide me more useful information than “not possible”. Twitter provided better customer service than Domino’s, in this case. Thanks again, Sahil.

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Time-Melt in Pune [en]

[fr] Encore des nouvelles de Pune, où tout se passe bien. Mes photos sont en ligne (en vrac).

I’m losing track of time. When did I get here? A week ago already? It has flown by so fast, but it feels like I’ve been living here (almost) all my life.

We just got home from a wonderful meal at Shabree, a restaurant that does Maharashtrian thalis. We ate till we (almost) burst!

Finding a rickshaw home tonight was easier than last night, when I watched a bunch of guys my jeweler had asked stop at least a dozen rickshaws before finding one who would take us back from MG Road.

Pune 191 Laxmi Road Shopping.jpg

I think I definitely like Laxmi Road way better than MG Road. It’s more alive, more “real”, less “trying to be upmarket”. There are nice shops in and around MG Road though, but if it’s just for pleasure, I’ll take Laxmi Road. Our trip today was successful: goda masala (I still need to write up some Nisha recipes for you, I can’t keep up!) and a few other spices, Nisha’s brand of tea, an oil-lamp for my dad, lots of cheap fresh coriander, nail polish, and a few other things I forget. Oh yes, we found a shop which probably has the cable or card reader we’re looking for.

In other news, I dump-uploaded my photos, so they’re now visible online in my Pune 2010-2011 set. Clearly some of them need a little work (whether I’ll ever get around to doing it is another story) and I need to break them up into smaller, more manageable sets. Feel free to add tags to the photos and to point out which ones you think are particularly good — it really helps me after when I try to turn them into something presentable.

I’m exhausted again (because the day was long and nice!) so I’m going to leave things here — aren’t holidays supposed to be restful? 😉

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