My favorite tree

In the entire world

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Back in the U.S.

After almost 22 months of working abroad (and traveling and volunteering, too), I’ve officially moved back to the United States. For the next two months, I’ll be based in Champaign, Ill. There’s lot of catching up to be done with family and friends, and plenty of errands, studying, packing and preparation for the next stage.

I’ll move to Washington, D.C., mid-August; graduate school at American University begins at the end of that month.

The blog will go into stasis for some time while I am busy, but I’ll power up again in July with my latest ocean/biodiversity photo series, taken during three weeks of divemaster training and certification in India’s Andaman Islands earlier this year.

Catch you on the flip side.

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Goodbye Desi food

Gunpowdery

There will certainly be more important things to miss from India, but I know I’ll jones for the food, too. Here, we have an appam — a fermented rice batter pancake bowl — with a fried egg on top.

This was part of my last meal at my favorite restaurant in Delhi, a hidden place called Gunpowder in Hauz Khas village.

A note to Satish, the man in charge: Please, stay open. Pay whatever bribes you have to. I have strong emotional attachments to Malabar parathas, mushroom curry and a two-seat table on the balcony. I promise to come back.

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Delhi’s late blooms

Amaltas

Though the summer heat is in full melt in Delhi — and the monsoons are fast approaching — there are still beautiful blooms to be found if you know where to look.

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Nearing the end of her days, but still happy

A faint smile

I went to visit my dadiji in Pune earlier this month, perhaps for the last time. She has become successively weaker in recent months after a fall in January confined her to bed.

But she was mostly in good spirits while I was there. She told me that I should get married to an Indian girl, offered to make me biriyani and pickle, quizzed me on my Hindi and again told me to marry an Indian girl.

Her memory fades in an out, but she told some stories from her past. And I showed her some pictures and sat with her holding her hand as much as I could. The photo comes from the morning I left.

And, yes, I promised I’d marry an Indian girl.

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My favorite weed

Invasive pest

Lantana, a plant I remember my father carefully cultivating when I was a child, is actually considered a weed and pest in many parts of India. There are entire fields claimed by the voracious, scrubby plant.

It seems able to sprout anywhere on the in the tropical regions of the subcontinent. As it did here in this gully in Pune, all but overlooked.

It’s surely some part nostalgia, but I find it beautiful. And I will grow it in our terrace garden one day.

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Petrol pump pop philosophy

Wise words from... a gas station?

I spent the last weekend in Pune meeting family. Every time I go, I pay a visit to the city’s old bazaar area known as “Camp.” On my walk from the bus stand to the main market lanes, I always pass a petrol station that dispenses wisdom — sometimes — from an old chalkboard.

In Hindi and in English.

Inevitably, there are a few people crowded around reading. Or, in the case of this man, taking notes. Or, in my case, taking photos.

Among the gems in English on the board:

  • “When we work 4 a strong purpose… hard work is not an option; it’s a necessity.”
  • “Running away from any problem will only increase the distance from the solution.”
  • “Change the texture of our thoughts and life will change. The future is not something we wait, it’s something we create.”

Unfortunately, I can only translate bits and pieces of the Hindi.

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Rising above modernity

Old

You have to look pretty high in Delhi to find a view that showcases India’s illustrious past while also obscuring her modern rise.

But Qutub Minar is tall enough. When jumbo jets aren’t cruising in and out of the nearby international airport.

Not that I’m a primitivist or a return-to-times-gone-by wallah, but it certainly is pleasant to see visions of history: an ancient tower and a blue summer sky.

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Hungry? Check out Old Delhi’s paratha heaven

Paratha station

Welcome to Old Delhi’s Paranthewale Gully or, translated, the back alley of parathas.

Here two restaurants sit side by side serving up oil-fried parathas (also parantha, parotta and sundry other variants). Both claim to have been going at this trade since the late 1800s. Both also violate all manner of health codes, if they even exist.

And both are incredibly popular. I’ve eaten my share at both. Though I wouldn’t take Delhi tyros there, I have yet to die.

A paratha is stuffed bread that can be grilled, baked or, in this case, fried. It makes for unhealthy goodness and is a go-to Indian food served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.

See below for a look at one of the paratha joints in all its glory.

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Temporary Desi tattoo

Dying art

A visiting friend gets gussied up with mehndi at my local market. My U.S. friends were very excited at this old form of celebratory body art that uses henna to dye the skin.

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