Holi (holy shit!) and other half-baked thoughts

Did my extremely original title suck you in? Excellent.

Last Thursday was the Hindi holiday of Holi, during which a substantial majority of India’s population puts on ratty clothes, forgets any sense of privacy and personal space they might have had before (which probably wasn’t much), and spends all morning (the afternoon is reserved for baths and naps) attacking friends, family, and total strangers with colored powder, colored liquid, colored foam, and dirt, mud, buckets of water, raw eggs, cups of hot chai, and any combination  of the above items, as the case may have it. Raina and Ariella now have semi-permanently died hair a la emo teenagers, and I am still cleaning red powder out of my ears.

Holi on Wikipedia

Holi photos from around India from The Atlantic (stunning)

And a few photos of our own: (from Raina’s and Ariella’s cameras)

If Facebook thinks we’re friends, you should be able to see Ariella’s entire Holi FB album.

Half baked thought #1:

Raina and I ate dinner last night with a group of three Americans, who are in Bhuj looking at textiles and block printing. They’re from DC, where Raina just lived for two years, so we had plenty to talk about (I did my best to keep up, what with my three broke months there in 2010). We talked about a café called Teaism, a 3-table Thai restaurant that serves you whatever they bought at the market that morning (and has two month waiting list for reservations), and “smiking” (this word is new to me too, apparently it’s “smoking pot while biking”, which you do in groups and apparently is all the rage these days). It occurred to me that not once since I have been in India have I actively sought authenticity or uniqueness, which I believe are what the three above mentioned places and activities are trying to sell.

Now, I’m not so naïve as to argue that life in India is any more authentic than life in Friendship Heights, or that poverty (or a fellowship in international development, for that matter) is more real than a Continue reading

Time flies…

When I meet an English-speaking Indian, this is how our conversation almost universally begins:

Him: “What is your good name?”

Me: “Matt”

Him: “Mac/Match/Max?”

Me: “Ha (yes). Matt. M-A-double-T.”

Him: “Matttttt. Where are you from?”

Me: “America.”

Him: “America! What city?”

Me: “San Francisco. In California.”

Him: “Fine, Fine. I have friends near there.”

Me: “Oh, really? Where?”

Him: “New Jersey. Are you married?”

Literally, this happens all the time. I get the occasional, “Obama!” cheer, which is fun (no, I haven’t learned how to say “I worked for his campaign” in Gujarati), and earlier in this week I got my new favorite: “From California? You know Tom Cruise?” Why yes, of course, just like you—being from Gujarat—know Amitabh Bachchan, right? (Bachchan is THE famous Bollywood actor from Gujarat and now Gujarat’s “brand ambassador”; if you saw Slum Dog Millionaire he is the actor the kids run to greet at the airport.)

Glass-laced string, kite shop, Amhadabad

Anyway, it’s been a little while since my last post, and giving summaries and overviews of things was never really my strong suit. (My parents learned this about fifteen years ago when I Continue reading

Beware: Puns Ahead


Well, no time to really post but secondary to malaria and then food poisoning (because my cocky ass decided it was ok to eat meat from a street food vendor) I’m down a few pounds despite my endless appetite. So this rings especially true right now.

Times of India


In Ahmadabad, staying with a friend for the weekend who has a newspaper subscription. Score.

There’s nothing like a newspaper to remind me that I really am in a foreign country (in case I needed any reminding). Some headlines from today’s Times of India:

  • Mehsana, Shame of India! North Gujarat Town Has Lowest Child Sex Ratio in the Country” (760 girls per 1000 boys)
  • Eunich gangs clash, 2 hurt: One forcibly given a haircut as fight for hegemony hots up”
  • 24×7 metered water supply proposed for rural Gujarat
  • Curb on fly-by-night NRI grooms: They would need to alter marital status on passports before leaving India”*
  • We can block you, Delhi HC warns FB and Google
  • It’s one full year since the last polio case in India was recorded
  • Dirty Picture: Smoking-scene ban in movies likely to boost porn industry”

Then there was a bunch about cricket…

*NRI=Non-Resident Indians, ie Indians in other countries who the tourism and banking industries here court with vengeance. Apparently enough come to India on vacation, get married, accept a dowry, and dump their wives before leaving a few weeks later that the Gujarat government has decided to write some laws that make this harder to do.

Coworkers and Kites

Me with the staff of SETU, one of the NGOs I work with regularly, after a workshop on local governance for slum committee leaders.

The kite festival is this weekend! You buy a bunch of cheap kites (because they will get cut down) and colored kite thread with bits of glass glued to it (so you can cut other kites down). Go figure, I can't wait.

After taking the picture of the stand, the proprietor called me over. I expected him to try to sell me something or chastise me for taking the first picture; instead, he asked me to take one of him.

In other news, I just started this awesome online course (thanks, Abby!!) so my time for the next four weeks will be limited. Unsure if I’ll post much.


So, my family sent me a package about a month ago. I had pretty much given up hope, and it finally showed up yesterday! I’m amazed the thing didn’t fall apart… look at it:

Best part is, the string wasn’t on there when my parents sent it. If it hadn’t been added by some kind post worker, I don’t think the box would have made it.

A special thanks is in order for my sister, who read my mind and sent me Red Vines. She also wrote me this:

Happy Chanukkah (or however you spell it)! Merry Christmas! Happy Jain Holiday! Don’t kill any bugs or hurt any dust particles! Also don’t show this to any of your Indian friends who might be offended.

Thanks, Anna! If you don’t get it, you can do some catch-up research on Jains, who make up a sizeable portion of Bhuj’s population. Suffice it to say that meat isn’t so easy to come by here, and this makes me very, very sad.

Merry Malaria

A few weeks before Christmas, these guys show up in Bhuj on sidewalks and street corners selling Santa hats that are a few sizes too small and a few millimeters too thin to really fit the part, and these ugly hat+mask combinations that look like something out of a Christmas movie gone horribly wrong. The week before Christmas, I bought a hat for 50 rupees (no mask, thank you very much) and promptly wore it to work, turned on Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and asked my dad to send me some choice Christmas music online. Because that’s how good of a Jew I am.

Raja, a coworker, modeling my purchase

No snow (or rain), no incessantly repeated Christmas carols on the radio, no fires in fireplaces, or long lines at stores. Most significantly, I wasn’t home with family for the first time in my life. So it was definitely an odd holiday season this year.

The time I usually spend buying gifts, peeling potatoes, shopping for and decorating a Christmas tree, baking pies, and stuffing turkeys was spent this year on much more basic forms of “preparing for the holidays”: Continue reading