Monday, July 1, 2013

Suburban India: Vizag

Ram watching cricket. As usual. 

After four months in a village of about one thousand people (according to the locals - I still think it must have been more), I took a train down to Vizag (Vishakapatnam) to visit my dear old friend and room-mate Ram. One of the first witty comments Ram made to me, after we picked our way through the hordes of homeless people living at Vizag station, was that foreigners seem to like to come to India to take photos of poor people. I said 'yeah, pornography of poverty' and then proceeded to take lots of photos of him and his life. Middle-class India says hi.

Beetroot rice. One of the best ideas ever. 

One of the best things about staying at Ram's house was the food, and that was one of the best things because Ram's mom is a genius. Just look at that rice above! It was so good I could have eaten that alone and called it a meal, but no, it came with all the stuff below (not to mention a fridge stocked full of treats). Apart from being a culinary genius, Usha (his mom) is one of the kindest and most generous hosts I've ever stayed with. Ram said "Indian generosity" and she replied, quickly, that she thinks she'd be like this even if she wasn't Indian.

With malai kofta, anchovies (deepfried) and cucumber salad.

Drinks in 'the Park'

Ram himself was the perfect host - taking me on long drives (I love being a passenger in a car), taking me to beautiful local beaches and then leaving me alone on the days where I simply wanted to play on the internet in a quiet place. All of this was bliss, peppered with the aforementioned meal interruptions and cold beers. One morning I went to yoga with Usha and nearly died - it wasn't 'hot yoga' per se, but it was in India, so it basically was. And it was 'power yoga', so very fast and repetitive. On the way back we stopped at a British supermarket and bought treats and I felt my suburban retreat was complete.

More incredible food - curry with a side of mango/ coriander salad. Swoon.

One day I found the little guy pictured below and caught him for Ram. We hung out with him for a while, but then put him back in Ram's room - hoping he grows up big and hungry for mosquitos.

One of the main/ only conventional touristy 'sights' of Vizag is this submarine, which functions as a museum of life inside the sub during the war for East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Ram and I chose a suitably storming, monsooning evening to go there and were well soaked by the time we dripped our way through the cramped, spooky intestines of this old beast. My heart leapt nearly every time I turned a corner to come face to face with one of the mannequins engaged in some 'typical' marine activity.

On the day I was supposed to take my train to Kolkata, I was still recovering from another bout of 'Delhi belly' and Usha insisted I cancel my train ticket and fly up a few days later. She also insisted on buying me the flight. It was one of the kindest, most ridiculously generous events in my life ever. I can't wait to be settled in Ha Noi and able to send her a package full of gratitude.

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