Quilts and Other Stuff from Frances

Day 7 – Tuesday, June 17th

This morning we went downstairs to the dining room for breakfast and I was thrilled to see that they had toast (with extremely thin bread) and jam along with the other Indian dishes. It was nice to have a flavor other than curry!!! I asked for black tea and they poured a small amount of VERY dark tea into the cup and then added about 3/4 cup of water to it. It was still strong in flavor, but was really good.

Michael and I have both enjoyed the coffee and tea that is served here. They are both made extremely strong, but copious amounts of milk and sugar are added, giving them a very nice taste. We especially enjoyed Chai tea, which is made from a mixture of strong tea, milk, sugar and spices (normally Cardamon). It is normally served in a small mug or cup, but we have also drunk it from small glasses. We have learned that the biggest trick to enjoying these drinks is to add enough sugar!!!

After breakfast, Michael left for his meetings at the Center for Ecological Studies, but called me immediately to tell me that we were both invited to lunch at 12:30. I met he, Sukumar and another botanist and we walked to a restaurant on the Indian Institute of Science campus. They had a buffet, but Sukumar suggested that we order from the menu. We both had a sampler plate that came with rice, Nan bread, yogurt, vegetable curry, curry sauce and thin spicy sauce. We started the meal by dipping the bread into the sauces, but then moved to putting the sauces on top of the rice and eating that…..with our hands of course!!! The meal began with a spicy tomato soup and a fried bread with black pepper. We were served two desserts…..the first was called Gulab Jamun, which is popular in Northern India. It is a small ball (golf ball size) of a bread like substance (made of flour, milk and sugar) that has been fried and then soaked in a sugar water sauce that has been flavored with some spice. It is served in a small dish with the sauce covering it……IT WAS WONDERFUL!!!! This was followed by a dish of vanilla ice cream and fresh chopped fruit.

After lunch, Michael went back to work and I decided to wander around the campus for a while. I enjoyed seeing the wonderful flowering trees and other beautiful natural areas. There was a tree growing outside of the Ecology building that was covered with a huge vine called Liana. This vine had large, woody branches that were curved and curled in the coolest way. The vine reached the entire length of the building, and even across the street into another wooded area. Sukumar told us that they are getting ready to move into another building, but I would personally miss this glorious plant!!

As I was wandering around, I decided to stop at a small shop and get a cold drink…..thinking of water or a Pepsi. The gentleman that ran the shop said something in Hindi and I said OK, so he handed me a bottle of a drink called Lehar Slice. It was very good….sort of like an orange crush, but creamier. As I have read online about it, I have found out that it is actually a Pepsi product!!

Sukumar told us of the history of the Indian Institute of Science……it was endowed in 1909 by a businessman and philanthropist named J.N. Tata. The Tata Group is still a huge enterprise. There are areas devoted to almost all types of science, including computer science, electrical engineering, Chemistry, Biology and Genetics. It is a very prestigious place and the Indian people have been very impressed when told that we were going there.

As I walked around, there were several things that stood out to me. ….. In one area there were a group of women pulling weeds and grass out of a sandy gathering area. It was interesting that they were all in brightly colored saris, even though they were doing manual labor…..not a pair of jeans among them. I also saw a group of people who were digging up areas of dirt and dumping it onto a cart. The man would dig the dirt and the two women would load the dirt into wicker baskets and carry it on their heads to the cart. They each had a small wicker hat that was flat on the top to help with balancing the heavy basket.

I also laughed at the incongruous picture of a woman dressed in a beautiful sari, riding a motorcycle, with a helmet on.

A couple of things from other days that I have forgotten to write about……

The water heater is only for the bathroom area and is called a “Geezer”. It is about 1/4 the size of our US hot water heaters and is only turned on when hot water is needed. It takes about 20 minutes for the water to heat.

Also, when we were in Paul Billy’s neighborhood, there was a couple who would set up a padded cart in the street and iron clothes ALL day long. Everyone from the neighborhood would bring their ironing out for them to do. They used a coal heated iron that was about 6 inches tall and filled with hot coals. I don’t know how often they had to replace the coals. The iron looked as if it was very heavy and I cant imagine using it all day long. They had bottles of water that they would sprinkle on the clothes as they ironed them. Each item cost about 1 to 2 rupees (3 to 5 cents). Shirley had washed a few of our clothes and they were returned ironed to perfection ….even the socks and underwear. I told Michael not to get used to it!!!

When we were shopping on Monday, I bought some fabric at several stores. Often the cutting was done on a padded shelf that the person sat on while measuring and cutting. They had a long metal stick that was 1 meter in length and that was used to measure. They were all dismayed that I only wanted to buy 1 meter, and I had to keep explaining that I wasn’t planning to make clothes from it, and only needed the smaller amount. Prices ranged from 75 rupees ($1.75) to 300 rupees ($7.00) per meter. The quality of the fabric is fairly poor, but the colors and textures make up for it!!! There were also stores called “Color Matching” stores that were filled with every imaginable color of solid fabrics. I guess that these stores allow you to bring in a printed fabric that you want to match in color. They were very interesting, but the proprietors were not the most helpful.

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