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Recursion

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Gender: Male
Hometown: DC
Home country: USA
Current location: Neuilly-sur-Seine
Member since: Fri Apr 28, 2006, 10:13 PM
Number of posts: 55,485

About Me

UNIX nerd

Journal Archives

The line is "Mandela is communist-backed and advocates violence"

That statement was more or less factually true for a while, but misleading (ANC took money from the Fifth International and then ignored them; Mandela's views on armed resistance changed over time).

Mostly they don't like black equality in South Africa (or anywhere) and think that the country is in much worse shape now than 25 years ago.

Calcutta festival part 2 (more pics)

So now that the winds and rain seem to have died down, we went to see some more pandals (the temporary temple/diorama things they build for them). The only sign of the storm was a few fallen trees, the occasional downed tent, and some bands of heavy rain that came out of nowhere.

This first one is made entirely out of recycled plastic:











"Green" awards go to the pandals with the least amount of litter

This one is made out of local wood.







Despite the intricate carvings, this will be torn down and thrown away by the end of the week.

This pandal, by the times of India, was made to look like a library. I really liked it.



(That figure is the archetypal "Bengali babu", a middle-aged middle-income hyperliterate engineer or civil servant who can talk for hours about Bengali poetry but can't remember to pack his own lunch, in clothes from 175 years ago and today.)







The divine figures, rather than being statues, are presented as coming to life from the pages of books. I love that.



The banister columns are pencils.

This pandal is far more traditional:





The drummers, traditionally, are Muslim, because the drums are leather.



These beautiful figures are carved from styrofoam:







The chandelier was amazing





A smaller pandal:





The puja is a big deal socially and economically for the city and for West Bengal and Orissa as a whole (another reason the cyclone is so problematic: imagine a blizzard that lasted the entire last week of the Christmas season).



People decorate their houses with lights and flowers.





Temperatures reach into the 90s most days, so ice cream is popular



As is fresh coconut water



Most scaffolding is made from lashed bamboo and palm trunks like these (apparently it handles wind and rain better than metal or wood)



Momos (we'd probably call them dumplings or pot stickers) are a popular street food



As are jolis (hard to translate: sort of like a savory churro)



The balloon-popping carney hustle is apparently universal



Car dealerships show their new models



Cyclone bands are still passing over, so rain strikes without warning



Are strawberry Oreo's a thing in the US? They're rolling them out here.



Pepsi ran an HIV/AIDS awareness kiosk with free anonymous testing and educational material



A lot of goods are still transported inside the city this way



At current exchange rates, that's about $2 for a chili chicken and rice combo for 2.



Calcutta pictures (dial-up warning)

My wife and I went to Calcutta this weekend for two reasons: for me to meet her family, and to avoid the first hellish day of Ganesh Chaturthi (the largest Hindu festival in Mumbai). Here are some pictures I took.

Here are some street views driving from the airport:









It will take me a while to get used to cars driving on the left...



Calcutta is "eastern" in a way that is difficult to describe -- the architecture, the vegetation; we're actually closer to Rangoon than Mumbai. This gives some small idea of it.





One of the many lakes from the Hooghly River











Remember: cows always have right-of-way.

We went first to my late father-in-law's family's house.



That's me receiving a blessing of yogurt, grain, and flowers from my mother-in-law. The men blew conch horns like trumpets and the women did that uvulating thing. The neighbors joined in. Then the monsoon hit and we all had to sprint inside. There were some tiktikis (geckos, sort of) that came in with us, but I couldn't get a good picture of them.



Being blessed is thirsty work, so I had some refreshing green coconut water after, along with the traditional meal of rice, lentils, fried fish, and fried fish roe.

The family (my family now, I suppose) was wonderful. I had a Bengali phrasebook that was somewhat useful:
Tea: "cha"
Good: "bhalo"
Uncle: "please see the attached 7-page insert on kinship terms". Sigh. There were I think 6 uncles and 14 cousins there, all of whom had a different relationship name with me (father-in-law's older brother is "jetu", while father-in-law's younger brother is "gakhu", etc.)





Then we went to the bazaar to try to find me some sandals. Unfortunately, while my feet go to 11, Indian shoe sizes generally do not.

After that, we went to my Mashimoni's apartment (mother-in-law's younger sister) in the middle of the city. She has this really cool place that is difficult to describe and I didn't get good shots of what was so interesting, unfortunately: the hallway between the rooms is actually a balcony; you have to go outside to get between rooms. But that doesn't quite get it either because the line between "outside" and "inside" is a little blurry because there are awnings everywhere.

Anyways, here's the view from her balconies:



(This balcony, apparently, has a monkey problem)









And here's me with my mashimoni and her housekeeper (who has been employed by the family for 60 years; her granddaughter is about to get her Master's degree in chemistry, which is a sign of how India is changing).



Finally, we went to my shashuri's (mother-in-law's) house for the Ganesh holiday there (it's not as big in Calcutta as Mumbai. However, my attempt to rename it "A Ganeshtivus for the rest of us" was not taken up).



Here is Lord Ganesh in his house inside the apartment building lobby before the adornment and ceremony.



And here's the ceremony in full swing, with Agni (the fire) taking the offerings of sweet wood and ghee.



And here's the view from the front.

Calcutta is a beautiful city and I can't recommend it highly enough.

We skipped all the throwing of stuff

We didn't have a wedding party, and throwing stuff in a boat seemed unwise...
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