Thursday, September 17, 2009

And the Puja Season Begins!

Today our maintenance and engineering staff celebrated Viswakarma, the God of engineering, with a puja, much like they did last year.

This year I took a video camera with me to record the priest in action.

The man in the lower left corner, was trying his hardest to blow the conch shell.

Here the priest is spreading ghee over sticks of wood and burning. Needless to say there was a lot of smoke in the room, but it was great!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday Night Iftar

After a hectic weekend of learning our next assignment, attending a wonderful iftar was a great way to end the weekend. An iftar is an evening meal in which Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. This year Ramadan is from August 21 to on or around September 19.

It was a small, intimate gathering with fantastic food. The event started with a date, then fresh fruits, then lentils and yogurt, then tasty chaat, then haleem, then biryani, then we left before more came out.

I went a little crazy over the fried eggplant, a battered thin slice sprinkled with chat masala, my new favorite spice mix. While enjoying the eggplant, I learned that Jains do not eat eggplants, since eggplants have a large number of seeds and a seed is believed to be a carrier of a budding life.

The most memorable moment of the night for me was when our very gracious host, in response to a conversation said (poorly paraphrased by me here): After you have been in Kolkata for a few months, you fall in love with the city and want to make changes; but when you try, you feel the pain of Kolkatans. Kolkata is a very unique place and I know we will miss it greatly.

Friday, September 11, 2009

And we are going to PRAGUE!

At about 11:30PM our time, 2:00PM EST we received THE email, and we are going to Prague!

Waiting and Waiting

On Tuesday morning we submitted our bid list to our CDO. It was due opening of business Tuesday EST. Now we sit back and wait, well not exactly sit back. Our waiting includes checking email every 5 minutes. There is a collective guess that we will find out sometime today. It is going to be hard to sleep tonight since close of business EST is 2:30 AM in Kolkata!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Market in Kolkata

I finally went to New Market with Krishna this week to watch her in action and see which specific vendors she buys from. I had been there many times before, but never with her. She has been going there for over 25 years, so she prefers it over the more modern stores. The New Market was originally built for the British in 1874. While we just went to food vendors, the New Market area has vendors that sell almost everything.

Since I was raised on a farm, it is only a little jarring to buy meat there. For those who haven't seen how a chicken gets to that nicely wrapped container in a grocery store, it can be an experience to remember. But you definitely know that your purchase is very fresh, since you can get it skin on or off in less than five minutes.

I didn't think beef would be available in India, but it is in Kolkata and on menus around town, mostly because of the large Muslim population here. You do not find this availability in all parts of India.

Here is Krishna buying a carton of eggs. I love how they check the eggs (and you can too!) with a small lamp. This was also how my family used to check our eggs on the farm.

Fish is selected, skinned and filleted right in front of you. No display counter in the way of communicating how you want the fish cut, and you can look at the quality as they do their work.

The vegetable vendor had tomatoes for about 20 cents a pound, potatoes for about 22 cents. Vegetables are very inexpensive in Kolkata although the prices have been rising recently because of demand and weather's influence on crop yields.

This is a picture of Anwar. He is one of the guys you can hire to carry your purchases as you roam around the market. After visiting just the vegetable vendor you can end of with 22 pounds, so Krishna usually hires him to help her out. She has been hiring him since he was 15 years old, so next time I can just find Anwar and have him take me around. Next time you are in Kolkata, ask for Anwar and you can too.