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Carpenters in India

Carpenters in India    The industrial revolution accomplished advantages for carpenters in most areas of the world. But there are some places where the work is done in amazing simple ways. Look at the carpenters on this project milling logs into boards for a roof framing project. First a load ... read more

Mark Anderson

IndiaIndia

Days in Banaras

Terrible heat, Auntieji says, too much. The beads of my sweat so big they feel like fat ants slipping down my neck. My top is two shades darker with soak when I arrive at Ramuji’s house. The electricity is out, as it is every afternoon. He turns on the inverter ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

An Interviews with Udupi

Part I: Konkan Railway "You have traveled through 31 hours of a grueling train journey, and have agonized through a thousand questions you might be asked in an all important interview the next Day. When you finally think you have made it to the last leg of the damned journey ... read more

Ashish Thakur

IndiaIndia

Authenticity and the banana pancake trail

I came back to Rishikesh to recover from Kashmir, to write, to bathe in the Ganga, to be left alone. The crowds for the Kumbh have long since departed; Rishikesh is easy now. It’s back to the way I remember it being when I first came five years ago--the heart ... read more

Janna White

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My Third Published Book: The Global Balance of Power

Book Description The measurement of the global balance of power focuses on the paradigm shift from the United States post-September 11th, 2001 preemptive doctrine of unilateralism to one of partnerships and corporations in a modern multilateral order. Although the challenge to the unilateral doctrine brought to light new actors on ... read more

Binneh Minteh

IndiaIndia

Taking account of Kashmir (Part II)

Late one night, in a rare moment when it was just the two of us, Sayma told me her story. I had only heard pieces of it before. She was the most modern in her family: she wore jeans, went out in public with her hair down, and talked on ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

Taking account of Kashmir (Part I)

Srinagar is the Muslim-dominated capital of Kashmir, India's northernmost state. Resting in a valley between snow-capped Himalayas whose peaks are visible even on cloudy days, local tourist paraphernalia boasts that the city is "Paradise on Earth." Kashmir has been the center of periodic fighting between Pakistan and India since Partition ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

To the Hills: Simple Pleasures

Last week on our sojourn in Himachal, my friends and I took a ride to Rohtang Pass where, at 12,000 ft above sea level, the slopes of the mountains are coated in slabs of wet snow - the kind that's perfect for packing hard, ruthless snowballs or, if you're an ... read more

Valerie Hohman

IndiaIndia

To the Hills: Escaping Delhi's Heat

The summer heat in Delhi can be difficult to tolerate.  If you're not sweating like a pig, you're hopping from one air conditioned room to another. Or you're escaping Delhi altogether, as I did last week, and heading for the highlands to the north.  Just a 16-hour, overnight bus ride ... read more

Valerie Hohman

IndiaIndia

Drink a Coke and kill two goats… or don’t

Over the last month, I've figured out two things about Mussoorie, the hill station in northern India where I'm currently staying. One: someone’s business is everybody’s business. The pastime of gossip here is as extensive and entrenched as the 94 viruses that were expelled from my laptop yesterday. Two: everyone ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

Midnight Pilgrimage (Part II)

We set out from Rishikesh around 9pm carrying only shoulder bags with the essentials. Carrying no expectations. The footbridge had been reopened for two-way traffic at the late hour and we crossed easily. On the other side, a policeman directed us to a taxi stand, where the only driver remaining ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

Midnight Pilgrimage (Part I)

"Don't ask any more questions. Just decide that you're going to go, and go," our friend Yogi told us. We were trying to get to the same place as 15 million other people. We'd be able to get exactly as far as we truly, truly wanted to go. No further. ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

Tamil Nadu, Southern India

Culture: Southern India is like a time warp back to a Biblical setting. Nothing has helped me understand the Biblical setting more than my trip there, even a trip to Israel! I doubt there are any atheists there. The whole country is religious, radically religious! When we read Bible about ... read more

Mark Anderson

IndiaIndia

For Emergency Dial Auspicious 1-0-8, not 9-1-1

 Get your cell phones out and put 1-0-8 on Speed Dial in case you find yourself in India with an emergency. Although certain Indian states tried using 911 as the code to dial (based on  Western movies and TV shows), some locales faced excessive prank calls and the number 911 was discontinued. ... read more

Rohan Radhakrishna

IndiaIndia

The Sandal Scandal - 100 Million limbs are at risk of amputation!

 "100 million limbs are at risk of amputation!"  Diabetes in India: A Sandal Scandal "India will have 50 million diabetics by 2010. Close to 20% of all diabetics have some form of amputation and surveys indicate that 60% of these amputations are because of wrong or no footwear" said Mr. ... read more

Rohan Radhakrishna

IndiaIndia

Shit Luck and Slum Health--What would you do if you dropped your phone in human sewage?

DISCLAIMER: FECULENT TEXT AND PHOTOS BELOW VIEW AT YOUR OWN RISK   What would you do if you dropped your cell phone in raw human sewage in the middle of a slum?   This was my recent dilemma in Bhopal. I was rushing to the airport, navigating my way on ... read more

Rohan Radhakrishna

IndiaIndia

Is it God, or is it a rock?

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} "I didn't come to India to follow a bunch of rules. I came to experience the culture." -Geoff, fed-up study abroad ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

A conversation about mangoes (or, letting go of my linguistic process)

After four years away, I am back in India, exploring spaces known and new. Some of this process of reentry has been eased by a certain muscle memory—the moments when, without thought, my unsoiled left hand has reached for a second serving of daal, or when my knees have gone ... read more

Janna White

IndiaIndia

Revenge on Holi

  "Hee, hee, hee....I'll show them," I chuckle to myself as I sit on my porch this morning, pumping balloons full of water. Tis the day before Holi, the spring festival of colors in India, and I have become a target for every zealous Indian child with access to a ... read more

Valerie Hohman

IndiaIndia

waking up on top of Kerala, India

One Sunday in January I woke up at five in the morning and walked in silence for an hour or so across the forest in Neyyar Dam, a natural reserve in Kerala, the southernmost province in India. Along the way we heard the lions and elephants roar in the distance, ... read more

Cristina Zabalaga

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Books

A Passage to India

Emily Strasser

23 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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Passage to India by E.M. Forester, set in India under the British colonial rule, is a marvelous book to read while traveling in India. His descriptions beautifully capture the wonder and disorientation, surprise and disappointment, of encountering a new culture. And he does not shy away from exploring the complex relationships between colonialists and colonized, which can be extended to tourists and locals. I found myself catching my breath, marking passages, and reading them out loud to my fellow travelers.

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Getting Around

Buses are the best!

Emily Strasser

29 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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If you’re going to be traveling in the mountains of Northern India, you’ve got to resign yourself to lots of buses on curvy mountain roads. Despite the extreme discomfort of spending 20+ hours on the same kind of bus that makes local stops, Indian buses can be fun. People are very kind and will look out for you, especially if you are traveling alone. Unlike the American mentality that we have to get there as soon as possible, Indian bus drivers do not seem to be in any particular hurry to reach their destination. Buses make frequent stops for food, tea, and toilet, though be warned that most places will only have “open toilet,” which is, you guessed it, the side of the road. I recommend that women wear long skirts or kurtas.

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Festivals & Events

A gathering of writers, journalists, and the creatively inclined

Valerie Hohman

29 Jan 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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If you’re a bookworm, or if you just enjoy passionate, intelligent company, you’ll love the literary festival held each spring in Jaipur. Started in 2005, the festival highlights world-renowned authors, stars of Indian literature, as well as new writing talent. It’s a five-day event of talks, panel discussions, readings, music, and food held in Jaipur’s historic Diggi Palace. This year, I only caught the last two days of the festival but had a marvelous time and met some fun and accomplished writers. Among the featured writers were Amit Chaudhuri, whose latest novel is titled "The Immortals," Tina Brown author of "The Diana Chronicles," and Shobha De, well-known for her pulp fiction and magazines following the drama of Bollywood's elite.

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Culture Shock

On the Spot Tonglen and Dana – Breathe in Suffering, Breathe out Love

Rohan Radhakrishna

03 Jul 2010

India

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Rohan Radhakrishna

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Walking Indian streets, you’ll encounter serious suffering like this man with open wounds outside a fancy mall in Bangalore. While the debate continues if paying beggars enables a cycle of oppression, I’ve started practicing Tonglen and Dana giving me more street peace. These Buddhist practices teach how to take in another’s suffering and how to offer with deep intention. When encountering a struggling being, breathe in slowly imagining all of that person’s suffering in the form of black smoke entering you. Hold it in your heart. Then slowly breathe out peace and health sending it to the person as healing light. No matter what you give a beggar (a warm look, kind words “Namaste,” a 5 rupee coin, some food), give it with respect and love.

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Must Do

Pilgrimage to the Holy Waters

Valerie Hohman

29 Jan 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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When you’re in India, you can’t miss a trip to the Ganges. But you do have a choice about where to visit the sacred river - in the north at Rishikesh and Haridwar (pictured above) or in the east on the holy Ghats of Varanasi. If you head north, the water will be cold and clean. I highly recommend taking a raft trip and jumping in (provided you’re not visiting at the peak of winter). If you go east to Varanasi, I recommend against a dip in the river due to the high level of pollution. Opt instead to take a boat out on the river in the morning to watch the funeral pyres from afar and in the evening attend a river puja. Join the locals in honoring the sustaining power of the holy waters.

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Etiquette

No, I don’t want the rest (of your impure leftovers)

Janna White

26 Jul 2010

India

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Janna White

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Once, my cooking teacher gave me a chunk of jaggery to try. I had taken one bite when her sweet-toothed son appeared out of nowhere and grabbed it off the table. My teacher chased after him to get it back before he ate it with the fervor of someone trying to stop their child from sticking a finger in an electrical socket. It was jutha -- having already been partially consumed by me, it was tainted and impure; for him to eat it would be abhorrent. So watch how you share food. When drinking from a water bottle, pour it into your mouth instead of putting the bottle to your lips. And if someone offers to let you try their dish at a restaurant, serve yourself with a clean spoon or fork. If you don’t, you may have just denied them their dinner.

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Food

'Vegetarian' has a slightly different meaning

Geeta Aneja

01 Oct 2009

India

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Geeta  Aneja

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In India, being 'vegetarian' means consuming milk products, grains, legumes, and vegetables, but not eating the flesh of any animal OR any eggs. It is not uncommon for a vegetarian to refuse food touched by meat, and because of the high Hindu and Muslim populations, asking for beef or pork in most areas is inappropriate, even offensive.

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Film

Hooray for Bollywood!

Emily Strasser

04 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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Prepare to hear the lyrics to popular Bollywood songs in shops and taxis all over India, and the faces of the ten most popular Bollywood stars plastered all over advertisements for chips, phone companies, and just about everything else. My roommate and her best friend practically recite the movies they watch together, high-fiving at the funny parts. I get pleasantly surprised reactions from Indians when I mention a star’s name, or hum part of a song. “You like Indian movies?” they ask, lighting up.

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Packing

Immerse yourself in local style

Emily Strasser

11 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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Pack light and buy clothes there! Even though people told me before I left for India that the standards of dress are much more modest, I still ended up bringing a few things I never wore because I found out they were inappropriate. Though you will see tourists and young hip Indians in tank-tops and short skirts, as Westerners, what we wear stands out, and it's safer to stay on the conservative end of things. Your best bet is to pack lightly, and buy some Indian-style dress once you are there. It’s a fun experience to pick out bright, decorative cloth and have it tailored to fit you perfectly, as most Indians do. Women can enjoy wearing Indian kurtas, and men can rock neon, sparkly, fuzzy sweaters (I’m not even joking).

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Religion

Temple-hopping

Valerie Hohman

31 Jan 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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If you visit a temple during a puja, be sure to take a helping of prasad, often a sweet dish or fruit that has been blessed by the local priest. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling all kinds of prasad – coconuts, sweet rice, bananas, halva -- the list goes on and on. Fire and water are also key elements in the puja. When the priest brings a flame to you, swipe your right hand over it and then touch your hand to the top of your head. For the water, take it with both hands (right on top), sip gingerly, and wipe the rest over your head (like you’re smoothing your hair). You may see people walking clockwise around the idol at the center of the temple – feel free to join them and make sure to go around at least three times.

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Politics

Maoist revival

Valerie Hohman

30 Jan 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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The growing economic disparity in India is reviving the Maoist (communist) movement in the eastern part of the country. The government is cracking down on these groups with violence, and since its counterinsurgent operations inevitably hurt the poor as well as those involved in resistance movements, there is a fierce debate over whether the state is “waging war” on its own people. Tehelka, a Delhi-based magazine, has been following this conflict and is a good source of information about this and other social issues. When you’re traveling in eastern India – particularly Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Orissa – you should pay close attention to the news and stay off the roads at night to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.

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Music

Bollywood tunes: from lyrical to “sex sells”

Valerie Hohman

01 Feb 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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As Indian cinema adopts the conventions of its Western counterparts, there’s a stark difference in both the melodies and lyrics of many contemporary Indian tunes compared with those from older Hindi films. “The older songs had so much meaning behind their lyrics,” an Indian friend told me, “These days the lyrics don’t make any sense.” He told me this when I asked him what the lyrics in “Dhoom Machale” mean. Nothing much – but the dance number certainly provides plenty of eye-candy. See for yourself. Look up this tune on YouTube and compare it to a song like “Chura Lia Hai Tumne.” You’ll see why it’s a nice change of pace to take an interest in the oldies.

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Sports

The cricket field: Trespassers will be persecuted

Valerie Hohman

01 Feb 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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Cricket is the national obsession of Indian men. It is the be-all, end-all, sport-of-sports, source of rivalry and redemption. I once made the mistake of cutting across the outermost edge of a cricket field as I was bringing lunch to one of the players (my boyfriend at the time). The venom directed at me was incredible. “Get off the field.” “You’re in the way.” They waved violently and glared at me with incredulous expressions. One might have thought I had ventured into a minefield, such was their alarm at my straying a few feet into their territory. Moral of the story is: cricket is not a game, so don’t act like it is.

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TV

Reality TV strikes again

Valerie Hohman

01 Feb 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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“I need to get home ASAP to see the first episode of American Idol,” my friend exclaimed on our way back from Avatar. Not only was I surprised that an accomplished, intellectual woman would admit to loving American Idol, but also that it wasn’t an Indian reality show that she was running home to watch. India has joined the craze of reality TV with spin-offs of major foreign reality hits including India’s Got Talent (Britain’s Got Talent), Khataron Ke Khiladi (Fear Factor), Sach Ka Saamna (The Moment of Truth), and Big Boss (The Apprentice) – to name a few. Indian TV has long been dominated by soap operas showcasing overwrought family drama but reality TV is now posing fierce competition for the genre of choice among Indian audiences.

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Fashion

FabIndia—Pack Light, Shop Hard, Wear Indian Clothes

Rohan Radhakrishna

30 Jun 2010

India

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Rohan Radhakrishna

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Wearing Indian clothes is fun, practical, and respectful so when packing, bring few clothes. Wherever you arrive, head straight to FabIndia to stock up on Iocal threads. Fit in and draw less negative attention vs. wearing shorts and a tank top, which many consider disrespectful prohibiting you from entering some religious sites. For $10 dollars, buy comfy quick-drying cotton with local dyes and patterns. A thin longsleeved kurta or salwar (Indian tunic) protects forearms from the blistering sun. With 100+ stores, FabIndia is a one-stop-shop for head-to-toe casual and formal wear. Sizes and styles are well organized and labeled saving time and hassle. Indian clothes are so comfortable and stylish, you’ll want to wear them when you go home.

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Dating

Enter with Care

Emily Strasser

21 Jun 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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Dating Tibetans can be tricky, due to different cultural expectations. Tibetan women are generally reserved with the opposite sex, but Tibetan men are often very interested in American women. Just know that Tibetans undertake physical relationships more seriously than Americans may be accustomed to, so be sure you’re ready for some sort of commitment before you get involved with a Tibetan guy. Also, be cautious around monks. Tibetan monks disrobing for Western women is not unheard of, so flirtations with them should not be undertaken lightly. That said, being friends with a monk is totally possible and rewarding.

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Health

A drop of water won't kill you

Emily Strasser

23 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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While traveling in India, it's easy to convince yourself that every bite of food potentially contains a strain of death. While it is smart to be cautious about tap water and dairy, don’t let fear ruin your experience. In my group of 15, many who broke the “rules” of eating in India by eating salads or drinking lassis (risky because of frequent power outages and potential spoilage), did not get sick, while those who carried napkins everywhere to clean their plates from every speck of tapwater, did. There is no way to completely ensure your safety, so my best advice is for your mental health is use your common sense, choose your risks wisely, and enjoy yourself!

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Slang

Kidhar parega – Indian GPS

Valerie Hohman

29 Jan 2010

India

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Valerie Hohman

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“Bhaiya, kidhar parega.” I’ve heard rickshaw-wallas say this so often it is now second nature to me. Literally, it translates as, “Brother, where is (your destination), I have to.” It’s a colloquial use of “parega,” a term for compulsion -- hence the “I have to” tacked on the end. Despite a sequential house-numbering system in Delhi, rest assured that the first time you take a rickshaw to a new destination you will spend 20 minutes minimum trying to figure out where you’re going. Your driver will stick his head out of the vehicle and holler “Bhaiya, kidhar parega” to the closest passerby to appeal for directions. With this phrase at your disposal, you’ll be well-equipped to assist in the process and minimize everyone’s frustration.

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Nightlife

Dharamsala is hopping in the morning

Emily Strasser

31 May 2009

India

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Emily Strasser

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Nightlife? What’s that? I guess it depends on which crowd you’re hanging out with, but among the locals in Dharamsala, nightlife is pretty nonexistent. In my home-stay family, we were in bed by 9:30 p.m., and up again by 6 a.m. There are bars in town, but they are filled almost exclusively with tourists. There is a club as well, called Xcite, but again, only locals who are pushing tradition will go there. Tibetan women who frequent it are looked down upon. Occasionally, you may be lucky (or unlucky, depending on how your like your sleep) to hear an Indian wedding. WIth raucous music and dancing, these affairs go well into the night. Step in and join the celebration. Besides these occasions, Dharamsala shuts down early, and gets going early.

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Being an American

Is this your first time?

Janna White

11 Jul 2010

India

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Janna White

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Perceptions of Americans in India range from the expected (we’re all rich) to the curious (our hair turns white because we don’t eat enough coconut) and surprising (did you know Obama carried a Hanuman image around with him on the campaign trail?). We’re also domestically inept. After weeks of pestering her, my friend finally agreed to let me into the kitchen. First I helped her peel some garlic. I‘d better enjoy it, she said, because I’d probably never get a chance to do it again. And when I washed our plates and bowls after we ate, she asked if it was the first time I’d ever done dishes. Because I don’t know how to cook Indian food, she assumed I had never spent any time in a kitchen at all. After all, don’t I eat out every day anyway?

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