Un-stream-lined

Food, Travel, Design and the occassional wordiness

Once an ‘International Student’ February 7, 2017


I met my husband for the first time during International Student orientation at grad school. Then we went for ice cream. We dated, we traveled, we loved, we fought, we married, we have 4 beautiful children- 3 of them are fur-kids, adopted, pets- if you insist, whose American families had disowned them.
You see, like dozens of our closest friends, we were once international students. Scratch that. Between him and me, we’ve been international students 3X, over 10 cumulative years and hold 4 advanced graduate degrees from a pretty fancypants institute we hold (super) close to our hearts. And today, established in pretty awesome jobs in pretty awesome cities, we’ll tell you #imalreadyhome
Utterly grateful, that we both had the money and brains to go to school anywhere. But fate brought us here and #gladweshowedup. We are so grateful that this school and this country we now call home, has enriched our lives beyond measure and blessed us with communities that are now ours to love and build on. This community today is an international global milieu that is so much like the cosmopolitan hometown I once grew up in. So vaguely familiar, yet so utterly different. Hygge* & hujug**, lonely and chilling, rewarding and freeing is the concept of home- a word, only travelers know how to articulate. The feeling that #imalreadyhome is like the feeling of your own couch but sometimes, it is also a feeling of occasionally having to defend yourselves to well-meaning strangers.

I have many immigrant friends, many of whom moved for work, for marriages, for families (or away from families) among a variety of reasons…But I tell you, some of us are different; we are not better or special by any means, but we have all gone through a common set of things that tied us all with one common thread.
This handful of us packed our bags as kids, fresh out of high school or college, some quitting our first jobs going back to school to sit in semicircular large halls. We left everything that was familiar and comfortable, left the comforts and smells of home, left our mothers and our friends, our learnings and earnings, our lives as we knew them, to come here and recreate something we had no clue about, some of us even more than others.
No matter which university we came to, or dissertation we defended, or specialization we graduated with, or department we aced, or airlines we flew in or which country we came from we all pushed our boundaries, competed with our own selves, we created our own lives, we were international students and over decades and generations, we shared a quiet exhilarating experience. We managed to reach out and today… #imalreadyhome

I’m among friends, I’m in my community of peers, doing what I love, creating beautiful things, making change, making ripples in my mid-morning cups of coffee (that you proudly import from all over the world, some of it from my native land) with logic and dissent. I am fighting in my own little ways to pay those cocoa and coffee farmers fair wage and I’m also striving so your dairy co-op in rural Vermont gets their fair share of profits too. And I can do that because I care, because #imalreadyhome

(If you let it) My science makes food tasty, my design makes you happy, my stories make you think. We all have our roles carved out. Some days we will nod and some days we will wave, because that’s what neighbors do. Some days, we will cherish and some days, we will cope. And I will be here if you need me and also if you don’t, because #imalreadyhome Will you also pick up a sign and walk a mile, to defend logic and science and the rights of others less fortunate than you? Will you stand up for my rights and those of our planet? Will you repurpose more and recycle right?

I will always try to want less and waste less, so our Earth stays greener longer for your children and mine; I will always walk more and drive less so our kids can breathe better. I will always try to gift handmade. I will always want less and waste less and ask everyone to do the same, no matter which country we live in, because this Earth is our home and #wearealreadyhome

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This is written in acknowledgement of the tremendous amount of privilege I have and also in gratitude to my school and international student community at schools everywhere who make the transition from home to new homes easier. From there on, what we do with our lives, is often up to us. In the recent episodes, it is very easy to get angry and point fingers at everyone and forget the kindness we have received; which in my case has been profound and many times more than any negativity or prejudice, which I have also received. Let it never be said that prejudice doesn’t exist and didn’t exist. It always has and so does all the other ‘good stuff’.
#imalreadyhome is used purposely as a solidarity statement with other immigrants in line with http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/immigrants-respond-to-trump-by-declaring-imalreadyhome-on-twitter_us_588b6f7fe4b0303c07533a65 as a response to recent immigration ban and growing normalization of xenophobic attitudes. Xenophobia towards international students bother me the most, because when I see them I see a vulnerable 21 year old me (and so many more like me) with nothing but packed schedules, too overwhelmed to even feel homesick. So much apprehension, so many mistakes, so much good and so many accomplishments lay ahead of you, dear young international student…If you’re one of those 17, 18, 21, 25 year olds traveling alone to study in a new country, just know, you’re not alone.

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*Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

** Hujug (hu-Joog) is a Bangla word meaning craze, or impulse usually fueled by passion for something fun

 

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Travel: Culinary joys of Calcutta December 17, 2014



Prologue:

Wait… how is it that the place that taught me to love food and people-watching didn’t get at least an honorary mention in my travel blog? At least until my mother made me do it. Gasp. Yes, she made me write a where-to-eat travelogue for a proceedings book for a medical conference her group is hosting. Confused? In short, doctors lead boring, stressful lives so when they go to conferences other doctors want them to know how cute their city is and where all they can go chomp between the talks.

Why does it have to be here? For one, the amount of research and thought that went into writing it deserves it be placed in this blog. Secondly, this is the best I got, yet. Until I sum up every piece of advice, I have been giving my guests and traveler friends and write something better about what to do in my city, you will have to be happy with the description of where to eat there.

Calcutta- A Taster’s Paradise

You might have visited before, you might have deep acquaintances in this city. You might associate this city with many things—Mother Teresa’s charity, Tagore’s literature and boisterous, friendly Bengalis, but if City of Joy were ever to be renamed into a city of something else, it would most likely be food. So, here’s an insight for you: your hosts (and coworkers here) are indeed, in their heart of hearts, self-proclaimed hosts of travel/food shows, they are judgmental critiques, passionate foodies and elaborate guides who want little more, than to show you their city, through their eyes and palates.

This Calcuttan might be traveling the globe for years, but ask her about a recent trip…and then listen carefully for the mention of brilliant food, jaw dropping concoction of ecstasy.  Food might not be the only reason she travels, but surely that is one that tugs at her soul. No matter where she goes, her function, budget or preferred ambiance, food, she loves. And now that you are in her city, there is little respite for you.

Unlike most other Indian cities, Calcutta does more than boast its home-spun (Bengali) cuisine—the quintessential fish and sweets. Instead, it proclaims its love for food by offering a magical amalgamation of all things tasty, all cuisines that have traveled across the globe to fascinate the Calcuttan palate. Tastes which have traveled far and wide to marry other tastes and create what is the eclectic Calcuttan flavor.

Home of the Kathi roll (or Frankies), Calcutta is opulant with neighborhood joints with scores of loyal patrons who will claim theirs are the “best Kathi rolls in the world”.

Calcutta will proudly serve you her own Mughlai and South Indian, often from the same store front. Stop by, feel royal with a crispy bite from our greasy, delicious Fish Kobiraji.

Our authentic Biriyani recipes are claimed to be from the Afghan hills. And if you question the Kabul heritage of their spices, Calcuttans will modestly explain (to their cousins from Hyderabad and Mumbai) that the aromatic, flavorful, no-sauce version of meat laden deliciousness is a Lucknow-style Biriyani, something the West and South are yet to discover.

We have Punjabi dhabas lining not just our highways but also, congested inner city streets. Stop by Azad Hind for a midnight snack or a heavy late afternoon lunch. With crowds spilling out of every door in that place, you might have to sit in your car or stand in the street to finish your food. Hence, street food. Make sense?

Our ‘real Madrasi’ coffee is the specialty of our Tamil neighbors. Even though we love our Cafe Coffee Days, every now and then we will stop by little holes in the walls in the Lake Market area, to sip steaming hot, frothy coffee from double-layered steel cups.

If you would much rather stay away from the hoopla and sip tea in the cozies of your own balcony, tasty snacks from Bikaner are there to keep you company. Available both in chain and independent store-fronts across the city, taste from dozens of varieties of toasted nuts, dry fruits and spicy mixes.

Internationally minded? Our fruitcakes are from Jewish bakeries from the past century, our Chinese lo mein comes from our very own Chinatown and Mediterranean delicacies are a-galore at upscale joints lining the city.

Craving more caffeine? Want a crash course in the last 50 years of Calcutta? Ride up north to College Street and walk up dimly lit stairs of the Indian Coffee House. See, Calcutta is a place where people don’t just go to work and then go back home, it is a place where every clerk is a poet, every officer an author, singer, actor, collector, critique… and to live this second life, they have a third place, where they “adda” (meet with friends discussing all things essential to surreal, from politics to football, from economics to literature). Long before Starbucks (and hence the modern day cafe) branded their “third place”, Indian Coffee House in College Street has been every Calcuttan’s “third place” for generations. Warm camaraderie and heated conversations are paired with an equally hot, black “infusion” coffee. That is Calcutta. Taste it.

So without much ado, let’s start you on the journey. 20 places to try and taste, while in Calcutta.

Full meals and sit-down eateries:

  1. Peter Cat—Home of Calcutta’s favorite Chello Kabab and also delicious mutton biriyani (Park Street area)
  2. Arsalan—Claimed by some locals to serve the best Biriyani in town, this is a must stop for other delicacies like Firni too. (multiple locations Park St/ Park Circus area, www.arsalanrestaurant.in)
  3. 6 Ballygunj Place— for authentic Bengali cuisine (multiple locations: the original was in 6 Ballygunj Place, near Ballygunj Phari of course, but now they have locations in Salt Lake as well as other cities like Bangalore)
  4. Charnock City—Named after Job Charnock, the founder of the city, this cozy, well-lit restaurant serves scrumptious Daab-Chingri (shrimp and coconut served inside a coconut) and other Bengali, Indian and continental dishes served with views of lush greens of the Salt Lake Stadium and beyond (Salt Lake, EM Bypass)
  5. Hush—Italian food with a cozy bar for those that prefer quiet times and good food (City Centre, Salt Lake)
  6. Five Rivers— for their Kashmiri menu (City Centre 2, Salt Lake)
  7. Barbeque Nation—Go for unlimited kababs and also unlimited GenX IT professional crowd (Sector V, Salt Lake)
  8. Mocambo—As a NYTimes travel writer says “My mother went to Mocambo to listen to Doris Day covers. I went to Mocambo for Fish à la Diana#”  (Mirza Ghalib St)
  9. Bohemian—Bengali cuisine but with an eclectic, international touch (Ballygunj)
  10. Chinoiserie—for upscale Chinese at the Taj Bengal (Alipore)
  11. Baan Thai—for upscale Thai at the Oberoi Grand (Esplanade)
  12. Sigri—North Indian and Kababs

(Chain restaurants that haven’t lost their charm

  1. Mainland China—for delectable Chinese food outside of Chinatown. (multiple locations including cities outside Calcutta)
  2. Oh! Calcutta—authentic Calcuttan cuisine (multiple locations including internationally http://www.speciality.co.in/index.php/brands/oh-calcutta/)
  3. Flame & Grill—(multiple locations including Prince Anwar Shah Rd http://www.speciality.co.in/index.php/brands/flame-grill/)

(Street food and Take-aways: )

  1. Hot Kati Roll—while kathi rolls are ubiquitous in Calcutta, this is locally claimed as one of the best roll-‘stalls’ in the city. (Park Street)
  2. Aliya—for beautifully fragrant, less-oily Biriyani (strictly take-away, Chandni Chowk)
  3. Utsav—for fish fry and chilli baby corn (Hajra)

(Dessert: )

  1. Flury’s—Housed in an old Brit-era building with tall windows bang in the middle of all Park Street action, Flury’s sells decadent pastries and savory baked goods. (Park Street, http://www.flurysindia.com)
  2. Nahoum’s—Their cakes and breads smell of childhood. Of rum, fruits, chocolate but mostly of nostalgic New Market childhood.. Nahoum’s is abundant in every Calcuttan’s memory, it is that much more prevalent in the confectionery-history of sweet-toothed Calcutta. So go there with a local, early enough in the day to enjoy fresh goodies. (Esplanade, New Market)

Epilogue:

This is no way an exhaustive list, and I haven’t been home in so long I forgot how some of this tastes. Maybe that was what my mother wanted–Me to long to go back home, to reach out to my old friends and go out with them to the old hangouts. Well you are successful, Ma, I am craving all of that now and some of your Jhinge Posto too.

Huge shout-out to Debarshi and Saikat for your help with this. Lets get together soon!

 

Weddings August 8, 2011

Filed under: Mouth full of potatoes — Kolika C @ 12:23 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Seeing other people get married make me feel …well, funny. I want to scream “me too”-s and “oh well”-s and sit back and watch the love flow. Nieces make you cry, friends make you feel blessed, your family well makes you mad, crazy, comforted and just plain special. The milieu, the camaraderie, the competition, the judgment, the thrill, the scare and finally once the drama is done, the peace is all so the same. Across the globe. Across families. Across brides.

My takeaway from it all: Marriages are about couples, their love…hell even their families. But weddings are all about the bride. And the sooner the world and the family recognizes it, the smoother it is for everyone.
Some clips from the most recent one I covered http://www.flickr.com/photos/kolika/sets/72157627258005635/

 

 
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