To market we go – INA Market

Take two … back to the INA Market as we were having fish for dinner last night.  This ain’t your neighborhood Krogers or Giant Eagle, people.
In an effort to hopefully somewhat adequately describe this experience … I can tell you that INA is a closed market (not open air) and has what seems to be hundreds of shops.  
Shopping at INA Market in New Delhi

From plasticware to shoes, saris and fabrics, vegetables, meat, fish (both live and already processed), live animals, cheeses, grains, spices, stationery, even “American” items like Lucky Charms and Jif peanut butter.


There are no spiffy clean tile floors, no shopping carts and orderly shopping.  There is no hand sanitizer when you first enter, and there is definitely no elevator music to lull your ears while you shop.  


There is no mindless shopping here either … you don’t have aisles and aisles and shelves upon shelves to choose from, while on the other hand, there are some instances of MORE than you could ever imagine to choose from.

As you walk through the maze of shops, shop owners call out to you “Need something today, madam?”  or “What can I get for you, madam?”  It is a noisy experience.  Bargaining and negotiation for the best price is a constant.


The smell is pretty hard to convey.  Tony had a VERY hard time in this environment because of the smell and the heat.  As an adult, I have been able to mentally push past the smells.  It is a combination of all of those spices, the fresh meat, the animals (and all that comes with animals in containers), loads of hot/sweaty bodies, and simply the smell of India, etc. all combines for a pretty powerful sensory overload.


As we walked by the chickens, ducks, roosters and fish — the kids said “awwwwww mom … look at the animals!”


Little did they know that if they wanted chicken for dinner, one less “cute little animal” would still be sitting in that cage.


There was a hysterical situation with a catfish. A woman asked to purchase a catfish … once wrangled out of the blue bucket, he somehow escaped from his plastic bag (en route to be … well … ready to take home for dinner).  He flopped around the market floor for what seemed like an hour as all of the shop owners chased him around.  The kids found THIS rather amusing.

Oh … the fabrics…  I think I’ve gone to heaven.  I canNOT wait until my sewing machine arrives!

I’m going to enjoy our times at the markets!  I am looking forward to trying out Khan, Nehru Place and Dilli Haat after the kids start school!

Sheviks Toys

With the somewhat new arrival of shopping malls in Delhi, the struggle of locating popular and quality toys is becoming a thing of the past.  Even in just the two years since moving here, the malls have been popping up all over and I’m guessing that in the past 5 years is when the phenomenon hit Delhi.

Since my opinion of the shopping malls is that they seem to be the places where folks go to hang out, eat, take advantage of free air-conditioning, yet very rarely buy anything, I am not very eager to go spend my time (or money) at the malls.

Can you say CROWDED?
When it comes to the kids spending their allowance, picking out birthday presents for their friends or (let’s be honest, here) choosing a toy that WE are buying for them that has nothing to do with a birthday or a normal gifting situation, there is no place we’d rather go than to Sheviks Toys.
Their selection is pretty varied (beyblades, barbies, littlest pet shop, craft kits, balls, bubbles, magic tricks, etc. and etc).  They have very helpful staff that will climb up a very rickety ladder to toss down additional options and gift wrap too.
Pricing is all reasonable too.  The prices on the tags are just about the same as what you would pay at Target, which makes me happy.  Nothing irks me more than overpaying because it’s an imported something-or-other.
Not only do they have toys, but also a wide variety of books, coloring books, art supplies, puzzles, board games, backpacks, notebooks, etc.
They will even test out each and every writing utensil you buy BEFORE you purchase it, to make sure it has ink that works!

Next time you find yourself in need of a gift for a little person, consider supporting Shevik’s!

(extra perk?  There is a small grocery store, ATM, flower stand, veggie stalls, tailor and more all in the same block!  One stop shopping!)

When I go in next and they don’t have customers, I intend to poke around a bit to get the low down on the history behind the store.  I bet there’s an interesting backdrop!

Shevik’s Toy Store
25-B, Paschimi Marg, Main Market C Block
Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, 110057



Qutub Minar

We decided to take some time this weekend to “see the sights” … and headed to Qutub Minar.



The Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres (238 ft) tall with 379 steps leading to the top. The diameter of the base is 14.3 meters wide while the top floor measures 2.75 meters in diameter.

The nearby Iron Pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities, standing in the famous Qutb complex. According to the traditional belief, anyone who can encircle the entire column with their arms, with their back towards the pillar, can have their wish granted. Because of the corrosive qualities of sweat the government has built a fence around it for safety.

Surrounding the building are many fine examples of Indian artwork from the time it was built in 1193.

A second tower was in construction and planned to be taller than the Qutb Minar itself. Its construction ended abruptly when it was about 12 meters tall.The name of this tower is given as Alau Minar and construction of recent studies shows that this structure has been tilted in one direction. It is made of red sandstone all the way except for two stories at the top.

We had such a wonderful time here … the surrounding greens were peaceful as local families shared picnics … and it wasn’t so busy that I wasn’t able to capture photos without other visitors in the shots.


Of note is the legendary “skin tax” we’d heard so much about.  If we had been Indian residents, our admission fee to see Qutub Minar would have been Rs. 10 (10 Rupees or the equivalent of $0.20) … because we are foreigners however, our admission price was Rs. 250 per head. ($5.23).  Still a bargain and worth every penny, especially since children under the age of 15 are FREE! One of the few times we didn’t have to pay a dime (or a rupee, rather) for Terran!

More information, if you care to read it ::

Inspired by the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and wishing to surpass it, Qutbuddin Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, commenced construction of the Qutb Minar in 1193, but could only complete its base. His successor, Iltutmish, added three more stories and, in 1386, Firuz Shah Tughluq constructed the fifth and the last story. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tughluq are quite evident in the minaret. Like earlier towers erected by the Ghaznavids and Ghurids in Afghanistan, the Qutb Minar comprises several superposed flanged and cylindrical shafts, separated by balconies carried on Muqarnas corbels. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone covered with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur’an. The Qutb Minar is itself built on the ruins of the Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika, the capital of the Tomars and the Chauhans, the last Hindu rulers of Delhi. The complex initially housed 27 ancient Jain temples which were destroyed and their debris used to build the Qutb minar.[4] One engraving on the Qutb Minar reads, “Shri Vishwakarma prasade rachita” (Conceived with the grace of Vishwakarma), this is thought to have been engraved by the enslaved Hindu craftsmen who built the minar.

The purpose for building this monument has been variously speculated upon. It could take the usual role of a minaret, calling people for prayer in the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, the earliest extant mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. Other possibilities are a tower of victory, a monument signifying the might of Islam, or a watch tower for defense. Controversy also surrounds the origins for the name of the tower. Many historians believe that the Qutb Minar was named after the first Turkish sultan, Qutb-ud-din Aibak but others contend that it was named in honour of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a saint from Baghdad who came to live in India and was greatly venerated by Iltutmish.





About four months ago, I went along on an AWA Outreach trip to Diksha.

Diksha is a school that was started on October 1, 2008 with just 13 children.  The land was gifted to the school by the government, and they were just asked to keep it clean and tidy.

Families who have a family income of less than Rs 8,000 are admitted to the school, with no tuition charges to the family.  That monthly salary cap is equal to about $160 USD.

Diksha offers a safe, healthy place for the children to be from 8:30 am until 1:30 pm, with a midday snack, a full meal and as important as the sustenance for their bodies, an education.

Now up to a total daily roster of about 60 children, they range in ages from 3 – 12 years old.

The women who run Diksha used to feed the children biscuits and bananas for their snack, but because bananas are now too expensive (Rs. 50 per 6), they just serve biscuits.This is the amazing woman who cooks for all of these kiddos.  She makes rice and dal, and occasionally vegetables when they are donated.

As we sat and visited with the administrators (who all 100% donate their time and energy), we learned that their teachers make Rs 5,000 per month.  The same teachers could teach in local Delhi schools and earn approximately Rs 27,000.We discussed options for helping these children out, including hotels gifting their daily unused produce (nothing that had already been cooked though) for the next day’s meals.

We also talked at length about joyful celebrations, and how they would love to have volunteers (even one-off volunteers) come to teach the children a dance, practice yoga, color a mural, etc.


The motto of Diksha is “Give the best, leave the rest.”

Diksha is an amazing place – whether you are in the Delhi/NCR area and have some time to give, or live farther away and want to give the gift of money.

Saturday normal.

Saturday night. Saturday normal.  The clock ticks slowly towards midnight.

Nearly the middle of July. 2011.

A movie on the tube.  Dog chews on his braided rope toy.

My face is illuminated by the laptop and the middle little makes sure the specific spot on his blankie is getting enough attention.   He is battling the latest download in the iPad.

If I had the energy to get up, I’d pour another glass of white wine.  Chilled long enough that the bite of it is gone.  Maybe it’s not necessarily the energy, but the fact that if I get up now, the smallest little will be disturbed.

It’s not every night that they are still awake during the Cinderella hours.  When He said that we should let them start staying up later to acclimate them to Rome, I agreed.

Although the downfall of them being used to the time zone once we arrive, is possibly missing an early morning fruit market.

Wearing my makeshift pajamas.  The same tank top I wore all through the day.  Pants that are now shorts – due to my irritation one night when the aircon wasn’t cooling to my satisfaction.

The biggest one of them all is holed up in his room.  Has been all day.  His bestest left our house a couple of hours ago and I can see the dread in their eyes.  They have five days until their paths stop crossing.  I don’t quite know how to help them understand that life is bigger than this moment.

The construction from across has ceased for the weekend.  At least we hope it’s finished for a couple of days, a respite.

There is bacon in the fridge for the morning.  The big clock on the wall still refuses to tell the time and my project of memories on the wall still remains unfinished.

Tomorrow will bring quiet.  Peace.  The solace of JUST US.  Sundays are like that around here.

Make a Difference Holi Party

Recently, someone got a hair-brained idea that turned into an afternoon of loveliness, fun and memories.

Sally called and asked “What would you think about hosting the Make a Difference (MAD) students at my house for a last minute Holi party?”  Within short order, we had the colors ordered AND delivered, drummers at the ready, snacks, juice, and an invite to all of the students was extended. The Make a Difference Holi Party was on the calendar!

Our family was already pretty “Holi-d” out as we’d attended lots of festivities and gatherings already, but the kids were up for adding another party to our list.

A group of the MAD teachers gathered outside of the area where the students live and walked them to the lawn of the Roosevelt House (where the Ambassador of the United States to India lives with his family). The afternoon was so much fun — watching our students interact with each other while having FUN (instead of just sitting at desks and learning English), and the opportunity to introduce them to my own family was wonderful.
Holi Colors Lloyd Lauland Delhi

Image Credit : Lloyd Lauland

Holi Party

Image Credit : Lloyd Lauland

Colors were flying, the drum beat was infectious and the smiles were huge (which means during Holi that teeth quickly turned all sorts of colors!).

Holi Party Make a Difference Delhi Embassy
Mad Holi 2
Mad Holi 3
Mad Holi 4
Mad Holi 5
Mad Holi 6
Lloyd writes at India Adventure shared some thoughts about the afternoon.  Jump over there to see his photos, but I wanted to share here some of his perspective about volunteerism and sharing of yourself, your time and your energy ::

While all of them [the MAD students and teachers] were united in the traditional colors of Holi on the outside…………I wonder what the “color” of helping someone looks like………….what does the color of volunteerism look like?, what does the color of “feeling good inside” look like?

I am so grateful that I have been able to play a “supporting role” in the volunteering that Linda and Preston have been doing since coming to India………….I am also envious of them…………and wish that my job allowed me the time to contribute to the betterment of someones life while I am in India……… the meantime, I will have to be content with the small behind the scenes help that I am doing…………I think I need to work on my “inside colors”.

What about you? Are you Making a Difference and working on your colors inside? What are your True Colors?……….Happy Holi everyone!

I don’t know about you, but I just loved that.  What say you about whether your “inside colors” match your outer colors? 

Holi Group

Image Credit : Lloyd Lauland

Do you have a desire to help, volunteer, reach out but haven’t made the leap or made a commitment? 

Do you fear you don’t have time, or aren’t sure where to start?


No more bad photos

Russell at In Search of a Life Less Ordinary ran a fun competition once upon a time based on bad photos. Part of the rules stated ::
  1. Pick one bad photo from your travel experiences or expat adventures (‘bad’ in terms of poorly taken, over-exposed, or simply very dated).
  2. Share that bad photo and explain why you wish you could recapture that moment again.

All of the pictures demonstrate me in a harried state.  They were all taken in the time between knowing we needed to leave India and the time that we could announce that we WERE leaving India. I was desperate to capture every little thing that explained the experience that I had been given.  I wanted to soak it all up and keep it forever, in case it was erased the minute I boarded the flight for home.

If I could do it over though, I would realize that what makes the memory is not the actual “click” of the photo (or the push of the camera button on the phone).  What makes the memory is the association of your time and energy, and how that connects to the image that was captured.

All of the photos that you saw above were moments that were meaningful to me for so, so many reasons … yet because of the quality you would never know it.

When I don’t take time to follow through with an intention with quality … quality to match the integrity of the moment, it is all lost.

At first glance you see four people on a motorbike.  Common in India, but a classic photo that visitors to the country take, because it’s abnormal in other parts of the world.  [What I should have paused to capture was the laughter of these little ones on the back of this bike.  What I missed because I was paying very little attention was the uproarious laughter that then followed from the bike master]

This guy worked tirelessly near our home preparing lunch for the nearby shop owners, construction workers, etc.  I stealthily caught this photo on my camera phone as I walked the littles to the playground, when instead I could have taken the time to ask permission for a photo and captured the moment in a much better light.

So much happens at this corner and if I would have stopped for two minutes and asked Kushal to let me out, I would have captured a much more interesting vignette of this intersection.

4 steps to the right or left and I could have been witness to a story of how this man makes his living every day, or even if I had stayed another 10 minutes, I could have found out the story of the customer as well.  Was this a favorite place to stop for lunch, or was it his first time?  How long had the vendor been selling on this corner.  More importantly to the story of what I missed … WHAT was he even selling?  I need to stop longer, if I want the story behind the photo.

The blue village near Vasant Kunj.  The slum that was covered up during the Commonwealth Games of 2010.  My favorite place to people watch.  This is — I am embarrassed to say — the best photo I have of one of my favorite places in Delhi.  [Why did I not ever take the time to walk through, take some photos and introduce myself?]

For all of those reasons, and so many more … I wish I could capture the moments again.

India is a country that is extreme and rich in its experiences, moments, culture, family and even in its idiosyncrasy.

To understand it without having lived there is impractical.

Trying to understand it while living there is ridiculous.

To attempt to understand it after you’ve left feels impossible.

One of the things that India taught me is to be more intentional with my photographs and to take more time, to pause, and get the entire story.  I hope I can put it into practice more now that I’ve left.

Living in Chennai

Many thanks to Emma from In-Dia Stratis – Mutterings from Madras  for providing today’s “guest post.”  We truly have become kindred spirits and have recently shared so many of the same scheduling issues and time-frame dilemmas.  BEST wishes to her as she makes the move “state-side” soon after living in Chennai with her family!!

Naomi stubbled across my blog I presume when researching the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ and ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of her move to Delhi and I am very happy to tell you that we have struck up quite a rapport, each helping one another for reasons that will become apparent!

My family and I (hardworking husband Ian, Ellie now 4 1/2 and Luke 2) arrived in Chennai in the state of  Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras) South East India from the UK late last September for a 3-5 year placement.

I’d been to India before…on holiday…in Goa, beautiful!  Go, if you ever have the chance, although I’d probably recommend Kerela first!.  My husband had been on business and we knew the score…amazing place, amazing sights, sounds, smells, (Yep good and very bad!) amazing people and a wonderous world of contrasts and contradictions. 

BUMP!  You arrive in this place and you hit the ground running and everything you see, touch and smell, everyone you meet, everything you witness combines into a crescendo of sensory overload.  

You take a deep breath and you get on with life and somehow everything becomes the norm…very quickly!  And I mean that. It is truly amazing how you can adapt so easily to a place that you thought would be, and is, quite alien.  It has its hazards, it has its foibles but if your sensible and careful you will have a wonderful life here.

Chennai is a sprawling city with no ‘Centre’ as such.  Historically us British colonised and in all honesty probably brutalised the place aswell.  It is large, it is HOT, it is dirty, it is littered with rubbish, cows, dogs and goats but the one thing that remains constant are its people who will tell you that they are Tamilians first, before Indian.  

Religion is strong and is split 3 ways between Hindu, Christian and Muslim and all co-exist respectfully and peacefully.  Having and being able to afford ‘staff’ is a Godsend, day to day everything takes so long to do and houses take up so much time and energy in maintenance that you need someone to translate, the handyman, the maid, the driver, the gardener, the sweeper.  

Lucky for you if you can find people to dual role!  I am very happy to say that after a couple of stumbles I found THE MOST wonderful people to help and have around and I will never forget any of them for as long as I live.  People who are so loyal and hardworking that they will put you before their own families….but when I found that one out on one particular day they all had a long hard talk from me!  As an ex-pat ,you live in Chennai in a bubble. There is very little to do as a family other than meet up and dine out with other ex-pat families, which is fun…for a while, but how nice would it be to be able to go out for a long country walks, ride out on bikes, have a picnic?  It is just too hot and public facilities and amenities are not the best. Toilets…eeeuuww don’t go there!!??

Delhi, on the other hand…don’t be fooled!…is apparently civilisation personified!  A friend visited last week and regaled us all with tales of shopping malls to rival London and New York. Good restaurants. Clean open spaces, Wide open unconjested roads…but it’s just what I’ve been told!!  Naomi will be fine!  She’ll have a ball!

Unfortunately for us, after just 6 months into our assignment we were told that due to the global economic slowdown it was unlikely that we would be able to stay our term.  Much heartache over missed opportunities and the like for us, as we sat, grumbled and waited to hear our fate. 

In just 2 weeks we will be leaving India, firstly for a few weeks back to the UK…and then…Woo Hoo! We are moving to North Carolina, for 3 years.  Wish me luck!  I do however hope that this is not the last I will see of this beautiful and most amazing country and her people.

Emma x