*Editor’s note: I know I promised the next post would be about business matters but I’m traveling to Kolkata (Calcutta) today. In preparation, I’ve been told no skirts because Kolkata is not as cosmopolitan as Mumbai. This should work out well given the 100*F temperatures. Since I’ve had to pack up my Mumbai hotel room, packing has been on the mind. I’m going to share a few more packing posts while working in Kolkata; I hope these aren’t getting too boring for you. Then we’ll return to chatting business when I’m allowed to put on a skirt again.
I think I’ve touched on (or rather beaten into the ground) this uncomfortable feeling of being helpless and dependent when it comes to everyday activities, like feeding yourself. When I was packing up at home I decided one way to combat some of these emotions would be to stock up on dry goods that require nothing more than hot water to make. That way, I could make a quick bowl of Easy Mac or oatmeal and successfully feed myself without having to get room service involved. That strategy translated to a stash of items that I imagine to be not that different from packing for the woods or even the moon. Hell, in some ways, packing for India is like putting yourself in a similarly remote place. Don’t judge me on the nutritional value of these items – many of you, dear friends, work for these companies!
About a week into this trip I dropped in on Mumbai’s “Target” to pick up a couple more items. I couldn’t live off freeze-dried carbs indefinitely, even if my cereal devotion would suggest otherwise. In this batch I selected things like beverages and yogurt to keep the mini-bar charges in check.plastic tiffins and one seemed perfectly proportioned to hold a sandwich and two small portions of fruit, cookies, or whatever else one wanted. Bingo!
Pleased as punch, I went back to the grocery section and picked up a loaf of bread, peanut butter, jelly, bell peppers, grapes, and a handful of other American lunch time staples. I’ve probably made this process sound rather easy but truly, to find all of those items in one place, a place within walking distance of my hotel, made me feel like I had just summitted Everest. I had won the lunch time battle.
No more pecking through take-away menus trying to find fast food options not covered in mayo (a holdover from British rule?), not covered in butter, and not huge in portion sizes. No more eating Indian food for many consecutive meals and paying for that a few days later. No more sweating out curry and tikka spices from oversaturation. The food is scrumptious but everything in moderation, please! You have no idea how diverse (if imperfect) the American diet is until you’re not eating it anymore.
Assembling my own American tiffin was fairly easy to do in my hotel room. I’ve converted a drawer in the wardrobe to be my pantry and moved out mini-bar items to free up refrigerator space. Seriously, y’all, I’ve never been so happy to pack a lunch the night before work.
The next day I arrived in the office and happily marched my tiffin back to the mini-fridge for safe keeping. When lunch rolled around and I had not placed an order for take-out, mouths dropped. I had brought my lunch? How? With what? Demonstrating that I could successfully find my own food was a surprise to one and all. And now the lunch table had turned; I got to offer up food that I brought from “home” instead of just taking what everyone else offered me! Here are some of the responses to American lunch fare:
- Peanut butter and jelly is a huge hit so whenever I make a sandwich I always bring at least one extra half
- Raw bell pepper and grapes on the same day caused someone to ask me if I was on a diet. This candidly illustrates my claim that people here don’t eat fruit unless covered in sugar or vegetables unless cooked beyond the point of recognition.
- Oreos are winners, always.
- Macaroni and Cheese? No takers! Only the people who have spent years (and I mean decades) in the US like the fake orange stuff.
- Hotel leftovers, consisting of an Asian-style steak salad, were admired for the ingenuity but not sampled. It was cow, after all.
- Starbucks VIA packets with hotel-supplied creamers surprised the office guys at first but now it’s hot water rather than masala chai each day. Win!