Day 11: Looking for the unique

My classmates organized a screening of Howl’s Moving Castle before our regular class time. Howl’s Moving castle is a popular animated film of Miyazaki. It was about an 18 year old girl who was cursed and became a 90 year old woman. She ends up in a Castle that keeps moving and belongs to a wizard called Howl. Although it seemed like a typical Disney movie about curses and princes and love in some ways, it was quite different in its twists and turns. To be honest, only the ending was typical and cliched where (spoiler alert!) the bad characters give up or turn over to the good side and random objects are kissed by Sophie (the protagonist) and turn into human beings who had been cursed. The rest of the movie was fairly unexpected in its twists and turns and I had to concentrate more than usual to understand what was going on.

Due to lack of time to eat at a proper restaurant I once again picked up lunch at the convenience store. I picked up what seemed like a salad at first, but then the lady at the counter heated it up and when I got it back it had some kind of broth (I think it was kimchi) and pieces of pasta floating in it. Not only was this my first time encountering instant pasta which can be cooked under a minute, but also I had never imagined eating pasta with kimchi broth. As if that wasn’t enough, I purchased coffee later in the afternoon, again at a convenience store. This was the kind of coffee which is sold in little pre-packaged cups and is usually cold. I bought a cafe latte. The coffee tasted great for something that had been packaged atleast 24 hours ago, but more than that the packaging fascinated me. Instead of having a single lid from which you directly sip the coffee, there were two lids, one made of plastic and another of hard paper. The one made of plastic didn’t seem to be removable. It had a little hole in it for a straw. I think the reason behind the double lid was that if the coffee spills out when you punch a hole with your straw on the second lid, it won’t spill outside the cup but will just get trapped in the space between the two lids. Apart from the two lids, I found it really cute (or kawahi as the Japanese would say) to see a straw neatly folded on the side and stuck to the cup. When I opened it, I found that the single straw was made of two different materials. I think they were both plastic but the lower part of the straw was transparent and the top half was white in color. The top half was slightly thicker than the lower half. I’m not sure behind the science of it, but knowing the Japanese, I’m sure there’s some very practical and logical reason behind it.
The food I eat here surprises me on a daily basis.

While walking from my classroom to the train station, I decided to take a different route and got lost in what seemed like an apartment complex. My non existent sense of direction does not help when I’m in a foreign country. Anyway, while walking through the apartment complex, I realized that it looked very much like any other apartment complex in a metropolitan. It could easily have been an apartment complex in a posh area of New Delhi. Such similarities that I often see between Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi and other cities make me realize how the world is increasingly sharing culture and lifestyle. When I go to a new country, I often go expecting something completely radical and different. I rarely find a huge difference in the appearance of a place. Even the lifestyle is increasingly similar. But the difference lies in areas such as Akihabara of Tokyo, hawker centers of Singapore and the bazaars of New Delhi, which are representative of a sub culture or a unique trait of the country. They are the places where the locals go for a specific purpose and these places generally don’t exist everywhere in the world. My new plan is to abandon the usual sight seeing, since its anyway impossible to see everything and it usually doesn’t teach me more about the culture. I’m going to start being more picky about the places I go and choose places which I know will surprise (or shock) me.

Day 3: LOST

My first day going to Waseda was CRAZY. This was the first time I was seeing Tokyo’s rush hour and the first time I was riding the trains by myself. I kept getting lost and the option of taking my time to find the right train was virtually a non existent option considering the constantly moving crowds. I got lost a few times and finally made it to Waseda. After getting lost one more time, I made it to the Okuma auditorium, the designated meeting spot.

After a quick orientation, we split up for lunch. Along with three others, I spent a significant amount of time looking for a suitable restaurant. We finally settled for a Japanese curry restaurant, a kind of food that I didn’t know existed. Nevertheless it was good, and surprisingly spicy considering we ordered a dish of spice level 1. Being four people who didn’t speak Japanese, we barely knew what we ordered and the waitresses words and questions fell on deaf years. But yet, communication happened through a lot of gestures, pointing, smiles and broken phrases.We got lost again on the way back, but by now I was so used to it that I’d be surprised if I didn’t get lost. After a three hour class we got a campus tour of Waseda and a fancy welcome party at the University cafe. It was great getting to know some of my new classmates from Yale!

On the way home I once again got lost as I took the wrong exit from the train station. I took a few wrong turns but finally made it back home very exhausted. I tried onigiri, a popular Japanese snack, for the first time that night as supper along with Yocan, a jelly like Japanese dessert. 

How NOT to get lost in Delhi

After having lived in New Delhi for 19 years, I surprised myself at my ability to get lost despite that.
Over the past few months, my friend and I have ventured out to look for manufacturers, delivery services and what not for our new business. And each time, we somehow manage to spend 90% of our time looking for the place.

So after having been lost a million times (no, really), I thought it’s time to share my wisdom with the world. Although I am in no position to give advice, here is how NOT to get lost in New Delhi.

1. ALWAYS have GPS. Auto waalas are likely to take you on a joy ride if they realize how clueless you are. (for exceptions, refer to point 3). And that reminds me, act like you know it all when you’re getting into an auto. As they say, confidence is key.

2. ASK the locals. Believe it or not, the fruit vendors know everything. Ask them anything. They’ll know. Try it. Really. When it comes to directions, they own google maps.

3. DO NOT trust GPS when you find yourself in a place with more stray animals than people. It is very likely that google maps does not know where to go either. These are typically places where fitting a four wheeler on the road is a big achievement. With lanes that narrow, you do not want directions from a satellite.

 4. NEVER assume that the driver knows everything. There is a good chance that the driver won’t know how to get to the place you want to go to. Cab drivers, especially, are notorious for “not knowing” where to go. So once again , refer to point 1.

5. When you walk past the same place more than three times, you’re doing something wrong. Come back and read my post.

But in case you haven’t been lost even once, be it in your own city or another’s, get out there, and WANDER! Getting lost has a thrill of its own. Its like a mini-adventure.