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Pint Low

mosquito_bite.pngAfter what I read before coming, I fully expected to have malaria by noon yesterday. The reality is that mosquitos are not as bad a problem as anticipated. That said, there are enough of these nasty little buggers - previous word edited to allow general consumption - to make themselves a nuisance come dusk.

I'm no entymologist, so I can't name the species of mosquito that annoys Mumbai's population off hand. If it hasn't been named yet, however, might I recommend bigbitei giaganticus. These things are aggressive and, when they do find flesh, deliver quite a itchy bite.

For the traveler who insists on being outside dusk to late evening, bring bug repellent with DEET from home. They don't sell it here.


Stuff It!

12427-1206599-thumbnail.jpgThe thing in this picture is called a Pan, which I'll explain in a moment. First, however, let me ask you: does it look like something you should stuff in your mouth? Whole?

In a nutshell, or more appropriately, in a nut- leaf , Pan starts with the leaf of the betel plant. Betel leaf contains several active ingredients which, in general, act as stimulants.

To make the confection, leaves are filled with a unique amalgam of cardamom, shaved betel nut, cloves, grated coconut and sugar. In addition, you may find any or all of these additional ingredients included: dates, gulkand (rose petal and honey), jellied fruit, mint and camphor (karpooram).

One of the oddest ingedients you can also request be added is tobacco! Pan with tobacco, we're told, will really "make your head go for a spin!" (We passed on this kind offer...)

In India, pan plays an important part in social life and customs and has done so for hundreds of years. Come to Mumbai and you'll find this "delicacy" is made available to the public in Pan Shops sprinkled around town. For some, it's a daily ritual.


Lazy Dog

12427-1206550-thumbnail.jpgSpend time in Mumbai and one thing you'll notice quickly are the dogs. They are all over the place.

Despite the intense urban density, residents tolerate, and in many areas welcome, these dogs. In a few places, there are entire packs. From what we've been told, the dogs get quite familiar with who does and doesn't belong and therefore perform a welcome guarding function.

This little pooch, for example, is one of the many that guard the office area where we're working. Yesterday, we heard the dogs bark only once and it came when an unknown van entered the alley. Otherwise, they laze about against the walls or under cars awaiting the person who conducts their feeding. Don't try to feed them yourself, however; they don't take too kindly to strangers.


Mmmm, Limca

limca.gifSince the wheels hit the tarmac, my colleague has been dying for a Limca. Limca is Coca-Cola's answer to Sprite in India. As it turns out, Limca is not as readily available as you might expect, at least in the part of town we're visiting. As such, our hosts, in a gesture of hospitality (or perhaps they're just sick of hearing "Limca"), made sure to have it available today.

Limca has more lime in the blend than Sprite, which, to the refined taste buds in the room, has more lemon. The more noticeable difference, however, is Limca's appearance: while Sprite is clear, Limca is milky white. So, in summary, Limca is a sweet, limey soft drink that looks like used dishwater. When in India, make sure to order a cold one!


Dose of Dosa

dosa.jpgHaving gone an entire day now without experiencing the infamous "Dehli Belly", I decided to have a more adventurous breakfast. Instead of scrambled eggs, my colleague talked me into a "dosa masala". Dosa is essentially a big pancake with one side cooked until crispy. Inside, they fill it with a spicy potato and onion mash, while outside, they provided a collection of chutneys, including a particularly interesting one made of coconut. All of this is complimented by sambar, a spicy vegetable "soup" that you use as a dip. Mixed together, these flavors make a dynamite way to start the day.