Close Relations

(Bob Hambly/New York Times)

Growing up, I remember the three-ring circus that ensued—on both ends—whenever my family placed a call to our relatives in India. My parents would ping around the house like unmoored marionettes, herding my brother and I into the kitchen, and we would take turns yelping greetings and endearments into the phone. It was always difficult to hear what was being said on the other line, located in the apartment of my grandparents’ downstairs neighbors. Crackly and halting, you could make out, if you really tried, what was being said, and occasionally, if you were extra lucky, who was saying it. Telling riddles, as I was often requested to do, was a totally doomed idea.

Now, of course, the world has gotten juiced up on instant communication. My grandmothers peck out emails in Tamil and are crazy for forwards, and if I log into Skype, my computer speakers explode with calls from my relatives, all of them crystal-clear and eerily similar to talking to them in person.

“Relative Distance,” Rishi Reddi’s piece in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, deals with the same phenomenon. In it, Reddi chronicles her grandmother’s visit to her home in Boston, and how the visit brings the two of them closer together: she discusses how she, like many grown NRIs, has until now inhabited an amorphous middle ground with someone she loves intimately but rarely sees. She also touches towards the end on how the expanded abilities of communications technology have changed the preciousness of being able to contact distant family members, but notes that the limitations of geography remain.

has featured Reddi before, in Good Fortune, a profile that ran in our May issue, and in an April post on The Daily.

Comments Off on Close Relations         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   June 7, 2007

Ralph Fiennes: Coming To An Aircraft Toilet Near You?

Ralph Fiennes
Fiennes, Sharmila Tagore and AIDS Victim (WashingtonPost.Com)

Ralph Fiennes fans might be disappointed to hear the 44-year-old star likes to follow strangers into cramped aircraft lavatories.

Fiennes, who starred in The English Patient and The Constant Gardner recently found himself in hot water after allegedly trying to have an amorous in-flight encounter with a Qantas airline hostess.

“While conversing with Mr Fiennes during my break, I expressed a need to go to the toilet. I entered it, he followed me and entered the same toilet. I explained to him that this was inappropriate and asked him to leave,” said the stewardess, 38, in a statement.

The actor was flying from Darwin, Australia to Mumbai–where he was scheduled (as a Unicef ambassador to India) to promote safe sex and HIV/AIDS awareness. Fiennes’s reps declined to comment.

2 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   February 14, 2007

Another Day, Another Dollar (Make That 30 Cents)


Osman Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi cab driver who lives in Queens, discovered a black suitcase in his trunk Monday night after dropping a passenger off in Midtown Manhattan.

The owner, a woman who gave him a 30-cent tip on a $10.70 fare, accidentally left it in the trunk.

The suitcase contained 31 diamond rings.

Chowdhury spent hours trying to track the woman down, eventually calling her mother in Dallas after finding the number listed on a small tag.

“I’m not going to take someone else’s money or property to make me rich,” said Chowdhury, who has been in the US for the past 15 years, adding: “why would I think I could keep it? It wasn’t mine.”

In New York City, Bangladesh ranks as the “number one country of origin for first-time cab drivers.” Many, including Chowdhury, are members of New York’s Taxi Workers’ Alliance, founded by labor activist Bhairavi Desai.

Driving Miss Desi
The New York Cab Driver-Workout
The New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance is recognized by LeadershipForChange.Org

2 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   February 7, 2007

Sunita & Crew Give Martha Tour Of Expedition 14

expedition 14 crew
Lopez-Alegria and Williams chat with Stewart (NASA TV)

Martha Stewart chatted with the crew of Expedition 14 Monday morning, including Sunita Williams, in an event shown on NASA TV.

Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Sunita Williams showed off her green thumb with a sample of bean sprouts she had been growing as part of a horticulture experiment for long-term living in space. Pickles and shrimp cocktail were the crew member’s top choices when asked of their favorite foods in space.

After giving a glimpse of their personalized sleeping areas, Williams and Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria told Stewart they were open to any home decorating or cooking tips for their home in space.(NASA)

Blast Off! Sunita Williams Heads Back to Space
Working Woman: Sunita Williams, Nirali 2004
Emeril Lagasse chats with Station Crew (video)

Comments Off on Sunita & Crew Give Martha Tour Of Expedition 14         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   January 24, 2007

Welcome to the Hyderahood

Charminar in Hyderabad
Hyderabad’s Charminar Gate. Santosh Verma for The New York Times

A few weeks ago, my college roommate told me she was moving from San Francisco.

To Hyderabad.

I asked her if she was kidding (“Hyderabad?”) and she assured me she wasn’t (“It’s the new Indian Silicon Valley”).

Turns out she’s right, and that the capital of Andhra Pradesh is fast-becoming a major hub for India’s biotech and IT industries.

Yesterday’s New York Times had this to say about the city:

“Helped by an influx of global software and financial companies like Microsoft and UBS, Hyderabad is a happening city, buzzing with coffee bars, stylish restaurants, bouncer-at-the-door clubs and sophisticated boutiques…

…Hyderabad is experiencing an economic boom that is not only attracting business travelers, but has also put the city’s splendid monuments, spicy cuisine and bustling bazaars on the cultural map.”

Who knew? For more on Hyderabad–including suggestions on where to dine and party–check out last Sunday’s NYT travel section or visit FullHyderabad.Com.

Comments Off on Welcome to the Hyderahood         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   January 22, 2007
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Tabla featured on “$40 a Day”

Vegetable Frankie
Cardoz prepares Frankie (

Chef Floyd Cardoz of Tabla Restaurant in NYC prepared a Vegetable “Frankie” for host Rachael Ray on a recently aired episode of the Food Network’s $40 a Day: New York City. Ray highlighted the restaurant’s lunch menu for including several items under $10.

It looks like a wrap, but I wondered what exactly is a frankie? It turns out that it’s not a falsetto, but sounds like more of an “Indian burrito,” (that would be distinct from a “Punjabi burrito”). Slashfood describes the frankie as “an Indian street-type food made of a thin bread similar to a tortilla that is coated with egg and fried.” Have you had one? Feel free to spill the beans on frankies in the comments.

Comments Off on Tabla featured on “$40 a Day”         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   January 15, 2007

Nelly in New Delhi


In today’s poll, US Weekly wants you to decide whether Nelly Furtado’s get-up (pictured right, in New Delhi) is fashion forward or “painfully retro.”

The Canadian songstress, who can trace her ancestry back to Goa, recently spent New Year’s Eve in Mumbai.

“I grew up hearing Indian artists like Lata Mangeshkar and though am not very fluent with the language I do know songs like ‘Yeh Samaa’ and ‘Kabhi Kabhi’,” said Furtado, who is still in India.

The singer plans to visit Agra this week. For more on Nelly Furtado, visit her online-home.

Comments Off on Nelly in New Delhi         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   January 4, 2007

Rickshaw Wallah, Rickshaw Wallah, Kahan Jayega?

autorick_main.jpgHop on a rickshaw in Kerala and get off in Darjeeling.

Do you have exciting plans for the winter holidays? Skiing in Aspen? Christmas in the Alps? New Year’s Eve in Rio?


According to the UK-based Institute of Adventure Research, the most exciting place you can be this December and January is India.

In a rickshaw.

For 2,000 miles.

On the first-ever Rickshaw Run.

“What better way to enjoy the Christmas holidays than two weeks of mountains, mud tracks, tropical heat, gin and tonics, cricket and that most noble of vehicular genius, the three-wheeled motorized rickshaw?” asks the Institute. “The Rickshaw Run is pretty simple. With no preparation and less luggage, one flies to the Indian Subcontinent and does one’s damndest to force 150cc of crap Indian engineering over 2,000 miles of questionable terrain in two weeks.”


The run, which starts in Kerala and ends in Darjeeling (“for a spot of tea”), is not for the sake of adventure alone. It’s “all about raising huge amounts of wedge … for a great charity.” [“Wedge” is Brit-speak for “cheese” or “cheddar,” which is, you know, “urban”-speak for money, as in Jay-Z’s “I check cheddar like a food inspector”—OK, so I just wanted an excuse to reference Jigga.]

Anyone can participate by creating a team (of 1? 2? 22? It doesn’t matter, sayeth the Institute—though members have to, you know, fit into the rickshaw)—each team just has to make a £650 donation to cover the rickshaw cost. “At the end of the run, their rickshaws will be handed to an NGO working in Siligury, monitored by Mercy Corps, who will distribute them to the most needy cases.” Of course, teams can raise additional funds for the charities of their choice, as well.

Who needs a rickshaw, you ask? According to the Institute, “Many autorickshaw taxi drivers are forced to live in a state of poverty because they don’t have the money to buy their rickshaw. They borrow the money or rent the rickshaw often at extortionate rates. It means that while they can earn a living from the taxi fares, a large amount of it, often more than half, goes to pay of the debt or pay the rent for the vehicle. Giving a rickshaw to a poor family is huge life changing gift that enables them to earn a living without the burden of in impossible debt.”

Institute-described “ninnies” need not apply: “Support? Of course we don’t provide any support. The Rickshaw Run is supposed to be an adventure. What sort of adventure would you have if we were following you in a truck with spare parts and a comfy bed? No, we must get out there into the world and get stuck in it. When you’re stuck, lost, and up $hit creek without a rowing implement is when you start to have fun and the last thing we want to do is stop you having fun!” And while there will be checkpoints across the country for rickshaw runners to check in and share war stories, there’s no set route: “You plan your route to your own particular taste. If you want deserts and mountains, it’s yours. If you want jungle, it’s yours, too.”

Americans are hoping for Good Korma

Many teams have already joined in the mad dash of adventure for a good cause, and they’ve adopted clever names to boot: She’s a Goa, Curry on Rickshaw, and my personal favorite, the American Good Korma.

Are you up for the challenge? Form your own team and set off for the Subcontinent. Sputtering across India in a rickshaw not your idea of fun? Support your favorite runners as they pursue a most worthy lovechild: adventure and a noble cause. Because, as the Institute puts it, “adventure can be a little elusive these days. Without the finances for space exploration, those of us of more reasonable means have to search that little bit further.”

3 Comments         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   November 18, 2006

Bollywood Calling

Bollywood Confidential
Won’t you fly away to Bollywood with me?

Are you totally into Bollywood films? Do you love the action, melodrama, romance and music all jammed into one four-hour epic? Would you like to make your own masterpiece? Well, now you can! Air France is running a Fly to Bollywood Contest, and you can produce your very own short Bollywood film to enter. It’s simple—just add your own clever dialogue as subtitles for preselected pieces of film to create an instant classic. You could be the next … well, I don’t know the names of any Indian directors. But you’ll definitely be in the running for a free trip to India. Won’t Mom and Dad be proud? Please post the links to your creations in the comment section—we’d love to see what our readers come up with!

Good luck!

Thanks to Ranjit and Shilpa for the tip.

Comments Off on Bollywood Calling         Facebook   RSS 2.0   Permalink   October 26, 2006