Canada, Netherlands, India · 41 Days · 48 Moments · October 2017

Kathaleen's Temporary Duty in India

8 December 2017

My last night in India. I’m flying out of Delhi early in the morning Saturday so what’s a girl to do? Take a night tour of Delhi of course! Traffic was atrocious but my driver successfully battled it. We came to a big Sikh temple, then drove to the President of India’s buildings - there was a big light show that showcased the symmetry of the buildings and the fountains lit up like the Indian flag. Then, we drove toward the India Gate - a memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the period of 1914–21 in the First World War, in France, Flanders, Mesopotamia, Persia, East Africa, Gallipoli and elsewhere in the Near and the Far East, and the Third Anglo-Afghan War. 13,300 servicemen's names, including some soldiers and officers from the United Kingdom, are inscribed on the gate. You can’t get too close by car. On the way back to the hotel: a strip of hotels. Last meal in India? Mezze Sampler Platter, of course! 😆
This is my last day at the Hyatt Chandigarh. I snuck a sneaky pic of the lovely Sweta making me my last cappuccino. Thank you, Sweta!

7 December 2017

Learning to cook butter chicken and kofta curry with Chef Paul in the Hyatt’s kitchen. Nicole, Darcy, Pierre and me: preparing tandoori chicken and cheese balls in their gravies. What a great time! And now I know I make a very delicious butter chicken already - this experience will help me take it to the next level! What could be better than Rohit serving us! (A bit off script for Rohit since he is usually serving us at breakfast - but with 12 hour days, he was still in the dining room when we finished learning to cook Indian cuisine.)

6 December 2017

There I was, sitting in my hotel room, watching a program on Netflix called “Kings, Kitchens and their Stories” (a series which explores the history behind the cuisine of the Indian royals, showing how dishes were discovered, and their significance in Indian history) when I felt the world move. A 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit Uttarakhand (west of Chandigarh) and the effects were definitely felt in Chandigarh - while reports indicate Delhi felt it (but who cares about Delhi?!). What a strange feeling!

3 December 2017

Shrines around Rishikesh: Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, and Lord Hanuman.
Out and about in Rishikesh - amazingly, I managed to take ZERO pics of all the hippy-dippy yoga-class-taking Westerners from around the world! Lots of stores selling crystals and gems and Ayurvedic products. Lots of pashmina shops, lots of yoga classes and yoga teachers, and Ayurvedic yoga practitioners! Lots of worshippers going to ashrams, lots of stairs taking worshippers to the Ganga. And lots of worshippers in the Ganga. Lots of stray dogs and lots of holy cows and LOTS of 💩!

2 December 2017

We went to a Ganga aarti ceremony on the banks of the Ganges at the Parmarth Niketan. The ceremony is held at sunset every night. Aarti platters are put together by enterprising residents of Rishikesh and sold at temple entrances for a few rupees. A boat made of banana leaf is filled with carnations and marigolds (flowers represent the earth’s solidity), a tea light (represents fire) and incense (represents a purified state of mind). Setting it free on the river represents fluidity and water. Thus, one’s entire existence and all facets of material creation are symbolically offered to the Lord via the aarti ceremony. A bhajan is performed - think Indian music like that in the Beatles’ “Within You, Without You” and the boat is sent down the Ganges. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Rishikesh in 2013 and participated in the Ganga Aarti - at the same temple!!! On our driver’s recommendation, we stopped at Chotiwala Restaurant. Nicole enjoying her thali platter.
A weekend in Rishikesh: Located in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, Rishikesh is known as the 'Gateway to the Garhwal Himalayas' and 'Yoga Capital of the World’. It is known as the pilgrimage town and regarded as one of the holiest places to Hindus. Hindu sages and saints have visited Rishikesh since ancient times to meditate in search of higher knowledge. Due to the religious significance of the place, non-vegetarian food and alcohol are strictly prohibited in Rishikesh. Sigh. The Beatles famously visited the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh in 1968. The sacred river Ganges flows through Rishikesh. Here the river leaves the Shivalik Hills (remember “Shivalik” means Shiva’s tresses?) in the Himalayas and flows into the plains of northern India. Here I am crossing the Ganges on a shuttle boat with Nicole and Darcy, fellow TD officers in the Chandigarh Consulate. There are also two pedestrian/bike suspension bridges that cross the Ganges.
Here’s a fun confluence if things: I went to Shimla, in the Himalayan foothills, and took the Shivalik train down the mountain. The Ganges flows from the Shivalik mountains. Our driver, Wilson, brought us to Rishikesh. He also drove for the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall when they visited Rishikesh! We took part in the Ganga aarti at Parthan temple that Charles and Camilla were at! Here’s the famous Wilson unloading our vehicle at the Seventh Heaven Inn, in Rishikesh. Forever will I think of him as the man who drove like a boss - but I only ever saw the back of his head since I always sat directly behind him!

30 November 2017

This poor kitten has had a rough week so far. Got over the head cold to then discover I have a bacteria problem in the old intestinal tract. Luckily, I have a lot of people looking out for me. My Indian friend and “mom,” Asha, who makes sure I’m taking care of myself by being a “mother hen”; my Canadian co-workers who are well-stocked in applesauce, Imodium, electrolytes, and even iron supplements; and my fabulous manager, Hilda, who is generous with plain Basmati rice (its nearly impossible to find plain white rice as it’s usually heavily seasoned with some sort of masala) and probiotic spore medication. Hello BRAT diet. 🙄

26 November 2017

Then I got a bad head cold so have *slightly* regretted the nose piercing... slightly. Spent the best part of the day in bed, nursing my runny, pierced nose and sleeping - interspersed with eating Masala-flavoured chips and watching a Bollywood romantic thriller “Ruston” (kind of an Indian take on what would have happened after Nick Cage’s character, Cameron Poe, killed the guy in the parking lot to protect his wife BUT before he was sentenced to jail). So, not Midnight’s Children, after all. And the servers at the Hyatt have been so good about helping me deal with this cold: I can’t even begin to express how incredible the hot hot ginger drink is that Amardeep makes for me in the evenings. Tonight, in addition to the heavy amount of ginger, lemon, and honey, he added cloves, cinnamon, and a bay leaf. I can’t even smell it but I can taste the heat like a fist in the back of my throat.
So this happened...

25 November 2017

Views of the morning sun creeping up on the hotel’s enjoying the early morning. 😎
Feeling under the weather, woke up to a rough throat and decided if I’m going to be awake I might as well go down to the breakfast lounge and see about some food to whet my appetite. Rohit, our devoted server, found me some freshly squeezed orange juice. I’ve never had such incredible oj as here in India! My love affair with it started on the Jet Airways India flight. It is gorgeous. Sweta, the ever-lovely transplant from Kolkata (Calcutta), made me hot ginger, lemon and honey tea. ❤️

19 November 2017

Wow! Last time I posted something it was to tell you about the trip to Shimla. I can’t believe 5 workdays just flew by despite the drudgery. I forgot to share a few pictures of the trip DOWN the mountains - there’s actually 7 mountain tops that make up Shimla. On the UNESCO toy train, we came down the mountain near dusk and before we knew it, it was DARK! We were on the Shivalik Deluxe Express. Nothing was “Deluxe” or “Express” about this 4.5 hour train ride. Turns out, “Shivalik” literally means 'tresses of Shiva’... 🤷‍♀️ We stopped at one station for a bathroom break. I did not brave the train’s toilet, or the station’s toilet; Marie reported that there was a squatter AND a sitter. I had my fair share of squatters in South Korea so I thanked my lucky stars that I have a bladder that seems to be the size of a basketball! We were met at the Kalka train station by our dauntless driver, Wilson. He navigated through the midnight streets and we were at the Hyatt by 12:45am.
On Saturday, we walked along The Mall and toured the Viceregal’s Lodge. I should mention it is, of course, now the Indian Institute of Advanced Study - fascinating history of the building but an even more fascinating use of this once-opulent summer residence for the British Viceroy of India. When India gained independence in 1947, the building became the summer retreat for the President of India. In 1965, the IIAS was formally inaugurated as a place to encourage higher learning. On day two, we took to the narrow winding street called the Lower Bazaar. It was PACKED with locals shopping for good deals on everyday items - from shoes to sweaters to Nehru suit jackets. I found a few interesting items but mostly, it was fun rubbing elbows and shoulders with locals and engaging a few people in friendly conversation. The weather turned a bit cold at 11° C, overcast and sudden rain showers. Our time in Shimla has come to an end, but the adventure isn’t over: we’re taking the Toy Train!
Jakhu Temple today... up up up the mountain! Switch backs and traffic jams on a verrrrry narrow and steep road. Glad we had an ace driver! He drove like a BOSS! At the top of the mountain is an enormous statue - a monument to Hanuman - the monkey god. It’s an orange monkey man! Awesome. The monkeys were vicious and I thoughtlessly left my eyeglasses on my face - they were VERY quickly removed by a leaping devil monkey and gnawed on until our ace driver bartered them back with a banana! Yay for 🍌!

18 November 2017

Ok, so I’m not *really* in the Himalayas... but in the foothills called Himachal Pradesh, in a tourist trap-I mean old British Hill Station-called Shimla. The route to get here was windy and hilly and incredible!

17 November 2017

Here’s a teaser for tomorrow...
Third week done and Thor 3: Ragnarok was my treat. I saw it in English with English subtitles but I found a Hindi movie poster that looked pretty damn cool so I’m posting it.

16 November 2017

The things you find out about people when you talk to them... So, I was chatting with a co-worker, Asha. She reveals she is a classic Indian dancer and has been studying such for over 20 years! She started doing some cool Bollywood moves right there in the office ! And even better, she dressed up formally today for an event and was wearing a gorgeous saree. It was MAGICAL!!!! She performs professionally. I think she is the dancer third from the right of the attached pic; it’s hard to tell as they are HEAVILY made up. She promised me a visit to the dance school she teaches at AND a private lesson/performance. The things you find out about people when you talk to them...

15 November 2017

Out sampling some of Chandigarh’s “night life” with Yohan from the Consulate General and wife Cyandra and our newest TD officer, Nicole, at The Great Bear and The Brew Estate in Sector 26. I enjoyed a pleasant Indian red wine, Sula Santori (merlot) which paired well with our chicken tikka, garlic naan [the BEST I’ve ever had!] and mint/coriander chutney at The Great Bear (which is actually a great micro brewery). We then stopped in at The Brew Estate (another micro brewery) where I had their Bavarian Brew, paired with Lamb Biryani. Sector 26 is full of interesting places to get out and enjoy the atmosphere and the food with new friends. Coming back to the hotel, we found ourselves in the midst of wedding festivities! And Indian wedding with its band and light show and horse-drawn carriage! It was so loud and flashy!

12 November 2017

As I was returning to the Hyatt Regency hotel from a day of souvenir shopping whilst being literally chauffeured around Chandigarh (I had a car and a driver at my disposal), I took images of what is right outside the hotel’s security gate. The stark contrast between the hotel, with its Rolls Royce-driving clientele (which I also witnessed upon my return from shopping), and what lies outside its gates is staggering to me. I hope I never see this and look right through it.

11 November 2017

A visit to Fab India... lots of beautiful fabrics made into sarees, dupatta (shawls or stoles), and linens.
A day out: shopping! A sea of sarees...

9 November 2017

Ah, the work week has nearly come and gone. Day in and day out, the drudgery of a Migration Officer never ends ... however! I took some time today, as I sat in the beautifully clean courtyard of the Elante/Hyatt complex, to snap a selfie and a pic of their new “I ❤️ Chandigarh” sign. Locals come here just to take pics like this couple in my photo-and then they leave. Ha! It was a gorgeous sunny day; about 28°C. I had a lamb burger, a green salad, and lime soda (half salty, half sweet) for lunch (610 Indian rupees = $11). I probably won’t find a cow burger anywhere, this being India.

5 November 2017

As I sit and digest another fab brunch on this beautiful Sunday morning, I thought I’d share something I’m fascinated by: many English words have roots in India! VERANDAH: Since there were no verandahs in England because of its cold weather, the word never existed in English before the British interaction with India, where almost every house had one, usually for the family to enjoy the breeze on hot days. Interestingly, the word veranda itself came to Hindi via the Portuguese. Derived from the Hindi word jangal meaning a wild wasteland, JUNGLE was used by English settlers in India to refer to any wild, untended or uncultivated land, including sparsely wooded scrub landscapes and tangled forest landscapes, overgrown with dense vegetation. Becoming a part of the English language in the 18th century, SHAMPOO is derived from the Hindi word champo, meaning to squeeze, knead or massage. In Britain, the term and concept was introduced by a Bengali trader who opened a shop in 1814.

4 November 2017

Ok. I promise this blog won’t be all about the cocktails and canapés but I told my parents I’d send a pic of the spread in the Regency Club offerings - they change every night.
As for the bath salts... my search at the mall was fruitless but when I returned to the hotel, I asked the front desk and they promised to have some delivered to my room via housekeeping! They stock these from Forest Essentials... oh, the irony.
I’m being lazy today. After the usual buffet breakfast, we said farewell to Harold; he is off to a few other Canadian missions to check things out. I plucked up the courage to visit the gigantic Elante Mall on the hunt for bath salts. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway) I stuck out like a sore thumb. I don’t remember ever feeling so ... obviously out of place ... not even in South Korea or China! These folks at the mall just had a way of looking at me and into me in a deep way. Don’t misunderstand: it wasn’t threatening; it was truly inquisitive and made me feel a bit like an exotic animal that had escaped from the local zoo. People were used to seeing a tall blonde white woman but never just roaming about! Maybe filing this musing under Relax seems odd but what I’m happy to have found,as I rambled in the mall, was an Indian Ayurvedic shop called Forest Essentials. I got a few beautiful items that I’ll say no more about (Xmas is around the corner!) except: they are relaxing!

3 November 2017

Cocktails and canapés! An assortment of Western and Indian foods. And a gin and tonic. 😍

2 November 2017

After our Rock Gardens excursion, Harold, Marie and I piled into a little blue tuk tuk and made our way to the Casa Bella Vista Pizzeria to meet up with Zorida (another Canada-Based Staff). I had one of the best margarita pizzas outside of Italy, a misto salad, and a Mediterranean platter shared with my new friends. We had lots of laughs, too! The pizza was about $7. The evening’s frivolities cost us about 700 INR (Indian Rupees) = $14 each. Ridiculously good food for very little. 👍
Chandigarh Rock Gardens... So, this is a famous location for unwitting tourists to get lost in labyrinthine rock faces and sculptures... And doing it just as the sun was going down made it that much spookier. Stumbling around rocky pathways in the dark with gigantic bats and scruffy hobo monkeys navigating perfectly in the trees above you: just another Thursday on TD!
Breakfast and TD companions: Marie and Harold.
Breakfast buffet...
Every morning I have a bit of breakfast in the hotel and the spread is glorious. Today, I decided on muesli and plain yogurt, nuts, seeds, and dried apricots and blueberries. Delicious. I really like the milk products here. And a black coffee with warmed milk on the side. ☕️

31 October 2017

Day One of Temp Duty This is what it’s all about: going to the Consulate, meeting the people who make up the work force, and re-learning how to do this job! Hey, check out the hotel pool!

30 October 2017

Hyatt Regency in Chandigarh: home sweet home. Buffet breakfasts in the morning, cocktails and tapas in the evening - not too shabby. Thank you IRCC. 😁
Wow! A prop plane to Chandigarh!! Very noisy but comfortable.
I arrived in Delhi last night at midnight-since it was pitch dark I saw nothing but lots of headlights as we drove from airport to hotel. What a lovely surprise to see lush greenery in the shrubs and hedges. Arrived at the airport at 7:30 this morning to take my final flight that would bring me to Chandigarh. I think this pic of the airport and its grounds showcases how lush and tropical it is here.
Staying at Radisson Blu overnight before I take my final flight to Chandigarh on Monday October 30. I’m in the “Business Class” room. The bed was looking very inviting but so did the bathroom after such a long time traveling!
Hello India! Landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi just before midnight, October 29. I was picked up at arrivals by the hotel (I love that!) and now it’s 1am, October 30. Very polluted and the traffic has to be experienced ! I actually think the drivers in Beijing were better! Anyway, off to Chandigarh early in the morning so I’m off to bed for a 5 hour power sleep.

29 October 2017

So this is actually happening-it’s the inaugural flight from Amsterdam to Delhi. It’s like a front row seat to So You Think You’ve Got Talent (and if that isn’t a show, it should be) - acrobatics and loud dance music and everyone is lapping this up. Oh, and it just moved on to the next “inaugural flight”
Amsterdam! I haven’t been here in years. Kinda wish I was stopping for a few days so I could check out some museums. Waiting for flight to Delhi that departs at 11:20 local time. Feels like the middle of the night for me - because it is!

28 October 2017

Settling in on Jet Airways India - next stop The Netherlands - then on to Delhi.
So... boarding was chaotic - a harbinger of things to come, from everything I’ve heard about the crazy chaos of India. I’m pretty sure I can’t travel any other way than business class now. I am ruined.
So I found the International terminal at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and my gate ... why are they ALWAYS the LAST gate? Anyway, I’m pretty sure these fine folks are going my way. Or am I going theirs? 😏
Saturday October 28: in Ottawa waiting for my flight to Toronto (the one that’ll take me to Delhi) in the Maple Lounge... thank you Federal Government for the business class travel!