Sunday, 23 March 2014


It's not that I was looking for any affair when I went to India, but, had it been like that, I'd have found it impossible. It's not that I didn't have the chance (which I had); it's that I was put off, since every single Indian man has a moustache! Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists,... all of them! And I find it squeamish to draw closer to a man if he has that furry little friend!

India is a moustache-dense country, especially in the south, where I lived. I read that 80% of men in Southern India wear moustaches. Where was the remaining 20%? I didn't see any guy without, at least, a little bit of fur above his upper lip!

In Europe we usually associate beards and moustaches with uncleanliness and laziness. A guy with a moustache looks unkempt. Moustaches are not fashionable and they definitely don't look cool or attractive; just the opposite, cheesy. There's nothing that puts a woman off more than a man with a mo' (well, I actually think there are other gross things, too).

Nonetheless, in India moustaches are seen as a potent symbol of virility. It is considered gentlemanly etiquette for guys to have a moustache. They think they look more majestic. A moustache makes any random guy look like a South Indian super-hero. Others, like Sikhs, have some excuse. They display facial hair proudly since for them 'kesh' (uncut hair) is a religious non-negotiating principle.

Fortunately, the traditional belief that facial hair is a sign of manhood appears to be facing the chop  (not in rural areas, though). India is entering the clean-shaven age!

It's a pity Indians don't compete in the World Moustache Championship; if they did, they would completely overshadow everyone. According to the Guinness World Records 2009, the Indian Badamsinh Juwansinh Gurjar holds the record for the longest moustache. It measures a staggering 12.5 feet; he had been growing it for 22 years. Another Indian, Ram Singh Chauhan of Rajasthan, registered a moustache at 11.5 feet and Kalyan Ramji Sain started growing his in 1976. By 1993, it reached a span of 11.1 feet. It seems like moustache growing is India's 'baseball' - their national pastime .

Here you have a selection of the moustaches you get to see while in India:

Thursday, 13 March 2014


Though it is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I myself am not used to those huge breakfasts you can find in international hotels with bacon, eggs, toast, cereal, fruit,... I just have a cup of coffee with milk and three biscuits. That is it!

But what was my surprise when my first morning in Punganur I found noodles (spicy, of course) and idli with some chutney or pickle. "Oh, my! How can they have this for breakfast?" I said to myself. I mean, you get up, you brush your teeth and you simply start narcotizing your mouth with hot food not to feel your tongue for the rest of the day? Was that the way?

In the beginning (as would happen to you) I didn't like anything. But as I had to nourish myself, I swallowed (without letting my taste buds noticing much) a little amount of whatever was on the table. As my friend saw that I didn't eat much, every now and then he brought me some sandwich bread and jam (which, by the way, I didn't like, either). But after some time I learnt to enjoy everything we had for breakfast, including jam. Well, not everything! Neither Aravind (one of the kids at the boarding school) nor I liked pongal much.

But, to tell you the truth, we had a wide range of dishes, and nearly every day we could choose between two different ones. So, if I didn't like one, I could have the other.

We had idli, pongal, upma or semiya upma with sambar, pickle or chutney. We also had dosas (which I loved), Maggie (which later I found out that was the Brand of the noodles), poori and the occasional omelet.

My favourite breakfast food was yellow rice, which Leena and Anitha used to cook on Sundays, but I kept it for lunch instead.

Apart from having all these delicacies, there was milk. Rich, tasty milk! We had a cow at the boarding school. Somebody milked it every day. Being used to that tasteless carton "milk" that we drink in most parts of Spain, that milk was like God-sent milk. I remember I exclaimed, "it smells of milk!" when I was given a cup of it with my first breakfast there. Everybody laughed, but its aroma really awed me. It took me back to my childhood in my mother's village where I used to drink fresh milk.

As I told you in one of the posts, two of the bosses there weren't very fond of me. As they knew ('cause I told them) that I "needed" a cup of milk just after waking up (I think that is the only whim I had in a whole year), what they did was lock the dining room and the kitchen so that I couldn't get any until the cooks came two hours later. I asked for a key to the door over and over again, but with not even a thin excuse or anything (that's the Indian way) they just refused to give me a copy of it. There was a side door, anyway, with a kind of broken mosquito net and a latch, so every night, before they locked everything I made sure this door was not latched. You can imagine the rest: every morning, at 6, I would sneak in through that door, prepare a cup of milk, have it, leave everything in the exact place I had found it and crawled out again. When the children saw me they must have thought I was nuts or something! I did that for about three months; that's what it took me to get hold of a copy of the key.

If you think about it, that was funnier than going straight to the fridge and getting your milk!

Before finishing I must apologize for the "English" used in the menu in the main photo. It was written by the asshole who ran (and still runs) the place. It was one of his brilliant ideas" Shakespeare must be turning in his grave!

Here you are some recipes of Indian breakfasts. Enjoy them!

Sunday, 2 March 2014


Indian food needs a couple of whole blogs. But I can advance that it made my eyes tear, my nose run (a marathon) and my palate blow out! But, again, it was only at the very beginning. Well, and recurrently every time I have spicy food now! 

I have to say the title (Eating With Your Hands) is imprecise. It should read ‘Eating With Your Right Hand’, since that is the one you have to use when eating. You must put to work your left hand only to serve yourself when the courses are not served by the host or to grab the glass when you want to drink.

Indians eat with their hands because it gives you a connection with the food. Eating nourishes the mind, intellect and spirit. There’s a tactile dimension added to the eating process. Either that or, again, it’s a matter of saving on cutlery! Moreover, if you eat off a banana leaf (that deserves another entire blog) trying to use a fork and knife would shred your ‘plate’.

When I arrived, exhausted as I was, I was presented with the Indian delicacies that they had for lunch that day. To tell you the truth, I don’t remember what it was, but I’m sure it was hot! But what was my surprise that they used no tableware! For all that they seemed so skillful and neat.

And here is when I realised things in India were going to be a little messy and complicated. It’s not that I found a squeamishness in being that intimate with my food; it’s just that I wasn’t familiar with the technique and I didn’t want to end with curry juices running down to my elbow!

In fact, if you look at the bright side, it’s like forgetting your elementary table training and recapturing some of the early childhood joy of playing with food.
Once more, my friend taught me how to do it so that I didn’t make a fool of myself whenever I got invited  somewhere; so that I didn’t seem a clueless foreigner and the host and the rest of the commensals thought that there were several pets in India who knew better! I mean, even little children could do it better than me!
There are two variants to the techniques: with and without chapatti.
With a chapatti it’s much easier (at least once you get the piece to eat torn from the rest of it). The middle finger is pressed down to hold the crepe down and the forefinger and thumb are used to grip and separate a small part. And with it you scoop whatever you are struggling to pick.
In the south, where I was, they eat lots more rice and enjoy very soupy curries. They use the rice to soak the sauces. First you have to mix (with all your four fingers and your thumb) a bit of rice and whatever else you are eating (curry, dal, rasam, pickle, meat,…) on the plate to make a little ball. Then with the four fingers acting as a spoon, gather the balled up food onto the tips of your fingers using your thumb. Bring it up to your mouth with a twist of your wrist till your finger nails are almost touching your lower lip. Place the thumb behind the food and catapult the food into your mouth. 
With this explanation and a meal or two practicing, you’ll be eating like a native.
Eating with your fingers is a cultural experience everyone should go through while visiting India. So, if you are heading for India, have a look at this video and also practice a polite way of saying you don’t want to eat any more since your hosts will serve you more without warning and will egg you on to eat more and more and more and…