We all slept well last night, and woke up to a rainy day. This was the early morning view out our hotel window. I was so surprised by the number of cards, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, trucks and buses on the street. It was JAMMED last night -- a bit better looking out the window this morning, but not by a whole lot, even though it was before 7 in the morning when I took this picture! We spent some time talking about what we wanted to do this morning before we headed over to Serene Domain where most of the Saxena family is staying. Final decision: Iranian Chai and potentially the local Hindu temple.
We went down for breakfast -- the view from our table at breakfast here in the hotel was beautiful. It is raining outside -- it's expect to rain heavily today, lighter tomorrow, a bit on Saturday, and then be clear. The breakfast buffet was diverse, with American, English and Indian dishes being served. The wait staff was attentive to the point of being doting. The Maitre'D came over and made suggestions as I was heading down the buffet. When I went to get some sambahr (a hot soup made of vegetables -- it's a traditional breakfast you eat with idli -- a rice cake), he said, "Madam, allow me to get this for you." Next thing I knew a piping hot bowl was at my table. I'm not sure why I couldn't get it -- I didn't think I looked feeble! It is spicy and delicious. This might be my daily breakfast while I'm here. I took a picture of Max which included a picture of the view from our table. Here it is:
Well, as with most ideas, things changed! We took our showers and headed into the street. Two things about life in India which I was quickly reminded of from memories of our trip in the Northern part of India to see Max when he lived there in 2008: 1 -- the lines on the road are merely suggested -- on a 3 4 lane divided road you may see a combination of cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks driving 4 across on each side. Really. In addition, Hyderabad, as with many Indian cities has its challenges when it comes to things like garbage, etc. It was also very scary to cross the street. A quote from Max: "Mom, don't worry, they see you and won't hit you." You could have foodled me! I grabbed Max's arm as we crossed and said prayers. We did make it for Iranian Chai. Max isn't sure why it's called that, but both Steve and Max had it (I opted for water, having drunk too much coffee at breakfast). Here is a picture of the friend Max has made at the Iranian Chai place -- Basra Pride.
Basra Pride, as with most merchants, is a family owned affair offering employment to a number of people. There was a woman sweeping the area outside with a typical Indian broom (you use one hand). There were two people inside busing dishes -- there is no place to sit, just counters to stand at. We stood there for a while, and in the relatively short time we were there, three different sets of people stood next to me to drink their chai and get on their way. The chai is served in a small cup -- a quick couple of sips and you're done. Here in this picture are my two men watching their chai being made. Notice Max as acquired his father's hair style.
We headed back down the street and stopped at the Balaji market -- it's named after the shrine which is down the street. In fact many businesses in this area have Balaji in their name. What a wide assortment of goods here -- and Max almost flipped out when he found a bottle of Kraft's Hickory Smoked Barbecue Sauce on the shelf! Of course, there was a mixture of English and Indian products as well. The back area was FULL of bulk spices and grains -- I was tempted, but that would be too weighty for my suitcase!
Next stop was another Balaji named store -- the sweet shop. Apparently this has been a Saxena family favorite for years! When we went in, I looked up and saw a box that looked surprisingly like the decoration on Devika and Max's wedding invitation -- a paisley design in the same color -- purple. I asked about the box, and was told it is used to fill with nuts/dried fruits or Indian sweets. After much discussion we filled it with Indian Sweets to bring to the luncheon hosted by Devika's Grandmother that afternoon. Here's a picture of the box top and the sweets we had put inside (we could mix and match at our discretion -- Max and Steve sampled all the sweets that went into the box -- thinking about the Sari I had to get into, I passed on the temptation. Max said the box of sweets would be a hit -- a traditional gift for families.
We headed back to the hotel -- traffic had gotten even more congested since we headed out at 9 -- and again, it was a nail biter to cross the street. We took showers (it's rainy and humid outside) and finished just in time for Devika's father to pick us up to take us the few blocks to Serene Domain, a private set of apartments for rent near Devika's Grandmother's apartment and really, our hotel. We could have walked but were told that it was easier to drive.
Meeting Devika's family was such an honor and a joy! Devika's Grandmother Suraj and Grandfather Hemendra were there (that's her mother's mother and her father's father -- their spouses are deceased). Kalpana (Devika's mother) also had her younger sister Aditi there with her two children Preesha and Sitanshu -- they live in Iowa. Aditi's husband, Steve Rock, will be flying in from Iowa today. Aditya (Devika's Dad) had his sister Gauri there -- she is an executive on the Indian Railway, and a collector of Sari's. Steve and I had brought gifts for Devika's Grandmother and Grandfather -- hand etched glass plates from California -- I think they were a hit, along with the large box of sweets we delivered! In this picture from left to right is Aditya, Devika's Father, Maduv, Devika's brother, Devika, Max and Steve -- and seated on the couch is Devika's Grandmother.
The Serene Domain apartments are large and nicely appointed, and come with a housekeeper. Devika's Mom Kalpana and Kalapana's sister hired a cook for the summer -- we got to meet her -- Najmi -- a WONDERFUL cook. She was in a colorful salwar chemise while we saw her cooking. As she got ready to leave after we were all done, I noticed she put on her Burqa as she was ready to leave. Here is a picture of Najma and her helper Laxmi along with Devika's Grandmother's helper Rania. They were lovely women, and so kind. What was prepared for us to eat was: chicken biryani, roti, raita, mirchi ka salam, a prawn dish, matar paneer, lukhmi -- I think that was all, and it was an amazing spread! Here's a picture of the ladies in the kitchen. Najmi is the tall woman in the background.
I took various photos of the family members, but didn't manage to get a group photo -- I'll remember that for next time. In this picture Max is speaking with Gauri, Aditya's sister and Aditya's Father Hemendra. Aditya's father was a professor of English Literature, and did his PhD work on D.H. Lawrence. He was very kind, as was Gauri. Gauri said she'd help me with my shopping later -- and between Kalpana and Gauri, I was in VERY capable hands!
Kalpana (Devika's Mom) is such a joy -- full of life, and she has had her hands full getting all the details of the wedding set. It has taken her months, and now we are on the home stretch. I so admire her energy and strength -- and her wonderful smile and sense of humor! She has made getting to this point of the trip such a easy experience for us, but I know it has been difficult at times for her. The peacock/paisley theme from the invitations to the wedding have seeped into many things for the wedding here, and they will be present in the wedding in Pasadena in October as well. Here is a picture of Kalpana watching her mother open the gift we brought why Aditi's daughter Preesha (Kalpana's niece) looks on. Kalpana's Mom is quite short (yes, shorter than me), and she has a great sense of humor.
Aditi, Kalpana's sister, is a biology professor in Dubuque, Iowa and is married to Steve Rock, a doctor. They have two beautiful children -- Preesha and Sitanshu. Preesha is 2 years old, and put her "baby" to sleep by sitting next to it and patting its back, having covered it with a wash cloth (the baby's blanket). Sitanshu occupied his time with legos, asking Devika and me to help at times by pulling some of the small pieces of the work he made apart -- he's 5 I believe, and very bright! Here is a picture of Aditi and Devika -- Auntie and niece, with Kalpana standing next to them, looking toward the kitchen.
After lunch, I was taken to one of the bedrooms and the great surprise came -- I hadn't realized this was going to happen, so I was quite taken aback. You see, it is tradition for the bride's family to give the women of the groom's family sari's -- I was asked to pick the one I could like to have as I'm the mother of the groom. I picked a sapphire blue sari with paisley design on it. The other sari's were white with gold, burnt orange and green, light pink, pink/purple, and another sapphire sari the exact same as mine. I was taken aback by this generosity! I believe that Suraj (Devika's Grandmother) will present these at the Mehendi party next week, but talking with Kalpana later they may make the presentation to me earlier as I'd like to wear that sari to the Mehendi party, if that's okay with the family. This is a picture of the sari I chose. Notice the beautiful flowered bedspread -- this is very typical here, and I love them!
We then got into the cab which you can hire for four hours at a clip -- which you need if you don't have a car or don't want to drive in the crazy traffic I described earlier. Steve, Gauri, Kalpana and I went to Kalanjali -- this amazing one-stop-shop for ANYTHING you need -- weddings, casual events -- for anyone -- male/female, young/old. The motto of this store, which you see on their bags, etc. is "Our Weaves are our Worship". I was told I'd need a sari for the wedding -- and it took last than 5 minutes for me to choose an emerald green sari with beautiful embroidery. I had the opportunity to buy others which were very bejeweled -- but I chose a classic/elegant sari -- definitely a dress piece. The men were supposed to wear a Sherwani -- but Max ended up purchasing a very ornate Khurta -- so Steve and Aditya are doing the same -- wearing Kurtha's, that is. The one Steve picked was green as well -- so Gauri and I took it to see if it matched my sari -- it does! He also picked a peacock blue Khurta for the Mehendi party -- I think it will go nicely with the blue sari I was given which I hope to wear at the Mehendi party.
Max and Devika, who had gone to pick up Max's Wedding and Mehendi Khurtas from the tailor, came back with the cab and we all went over to the second Kalanjali store, where I found two ready made salwar chemises which fit nicely. Steve found a shirt -- Kalamkari design, which is famous in this region of India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalamkari). I found dupattas -- Indian scarves, to bring back as gifts -- all in Kalamkari style as well. Beautiful!
We headed back to the hotel and got back in after 6:30, tired but happy with our purchases. We were all supposed to go to Barbecue Nation, a wonderful restaurant here for dinner, but Aditya is ill (bad cold), and it is raining heavily. We decided to stay here at the hotel and the family at Serene Domaine -- they'll have left overs and order in kebabs. We went downstairs and had a small dinner of fish, chicken and goat kebabs, and roti/naan. A light dinner given our lunch.
I am blessed that my son is marrying such a wonderful woman, with a great family. Although it's a long haul to get over here, I love India! I leave you with a picture of the sari I purchased for the wedding as well as the Kurta and scarf Steve will be wearing for the wedding.
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Location:Road No 1, Hyderabad, India