Sunday, November 05, 2006

Monday 16th – Friday 20th October, 2006 – In a new place

I moved into Mrs. Sanyal’s apartment on Sunday. It’s just a five minute walk from the Swayam office, so it’s quite convenient. Of course, every time I walk on the street to the office, people stare at me as if I have nine heads. LOL! I am so not used to being the center of attention in this way, being looked at as the foreign person. This week I worked a bit with Anu, who is preparing a presentation for a UNESCO conference in the US. I sat in on a mock run of her presentation and gave her suggestions. I also helped her put in or take out things from the PowerPoint slides. Later on in the week she gave me a semi-annual report to take a look at and edit for her. It was 29 pages single-spaced! That took up quite a bit of my time. I also finished reading the publications Anindita had given me when I first arrived, and made a lot of extensive notes on the articles. It’s now just left for me to type them out. I learnt a lot about the activities of Swayam from reading the report and also from helping Anu with her presentation.

During lunch on Tuesday Anu said that she wanted to taste some Ghanaian food before she left on her trip. She asked me what I could make and I said jollof, so she asked for the ingredients. I thought she was kidding. I left to go to the bank to change some money, and by the time I got back the cook had gone to buy the things I needed. LOL! I started on the stew while Swarmita, one of the caseworkers there, stayed with me and asked questions about what I was doing. I also made a marinade of onions, garlic, ginger, black pepper, salt and some turmeric, and put this on the chicken they had bought (they bought three whole chickens! Luckily for me they had already been cut into smaller pieces). The next morning I wasn’t feeling too well, but I knew I had to go make the lunch, so I went in around 11am. Apparently they had been waiting impatiently for me, so the moment I landed Swarmita and Gargee, another caseworker, pounced on me, saying that they thought I had decided not to come. I went into the kitchen and carried on with preparations. I was cooking for 14 people! That’s almost a party you know. The Swayam staff had one lady come in to help me by chopping the vegetables for me. Of course, as with most jollof I’ve made, the bottom got burnt very quickly. This lady was trying to turn the rice, with the burnt portion too. I got a little pissed at her. I knew she knew how to cook, but because we didn’t understand each other, it was a bit confusing, and I felt it was a little presumptuous of her to just turn my food when I was telling her not to. Anyway, she went to call Swarmita, and I explained to her, and Swarmita basically asked me to ignore her and go about my work, since I knew what the food was supposed to be like. In addition to the rice, I made a stir-fry of potatoes (Aloo), peas, green beans, onions, carrots and green pepper (I steamed the potatoes, and then added the vegetables, along with some salt and black pepper). This was because two of the ladies were vegetarians. I cooked the chicken, and then tossed each piece lightly in a bit of vegetable oil. It all came out pretty beautifully. The staff members totally consumed the jollof. I thought they wouldn’t like it, but they did, and they all asked for the recipes I had used. :) I was muy, muy happy!!

On Thursday I got my Airtel SIM card to use for my cell phone, so I was quite happy. I also found this café at Ballygunge Phari, this big crossroads for four major roads, and I’ve been going there pretty frequently. The man who runs the café was very nice to me the first day I got there. He asked me if I wanted any tea, and got some chai tea for me. He also suggested that I buy this coupon deal where I pay for 10 hours of browsing but get 15 instead. I thought he was being extra nice, but when I mentioned it to Twum, he laughed and said I was reading too much into it. The next few times I went, he offered me tea and biscuits again, and told me he wasn’t well, so I should touch his forehead and see. LOL! We’ll see how this unfolds!

Friday I stayed a little late as Anu was frantically getting things ready before she left. The upcoming weekend was Diwali and Kali Puja. Her son came with the driver to pick her up from the office, and I got to meet him. Anu was quite busy, so I just waited to wish her a safe trip and to say goodbye, before leaving the office. I had initially planned to spend only three weeks at Swayam, but because she was leaving and I wanted to interview her about how she started Swayam, I decided to stay that extra week so I could see her before leaving.

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