Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Price of Familiarity

Following up on my last post in which I stated the grocery stores sell what, to an American, appear to be very mismatched items, I wanted to share the result of my recent shopping trip to the "white neighborhood" as I call it. It's Banjara Hills, located just five kilometers from where I live, and home to a large population of expatriates. It is where everyone recommended I live due to the posher area and stores selling items more familiar to me. Driving through it though, it appears to be a total bore, as there are lots of high walls and gates, a lack of fruit stands and street vendors, and you never see anyone out just loitering, no kids playing in the streets, and no auto rickshaw drivers shouting at you.

Banjara Hills, however, is home to Q-Mart. It's a grocery-type store I can find those missing puzzle pieces like sliced cheese, Prego pasta sauce, ground coffee without chicory in it, and some ready made food items (ie: heat and serve). I've made stopping there a weekly affair, at least for now, until I get settled in a bit more and my things arrive from the states such as microwave safe cooking dishes and kitchen utensils.

This weeks visit to Q-Mart can be classified as both a success and a failure. I picked up a bread pan, a cake pan, and a casserole dish all microwave/convection oven safe. I also picked up a few other items out of sheer excitement for seeing them on a store shelf but should have checked the prices first. Here is a sample of what I purchased and what I paid:

24 oz Prego Traditional Flavored Pasta Sauce - Rs210/$4.64 USD
500g Light Brown Sugar - Rs149/$3.30 USD
17.5 oz Betty Crocker cookie dough mix - Rs205/$4.53 USD
1 pack of Orbit Gum - Rs120/$2.65 USD

And the most ridiculously inflated item of all

5 oz can of PAM cooking spray, butter flavored - Rs415/$9.18 USD

Not everything is cheaper in India and convenience certainly comes at a price. A price I don't think I'll be paying in the future. And yes, Q-Mart prints your credit card number, minus the last digit on your receipt.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Comforts of Home

The past 13 days have gone by both at a snails pace and like greased lightning. I've mainly spent my time foraging around for creature comforts such as coffee, styling products, and liquid soap. These are things I previously considered essential to my survival. They are things I took for granted. Not any more.

Compared to US meal planning mentalities, the grocery store would appear to sell very mismatched items. I found pasta noodles but no tomato sauce, pancake mix but no maple syrup, coffee grounds for an automatic coffee maker but no filters, and fruit jam/jelly but no peanut butter. I've since taken a trip to a posher neighborhood and shopped at Q-Mart, who's slogan should be "Where white people shop" and found everything from sliced cheese to jarred Alfredo sauce. I had to hold myself back considering I took an auto-rickshaw to get there which has limited "trunk space" for such items.

This past weekend I also got to the mall to restock my make-up supply. I found my brand, but not the entire line, and of course it wasn't in my shade. Still I was unable to find any styling products for women. Not even leave in conditioner. The heat and humidity have me looking like Medusa and I can't find a drop of smoothing serum anywhere yet I see Indian women everywhere I look with shiny, frizz free hair. I can't say the same for the Caucasians I saw shopping at Q-Mart though so perhaps women's hair products really don't exist in India.

All of the items I once considered "basic essentials" have been replaced by what is true necessity. Namely, water and electricity. These things can no longer be taken for granted. Daily we experience power cuts, which can be grueling in 100+ F temperatures. During these dry summer months we also go for hours daily without running water. Our apartment building which consists of 5-6 units share a relatively small water tank, about the size of 5 standard US home hot water heaters, and we take turns paying to have it filled once per day. The cost to have it filled runs approx $12 USD. When the water is gone, you wait.

Let the foraging continue, and let us never take anything for granted.