Tasting Tour of Little India, Jackson Heights, Queens

Jackson Heights, Queens

Jackson Heights, Queens

Uncover what makes Indian cuisine unique and divine on a walking, tasting and culture tour of the South Asian neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC with me, Nina Grand. I am a licensed NYC guide and long time foodie with an extra special interest in India and her exquisite and diverse cuisine. For those who have been reading my blog about India, you know how deep my love and understanding for this remarkable culture runs. I also lead my own tours to India that highlights India’s cuisine, among other features.

Meet the "Mithai"

Meet the “Mithai”

You will sample a wide range of tastings along the way, savor an authentic chai with luscious mithai and learn about all the ingredients that are the staples and spices of this cuisine, all while visiting a well stocked Indian grocery store. My insight, enthusiasm and experience is infectious. By the time you leave Jackson Heights, you will be an expert.

Punjabi on the Street

Punjabi on the Street

India’s magic will unfold right before your eyes, in this special yet little explored corner of NYC. Space is limited. Advance payment required. For more information contact me: travelwithnina@gmail.com

Date: Sunday, May 15, 2016

Time:  Starting at 11:00 AM – approximately 3 1/2 hours

Price: $60.00 per person

Rain or shine. Come hungry! Wear comfortable shoes and loose waistbands! Hope you can make it. This is going to be fun and truly memorable.

 

 

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Bazaar Activities

At the Shop

At the Shop

I was first drawn to this man by his countenance: cheerful, positive, calm and self-contained. When I looked more closely at his surroundings, a tiny shop in the bazaar of a small Rajasthani village, it is only then that I noticed the shop was empty.

Maybe the shop has been in the family for many generations and the man in the photograph, now retired, comes to the shop out of habit. Whatever the circumstance, this man doesn’t consider that there is only a metal drinking cup and a few dusty old papers in the glass case in front of him.

I continue walking through the bazaar. Two women ahead catch my eye. I move closer to see what they are doing.

Bangle Maker with Customer

Bangle Maker with Customer

 

At first I think that they are gossiping and they could be but another activity is taking place. The woman in the pink sari is making a set of bangles, presumably for the woman in red. They smile at me and don’t object to my intrusion.

Busy At Work

Busy At Work

Indian women adore their bangle bracelets, especially Rajasthani women.. I’ve written about them before. Some larger towns have entire districts dedicated to the making and selling of bangles.

Applying the Beads

Applying the Beads

Here we see the maker applying small metallic beads around the bracelet.

Quality Control

Quality Control

All the while, the women continue chatting and I continue clicking. Life goes on unobstructed. The bangle maker checks her work for imperfections. I thank them for allowing me to capture a lovely moment in time as I continue searching for more bazaar activities.

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On the Porch in India

Porch Bench

With its large population, people surround you no matter what path you follow in India. Many are on their porches doing what looks like very little but most appear quite content. It does make you question all our activity in the West. Here is a little series of porch front shots.

On the Porch

Woman On the Porch

Smiles on the Verandah

Smiles on the Verandah

What's Going On?

What’s Going On?

At the Gate

At the Gate

With everyone enjoying themselves on the porch, you want to join them in one of life’s very simple pleasures; one that we hardly make time for today. Just another of the many reasons why I find India so appealing.

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Women at the Back of the Truck – Indians on the Road part 2

Behind Bars

Behind Bars

Here are more photos that are a continuation of my previous post, Indians on the Road.

While photographing this large family of women with their children, all packed into a 2-story truck, I noticed that there were even more women squeezed into the back of the truck. As I explored the side of the vehicle, another opportunity to capture more of this beguiling sight presented itself.

Hidden Smile

Hidden Smile

They were gracious and generous, smiling at my obvious curiosity. I shared the images with them. That is one of the benefits of digital photography: its immediate rewards.

One of the boys, jammed  into the upper story jumped down and started making mischievous faces into the camera like so many of the monkeys I confronted everywhere in India. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed traveling with that child on an extended trip.

Cheeky Kid

Cheeky Kid

In Her EYes

In Her Eyes

Although this large, extended family appeared sad to see their holiday end, I sensed that they knew they were lucky: lucky to have each other and lucky to have the means to take such a trip. They are part of India’s rising middle class, where adventures in a 2- story truck might never have been possible not so very long ago but today our paths cross, on the road. Like all eager travelers, I’m sure that they are  dreaming of their next holiday.

 

 

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Indians On the Road

Tight Squeeze

Tight Squeeze

It’s not only foreigners who take advantage of how diverse and interesting travel in India is but Indians too. Indians love to travel and they choose many ways to get around. Naturally, cost is always a serious consideration. The more people you can accommodate in one conveyance, the lower the price, right?

When I saw this group of women with their children packed into this two-story truck, a big smile spread across my face because this scene was just what I was looking for and I was thrilled to have bumped into it.

Packed & Ready to Go

Packed & Ready to Go

They didn’t look too comfortable though. The kids were “upstairs” and the older woman were in the front, seated closer to the driver. They were impatient to leave and I couldn’t blame them. I thought that they were just about to leave but they stayed there for quite some time, in the heat too. I suppose that their holiday was almost over and it wouldn’t be long before they would go back to the routine of their everyday lives which probably was hard nor not cause for elation.

The Kids "Upstairs"

The Kids “Upstairs”

The women checked on the kids upstairs while the women downstairs sat wondering when their over packed truck would finally take off.

Let's Go Already!

Let’s Go Already!

I never actually saw the truck take off.  After I took all the photographs that I felt comfortable taking (I actually would have liked to have taken more), I left but they didn’t.

I did take some other photos of the women that aren’t visible from this angle. I will share them with you next time.

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Temple Sculptors at Work

Jungle Temple Under Construction

Jungle Temple Under Construction

While on a hike through sparsely populated rural south India, I came across a temporary workshop of sculptors on the side of the dirt road. My friends hardly noticed them, so focused were they on our destination but I could barely contain myself. With my growing excitement, I insisted that we stop and investigate.  When I see creativity bubbling right in front of my eyes I can’t resist.

The sculptors were busy hammering and chiseling away. They were serious yet welcoming in a shy way. I could detect with my innate traveler’s radar (don’t ask how that works!) that they were from another region and didn’t speak the local dialect, not that I do! They didn’t speak English either so I couldn’t ask all the many questions that were popping into my excited brain at the time. We did manage to communicate a bit; the way travelers do: with hands, facial expressions and any other aids that one can come up with at the moment.

The Workshop

The Workshop

Clearly they were proud of their work and pleased  by my enthusiasm. Below is a photograph of one of the completed sculptures. I can only guess at the material used. It looked a lot like granite.Finished Product

Finished Product

After a few minutes the novelty of our arrival wore off and with the range of topics possible for discussion limited, the sculptors went back to work.

Sculptor at Work

Sculptor at Work

Concentration

Concentration

 

When we first bumped into them we didn’t know that they were preparing sculptures for a new temple under construction  down the road but they kept pointing ahead of us and repeating, “mandir,” which means a temple. We continued and about a kilometer down the dirt road, we saw what must have been the site for their work.

I am not an expert on Indian temples but over the years have acquired a basic knowledge of their design and some of the regional differences. This one, however, was round. Most Hindu and Jain temples are rectangular, I believe. I never did solve this mystery but will visit again and let you know.

It was a rare treat and a delight to chance upon these talented and dedicated artisans right on the side of the road. India is full of surprises.

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At the Coconut Stand

Opening the Coconut

Opening the Coconut

In South India there is never a shortage of coconuts or bananas; they are plentiful and omnipresent as well as being utterly delicious. While on a drive through rural Karnataka, the urge for a sip of sweet coconut water was overwhelming.

Opening the coconut is no easy task. It requires strength and skill. In all my years of travel around the world and not just in India, I can’t recall ever having seen a woman doing the job but here she is, doing just that.

As usual, my presence incited curiosity. With a lot of smiling and gushing about the yummy coconut water no one objected when my camera popped up.

Watching with Reservation

Watching with Reservation

This lovely yet shy young woman remained in the background watching with interest. I kept talking, clicking and laughing a lot too.

Made in the Shade

Made in the Shade

The heat of the day was intensifying and this man had the best spot to watch the goings on.

Taking That First Step

Taking That First Step

I think that my joking around put everyone at ease and eventually the shy girl stepped forward and smiled into the lens.

Coconuts Galore

Coconuts Galore

This was the sight next to the coconut stand. They save the shells and dry them and sell them. They are later turned into various products like coconut fiber door mats.

Back on the road, the sweet taste of coconut water lingered. I knew that another roadside stand wouldn’t be far off.

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