I have landed!

It was a long 14½-hour flight to India. The plane food was decent Indian grub, but the movie selection was dire (I had to watch Out of Africa for the gazillionth time). Further, three guys got drunk and rowdy at the back of the plane, and apparently couldn’t be calmed down. I didn’t see the kerfuffle, but the captain came on the intercom and announced that if the three guys didn’t calm down, he’d divert the plane to a place where they’d be taken off and “not treated very nice”, like Kabul.  Fortunately, we didn’t divert, but before we disembarked in Delhi the cops came aboard and took the guys away.

I’m settled in a lovely hotel near Connaught Circus (the epicenter of New Delhi), and two young Drosophila researchers took me out for dinner. Since neither was a “Delhi boy” (both came from other places, and one lives in Chandigarh), I led them to my own favorite South Indian restaurant nearby.  We had a splendid dinner. I had an onion and tomato uttapam, and my two friends had ghee masala dosas, cooked in clarified butter and filled with spiced potatoes, served (as was my uttapam) with three chutneys and sambar, a spicy vegetable soup. I also had a fresh lime soda: fresh lime juice served with an unopened bottle of cold soda water (safe to drink) and a small shot glass of sugar syrup to sweeten the drink to taste. My companions had small metal glasses of strong South Indian coffee, made with milk and chicory.

Uttapam with sambar and three chutneys (the white coconut one is best):

Dr. Rhitoban Raychoudhury and his giant crispy dosa:

A dish new to me, a south Indian breadlike substance called an appam, made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. It can be dunked in both savory or sweet dishes; in this case we had it as a dessert dunked in cardamom-flavored coconut milk. Yum! Note that all the dishes are served on fresh banana leaves—a South Indian custom.

Tomorrow we’re lunching at the old and famous Karim’s Restaurant in Old Delhi, famous for mutton dishes, various kebabs, and their naans (oven-baked bread). Here’s where we’ll be, as depicted by the “Food Ranger,” Trevor James. The bit on Karim’s starts at 10:20, but we’ll also wander these small and fascinating streets.

Then, at 5 pm, Rhitoban is accompanying me on the three-hour train journey to Chandigarh, where I’ll admire the architecture and give two talks.

 

58 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    PCC[E]… should you read this… I tried clicking on the “uttapam” link. It results in WordPress telling me I can’t edit that.

    I don’t think this is worth using up an email credit during your journey. 😉

    • Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Fixed, now, thanks!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 16, 2017 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

        Where are the Caturday Felids Prof?

        • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          Grania has to decide whether to put up a felid post or not. I have little time on the computer. There are about ten Caturday felid posts in statu nascendi.

  2. rickflick
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    India! Wow.

  3. davidintoronto
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Optical illusion? Or is the “giant crispy dosa” really that giant?!!!

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It seems like every other airplane ride ends up with one or more nuts on the plane. On some now they really try to monitor how much alcohol to a specific person. I guess if you are in business or first class you do get a better class of drunks. 14 hours on an airplane – that is torture.

    • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      It depends on how much alcohol one can stand though. It’s not the same for everyone.

    • Posted December 18, 2017 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      That’s partially why I’ve never seriously thought about going anywhere that far away. I flew Toronto->Copenhagen once, with a connector at each end (Ottawa->Toronto – wrong way, but that’s the way it worked; Copenhagen->Aarhus) and that was bad enough.

      I think if I were to go to south or east Asia I’d have to fly to Vancouver and stay a day or two and then go the shortest hop possible and so on. The Pacific is big, man!

      Or the other way around, fly to London or Paris and then stop in eastern Europe maybe? If Moscow wasn’t so off putting for various reasons, maybe there?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 18, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm, in my flights I’ve never encountered disruptive passengers.

        I’m more concerned about the seating. Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ – I’ve experienced that once recently, never again. The seat was so – ‘firm’ I was squirming in agony every few minutes trying to relieve my aching muscles. (If ‘it’s the airline’ then howcome China Eastern (the same airline)’s old domestic A320’s were perfectly comfortable? I suspect in the ‘lightweight’ Dreamliner they tried to save weight on seat padding).

        Emirates A380’s were the first airliner where I had plenty of room in a seat. A very pleasant surprise, and I wasn’t expecting it since I’m philosophically biassed towards preferring smaller planes. I’ve flown Dubai to NZ non-stop (16 hours) without discomfort.

        My feeling about non-stop flights is, once you’ve settled in, it’s better to get it over with than have to get off the plane, struggle through all the airport inconveniences to some ‘transit lounge’, and get back on the same plane two hours later.

        By the way, why would Moscow be off-putting? Interesting city, and probably safer for tourists than most destinations. You’d need a Russian tourist visa though.

        cr

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 18, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

          On the Dreamliner there’s a huge diff between the 3-3-3 9-seat arrangement & the 2-4-2 8-seat arrangement

          In 3-3-3 economy [3rd class, treat ’em like chickens] they shave 1″ off the seat back recline, the seat in front is 3″ closer [!] & seat width is 1″ less. If you’re not next to an isle your armrests don’t move. You have much less ability to relieve the pressure on your arse & small of back because there’s little room to twist, turn or lean back. Nightmare.

          The A380 seats are much better, as you recline the seat shifts forward – very comfy!

          • rickflick
            Posted December 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

            I suspect if you gave each seat a few more inches, they’d have to charge more for the seat. I wonder if they do trade off studies to see if people are willing to pay more? For a 500 seat plane, you could give up say 20 seats to make more leg room. The ticket price would go up by maybe 4%.

            If I think the most seat room is in Spirit and Jet Blue, the discount airlines. I wonder what they’re thinking is.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 18, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

              Acc to the WSJ, JetBlue & Southwest — the former low-fare upstarts, provide more space on average. I haven’t the time to look at reasons right now, but if they started their cheap fare operations with old legacy ‘planes, bought on the cheap, then they might be configured more ‘generously’ as per the good old days, but that’s just a guess.

              I know Spirit & JetBlue are reviled by the public for other reasons despite the seating! American Airlines recently did a study to project how the public would react to further seat squeezing & abandoned change plans. So either the tipping point has been found or AA don’t fancy the costs of recertification, modifications & ‘planes out of service.

              It is my impression that passengers can still be squeezed a LOT – the visible [false] ticket price is all that matters for marketing/sales at the self-paying, no air miles, 3rd class end of the market. I predict 3rd class will eventually be as tight, or tighter than Japanese Capsule Hotels. Of course if they gave you gas, a nappie & a life support ‘coffin’, they could remove the aisles & amenities entirely & dispense with cabin crew too – get boarded in your box by forklift.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 18, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

              See drawings in this: AIRBUS SEATING PATENT from two years ago…

              • rickflick
                Posted December 18, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                Here’s another approach:

                http://cdn.history.com/sites/2/2014/01/slave-ship-interior-P.jpeg

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 19, 2017 at 3:07 am | Permalink

                Well the self-loading-cargo in that patent illustration seems to have masses of elbow room, at least.

                The critical thing, of course, is how much space each passenger has, and this is not obvious in the drawing.

                If it’s possible to utilise the normally-unused airspace above the middle rows to give each passenger more usable room, that would be good. If it’s intended to just cram more pax into the plane, bad.

                cr

            • Posted December 19, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

              It wasn’t until quite recently (comparatively speaking) that I realized that *airlines* arrange the seats, not plane manufacturers. I can see that making a difference. And those who can sleep while flying, I imagine that makes a big difference on long flights too. I never can- I stay awake and sort of arrive in a daze after long ones sometimes. I was *not* myself going through Danish customs, for example – I had been up about 25 hours at that point.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 19, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

                I too find sleep difficult on a plane. I have an almost uncontrollable urge to become horizontal. To stretch out on the floor or curl onto two adjacent seats. I have a fantasy that someday long flights will have seats that stack flat and allow everyone to sleep comfortably.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 19, 2017 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                @rickflick

                Two decades ago, I flew UK back to NZ on British Airways 747. It was an Aussie flight that had been extended to New Zealand and in those days, I think, they couldn’t sell any Aust-NZ tickets so the only occupants on the Melbourne – Auckland leg were that small percentage of the pax who weren’t stopping in Australia. And the plane was configured 2-5-2 – I’d *hate* to be in the middle of that when the flight was full. But the unoccupied centre 5 seats made a fantastic bed!

                cr

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 19, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

                @ Keith

                Yes, the airlines choose seats, but the manufacturers dictate the cabin width. Much of the beef over the 787 is that Boeing publicised it for passenger comfort as 2-4-2 “wider than the A330” but the cabin is *just* wide enough for a tight 3-3-3 and that’s how they represent it to the airlines as an economical plane. Along with the weight-saving that results from modern materials and this (presumably) also manifests itself in thinner harder seats.

                cr

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 19, 2017 at 2:56 am | Permalink

            From what I can tell, (and there are complaints about the 787 seats all over the Net) only Japan Airlines flies the 787 with 2-4-2 seats.

            I do like the 2-4-2 seating in the A340, by the way.

            But my impression with the discomfort in the 787 was not primarily lack of space, but the seat itself seemed to be too hard. I tried sitting on my jacket, plus the blanket – anything to get some padding for my poor aching butt – with no success. By contrast, the old domestic A320 after Guangzhou was so much better I promptly dozed off in the middle of the morning.

            cr

  5. PatrickQ
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Meanwhile, the Trump administration banned the CDC from using the words “diversity,” “fetus,” “transgender,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based” and “evidence-based.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/16/health/cdc-banned-words/index.html

    • Richard Portman
      Posted December 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I heard this on NPR this morning but I thought I was hallucinating.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 16, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

      The NYT LINK: thinks it was just internal advice on how to get budget approval from conservative Republicans: don’t use trigger words such as “fetus” or “diversity” when wanting money from the loons

      QUOTE:

      A former federal official […] they are not saying to not use the words in reports or articles or scientific publications or anything else the C.D.C. does. […] “They’re saying not to use it in your request for money because it will hurt you. It’s not about censoring what C.D.C. can say to the American public. It’s about a budget strategy to get funded.”

      […]

      A former C.D.C. official, […] “I don’t know exactly who said what in the meeting, but I have to assume this came from H.H.S. people, because they’re the ones who have to make the budget. […] I’ve also heard that some of the words might have been a little misconstrued. ‘Science-based’ and ‘evidence-based’ might not have been considered as unusable as the others.”

      Some people also said that some effort to tone down language might make sense when appealing for funding from Republican conservatives in Congress.

    • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      They could use “foetus”. The others I have no clue how to get around.

  6. Graham Head
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    WEIT. The internet’s number one site for food porn.

  7. Posted December 16, 2017 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The food looks good. It makes me vaguely happy that the food at this “real Indian restaurant” looks pretty much like the stuff I eat quite often in nearby Little India in Artesia, California. Wonderful food! I always say that if I was a vegetarian, I would spend a lot of time at this sort of restaurant. By the way, at the one I go to most often, all the waiters wear shirts that are emblazoned with “More Dosa!”.

  8. Hempenstein
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Particularly interested in any Gobi Manchurian you encounter, and do they mostly eat the dry version or the one with sauce/gravy?

  9. darrelle
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    That dessert sounds fabulous! You’re killing me here.

  10. DrBrydon
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I was on a flight week before last, and a fellow reminded me that you can now download movies and shows from Netflix to your device for offline viewing.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 16, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      I take it you’re contemplating taking your own tablet to view your downloaded movie? Makes sense.

      I can’t understand why anyone would watch the airline’s movies on a plane. As PCC said, the selection is dire, and if it’s a movie I want to watch, then I want to watch it un-distracted, and not interrupted by in-flight catering and ‘important announcements’ that you can’t turn off, and I want to watch it uncut and NOT the censored airline version…

      I take a book, headphones and my little MP3 player (with luck the plane will have a USB port to charge same). A tablet could substitute for the book, of course.

      cr

      • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        I guess I’m just stupid.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 17, 2017 at 12:26 am | Permalink

          Umm, my comment re ‘taking ones own tablet’ was addressed to Dr Brydon, that was my interpretation of how ‘downloaded Netflix movies’ would work, but I’m not sure of that.

          I certainly hadn’t intended my criticism of airline movies to reflect on you, PCC. We all have our own priorities, I think it’s worth the effort to lug headphones and a player/tablet around, that’s just my personal preference, others may not want to bother.

          cr

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 17, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink

          Oh, and re-reading my first reply to Dr Brydon – I can see that it could be taken as a sideways slap at PCC. I apologise for that, it certainly wasn’t intended that way.

          cr

  11. David Coxill
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Hope the air quality has improved in New Delhi , last week there were photos of people wearing face masks .

    Don’t eat too much nice Indian food ,you lucky sod.

    • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      A LOT more people are wearing face masks here than when I visited in March of 2016.

      • David Coxill
        Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        I thought last weeks event was a one off didn’t know it happens on a regular basis .

        Still ,once the EPA is gutted you Americans will have to start wearing face masks full time ,i think the same goes for us Brits .

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 17, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

          That is scaremongering or hyperbole David

          The Air Quality Index [see definition below] hit 1,010 in Delhi on Nov. 8th. In North America & Western Europe the average annual figure rarely strays north of 10 in most locales & in the most ‘polluted’ areas it reaches maybe 40 [yes, I know one gets spikes that exceed 40].

          The pollution trend, even in post-Brexit Britain, is a relentless reduction due to micro & macro lifestyle changes [such as the fast rate at which we are losing manufacturing] & new technology. We would need to have a Dr. Evil in charge actively banning renewables, banning new more efficient power plants & extending the life of old power plants for this trend to reverse!

          Definition:

          This is a measure of PM [Particulate Matter] of weight 2.5 micrograms/m^3 of air
          This is not the PM10 measure

          0 to 50 is “good”
          200 to 300 is “very unhealthy”
          And the index normally finishes at 500

  12. Richard Portman
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow that is a giant dosa.! Safe travels, happy that you are in India and sharing some of your experiences with us.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    OT, I know, but according to a reportin The Washington Post, the Center for Disease Control has received a list of seven dirty words from the Trump administration that it is now verboten to say, including “science-based,” “evidence-based,” and “fetus.”

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted December 16, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      As I have said before, every day is a new WTF moment from the Trump gov’t. Unbelievable.
      How are you normal folk coping down there?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I dunno, Claudia, but if I ever make the acquaintance of any normal people down here, I’ll be sure to ask. 🙂

        • Claudia Baker
          Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          lol

  14. Karan
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    Karim’s Is the best!!

    You are also going close to my neck of the woods (Chandigarh). Hope you have fun. If you are planning on travelling in north India, I would recommend going to Amritsar both for the good noms and a visit to the Golden Temple (try going early morning). It’s an experience even us Atheists can enjoy IMO.

    • Posted December 16, 2017 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      I won’t get to Amritsar, but if you know of good restaurants in Chandigarh, email me or put them here.

      Thanks.

      • Karan
        Posted December 17, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

        I have asked friends who live in Chandigarh for specific recommendations. Will reply here shortly.

        In general I would recommend looking up a Dhaba to eat at. As I am sure you know, Dhaba’s are road side eateries in Punjab and they almost always have great food and ambience is as Punjabi as it gets. Most of them are “Vaishno” meaning vegetarian but there are some that some meat (Chicken and Goat) as well.

        In terms of specific dishes, if you find “Saag and makki di roti” on the menu, go for it. Unlike saag paneer, this saag is made primarily from mustard greens. Saag paneer is usually more spinach heavy. It doesn’t get more Punjabi than that. Make sure to put a dollop of butter in the saag 🙂

        • Karan
          Posted December 17, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

          I hear Pal Dhaba in Sector 28 is quite good.

          Near P S Khalsa National Senior Secondary School Khud Mohalla Old Civil Hospital Road Ludhiana, R 28 D, Sector 28, Chandigarh 160002

  15. Posted December 16, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    This is pain. Amazing food on the other side of the planet. Let me rephrase that: this is torture. My mouth is exploded into saliva and my tummy growls and my heart is now racing.

  16. Claudia Baker
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    So fun to share this trip with you.

  17. Posted December 16, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Glad you are safe! 👍😋🕎😇🌈

  18. Vaal
    Posted December 16, 2017 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy, I’ll be monitoring this trip Prof CC!

    India is top of my bucket list. Never made it there. Love the food, would LOVE to see the country and it’s people.

  19. pck
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    I’ve always wondered, how does PCC(pbuh) deal with jetlag? Any tips?

    • Posted December 17, 2017 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

      Do not sleep on the plane (unless you are lucky enough to fly business class). Then stay up the whole day you arrive. At bedtime, take a sleeping pill and, when you awake in the middle of the night, take another. This works for me; I’m fully recovered after one day.

  20. Posted December 17, 2017 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    If only technology could transmit flavor as well as imagery!

  21. Posted December 17, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Apropos the drunken, rowdy passengers, I had a similar experience many years ago on a London to Minneapolis flight. The captain came into the cabin to warn the drunks in person, and one of them swung a punch at him. This is something that you should NEVER do. Unfortunately for the offender, the U.S. Olympic wrestling team were also on the flight, and they were happy to subdue the guy, who ended up handcuffed to his seat until we landed in Minneapolis. At which point, the Feds arrested him and dragged him off the plane. His travelling companions were sent straight back to London on the net flight.


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