Tag Archives: Snapshots of Home

Simple Pleasures

TongaThe Tonga (Horse drawn carriage) as seen on the streets of Agra, India

Simple Pleasures


I reminisce with immense fondness

 Memories of homeland shores

When life was unadulterated

And goals within reach

Such as…

Walking barefoot on the sand

Gorging cotton candy at the fair

Screaming hoarse along with the radio

And yes, the occasional pleasure ride around town


Tonga or Tangaतांगा Hindi meaning Hansom or Horse carriage

The Indian Way- Everyday Etiquette: Bhai Sahib and Behenji

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A street side stall where a vendor sells Soan papdi or Soanpapri which is a popular South Asian sweet with a crisp and flaky texture.


“Kaise diye bhai sahib?” What is the asking price, brother?

“Bees rupiah kilo behenji.” 20 rupees/kilo sister.

A conversation very similar to the above, modified to fit the situation and scripted in various regional languages, can be overheard if one happens to wander inside any store, or pass by a street shop  on any given day in India.

I am not talking about the skyrocketing prices of fresh fruit and vegetables (that’s another topic altogether,) but of the way two strangers address each other.

The housewife who is trying to find the best deal she can as she goes around the market, addresses the vendor as ‘Bhai sahib’ [Bhaee-saab]. Hindi: भाई साहिब  Bhai – Brother, Sahib- term of respect.

She uses this term even though he bears no relationship to her.

Similarly the tradesman or vendor responds with the term ‘Behen ji’ [Bahen-jee] Hindi: बहन जी Behen – Sister, Ji – gender neutral term of respect.

Indians use these terms often during the course of a typical day while doing business with strangers; such as while buying groceries, haggling over the price of fruits and vegetables, dealing with the milkman, or hailing a taxi or an auto rickshaw.

It is a means of establishing a temporary bond or kinship which places the conversation on a congenial and non-confrontational platform.

So on your next trip to India, these two terms should come in very handy.

India Unveiled

Where do I begin? I ask myself. I have to begin somewhere.

I want this section to serve as a mini primer on India. I do not deem to be an expert, rather I’m often humbled by my profound ignorance.

Therefore, please take it as my point of view on various matters and do not hesitate to pitch in with corrections, suggestions, questions, doubts etc. Remember that this place is a two way street where we inform and educate each other.

Some facts:

India or Bharat भारत < Sankrit (descended from the emperor Bharata) is a country located in South Asia.

It is the seventh largest country in area and the second most populous country with over 1.2 billion people.

Capital: New Delhi
Largest city: Mumbai

Official languages include Hindi and English plus there are 22 other recognized languages.

It  is the largest democracy in the world.

Yet despite its massive presence, it is a mystery to many. Those in the west still consider it a land whose peoples and cultures remain mostly exotic and alien.

They recognize it as a place that exports engineers, doctors, Bollywood movies, Chai tea, curry and the philosophy of Yoga to the rest of the world. It is a country where cows stand in the middle of the road undisturbed and people pray to numerous Gods including one who dances to destroy and create (Lord Shiva,) and one who has the face of an elephant (Lord Ganesha.)

It is a lot more than that.

India is a land of extremes– of pristine beauty and unbearable filth; of mind boggling wealth and unspeakable poverty; of embracing tolerance and shocking violence. Yet what sets it apart, what pulls everyone to it above and beyond anything else is something that I can only define as a divine mystique, leaving those who discover it with an inner peace which no other place could ever give.

That is India to me.


A group of school children on a trip to the Red Fort (Lal Qila) Delhi, in December.