Lunch Time

I am finding it tricky as I try to compare my experiences and life styles that I encountered from two different continents. I do not know if my readers will be able to understand me. Moreover, my recent journey is an unusual one as most Indian travels east to west while I moved from west to east.

During my stay at Paris for last 3 and half years, most of my lunch at work was at shared corporate cafeteria between three companies. I appreciated the price, quality of that food always particularly the desserts and varieties of yogurts available there. May be I understand, why French cuisine is considered to be world’s most refined cuisine. Unfortunately, I am not a food critic that I can pen down those exotic tastes to get water in your mouth. But as I think about them I roll my tongue ;)

In general, breakfast in France is a small affair consisting of croissants & bread rolls with some butter and jam to spread which is usually accompanied by milky coffee or hot chocolate or café noir. Since there is no set time for breakfast in France it makes them bit hungry by noon :) . Le déjeuner (lunch) was once a two hour mid-day meal but has recently seen a trend toward the one hour lunch break.

It is common at corporate world to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however people having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. A sandwich followed by a dessert is quite commonly seen and can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets, cafes, bistros or restaurants. Even many restaurants, offer a lower priced prix fixe menu at lunch which is not available in the evening.



It is common in France for someone wishing you “Bon Appetite” if he/she realizes that you are going to have food as you take the exit from office door or lift at noon while in India we hardly say anything before starting our meal. Rather I believe there is no exact translation even in Anglo-Saxon culture for “Bon Appetite” but it does exist in Latin culture in some form or other like in Spanish or Italian lingo.


I have been a silent participator for most of the times as I use to feel shy to communicate with my linguistic skill of French. These three pictures are the only I have from all those lunch time I had with my colleagues. These were taken at very end of our stay with Pamela’s new phone camera. I always felt that I was going to miss those lunch hours if I move out of Paris; now I write about them before they become distant memory.

At my current location in Bombay we do not have any in-house cafeteria at our office (a small office compared to Paris). There are plenty of restaurants around to choose from or I can order for lunch at my desk. With the last one you can work as you take a bite. I am sure any health freak will tell that it is not good for soul and body. Food is supposed to be taken properly so that you chew and eat in peace while a meal in France is not simply a moment dedicated to the nourishment of the body; it is indeed a time for social and even spiritual replenishment.

In Modern India, where average work hours are getting longer and people are slogging more at work. This may be very disturbing social and physiological changes and might have adverse effect as the dynamic working population grow older.

Durga Puja

Durga Puja is the most important and biggest festival in Bengal for any Bengali Hindu. Its five days of festivity where this Puja symbolizes good winning over evil. Maa Durga is considered as daughter of Bengalis. It is believed that every year she comes to visit her father’s home (earth) for five days with her four children - Kartik, Ganesh, Saraswati and Lakshmi- representing respectively the Protector, the Initiator of the puja, Knowledge and the Provider - signifies the complete manifestation of the goddess. while her husband (lord Shiva) stays in Kailash (heaven).This five days festivity actually starts from Mahalaya with chant of Roopam dehi, dhanam dehi, yasho dehi (give me beauty, give me wealth, give me fame...)across Bengal. The festive mood builds up with rhythm of Dhakis (drummers)

Her visits happened to be the best time for Bengali farmers. Weather is at best as the monsoon is just over and it is not yet winter. As there is no need for major work in the paddy fields everyone can be part of this religious ceremony. Rice grows with the blue sky and little white clouds. Well, now a days this weather and farmer scenario does not have any true meaning for most of city dwellers. As it is either too hot which can be called as “October Summer” or raining heavily from late arrival of monsoon.

Now a days it's more of commercialization. Pre-Puja bargain sales and exhibitions introduce the sartorial style for the coming year. Bengali newspapers and magazines publish special issues- platform for many budding author, besides the works by well-known writers. Music companies have a number of new discs and cassettes published in every Puja. Not only that trains to tourists spots get reserved months before puja. Bengalis in other cities in India visit their relatives in West Bengal. Even due to commercialisations decorations are very classy. There is big competition between associations who makes the best idol, best pandal decorations etc.

I remember going to Durga Puja on Weekends at San Francisco as every one is too busy with work during the week. So, Puja is held in weekend for every one's convineance. And to add a pinch of salt – it is held in two different weekends so that people can attend both the Puja celebration. While at Paris it was different as Puja is organized as per (tithi) date which sometimes made it difficult to attend.

The joke runs that if a couple of Bengalis get together, there will be surely three Durga Pujas! Well, Bombay goes way past that quorum. More then 22 Durga Pujas are held across the city. And here Bengalis celebrate their favourite puja with same zeal as that of their counterparts in Calcutta.

Being at Bombay, this year it was different after a long time as we celebrated it with my maternal uncle’s family. There was one local Puja next to our residence. We went at noon to offer (pushpanjali) obeisance. And once the offering to Goddess is over there is Prasad and bhog distribution - khichudi (mixed dish of rice and (dal) lentils which is served normally very hot (temperature) along with (baigun bhaja) aubergine fry, (labra) mixed vegetable, chutney and (payesh) rice caramel. There is a common ritual for Hindus offering and praying to God or Goddess in empty stomach. This created a bit of problem as hundreds of hungry people stands in queue to get prasad & bhog.


In the evening, normally there are cultural activities. Bengalis are known for their eating habits especially snacks and sweets. Lots of food stalls are set up near the pandal. Families will have their “Pet - Pujo” (Stomach – Worship) so that their wife gets a day off from kitchen. I am sure this sort of events unfold every corner of the world as Bengali celebrates Durga Puja. Not only this but also people start thronging pandal after pandal. Road blocks are quite common. Children getting lost are natural. Every bengali in their new dress, new shoes are quite commonly seen. As Durgotsav comes once a year – everyone wants it to make it as memorable as possible.



The special thing for this year was we enrolled ourself for visiting other Puja pandal in and around Bombay. The plan was there will be rented bus to take us to various corners of Bombay that way no need to drive and no hassles of parking. And you can take a nap in between if you can. Although trip was supposed to start at 10:30 PM and end by early morning next day. But we started around midnight IST (Indian Stretchable time) unfortunately that night it was raining heavily. By the time we reached Shivaji Park we found it resembles a paddy field with more then ankle deep water. But, we continued with umbrella and socked shoes and sandals till next morning.


Bengalis are quite (un)famous with their obsession for caffeine and nicotine; each stop was delayed by few members for their tea & cigarette break. Thank-God all the food-stalls were closed due to rain and late night other wise we had to wait longer.

With all these complaints it was a memorable night; hopefully we will not repeat it again next year as it was fun for once. Surely we were trashed next day and had lots of sleep to catch up.

Back to Work

Well after one and half months of vacation I am back to work today. Surprisingly, I will be still using my old e-mail (work) well it does not mean that I am checking my work mails as I write this post. It will take sometime for the IT guys before they transfer me electronically from Europe to Asia. I thought it might be a good time to write something for the blog.

There has been some progress in terms of settling in Bombay at our own flat but there is long-long road ahead. There are few positive updates but a long uphill battle to fight.

I hope both us are going to update the web-site in terms of photos and posts more often from now on. There is a long list to write about as there were events which brought smile and worries (most of the time) often as we look at them through a western point of view.

As I write this post the power went out so all I can see around me is glowing screens of computers. Welcome to India ;)

Aids Awareness - Paris


Can any one guess what this publicity is about? Well, this is 2006 anti Aids campaign by city hall of Paris (Paris protège l'amour means Paris protects love)

In the photo what we see is sunset on some historical building with moon at backdrop, but when you take a close look moon is... a condom. It aims at promoting the use of condoms among the population i.e., to have safe sex. Personally, I believe it's neither obscene or vulgar rather a nice way to make people aware.

Reason for writing a post on this matter is in my country such publicity is really unthinkable where 5.7 million people are infected. Although, India had edged in front of South Africa to become the country with the largest number of people carrying HIV virus. People will start agitating if they find publicity of this kind in any public places considering it to be vulgar………….as it is still a matter of taboo where its not discussed openly among the people.

Not only this, leave apart poor sections, sex-workers or uneducated people but think of those trendy city young men and women drawing on cigarettes and sipping cocktails. They are part of cosmopolitan elite group upwardly mobile and well-informed. This section of Indians who are more open to talk about AIDS - but when matter comes to them they never think of applying the same to themselves…..so strange.

Hope one day….India is open enough to talk freely on this line.

P.S. This is an old post which we just got from our PC along with the shipment.