Category Archives: Resources

Fun iPhone Apps for Learning Hindi


So we are finally back from vacation! We had visitors for 2 weeks straight – but it was wonderful to get to do fun “touristy” things in the area. It took me almost a week to recover from all of the company… but stay tuned for more on that later!

I’ve been having fun with an app that I downloaded for my iPhone, called WordPower Light. It is a fun way to test your Hindi knowledge, and even pick up a few new words and phrases along the way. One great thing is that it includes the words in the Devanagari script as well as phonetically written in English. A serious student can keep up with the correct spelling – and get used to recognizing the word – while a more casual student can still play along.

Another great point is that you can listen to the word/phrase from a native speaker, then record your voice and play it back – to see how close your pronunciation is. Then you can add the words to your word bank and test your knowledge with flash cards. For a 99¢ app – it is pretty handy. They also offer a full version which is $9.99. From what I can tell – with the Lite version, you get access to one word/phrase per day, and you can choose to save them -with the full version, you get instant access to over 2,000 of the most commonly used words/phrases.
Either way, if you’re working on your Hindi – it’s a great little app to play with in your spare time! Find these apps and others by searching for “Hindi” in the iTunes App store.
Have you guys found any cool apps like these? Are they useful or just entertaining?


Blogroll

So I can safely say that I’ve procrastinated way too long in getting a blogroll up on IndianTies (probably because I was too busy reading all of your fabulous blogs!). Well, the wait is over… you can now check out some of my favorite blogs (in the far right sidebar at the bottom). Most of them are related to an India/desi theme in some way or another. The ones which have been most recently updated are shown at the top of the list. Update your blog so you’ll be on top!
If I’ve left out anyone please send me an email. Or if your blog is listed and you’d prefer not to be listed, feel free to let me know that too!
Happy reading!

P.S. If you never want to miss a post, consider subscribing to IndianTies and your other favorite blogs through RSS. For the techie challenged, I’ve probably lost you already…what’s RSS you might ask? Basically it’s a way to get notified when your favorite blogs get updated. If you’ve got a Google account, you have a built-in RSS reader. Click here to learn more.

Here’s the direct link to the IndianTies RSS feed.
Here’s the link to the IndianTies Forum RSS feed.

Indian Hospitality

So from my time spent living in India (almost 3 yrs), and being married to an Indian for almost 4 years, I’ve learned that hospitality is a big thing in India. We recently had Indian guests over, and even with all my “experience” there are still things I forget – or at least which I have to remind myself of.
Here are a few things on my list, maybe you guys will have more to add…
  1. Always offer – no actually insist - on offering your guests a drink (a cold drink or hot tea/coffee – depending on the time of day). We had sparkling pink lemonade with our Indian guests today. But many Indians like chai in the morning and at mid-afternoon tea time as well.
  2. Your Indian guests may not like much ice – especially if the drink is already cold, so it’s better to ask.
  3. Have some snacks on hand to offer your guests. Today I was caught off guard – we’ve been trying to eat healthier, and so I’ve been buying less “snacky” foods. I had to really dig (when reminded by my husband!) to find something appropriate. What did I end up serving? I found some Trader Joe’s Oriental Rice Crackers, and some digestive biscuits, and some spicy peanuts. Whew, I pulled that one off!
  4. Presentation is important – don’t serve the drinks in recycled plastic 7-11 cups! Dust off your nicer cups and it is considered polite to serve drinks (even just one drink) on a tray of some sort. Don’t ask me why – but in almost every house I’ve ever been to (as a guest) I have always be served drinks from a tray…
  5. If you’re serving food, it is better for the hostess to wait until everyone has been served. In some houses the hostess won’t eat at all until everyone has eaten.
  6. You should insist that your guests have more to eat – even go so far as to serve more on their plate – even if they say no. You have to give a very forceful no if you really are full – otherwise everyone will just assume you’re being polite!
  7. When you go to someone’s house and eat, be sure to take very little at first – so that you’ll have enough room to have seconds – that is a compliment to the hostess – otherwise they’ll think you don’t like the food or it’s too spicy or something.
  8. Try to always have something on hand in case unexpected guests show up – depending on the time, you might need to invite them to stay for dinner - better add some more water to the dahl!
In my intercultural marriage, I’ve had to remind myself to be a better hostess. My husband is big-hearted and will invite anyone and everyone home – at any hour of the day. So when I cook I always plan to make enough in case someone stops by… cause you just never know! And anyway, we like leftovers. I think I’m gonna stock up on some more of those oriental rice crackers, they last for quite a while and they were a big hit today. I don’t think any of our guests had had them before. At least that’s one feather in my hostess’s cap!


Happy Holi!

It is Holi! Holi is one of the most important festivals in India (and much of Southern Asia). It is the celebration of spring. Everyone celebrates the festival of colors by throwing colored powder and colored water at each other.
Rookie tips: If you’ve never “played holi” before, you might want to be careful! Warning to the wise: don’t wear your favorite outfit outside! You will be covered – and these colors don’t wash out easily!* In fact, if you must venture out on Holi, and don’t want to get bombarded – it might be best to cover yourself with some colors before you go out. That way you won’t be as much of a walking target! Check out the video below (from the movie “Outsourced”) to see what happens if you are caught off guard!


*There is also a bit of a controversy on the actual colored powders which are used. Many of the commonly available powders have chemicals in them which can be dangerous to the eyes, skin, etc. Now there is a movement to use organic/natural colors which are much less toxic. I would recommend these colors if at all possible!


South Asians: A Model Minoriy

Is being part of a “Model Minority” a gift or a burden?
If you are looking for some interesting reading, check out the following articles about South Asians (Indian Americans specifically) being the “New Model Minority.”
Some feel that it is wrong to pit one minority group against another or worse yet, put unneeded pressure on children to be high achievers. I think that stereotypes can be taken to far – and the name “Model Minority” might not be the best term for the achievements of the Indian American community, but on the other hand, I find the statistics and information presented to be very fascinating. I hope that my future kids are high achievers in their own right, not because they feel that they have to live up to a stereotype. If they want to become doctors or engineers one day, that is great, but I’d be just as happy if they are teachers or artists. Children growing up in the Indian community should be encouraged to reach their goals, even if those goals don’t necessarily meet up with the “Model Minority” standards.
Read more on Model Minority:


Indian Cooking Series: Spices

I’d say one of the most important things when marrying someone from another culture is an appreciation of each other’s native foods. Thankfully, I’m in love with Indian food almost as much as my husband is, and I also enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes.

One thing that was overwhelming when I started cooking Indian food, was the sheer number of spice combinations that needed to be used! I’m not talking about cooking Indian food with “curry powder” – that’s cheating in my book! Anyhow, in addition to the complex spice blends, many of the authentic recipes that I had collected used the Indian names for the spices. I was able to learn which spice was which over time, and am now able to switch seamlessly between the Indian names & English names. This skill is useful when sending recipes to my non-Indian friends & family.

So in hopes to help others who are just learning Indian cooking, here are a few of the common Indian spices and their English equivalents. If you’re just building up your Indian spice cabinet, these spices are good to have on hand.



English Spice Hindi Tamil
Asafoetida Hing Perungayam
Bay Leaf Tej patta Talishapattiri
Cardamom Elaichi Elakkai
Chillies Mirch Milagai
Cinnamon Dalchini ilavangkam
Cloves Laung Krambu
Coriander Dhania Kothamalli vidai
Corriander Leaves (Cilantro) Hara dhania Kothamalli
Cumin Jeera Jeeragam
Curry Leaves Karipatha Kariveppilai
Fennel Saunf
Fenugreek Methi Venthiyam
Garlic Lassan Ulipoondu
Fresh Ginger Adrak Injin
Lime Nimbu Elumichai
Mint Pudina Pudina
Mace Javithri Jathipatri
Mango Powder Aamchur
Mustard Seeds Rai Kadugu
Nutmeg Jaiphal Jathikkai
Pepper Kali Mirch Milagu
Saffron Kesar
Tamarind Pulp Imli Puli
Turmeric Haldi Manjal

Once you’ve stocked up on your spices, make sure to follow these tips for storing them so they maintain their optimal freshness and flavor…
  1. Keep the spices in a cool, dark place – free from moisture and humidity. A spice dabba is a fun and practical solution.
  2. Ground spices can retain their flavor for around a year – whole spices retain their flavor much longer. Try grinding your own spices for a more intense flavor. (use a mortar & pestal or a coffee grinder)
  3. Keep rarely used spices in airtight containers in the freezer.

Stay tuned for more in the Indian Cooking Series.


Growing Up in Two Cultures

I came across an article that was published a few months ago called,Kids from Silicon Valley astride two cultures: India and CaliforniaBy John Boudreau. The video above goes along with the article (you have to wait for the ad to play at the beginning). I found the article & video very thought provoking.

To summarize: There have been scores of families of Indian origin who have returned to India for their jobs, and have brought along their “American” kids. (For the most part, they aren’t biracial, but they are bicultural). Anybody would feel totally lost if uprooted into a new culture, but most of these kids have shown an ability to appreciate the advantages that their new situation has to offer (even if they still have some complaints about how strict school in India is, or being separated from their friends). Many of them keep in touch with friends from America and plan occasional summer visits and look forward to attending college here.

From the article…
“I am almost certain that every student in this school will have an international career,” he (principal Matthew Sullivan) said. “They will have no fear of the unknown. They will know how to adjust.”

“It changes your perspective on life,” said Katya Elfrink, who along with her two sons came to Bangalore about two years ago with her husband, Cisco Executive Vice President Wim Elfrink.

My husband and I have already been in similar situations, both living in the other culture for extended periods of time. I know that we will continue to have one foot planted on either side of the ocean in the future. I wonder how growing up in two cultures will affect our future kids? I hope that I can reinforce the positive things and shield them from the negative. From my own experience, I can say that being in an intercultural relationship (no matter where you live) opens up your eyes to a bigger world, and lots of different world-views. There are quite a few articles and books published on “Third Culture Kids.” I’ll save my thoughts on that for another post. But I think for the most part these kids have an advantage in life – sometimes they learn to appreciate it early and other times they realize it much later in life.

…Any thoughts?



Bolly-WHAT?



The first Bollywood movie I ever remember watching was Lagaan. I was planning to go to India for the first time and thought I’d get a head start on my cultural experiences. The song in the video clip above is my favorite from the movie. I made one of my friends sit through the whole movie with me… at the end I remember her asking me if I could ever see myself marrying an Indian guy…I assured her that I didn’t see that in my future. Hmm…things change I guess! (But that’s another story!) I did enjoy the movie (although it’s super-long) and by then end I definitely had a feeling for Indian cinema (and Cricket too!)


BUT, in case you missed the latest SRK film (or don’t even know who or what SRK is!), or if you’d just like to get the run-down on the few Bollywood films that you actually haven’t seen… check out bollywhat.com. It is a fun website that gives everything from their top 10 Bollywood movie must-sees, to lyric/vocabulary translations, and of course a “Newcomers Guide to Bollywood.”

Some of the questions they attempt to answer…
There’s even a section that discusses the other film industries in India…”Beyond Bombay.” The website is targeted at those of us who haven’t grown up watching Bollywood for our whole lives. You might just learn something you never knew before!

Are there any other websites you’ve found useful in learning about Bollywood? How did you get your introduction into the world of Indian cinema?


Don’t Miss "The Story of India: Six Part Series"




If you’re like me, you missed out on the PBS premier of “The Story of India.” The debut of this six part mini series was last night (January 5th). My husband’s aunt watched it & told me about it, she really enjoyed it. I was sad that I missed the first part – but it looks like it will air again throughout the week. Check your local listings to be sure, but the next part is scheduled to air on Monday, January 12th.

In this lavishly illustrated companion to his BBC TV series, Michael Wood weaves a spellbinding narrative out of the 10,000-year history of India. Home today to more than a fifth of the world’s population, the subcontinent gave birth to the oldest and most influential civilization on Earth, to four world religions, and to the world’s largest democracy. Now, as India bids to become a global giant, Michael sets out to trace the roots of India’s present in the incredible riches of her past.

From the Khyber Pass and the Himalayas to the tropical jungles of India’s Deep South, this original and striking survey of Indian history provides vivid portraits of India’s regions and cultures, and new insights into some of history’s greatest figures: the Buddha and Ashoka, Samudragupta and Akbar the Great, Nehru and Gandhi. It explores the ways in which Indian ideas and inventions have shaped the history of the world, and shows how some of ancient India’s conclusions about the nature of civilization have lost none of their relevance for our own times.

PBS has a beautiful website set up with tons of interactive content. If you really like the series, you can buy the book or DVD as well.

I think it is important for those of us in intercultural Indian relationships to learn about the history of India. I can’t speak for other countries, but in America, our world history is quite limited in school! I want my kids to learn about both their American and Indian heritage. I’m looking forward to watching all 6 parts in this series!






Bargaining: Rules of the Road


If you’ve ever shopped in India or Southern Asia, you know that there are two prices for everything. One is the asking price, and the other is the price you are willing to pay. In North America, we are not very well versed in the art of bargaining. I had an introduction course when visiting Mexico, but that is the minor leagues compared to India!
I was really shy as a child, but somehow I was able to come out of my shell while I lived in India. I even began to enjoy the game of bargaining. A couple of guidelines:
  • You can bargain at most shops, but a few will have signs saying “fixed price”
  • How low is too low? Well, it can’t hurt to try for whatever you think is fair. Whether or not the shopkeeper will agree to your price all depends on how convincing you are and how badly they want to make a sale! I say you can start at 40 – 50% of what the asking price is… and the more you are willing to buy, the better deal you will get.
  • Stick to your guns! You might have to be willing to walk away if the price isn’t right. Never-fear, the shop two doors down will probably have the same thing!
  • Don’t show your emotions, pretend to be indifferent.
  • Have exact change. If all you have is 100 rupees, and you tell the shopkeeper that, he might just take it.
  • Use the phrases, “Is this your best price?” “Can you give some discount?”
  • If you can speak a little of the local language, you will have an advantage!
  • Have fun with it, it is entertaining and exciting to see if you can beat your personal best.
You might be surprised to know that you can bargain in America too! This past week, we were in our local mall (in America). I needed a new case for my iPhone. I spotted one I like at a kiosk in the middle of the mall. I asked the woman (who happened to be from India) how much and she said $22. I casually asked her if she would give me a deal, and she said she’d take $20. Right there I knew she was willing to negotiate her price. Let the fun begin!

I decided to challenge myself and see if I could get the case for $10 (less than 50% of her asking price). I really didn’t want to pay any more than that for a case. So I had my wadded up $10 bill in my pocket and I said, “Let me see how much I have.” I pulled out the bill and showed it to her. She said, “Oh that’s not possible.” I said, “Sure it’s possible. All I have is $10. Will you take it?” She replied, “OK, give me $15.” I reminded her, “All I have is $10.” I waved the bill, “See?” She started smiling at this point, realizing that I was not giving up easily. (But I could tell she wasn’t getting annoyed or mad, she was enjoying the spectacle as much as I was). I have a feeling that my Indian accent came out as well. I have no idea how that happens, but my husband laughs at me… I guess it doesn’t hurt. So she was still hesitating, and I was still standing there waving around a $10. I asked one last time, “So you’ll take $10 for the case?” She realized that I wasn’t giving her much choice, and I knew she was still making a killing off of me, so she finally agreed and took my offer.
There is a lot of satisfaction when you get your price. As long as the shopkeeper is happy and you’re happy – everything works out just fine. So don’t be afraid to bargain. It’s something every good Indian wife should know how to do!