Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trivandrum, home of IIITM-K

I arrived on Monday to my new city of adoption, Trivandrum, Kerala, India.

Work is starting presto. My first lecture was yesterday, on version control with Subversion. I am glad to find that, despite the warning about the passivity of Indian students, I was able to get some interactivity going.

The semester starts August 1st. The plan for the summer is to organize lots of little workshop for the companies around here. We are thinking of selling workshops on Java Generic, on concurrency, on computer architecture, and Venkatesh's own Principle of Programming class. We are also thinking of doing a TeachScheme with college teachers.

I am getting settled. The two bags that I could fit on the plane sit in the corner of my large apartment. They are sum of my belonging. The rest of this middle-class 5 1/2 is filled with echoes of my footsteps. The search begins for those hard-to-find items of copious western consumption, a French-press, a kettle, a crock-pot.

Food-wise, I am very lucky. A new food court opened on the day of my arrival. It supersedes the shady cafeteria on campus, which served the most uninspired biryani have eaten of all India.

The North Indian food here could not surprise me. I was a regular of the numerous Indian restaurants in Providence and in Montreal, which served perfectly authentic food. Plus, I have yet to find a tomato spicy chicken that can match the one I cook from Madhur Jaffrey's excellent recipe (surely because I haven't been eating much chicken). The street-food experience, however, has been remarkable. The typical restaurant has no name, no decoration, no menu. The place has three walls; where the front wall would be there is a row of large pots containing non-descrip food. The owner plops a bit of each into a plate for you, pours a glass of water which you won't touch because it might be tainted. He charges you the equivalent of 0.75$CAN for the meal. You take a bite, and it's the best food ever.

With my arrival in Bangalore, I discovered I don't care so much for South Indian food. South India meals are composed entirely of chutneys, that you eat with your hands, perhaps with some rice or some chapati. Personally, I need more veggies, especially if I'll go on pretending I'm a vegetarian. The food discovery #1 of the trip is India's interpretation of Chinese dishes. They are as un-Chinese as American shopping-mall-Chinese, but it's so much better. It is perhaps the best Chinese in the world if, like me, you don't care for authentic Chinese. Trivandrum is a city lush with fruit trees. From my apartment window, I see the neighbor's house through the large leaves of banana trees, mango trees and of uncountable coconut trees. So, food discovery #2 are the fresh coconut dishes of Kerala, which appeal to the Thai lover in me.

It is hot. It is 32 C here, everyday. In Montreal, that temperature is the signal to do nothing with the day and go to an ice cream shop. Thus I have been eating three servings of ice cream per day. Breakfast at the sundaes place next to my apartment, lunch at the crunchy sundaes place in the food court, and diner at the Ben and Jerry's Baskin-Robbins' franchise.


Unknown said...

Welocome to Kerala.

Get in touch when you visit Kanyakumari.

I live in the Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu.

anwar.zamaan AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

The Chinese meals probably contains more MSG than here! :-)

Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

Indeed, the best Chinese food in the world. There are a few Indian restaurants in the Bay Area that will serve “Indian Chinese”, but it's otherwise hard to find in the US (or Canada).