Andra Bosneag

Andra Bosneag (Vikalp Women’s Group): Andra is originally from Bucharest, Romania. She graduated from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with a double degree in International Studies and Hispanic Studies. While at Macalester, she taught English to Hispanic immigrants through the Sojourner Truth Academy in the Twin Cities. At the time of her fellowship, Andra was a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy focusing on human security and human rights law. After her fellowship, Andra wrote: “Spending time in the Vikalp office, you are taken on a roller coaster of emotions: people cry in telling their stories, they laugh to deal with the injustices, they smile at strangers as they share their secrets. The office and the women who work there give meaning and a new lease on life to so many marginalized people.”

The Language of Food

06 Jun

Thank you to all the people who posted comments on my first blog! My co-workers enjoyed getting to know a little bit about all of you.

Many people have asked about my experiences in India so far. In the first few days, the response inevitably reached food. A week later, my response starts directly with the latest delicious meal: “Hey! How are you? Today I had a dosa, two cheese parathas, a large portion of malai kofta, two mango lassis, and ice cream. That was lunch, for dinner I had…”

Food seems to lie at the heart of India, in all its glorious regional forms. Everybody has suggestions for what I should try, nobody listens when I plead that I have had enough (Bas, Bas, BAS!), and given the country’s chronic shortage of change I receive a small bar of chocolate with every transaction.

Food also lies at the heart of how I am processing my new home. In many respects, being a ardent fan of Indian food means I have a vague idea of what I am ordering. This seemingly simple process provides a reference point, something familiar alongside the host of new activities I am attempting to embrace. For example, when I went to see the latest Bollywood movie, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, I was worried about committing to a three hour non-subtitled movie with my knowledge of thirty Hindi words. But as I munched away on my paneer puff (yes, they have this cheesy goodness in movie theaters!), I knew I was in for a pleasurable evening.

Interestingly, it has also been in the eating process where culture shock creeps up, perhaps because it is an activity I have to perform at least three times a day. Awkwardness abounds from figuring out what to do with finger bowls for the first time to identifying which of the six dishes is sweet, all emotions intensified as people stare at my every move.

A few days ago, Indira and Maya took me to the house warming ceremony of a friend. After we blessed ourselves, toured the entire house, and tested all the mattresses, we return to talk to the owners. Suddenly, a child approaches me with a tray of offerings. Everybody is taking a piece, so I follow suit. I excitedly grab one of the pieces, wondering about its flavor. The dark brown treat could be a host of delicious flavors, but I am betting on mango. I eagerly bring the sweet to my mouth, but in the process of opening my mouth, I happen to glance around. I stop with the sweet halfway in my mouth, frozen with embarrassment as I realize nobody else is eating. Maya and Indira are just holding the small mound in their hand. I quickly take the “sweet” out of my mouth and look around to see if people are waiting to eat because they are talking or if I am about to eat some ceremonial wax. Several moments later, I realize it is the former. I laugh and wonder what mango wax would taste like.


 Sporting pants fit for eating with Maya and Pratima

Posted By Andra Bosneag

Posted Jun 6th, 2013

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