The tyranny of CC. Often when I send an email to some organisation, every reply ends up having some new person added to the thread without any introduction on how they are involved in the conversation. Always reminds me of a zombie outbreak. It is probably unfair to the new person too - they are expected to go back an read the entire thread to get the context.
Some years back I found this interesting travel book on India written and illustrated by a Japanese stage designer Senoh Kappa. Even though I was not able to read much Japanese, I enjoyed looking at the sketches as they reminded me of my 1980s childhood living across India. I also likes his style of making observational sketches of daily life. I felt that the act of actually trying to draw what you see, helps US indulge more with the environment versus taking photographs. I gave away this book at a travel talk I hosted some year back. Yesterday while randomly browsing a bookstore in Osaka, I found this book again.
Bird’s eye view of the hotel room
Kappa obsevered every day objects in meticulous detail
An air conditioned cabin on the train
The ubiquitous lunch carrier
How to wear a saree
A family planning poster
There used to be many cold water vendors in the summer months. I used to wonder what they did in the winters. Also an “air” vendor for the bicycle riders.
One of my colleagues recently sent me a copy of the Chinese edition of “The Kappa Peeped India,” by Kappa Senoh, and I was fascinated by how this Japanese artist is capable of perceiving the world in his gossipy, narrative style, set off by a profusion of masterfully wrought sketches. He shows how our obsession with speed has compromised our ability to see the people and the nature. If our economists and policymakers could view the people and the environs as this Japanese gentleman, probably we need not grieve so much for what man has made of man, or nature.
While we were in a small alley off the main tourist neighbourhood in Osaka; we found an Uyghur restaurant. The Uyghurs are residents of Xinjiang, a Western province of China. Many years back, I had a friend from there. Those days I used to spend time in Chengdu. My friend was a double minority. She was a Kazakh from Xinjiang who was studying at the nationalities university in Chengdu. We would sometimes head to a Tibetan cafe for salty tea or buy naan from street vendors from Xinjiang and talk about her home for hours. Around the mid-2000s, she left China for higher studies, and we lost contact.
My friend’s home was the extreme North of Xinjiang, near where the borders of Russia, Kazakhstan and Xinjiang meet. Just look at the number of international borders that Xinjiang has. Kind of gives you an idea of how much the culture is influenced by and in turn influenced the neighbours.
Anyways back to the Uyghur cafe in Osaka. We ate the Xinjiang staple, the big pan chicken (大盘鸡, da pan ji) while the Uzbek singer Ziyoda’s rendition of Bollywood songs played in the background. If I had not defected to be a South East Asian, I would have perhaps become a Central Asian.
Ziyoda singing 1980s Indian disco hits. These songs remain popular in Russia and Central Asia.
This is one street food that I always look for when I am in Taiwan. The stinky tofu (臭豆腐 / chòudòufu) is fermented tofu. I still vividly remember the ”aroma”, the first time I encountered this dish in a back street in Shenzhen almost 20 years back. A street vendor was deep frying stinky tofu and there was a short queue of people waiting for their turn to grab the stuff. They are still sold by street vendors in China, Taiwan and once I even found it in Johor in Malaysia. I like the version where it is deep fried and garnished with some sauce and pickled vegetables.
One of my favorite eating places is a small shop that serves only one dish, the indian curry. The chef is from Japan. She moved to Vietnam to learn Vietnamese food and somewhere along the way got interested in Indian curry.
To find the place, head into the Japanese town of Saigon.