◊ Dependence


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Dear mom,

You’re wrong. I wasn’t delusional about my ability to pack up and move to India on my own. I had a plan. But you offered to help and told me not to stress, and I let you pull a packing miracle because I knew you would.

And now here I am in India, pulling the same shit. I’m ready to depend on no one but myself and just as ready to depend 100% on others. There’s no other way.

My second day here, I took the local train during rush hour by myself to get to the Pracheen studio, my favorite place in Bombay. I knew the train, platform number and exit. But competing with flying elbows amidst hoards of frantic pushers and shovers was nothing I could have prepared for. I told a woman standing next to me that I needed to go to Masjid station, and she grabbed my arm and we ran together (elbows out).  The train doors opened and knocked out any sense control I had left in me. I shuffled my feet onto the ladies only car in sync with those of women sandwiching me on all sides. Half an hour later, as the train approached Masjid, someone put her hands on my shoulders and turned me towards the right side of the car. Another woman placed my hand on a rail near the exit.


And I reached Pracheen (image above) in one piece! It was heaven. I spent two days at the studio asking questions and watching the printers do their thing. And I somehow managed to keep my rupees in my pocket (don’t worry, Ill be back).

At home, I rely on people and systems – here, I don’t know the systems. I make self-guided plans with enthusiasm, and scratch them without regret when I’ve miscalculated. I planned to spend yesterday at a women’s craft workshop, and ended up with a new friend at an Alabama-mega-church-style Guru garden/museum/monument dedication. It was weird. But I eventually made it to the workshop.

I rely on people and I embrace independence at the same time. I could have packed up my life in DC all by myself. But I let you help me.


omg I love Indian kitchens


Preparing salads and dosai

When I arrived in Bombay, I steered my bags and Aditi’s home address towards the taxi station until I heard Aditi and her father calling my name. They waited at the airport for my delayed arrival and took me home. Aditi held my hand as we crossed streets, coordinated my cell phone plan, indulged my playtime in the kitchen with her mom and filled my water bottle before I knew it was empty over and over again. Aditi’s family took care of me, and I learned yum maharstrian recipes from her mom (she cooks just like you – doesn’t rely on exact measurements, uses tons of garlic, is open to new/weird things (like my special salad creations) and even uses a piece of granite as her cutting board like you!). Below are recipes for her Pudina (mint) Chutney and Pohe.

Please use the vitamix and enjoy!




PS. I want to tell you about all of the foods I’ve been eating here and brag about my intestines of steel (I figure I’ve already paid my dues to the intestine gods, but can you say another special prayer just in case?). Currently I’m sitting in a cafe facing a window… Outside, there’s a street-food vendor in a huddle of pani puri slurppers. Pani puri is my second favorite street food (followed by fresh cucumber with masala and lime). A puri is small fried cracker-bowl – pani puri is puri filled with potatoes and chick peas and spicy/tangy tamarind water. Pani puri balls are eaten in one bite – quickly, one after the other… crunchy and explosive. I want it.


Above: I went to an organic farmers market in Dharavi (Asia’s largest slum) where they had organic pani puri! I don’t believe it.


Basic Kande Pohe

  • Flattened Rice Pieces (can be found in Indian specialty market)
  • 2 tbs vegetable (or coconut) oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch cilantro (corriander leaves) destemmed and chopped
  • 1 (or 2 depending on taste) green chili, chopped
  • 1 bunch curry leaves, destemmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 potato, diced
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Fresh (or dry unsweetened) coconut for garnish


(Substitutions: If you don’t have access to an Indian market, you can substitute cracked wheat, rice, cream of wheat or vermicelli noodles for flattened rice pieces. Aditi’s mom often makes poha with cracked wheat, and adds cabbage and carrots for a heartier dish.)


Aditi’s mom created a coarse brush to spread oil onto her pans from pieces of coconut shell… perfect for making thin dosai. She claims it’s her own innovation.

Cover rice pieces with water and set aside. Heat oil on high heat in skillet and add mustard seeds. Cover skillet for one minute or until you hear the mustard seeds begin to pop (covering the skillet/pan is important – the mustard seeds will fly when they pop and can be very hot… remember the 1st time you tried cooking with mustard seeds, mom? You had seed burns on your neck!). Then, add cumin seeds and chopped onions. Cook until onions are translucent – about 4 minutes. Then, add half of the chopped cilantro (reserve other half for garnish), green chilis, curry leaves, tumeric, sugar and potato. Cover and cook for 3 – 5 minutes until potato is soft. Drain water from rice pieces and add to skillet along with lime juice and salt.  Cover and let cook for 5 -8 minutes stirring every 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 5 minutes. Garnish with coconut and cilantro.


Pohe is a signature Maharashtrian breakfast and snack, but is eaten all over India. It’s super easy to make, nutritious and filling. I remember eating pohe shoveled from a gigantic yellow mound on a trafficky street in Ahmedabad a year and a half ago, where vendors feed busy men rushing to their offices in the morning. Despite eating amongst the dust, gasoline fumes and constant honking, it was delish. But Aditi’s mom’s pohe blew me away. All of her ingredients were so fresh – she even grated coconut straight out of the shell. She makes Pohe every Sunday for breakfast. It’s easy to make and nutritious. Traditionally, when men visit homes to meet potential brides, the family serves pohe as a snack. Curry leaves pack iron and turmeric helps circulation.


Eating instant Pohe at 5am after a night out in Delhi


Pudina (Mint) Chutney


  • 2 bunches fresh mint (3 cups destemmed and flattened into cup)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (coriander leaf) (1 cup destemmed and flattened into cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 (or 1 or 2) green chilis
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • salt

Put all ingredients into food processor and puree until the ingredients are no longer recognizable. The end product should be a thick paste.


Pudina is usually eaten as a chutney to accompany partha (stuffed flatbread) and other dishes, but at Aditi’s house, I stirred Pudina chutney into a salad with cabbage, beets, carrots, sprouted mung beans, yogurt and lime. Another great way to eat pudina is with plain yogurt and a boiled potato (sounds weird, but it’s perfect I promise).

See where I’ve been:


Train station in South Bombay

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Organic greens at farmers market!


Falooda! It has chia!



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The walls are lined with blocks

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I had did an amazing bike tour of Havelis (old mansions) in Old Delhi… In the first minute of the tour, I almost crashed into a man carrying a skinned goat on his shoulder.


It’s been great reuniting with old friends… I went on a road trip with Tarini and her friends and we ended up at the Taj. Typical Sunday adventure..We tried (and mostly failed) to get some good poses in.

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Learning about craft from my guruji

3 thoughts on “◊ Dependence

  1. Dear Shaina,
    I am enormously impressed by your bravery and moved by your words. Everything about this lives and breathes India. It invokes this kind of deep familiar feeling in me that is warm curry and the scent of burning trash. I miss you and wish I was there. This version of India looks much cleaner, dare I say even — organic?!
    I can’t wait to continue reading your writing and viewing your photos. I’m so excited for what you are going to do there and hope to join you somewhere sometime in your travels.
    tons of love,

  2. Pingback: Passover Ideas From Both of Us | cross counter exchange

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