Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Moment of clarity -- That legendary pot of gold

"A few times in my life I have had moments of absolute clarity

When, for a few brief seconds, the silence drowns out the noise

I can feel rather than think

and things seem so sharp.

And the world, seem so fresh, as though it had all just come into existence.

I can never make these moments last -- 

I cling to them, but like everything, they fade.

I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present. 

And I realize, that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be."

"It fills me up. And it starts to shine. And I see it burn when you bring me sunlight"

Caught stumbling upon a moment of clarity. That legendary pot of gold.
Lisboa, Portugal. January 2016.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

All we need, to seize the sorrow

You tell me of a place you like to go
You say it will reach out and seize the sorrow

Come on... Let's go.  We're all we need, darling.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Culture of India in Communication and Politics -- An informal guide

I will present at the Center for Foreign Policy Studies, National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. The audience is a group of MA graduate students, many of whom are would-be diplomats.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Globalization in the Shadows: Smuggling and India-Pakistan trade normalization since 2011

I presented another empirical chapter of my dissertation research at Northwestern University's Comparative-Historical Social Science Program in Evanston, IL, USA.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Security First: Trade suppression in the India-Pakistan rivalry, 1947 to 1955

I presented an empirical chapter of my dissertation research at Northwestern University's Comparative-Historical Social Science Program in Evanston, IL, USA.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Media Underreporting as a Barrier to India-Pakistan Trade Normalization

My newly published article: 

Media Underreporting as a Barrier to India-Pakistan Trade Normalization: Quantitative analysis of newsprint dailies 

At the moment this is a Working Paper for the Indian Council for International Economic Relations (ICRIER). The timing of this release is intended to coincide with the upcoming 18th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Kathmandu, Nepal. This article will subsequently be published by Springer Verlag.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

poetry: warmth of our love

My love and your touch,
Up above, made with the warmth of our --
Our love

lyrics adapted from "My Love" by Route 94 featuring Jess Glynne 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

poetry: get your sticky fingers out of my head

We painted the picture you want
I wanted it too
But now there’s something that I
Would like you to do

Get your sticky fingers out of my head. 

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for
The chance to dream and then explore
But your elegant dinosaur limbs
Are still willfully bruising my skin

Get your sticky fingers out of my head

Sunday, June 1, 2014

poetry: loved and lost

You know I’ve been hurt 
by someone else.
You can tell 
by the way I carry myself.

If you let me, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll take care of you.

We've loved and we've lost. 

lyrics adapted from Drake feature Rihanna in Take Over (2012)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Security in South Asia, dining with our undergraduates

I have been serving as teaching assistant for an undergraduate course on Security in South Asia at Northwestern University, taught by guest scholar Sumit Ganguly, Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations in Political Science and Director of the Center on American and Global Security, at Indiana University. This opportunity came my way following 9 months of field research in India, Pakistan, and Dubai for my own dissertation research which explores security and economics in the region -- how fitting! Course topics include 1947 partition, Kashmir, the Cold War, Bangladeshi independence, and Sri Lankan civil war. 

In real-time, India elected BJP's Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and commentary by our Professor Ganguly was solicited by world media, including BBC and PBS Newshour.

Professor Ganguly treated us to dinner, and I was struck by how vastly multicultural our group is in the South Asian multinational sense. Pictured below beginning from the lower-left-hand-corner and moving clockwise, the cultural backgrounds are Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi (myself), Andhra (or, Telegu), Gupta (still unsure how to place this), and Kashmiri -- wow! One student was missing from dinner and he is Parsi -- man, that would have been kick ass!!

We dined at Mysore Woodlands in Chicago's famous South Asian neighborhood dubbed 'Devon & Clark'.  Dessert was faloodas and then paan at the Bombay-inspired Patel's Cafe. We wrapped up the evening with grocery shopping at Patel Brothers for chutneys, rusk cake for dipping in hot masala chai, frozen paranthas, and digestive candied saunf. Click here for Chicago Mag's Guide to Devon Avenue.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


music to experience...

  2014 Spring: Green Mill Jazz Club, with Pat Mallinger Quarter featuring Bill Carrothers 

 2013 Summer: graduate school in Chicago requires some gritty blues music at the B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted club, open every night since 1979

2013 Summer: extended research work at the US National Archives in Washington DC beget endless pitchers of sangria at the weekly Jazz in the Sculpture Garden 

2013 Summer: during an extended research visit at Stanford University I frequented San Francisco for the sweet culture and spicy fun, including Shitty Shitty Band Band at the Make-Out Room in the Mission District

Spring 2013: a friend from Toronto visited me for a weekend of "stockings down... gin... buckle shoes... aspirin... and all that jazz!" at the infamous Green Mill Jazz Bar in Chicago -- Al Capone's old hangout

2011 Summer: nostalgia, as Thievery Corporation performed at the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago

2011 Summer: a friend who is a film maker brought me to experimental jazz at Multikulti in the Wicker Park area of Chicago

2010 Fall: friend and fellow PhD student performs at Jai Ho!, a queer Indian monthly at Big Chicks in Chicago

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Partners in Crime: How Smugglers Unite India and Pakistan

"Smuggling is typically thought of as a vice, but in the context of India-Pakistan relations, it has become a virtue..."

Read more of my Foreign Affairs article, Partners in Crime: How Smugglers Unite India and Pakistan.

Friday, February 21, 2014

bed count: 36

during my year-and-a-half of research travel, I am tracking each bed I crash on -- pictured below beginning with my most recent digs.  my overall itinerary is:
  • until May 2013 - Chicago
  • June 2013 - Independence, Kansas City (Missouri)
  • July 2013 -  Palo Alto, San Francisco (California)
  • August 2013 - Washington DC, Toronto, Chicago
  • September to March 2013 - New Delhi
  • October 2013 - Karachi
  • November 2013 -  Chandigarh
  • December 2013 - Amritsar, Chennai
  • February 2014 - Dubai (UAE), Saida and Beirut (Lebanon)
  • April 2014 - Chicago (back home!)
April 2014 in Chicago: The research tour has come to a close, and I've ornamented my new flat with memorabilia from my travels -- a face mask of India's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a conch-shell hanging collected from the Tibetan Market in Delhi, evil-eye truck signs painted on tin sheeting, a plastic toy of Lord Hanuman flying along with a life-sized toy of Hanuman's sceptre, and evil-eye wooden prayer beads from Dubai. The architecture shot is of Chicago, which captures the brutalist-style corn cob towers, the modernist Mies Van Rohe tower, and the contemporary Trump Tower. 
Bed stat: Futon bed in a 1950s brick walk-up -- feels like home :)

February 2013 in the Saida and Beirut of Lebanon: I set aside a week for vacation in Lebanon, visiting a friend. His family resides in the hills of Saida. Aside from gazing at the country's beautiful landscape from mountain and valley to land sand sea, I enjoyed boatloads of homemade preserves fresh pita labneh cream cheese olive oil cucumbers olives mint chickpea stew cheese pies meat pies all pies.
Bed stat: A bit like college, in a home packed with rooms and each stacked with twin-sized beds.
February 2013 in the Jumeirah Park borough of Dubai: For a few nights I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend -- an oil rig engineer -- who resides in this new pocket of villas with his lovely wife and very articulate 5-year-old son.  Each villa is outfitted with identical pools and patio furniture. This is suburbia of the Middle East. The area is so new that taxi drivers do not know how to reach your address, nor how to get out.
Bed stat: Luxury. A giant queen-sized bed with down-filled pillows and duvet.
February 2013 in the Marina City borough of Dubai: My last leg of research interviews brought me to the wildly posh hub of trade, shopping, and finance -- Dubai!  I rented a bedroom via airbnb.com. My flat was very high-up, on the 61st floor of Sulafa Tower in Dubai's Marina City modeled after Vancouver's False Creek. My view overlooked the famed and artificial Palm Jumeirah Islands stretching out into the sea. To the left you could see the world's only six-star hotel -- the Burj Al Arab. 
  Bed stat: Two twin-sized beds with polyester bed sheets and cushion covers -- ahh the reality of airbnb. The satellite cable was chokful of Bollywood movie channels -- heaven.

January 2013 in the Green Park borough of New Delhi: Am currently writing a paper and so in an effort to keep myself productive, I tore myself out of my usual surroundings in Gurgaon and headed to my friend's place in Green Park. His flat is on the top floor of a four-story building with epics views of the surrounding greenery and markets.
Bed stat: Soft double-sized mattress outfitted with satin sheets and pillow cases which is surprisingly lovely for winter, but nonetheless obnoxious to have your pillow slide off the bed all night long.
December 2013 in Chennai: Took a short vacation from research work and spent five days in sweet sunny Chennai aka Madras to sip on Madras filter coffees, purchase Tamil goods at T Nagar market, off-road race along the Bay of Bengal, and ring in year 2014.
Bed stat: Hard double-sized foam mattress at an uber basic guest house in Anwarpet district, close to the Raintree Hotel.

December 2013 in Amritsar: Took a short break from research work and spent a day motorcycling through Amritsar's gulleys, dining on kulchas stuffed with paneer and chicken milai tikka.
Bed stat: Super firm foam in a neon-green room --  turn the lights off, please! Home is in Amritsar's Islamabad district, down a lane way with an abandoned mosque and thus dubbed the Masjid Wali Gulley. Muslims once inhabited this colony, prior to population exchange at partition in 1947; hence the Mughlai architecture on the doorway.

December 2013 in Amritsar: I visited here for research interviews at the Attari-Wagah border that divides India from Pakistan, and at the Punjab International Trade Expo aka PITEX
Bed stat: Queen-sized heavenly bed at the Best Western with service available to dry clean your kurta, turban, peticoat, and scandalous nighty.

November 2013 in Chandigarh: I was connected to a research centre here, the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, which has a cluster of scholars whose interests touch on my own area of Indo-Pakistani trade. I thus visited for some interviews and was subsequently invited to deliver a lecture.  And in between these scholarly activities I found plenty of time to roam around their epic gardens and rooftops.
Bed stat: double-bed with lofty ceilings across from the private suite of India's current Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh -- fab! 

October 2013 in Karachi, Pakistan: With my Bhai Jaan, his wife, and three really lovely children, my mummy and I played tons of cricket, Ludo, and ate at marvelous restaurants like Kolachi which appears to float on the Arabian Sea.  I also enjoyed about nine visits to the dessert parlor for Peshawari ice-cream – holy creamy milky yum.
Bed stat: single-bed next to my mom -- the best mother in the world for nursing me while I got over a horrible viral flu which I caught during my train ride from Delhi to Amritsar.

October 2013 in Gurgaon,  in the state of Haryana and satellite city of New Delhi: After a long night of dinner, partying, and post-party dining, we finally crashed -- thank goodness. Pictured here is the flat of an old-time friend I met when I lived in India during 2007 to 2009. The home is decorated with gorgeous oil paintings by his charming mom who prepared fluffy aromatic poha -- a grain of pressed rice, popular in western India.
Bed stat: double-bed, next to my friend, waking up to an epic view of Gurgaon's wide and open jungle fields -- soon to be checkered by high-rise condominiums.

October 2013 in the Rajouri Garden colony of New Delhi: Spent the weekend at my cousin's home in this Punjabi borough of West Delhi. We dined on homemade South Indian dosas and uttapam, then a punjabi spread of masala chicken with tandoori rotis for dinner, followed by saffron and cashew kulfi ice cream. The following day was South Indian rice cakes named idlis with sambar, and later Marathi style pav bhaji -- oh my gawd. The entire weekend was chokful of jokes with my handsome nephew and gorgeous niece with echoes of Narendra Modi's speech flooding the streets in this BJP stronghold.
Bed stat: Next to my brother-in-law and nephew, and the women in their own communal room (my cousin, niece, and mom).

September 2013 in the Kotla Mubarakpur colony of New Delhi: Crashed at a my Manipuri friends' flat in this predominantly Bihari borough of south Delhi.  Saturday night partying was followed by a blissfully lazy recovery on Sunday chokful of rooftop sun tanning among water tanks.     
Bed stat: Queen-sized bed in Delhi's heavy humidity with the clamor of brass bells and chants from a Hindu temple celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi.
September 2013 in the Sardarjung Enclave colony of New Delhi: Crashed at a friend's flat in this cosmopolitan and transnational borough, located in Delhi's posh southern wing.  While I lined up at the local grocer to buy a toothbrush, a scarfed Malay woman paid for her eggs, two Nigerian men stocked their basket with chips biscuits milk, and a Chinese man perused the magazine rack.  Spicy fragrances wafted in from the Nepalese momo-stand next door, and prayers emanating from the speakers of one of the colony's three Sikh gurudwaras (a.k.a. a Sikh temple) decorated the evening's humid air. 
Bed stat: Soft cushion on a queen-sized wood-carved bed purchased in Ludhiana, Punjab. Prior to crashing, I rinsed out the city's noisy grime from my t-shirt and hung it out to kiss the morning's sunrise.

September 2013 in the DLF Phase 4 colony of Gurgaon: This is my base in India, the first floor of a four-storey marble home in Gurgaon, which is a satellite city of New Delhi which hosts India's famed industrial investors and multinational firms.  Along with Noida (another satellite city of New Delhi), Gurgaon's glossy skyscrapers, acres-sized shopping malls, and ivory-colored residential condominiums are the physical manifestation of 'India rising'.
Bed stat: Double-sized thin foam cushion atop soft hardwood floors with the most luxurious view -- a backyard clad with tropical greenery, an absolute luxury in a city where property and indeed space is incredibly scarce.

September 2013 in C-Block of the Janak Puri colony in New Delhi: Stayed at my aunt's home which I've been visiting since I was seven years young.  Three generations reside here, down to my bright and handsome twin nephews who are preparing for exams and soon their college applications.  Janak Puri is reportedly the largest borough colony in Asia, and it is nestled within the predominantly Punjabi western wing of Delhi -- hence very loud intense aggressive.  Buttery paranthas prepared by my aunt and sister-in-law soften the blow of West Delhi's excitement.
Bed stat: Double-sized thin foam cushion next to my mom, with a fan and air conditioner running to beat Delhi's heavy humid dusty heat.

September 2013 aboard an Air India flight operating non-stop from Chicago to New Delhi: Blips of rest punctuated by vodka tonics, Bollywood films, and debates on India-Pakistan with the Sardar seated next to me (he was returning from Iowa to visit his family in Mussoorie, the famed hill station in the Uttrakhand state of India).  As I had predicted, I was prepared to jump flight once we reached the Afghani hinterlands.
Bed stat: Economy class

August 2013 in the Schaumburg borough of greater Chicagoland: Pops, brother and I boarded a train from downtown Chicago at Union Station towards the suburbs to visit relatives. There I crashed at my cousin's home where relatives gathered together for kebabs and chaat, followed by chapatas and masala goat along with board games aplenty; Jenga, Sorry, Carom Board, bean bag toss.
Bed stat: Stow-away twin-sized mattress in the recreation room of my nephews and nieces. 

August 2013 in the Streeterville borough of downtown Chicago: Crashed at my older brother's bachelor pad while I sorted last-minute visa and tax issues (and enjoyed amazing house music at Smart Bar) prior to leaving the Western Hemisphere for my year across Asia.  Brought along our father from Toronto (pictured above) to experience Chicago's jazz scene, blues clubs, and Mexican taquerias -- a.k.a. life beyond Chicago's tourist-infested downtown Loop area.
Bed stat: Designer sectional from Canadian firm EQ3.

August 2013 in the Columbia Heights borough of Washington DC: Stayed with a new friend, an American who spent some time living in Syria for NGO-work where he mandatorily acquired a poster of Bashar al-Assad which is now housed in this gorgeous apartment with classical American furnishings.
Bed stat: A four-poster bed made by my friend with purchases from Home Depot -- bad ass.

August 2013 at the Ivory Tower residence hall of George Washington University in Washington DC: I spent a week with a friend and fellow academic, a political science professor at the George Washington University who is currently polishing his book manuscript.  We stayed in his apartment nestled in the heart of campus and next to the US Department of State.
Bed stat: Air-mattress surrounded by chachkis from Bulgaria and Egypt. 

August 2013 in the Round Hill suburb of Virginia: I spent the weekend with my cousin, sister-in-law, three nieces, and nephew at their home in Roundhill, which weaves together a golf course, country club, beautiful homes with manicured lawns, and an epic sunrise.
Bed stat: Twin-sized hand-me-down bed in my cousin's bachelor-pad'ish-basement adorned with collections of all varieties ranging from coffee mugs to knives (the least lethal of which is a macheti)

August 2013 in the Rockville suburb of Maryland: After hopping from house music at Tropicali to dancehall and reggae at Patty Boom Boom and then late-night brunch at Annie's -- all in Washington DC -- I sought respite from all urban hullabaloo at my friend's condominium in the neighboring state of Maryland. 
Bed stat: Leather couch overlooking shopping malls, a Mormon Temple of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Washington DC National Monument visible in the far far distance.
August 2013 in the Severna Park suburb of Maryland: Spent the weekend with my cousin, brother-in-law, and two nieces.  Visited a hipster patch of Baltimore known as Hampden and rode rollercoasters at Six Flags Amusement Park.  Punctuated by chicken tikka masala on day one, Madhur Jaffrey's roast coriander chicken on day two, and tandoori chicken on day three.
Bed stat: My niece's king-sized bed surrounded by pop culture paraphernalia, including portraits of Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, a reprint of Salvador Dali, and a poster illustration of Clockwork Orange (1971).

July 2013 in the Chinatown borough of Washington DC: Crashed at the condominium of a newly made friend, a graduate student in accounting and avid party-hopper -- an afternoon at the Fringe theater festival to an evening at DC's Jazz in the Garden to a hookah party at his place to a night of house music at Tropicali club on U Street.
Bed stat: Double-bed overlooking an alleyway of the city's remains -- high-rise living.

July 2013 in the Mount Pleasant borough of Washington DC: Crashing at a friend-of-a-friend-turn-friend, a lawyer for a public interest firm.
Bed stat: My first official couch on this couch-surfing tour -- burgundy with great cushioning, a pillow fills the crack which hits my lower back, facing stacks of art painted by my friend's Bubbe.

July 2013 in the South of Market Area (SoMA) of San Francisco, California: Crashed at the City Centre Hotel for a night to hang out with a friend-of-a-friend visiting from Mexico City.
Bed stat: Allegedly an eco-friendly hotel, though nothing was particularly green except for the decor.

July 2013 in Fremont, California: Crashing at my Aunt's mountain-top home nestled in Mission Peak, while I do research work at Stanford University.
Bed stat: Twin-sized bed outfitted with a headboard stocked with my cousin's teen-aged remains -- CliffsNotes to Homer's The Iliad, a bottle of Versace Green Jeans Man, and an elementary school portrait.

July 2013 in the Mission District of San Francisco, California: Crashing with a new friend and local rug designer.
Bed stat: King size bed surrounded by eclectic mix of symbolist, mid-century modern, and mod furnishings.

July 2013 in the Mission District of San Francisco, California: Crashing with a fellow Canadian and Bay Area hypnotherapist.
Bed stat: Foam on a jute rug, facing idolatry of Mother Mary, Saint Francis, a Mexican sugar skull, and Nataraja -- naming a few.
July 2013 in Sacramento, California: Crashing with a former classmate from Oxford University.
Bed stat: Air mattress and a shelf stacked with fiction -- I'll be reading Maximum City: Bombay lost and found by Suketu Mehta 

July 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri: Lofty dreams in the Rivermarket borough of Kay See Em Oh! (i.e. KCMO Kansas City Missouri)
Bed stat: Climb 15 feet towards your destination.  

June 2013 in Independence, Missouri: Christian living. Extended stay at the Higher Ground Hotel in this town of Latter Day Saints while I do research work at the Harry S. Truman Library Institute
Bed stat: Fluffy pillows and duvet intact with nightly prayer card.  Aaauuummmmm~

June 2013 in Chicago, Illinois: One-night stand. After exiting my Chicago apartment, I crashed at my classmate's flat the night before flying out.
Bed stat: Air mattress couched beside a dining table.

June 2013 in Chicago, Illinois: Moving out and moving up! 20 furniture pieces sold in 48 hours, including bedside tables, lamps, mattress.
Bed stat: Air mattress on warm wood floors. living light is the new chic -- I mean that. 

up to May 2013 in Chicago, Illinois: Home is a state of mind, this I remind myself as I exit my apartment of the last three years. Limited edition silk-screen prints of Norval Morriseau's shamanic paintings hang in the far left and a pair of landscapes of oil on canvas painted by Chinese artist Allen adorn the right-hand side of the space. Much of the furniture was purchased from the Brown Elephant shop in the Andersonville borough of Chicago, whose proceeds fund research on HIV/AIDS.
Bed stat: Futon mattress stacked on a Serta mattress and box spring -- heaven.

the last time I pursued extended travel, I totaled 33 beds over six months. "The best bedside view was offered from the window beside my bed in the sleeper class cart aboard a train. The landscape was decorated with patches of neon green mustard fields and, later, an orange sunset that illuminated silhouettes of palm trees" (see http://winstoninwonderland.blogspot.com/2009/04/my-india-2009.html ).

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

letters burning by my bed for you (poetry)

Hey now, letters burning by my bed for you
Hey now, I can feel my instincts here for you, hey now
By my bed for you, hey now, hey now

Bye :)

lyrics by London Grammar Hey Now

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reporting on Guns versus Butter: Underreporting as an informational barrier to India-Pakistan trade?

I presented a research paper on media coverage of India-Pakistan trade, at a conference in New Delhi put on by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). The venue was their 2nd Annual Conference on Normalizing India Pakistan Trade on January 1st, 2014, at the India Habitat Centre. Enjoy video footage of my presentation:

The question and answer period got somewhat heated: Annual Conference on Normalizing India-Pakistan Trade Part 33

Coffee in a Chai Nation: Delhi to Chennai

 wall poster at Chaayos chai cafe in Gurgaon, India; photographed by me
I hail from cities that are coffee-obsessed – Toronto, Ottawa, Oxford (less coffee, more tea admittedly), and Chicago. These origins explain why coffee punctuates my every day rather than tea. Living in India for extended research work has thus meant a huge sacrifice, because the coffee here -- in this Chai Nation -- generally sucks. So that has implied I simply shift to chai, which has been no less wonderful with which to wake up, work and ponder, and of course gab with friends both old and new.  Coffee has nonetheless etched its way into my stay in India, and here I will talk about three cups of Madras filter coffee that have been particularly special.

Coffee and function

Coffee cleans out my pipes each morning. Coffee is synonymous with break-time during the work day. And coffee helps me burn the midnight oil to meet deadlines or realize eureka moments. Coffee is also a companion, sometimes an accessory (an accessory, yes; see Starbucks littered throughout the Devil Wear Prada), and frequently a security blanket for enjoying the company of yourself in public (because hanging out with yourself begs some form of consumption – for better or worse -- such as listening to music, reading, or drinking coffee). 

courtesy of http://seenheardknown.com

Most significantly, coffee is that bonfire over which ideas are exchanged that lead to new ventures, and over which bonds are formed between new friends and lovers. Coffee is thusly featured in an episode of my beloved food history documentary series, the Supersizers Go… Restoration.

courtesy of ctchannel.wordpress.com

My coffee origins

I was born and raised in Toronto which is swimming with its dirt cheap Tim Hortons chain, though I much prefer organic offerings that are admittedly pricier such as Jet Fuel in Cabbagetown and Bulldog Coffee in the Gay Village. While working in Ottawa, Bridgehead was my main squeeze. The coffee I had while studying in Oxford was not terribly extraordinary beyond the UK’s chain Costa Coffee, and I tended to fancy tea far more and especially for special occasions at the Grand Café and at The Rose. Where I am currently based in Chicago, there is a chockfull of cafes that range from the all-American chain Dunkin' Donuts, to local chains such as Metropolis and Intelligentsia, to independent joints like the former Stella Espresso-turn-Ellipsis near to my old apartment in the Rogers Park borough. 

left is Jet Fuel Coffee Shop in the Toronto village of Cabbagetown; right is Ellipsis Coffee House is the Chicago borough of Rogers Park

I must give a brief shout-out to coffee in San Francisco because though I don’t hail from this city in any way, my memories of Philz Coffee always remain bright and pungent from when I was introduced to them six years ago in 2008.

photographed by me in Summer 2008 at Philz Coffee in San Francisco in the Mission District
Coffee in India

Coffee in India is weak or too bitter, frequently warm rather than hot, and rarely ever brewed from freshly ground coffee beans let alone from organic beans. Café Coffee Day (aka CCD) and Barista both suck. This explains why 90% of the beverage menus at these aforementioned chains are not coffee and instead are sugary and milky items like shakes, akin to Indian tea aka desi chai. 

India Coffee House offers delicious treats such as ground spiced mutton lamb wrapped in a crispy South Indian dosa pancake, and their coffee is the last item on their menu you should order....
mutton dosa, egg uttapam, cheese omelette, cold coffees, milk roohafzas at the worker co-operative  India Coffee House in Chandigarh; photographed by me
Instead of coffee, chai is the lifeblood of India and of the greater South Asian subcontinent which the Chaiwallahs of India are documenting with great fervor and celebration...
courtesy of Times of India

My main squeeze in Delhi is Chaayos, which boasts over 4,000 ‘experiments with chai’ and where I have made wonderful connections such as with the founder of the Cause Kitchen nonprofit where I currently volunteer...
entry door at Chaayos chai cafe in Gurgaon, India; photographed by me

Koffee with Karan

During my 2013 and 2014 in India, coffee has nonetheless been a part of at least three memorable moments and connections. I hope these stories tickle your fancy somewhat beyond the largely plastic exchanges among Bollywood glitterati on the coffee-centered talk show Koffee with Karan

Double Roti

courtesy of zomato.com
In India, I live in a satellite city of New Delhi known as Gurgaon. I stay near to the Galleria Market which has no shortage of fantastic eateries such as the Double Roti gourmet sandwich shop where the charming co-owner Japtej introduced me to Madras filter coffee. In addition to their decadent ‘illegal lamb burger’ and a Mediterranean sandwich stacked with grilled eggplant and zucchini and smeared with pesto (insert Yum), their filter coffee has become a favorite of mine. 

I suppose my enthusiasm for this incredibly well-curated shop became quite obvious since Japtej promptly invited me to join him on a trip to Chennai (aka Madras) to sample India’s delicious filter coffee in its most original forms.  And this lead to my first visit to India’s south where I drank Madras filter coffee along with mounds of delicious South Indian food...
Onion uttapam is the real treat at Murugan Idli Shop in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

... and shopped until I dropped in the boisterous T Nagar Market...
Shoppers' paradise is T Nagar in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

... and befriended shop owners of all varieties, from wig-sellers... 
Wig stall in Sathya Bazaar in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

...and barbers...
this barber shop is was so stunning and handsome, I wish I had hair on my head to get cut here -- Kerala Hair Dressers in Pondy Bazaar in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

...to flower-ladies and fruit-sellers...
fresh flowers & fresh fruit are a universal bazaar combo -- Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

...and coffee baristas (of course).
smiling coffee barista in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

V R Home Guest House

My lodging in Chennai was at the V R Home Guest House in the Anwarpet borough, where the owner regaled me with his numerous travel stories from Mumbai to New Delhi, to Jammu and Sri Nagar, to Hong Kong and Sydney, and Vancouver and Seattle, and it just never ended along with his delicious in-house Madras filter coffee. ‘Twas fantastic good morning chat to say the very least. I fell in love with it. 

good morning Madras filter coffee in Chennai (aka Madras); photographed by me

I expressed my enthusiasm for Madras filter coffee on social media by posting snaps on Instagram. A fellow Instagrammer commented with the question asking me what I do for a living, and it turns out that she is a journalist with my favorite Indian news daily, the Indian Express. Over a picture of a cup of coffee, we exchanged over 20 messages on Instagram. Another Instagrammer who read all this commented commented "If it was possible to like comments on instagram I'd have liked the bejeezus out of the above." All this has lead to a wonderful new connection.

chatting over Madras filter coffee served at Saravana Bhavan via Instagram
This connection was particularly wonderful in the context of a chat I was having on Facebook where a friend had gaffed about Instagram, describing it on his wall as narcissistic and ultimately futile. I disagreed and he asked rhetorically whether I had experienced meaningful interactions on Instagram. I responded that I have, yes, and pasted links to Instagram pictures with comments that amounted to interesting conversations and sometimes professional networking. He didn't say much in response to me, aside from some sneering remarks. Other friends on Facebook commented with stories such as “Thank you for this! … [with social media, I] connected with someone I would've never had the opportunity to, even found jobs. Every platform I use has provided something unique and/or made me more informative…  

p.s. I love all your Instagram pictures. They're making me fall in love with India all over again”.

~ tata :)