All posts by Lakshmi

Authentic Falafels at Mamoun’s in Greenwich Village

By Lakshmi:

Falafels – just the mention of this divine creation from the Middle East makes me salivate.  I have eaten Falafels in many lands….from the roadside stands of Athens to the small cafes in Istanbul to the little restaurants in Amsterdam.  And each place brings it own distinctive touch to the mouth-watering Falafel.

We had heard about Mamoun’s from friends, but what drew us in was the long line of customers waiting to get one of the cheapest yet satisfying meals in the city.  And Mamoun’s does not disappoint!

You could have a Falafel sandwich for under 5 bucks, a combo platter for under ten with Baba Ganouj and Hummus.  The place can barely hold 5-10 people but is packed to the rim most evenings.  After all, when you are a student and want a delicious hot meal, what better choice than digging into a hot Falafel sandwich that seems to hit a high note across all senses!!

Mamoun’s is located at 119 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012.  Phone:            212-674-8685

If you’d like to give them a try, please take a look at their menu at:

http://www.mamouns.com/menus-overview/

Caffe Reggio – A delightful place to linger in Greenwich Village

By Lakshmi:

Since Siddhi is attending school in NYC, our goal is to use this time to savor all that the city has to offer!  And since we are “Paupers without Travel”, NYC offers us the perfect smorgasbord of experiences.

One of our first finds is Cafe Reggio in Greenwich Village.  We ambled in there one evening to get a cup of cappuccino since the local Starbucks was closed.  The environment immediately took me  many lands away, reminding me of my coffee/dessert consumption sprees through the cafe houses in Vienna.

The red walls, the 16th century Italian artwork on the walls, the older furniture/benches with little alcoves (our favorite place to sit), all create for a very cosy environment, inviting you to linger over endless cups of coffee with the right company.

The crowd is a bohemian mix of artists and students, all engrossed in conversation while the food appears discretely and the service is excellent but not in-your-face.  The coffee is just perfect and the goodies from the old-fashioned pastry case make the right accompaniment.

We recently spent several hours over a leisurely breakfast, nothing fancy, just simple foods….the omlette and toast just right, the pancakes simple, and the total price tag for 3 – $30 – a bargain for NYC.

Caffe Reggio is a little jewel located at 119 MacDougal Street, New York, NY 10012.  Phone: (212) 475-9557

If you would like to get a peek at the place that served the first cappuccino in the US, click here:

http://www.cafereggio.com/Default.aspx

24,901 Miles A Second

By: Siddhi (written after a trip to Lhasa, Tibet in 2007) 

The globe spins, rotating effortlessly beneath the twirl of my fingertips. The blur of colors surge in a whirlpool motion, fascinating, but incoherent. 24, 901 miles flash before my eyes every few seconds.  I just saw the entire world twenty times in a single minute.

Our jeep rattled forward on the rugged, mountainous terrain of Lhasa– the sacred origin of Tibetan Buddhism. The landscape was a living still-life painting; the beauty I had only seen in museum art splattered on a canvas of reality. It was exactly how the travel books had described it – dreamy. My camera’s shutter snapped every few moments as I reveled in the sight.

That was until I saw the walking scarecrows. They were haggard, bent over rails of bone. They were emaciated, barefoot corpses with cloth satchels. They were children on their daily three-hour walk to school. Almost suddenly, the majestic beauty of the Himalayas was reduced to nothing but those languished faces. The yellow mustard fields, the snow-capped plateaus, the skies of white gold – everything felt hideously out of place. The earth our tires tread belonged to a class of peace-driven people who for generations worked to uphold their beliefs in karma and nonviolence. And these same people were now, in front of my own eyes, walking a deathly walk, only hoping that the Chinese soldiers that infested their land wouldn’t beat them to the ground.

I was numb. Somehow I managed to bring the camera to my eyes, and clicked.  This time, it wasn’t just a digital image I had saved onto a card, but a fresh wound in the flesh of my conscience, a permanent scar in my naivety.

One month after I returned home, mainstream news channels flashed with clips of violent Tibetan uprisings against Chinese soldiers. The families of those skeletal kids, who walked under blazing furnaces every day to be educated, were portrayed as the savages. They were greedy, selfish monsters that were unwilling to sacrifice personal freedoms for the “better good”.   I felt irascible desperation. I was there. I had seen through my viewfinder those same impoverished villages, living in raw fear.

The naked, poverty-stricken children selling flutes for food in the heart of Cambodia; the Chinese freedom of expression being squashed by the oppressive fist of communism; Thai citizens in constant limbo between life and death. Unlike most teenagers whose vista of the world is based on reported realities in the media, I have been fortunate enough to experience these global truths firsthand. From the moment the plane scrapes the runway, what I know about the world I live in is mutated, enlarged and ultimately diminished. The more I see, the more I realize I’ve seen nothing. Whether that’s a blessing or a curse, I don’t know, because my innocence is gone. I don’t believe things at face value anymore because I know there’s something beneath the surface.

I need to help tear down these walls. Countries have stories, people have stories; truth, that is subdued by bias and ignorance. These realities lurk beneath the filmy surfaces of the piles and piles of photographs I’ve taken over the years. Going back and looking at some of these pictures almost always unleashes that same feeling of discomfort and angst I felt when I saw that slanted view of Tibetan uprisings. With my camera, maybe I’ll be able to do a sliver of justice to the human condition. Before I can do anything though, I have to know.

The globe slows down, the mar of colors gradually forming a fluid image. But it’s still incoherent. I don’t see the familiar oceans, continents, islands- I see a vastly uncharted map, an enigma that I have yet to completely understand. Luckily, I’ve got a camera. And I’m only eighteen.