Tag Archives: New York Times

Discovering Judaism In India – Is That Possible?

By Lakshmi:

As a little girl growing up in India, we never once questioned the ability of multiple ethnicities to coexist in one land. I went to Catholic schools, my best friend was Muslim and my family doctor was Jewish.  While there were plenty of  Christians, Hindus and Muslims around, except for my family doctor and her holidays, our exposure to Judaism was  minimal.  And then there was a discovery.  The state where my parents hailed from (Kerala) housed India’s oldest synagogue and one of the oldest known Jewish communities.  And slowly the awareness settled in.  The first community arrived in India 2,500 years ago.  They settled in Cochin in the southern state of Kerala and gradually more settlers arrived spreading their wings to different parts of the country.  A few months ago, I was walking around in Pune in western India and noticed a large synagogue.  It was old and beautiful and I discovered that it was the largest one in Asia.  Suddenly the linkages between Judaism and India were appearing more commonly before my eyes…was it the awareness that I was developing or simply more interest on a rather forgotten community?

This morning, the New York Times carried a lovely piece on Passover in India.  It was a lovely read and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring our readers this little unknown slice of India.

“A Seder Spiced with Indian flavors” is a journey into how tradition and local cuisine have melded to create a one of a kind culture and history.


Conde Nast Traveller’s writing competition last year had a winner reporting on the “Jewish Settlements in India”. This is a lovely journey of visuals and words providing a sometimes sad/other times funny look at this community.


For those curious about how these synagogues might look like a world away, the following link provides beautiful photographs inside and outside some of these major places of worship.


If you happen to be in India and want to get a hands on orientation, here are a couple of tour companies offering specialized day trips.  Just reading the summaries gives you a peek into a far away world!



Have you visited any synagogues in India or know more about the local Jewish traditions?  We’d love to hear from you.


Three Travel Websites – A Boon for the Independent Traveler

By Lakshmi:

We were sitting around after dinner last night and the conversation veered to what our passions were outside our day jobs.  And everyone unanimously agreed that mine was travel.  I love to read travel magazines, newspapers, websites, tweets and track deals.  And when an article appears that caters to my sweet spot of technology meeting a much desired need or solving a travel problem, I am fixated.  And today’s NY Times article on three companies that offer offbeat tours was just a treasure trove of what the independent traveler yearns for.

The breed that we identify as independent travelers typically doesn’t like package tours.  We want to explore.  We don’t want to be just tourists, we want to dive into new experiences.  We don’t want to just take pictures around historic landmarks, we want to know interesting nuances from history that shaped a place or culture.

And these companies seem to be the perfect answer to the independent traveler’s needs.  I will disclose right away that before today I knew nothing about these companies, but I am positive that going forward I will experience each of these companies’ offerings.

In a nutshell, what each of these companies has set up is a network of locals who live and breathe a place, who know about its nuances, have years of experience in the history, can show you how to cook local specialties, etc who have signed up for a fee to be your private tour guide in their city for a specific activity.  Here’s a list of things that completely got me hooked and dreaming.

– Tour the red light district in Amsterdam with a former police officer

– Spend a day with a local in Istanbul, eating your way through town

– Spend two hours in London taking watercolor lessons

– Go on a running tour of Rome

And the list goes on…….and it is not expensive!

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have been in a place and said, “Wouldn’t it be perfect if I could have a local help ………….”  While I did see a number of high-end tours do precisely that, I did not see this need being met for the regular traveler who wants more.  And now we have not one, but four companies, some funded by some pretty heavy weight celebrities on this bandwagon.

So, without more verbiage from me, here are the sites to check out:




To read the NY Times article that brought these sites to my attention, click here:


And since we have not experienced any of them yet, if you have, we would love to hear about your experiences.

Here’s to happy local exploring!

Malmo Central Station – Creative Video Art on Display

By Lakshmi: (Updated September 15, 2014)

Who?  Anyone who is visiting Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city or is transiting through Malmo’s Central Station.

What? The video landscapes on display on the platform walls.

How? Malmo’s Central Station is centrally located to start or end all journeys into town.

Why?  I arrived early to catch a train from Malmo to Gothenburg and with lunch and a drink in tow decided to wait on the platform for the train.  And that’s when it caught my attention.  There was no train at the platform, but instead I saw a series of moving landscapes on the wall.  At first, it seemed a bit strange.  It was almost like I was sitting in a train watching the landscape pass by through the windows…except I was not on a train and yet had this visual illusion.  After overcoming my slightly confused state, I started recognizing some of the world landmarks on display.  Turns out that what I was witnessing was artiste Tania Ruiz Gutiérrez’s video installation intended to show waiting passengers visuals that they would see on train journeys around the world.   It is actually a very creative work of art which draws in the viewer, engages them and puts them in a frame of mind to enjoy their train journey.

I was surprised that soon after my return home from Sweden, the NY times featured my accidental discovery as a “to do” in Malmo.  Another fact I learnt from the same article is that you can take the train every day for five years and not repeat a scene displayed!  You can read more about this art installation at