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Shaheb Cafe

These Guys

by on Jan.10, 2017, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

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A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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The Sharma Handicrafts Guys.

Great story here about how I finally scored a hookah with my name on it after multiple letdowns in Kolkata, Varanasi and Lucknow. The short version – these guys in Delhi at Sharma Handicrafts were the bomb and we made a good deal on my last day thanks largely to shrewdness and translation help from my cousin.

I’ll have to post a photo of this 42″ stunning work of art, black with polished brass inlays in the Moradabad (ancient Muslim city) style. The owner stuck by his product, bargained fairly and gave me his card and said if there were any problems to come back and see him.

As soon as I left with hookah in hand and turned to take a pic of the shop he came out and posed without waiting to be asked. Then his two assistants trailed out one by one and struck poses on either side of him (they must have been a rock band in a previous career given how they naturally fell in line as though posing for an album cover).

I promised them I’d give the shop a plug online so here it is. If you’re ever in Delhi and looking for a brass shop, head to Sharma Handicrafts, Janpath Market, Stall 6. Tell them the saheb who bought the big black hookah sent you.

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Mr. Sharma’s business card.

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A Hindu-Appalachian Christmas in the City of Brotherly Love

by on Dec.23, 2015, under Pophood, Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro

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A Shaheb’s Guide to India

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How a simple father-son craft project became a global, epic diorama

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Five years ago this month my wife Bidisha and I got married a full Hindu wedding in India. Four years ago our son was born.

This past Thanksgiving while carving the turkey at our Philadelphia home I got to the bone that my granny from rural southwestern Virginia used to save and make into a turkey bone Santa sled decoration at Christmastime every so often. It’s a morbid Appalachian thing, you wouldn’t understand. In a fit of nostalgia I decided I’d give it a whirl and introduce my young son to a part of his cultural history.

To make sure I was really remembering correctly I Googled “turkey bone sled” and one of the first things that came up was someone’s Pinterest page about turkey bone sleds with the header, “My granny made these.” Yep, I was on the right track.

The schematic.

The schematic.

My son and I often do multi-stage, multi-day art projects so I told him we were going to embark on this “small” project. I’m thinking the whole thing will be five or six inches long with a couple of ceremonial reindeer pulling it but he insists that it be the full 9 reindeer, and that there be a full moon, and a Pleiades star cluster (the Seven Sisters), Aldebaran (the brightest star in the constellation Taurus and one of the bull’s eyes), a small pine tree like the one we have in a planter outside our house, and our street sign, and snow on the ground, and hovering in the sky above Santa there should be Kartik. Without missing a beat I told him fine but that he’d need to design it on paper first so we’d know exactly what we were making and not leave anything out.

Kartik? That would be the Hindu god Kartik, less famous brother of Ganesh. Kartik is the Pete Best of major goddess Durga’s children. I later learned it’s impossible to find an altar figurine of just Kartik alone, so I convinced him instead to  CONT’D at medium.com>>

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A Magical Child

by on Feb.07, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

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A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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A talented young street magician I shot in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India after she approached us shouting “Magic? Magic?”  My 3-year-old son has recently discovered magic so we gave her the nod. She dropped to the ground, emptied the contents of her bag and went to town. Soon a small crowd formed to watch.  My son’s mind was blown, especially when she made money disappear from my wife’s hand and come out of my son’s ear and nose.  I am extremely envious of her sleight of hand skills.  Apologies for the wind noise.

 

I realize there is perhaps, potentially, a darker side to this, like where are her parents? I didn’t see them, but I didn’t see a Fagin lurking about (continue reading…)

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Remnants of Jewish Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

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A Shaheb’s Guide to India

shaheb – (India; also saheb, sahib; from the Hindi and Urdu sāhab, master; from Arabic ṣāḥib, companion; participle of ṣaḥiba, to become friends) 
1. formerly, a term of respect for any  male landowner
2. formerly, a term of respect for white European men during the British colonial era
3. (modern) any white man
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Temple Beth-El built in 1856.

Kolkata’s oldest synagogue, Beth-El, built in 1856.

There only 25 Jews left in Kolkata but three large, old synagogues speak to their former vast numbers. They were Baghdadi Jews from the Middle East. Getting into these synagogues as an outsider is no easy feat. The Kolkata cabbies haven’t a clue nor do most native Kolkatans you ask.

You have to go to a certain bakery on the first floor of the historic New Market bazaar, get a phone number and call it, speak to a certain Jewish woman who’ll give you directions, then you go to the sites and mention her name to the groundskeepers so they know you’re legit, then they let you inside where you must be accompanied by a guide at all times. Suggested donation is 100 rupees (about $2.00).  I jumped through all of these hoops and it was well worth it.

We first step inside the Magen David (slideshow) synagogue built in 1884 and the guide, a slight Indian in his 30′s with a boyish face, sticks a yarmulke on my head. He barely speaks English. I barely speak Bangla. It goes like this: (continue reading…)

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Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.31, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

Next door to the Magen David Synagogue is the “Old Synagogue,” official name Neveh Shalome. In 1825 a house was bought on this site and made into Kolkata’s first synagogue. It was demolished and rebuilt as the present one in 1911.

Full story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015–>>

(continue reading…)

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The Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata

by on Jan.30, 2015, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

The Magen David synagogue built in 1884.

The Magen David synagogue built in 1884.

Full accompanying story here on Kolkata’s handful of remaining Baghdadi Jews. Photos taken January, 2015.

Magen David
Magen David
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Magen David main entrance
Magen David main entrance
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Looking up at the ladies' gallery
Looking up at the ladies' gallery
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View from the ladies' gallery
View from the ladies' gallery
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Ladies' gallery
Ladies' gallery
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My Muslim guide
My Muslim guide
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“Nightmare”

by on Dec.06, 2014, under NYC, On the Road, Shaheb Cafe, The Press

indiaabroad“Soon after I took a seat all hell broke loose.”  

Har har, I sent a news tip to India Abroad about a debacle in the New York visa office run by Cox & Kings and they instead ran it as a full page piece with the header “Nightmare.” I know some of you will feel my pain.

London-based Cox & Kings is one of the world’s oldest travel agencies and has offices around the world.  Increasingly India and other countries outsource their entire visa application process to companies like this one, with results that are often a Kafkaesque exercise in frustration but on my final visit — it took me a record 4 visits to New York from Philly to get mine and my family’s visas approved — I watched a near-riot ensue.

Obviously there are larger issues in the world to complain about (to wit, this week’s cover story pictured above) but chronic problems with Cox & Kings have been an ongoing saga in this paper, so perhaps my recent tirade will help in some small way with the many thousands of people who travel from the US to India each year.  Here’s to the power of the press.

Full article here>>

To add insult to injury, I got outta there with visa in hand and made the long trek back to Philly, but the next morning they sent me an email telling me my visa was ready and had been Fedexed to me! They even included a tracking number!  I thought maybe it would be one of the many lost passports they’re notorious for but fortunately nothing ever arrived.

 

 

 

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Finally. Relief for my sweat itch-induced intertrigo.

by on Aug.14, 2014, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

“Relieves sweat itch due to intertrigo.”

When it comes to humidity-induced itching, a monsoon country like India don’t mess around when it comes to quick, potent, no-nonsense remedies.

I'm not even gonna ask about "dhobi itch."

I ain’t even gonna ask about “dhobi itch.”

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Om My

by on May.05, 2014, under Shaheb Cafe, The Sixth Boro

[NEWS FLASH: Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS is coming to NYC! 3 shows only, February 2015. Details here.]

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Jeffrey Stanley, 2014 Broad Street Ten Miler, Philadelphia, PABroad Street 10-Miler
Philadelphia, PA
5/4/14

2012 – 10:13 minute mile.

2013 – 9:39 minute mile.

2014 – 9:08 minute mile.

8-minute mile, I’m coming for you.

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Yoga Declared Satanic

by on Jan.06, 2014, under Shaheb Cafe, The Truth Is In Here

Pope Francis is rumored to have performed an exorcism during a Mass in St Peter’s Square last May. [Photo via telegraph.co.uk.]

Beware, yoga practitioners:  your sun salutations and downward dogs might lead to harder things . . . like Hinduism.  Father Francesco Bamonte, who heads the Italy-based International Association of Exorcists, warns the world that yoga is a gateway to demonic possession. More in the London Telegraph‘s recent article,  ‘Rise of Exorcists in the Catholic Church‘, in which we learn the Vatican has launched a program to train a global strike force of devil exterminators.

Don’t worry, you can always do Christ-centered stretching from now on to out-maneuver Beelzebub, like the kind offered at Christ Centered Yoga in Norcross, GA or Yahweh Yoga in Chandler, AZ.

I for one am eagerly awaiting Christ-centered Kama Sutra classes.

 

 

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