one hundred and eight thousand words later…

The manuscript is finally finished. Ten months after I started writing it, three months after I quit my job to work on it full time, and two weeks after I locked myself in the spare bedroom for a marathon of fourteen-hour writing days, it is done.

The book is a humorous travel memoir of expat life in Delhi — an all-encompassing look at the city from the perspective of two New Yorkers who get to know Delhi even as the city changes before their eyes. The final manuscript is twelve chapters and 108,033 words long — and lest you think it’s 300 pages of long-winded babble, here’s the statistic I’m most pleased about: 55,969 words were cut in the writing and editing process.

If all goes well, it’ll be hitting stores in India at the in the summer of 2011, published by HarperCollins India. We’re still looking for our US and worldwide publishers — let us know if you have any contacts.

Until then, we’ll continue to post new essays this blog, of course, as well as our Twitter account. And make sure you send us your email address! We’ll make sure you get announcements, news, and invitations to the launch parties.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 5, which is about our favorite subject: food. Enjoy!

One item of mine that my coworkers would never want to share was the carrot sticks I’d snack on to avoid the temptation of pre-lunch raids into my tiffin. Sometimes I’d coerce my coworkers Anurag or Soumya into eating one by telling them that, “In America, it’s considered an insult to my ancestors if you refuse to eat my vegetables.” They’d reluctantly agree and then scrunch their faces as they chewed. “Who eats raw carrots?” they’d ask me.

But raw carrots genuinely tasted better in India; in fact, all fruits and vegetables did. In the States, fruits and vegetables are bred to meet Americans’ demand for unnatural perfection: consumers prize produce that looks uniform and shining as if they rolled off a factory floor, with taste as a secondary consideration. We have huge white onions weighing a pound each but bland enough to eat like apples, consummate pink tomatoes with flawless skin and tasteless flesh, and green peppers that form rows of identical spheres but taste indistinguishable from celery. In Indian vegetable markets, the imperfection of unmediated nature is on full display: the vegetables are smaller, uglier, and more frequently blemished than those in America, but they’re far more flavorful. The tomatoes may be splashed with green and yellow patches, but they crunch deliciously in a salad. The onions may be smaller than softballs, but no American onion was ever sharp enough to make me cry when I cut it. And even the everyday green peppers—called “capsicum” in the local markets—were so full of flavor as to almost taste spicy.


35 responses to “one hundred and eight thousand words later…

  1. and thank god for that! these days we are fighting against BT brinjal for that very reason! 🙂

  2. Congratulations. I want a signed copy please!

    Good luck!

  3. I will buy that book if it will be available internationally.

    Carrot stick eating Indians: The Indians respect other religious thoughts always 100%, even they are nice invented. I would hope that this kind of thinking would be spread over the world!

    Uniform veggies: See how far the marketing guys brought the US community – nobody seems even to know how the real things taste. Imagine how much food is thrown away daily, just because it does not fit in the picture of the food-marketing. btw: most of the food you get in India is organic grown due to lack of artificial fertilizers.

  4. All the Best for your Literary Career !!!

    Looking forward to reading it.


  5. Not to disparage your experience, but you just have to get out of the supermarkets to experience vegetables that taste good in the US. Farmer’s markets, for example.

  6. I think you did fine in India because a) you’re New Yorkers and b) you have a sense of humor. Can’t survive in India unless you’re as tough as a New Yorker or unless you have a sense of humor. Good luck with the book!

  7. This is so exciting! Congratulations on such a wonderful and well-deserved accomplishment.

    I can’t wait to read it once it reaches the US!

  8. Congratulations and I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

  9. Wow .. waiting for your book 🙂 ..

    .. glad to be a regular follower !!

  10. By the way, just wrote another blog, after getting inspired by Delhi mess:

  11. Cannot wait to read it. All the very best! Looking forward to it.

    And yes, you’re right about them onions 😛

  12. Congratulations. I’ll be looking for a copy.

    India and the US prove polar opposites on food (with reservation about farmer’s markets, as Eric said). How was food in other countries, like Singapore, from the perspective of taste vs. appearance?

    • Singapore has better supermarket food than the US — in the US you have to go to a farmer’s market to get decent produce. But it’s often hit or miss in Singapore, and we still haven’t found a good source for farm-fresh stuff. Still, on the whole, Singapore supermarkets beat US supermarkets by a long shot.

      To address Eric — we practically lived at the Farmers’ Markets in NYC. But unfortunately, most Americans don’t realize just how crappy regular supermarket produce is.

  13. Looking forward to reading it (and the followup – set in Singapore this time)!

  14. Excited for the book release. Would it be available in Central Europe? When can we expect the launch?

    A vegetable buying experience even in modern times is not a mere act of give and take a supply meets demand but creative fiction between two talents and an eye for picking out the right kind of vegetables. These have been honed by middle class women since ages taught by experience and tacit knowledge passed from generations.

    It is the buyer’s talent to negotiate, you would not believe the kind of arguments thrown to the vendor to reduce the price, you would not find them in “game theory” or other economic texts. It is the vendor’s talent to not let price go down and to ensure he is not left with the worst lot if every one picks the freshest, “bestest” of the lot. Try picking out fresh ladyfingers individually and face their wrath 😀

    • Don’t know about central Europe, but I sure hope so. India launch will probably be towards the end of the summer.

      Great description of the economics of vegetable buying! Wish I’d been able to put it so eloquently.

  15. hey…..i am lookin forward to this book….really am…..for i am looking forward to a fresh perspective of the life of expats…..
    the namesake by jhumpa lahiri was about bengali nris…..and frankly it did not appeal to me because she tried to sell a ” homemade chicken curry”…[;-)]
    really hope ur effort catches the public eye and imagination….

  16. You really mean to say that only over 55,000 words is enough to make a book of 300 pages? That’s terrific! Who are the publishers man! They are brilliant :)))

  17. just on principal and due to the glut of white man commenting on the quaint customs of the brown man (william dalrymple, countless blogs et al), i for one am NOT going to buy this book, when it does come out. Of course looking at your loyal blog readers, you will have no dearth of readers, but still a point however minor has been made. jai hind !

  18. @sam: If you know the principle please let me know too. Jai Hind.

  19. @Sam.. Dude have you read Dalrymple? Don’t think his books contain any commentary on the “brown” mans habits. They are rather a narrative of life in ancient India. I suspect and hope Jen and Daves book would be a narrative of life in contemporary India.

  20. @sam I don’t think it counts as a “glut” when the only book you cite was published back in 1994.

  21. I’m totally sympathetic to Sam and Dave. But the fact is that a Dave gets to turn his experiences of India into a book, cultural capital, and financial capital. Even more importantly, his perspective gets made into a book that will shape people’s ideas of India and its culture. How many brown people from India historically have gotten that sort of privilege and power historically? Far less than the long history of European commentators on the subcontinent. It’s not all your fault, delightful delhistrugglers, but you can’t undo the colonial history either. And you do, whether you know it or not, benefit from it. (Many Indians speaking English, the language of the colonial power, for a start…)

  22. Pingback: Dave and Jenny, Bollywood style « Our Delhi Struggle

  23. waiting for your Book.

  24. Wow! This is the second blog in two days by an expat living in Delhi, in which I have read about the flavor in vegetables and fruits in India that is not found here… and I completely agree with you!!! I moved to Chicago from Delhi 8 months ago, and I am still struggling with the bland food here – but the Indian spices keep me going!!! Can’t wait to read your book.. very very excited for you guys! I hope you enjoy your stay in Delhi, it’s truly an awesome place!

  25. “the vegetables are smaller, uglier, and more frequently blemished than those in America but they’re far more flavorful.”. I think in terms of looks, a foreigner would think the same of the regular Indian – smaller, uglier, and more frequently blemished, and as a concession – far more flavorful.

  26. @Everyone who has anything to say about the ‘glut’ – for starters I think Dave and Jenny’s take on Delhi has been a great lift me up for Delhi-ites coz it makes us realize the s**t we do and also appreciative of the sweet and really nice (amazingly :P) they say about Delhi — point to be noted my Mumbaikars – Delhi is really not THAT bad! 🙂

    Forget all the other white-man written stuff about Delhi..lets stay close to home and just review Khuswant Singh’s book on Delhi .. lacked good humor!

  27. Dear Jenny and Dave,

    I was interested to hear of your blog. I am writing an article for ASian Woman Magazine about white people who have adopted the Indian culture or become parto fthe indian culture. I would like to include your story as part of this article.

    Please let me know if you are interested.

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  32. Dave
    Hey sorry to be terse but can you inbox me once after seeing
    this, I have a business proposal to discuss with you if you are willing !!

  33. Pingback: are autos actually on the meter now? | Our Delhi Struggle

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