48 Hours is Never Enough

Dear reader, if at all possible please read while listening to a piece of music composed by A.R. Rahman.  If not possible, pretend.

Food carts at Kovalam at dusk.

Food carts at Kovalam at dusk.

I went to India for the weekend.  Yup, I said the weekend.  Even people in Dubai find that to be a surprising statement.  We boarded a flight at 3 am on Friday and landed back on Emirati soil on Sunday at noon.  It was a whirlwind.  A dream and at the same time an awakening.

Sometimes it seemed that I was as much of a tourist attraction as the palace.

Sometimes it seemed that I was as much of a tourist attraction as the palace.

I have a strong belief that we all have locations in this world that belong to us, or more properly stated, that we belong to…at least for a period of time.  Such as the way my Dad feels about his little town.  When he and my stepmother visited Osceola for the first time they knew that this rural town on the New York-Pennsylvania border was for them.  My friend, Leen says that when she’s in New York, she feels the city inside her.  She has yet to find that feeling again since she left NYC.

I arrived in India and knew that I had to come back.  Landed.  Walked out of the airport into a sea of brown faces and started planning my next trip.  The only other time I felt this was when I arrived in Salt Lake City a couple years ago.  I had never been to Utah.  I arrived.  Met with my mortgage broker and started looking at houses with my realtor.  The first night, after a scrumptious sushi dinner (which I didn’t even know was possible in Utah) I was driving down one of the Wasatch foothills and saw the night skyline stretch before me.   I started to cry and four days later signed the papers on my new house.

autorickshaw fixed backwater fixedelephantpalace graffiti fixed

Alright, enough of my warm and cozy feelings about India.  What did I actually do there?  I toured some palaces.  I visited a private museum.  I rode an elephant.  I took a boat ride in the backwater.  I watched the sunset on the beach at the southern-most tip of the country.  I smashed a coconut in a Hindu temple for Ganesh.

ganesh

Ghee roast dosas.

Ghee roast dosas.

And I ate.  A lot.  I’m not sure the last time I consumed so much food.  I thought I ate a lot when I was a guest in a home in Turkey, but that was nothing next to this stockpile of calories.  In the 48 hours I was in Kerala I ate nine meals.  Nine meals in two days.  My body is used to four meals in two days.  Seven meals were at home and consisted of multiple courses of chutneys, curries, yogurts, rice, vegetables and various breads.  Lunch and dinner was always followed by a mean dessert prepared by two wonderful women and served by our trusty Mohan.

kerala

The varied streets of Trivandrum.

The makings of Trivandrum.

Even though I’m a sucker for new, authentic experiences, the routine of sitting down for a meal is especially welcome when there is nothing in one’s surroundings that resembles anything even remotely familiar.  The streets, the houses, the people, the languages, the clothing – it was all pretty foreign to the likes of a sheltered American such as myself.  But, a meal?  Now, that I know how to do.

The first meal was a way to be introduced to the intricacies of dining when someone serves everything that touches your plate.  The second meal was a way to get to know our host and I can confidently say one of my new bffs (that’s “best friends forever” for those of you over the age of 40).  If conversation ever waned (which is a rare occurrence, after all we all know I’m not the shyest of people) we could discuss the preparation or ingredients in a certain local dish.

meals ready fixed

Food brought us to the table and started conversations about the origin of the ingredients and the sustainability of the production.  It led to conversations about cultural norms, stereotypes, religion and racial privilege (yes Mary, I’m discussing white privilege beyond the end of the semester).  It brought me into the kitchen in the wee hours of the morning to learn how to prepare dosas without the aid of one word of a common language.

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As I finish this post I am sitting in a Starbucks in Dubai listening to a song from the Indian movie Guru.  The melody makes me feel like I am speeding down the lively streets of Trivandrum as the three-wheeled taxis rush by and the horns blow continuously.  The words put me back in the lush green twisting backwater as the monsoon rain pours into the sides of the boat and soak my skirt.  People are all around me.  Ordering their frappuccinos, sipping their coffees, having their meetings.  But I can’t help the tears from falling down my cheeks.  Leaving India was like saying good-bye to a good friend.  It was like burying a beloved pet.  I can still feel India inside me.

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4 Comments

  1. Sara McNamee said,

    June 1, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I think you could finagle an extravagant and completely unfair career out of this stuff, like Anthony Bourdain. You’re such a wonderful BRAT, Darla.

    Since you included your thesis statement in your first blog, I have an idea of what you’re looking for and might want to do while your here. I’ll start compiling possible itinerary and talking to locals I know.
    Can’t wait to see you!!!!

  2. Danna said,

    June 2, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Totally awesome.

  3. Sarah said,

    June 2, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    yummmm! love you!

  4. Rima said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    You write beautifully…full of passion….makes me yearn to sit with you over a long meal and listen to all the details of your stories.
    Love you.


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