I had a traditional Indian lunch yesterday. I was lucky enough to be invited by Nitesh. I met him because I played the mule and carried a pair of trekking pants in my suitcase for him (but that’s another story). His housemate, Vikram, actually made the meal while Nitesh served as the host. Another student named Kim was there as was Usa, the woman who assists Sharath and does all the registration for KPJAYI. This was some serious company. I sat down and relaxed. Food started coming and so did conversation. The table was low and round, we sat on the floor. Everyone there is an experienced practitioner so the conversation turned to aches and pains as we crossed our legs to position our bodies on the cushions.
The moaning ends as we are each offered a cup of fresh juice: lemon, pomegranate, and papaya. Outrageously good. Plates of rice come first, a beautiful ring of sliced red and yellow pepper makes a circle around the mound finished with a lime and basil garnish. A small serving of sāmbar comes in another china cup then the familiar stainless steel serving tins arrive. They contain paratha, idli, homemade chutney, and a sautéed dish of potatoes and onions that would make your grandma cry.
All of a sudden I notice the room is silent. We are all smiling and eating. I notice everyone is eating with spoons. I pause. I have seen this in restaurants. Spoons, often served in pairs, are served with the food. The hand thing, does it seem old fashioned? Is it less hygienic? I wonder. Anyway, I too used a spoon but tore the bread with my hand.
There was more food than we could eat and I forced an idli in that probably shouldn’t have entered. It was unbelievable, a thick slightly salty fermented rice and lentil cake. Pour a little chutney on that pillow and good night Irene!
The tea came last. I said no thank you because it was too late for me to have tea but a beautiful cup was handed to me twice and I thought, why not? Sweets shaped like cherry bombs covered in silver foil accompanied the tea. They were stuffed with nuts and had red necklaces on. The sweets were dressed up because they came from a wedding, which brought up the subject of weddings and then videos and then we got to watch Nitesh’s wedding and see his beautiful family. There’s nothing as grand as an Indian meal, except maybe an Indian wedding.
The next thing we knew it was 5pm and time for chanting, so we rolled out and down the lane and it was simply another beautiful day in India. Thank you new friends.