The world is full of magic patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. ~ W. B. Yeats
India gets under the skin.
The desert vistas of Rajasthan with its impressive palaces and forts tell a tale of ancient history and culture. The cities of Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur glitter with palaces, sparkling jewelry shops, buzzing tuk-tuks, fabrics and textiles, and bustling life on the streets.
In Chhatra Sagar, a canvas curtain is drawn up at daybreak. What was previously closed and cozy is now open to a world of birds and soft rosy light reflecting from the sky to the lake. Flocks of yellow-billed winged-creatures fly quietly in my view and settle gently on the water’s edge. It’s clear out and just light enough to see who’s coming by for their first drink of water. Wild boar families, a dule of doves, and a parade of peacocks enjoy their morning rituals in harmony.
We go bird watching with a scope, only to come back to a roaring evening fire at the campsite—it’s drinks and stories and stargazing time. A jeep safari takes us through cumin, fennel and chili fields to the nearby village of Khera Deo Garh, to enter into everyday life. The Krishna blue houses bring color to the dry, ochre ground, further amplified by the women in colorful saris carrying water in shiny vessels on their heads. Children do their times tables and recitation. We watch farmers, weavers, and potters dedicate themselves to their craft—-we are graciously welcomed.
Examine the hands of Amma, stirring a lemon rice—she’s also fond of gooseberry pickles. Our plate is loaded with various vegetarian dishes from their Brahmin kitchen and more flavors that thought possible to explode on the palate in one meal. Home cooking at its best.
The oldest chef at the hotel where we’re staying, a marble wonder in the middle of Lake Pichola, invites us into his kitchen and shows us how to make a crispy fried okra and mint chutney fish with almost childlike delight. Gravies steeped in garlic ginger paste, chili, turmeric and ghee give flavor to chicken korma, laal maas and a myriad of other succulent dishes.
The blue city of Jodhpur bustles with local markets and street food, not to mention some of the finest fabric houses. It’s impossible not to return home with a basketful of luxurious textiles of the finest threads.
Through our adventure we get a diverse look and experience from all walks of life and flavors. After all, that’s the purpose of the journey—getting to know the culture through food.
This tapestry of experiences seeps into my soul—infusing the senses and opening the heart in a way that influences me for the rest of my life. The next time I lick my fingers, I will remember the time I ate rice and dahl mixed with a bit of mint and coriander chutney with three fingers and the connection that was made in my primitive brain from touching fingers to lips in sophisticated company.
India feels, in every good way, slow. And magic.
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Author: Peggy Markel
Editor: Katarina Tavčar
Photo: Author’s own