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February 16 through March 28, 2003 - Nantes, France to Fatehgarh, India
First, from the kitchen of Lars and Nirin, Nantes, France (south and west of Paris), where I visited from Feb. 16 to Feb. 25th.
(A note: if you are not a "foodie," don’t even bother to read this first part. Skip to the India section. If you do read this and are turned off by all that food and elegance, you will be happy to know that during my time in Nantes, while sipping champagne in private, in public I have been wearing Lars’ jacket with sleeves, six inches longer than my arms, all rolled up, and walking the tres chic streets of Nantes looking a lot like a bag lady. I include that image just for a little balance.)
It is ten a.m. Lars and I are sitting at the breakfast table, two candles throwing their flickering light onto two dozen red and purple tulips in a beautiful white Alto (a Finnish designer, I’m told) vase. I am eating a flaky, buttery croissant with homemade jams (orange, lingenberry, and apricot). I do not know why croissant in France are so much more exquisite than anywhere else in the world. Perhaps it is necessary to speak French while you are making them.
Now I am breaking pieces off of a crunchy chewy baguette (they need French as well) and eating them with cheeses……non-pasteurized rich-flavored camembert, a creamy brebis (sheep cheese), and appfenseller Swiss "two years old, very strong, flavorful, fruity and nutty," says Lars.
Nirin, a doctor, Lars’ partner, left two hours ago to go to the office. Lars and I are discussing what to do for the day. Nantes is a beautiful city on the Loire, not far from where the river empties into the Atlantic. The city is paved with cobblestones and the streets and alleys are lined with charming shops (if I were a shopper, I would be ecstatic), tons of restaurants, plazas, wonderful markets, and very civilized people. For several years now Nantes has been voted the best city in France to live in. From here you can drive through the Loire valley, walk on paths lined with ancient walls, wander through medieval villages, and pass among the fields that feed France. You can visit castles, sit on benches and look at the river, eat langoustine in the fishing villages in Brittany, dine in starred restaurants, stay in relais, stop for flaky-crusted pastries, see how sea salt is collected, and more. In only two hours you can be in Paris on a high-speed train. In five hours by car you can be in Biarritz or St. Tropez in the south. And, of course, you can eat incredible meals wherever you are …….from juicy sweet oysters and ocean fish on the coast to artichokes and endive from the markets or galettes (rye or buckwheat pancakes) wrapped around mushrooms, eggs, ham, and cheese down the street. Or you can go to one of the hundreds of incredible restaurants, mostly French but there’s also every ethnic you can think of. The French adore food.
A couple of days ago I got a great haircut with blonde highlights. At Lars’ suggestion, I am spiking a few hairs on the top of my head and I think I look very French. When Nirin came home, I asked him if I looked French. He said even if I were sitting silently at a table, wearing a simple black outfit with a silk scarf and jewelry bought locally, I could never pass for French. He said something about the enthusiastic look on my face. It’s true, when I’m happy, I don’t know how to hide it. Ennui is not something I do very well. Apparently it is very French.
Yesterday Nirin and I went to Pornic on the Atlantic coast, just south of where the Loire flows into the ocean. The Loire is the river that flows past all those fabulous castles and manoirs in the other direction ……..and through Nantes on its way to the Atlantic.
Pornic is a coastal fishing village filled with antique, boutique, and other shops (shopping is something else I don’t do well, so for the details, you will have to visit yourself…….it would be a great place in which to rent for the summer and much cheaper than the chic Provence) and tons of restaurants with mouth-watering fish menus that I couldn’t eat because we were there between two and seven when you cannot be hungry in France. The restaurants are closed. No one in the whole country is permitted to get hungry between two and seven. I finally found a fish store and bought some langoustine that I sat on a bench by the river and crudely ate with my fingers…….not something the French do. Fortunately, Nirin didn’t know anyone who passed by and his reputation was not sullied.
Since my arrival, food and George Bush have been our main topics of conversation. Every morning we turn on the news to see if the US has started the next war. I will say no more about George Bush, whom we (me, most of my e-mailers, the French, most of the world, most of you readers, and nearly everyone I know) all agree is the most dangerous man in the world at the moment.
But I will say lots more about food.
Glorious food. And nowhere is it more loved, appreciated, treasured than in the kitchen of Lars and Nirin. You remember them; they are the guys I met in Lombok when I was getting my scuba certification. Since then, we’ve eaten and traveled a lot together. We ate barracuda in Lomboc, roti and dim sum in Panang (Malaysia), sushi in NY, Asian fusion in Seattle…….and there was that memorable birthday dinner in Seattle that I wrote about. I spent a week visiting them in Nantes in 1997; and they came to New York just after I finished writing the Nomad book. Lars and Nirin are both 42; Lars is a chef, originally from Sweden, and Nirin is a doctor whose mother is Danish and blonde and whose father is dark from Madagascar. They’ve been great friends during the past six years.
And so here I am in their wonderful apartment in Nantes……enjoying their hospitality and eating fabulous meals. When I arrived from Suriname, after two days and five airplanes en route, Nirin insisted on filling the tub with the first warm water I’d had in three months. I soaked happily for about half an hour. When I got out of the tub, I sat down in the kitchen to watch Lars prepare our dinner.
Fresh oysters from Brittany. The Brittany oysters are particularly salty; infused with the flavor of the sea. Lars says that the old saying that the best oysters are in the months with "r" is still valid. I had my oysters with lemon; Lars and Nirin ate theirs with shallot vinegar (chopped shallots in red wine vinegar).
The next course was dorade, a white fish with a garlic butter sauce made with salted butter, mashed fresh garlic, and garlic oil.
The garlic oil was from a jar on the counter. Lars had previously cooked peeled garlics in a mix of sunflower and olive oil (covered) in an oven of 300 degrees for 1½ hours. When the garlics are done, they come out mushy and ready to be used for lots of things; the oil is garlic flavored. A jar of the oil and garlic sits on the counter in the kitchen always ready.
Back to dinner. Lars put fresh thyme and bay leaf inside the cleaned fish, salt and pepper on the outside of the fish, a little on the inside with the herbs, and some olive oil on the bottom of the tray and on both sides of the fish. He cooked it in a 375-degree oven for around 20 minutes.
The sauce was a mix of garlic oil and butter and a mashed (cooked) garlic, which he threw into a frying pan. He served the fish with a slice of lemon.
The rest of the meal was a green mango salsa (unripe mango chopped up with hot chili pepper, a little shallot, and a little olive oil). And rice.
The rice was a new recipe for him. He cooked a pound of basmati rice for 8 minutes, strained and rinsed it with cold water. Then he took half stick of butter and melted it in a pot, added the rice, and pushed hard on the rice until it was packed down in the pot. Then he put the lid on and put it on a very low fire for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes he put in some hot water, salt and pepper, about two pinches of saffron, and a small (1/2 cup) plain yogurt. No stirring. Then he cooked it for another 30 minutes on a low heat. When he flipped the whole thing onto a plate, the rice was browned and a little burnt on the bottom. It was wonderful.
For dessert we had a fabulous French dark chocolate mousse, creamy and chewy.
The recipe does not translate into US ingredients. He was very frustrated with the mousse he made in Seattle and when he came to NY, he brought his own French chocolate.
I slept for 11 ½ hours that first night. I woke to Lars’ morning greeting and a cup of coffee at 10:30 AM. He’d already been out to buy the croissants.
Even through my jet lag and two days of no sleep, I knew I had arrived in the gastronomic wonder that is Lars’ kitchen.
Last night, five days into my visit, when Nirin and I got back from Pornic, Lars had prepared another spectacular dinner. We started with oefs (this spelling may be wrong….I am editing this three weeks later and there’s no one around who knows French) cocotte au coquille St. Jacques. Pure heaven. Chopped kale cooked for 10 minutes in salted water, chopped up fine and then fried in butter, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper for 10 minutes, some crème fraiche added to give it "a nice creamy consistency," and simmered for another 10 minutes. Then he heated a ramekin in the oven, put a bed of kale in, set the raw scallops (cut in half, orange coral attached…one scallop per person) on top, and broke a raw egg on top of the scallops. He put the ramekins in a hot oven until the white was cooked. We all ate it while sighing in ecstasy.
The next course was also fantastic. Lars started with onion, garlic, and julienned carrots; he fried them in butter, added veau du mer fish and then some cognac which he burned off, flames shooting out from the pan, getting rid of the alcohol and "leaving the perfumes of the cognac", then he added saffron, white wine, fish broth, salt and pepper and let it simmer until the fish was cooked. He topped it with cream. With that he served a parsnip and smoked salmon risotto. He cooked and mashed the parsnip, chopped the smoked salmon and mixed them both into the risotto. You cannot imagine the taste sensations of that combination!
As he was about to put the ramekins of scallops in the oven, Lars realized that he had forgotten about dessert. He looked around the kitchen and noticed some apples. We peeled, cored, cut them in half and put them on an oven-safe buttered dish and then in the oven until they were half cooked. As they were cooking, he made a topping on top of the stove of butter, sugar, a little flour and milk, and chopped almonds. He poured the topping on top of the apples and broiled the whole thing until it caramelized. What can I say?
The other night we had apéritif d’natoire ……..lots of little things to eat with champagne at Paule’s apartment next door. Paule is a woman, 75 years old, with a dynamic spirit who owned art gallery for 30 years in the south of France. Her walls are filled with sensational art. I especially like the colorful paintings of an Israeli whom she represented for many years.
Paule is a wonderful personality and a delightful host. Her hair is white with red and black stripes and her spirit is lively. She invited the three of us with two other neighbors, a pharmacist and a sailor. The table was covered with small dishes she had prepared. There was a tomato salad with lime and shallots, creamed anchovy paste to be eaten with green mango slices (I loved the combination), tarama (creamed fish eggs) with small blini, different kinds of olives, fresh cooked red beets in dressing. A dish of young chopped ginger. And a puff pastry shell with a filling of sauteed endive, green baby leaves (mache) sauteed, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and a mix of eggs, cream, and grated cheddar poured into the crust and put in the oven. The champagne was great too. Lars had made a lemony dessert topped with meringue, a recipe he refuses to share.
The next night Genevieve came to dinner. She works in a bank and is active in union organizing. I had met her in 1998 and we laughed a lot at the table, then and now. Lars took a lobster bisque out of the freezer for our first course. It’s worth writing about because of his use of the shells. I love the idea of turning something that is usually thrown away into a fabulous bisque.
Lobster bisque happens after a lobster dinner. Collect all the shells. (Lars washes them a bit. I would use them as is…….I think washing them throws away too much. They cook so much in the process of making the bisque that even without washing them, the germs are burned or boiled away.) Put the shells and their juices into a low oven for at least an hour…..until the shells get crispy I imagine that the harder the shell the longer it takes. (Lars says it stinks up the kitchen.). Then smash them up in a towel or however you can. Get a big pot and fry onion, garlic, little carrot and celery root, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, a little paprika, a bit of hot chili, and some dill seeds, put in the crushed shells, heat it up, pour some cognac in and set it on fire. Put in some tomato puree and white wine. Stir it all up. Add some fish broth or water and fish bouillon cubes. Cook it on a low heat and simmer it for around 25 minutes. Let it soak for about ½ hour. Do the simmering and soaking another two times.
When it’s cooked three times, put everything in a blender and then strain it, mashing the must through a sieve. Adjust the taste of the juice with cognac and garlic and maybe the juice of half an orange. If it’s too pale add a little tomato paste. I love the idea of using those shells instead of throwing them away. Lars says maybe you can add some cream or crème fraische into the bowl if you like. You could also thicken it with a cooked, blended potato.
We ate coq au vin for the main course……..Lars put in cocktail onions, mushrooms, small chunks of bacon, and about one and a half liters of red wine.
Dessert was saffron ice cream. Delicate and interesting. ( I like chocolate better.) If you decide to look up a recipe for it, don’t make the mistake we did. We served it with strawberry sauce and the sauce was too strong for the delicate saffron flavor.
Some other wonderful tastes of the week: gnocchi with a fabulous pesto sauce. Lars bought a ton of basil over the summer and instead of pignoli nuts, he threw in almonds and then added parmesan cheese, capers, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic…..and blended it. It was great and didn’t have even one of those very expensive pignoli nuts. Work out your own amounts by tasting it as you go along.
Baby artichokes, around 5 inch long with 7-inch long stems that you can eat. Lars bought around fourteen of them and cooked them up with garlic, ginger, thyme, bay leaves, quite a bit of vinegar, tarragon, salt, chili, and a lot of tarragon. Cooked all14 in a huge pot. He stored them in the fridge in the liquid. When we were ready to eat them he split them and fried them in a little olive oil until they were warm and brown on the flat side. Then he gave them a sprinkle of good olive oil and sea salt (grey from the minerals of Geraunde). One day he used the garlic oil which I liked a lot. He kind of went overboard on 14 artichokes and we ate them every day…….which was not hard to take.
OK. Enough recipes for now. Here’s a peek at Lars and Nirin’s kitchen. The counters and walls are tiled in white and blue tiles and all the spices and teas and cooking stuff is out where you can see it on shelves. (I like that way of organizing too; you can always see what’s available.). There are five five-foot shelves filled with mason jars of: lentils, kidney beans, sunflower seeds, brown sugar, white sugar, almonds, pecans, home-made jams (lingonberry, strawberry, apricot, orange,), applesauce, dried fruits, chutneys, pickles, grape leaves, chiles, assorted spices from Madagascar, mustard flowers,
There’s another wider and longer shelf above the sink and counter of about fifteen different kinds of vinegars and oils: tarragon, raspberry, elder, lemon, shallot, etc.
And a whole bunch of other things but I can’t read my notes! I think it was all that wine and champagne.
I’m going to finish up my Nantes entry with dinner last night……..that one was my treat. We went to a wonderful restaurant called Le Manoir de la Comete (phone number: 02 40 34 15 93) where we ate scallops and sea bass and oysters and foie gras and incredible veal and lobster and risotto.. Every course came with a wine. Even dessert, which didn’t need one. It was the sauces that made the dishes…..oyster sauce on the sea bass, cepes (mushroom) sauce on the scallops, saffron sauce on the lobster, a flavorful brown sauce on the veal (don’t quite know what it was, but it was good), and exquisite foie gras.. Dessert was a totally new experience for me. It came in the form of a chocolate cupcake, but what chocolate! It had a liquid dark chocolate fudge inside that oozed out when you cut into the middle. Unbelievably exquisite. In case you want to order it in your favorite French restaurant, the menu called it, moelleux tiede chocolat noir extra bitter. Desserts don’t come any better.
There were lots more fantastic meals, but since I never got this finished in France and I’m writing in India, my motivation is lacking as is my memory. The following is from notes I just found:
Dinner. Sole. Skinned the brown side, left the white side. Fried it in butter. Sliced mushrooms and fried them in butter and lemon, salt and pepper of course. Boiled potatoes.
Lunch. Toast spread with mashed, cooked garlic, chopped raw chicken liver, juniper berries, salt, gin……..and put into the oven..
Shallot vinegar self-sprinkled on the liver. Dandelion leaf and arugala salad with strong vinaigrette, Dijon mustard and parmesan cheese. Lunch drink: Dry white wine with elder berry syrup and some gin. Lars says you can buy elder syrup in the food shop of Ikea.
India, February 25th and still going. - I’m writing this on March 24th.
From Nantes to Fatehgarh, foie gras and chocolate mousse to dahl and curd. From Volvos and Mercedes to two-wheeled carts pulled by water buffalo. From hot baths in a magenta bathroom filled with candles and exotic scents to a cement-floored room with a cold water spout and a big plastic scoop. Yet another exquisite contrast of life on earth.
Between the coq au vin in Nantes and the chapati in the village of Fatehgarh were two weeks as a guest of the American Embassy School in New Delhi. In exchange for a plane ticket and nearly two weeks of being wined and dined and entertained, I taught four hours a day for five days, and it was a pleasure. [There were two of us authors; the other was Eirlys Hunter from New Zealand whose presence got me an invitation to dinner at the New Zealand High Commission (Commonwealth countries do not call their physical presence in other Commonwealth countries "embassies"). Three of the eight diners were teachers at the school, two of them partners of high level N.Z. commissioners who were also there. The top commissioner (the person I would call Ambassador) was away, but her husband was there. We laughed a lot and it was a stimulating evening…..and a great meal served elegantly.]
The school culture was a fascinating world of beautiful stone buildings, grounds bursting with spring flowers and sculptures and grassy areas and wonderful rocky mounds for climbing, sitting, and looking at. The school, which is across the street from the American Embassy complex and its commissary, swimming pools (the school has its own two pools), bowling alleys, restaurant, bookstore and more, is surrounded by a wall and protected by security guards; you need a tag to walk in. It’s a bubble-world whose inhabitants are nursed, protected, and provisioned with everything a school could want, and peopled with fine teachers, a caring administration and every possible ancillary service……and great kids from dozens of different countries. While I was talking, I looked into the eyes and faces of the children of the world, all colors and shapes of eyes and all of them eager to learn. I can’t imagine a more wonderful mix or a more ideal way to get an education….or a better setting to teach in.
I was greeted and treated royally. There were dinners and entertainment, tours of Delhi and an overnight trip to the Taj Mahal. I met some wonderful people……..including two Indian women in the library, Bandana Sen and Sunita Kunzru, who were extraordinary hosts. I stayed with Jan Patten, a curriculum advisor, who gave me a room, an open refrigerator, assorted meals, shopping advice and her warm company. I took a walk through Lodhi park with Noreen, had tea with Terry, lunch with Jamie and Mickie,. And an hour or so with Carol in the shack settlement (called a jhuggie) across the street from Gate 3 (one of the endless dramatic contrasts of this country). There were dinner and drinks with director Bob Hetzel and his wife Jon Leah and her parents, and even a Mardi Gras party at Janet Golden’s who was responsible for telling the school about me after she’d read my nomad book. And so much more.
My last three days in Delhi were spent with an ex-pat family of six. He’s an oil company executive (AES parents) and they have a staff of 24 in their home, including 9 security guards, three gardeners, three drivers, and three ayahs to take care of the children.
My whole AES experience was fascinating………definitely a culture worth studying………and I have to admit I loved being treated so specially. The Monday of author’s week Eirlys and I arrived for our introduction to the school community assembly by carriage pulled by two decorated horses.
To any talented teacher out there who might want to come to the school: it’s a great place to teach. Nearly everyone I spoke to felt very lucky to be a part of the school. (I did talk at length to one couple, both teachers (I liked them a lot) who did have problems with the administration and were very bitter about their AES experience. But everyone else seemed really happy to be there.) AES recruits with the other international schools at sessions in the US. Check it out on the web. It’s well organized. If you are chosen for the Delhi school, you will have every resource you can imagine and all the support you need to make the adjustment to a new way of life. Many of the people I met had housing on campus, full-time maids who also cooked, and someone who collected dirty laundry in the morning and returned clean stuff in the afternoon. The main off-work occupation was shopping.. ………a lot of it. Indian crafts are amazing, so are fabrics and books and restaurants. And the prices are shockingly cheap. Services too. I had a haircut, a hair coloring, a manicure, a pedicure, and an oil hair massage……total cost: $18.00
I liked the people I met in the school, their generosity, warmth, and caring………..but it wasn’t India. When I told Sunita I wanted to go live in a village for a month and follow that with a month of meditation and yoga in an ashram, she suggested I talk to her husband’s personal yoga trainer, Yogi. And that’s how I ended up in his family’s village of Fatehgarh. He spends most of his time in Delhi which is where the work is.
Yogi (Sukhdev Singh) works with athletes, including some of the cricket players who were in the finals in South Africa. We met at Sunita’s home and he gave me a talk about yoga, breathing, diet, and meditation; he concluded by offering to take me to his home in the village of Fatehgarh which is about 4 hours by slow bus from Delhi.
Before he left to go back to Delhi, Yogi took me to see a dam. He, his wife, his four-year-old son, and I piled onto the motorcycle (one helmet). We rode through wheat and sugar cane fields for about 20 minutes and when we arrived it was like many other dams I have seen. The difference was the guide. My usual dam-visit narration is about the history of the river, the mechanism of the machinery, even the politics of getting the dam approved. Yogi took a whole different route…….he talked about the serenity of the place, the purity of the water, the peacefulness he felt there. Then he, his wife, Mamta, and even the four-year-old Sidanth, meditated.
Yogi went back to Delhi after two days and as many yoga sessions, and he left me in the hands of Mamta (who also teaches Yoga), Sidhanth (an incredibly bright four-year-old who knows both the English and Hindi alphabet), Yogi’s siblings: his sister, Archna, and the twins, Mitlesh and her brother, Manoj. (The father and grandfather live across the street.) They are all under 30 and it’s wonderful getting to know them. It’s is exactly the kind of experience I treasure in my nomadic life.
Fatehgarh is a farming village that grows cash crops of sugar cane, poplar trees, wheat, rice, and mustard (for making oil). The village has a total population, including tons of children, of 2,200. It also has hundreds of oxen, water buffalo, and cows.
From the window of my room I can see a small, 8-foot square temple, kids playing cricket, and a farmer grinding grasses and other feed for the animals that are constantly walking by on the dirt road, sometimes pulling two-wheel carts, sometimes just headed out to the nearby river for a bath. Everyone I’ve met is vegetarian. The animals are kept for making dairy products; they also produce dung that is shaped into disk-shaped "cow pats," dried, and used for making fires for cooking. The dung is collected, patted into blobs about a foot in diameter, and set out to dry. There are thousands of beautifully stacked piles all over the village and amazingly, they don’t smell bad.
I talked to two classes in the school a few days ago; the kids had had years of English and barely understood me. And no one was brave enough to ask a question….including the teacher.
One of the most interesting experiences was a session I had with a neighbor who has been wanting me to visit. Finally, Archna and I went over. There were about eight women dressed as all the women in the village are, in calf-length blouses and pants that match …..always with a scarf over their shoulders. (Even when women are shaping the dung into cow pats, they look colorful and beautiful.) They were asking me questions about America through Archna, who has picked up enough confidence to translate, when suddenly five of the women quickly put down their cups of chai (tea) and put their scarves over their faces. Now it was my turn to ask questions.
The woman who invited me is the matriarch of the house. Two of the women present were married to her husband’s younger brothers (there is no marriage between villagers; both women were from another village). The matriarch’s husband had just walked into the courtyard, which was why the women all reached for their scarves. Older men in a household command respect. Neither of the sisters may talk to the husband (a rule apparently set up by the husband’s mother) and in his presence, they must always cover their faces. All married women cover their faces if they think they might see a man older than they who is not their husband, either on the street or in a home. At our little tea party, only the wife, the single women, and I remained with bare heads.
Our house is more modern. Yogi’s wife always covers her head (not her face) when her father-in-law enters, but that seems to be the only regulation.
Archna and I talked at length when we got home. She’s 24 and many feel she should be married (just about all marriages are arranged) but she and Yogi, her brother, who participates in decisions about his younger siblings, are not in a hurry. Education first. She’s training to be a yoga teacher. Single women, she told me, cannot wear bindi’s (that decoration on the forehead) or saris or toe rings or lots of jewelry. They do not have to cover their heads or faces either, though they all wear beautiful long scarves. They can’t have boyfriends and they never sleep with a man before marriage. Marriages are arranged, chosen in this family by the father (the mother died a few years ago), Yogi and Mamta.
The only married woman in our house is Mamta (28)…….and she works hard. She’s up at 4:30, does a wash (there is a washing machine like the kind I had in Suriname), yoga, milks the buffalo, makes butter (and buttermilk), boils the milk, makes the curd (yogurt), and the dough for the chapati. The younger women clean and help in the kitchen. They are busy all day long with household chores (including weeding the kitchen garden).
Mamta is in charge of the house……she takes care of and cooks and washes for her son, her father-in-law, his father, and the four siblings of her husband. Yogi’s work is in Delhi……..and even if they could afford it, she could not leave her duties in the village. She is waiting for Manoj, her 19-year-old brother-in-law, to get married. Then his wife will take over and she can leave.
Two nights ago a formal invitation arrived for me to go to a village wedding. The twins were invited and the host family sent over an invitation for me. The double wedding was yesterday…….a sister and her brother were both getting married. His ceremony was complete…….but hers was only partial. The rest of her ceremony will take place in her husband’s village. There was off-tune music in the street, tons of food (vegetarian), and lots of ceremonial stuff which reminded me of Bali. The five men who were dancing in the procession tried to get me to dance with them I told them that if they could find one Indian woman who would dance, I would too. They never did.
The guests seemed happy to be there, but the couples did not look lovingly at each other, nor was there any smiling between them and the guests. Perhaps they were thinking of their father who died a few years ago………or maybe it was a reflection of the (initially) loveless arranged marriage.
My family wanted me to go in western dress. They are totally resistant to my wearing Indian clothes. I have no idea what the villagers think, but they all want to look, touch, serve me milk (or chai or buttermilk) and sit me down, however briefly, in their houses.
I wore a longish black skirt that showed about five inches of leg. Later that night I learned that the villagers were saying that I had artificial feet because they were so white.
To those of you who are single out there, I do not think you would be happy living as an Indian village wife. But a visit is fantastic. I’m loving it!
And to those of you who have not received an answer to your e-mail, I’m sorry. The cybercafe is 40 minutes away and I have no way to get there except on the back of Manoj’s motorcycle………which makes me dependent on his schedule (he’s studying accounting in college as is his twin sister, Mitlesh.)
I’ll try to get to everyone eventually, but even group mailings take a long time ………..there’s the reading, the writing, the collecting the e-mail addresses. I thank everyone for writing and I do hope to get to you all before long. The school, of course, had tons of computers online, but I had no free time.
Back in Delhi on the 25th: I arrived back in Delhi and I’m staying in Sunita’s beautiful house, taking hot showers, eating more than a dedicated yoga student should (I have actually done Yoga every day for two weeks now! Soon I will be thinner, younger, fitter, taller and certainly more ethereal). I’ve also been saying hello to my friends in the school community.
I’ll try to add another entry when I have something to say about the rest of my India experience. If I end up sylph-like and flexible (and taller and younger) and in some wonderful peaceful place, I will definitely write a new book and tell you how I did it so you can too. Ciao.