BODHINEWMEDIA

PANKAJ SETH • SOPHIE HAWKINS

 
 

Room cleaning

Sometimes it is easier to clean your hotel room yourself than to initiate a possible series of interactions that may follow from that request. Some places have things worked out very efficiently but even then, you could become entangled in a conversation about religion, politics, how to get to Canada, or an invite to visit someone's local village.  -----  Sophie

Ready to order?

Menus in India are an adventure in themselves. Almost every hotel claims to be a specialist in some kind of international cuisine -- Italian, Korean, Japanese, Swiss, and goddess help us -- French. The Indian part of the menu can always be relied on to be tasty (although somewhat heavy on the sauces), but venture into any other fare and its a mystery what you will get. I've ordered stir fried vegetables and gotten a pile of deep fried noodles in a thick sauce. When we asked the waiter where the vegetables were, he pointed to the garnish of raw cucumber and tomato along the side! I have started envying the cows on the streets for all the fresh vegetables they get to eat.


There are things on menus that I wouldn't even consider, like moussaka, however, every once in awhile I like to order something just to see what arrives. I'm tempted to try the Kim Chi soup as it may be a village version of cabbage soup which could be quite good but you never know. They generally do a very good job with pizza although we did see a couple order one pizza and a calzone. The calzone was just the same as the pizza only folded in half and costing 40 more rupees! Hardly anyone sends anything back as you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings and the interaction that ensues can become so complex that you could become hypoglycemic before you get what wanted -- so mostly people just smile and eat what they are given. It's not that they wouldn't want to make you just exactly what you wanted but that they can't seem to help giving an Indian twist to every other culture that is contacted. That ability to assimilate has been the genius of India, just don't try the souffle.  ------  Sophie

The Perfect Coffee

We have taken to buying our own packets of instant coffee to add to the pot that is made for us in the morning as the Indian version of coffee is like weak tea with lots of milk in it. No matter how much we say "stronger, stronger", they can't seem to fathom that we really want it that strong. You also have to be very clear about no sugar or it will be as sweet as a dessert. So we have found the easiest of solutions which is to fortify it ourselves.  -----  Sophie

Curious

People are very curious about me here, particularly the children and men. Not just because I'm a white woman  (the tourist places see many of us), but that I'm a white woman traveling with an Indian man. I’m something like a trophy wife here or a war bride! Pankaj always refers to me as his wife because if I was just a friend or girlfriend, I would still officially be available. I can only imagine the kind of conversation that would follow that opening! People are very direct here and speak their minds which makes for very lively conversation. Men want to know where he found me and how he got to Canada -- for example did someone come and get him. P has had many conversations with earnest young men who would love to have the opportunities he has had in Canada. I think that there is a respect for both us being together that there wouldn't be if either of us was here on our own.  -----  Sophie