**Wrote this last year when I was India. Enjoy. (Indy rarely submits…)**
Without a lesson from my friend’s teammate in Leipzig, my journey in India may have been filled with more stress and anxiety. Rather than resist,
This small phrase has stuck with me during my time in Goa and Andhra Pradesh. From lizards scurrying across the walls stopping for a moment to detect any potential threats, to watching Aunt prepare purri pastries with corn flour and deep fry them in refined sunflower seed oil marketed as being high in Vitamin A, D and E. (According to current contemporary research, seed oils are highly unstable and contain high levels of inflammation-causing omega-6 fatty acids.) Surely at home I would be extremely tempted to prevent nature from invading the domicile and to use different ingredients to cook with. But I was kindly welcomed into their home. Beautiful experiences can open up to you when you cease to resist… when you allow it. Man, were the purri delicious.
Eating with only my right hand for the past two weeks has been one of the many customs I have welcomed in my life here. Quit playing with your food has no meaning here. Indians ‘play’ with it to thoroughly mix it. “Do people eat with their left hand?” I once asked. No only the right was the only response given even when I asked why. Later in Friend’s Father’s home village of Tuni, I would devise a theory as to why only the right hand. Rice with curry. Rice with spicy, red mango pickles aged for a year in a clay pot. Rice with dhal (lentils). Rice with sambal. Curd rice made with homemade yogurt from fresh cow’s ‘milk’ (a few nights ago several stray cows on the streets of Eluru were eating newspaper for lack of food. According to my friend, they were reatin’ the newspaper). So much rice. So little protein and vegetables. Every cell in my body has enough glycogen stores to provide for itself and all of its neighbors.
‘Cause we still hungry and when we hungry, we eat. – Julius Hodge
It’s a simple concept. But at every single meal there’s been at least a minor tantrum of not wanting to eat. Not hungry. Ego’s would fire at each other back and forth, the volume of the conversation rising as would the volume of rice in our bellies. It didn’t help that the decibel level of the music videos emanating from the TV was something to compete over. Why did these daily I-don’t-want-to-eat tantrums occur? Is it because the body is tired of eating rice? Is the body craving something else to eat? Is it because we are still full (of rice) from the last meal? Soon, challu (enough), conchung, (just a little bit) and amo (oh man, I can’t take another bite) became part of my Telugu vocabulary, and I was echoing the cries of my brother and sisters. A full belly put’s a mother’s mind at ease, but there’s a difference between a belly that’s always full of rice and a belly that is full of a variety of foods. There comes a point where the body craves other nutrients from sources besides rice.
A moment that challenged my expectations was when my friend’s mother, or Ama, proceeded to hand-feed me the top layer of the curd, the best of a batch. How clean are her hands? Will I get sick? Bottled water is the standard for any foreigner traveling inIndia, but while Ama poured tap water into the curd rice mixture I could only wonder if the toilet was going to be my best friend following the meal. Thankfully, my best friends remained the ones I made in college.
The pollution here in India is scary. Air, water, ground, noise pollution – you name it, India has it. I probably drank over 40+ water bottles within my first 3 weeks in India and I wonder if a single one will ever make it to a recycling facility. It’s OK, leave it on the ground was Friend’s perpetual plea any time I would leave the house with empty water bottles in hand. My conscience got sick every time I experienced the Indian culture of discarding rubbish to the way side. A common place for the rubbish is the small moat that flows in front of each house. Food scraps, wrappers, human urine, animal fecal matter make the water a murky grey. Any rat would be dumb to tempt itself in crossing the moat and beyond the threshold of someone’s house. (One day while removing items from a closet space to retrieve an iron, a mouse scurried into another dark room as Friend displaced a large container. The animals are resourceful.) Eating with my hand became mundane, but at the train station in Tuni, Aunt doled out curd with semia, a small noodle made of wheat about 1/4 inch in length, onto glossy advertising sections from the local paper. By the time I was through eating my share, the liquid had seeped through the paper onto my hand.
Like the cows in the street, I was doing my share of reatin.’
No helmets – an idea Indy had to submit to
Day by day the pollution extends to the bodies in India. The filthy water of the dykes that flow throughout the streets will, in some way, find its way into the people. What’s astonishing though is the vegetation that flourishes on the water’s surface. Despite the scum and residue of human life that can be skimmed from the water’s surface, the lilies – akin to the one’s that used to flourish in Aunt’s koi pond back in California – thrive giving breeding ground for frogs and salamanders.
I wonder what they and the fish that lurk beneath look like. Do they have three eyes? Six legs? What would happen to me if I jumped into the water? Riding on the back of Uncle’s motorcycle on the dirt roads of Ammapalem Village, we passed a man bathing a herd of water buffalos waist deep in a teenage-mutant-ninja-turtle, fluorescent green lake. He and the water buffaloes seemed to be content with the habitat.