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December 22, 2010

Well I am back in the land of Oz after a whirlwind trip to India. Came home sick and spent the last couple of days in bed. So much for all that Christmas baking, shopping and other preparations I had planned to do. And work…so much for all those conference calls, training sessions and more that I had lined up for the last couple of days as well. Oh dear. I can’t believe people still want (me) to work so close to Christmas. Hello peopleย  – what happened to the Christmas/end of year slow down?!!

So here are a few photos and stories from my trip.

After nearly 24 hours of travelling I reached the hotel and was very glad that Andrew had talked me into staying at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel right down in the heart of the old city in Colaba. Left to my own devices I would have probably thought it was a waste to stay in such an iconic hotel by myself. It is one of those hotels like Raffles in Singapore, in a category all by itself and one that I have always wanted to stay at. I had an amazing view from my hotel window – right over the Gateway to India.

The main purpose of my trip was to be a surprise guest at my cousin’s wedding. He was very happily surprised to see me. I had taken a couple of dresses to wear to the wedding but soon discovered (was told) that they were not glamorous enough for an Indian wedding. So I decided to wear a sari – for the second time in my life. Too bad I can’t show you a picture as it was a gorgeous sari, and I managed to wear it without it falling down…mostly. The wedding was full on, as expected. Lots of before and after celebrations. Caught up with friends I hadn’t seen for many, many years, as well as some I see more regularly. Had some fab food…and quite a bit of not so fab food. I always go to India armed with a long list of foods that I want to eat. I spend a lot of time thinking about how I am going to manage to fit all those extra meals and extra food in. And every time my plans are foiled. Either because my stomach just won’t cooperate and eat the quantities I desire, or because friends and relatives take me to places where I end up having to eat food that is not particularly great. This time some hidden cream in the very first meal I ate made me rather ill and set the tone for the week, unfortunately. Ah well. I still managed to fit in some sensational food. And lets face it, my expectations are always much higher than can possibly be achieved by any one human!

Here are some photos of food. Not all the great meals, but a few to give you a bit of an idea. The young boy making the roti (cooking them on the white-hot dome like thing which I suspected may have even been an upside down wok!) was so incredibly fast. He made at least two or three of these very fine rotis in a minute. He was quite chuffed that I was taking his photo and put on a bit of a performance for me. He tossed the dough up into the air over his head…and still managed to make three or four a minute! Such skill. And what a fine dough. I would love to try my hand at some at that dough. Now that I am a bit of a baker I have new appreciation for such fine looking dough.

I had some mighty fine biriyani and “real” tandoori with Mumbai food blogger Kaylan who I met last time I was in India. He took me to a lovely old restaurant (96 years old) where they served good honest food. Just the way I like it!

My last meal before leaving India was also a highlight. A meal with a friend and some of his friends. Lots of laughter and singing (not by me). Just what I love. The real reason I go back to India so many times is that I want to glimpse what my life would have been like had I stayed there. It is not too often we get to back-track to one of those other paths we didn’t take in life (“two roads diverged in a narrow wood…”). It is the curse of the immigrant to never fully belong anywhere. Just the very act of being able and willing to leave immediately makes you different from what you are leaving behind. The glimpses I get are not as my life would have been. I understand that. I know full well that the friends I keep in touch with would not be friends with me had I lived in India. Religion, social/wealth status, cultural norms…all of those would have meant that we would never have been friends. But I love to pretend. I always ask them to have a party, just the sort of party they always seem to have (judging by emails). The sort of party they would probably never invite me to had I not been that strangest of creatures – Indian, yet not Indian. And that is always the highlight for me. Just observing the social gatherings. Hanging around at the edges. Laughing, eating. Feeling like I belong, if only for a while.

India is in my blood. As I get older I feel the need to go back more frequently. I love my life here in Australia, and I am grateful for all that this life has given and made me. It is not with regret that I go back to visit every year. Just with curiosity.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 23, 2010 12:59 AM

    Oh I loved this post, I love the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the view is truly stunning, what a welcome back to your roots. I loved the way you speak of having feet in both countries, its not too often indeed that we get to step into a life we might have lived. Fabulous to connect through the blogosphere with you, I look forward to reading many more posts in 2011. Have a fabulous holiday season.
    Cheers Anna

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      December 23, 2010 8:49 PM

      Likewise Anna, it has been nice connecting with you too! The best thing about blogs!!
      The hotel is really lovely. I love sitting in the courtyards of those old hotels and imagining how it must have been when first built. All the very pukka English gentlemen and ladies wandering around and taking tea. What fun! It is such an icon for Indians too. Most people I spoke to said they were really sad to visit the hotel post the bombings of a few years ago. They took it very personally – a little like the Americans took the bombing of the world trade centre buildings. Security is pretty full on there at all hours of the day and night which ofcourse is a reminder of the bombings all the time.

  2. Sarah - For the Love of Food permalink
    December 23, 2010 7:49 AM

    Spice, what a lovely post! Those photos from your room are stunning! My parents and my partners parents are all immigrants and speak of that feeling of not quite ever belonging anywhere. It’s lovely that you can go back without regret even if it might be bitter sweet. Thanks for the little window into your life ๐Ÿ™‚

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      December 23, 2010 8:51 PM

      Thanks Sarah. It is not exactly ‘food blog’ material is it, and I did wonder about posting it. But it is such an integral part of who I am, and my food journey (amongst others!) that it seemed I could not just post a tourists version of my visit to India.

  3. December 23, 2010 1:03 PM

    How lovely to catch up with your family.It’s such a shame you got ill.I hope you recover before Christmas.

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      December 23, 2010 8:45 PM

      Pretty much back on track now – thanks. Had a big day of Christmas cooking and baking with my kids, so our house is starting to feel and smell like Christmas!

  4. December 23, 2010 6:44 PM

    What a great, from the heart, post. I really enjoyed reading this and looking at your lovely photos.

    I didn’t know you were from India, but I guess most people in Australia these days are of course from somewhere else, or their families are. I meet older folk here who have ‘returned’ from Australia and they are chasing a vision of an England that no longer exists. My ancestors are all European immigrants from somewhere or other, my Dad’s lot have been here about a hundred years or so, my mother hailed from Scandinavia. So it goes, the great melting pot of humanity.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to reading your posts in the New Year! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      December 23, 2010 8:45 PM

      It is a bit of a melting pot isn’t it?! And yes, I have also noticed that people who go back often have a vision of their home country as it was 20 or 30 years ago when they left. They retain a culture that no longer exists. I wonder how they fare when they go back….not well I suspect.

  5. December 23, 2010 6:46 PM

    Oh and there is news on the bee front,

    • spiceandmore permalink*
      December 23, 2010 8:42 PM

      oh that is good news indeed. Hopefully they will develop this cure soon and kill off this mite before we get it here in Australia. Dealing with sprays and stuff might just put an end to my bee keeping career! I needed 50gm of honey for a recipe today and I thought “I am just not going to buy honey when in a couple of weeks I am going to have 40kg+ on my hands” Can’t wait!

  6. December 24, 2010 2:31 AM

    This is such a wonderfully honest and soulful post A. Loved reading it. And of course it is food blog material. At least the sort I love to read.

    So glad you enjoyed the food at Olympia. Choosing the restaurant was a big responsibility ๐Ÿ™‚ and the look of joy made it all worth it.

    Merry Christmas to Tara, Sam, Andrew and you



  7. December 28, 2010 1:44 PM

    Fabulous post, SG! I’m sorry you were sick too, but not at all surprised that you managed to eat enormous amounts of gorgeous food nonetheless! I would disagree with you on one point though. I think it’s the blessing of the immigrant to always belong everywhere, both the home we leave and the new one we adopt. It’s like having your cake and getting to eat it too! ๐Ÿ™‚

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