Date: 6 May
Location: cooking demonstration, Orchha.
Notable sightings: more creative things to do with veggies than even a hippie would know what to do with.
India would be a crap place to be fructose intolerant. Up here in the north, every dish seems to start with garlic, onion and tomato. On the other hand, it would be a great place to be vegetarian. Save for chicken tikka — which the Indians prepare in myriad forms with aplomb — all meat dishes are awkward specters of what the menu promises.
It's hot as hell in here but, in this case, the old adage isn't doing me any good. I can't stand the heat, but I can't get out of the kitchen because it would be rude. I'm at a cooking demonstration in a local's house, and (while the kids giggle from behind a curtain) the matriarch is demonstrating dahl, aloo palak and baigan. I'm afraid I've long since stopped paying attention and am sitting in the back row of plastic chairs tapping this out, like a naughty teenager in maths class texting her boyfriend.
The Indians, traditionally, make every meal from scratch and don't do leftovers. Mama makes lunch for lunch, dinner for dinner and leftovers? For the cow. There's even a lunchbox courier program that's started up in Mumbai: mothers cook all morning and the fragrant manifestations of their labour are then picked up and couriered directly to the workplace of their grateful offspring in time for lunch. Marvelous.
On the subject of curries, my roommate has food poisoning. So, this morning, I brought her Lays and mineral water and left her to it to go for a wander. Because that always ends so well for me.
Today's adventure was just down the road to the Cenotaphs, monuments to the dead kings of the area. From there, I took the path along the Betwa River, and ran into a party. Quite literally. Along the narrow path, between the rocks and the river, heralded by the beating of drums, came a procession of parrot-colorful women, carting on their heads terracotta urns with coconuts and teak leaves and trailed by an equal number of men. Before I knew it I was surrounded with staring faces and a girl about my age was pushing to front. Her English was a heck of a lot better than my Hindi so she introduced herself and explained that it was a holy day so the town was celebrating, starting with collecting water to take to the temple. The next hour passed in a sweaty rainbow blur as I was introduced to tens of sisters, aunties, mothers, friends, cousins – and held countless babies. I was then tugged around by the hands of the little ones to visit their houses.
Now onto a night train.