A walk down the road in search of where I may eat tonight:
I leave my house where I am living, down the dusty staircase to collect my ‘chappals’ (sandals) at the entrance – yes they will last another day I hope – the shoe repair man did a good job but really they are on their last legs.
and out the squeaky gate. The street I live in is a dirt road, lined with double story houses, dogs in the street – one is becoming my friend, but tonight she is more interested in another dog and doesn’t say hello.
As I come to the end of the street by the hospital, more people are walking – a group of young men casting their curious eyes at me as always in this city where there are not too many foriegners and I am worth a look. That rather strange looking old westerner.. ‘what is she doing here?’
And on down the busy side road – motorbikes in dozens, auto rickshaws, and the occasional car.. oh here by the side in the rubbish dump someone has dumped something that the buffalo like.. as I came past earlier there were a herd of cows there, but they have been replaced by the big horned dark grey beasts – a whole group of them. and no this is not rural India .. this is the city of Hubli.
I walk on crossing to the side of the road where I have my back to the oncoming traffic – this is the correct side to walk on in this land – they have to avoid me on this side.. ah I am being greeted by two young men.. ‘Hello Mam’ .. I know that I know them .. but who? ‘The resaurant is closed to tonight’.. ah the boys from the kitchen of my favourite dinner place.. good to know as I was half planning to go there.
And on up the street.
I am headed to the ‘supermarket’ a place I haven’t been before to check it out and see if there is something there I might like to buy.
There are a myriad of possibilities of places to eat on the way .. ranging from ‘Bombay Chinese Fast Food’ carts – to pop up ‘hotels’ that look pretty good serving biryani but with chicken and I am not too big on ‘non-veg’ these days.
I have avoided being run over, managed not to walk in cow dung tonight, crossed the street three times, and arrived at the ‘supermarket’. Its a bit of a disappointment really .. certainly not your ‘Dorabjees” the fancy Western stocked place in Pune – but I buy some tomatoes for a ‘salad’ fix, some washing powder and yogurt for breakfast and escape back onto the street again. Prefer the small family grocer shops so won’t bother with that again.
Now for the ‘wine shop’. They are getting to know me even though I have only been here twice before! They don’t even ask what I would like – but produce my preferred red .. it looks like it has aged on the shelf – totally dusty – a vintage bottle I’d say! They call them ‘wine shops’ but everything is wine here.. including the nasty little bottles of homemade hooch that makes people who drink it lie down in the middle of the street and sleep. Social drinking is not really a thing here and most of the men in the wine shop seem to be here for the serious business of getting drunk. I scurry out pretty quickly – stashing my bottle in my shopping bag.
Now for dinner.. there was a likely spot on the way near the chai shop – time to try somewhere new.
Its a simple place – hot in here.. but they turn the fan on for me after they have got over their surprise at seeing a foreigner in their shop. I order a paneer mutter masala spicy please, with butter roti – Paneer – the white cheese of India with peas and a spicy gravy – and two flat breads to go with it.. it comes and it is delicious – I chose well. As I go and pay – all for the cost of $2.20 – the son asks me the perennial questions: ‘Where are you from? What are you doing here? Where do you live?’ and then: ‘How was the taste?’ – ‘Very tasty’ – I reply. ‘I will be back.’ Nice family – a pretty wife preparing vegetables near the door who returns my farewell with a flash of a beautiful smile.
I leave feeling fortunate again – I am so lucky.
Now as I head along the street, a crowd is forming further down .. and drums and some sort of trumpets are playing .. and now fireworks.. ah a wedding procession.
I go back back past the buffalo, wending my way through the traffic jam created by the procession, past lots of people – and I realise how fortunate I am that I am not a person who lives in fear.
My essential belief is that as I move through my life with a sense of safety and friendliness that is what surrounds me.
Even as the culture of India dances around me and sets off fireworks that sound like bombs, I feel safe. I am so lucky .. if I was of another nature I would be unable to live as I do – to have the opportunity to experience the heart and soul of this land.
Thanks India, and thank you also to myself for allowing myself to be and continue to learn the ways of this land.