In our last episode, a Missouri Storm and being outwitted by a five year old boy. And now, today!
Just before breakfast our host asks if we’d like to learn to make parathas. I jump up and run to the kitchen, I can’t wait. She shows me very slowly and patiently how they’re made. First, grab a bit of dough. Roll it into a ball. Next, roll that ball in the flour. Then roll the ball into a thin circle with a rolling pin. Use a spoon to put the filling on top, then make what looks like a dumpling, with the filling inside. Roll it in flour again. Then use the rolling pin to roll it into a paratha. She puts her paratha in the pan to cook and then it’s my turn. She has made it look simple, and to my great surprise following her directions exactly DOES make it simple to cook. I mean, my paratha is no patch on hers, but it’s not a glorpy mess either.
Todd says he’d love to learn more and she immediately offers to work with him via Skype when he gets home.
I remember a friend saying once, “It takes twenty years to be invited to someone’s house in Sweden.” But the warmth and sincerity of the people I meet here in India is immediate and feels like drinking water when I’m really, really thirsty. I didn’t know I was missing this, but I was missing this.
As we all eat breakfast I think about the concept of friendship. Knowing that I’m so literally in the Swedish camp that I have known my two best friends – Todd and our son – for over twenty years. I think about how I’ve watched people meet and call each other friends within ten minutes and always secretly rolled my eyes, but maybe this is how it feels. This thirstiness being suddenly met with a glass of sparkling water. Maybe friendships really can be formed on the strength of one brief meeting.
Because of my Cow In A Deer Costume story, our host tells us that there ARE deer, lots of them just a few kilometres away at the Deer Park. So we grab our backpacks and head out. As we’re crossing the park, we see a Tibetan family sitting at the circle of park benches. A toddler who’s just learned to walk is circling one bench while his teenage sister hides. He is comically surprised when he comes around the corner and she’s gone and everyone laughs merrily.
We don’t have much cash and the first order of business is to find an ATM. Inside the ATM enclosure, a security guard with a double barrel rifle stands waiting. Todd puts the card in but has no success. The security guard looks over and says with a friendly smile, “Only sets of 2000 Rs., that’s why it doesn’t work.” Todd thanks him. I think about how much less scary he seems now.
Cash in hand, we go to Cafe Coffee Day, a fancy coffee chain. Inside it smells strongly of frankincense, because they also offer Ethiopian coffee. We order an Americano and a latte and it comes to 550 Rs. ($10.30) and I’m startled – for perspective, they also offer butter paneer with rice, a strawberry ice cream cup, and sweet and salt lemony spritzer for just 198 Rp. ($3.71). The clerk tells us to go sit down, and then brings us the coffee on a tray with napkins, cream, and sugar.
When we’ve finished our coffee we hop in an autorickshaw and zoom off to Deer Park. I follow an irritated peacock around as it stomps all over a high branch in a tree (I love animals so much and they do not love me back) and then we go down the hill to see the monkeys. There are no cages, the patrons are simply expected to be sane enough to give the monkeys their space, and they do. Involuntarily, I shout, “TODD! KITTEN!” and while he’s looking around for a cat I’m inarticulately pointing at a monkey so small he could live in my coat pocket. The baby’s dad sees me looking and sweeps him away.
Two bigger kid-monkeys tumble and turn into view, wrestling each other like puppies. A third monkey looks down at them from the top of a set of stairs and then one kid-monkey turns to the third one with a look that says, “MOOOOM MY BROTHER KEEPS JUMPING ON ME” so clearly it might as well have been spoken. Mom yawns and looks away.
We walk up a small hill, filled with chastely canoodling teenage couples and street dogs stretched out in the sun and blissfully asleep. The deer turn out to be the only ones behind a fence. Their space stretches so far I can’t even see the other side of it, but they’re all sitting together and so effectively camouflaged against the dusty ground that I think at first their antlers are just a brush pile. Later we see one lone deer wandering by himself far from the others in what we decide must be an adventure akin to our trip to India and when he gets back they’ll say “You went more than ten feet away from the group? Tell me, WHAT IS THE REST OF THE WORLD LIKE?”
At the entrance of the Deer Park a teenage girl gets out of an autorickshaw wearing a stylish dress and a tiara in her hair. I wonder if she’s here for some chaste canoodling. We grab her autorickshaw after she’s paid, and head back to pick up our luggage. We say a heartfelt goodbye to our hosts and then it’s in a regular taxi and off to the Delhi Airport. The driver has a plastic flying Haruman figure attached to his rearview mirror, which rocks back and forth as the car eats up the kilometres.
Day four, part two coming soon.