Saturday, October 08, 2011

Where My History Begins: The Weekend 9/24-25/11

It is very nearly impossible to put into words the extraordinary day I had on Saturday with everyone who joined us at Leopold's Cafe. What started out with shopping turned into the best day I've ever really had. Laughter, beer, shopping, a carriage ride, an amazing dinner, being chased by a man wielding a pornographic balloon...the laughter and joy of that evening will be a cherished memory for a long time. That is, until I can make some more.

I think about the day, driving to downtown, stopping at Dhobi Ghat to see the laundry. Which by the way, is really amazing. I've never see whites get that white. The kids trying to sell you trinkets. The constant horn honking, the traffic. The scent of exhaust. The crush of people. The rise of new buildings. Chowpatty Beach and Marine Drive during the day. Again the people. A woman walking down the street with a basket balanced on her head. The architecture of old buildings, reminders of bygone days under British rule. The swirl of traffic circles. Kids in school uniforms. People doing life.

And then there was Leopold's. A cafe and bar which one of the first places struck during the 2008 terror attacks. Staring me in the face were two large bullet holes in glass. Reminders of what happens when people who hate for no reason decide to kill for no reason. A 3 litre column of ice cold Kingfisher beer and a lot of laughter. Everyone just made me smile.

A chance to show the group what we wanted to buy and everyone else haggled for us. Now mind you, I did learn "Kitna Houa" and I could have said it, but once a conversation would have been started, I would have been up the proverbial creek. I bought some beautiful green and silver tea light holders and carved elephants at Colaba Causeway. What a great crush of people and vendors selling their wares. It was fun listening to our friends go back and forth trying to get the best price.

Wandering around, making our way to the carriages near Gateway to India. A quick negotiation and we have three carriages to take us on the ride. So much fun. A walk over to Gateway and instead of going to see the darn thing, we are striking Bollywood poses and doing the silliest things while photos are being snapped. I can't help but imagine the locals were thinking "stupid tourists" but who was just soooooooooooooo much fun! But it wasn't all silliness.

I can close my eyes and see the families spending their evening milling about. A lot of people everywhere. I can remember the smell of roasting corn, that acrid, almost choking scent of char and smoke. I could see the wood coals glowing fiery red and see the sparks float upward as the vendor shook the can holding the embers. I can hear the sharp pop as fire consumed wood. I watched the vendors roll paper to hold the peanuts that were also being roasted. I could hear the hum of foreign languages being spoken. I could have stood in the center of all of that for a while, just observing. I felt like the centerpoint of a kaleidescope with everything swirling around me. As if I could take a deep breath and drink it all in.

The evening was capped off with an excellent dinner at Koyla's. The only word that comes to mind is WOW...and yes, I realize I have said that a lot over these posts. Koyla's is a roof top restaurant. You take the smallest elevator ever with an old fashioned metal sliding door, then a winding spiral staircase which freaked me out, and when you open the door, you have stepped back in time.

It was a dimmly lit and for me, full of a sensuality that was palpable. The scent of spices: rich, warm, inviting. Hushed conversations floating through the air. Nothing spoken above a whisper. Staff moving silently to see to their patrons needs. The thought that this would be a great place to make out for hours flickered briefly through my mind. Such an irreverent thought, but if you could see it and you knew me, you'd get why I probably had it :)

It was a feast for my senses. Visually stunning, with fabric draped pergolas under which was a low table surround by a concrete platform with a red velvet covered cushion. Once you left the path to make your way to the table, you met sand. Taking off your shoes you stepped over the low concrete bench to sit at your table. For any girl who has ever read a romance novel and the eventual object of her desire is a tall, dark, and handsome sheikh, prince, sultan, man who is set on making her succumb to his will (and not in that domineering, overbearing, I am lord of all way but the I love you and will not rest until you love me too way) and she eventually falls hopelessly in love with him only after he's taken her from everything she knows and keep her in a fantasy suite some where in the desert...this is that place.

Did I say it would be a great place to make out for hours at a darkened table for two? Now I need to figure out how to get back there with a handsome man to have dinner and entertain thoughts of making out...although reading a really good romance novel would be less expensive.

But I digress...The atmosphere, the food, the friends. The fact that I FINALLY got to have some curry...YUM! Now, part of the reason we were even there is the fact that out of everyone on this trip, I wanted curry. Hello! I'm in India. I am Indian. My middle name is Indira. Are you seeing a pattern? The curry in India is different that the curry my mom fixes...and I really wanted to experience it.

I tried a paneer dish and a chicken dish. I had mayti (fenugreek) roti, plain naan, cheese naan. Eating with my hands, just like I do at mom's, felt right and I fit in as that how we Indian like to eat our curry. Would it be impolite to surreptitiously lick my fingers?? I was going to say I had to smile, but I did that nearly every day there...I found it curious that my friends were always watching me while I tried new dishes. Almost felt like I was being tested. If so, I hope I passed with flying colors. Everything was delicious!

The evening ended much too soon. Some of our friends had to catch trains to get back to their homes. How incredibly generous of them to make the trip to downtown to spend it with us.

The weekend was just smashing. I smiled so much my face hurt. I got to be silly and have ridiculous pictures taken. One of my new friends said I was fun to be around since I was always joking and enjoying life. You know what, I was enjoying life, in a way that I haven't done in a long time. This weekend made me feel good to be alive and to be in a place where I could feel my own history singing through my veins.

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