Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chennai Day Twenty-Six, I think

I had ice cream from Arun's for desert and it has restored my faith in India. Cashew and Almond, 100 g size, with a sprinkling of tiny chocolate chips on top. My husband had boysenberry with fried cashews. Take-away, as in our take-out. We walked the neighborhood, which was blissfully quiet and free of honking cars and whizzing motorbikes and careening auto-rickshaws. You could see the light on the leaves in the coconut and banana trees, and the road was dark enough as to seem clear of debris and easily walkable. We walked about three or four blocks in the silence, eating our ice cream and enjoying the evening.

A good ending to a day that felt like my most difficult. Each day, I've been increasingly hungry for a Western meal and less interested in the Indian lunch that is cooked for us. I come home about 1 pm for my meal break. Every day, I peer into the many little tins that the cook has brought by, and each day, I'm more morose. Green beans, again. Cabbage mixed with coconut, again. A kind of rice mush, again. Given the fact that I am a fussy eater in the best of circumstances (as a child, I would quiz waitresses at lunch counters about whether the tuna fish was light or dark, and PB and J sandwiches at camp had to have the crusts cut off), and the fact that I've been getting over a flu, the meal became less and less desirous with each day. I've been having toast for breakfast, some chicken noodle soup and peanut butter from home and some nice, plain butter cookies for lunch, and then fruit and more toast for dinner, or the last two nights, we've eaten out. Today was the last packet of soup and the bottom of the peanut butter jar. Then I ate an apple. Then I ate an oatmeal Cliff bar. Then I ate a tangerine.

This is how hungry I was: what I wanted for dinner was a nice, juicy, grilled steak (I haven't had steak in at least three years) and a glass of wine. And Chennai is dry, for the most part, meaning liquor isn't sold in most eating places. But we tried the Park Sheraton, a fancy hotel in the city. I was imagining a Westernized restaurant where I could order that steak and glass of wine. Turns out that was only in my imagination. But after some fussing, several trips between the cushy sofas in the lobby and the one restaurant that was open - where the menu posted outside looked like lots of South Indian food and no steak, and my first real doubt about whether I could spend longterm time in India (eating only soup and crackers for a week undermines your optimism), we took the plunge and walked in for dinner.

And it was very fine. Had the glass of wine. Had a grilled lamb burger with a slice of grilled pineapple, french fries, some funny little pickled vegetables including tiny ears of corn. And the hot tea here is wonderful: served hot (not lukewarm), with milk and sugar. I wish that I knew what kind of tea it is so that I coud buy some to take home: it is soothing and reassuring and tastes like something out of an English child's nursery story.

After dinner, we went out to the guy in charge of calling your car and gave him our driver's number. At home, they'll go dashing off across the lot to get your car. Here, the man picked up a Mr. Microphone beside the podium he was working at and announced "4-5-9-1!!" at top volume. Again and again. No D. "4-5-9-1!!! 4-5-9-1!!!" No D. I surreptitiously took my cell phone out to call him and was somehow spotted. The announcer came over and asked me for the driver's cell number. I said, it's okay, I'll just give him a call. "Madam, I will call him. His number please?" Then "4-5-9-1" booming across the parking lot. Just then, my husband spotted the car. D. drove up, we sheepishly got in, and off we went. Apparently, with a big India-England cricket match tomorrow there were extra precautions (we were wanded by security people on the way into the hotel and the car was examined for any contraband in the trunk or on the undercarriage with a large mirror held under the car), they'd sent him off to park down the street, then it took time to come back around, be re-examined, and pull up to the front door.

On the way home, a stop for ice cream. Ahh. I am now prepared to sit at the yoga center again, waiting for students to observe, dreaming of ice cream. (Yesterday I had the best compliment: one of my favorite teachers, who is very smart and good at her job, told me that I should come back and stay for six months the next time and that I would be missed, and today she peeked into a room where I was observing and have me a cheerful hello. Felt very nice.)

2 comments:

hwbowen said...

(Yesterday I had the best compliment: one of my favorite teachers, who is very smart and good at her job, told me that I should come back and stay for six months the next time and that I would be missed, and today she peeked into a room where I was observing and have me a cheerful hello. Felt very nice.)

YAY!

z111 said...

I'm online friends with your daughter and she pointed me here.

I spent 3 weeks in India, exactly 8 years ago. I sometimes really miss it and am enjoying poking at your journal. I haven't been through it yet, but if you haven't gone, go hang out on the beach in Vagator. My heart still lives there. Though I bet it's different than it was then. The first big hotel was being built. But 8 years ago, it was nothing but guest houses.