India: The Colorful South

Local Cuisine, Rice, and Rides

Sun, Jan 20 – The road trip through India continued – further south and further east we wound our way through the tiniest of roads and beyond the expanse of miles and miles of more rice fields. Lakuma pointed out whenever the rice was being harvested in the field, which was like, every 10 min. and every time, the aforementioned aggressive photographer of the group has us all wait as she does the snap-and-check over and over and over again. First there’s a glare from the window, then she didn’t frame it well enough, then it was blurry, yada yada. She must have 1,000 pictures of field workers as tiny dots in vast landscapes of green and brown. Meanwhile I’m forced to use every last bit of my concentration on bladder control when I would be happy to hop off the bus and give photo-nazi something that’s really worth capturing on film!! HEYO, AMIRYTE?!

But I digress. Here are some other points of interest along our drive – a temple of horse idols for merchants to pray for prosperity, an ornate wooden doorway of a historic merchant house we stopped at, and monkeys!

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Once we made it to the bustling city of Madurai, we had another ‘exotic hour’ where we zipped around the city on tuktuks, stopping for a fabric market and local cuisine.

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The local cuisine pictured above is my favorite dish yet! It’s buttery dough with fried egg and spices. Despite the cook dropping the spatula on the ground, then dipping it in gray water, and wiping the knife off with a black towel dripping grease, and then spotting a mouse scurrying across a wire hanging above him, I not only had that for dinner, but I also ate Uncle David and Shanon’s leftovers as a snack today! The name of the dish slips my mind, but I do know it starts with a P. Parota? Pardota? Pardosh? Pardash? Pratosh?

Mon, Jan 21. NINERS. I didn’t watch the game but Uncle David gave me the score update.

We got to meet Lakumas family in the morning!
We went to the Madurai temple, a palace, and shopping all before lunch! Instead of the market, we went to a store that OAT (overseas adventure travel, the company that organizes this trip) approves as the place to buy your exquisite goods. Grandma bought the most spectacular pair of ruby earrings, Shanon a silk bedspread and topaz pendants, another guy on the trip – a handmade chess set, and Elmira – an amazing silk cashmere wool blend rug. I walked away with just a free tote bag, but had a lot of enjoyment from watching other people purchase things, and doing my part in asserting my opinion about what they should buy, and haggling for sport. No pictures were taken, but you can imagine 3 stories of pure ornate heaven.

After lunch at another local cuisine, we took a rickshaw ride through the tiny narrow streets that not even a tuk tuk can fit through. All of the rickshaw drivers are little old men with the tiniest little legs, but wow! So strong! I felt a little bad/guilty about all of us riding in these rickshaws, but I also try to keep in mind that like our staying in the hotels we are contributing to the economy and our money is going directly to people who are trying to feed their families. The slight comfort I have of our usual bus being large and indestructible to the forces of the other drivers (if you can call them that) on the road is stripped from me when in a Rickshaw. There’s just me, in the hands of a frail little man, a steel frame I sit on, and faith… the rest of traffic honking all around me, at me, at others, at nothing, honking beeping blaring honking more. But somehow the magical frail rickshaw man has some type of invisible force field around him, and he is able to deliver me back in one piece. In our guidebook from OAT, they have a Highway Code of Indian Driving where clause I is ‘all drivers on the road must assume immortality’. By god is this true…

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The most difficult part of the trip so far is interacting with beggars on the street. They look so empty and hollow – like living skeletons. Sometimes they come up to me and physically grab my arm, asking for money which makes me even more uncomfortable… India’s culture is very vibrant where people are usually really extroverted towards us foreigners; they want their photos taken, they laugh and smile and stare. The other side to this is that the beggars are more forward and in your face as well…

Anyways, I thought it was worth mentioning this aspect of the trip as well.
Tomorrow we are off to the mountains, safe and sound in our big indestructible immortal bus!

Lakumas family: so sweet!

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