At Home Abroad: Galway Girl in India Part 2, by Regina Costello

At Home Abroad: Galway Girl In India.  Part 2
By Regina Costello

(See for last month’s Part 1)

We sojourned at the Kumar household for the initial few days of our trip.  The prospect of home-made parathafor breakfast abolished any thoughts of lingering in a warm bed on a chilly morning.  These are a little like our Irish Boxty. 
Flour is kneaded with water and rolled out into a circle where globs of softened spicy vegetables are placed in the center and then delicately infused throughout the dough.  Tossed into a hot pan and fried lightly, the parathathen land on plates smothered in melting ghee. They are always quickly devoured. 

The fruit and vegetable carts saunter down the streets every morning to be met with neighbors selecting choice offerings amid friendly haggling with the merchants.  The goods are freshly picked in the early hours of the morning and are effortlessly organic with wonderful aroma and distinct taste. 

The cockeyed highly pigmented vegetables are a far cry from my typical purchases.  No waxed apples or perfectly rounded oranges; no flawless potatoes or blemish free vegetables, lopsided tomatoes, burnt orange carrots, crooked parsnips or clay crusted potatoes – We made our purchase and returned home to prepare the lunch.

The afternoon brought neighbors and family friends for a visit.  Like the Irish, hot tea is on hand around the clock; but nothing like our Barrys! 

Tea leaves are simmered in a pan of milk and cardamon and sugar.  “Rich Tea” style biscuits were served with the tea.  Lucky for me, most people I encountered spoke English.  I loved the company, conversation and the ensuing feeling of a new home in India. 

In the evenings we visited a few of Deepak’s childhood friends.  Two of these people in particular are close to my heart – Dev and Lata Garg.  When I met Dev’s mother for the first time, she struggled to say in English “How do you know” and offered to shake hands, as I simultaneously struggled with my “Namaste” with my palms placed together.  We all laughed heartily at our efforts to respect each others’ cultures and we have talked about the encounter many times since. 

We soon received word that Deepak’s grandmother was en route to meet us.  This involved a 6-hour bus trip for her.  Travelling on bumpy roads in an uncomfortable seat on a crowded vehicle makes for a jarring journey. 
Little seemed to faze this tiny 80-year-old woman.  She arrived donning a simple sari bearing a modest suitcase.  To me, she was the ultimate minimalist.  To my dismay she did not speak English, but that did not curtail my excitement to meet her. 

Everyone turned to Nanni (as she was lovingly called) for her stories, which clearly were much more entertaining than whatever was on the box.  Squeals and giggles erupted from the young grandkids.  I plagued Deepak to translate every word.  But I couldn’t see the humor! 

Apparently, she took delight in colorful language that he omitted in light of the young grandkids present who had a good command of English.  Sitting in that living room viewing three generations present moved me unexpectedly. I suddenly felt a gush of loss for my own mother and was filled with wonder for my own grandmothers whom I had never met.

One evening there was a babble of music and bustle coming from outside.  Leaning over the balcony I saw a “fair day” set up on the street.  Both sides were lined with back to back tables selling a variety of wares and street food.  Deepak wasn’t pushed about going out.  He told me they are just selling knick knacks. 

With a little prodding together, we strolled down the street.  An hour later we returned laden down with purchases.  His Mom wanted to see what I had bought.  Skinny rolling pins, wooden cutting board, colorful candles with iron holders, wooden spoons and a leather wallet.   All hand crafted, beautifully decorated and painted. 
They were surprised at my liking these kitchen gadgets, but I loved them!

After a few nights in the Delhi household, we were ready to travel further afield.  Over bottles of Kingfisher beer and a few chats, we hashed out a plan and booked a driver and car for the following week.  We packed our bags again that night and I looked forward to the road trip to be embarked upon after a plate of parathas in the morning.
*Regina is a Graduate of History and Philosophy from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a Post Graduate of Library and Information Studies from the National University of Ireland, Dublin.  She is the former Assistant Librarian of the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin; former Curator of the Irish American Archives at the Western Reserve Historical Society, former Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission and former Executive Coordinator of the Northern Ohio Rose Centre.  She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland.  She can be reached at [email protected]

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