It WAS amazing.
Two intense weeks of indelible experiences: weaving through the holiday crowds of Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk bazaar; mingling with pilgrims at the Punjab’s incomparable Golden Temple; dodging motorbikes on a high-adrenalin tasting tour of Lucknow street-food. We met and mentored with chefs in Delhi, Amritsar, and Narenda Nagar – and took our palates on a roller-coaster ride from the heat of a masala poriyal through the creaminess of a chicken malai tikka to the delicate nuances of a palak soup. And under the gentle guidance of Jojo Brooks, we practiced an unforgettable yoga session on a sandbank of the Ganges River.
India has so many stories to tell. Over the coming months, I hope to sort out and share some of them.
But after one week home, the impression of India that remains strongest with me is the warm and engaging demeanor of her people. From the first winning smile of the HI Travel rep who greeted me at Indira Gandhi International airport, to my final bear-hug with Luv Jawad (tour guide extraordinaire) in a Himalayan palace, the people I encountered throughout Northern India were amiable and interested and keen to connect.
Perhaps the young Sikh man I met enroute to his grandfather’s Punjabi home and the genial grandmother who was my seatmate on an Air India flight to Delhi were simply infused with the good cheer of Diwali. The classical dance troupe at the Amrit Rao Peshwa haveli and the attentive staff at Ananda in the Himalayas might only have been demonstrating their dedication to service. And maybe the rickshaw wallahs of Delhi and Varanasi were just gunning for a tip.
But there’s no denying the true generosity offered by Sumeet Nair, his wife, Gitanjali, and his daughter, Janaki, as they opened their home to us for a day of cooking and conversation beneath the huge ficus tree in their backyard. Nor the hospitality and inclusiveness of Prem Syal and his family and friends as they welcomed us to their spectacular Diwali celebrations. You invited us in to share your lives and your passions, and for that I will be ever grateful.
Kudos to Karen Anderson of Calgary Food Tours for the relationships she has nurtured over the years to offer these connections. Consider the stories to come a small tribute to you all.
Text and photos © 2015 Catherine Van Brunschot