For nearly 50 years India has been subtly and gently beckoning me. Her intoxicating allure has been slowly increasing and drawing me towards her. The method of delivery fuelling this increasing fascination has been…food.
India’s chief recruiter to the delights of her cuisine has been, one Madhur Jaffrey. Her textbook of addiction, called, innocently enough, Indian Cookery. Machiavelli’s little book also had an innocent title, but both, I know, have been used to alter mens lives forever.
I’ve had this innocuous looking collection of recipes since I was about 20. As with any addiction, I was lured in slowly. Innocent looking Indian home style cooking started the fascination. A simple potato and boiled egg curry to start. Moving to the stronger and more addictive combinations . Soon I was hooked. I’ve been an increasingly regular user over the years. To the point that I have been infused with the gastronomy of India to the point of zero resistance. So I had no choice but to finally visit the country that had so persuasively and totally won me over.
So, I am finally travelling to experience India’s bewildering profusion of humanity, geography, culture, sights, smells, sensations and tastes.
I’m travelling with an open mind, but given that I’m a westerner, relatively cosseted through a lifetime of easy living, I wonder if that’s enough. I’ve never been starving, poor, or homeless. As random and capricious as the location of your birth is, I was fortunate enough to be delivered into a first world county. I’ve had the advantage of plentiful food, good health and well paid employment, in peaceful and politically stable countries. I was born in the UK, and for the last 16 years, living the dream in Perth, Western Australia.
My life is probably as inconceivable for the teeming masses of impoverished Indian citizens as their lives are to me. I’m hoping that my trip will allow me a some insight and understanding into their everyday reality. Will I have any shared cultural references that will help me understand their lives? Or will my ethnocentricity leave me completely oblivious to an understanding of their existence?
I’ve seen countless travel and cooking shows, as well as movies set in India. It looks utterly amazing. Packed to the rickety rafters with people. Culture and history stupendously rich, but impossible to monetise to the benefit of the mass of it’s population.
It also looks filthy, desperately poor, run down and chaotic. The demands of over a billion souls overwhelming the ability of politicians and bureaucrats to manage the everyday requirements of essential necessities that we take for granted. Housing, electricity, food, education, sanitation and health.
The trip has been masterfully arranged by my brilliant wife, Sara. She has spent the last year researching every possible option. From where to go, where to stay, what to do, where to eat and who to take us around. Without her drive, the trip would have remained a pipe dream of an intoxicated addict (me), stupefied by the delights and complexities of India food.
March 13th. Arrive in Delhi. 2 nights in the The Imperial Hotel.
Dinner in the Spice Route restaurant.
Tour off the beaten track in old Delhi.
March 15th. Arrive in Varanasi. 2 nights in the Shiva Ganges View. 2 nights in Nadaser Palace.
Guided by a local for 2 days.
Night Ganges river boat tour
March 19th. Arrive in Agra. 2 nights staying in the Aman Homestay.
Taj Mahal, dawn and dusk
March 21st. Arrive in Jaipur. Staying at the Samode Haveli.
March 24th. Arrive Samode. Samode Palace Hotel.
March 25th. Arrive Shahpura. Staying at the Shahpura Bagh Homestay.
Hang out with the Maharaja in the village that he ownes.
March 27th. Arrive Udaipur. Staying 2 nights at the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel. 2 nights in the Taj Lake Palace Hotel.