Last Wednesday I was kidnapped by Indians. I had just come from the gym, and had a half hour to kill before my bus was going to arrive. Being loathe to wait in the cold in my gym clothes (which are ill-suited for cold Scottish evenings), I sought other temporary accomdations. Ilya wasn’t answering his phone (his flat is closest), but I knew that Neha T. had been heading for Malavika’s flat (second closest), so I rang them up to hang out while I waited for my bus.
I had intended to spend only ten minutes. I had not even intended to remove my coat. I was just going to visit for a bit until I needed to head back to the bus stop.
Malavika, however, had other ideas.
These plans involved three hours of chat, and something that Neha, speaking English for my benefit, called “potato vegetable”.
I will have the recipe for you when I get it myself. It involves thinly sliced potatoes, thinly sliced bell peppers, ginger, mustard seeds, tumeric, and something mysterious called “asofoetida”, among other things. I am still not clear on what asofoetida is.
While dinner was cooking, we compared airlines based on the quality of the flight attendent service. Malavika mourned the loss of the peach and gray uniforms of an airline that I had never heard of, and then beautifully immitated the flight attendents of another airline. She did an impression of Rashmi as a flight attendent that was so spot on that I nearly fell out of my chair laughing. (Oh, if only I had video.) Apparently, Neha had trained to be a flight attendent for a while. Malavika waxed poetic about how she would love to be a receptionist, and she and Dhruv put on a 10 minute improvised sketch for us. Malavika pretended to be answering the phones at a posh resort in Bombay, and Dhruv pretended to be a skeevy customer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen adults play pretend like that, and it was AWESOME.
We ate the “potato vegetable” with chapatti, which are sort of like tortillas. Malavika heated them in the skillet until they lost their translucence, and insisted I eat first. She showed me how to tear off pieces using only one hand. She did it with the elegant grace of one long practiced. I, on the other hand, hideously mangled my chapatti, but damn it, my left hand stayed politely in my lap. Who says I don’t mind my manners?
The meal was served with two kinds of pickle and a chutney, both carted back from India in luggage over the Christmas holiday. In the image below, the clear plastic container with the granular substance is the chutney–the jar with the red-orange stuff is the pickle. Both are incredibly delicious. The pickle is a salty and sour and spicy, and made of who-knows-what. The chutney was strongly garlicky and salty, and also spicy.
Upon discovering that I loved pickle, Malavika pulled down this jar of sweet pickle, made from immature mangos. Oh man, guys, you only wish that you have it as good as I do.
Dhruv did the dishes, and Malavika insisted that I stay for Indian tea (we would call it chai tea), even though it was six hours past my tea-drinking cut-off time. It was worth breaking my own rules. We talked about the British empire’s interactions with India, and about how much it annoys them that people here call everything Indian a curry. We decided that I had best just move to India. I whole-heartedly endorse this idea. Home, I increasingly learn, is wherever one has friends this good.