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Transvestites & mutton gravy part II

INDIA | Sunday, 3 February 2008 | Views [1380] | Comments [1]

OK, due to computer/power supply issues, the last post was cut short, so now to return to my story. Apols for typos, I am using a keyboard with the letters painted on with nailpolish:
Earlier in the day as I was walking through the markets in the old city , I passed by three stunning looking women in bright saris buying shoes. One of the women glanced up as I walked by and gently smiled to which I responded 'Namaste' and continued on. The last time I was in India I had seen the hijras (Indian transvestites) on the train from Agra to Jaipur but was a little surprised to see them in the city. I couldn't help myself and had to double back to the shoe shop to see if they would talk to me. So I inconspicuously began picking up rediculously small shoes and admiring them whilst hanging around in their viscinity. Sadly they were more interested in the satin pumps and did not give me a second look.
Anyway, after gatecrashing the family wedding, we rode to their home which was freshly painted and bedecked in many strands of lights. Women were moving from one house to another across the road at which there appeared to be a function. Rahull spoke to one of the women and tried to get me in by pretending I was a journalist. They said that it was not a good time as there was a convention on and there was no-one to speak to us. The convention featured representatives of hijra communities from all over the country as well as academics and other leaders of the community. Although I could not find a paper in English to explain it in detail, I believe it was about establishing rights etc. for the communities. Their presence at weddings and births is considered auspicious, and they are paid a fee for their attendence. Although they are well accepted in India, they still remain outside the normal conventions. I was told of instances where they had been attacked and raped. Rahull told me that the popular belief was that these people were born sexless, and when they appear in families, they are given to the community to raise. Another explanation is that they are born as men and choose to saccrifice their genitalia to a goddess in exchange for the gift of fertility, which explains their popularity at the ceremonies.

It was getting cold so we grabbed a bottle of rum and headed to the rooftop of Tony's house, a friend of Rahull's. Sitting around a charcoal brazier, one man was rolling out flattened balls of wheat dough against a wooden circle with a rolling pin, then tossing the flattened chapatti into a pan on the brazier. When one side was cooked, another man flipped it to cook the other side and then finished it off in the coals before dropping it onto a  sheet of newspaper. When all the chapatties were cooked, a covered pot replaced the pan on the brazier. 'Mutton gravy, my specialty' Tony told me in a gruff voice. Several times over the next few hours either Tony or Deepak, a man with those incredible Kashmiri green eyes, would lift the lid and stir the stew to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. When it was ready, the chapatties reappeared and one was placed on each plate and topped with a steaming ladleful of rich thick gravy, A second chapatti was then used to mop up the succulent morsels -as soon as you could see the bottom chapatti, another spoonful of stew was added. A chill mist rolled down the streets sending people diving under woolen blankets. We warmed ourselves around the brazier, talking and laughing, eating stew and drinking rum. It was the best meal I have had in India.

Tags: food & eating




  rahul May 16, 2008 1:28 PM

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