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Finding Peace in India

Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life - Masala in Udaipur

INDIA | Wednesday, 17 April 2013 | Views [465] | Comments [2] | Scholarship Entry

“Australia, you rolling chapati,” Shashi says and hands me an apron. Under her nimble fingers a ball of dough swiftly flattens into a perfect disc. I roll and roll the dough into lumpy ovals. Next to me, England is pounding ginger and garlic into a fragrant paste; Germany is stirring a curry.

“Three years ago no speak English,” our iron chef holds up a jar of ground turmeric, bright orange like a marigold flower. She adds flaming chilli and ground coriander to liquefied ghee hissing in a blackened pot. Her story emerges as a bouquet of aromas rise from bubbling pots.

Like us, she came to Udaipur, the city on the lake in India’s Western Rajasthan, as a foreigner; fluent only in her local dialect. She married a man she had never met and gave him two sons.

His portrait hangs above the couch that is the family bed. Using the coffee table as a chopping board, the younger boy works a knife through kilos of vegetables. Chop, chop, eggplants, purple and plump, split under his blade, tomatoes, a satisfied red, wait next to cauliflower and potato.

“After husband die, every day eat only chapati,” Shashi says, guiding my hand to flip the disc of bread on the cast-iron pan. A dispute over a small amount of money led his best friend to mix sleeping powder into her husband’s dhal.

I want to tell her about my husband’s slow death from cancer and my search for peace. But my tongue is numbed by the delirium of flavours in a cup of freshly made masala chai.

“Masala meaning spices mixed together,” Shashi says and resumes her story. I swallow mine in a mouthful of cardamom, black pepper, a fingernail of ginger mixed with milk and black tea leaves.

Her husband's family “making big problems”, the only work to be found was washing travellers' clothes in secret, because tradition forbids a Brahmin to do so.

It was Ireland boy, picking up his laundry, who tasted the potential in the cup of chai she offered. Like a masala recipe, her business grew from a blend of ingredients. An Australian typed the recipes, a Portuguese built a website, a French girl translated it.

“Now very busy every day,” says Shashi. The shadows of exhaustion under her eyes dissolve as she watches Australia, Germany and England attack the seven course meal we cooked on a two-burner stove. Using our fingers, we devour the best meal of our lives.

Shashi smiles at me as if she can read in the shadows under my eyes why I have come to India. I feel my own smile rising from somewhere deep within.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013



Well written!
I don't know that my entry can compete with that!

  nigelfromnewzealand Apr 17, 2013 9:48 PM


Thank you Nigel that is very kind, but I am sure you can!

  Kerstin Pilz Apr 17, 2013 9:49 PM

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