I find that I am best able to express myself in the form of stories. Let me tell you a couple of stories about me that have had a big part in shaping my personality and person.
Buying clothes does not normally stick out in my mind as an experience that is interesting in my life. But buying a saree in india changed all of that!
I was invited to a cousin’s wedding in kerala some years ago. He was getting married to a girl from India and the ceremony was to take place in the girl’s village in kerala. It was my first time in Kerla and I absolutely loved it! But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
The process of buying a saree for someone not from india was not as straight forward as I had imagined - walking into a store, buying and leaving. Turns out that as someone not from india, I cannot just do that.
My hosts took me to a special store - for foreign people (read: they spoke perfect English, better French than me, and understood colours that worked best). The store manager, hari was extremely friendly and showed me the different styles on offer.
The questions I got asked were about which ceremony was I attending? What is my budget? How was I related to the couple? Which part of the world did I come from? No, which city specifically? Did I like South Indian food? You get the idea
The process of the saree purchase entered the next phase. One of the salesmen started to take out sarees from this enormous stack and started to drape them on himself to show me what it would look like. It's interesting that all the salesmen were men, something I am told is the case in most saree shops. Curious.
Once I selected my favourite saree - a stunning purple coloured silk saree - I was measured up by the in-house tailor, who would make my under skirt (petticoat) and blouse. These would be ready the same day evening. Same day! That's service !
Thoroughly entertained by the experience and of course the stories of the store owner about his travels through Europe, I came away with a boat load of inspiration and ideas.
Food is important for a lot of cultures, but the people in India take things to another level. They love their food and the process of preparing the food reflects this love and dedication.
The amount of ingredients and preparation involved for even a simple plate of food is amazing. A cup of coffee might involve several steps of boiling, filtering and straining - and this is even before the coffee is added to the milk!
We were making Dosai - a special and thin crispy crepe that is very popular in this part of the country. The preparation involved grinding the grains using a traditional hand process (for my benefit I was told). Then leaving it overnight to ferment.
Next day the mixture was carefully put on very hot pans to make perfectly crisp crepes. I never did manage to make the crepes right - each attempt ended with a bigger mess than the previous attempt!
The result when served for lunch was so elegant and simple that it almost made me forget the efforts that went into preparing that simple crepe. Almost ! I didn't forget the grinding of the rice though!