Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that were published over a year ago. Not to mention those that are languishing on the to be read pile for whatever reason.
I knew I would enjoy this, having read the hilarious posts on Barb’s blog during her travels. I wasn’t wrong. It’s a quick, but very funny, read at less than 100 pages and was published in January 2016.
Barb, Janine and Jaya decided to arrange another get together and chose to meet in India. Barb was travelling from Scotland, Janine from Washington DC and Jaya, who lives in India, would meet them at the airport. A recipe for disaster? But no, they hooked up without too many problems. There follows a hilarious account of an Indian trip of a lifetime, which includes delicious food, wonderful attractions, food, temples, more food, Dehli belly, Indian medicines, lots of food and death-defying driving, to spotlight just a few features. You’ll notice food is the most predominant. As Barb explains ‘I was in India, and it could only mean one thing. Soon it would be time to eat again.’
After my life stopped flashing before my eyes, I shared my observation that she was moving briskly in the wrong direction. On a freeway. With oncoming traffic.
‘Of course,’ she explained with complete lack of concern. ‘There’s a traffic jam on our side. But don’t worry – that means on our way back we can go on the right side of the road.’
Barb’s crisply detailed, informative and witty commentary brings to life the places, people and cuisine sampled during the trip. The food sounded divine, well, most of it anyway. Perhaps I’d have to pass on the omelet that sent Barb’s tastebuds ‘from innocent bystanders to drive by victims of green chili omelet assault’. But I could quite happily eat my way through a plate of parathas. The traffic sounds horrendous and crossing the road is a feat in itself, but taken completely in their stride by the locals. Everything is observed with a humorous slant, and includes some wonderful photography, which all together made this such a pleasure to read.
If you’re familiar with Barb’s fabulous blog you know you’ll be in for a treat, and if you’re unfamiliar do yourself a favour and get this book. It’s a delightful travelogue recounting the highs, and some lows, of a wonderful trip. I think the Taj Mahal and wild elephants would have been my highlights too.
Once upon the Land Before Time (or at least before mobile phones), my two best friends and I decided to leave the US from separate locations and meet up in Europe. To everyone’s shock, Janine, Jaya and I pulled it off—mostly because we went to Luxembourg, a country so small the odds in favor of chance street encounters were almost 100%, but also because Jaya was carrying the BS, a blue suitcase so enormous it took up approximately a third of the country’s square footage and was visible on satellite images. We couldn’t possibly miss.
It took over thirty-five years before—in a combination of optimism and failing memories— we recklessly decided to repeat this feat. Hey, we reasoned, now we’ve got smartphones, better credit ratings, wheeled suitcases, medical insurance, and the ability to drink legally. Just to make it more interesting, this time we chose to meet in India, where the odds against the three of us actually linking up were approximately a bazillion to bupkis.
Despite blizzards, canceled flights, de-icing delays, and an adjacent passenger who had made unfortunate food choices resulting in alarming gastrointestinal events, I arrived in India. The theory was that I would fly in from my home in Scotland, Janine would come from Washington DC, and Jaya would meet up with us at the airport. Nobody who knows any of us thought for a second that this could really occur.
Actual conversation at Passport Control, Mumbai:
Janine: “Well no, I don’t have my friend’s address or phone number. But she’s going to pick me up at the airport. She lives in Gujarat. That’s in India.”
Passport Control: [SO not impressed]
I arrived before Janine. As far as I could tell, the Ahmedabad Airport was staffed by the entire Indian army, each soldier carrying a honking huge gun. I grabbed my suitcase and exited baggage control into India. Noise. Chaos. People, dogs, honking horns, more people. More soldiers. More guns. Dozens of sincere men who called me “Sister” and suggested they could take me anywhere on the planet I might want to go.
No Janine. No Jaya. And, apparently, no way to get back into the airport. After several failed attempts at international texts, I realized I could (at heart-stopping expense) send email to Jaya, who soon confirmed that she was on her way and that it was 3:00AM so I should go back inside. Except there were signs everywhere saying you couldn’t go back in.
“No problem.” Jaya explained that rules in India were more like guidelines. “People in India are very kind. Just ask.”
I’ve been living in the UK where rules are inviolate and graven in stone, so I didn’t believe a word of it. But the soldier at the door listened to my plea and waved his AK-Humongo to usher me back inside. There I found Janine attempting to send email or text. I reminded her neither option was likely for two technologically-challenged, jet-lagged, middle-aged ladies in a foreign country at 3:00AM.
In the end, we wandered over to the door and to our mutual amazement found Jaya waiting for us along with her husband, a hired driver, and a van. Apparently lightning does strike again, because just like thirty-five years earlier, the three of us actually managed to meet up in another continent.
This is the story of three women eating our way across India in search of adventure, elephants, temples, palaces, western toilets, monkeys, the perfect paratha…and the kindness of Indian strangers.