Photo Credit: http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/haasje78/
I flew 22 hours from Denver to Bangalore to visit my daughter in southern India, and the final exhausting leg of my journey was an eight-hour taxi ride to Hampi. I was tired, sleep-deprived, my senses raw as we hurtled along. It was a tiny car, with hot pink, red and yellow baubles, flowers and chains dangling from the windshield. I sat behind the driver, on the right side of the car. He spoke Hindi and I spoke my West Coast American with the remains of a southern drawl. I was supposed to have an English-speaking driver, but there was no communication between us. He looked worried, too.
Hot air blew through the car’s open windows, whipping my hair into a dervish, raking the scarf off my head. We careened along a narrow, two-lane road, playing chicken with oncoming cars and buses. Every vehicle honked and roared, brakes screeching, acrid black exhaust fumes commingling with our mutual tension.
It is hot,” I said to the driver. “Wind is strong,” I said an hour later. “I have to go to the restroom,” I pleaded. He turned his head and muttered something once before ignoring my prattle. He seemed grumpy.
I felt alone, insulated, in this wild drive to Hampi. More so, I was not in control. Defeated, I tore open an energy bar and did one thing I could do: take a bite of the familiar.
I chewed on fear, excitement, unwanted solitude, worry that I was in the hands of someone who was not interested in providing this blond woman tourist with a sense of safety. But from that crevice of isolation, something compelled me to break the bar in half and thrust my hand between the front seats to the side of the driver’s head. He turned, and took the bar as familiarly as if I had been his sister. He did not hesitate to touch a stranger’s food. We ate in silence. But we ate together. The energy bar was the bridge between us. Sharing it had made us friends.
I was thunderstruck by this, because, for Americans, sharing your food is almost considered rude; it’s unsanitary. What’s mine is mine. For Hindus, sharing food is an essential part of their culture. One does not consider whether to share food or not. “What’s mine is yours” is a tenet from which they live day to day. (Of course, the opposite is also a tenet for many). My daughter’s Indian teacher says that when he wants a taxi and enters the café where the drivers congregate while waiting for customers, they insist he share their food before he can get into the car.
And then, my daughter’s teacher, who had arranged the taxi ride, called the driver, who passed his phone to me, and I could say, “I need to go the bathroom!” With my wish quickly translated, we stopped at a cool, shaded restaurant, with plumbing, and shared a meal, still not talking, but no longer alone.
There is a beautiful Hindi saying about food:
“Daane daane pe khane wale ka naam likkha hota hai,” which means, “On every grain is written the name of the one who eats.“
The language of food speaks deeply of the land, the people who grow it and those of us who eat it. When we eat together, we partake of so much more than the food itself. Besides satisfying any number of hungers, we also share the transformative power of nourishment. This communion offers us that rare opportunity to be, in some way, one with another – and how nourishing is that?
Yield 2-? servings
When possible, do this. Also, accept invitations with grace.
- Share food
- Yield: More friends; fewer strangers