“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”-James Beard
Yesterday, for the first time since I returned from India, I was able to indulge in perhaps one of the most important components of our time in India-South Asian food. Half of our group attended Duke’s Annual Hindi Festival, and as I walked into the room, I couldn’t help but get the overwhelming feeling that I was back in India again. The sounds of small chitchat in Hindi and other regional South Asian languages; the scent of chole, naan, mutter paneer, and biryani; the salwar kameezs and kurtis; and the conversations between students about plans for the weekend, all brought back a rush of memories from our time in Tagore.
As we ate, I remembered the hundreds of enticing and decadent meals we had all across India. Everyone in our group is a foodie (not really, but we prefer that term over fatty ), and every time we went to sight see or explore the city, we always searched for a new and delicious restaurant to satisfy our taste buds. A large way in which we understood the varying, distinct regions of the country was through food. We spent countless days comparing and exploring the differences in North and South Indian food, more specifically Punjabi versus Hyderabadi versus Rajasthani versus Tamil, etc. Every new city we visited, we were always sure to ask the waiters “What food and sweet is (city name) known for? We want to try that.” Food quickly became one of the major gateways we employed to truly immerse ourselves in the people of India. Nevertheless, our explorations with food go beyond just tasting; it was our conversations at meal times that were truly worth indulging in. Meal times were without fail the time of the day where we all came together, recuperated and openly discussed whatever was on our minds, from assignments, to experiences, to daily activities, and to future plans. There were the times of the day that enforced that we were slowly becoming a family, and are by far the moments I miss the most.