Every opportunity I get, especially when I have my son with me on business trips, I try to find time to teach him something new or interesting. Yesterday afternoon we began working on a persuasive essay he has to write for school, called “Why You Should Visit India.”
Well, he was struggling with it bigtime. The worst part was that he was expending so much energy on complaining, that it was getting a tad annoying. I shared with him that if complained less and thought more, he might come up with an idea or two. He finally gave in and asked me, "how do you write an interesting persuasive essay, when all you know about a country is from a page in a half in a book."
Grinning, somewhat evilly, I said to him, "Well Sherlock, it seems to me that you need some emergency cultural immersion." So I decided it would be a night out for dinner at Little India. We went early to the restaurant so he would have time to look around and ask questions of the staff. As soon as we walked in they had a medium scale replica of the goddess Saraswati.
As I explained to my son, she is the Hindu godess of learning, wisdom and the creative arts and explained her relationship to her believers. When my son asked how I knew so much, I explained, "‘cause she’s the one I talk to or blame when I have writer’s block."
When we walked inside, the rich colors of deep red and gold, which framed the murals of hindu gods and goddesses on the walls, captivated his attention. As we walked in I asked for a seat in the back (far away from the naked goddesses) so that this wouldn’t turn into a lesson on anatomy. When I explained to the waiter that it was my son’s first time eating Indian food, and we wanted to order only appetizers for dinner, he was kind enough to offer us an appetizer special. The food was brought out on a traditional thali dish. I chose the papadum bread because I knew my son would love the taste and texture. “Besides” I told him, "doesn’t it look like a giant tortilla chip?” Yep, by making fun of food I can usually get a kid to eat anything, even brussel sprouts.
Aside from these lovely items we had a few samosas and pakoras, which are my favorites. These lovely dishes were followed by more favorites which my son also loved: a mango Lhassi (which is really a homemade yogurt mango shake) and Gulab Jamun, which is a dessert made of reduced milk balls served in rose-flavored sugar syrup and sprinkled with a few cardamom seeds.
Afterwards we walked around Little India and went into a few shops: a jewelry store, a sari dress shop, a music/dvd store and an Indian market. At the jewelry store we got to see a beautiful young Indian woman trying on wedding jewelry like the one below. My son was mesmerized and I had to explain that he was just fascinated with how beautiful she looked with the jewelry. At the sari store we saw a woman being fitted for a sari (she was twirling about, as her lower body was being wrapped by the fabric). Earlier tonight we watched a few scenes of Bride and Predjudice, a british-bombay, bollywood-style movie that uses Jane Austen’s book, Pride and Prejudice as its story line. If you watch the 2 min clip below you’ll understand how much fun these types of movies can be. What can I say, some people read trashy novels, I watch trashy films like these.
Okay folks, that concludes today’s lesson on India. There's a quiz next Monday.