Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones.
Thank you to all of you who have spent time with Babs and me here, following our shenanigans, contributing your comments, reactions, encouraging words and ideas, and being patient with all my typos and experiments during this blog's infant phase.
Please forgive the recent silence. We spent the last week and a bit in Bangalore, India, not at all to celebrate Christmas. Rather, Babs's Mum (a native Bangalorean) organised a belated wedding reception for Babs and me, his brother and his Chicago-born Indian wife, and his sister and her Polish husband -- all visiting India for the first time since getting married over the last 18 months.
The ~400 guests -- considered small by Indian wedding standards -- hailed from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mysore, Mangalore, Kerala, Mumbai, Delhi, the UAE, UK, US and Singapore. (More on the event later.)
So the lead-up to D-Day (on Boxing Day) was a nonstop flurry of introductions to my new relatives, me cajoling them for their recipes for their most delicious dishes (I've had some success, so stay tuned!), plunging into the bowels of Crawford Market in Mumbai and Commercial Street in Bangalore to procure fabric for shalwar khameez (Punjabi suits) and saris and Kashmiri shawls and all the accompanying bangles and sandals and purses (oh my), trips to the tailor to get said Indian outfits made, getting my hands henna-ed up for the first time, and multiple late-night airport runs to pick up loved ones flying in from far away.
Well. And a fresh tender coconut and pomegranates bursting with rubies of every shade of purple, red and pink every day. And briyani. Oil-tankers full it. Enough briyani to feed and fatten all of India and then some for lunch the day after.
It occured to me at some point that this was my first Christmas ever away from home in Singapore. Away from Mum's turkey. An uncle's home-baked ham. An aunt's Hockchew wonton soup. Another aunt's fried beehoon (rice noodles) and lohr ak (braised duck). A cousin's attempt at sushi. Grandma's delectable agar jellies. About 100 aunts, uncles, cousins and their children all trying to remember each other's names. And then there are friends. Rubbing elbows with them while having the one-th too many cocktail. Bumping knees with them waiting for Christmas service to be done.
Instead, for Christmas lunch this year I find myself at Sundeheri at Woodlands Hotel in Bangalore, tucking into a vegetarian thali of (clockwise from top left below) carrot, lentil and coconut salad, coconut and red chili chutney, okra fried with coconut, spiced taro, mallow with lentil, yellow dhal, puri (diabolical deep fried dough pillow cases) and eggplant curry. All served -- in the proper old school South Indian way -- on a banana leaf.
It's all terribly tasty, and I do have Mum and Dad in from Singapore at the table, but it still doesn't feel like Christmas. I guess for me Christmas needs to be spent around not just a familiar set of people (that's some of you reading this), but also a familiar set of food. And -- as much as I hate to admit it -- a playlist of saccharine-sweet Christmas jingles. Just a few. The limit being remix version 4 of "Last Christmas" by Wham!.
This New Year will be spent in Hyderabad, attending Babs's sister-in-law's cousin's wedding. Far away from the New Year's Eve party I've hosted each year since 1995, which I've missed only once before in 2003, when I spent a poorly-thought-out week running around Eastern Europe, filling my lungs with icicles which took a couple of months after to properly dislodge. My sinuses have never been the same since.
Ah well. Nothing like stepping out from the routine of home to make you appreciate it all the more.
I hope you'll continue to drop by here in 2010. Babs and I will be poking around more of India, Ghana(!), Southeast and Northeast Asia, maybe Australia and New Zealand (depending on our cash situation) and South America before we decide where to hunker down and set up camp for the next few years.
In the meantime, my very best wishes to you for the new year. May all our days be delicious ones.
Sundeheri at Woodlands Hotel
5 Rajaram Mohan Roy Road
Richmond Circle, Bengalore