Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme
India – an Adventure of the Senses
I cannot begin to describe the sheer joy I experience when I eat dinner at the Tata guesthouse. In the hours leading up to the meal, I anticipate the moment when I get to bite into a perfectly crisp homemade chapati just fresh off the stove. This whole-wheat flat bread is the perfect complement to daal, a gritty South Asian lentil soup, and the masala-specked tandoori chicken I pile onto my plate. Each morsel of food is an orchestra of flavors, textures, and fragrances—soft, buttery, and laced with ginger, cardamom, coriander, cumin, and mustard seed. I finish off the meal with a frothy sweet lassi made with the famed Indian alphonso mango.
This dinner is not only a feast for the taste buds and nose, but also one for the eyes. Turmeric, a ubiquitous Indian spice, stains the daal a bright yellow and leaves behind a neon green film on the plate. The masala dyes the chicken a firecracker red. And the mango turns an otherwise bland looking beige drink into a rich golden concoction that I could easily drink ten times a day.
This meal is just one example of the adventure of senses I experience on a daily basis here in India. Walking down the streets of Kolkata (where I am based), I encounter fearless herds of cows crossing traffic-congested roads. I hear an incessant stream of honks from the drivers who try to weave around these holy creatures and the myriad of other cars, bicycles, and tuk-tuks that also flood the streets. I take a deep-breath to smell the full-bodied aroma of incense and sizzling street food, only to be surprised a few seconds later with the raw stench of trash and urine. I slink past women adorned in stunning sequin-laced ruby and turquoise saris and try hard to remain as poised (and dry) as them amid the moist, scorching heat.
Throughout this past month, India revealed itself as truly a country for the senses. India continually challenges me to use my senses in ways I never have before and teaches me something new each day that passes.
India taught me that it is more than just snake charmers, slums, and the Taj Mahal. India taught me that I need curiosity, tenacity, and humility to fully appreciate the sheer diversity of cultures, landscapes, and people here. India taught me that it is a country that cannot be explained, only experienced—with all senses on high alert.