A year later and I am back in India. Bombay welcomed me with open arms. Jet Lag and disorientation could not diffuse the excitement and energy of being back. After a day of bleary vision and lethargy we set off on a nostalgic four day journey of ancestral India.
At 6AM I settled into my comfortable berth in the Shatabdi Express and we clacked, chugged and ate our way to Nadiad in the neighboring state of Gujarat. The sun was rising as we crossed Vashi creek connecting the islands of Bombay to the mainland and the fishing boats setting out for their daily catch waved a breathtaking farewell.
At Nadiad, we settled in for a comfortable car ride to my ancestral hometown of Kapadvanj. Enchanted India served up a constant panorama of images.
I am the 7th generation of a clan that migrated to Bombay years ago. But ties to Kapadvanj remain strong. My last visit was 21 years ago with my parents. My father loved his ancestral home and it felt as if I was paying homage to him with this visit. The village I remembered and that my ancestors grew up in is now a bustling, prosperous market town. Exploring the streets and narrow alleyways revealed the old way of living is still alive and we enjoyed authentic food in the bazaars.
We started with a Gram flour savory, Khaman Dhokla, soaked in sweet lime juice and covered with hot green chilies served simply on newsprint. I guess our answer to the ubiquitous fish and chips in England!
And to cool down, one of my favorites: Jalebi. A crispy concoction of wheat flour deep fried in pretzel or circular shapes soaked in sugar syrup. Yum Yum Yum!
To walk off the feast and reacquaint ourselves with the tranquility of life that lingers on we wandered the narrow lanes of a bygone era: observing a wizened old crone supervising her fish purchase, vegetables being sold from the comfort of a day bed, little shops selling snacks to neighborhood kids, arched gates leading to secluded courtyards, beautiful old buildings crumbling from lack of care and maintenance.
It was a wonderful day and as night settled its dark blanket over our exhausted psyches I was jerked awake by loud haunting music. It reminded me of Easter processional music in Spain. As I peered into the crisp moonlit night a happy group danced and pranced into the night. They were celebrating a young boys rite of passage. It was a fitting end to a rather wonderful day.
Adios till next time!