A plate of star fruit and other traditional fruits of Bengal

The Long Hello

I started writing this post somewhere between Munich and Dubai, 39,000 ft above the earth. I wouldn’t have known, all I could see were clouds below, but the flight status monitor said so. And then my brain did somersaults trying to convert feet into kilometers. At that altitude, it was really hard getting those neurons to work!

Let me say that I have not disappeared, nor have I forgotten about this blog. I am traveling these days around  India and even when I have been in one place for more than a couple of days, internet connection has been all over the place, ranging from very bad to good but in spurts so short that getting to check my email had been a challenge. Anyway, hopefully all that has been sorted out, fingers crossed!

I came to Kolkata via Dubai, because Emirates is the only airline which operates direct flights to the city of my birth. But I am not complaining, because of all the airlines that I have travelled so far (Singapore Airlines, United, Lufthansa, Air India, KLM to name some), Emirates comes right after Singapore Airlines in terms of quality of service. Air India is pretty good too. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to put up with flight staff who behave as if they are doing a favour by letting me fly in their planes. Given a choice between the eastern and the western airlines, I would pick the eastern ones any day, because they understand hospitality. Sure Lufthansa is efficient but coldly, even rudely so. But do fly United by all means if you want to lose weight, because they mostly forget to feed you.

These are of course the international airlines. We have some pretty good ones running the domestic routes here in India. Jet Airways is the best of them all, efficient and smooth, feeding you full lunches or dinners even on a two and half hours flight. You will never get that on any American flight, no matter how long it takes! But even the budget airline IndiGo has people who score way ahead of Lufthansa or United in terms of service with a smile! I have heard good things about the Jet Airways international routes, but haven’t had a chance to try them.

Anyway, there I was sitting comfortably in an Emirates A300-380 from Munich to Dubai in the Economy section, which by the way is often called cattle class (because passengers are packed like cattle, get it?). But on this particular Airbus model, the Economy seats are really roomy and comfortable. Their in-flight entertainment is superb with movies and music from all over the world. Their food is good too, better than others. Once I booked my tickets online, I had the option to pick my meal from a range of options ranging from seafood to vegan, apart from the regular carnivore or vegetarian options.

Over my seafood meal which I picked as a sort of humble curtain-raiser to the meals that were waiting for me at my parents’, I picked a movie to watch from the scores on offer, Hollywood to Bollywood. The movie is called “Idol” and at first glance it did not seem appealing, all about someone who wanted to participate in Arab Idol against all odds, and I have never been so enamoured by the glitz of American Idol and its ilk. But then the word Palestine caught my eye and I realized that I hadn’t really seen a single movie from that part of the world. So I decided to give it a chance.

I am so glad I did. The story gripped me from the beginning to end. It begins in the bombed out neighbourhoods of Gaza with a gutsy little girl and her brother trying out creative ways to make money to buy musical instruments for their band. The girl is ambitious and eggs on her brother to dream big. A lot happens to them because Gaza is not a place where dreams go to be fulfilled. The walls might look broken but they are insurmountable. But years later, a jewel rises out of the ashes and debris. His name is Muhammad Assaf and the film is based on his true story. You should see the film if you can get a hold of it to see how the human spirit can thrive in the midst of barbed wires and ruins.

Why do we put people behind fences in order to give others freedom from theirs? Injustice is a vicious cycle. That is the truth.

And yet, the arts give us hope. That we are not just animals struggling to survive, procreate and avoiding death, jumping at each other’s throat to achieve our own short-sighted goals.

We humans are also capable of creating beautiful things – art, music, poetry, literature and film.

The cinematography of this film was beautiful, stark and harsh, designed to remain stuck in our consciousness long after the screen has been turned off.

The music was haunting and moving, the lyrics touching deep inside, even though I did not understand anything. I have only one complaint, why weren’t they translated to English like the dialogues were? I would have loved to know the meaning of those beautiful songs.

The first thing that greeted me when I came to my parents’ home is that plate of local fruits. Star fruit you all know probably, the big green ones which in this case are brighter and yellower than the ones I see in the supermarkets of the west. But I know the others only by their local names. They are probably not even cultivated on a large scale commercially and might disappear from markets of the future completely. I peeled the brown ones and here is what it looks like inside:


It looks and tastes like litchi but has a different aroma, more floral and fruity, if that makes sense. Quite delicious really!

Stay tuned for more food adventures…






3 thoughts on “The Long Hello

  1. elizetal

    One of those night when the Internet delivers!! I was looking for Indian crockpot on Pinterest and found a post from the Kitchn on how crockpots and Indian food are meant to be. Photos there were thin, unappealing, watery. But scrolled through the comments and found you! And the possibility of not having to hunt down hundreds of ingredients online (since I live in a remote area with no access to ingredients). The photos/recipes here look delicious and authentic. And the writing! I’m a lit and film person, too. Lived in Dubai and Yemen and I miss the Indian and Pakistani (and Lebanese and various African) restaurants. Want to find a way to create, on some small scale, those warm flavors in this cold and windy clime. Your blog is such a find! Cannot wait to dig in.

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