Friday, March 16, 2007

bhel puri


it is supposed to be a delicious treat that is spicy and sweet and salty and tart and crunchy and wet and just plain yummy all around. so i indulged.

i did the unthinkable, the unspeakable, i ate street food.

as it happens, street food in india is some of the most unhygenic cuisine in the world, in large part due to the UNavailability of clean water, but also because of lots of cost cutting practices that reduce the quality of the food preparations - as well as the flavour, i might add.

despite the gentle and affectionate warnings of numerous concerned parties, i felt like eating an 8 rupee bhel puri. and then i regretted it.... and how! at least if it was as delicious as it was supposed to be, it would have felt worthy of the outcome, but, alas...i am off bhel for a long time.

while i was sick this week, our maid, Amuda (aka Cristina - the name she chose to introduce herself as so that "foreign madame", i.e. paige, would not have trouble saying it) was also sick. same problem, low grade fever and loosies. but she lost her other job for not showing up.

so she comes to work at our place the next day crying and anxious about how to pay her debts, which clearly can't be met with just one job. we devise a plan to help her find another job. and i am plotting how i am going to let the people who fired her know that i think they are assholes. then she tells me that her little boy has had a stomach infection for most of his life - he is only 9.

all i could think about was trying to imagine feeling like i have been feeling for the past week for several years! would i get used to it too? could i?

the daily realities of the poor here are exhausting. she tells me they have no electricity, no running water, just enough provisions for one square meal a day - for the child. she and her sister run the household, as both their husbands turned out to be assholes. they are constantly harassed by men who think they are available. on top of this, they spend all their spare time looking for their mother who has disappeared. they send the boy to an english-medium school - an expensive undertaking, to be sure.

i suppose since i am not yet desensitized to the stark disparities between our lives, i can't stop thinking about her and talking about her, trying to get some perspective on how i can support her without creating unrealistic dependencies. we are leaving here after all. but she is stuck with her child in one of the most violent slums in bangalore.

so i offer her some leftovers and ask her what she eats if there isn't enough food at home.

she shrugs and says "whatever i can find...bhel puri."

2 comments:

Jasmeen said...

id still go for kartik's and take you there too! so get well sooon!

let's attack the bhel puri again! :)

squindia said...

oh this is heartbreaking. sorry you were sick.