Monday, April 28, 2008

loving taj

How do I know that I want a book of postcards if I haven't seen the site yet? We got off the bus and headed towards a place I'd always dreamed about. Postcard salesmen were everywhere. I dodged them going in and out of their maze. I know their tricks now. I don't even glance in their direction. And finally we were inside the gates. Ahhh yes,-- quiet, peace, tranquility. We headed towards the arch that will divide my life between the moment before I first saw the Taj Mahal and the moment after. I waited in the darkness of the arch for a moment, eyes closed, trying to collect my thoughts. Somehow I knew this would forever change me. I took a step towards light and a deep breath. I opened my eyes and before me was something my dreams are made of. The most elegant female form of architecture I had ever laid eyes on, the TAJ. I had seen photos and travel clips so many times before in my life but nothing could touch the reality of her magnificence. Tears welled in my eyes. Yes, pinch me, I'm in India and this white marble homage of love is before me. Emperor Shah Jahan had it built as a mausoleum for his beloved wife who died giving birth to their 14th child. This is true testament that yes, Allah, there is true love! (And now my dear Jehuda, I have found it!)

Monday, April 21, 2008

india first class

I hate getting up early but we had to. Suvir insisted that in order to see India, we needed to take a train. After getting home from KaKa's party where I danced with the eunuchs until well into the night, getting up at 4:30 AM, with just 3 hours sleep, is just not civilized. And imagine the train station. It made Penn Station look and feel like a walk in the park. People sleeping everywhere. We stepped over bodies tangled on the floor to the platform and stood with the beggars until the train arrived. We were lucky... First class! And even luckier, we were traveling luggage-less. (The bus went head of us with all the luggage.) On board we found our way to the first class car which meant we sat on orange plastic-padded rock-hard seats with air conditioning that was nothing more than a rotary fan set on high. We were happy we all had our own seats next to men in rumpled business suits and quasi-hip Indians attached to cell phones like lifelines. And luckier not to be packed tightly into economy with screaming kids and chickens in cages. The service put American Airlines to shame. A biscuit was served by the Indian train equivalent of a grouchy flight attendent but la piece de resistance,-- deep-fried vegetable cutlets and cold, soggy french fries. Tough to resist this 6:00 AM breakfast but I just couldn't get it past my lips. By 8:30 AM, we were in Agra, and headed for breakfast and the unparalleled Taj Mahal.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

dancing with eunuchs

"What are you wearing tonight Joanne?" Suvir asked. The bus tried to make it's way to KaKa's house but after a while, we had to give up. The road was too narrow, the tree limbs too low, the bus too big. We had to walk. Here we were, a tribe of fourteen hobbling along in Prada heels and Armani slacks held up with Gucci belts , led by a turban-clad Indian wrapped in an ivory sari through the tiniest village. It was really dark, the town lit by a little sliver of moon. The villagers stared as we made our way along the dirt road dodging cows, dogs and hungry kids. The village eyes were on us. I caught them again and again. As much as I was interested in them, so too, they were interested in us. Around one last corner, our guide unfolded his hand to show us the entrance. Ahhhh.... Sanctuary. We had arrived for dinner at the home of KaKa, Suvir's friend. KaKa met us in the courtyard wearing a red turban and wrapped in a saree all gilded with gold. To paint an even better picture, this raging queen is a friend of Paul Smith and Missoni. He's a designer, surprise, surprise! And the house was magnificent. From ground up, he built it over a 3 years with antique pieces and artifacts. Chosen by Elle Decor and Architectural Digest as one of the top 10 homes in the world. So imagine! Hundreds and hundreds of candles, thousand year old columns, red rose petals, inlaid tiles, marble, incense and white-gloved waiters dying for me to be their passage to America. We ate kebabi, hot from the tandoor, and so rich with fat that they melted in my mouth along with the tart and spicy mango pickle and fresh mint chutney. All kinds of hot breads: naan to paranthe, poori and roomali and of course, curries and dahl, and all kinds of meats cooked in the tandoori. The night was magical with a turn toward the bizarre when four eunuchs arrived to dance for us. My God, have I been living under a rock!!! A eunuch is a castrated man, at times thought to bring good luck. Music blasted as we chewed betel nut and watched the eunuchs dance one by one in "sexy" silver bras and sheer gauzy black sari skirts with bangles from their wrists to their elbows and tingling bells at their ankles. They twirled around the floor. The movements at times sensual, at times aggressive. They pulled me onto the floor to dance. Why me? Did they see me tapping my foot? I didn't know if I waas dancing with a man or women? This was the closest I'd come to sex in a while. Ah, this is India....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

oyster heaven

Last day of March, bundled up in a big winter coat walking through the South End, I thought if it weren't for the weather, I could live in Boston again. Boston's getting better and better. We'd seen Doe, my book agent, Saturday night for a little "tequila research" and she asked if I was a Barbara Lynch fan? I wasn't sure how to answer! She said I had to eat at B & G Oyster Bar on my way out of town Monday. Yes, open for lunch. No reservations! All set! I loved B & G the moment I walked through the door. Basically a long grey marble bar lined with crisp white napkins and wine glasses. Immediately I thought "This is the kind of restaurant I wanna have." Sixteen different varieties of impeccably fresh oysters, lots of them from the icy cold local waters. I settled on a cool dozen, -- four Island Creek from Duxbury, very plump and briny with a sweet buttery flavor, known as the oyster that never spawns and my personal favorite! Four large, exceedingly salty Pemaquid from Maine and 4 Ninigrets from the Salt Ponds of Rhode Island. Smooth with an underlying sweetness and a pleasantly mild salinity that defies their Salt Pond upbringing. A glass of crisp Petit Chablis. Call it heaven! Oyster heaven!