Like we mentioned earlier, we’ve been living on the edge of spontaneity. What we do or when we do it always has an element of mystery to it right up until it’s happening. It’s less a product of our own impulsive natures than the ambiguity imposed by language barriers, but it still makes for an interesting time.
Our hosts here at Rickshaw Bank have been wonderfully hospitable, and we were again whisked off by Subus Sarma, this time to meet with his family and eat at his house. In keeping with the Bihu holiday spirit, we gathered at a table to chat and munch on sweets similar to those we had the previous day – some molasses and rice concoction, sugary pastries, and delicious balls of coconut. As we polished off the food, we began speculating – both grimly and humorously – when the notorious nut and leaf snack from yesterday would make an appearance and how to evade putting it anywhere near our mouths. Good old American politeness can really only go so far. But we were safe – for the time being.
After being stuffed full, we were presented with even more food – a succulent homecooked meal, with eggplant, the potato dish we’ve become rather familiar with, and light fluffy bread (pori, I believe). In India, we’re always served with each part of the meal already on our plate – not like in America where everyone chooses from communal serving dishes. I’ve been enjoying this approach; my effort to clean my plate practically forces me to try new, interesting foods I would otherwise avoid. I always feel a bit bad when our hosts put a fresh, elaborately crafted salad in front of us, only for it to go untouched. It’s the same when they make the effort to pour us cool glasses of water – but thus is the price to avoid the type of illness our delicate American tummies can’t handle. When the tea – for which Assam is famous – come out, so does the golden platter with leaves and the small, hard nuts. Luke and I exchange panicked glances right before Subus calls me out. “You want?” “Uhm…. No, thank you!” I quickly reply before occupying myself with sipping down as much burning tea as I can. “No, no, try!” I smile and shake my head – not gonna take one for the team this time. Everyone else around the table similarly declines, and Subus seems much more entertained than offended.
He has a lovely family and we especially enjoyed chatting with their teenage neighbor, who has impeccable English and reminds me a bit of a diplomat, folding his hands and describing India’s need for more development projects like ours. He’s a great kid and gives us a lot of suggestions for things to do around Guwahati and articulately answers a barrage of questions that we’ve been storing up because they’re a bit difficult to understand or answer for those not fluent in English.
We wrapped up with our usual photo-op for the benefit of both parties, and I came away again so grateful and impressed by how genuine and hospitable the people we’ve met are to us foreigners.