Countdown to the Reveal: How to Celebrate New Year’s on an Indian Farm
By Rosie Kristina
I’ve learned as many new things while living in India in a matter of days as I have living in a city my whole life. It might sound unreal, but living among locals teaches you some basic truths. For instance, you only cook with what you have around you. If it’s not growing right now, you just don’t eat it. Napkins are also a luxury, and to avoid overusing what little you have, you adjust without. I found this approach refreshing, although a bit unnerving at first. With that said, while it is a culture shock at first, you can eventually settle into living in India and not care so much about some of the more frivolous stuff in life.
The weather by far is much nicer than where I’m originally from, Toronto. While my former friends were nursing cold weather hangovers (we’re talking about -20 degree weather), I was able to enjoy beautiful hot weather (mid twenties) and not worry about fending off colds.
During the course of my day, I would meander around the kitchen and watch the chefs prepare the food. I was awestruck watching the women diligently labour over washing herbs, peeling fruits and organic veggies such as radishes and red carrots. Even chai tea (black tea with milk) is homemade. And while this approach isn’t exactly unfounded in Western culture, I have never cooked in batches so large or with such a keen eye for spices before. India is home to an array of amazing spices such as Turmeric, Cumin, Chili, Cardamom, Aniseed, Saffron, and Mustard seed and daily cooking makes good use of them.
With the New Year festivities, this would be no different. Although we couldn’t communicate through much spoken word, I would smile often to them to show my appreciation for their efforts.
Indian cuisine is an intricate and educational experience. Having travelled to Nepal one year ago, Dal and curry were staples there so I wasn’t too surprised to find that these were also very common ‘Northern’ dishes in India.
Dal is a pulse-based dish served with herbs and veggies which is by far one of my favourite dishes. Indian cuisine is largely vegetarian, as the Indian culture is comprised of a variety of beliefs that all encourage minimizing hurt to other life forms: Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. As much as I researched into travelling into India, nothing can prepare you for the extent of their culture here until you eat, chat and live in India.
Part of the cuisine includes Chapati, also known as Roti, which is wheat flour flattened and cooked on a stovetop. Naan is also a popular dipping staple served with Dal, curries, and chutneys (made of pureed veggies and spices). I honestly cannot do justice in describing how amazing the food has been. Even though I did watch and tried to keep up in the kitchen, it was difficult to know exactly all the ingredients. I don’t think I was homesick for western food at any point!
The New Year was approaching and I wasn’t sure what kind of event it was going to be at the farm. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. We had loads of fried appetizers such as Samosas, tropical fruits and chicken.
There wasn’t much drinking but alcohol was available for those who wanted to enjoy the night even more. I’m basically a city girl who has never spent more than a day at a rural place, so I’m pretty used to hanging at a friend’s place or going out clubbing for a night and being
expected to drink. I think I’ve exhausted those types of ‘party’ options so it was refreshing to hold an outdoor barbecue in the middle of winter.
There were other guests staying in the hostel so we listened to Indian music, danced Bollywood style (at least I tried to anyways), and as I listened to the others speak, I felt strangely at ease in my foreign surroundings.
We devoured our food within minutes, with the spicy barbequed meat attracting some undue attention from stray dogs around the farm! We tossed them extra scraps of food and bones which they gladly enjoyed. The dogs here were mostly placid, as India is home to a very large population of strays including cows and goats. It’s not a sight I’ll ever be accustomed to, and it is something that westerners will not enjoy. Unfortunately, it is a reality that there is a lot of poverty within the country and animals are part of that lot.
So at exactly this point, it was a bittersweet moment for me. India makes you feel appreciation for the privileges and luxuries you have at home. I took in my surroundings, still somewhat unfamiliar, and the smells and sounds. The timing was kismet.
Thinking about New Year’s, for me, it is a time of change and hopeful prospects. While 2016 was overall successful and I wouldn’t change any part of it, I came to India because I was looking for something more. I decided that this place, for all the intrigue and yearning I held towards it, would be the starting point for more fulfillment and achievement in 2017. While I didn’t know what to expect, I walked into the unknown with an open mind and great excitement, and it has worked out better than my dreams could ever imagine.
Valentines Day fast approaching!