Dining at the Ganges River
I finally had my first week as the full fledge In-Country Director (ICD) of the Piyali Learning Centre (PLC). To some of you this may be a surprise as I have already been in Kolkata for over four months. However, these first four months were spent training with our previous In-Country Director, Kristine, who has been involved with the organization for nearly nine years, and most recently has been in the ICD position for 4-6 years. As you can imagine, she had so much knowledge to pass on to me, and so much training had to be done. Apart from the support from our Indian counterpart, Uncle Chatterji, the In Country Director is in charge of all the day to day operations, the networking and fundraising done in India, and communicating with Head Quarters in California. It is a highly demanding position, and every second is worth it because the students are truly one of a kind and being located in the heart of child trafficking, I am confident that PLC is making a difference in so many peoples lives. Beforehand I thought I had an idea of what it would be like to do it all on my own, but once we put it into action, time just raced on by. Each day is a new day, with new challenges to solve, which I love, plus it is with the same beautiful smiling faces of the girls, which I love even more. I am so fortunate to be here, and although I am lacking in the social side of life, professionally things are going great. And I am sure that social side will pick up soon as I start Bachata and Kizomba dance lessons next week. I'm am so happy that I found a way to integrate my love for Latin culture into my life here in Kolkata.
This past weekend, we had a day get away to the Ganges River for a traditional Bengali lunch for Kristine's departure from PLC. It was such a nice intimate lunch with just Uncle Chatterji, his wife Arundhati Aunty, Kristine, our two interns, Garrett and Cliff, and myself. This was the first time that I have traveled out of the city, it was just a two hour car drive but nonetheless it was a spectacular get away from the hustle of the city. This restaurant is situated along the Ganges river and has a traditional Indian decor, influenced by the great Rabindranath Tagore, a world famous author from Kolkata. The Bengali lunch was by far the most delicious meal that I have had, which says a lot as all Indian food is so delicious.
What is so unique and special about the Bengali lunch is how you eat the food and how everything is paired perfectly. We first started off with a Salty Raw Green Mango drink that is key for hydration in the scorching Kolkata sun. Then we were given our first plate of various fried foods, rice and curries. With our hands, you take a small amount of rice and put it in the middle part of the platter, drizzle it in homemade Ghee (refined butter), and then mix it with the various fried vegetables ( lentils, red spinach, potatoes and egg plant), followed by a Bitter Gourd curry that is essential to any traditional Bengali meal. The bitterness of the gourd is hardly noticeable as it is in a delicious creamy sauce that reminded me of an Indian Alfredo. This was then followed by the Aloo (potato) curry to be eaten with the rice wrap that looks like a birds nest. At this point, I was already feeling full as there were six different portions on my platter. But this was just the beginning, we then had the typical Bengali prawn dish in a spicy coconut curry sauce, paired with the rice. And a Goat curry to be paired with a special rice/lentil and vegetable mixture. Both meat dishes were heavenly. Then lastly, we had sweet paneer (Indian Cheese) balls, sweet yogurt and Tamarind candies to aid with digestion. The lunch was like a piece of art. Every item had its partner, all of our senses were stimulated, the presentation was great, the aroma made our mouths water, the taste was out of this world and the sensation of eating with our hands brought the entire meal full circle into its splendidness. The calming vibes and great food made for a perfect weekend and now I have the perfect place to take visitors.