“If I don’t use my hands, I don’t feel satisfied by a meal.”
-a collection of Indian fellows
I’ve gotten pretty good at rolling rice into balls, wrapping potato wedges in roti, and dipping it all in something delicious before my thumb escorts it into my mouth. To the untrained eye, it seems messy. But the eye gets undue credit sometimes.
There’s a beauty in eating with my hands. I get to feel the crispness of fried bread, alluding to the nearby pan. Warm dal soaks into anything porous, ready to be countered by cool yogurt. Stealthy cardamom pods are discovered before they become unpleasant surprises. Kathi roll grease drips down my palm.
I get to experience my entire meal before tasting it.
So I’ve been particularly thankful for my hands lately. They are having their own adventure in India.
During the Dussehra holiday, I rode a Ferris wheel in Calcutta. I’m afraid of heights, but carnival rides tend to be tame. My hands strongly disagreed and tightly clutched anything they could find, knuckles quickly turning white. Not only did this machine go faster than I knew Ferris wheels could, it also became a jungle gym for the operations staff. A small man jumped onto (not into, mind you) our bucket mid-rotation and used his slight weight to sway us farther outward and upward. It was really, really fun. My grip did absolutely nothing to protect me, but you couldn’t have convinced my hands of that.
Back in Delhi, I brace against steely cold metro poles, hold sticky lassi cups, and fold dust-blocking scarves across my mouth. On daily auto rides, my hands help to readjust my position in the seat after many bumpy moments. I compare the smoothness of newly upholstered vehicles with the cracked vinyl whose age tends to match the face of my driver. Recently, I again clutched metal bars in mild fear, this time atop the tower at Jama Masjid mosque.
Some ventures are off-limits for my globe-trotting hands, like petting cute stray dogs, maneuvering a steering wheel in traffic, or, unfortunately, hugging my grandma at Thanksgiving. Overall though, I hope to sop up the flavors of India.
Ask anyone about India and they’ll describe the sights: bright colors, ornate temples, gorgeous children. Or maybe you’ll hear about the delicious food, the overpowering smells, and the loud chants. None of my senses has been underwhelmed here, but individually, each one gets only one-fifth of the tangible experience.