Would You Like Buttermilk With That Order?

Food is the big problem. It’s not Indian food in general, it’s the specific meals. Breakfast is served at our sort-of hotel. Every day there are new horrors under the promising stainless steel domes. One day there are bright yellow pancakes, watermelon, and vegetable stew. The next day there is yellow dal, puffy white things, and something they call French toast. I’m learning to like it.

At work, Phil’s lunchtime choices at the Adobe cafeteria are limited to “pots of mush,” while mine involve roaming the streets until I find something I recognize as food and pray to the 330,000 Hindu gods that it won’t make me sick.

Tonight we decided to call out for food so we could hide from the world and watch bad movies like good little Americans. It took me half an hour and two trips down to reception to figure out how to dial the phone. When the restaurant finally answered things only got worse.

Everyone in India speaks English. We heard this over and over while preparing for our trip. Everyone here does NOT speak English. No. Not at all.

There are 1652 different languages in India, and 350 of those are considered major languages. English and Hindi are the official languages, and how they communicate with each other. The accents are thick, and the words sound like rubber balls bouncing down stairs. Our communication barrier is compounded by the fact that these other languages are written in the squiggly alphabet, making it impossible to take an educated stab at pronunciation.

After resorting to a fake Indian accent by putting the em-PHA-sis on awkward syl-LA-bles and popping my P’s and T’s, I managed to give our address, phone number and place our order, I hoped.

Time ticked by and no food arrived. Since beginning work in India, Phil has been going in to an office every day; for the past ten years or more he has worked mostly from home. This is a big shift; by Friday evening he hates everybody and everything. He is hungry. He wants food and a Coke – not too much to ask.

Eventually the food arrives, but there is no Coke, and the order had somehow mutated from butter chicken and butter naan, to butter chicken and buttermilk. “WTF… who orders buttermilk with their chicken?” Phil railed.

I am determined to find it impossible to be frustrated with people for not speaking my language, when I am in their country making no attempt to speak theirs. Phil is too hungry to refuse not to get upset. I dump the buttermilk in the sink, have a few bites of butter chicken and wait for breakfast.

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