Monday, October 3, 2011

Cue the Bollywood Music: Part 1

One day, I woke up and decided I needed to explore Little India. The kids were at school. Our shipment still had not arrived at that point. I had nothing to do. So, I programmed it into my GPS, and off I went. As I made my way into town, the streets narrowed until I found myself in historic George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As if on cue, I heard the Bollywood music blasting from the stores at the same instant my GPS announced, "You have reached your destination." I parked, got out of the car, and all my senses told me I was in Little India.

The rich aroma of curries and spices wafted over me, making my mouth water in anticipation. Silky saris beckoned to be touched. Dazzling arrays of trinkets and jewelry caught my eye. Garlands of bright marigolds hung just outside a flower shop.

I was surrounded by stores catering to the Indian community in Penang. Some places offered to ship packages door-to-door from Penang to India. That only made me think longingly of my household shipment which was slowly drifting towards me somewhere in the South China Seas. Video stores displayed racks and racks of Indian DVDs. While these stores were the source of the Bollywood music, others counteracted with classical Indian music, also turned all the way up to 11. Interspersed here and there were stray Chinese temples and shops. As I was taking it all in, my phone rang. Oh joyous day! The propane delivery man would be by in a couple hours to bring me more cooking fuel.

Brad had been asking for a blanket to cover him while he watched TV. Really??? Who needs a blanket when it's 86F inside the living room? I decided to humor him and ducked into the sari shop where I purchased a 4-meter-long silk sari for only US$8.50.

All the delicious smells were making me hungry. The sidewalk food stand was quite popular with a lot of the tourists. They were so densely packed around it that I really had to elbow my way in to see what was being offered.

Since I wanted to get off my feet while dining, I continued on my way. The much acclaimed Kapitan restaurant was across a busy intersection, but I doubted that I would actually live long enough to enjoy lunch if I attempted to cross the road on foot. So, I ended up at another, less treacherous, open air Indian restaurant. There was so much to see as I sat and ate my meal. The cooks pulled food from the tandoori oven strategically placed on the sidewalk to draw people in. Others were deep frying papadums inside the restaurant. Those looked so good, that I requested some for Take Away. (In this former British colony, people don't ask for food "To-Go". They ask for "Take Away".)

I watched the late summer tourists ambling around the streets. They were easy to spot because they were all carrying their Lonely Planet guidebooks and Visit George Town folded maps. That's when it hit me -- I'm not a tourist here. This is my home. I don't have just a few hours to explore this wonderous place. I can keep coming back and do it at a leisurely pace. Plus, I've dawdled too long over lunch and must now rush home to meet the propane delivery man. That's not something you do on vacation.

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