CoffeeShop Blues: 2015 Traveler's Edition - Page 108

CoffeeShop Blues village, where they had been spread out on the ground to dry. “Would you like to help?” they asked. Over the next few days, Mary and I shared the life of the family, communicating in a hodgepodge of English and Hindi seasoned with gestures and smiles. The ladies cooked the most delicious dishes for us, dishes that don’t appear on the menu of your neighborhood Indian restaurant but are passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. We admired the way they dressed, in the elegant Bhopali style of a gathered “Turkish” tunic (turki kurta) over tight, tapered pants (tang pajama). We questioned them about their lives; they were equally curious about ours. One topic, however, was never brought up: the nature of my relationship with Zafar. Arranged marriage was the norm, and the words “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” did not figure in their vocabulary. Whatever attachment he and I had formed could, in their culture, only be a temporary one. After breakfast each day, two or three of Zafar’s friends would turn up and take us out sightseeing in and around Bhopal. They bought us gifts in New Market and helped us navigate the labyrinth of the Peer Gate and Chowk bazaars. They took us to the LakshmiNarayan temple with its scenic outlook, and to the imposing pinksandstone Taj-ul-Masajid [Crown of Mosques], all the while telling us stories about the Nawabs and Begums who had ruled their princely state in its glory days. But always we came back to the peace and quiet of the house, the warmth of its inhabitants. At more popular destinations in the North, we had so Y][Y\