Not much to report this week. Came down with another bug. My stomach had a fairly intense pain Thursday through Saturday night, but after getting some rest and eating a piece of bread or so per day things got better. I’m promised, once again, that everything will commence on Monday regarding my project, and despite past experiences I have a good feeling about this one. Sunday morning I was very hungry from just getting over another stomach bug, and I went to the kitchen to make some eggs I had purchased the night before. Upon opening my six pack carton I found that it had come with an insect companion. I was forced to track down the scuttling roach before examining my eggs; roach droppings were scattered on top of them like pepper, and my brief morning exercise had made me decidedly less hungry. I closed the carton and elected to make some cup-noodles (vegetable masala flavor) instead.
Shortly after boiling the water and moving my meal to the dining area the girls asked if I’d like to accompany them to brunch at the Raintree Hotel. Dr. Dworkin had informed me about how nice this place was, but I hadn’t showered or gotten ready and the cup noodles was right in front of me. After asking Nick if he was going to tag along I relented and we took an auto the short distance to the hotel. To our dismay brunch began at 12:30 so the group decided to walk the short distance to the five-star Sheraton to see if they were serving brunch yet. Sunday Jazz brunch hadn’t begun there yet (12:30 again), but they told us we could have complimentary tea while we waited in the lobby area. I took this opportunity to approach the concierge as a guest and inquire if he knew where I could find the bhut jolokai pepper. He didn’t know what I was talking about so I rattled off a bunch of its other names. Still unfamiliar, he directed me to a nearby grocery store which was going to be closing in 12 minutes. I rushed across the street and stalked the few aisles looking for something resembling the images I saw online. Nothing did, but I picked up a few items anyway including a huge bag of red chili for only 20 rupees. I’d been unsuccessful everywhere I’ve looked in India for this pepper, perhaps due to my inability to speak any regional languages or that it is grown far north in Rajasthan, so I simply ordered 75 seeds online. I’m hoping to grow the peppers in Chicago and sometime within the next year I’ll have my own pepper garden.
It wasn’t 12:30 so I sat down on an armchair, and had a glass or two of chai. Observing the elegance of this place made me wonder how much I’d be paying, but I couldn’t imagine it would cost more than 600 rupees or so (about 12 bucks). A few minutes later our group of six was taken to our table and the gluttony commenced. I haven’t seen a spread like this anywhere. Grilled lobster, prawns, every type of meat (except beef) that you could imagine, dessert platters that boggled the mind, breads, cheeses, sushi, fruit cut to look like tiny sculpture, and basically anything else you could want surrounded you upon entering. It was pretty clear that my budget for brunch was going to be exceeded, and that this was going to be a far cry from the toast, sunny side up egg and pancakes that I envisioned when I went on this trip. After settling in for the second course one of my friends posed the question, ‘Do you want to know the price now or after the meal?’ The table reluctantly agreed to knowing now, and we were astonished to find out that it would be a little over $30 dollars a person. I haven’t paid anywhere near this much the at one time since I’ve been here for anything, my entire stay in Hyderabad or Mysore were close to this amount, and as the shock washed over everyone we committed to stay for the duration of brunch and get our money’s worth.
One of the reasons for this price was probably that the service included all the champagne, mamosa, or other type of alcohol, as well as the accompaniment of a nice two-person Sikh jazz band (alto saxophone and keyboardist) who took any requests from the audience. The food was absolutely amazing, and the group gorged themselves far more than we should have. The establishment even had an eating competition for a ‘fabulous prize.’ Enticed by the fabulous prize, and a rapacious appetite brought on by days of not eating, I entered. This type of feasting is probably the worst thing to do after a bout of gastroenteritis, but I had already locked myself in for the ride so… I demolished the opponents with only Nick close behind me. I won a free massage at the hotel’s spa and the congratulations of all the staff. This is the most dubious honor I’ve had in quite some time (winning an eating contest in a region with so much nutrition deficiency seemed wrong [I recall talking to a physician here about demography where he told me that he didn’t think of people along the lines of how many rupees they made but rather if they were able to eat at least 1800 calories per day or not]). Voucher in my pocket I waddled back to my seat. Thankfully we stayed because I wasn’t ready for what happened next.
The musicians took a brief break and several Michael Jackson songs were played in succession. Perhaps in a bottomless mamosa induced burst of energy or some grief ridden tribute a nicely dressed man began dancing between tables and buffet tins to “Black or White.” He had some pretty smooth moves which Amudah faithfully captured on her camera. For once I didn’t bring mine with me or you, dear readers, could experience this in HD quality.
After a surreal brunch our corpulent corps did some shopping at a few nearby stores. I picked up several small gifts, and then promptly slipped into a food coma when I got back home.