I’ve never been so hungry as I am here. Not now, not before dinner, but all the time. For my slim build – my cravings for meat and my super-metabolism – food here just doesn’t work.
Yesterday I visited Mayo College Girls School, India’s foremost private high school. It’s somewhat of an enigma that it’s based in the middle of Rajasthan, a state coming near bottom in education rankings across India.
We were there on behalf of our NGO, Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal, or RMKM. Our audience were the richest parents in India. Louis Vuitton handbags were all over campus, children walked around in jockey outfits after playing polo, and the conversation – in English – erred towards football and Manchester United. I was, after all, wearing my Manchester United shirt.
We were invited to lunch by one of the organisers and her son, a student at the adjacent Mayo Boys College. Walking in to the canteen my eyes widened. My colleagues cringed. There was meat, everywhere.
Roti’s are made of flour and water. They are tasteless and have all the nutrition you’d expect from flour and water. Roti is served with a dahl dish, and dahl is lentil based. My sustenance, at lunch and dinner, every day, is roti and dahl. Occassionally we’ll have a dish of vegetables, and once a week we’ll be treated to rice.
India is predominantly vegetarian and it’s difficult to find meat for sale. In rural Rajasthan it’s frowned upon and my non-veg inclination is hot gossip. Even Pushkar Camel Fair – a tourist hotspot for westerners – has signs prohibiting meat alongside alcohol and drugs.
The canteen at Mayo College Girls School had me salivating. Alongside the dahl and vegetables was a large pan of curried chicken. Needless to say, I stuffed my face with food. My colleagues had mixed emotions, they were happy to see me eating so well, but found it difficult to be with so many people eating meat.
Dessert was cold fruit custard, served with plastic spoons. We have just two metal spoons on campus at RMKM. We ate the dessert, and I returned to Chachiyawas with five plastic spoons. By the time we got back I was already known – affectionately – as the spoon thief. I hope it doesn’t stick.