Food is one of the biggest worries when travelling abroad. If you are going to be based out there for studies, the fears are compounded. The hectic schedule of an MBA requires the body and mind to be functioning at their fullest. Therefore, one’s diet does play a significant role, especially when away from home and that too on foreign shores.
After being away from my mother and motherland, I have realised that India is a foodies’ delight. You can partake in the gluttonous debauchery, indulge in an orgy of food, the gastronomic spectacle, the myriad mouth-watering, spicy, tangy, hot and colourful food. There are varied cuisines to cater to different taste buds, the simultaneous assault on the senses, the gasping and gobbling like a hungry gryphon; hunger wasn’t to be satiated it was to be kindled, I once believed. And it happens only in India.
Phase 1: The shock
This fervent devotion to the ritual of eating with utmost disregard for health soon turned into a distant memory as my diet began to accommodate the changes in my lifestyle. My definitions of breakfast, lunch and dinner went for a toss – fried chicken and mashed potatoes for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch and beer for dinner; my digestive system started experiencing meltdowns. I could have never imagined that after having travelled half way across the world, my every other meal would be the Chinese food doped with a generous amount of fat. If I did open a chicken-tikka stand in the city, I bet I could make a lot of money – a business plan I can hold on to for the time being.
My Indian taste buds were utterly and mercilessly massacred by the toothless assault of one bland dish after another, it is not so much the blandness but the lack of texture of the food that confounded me. How can an unpalatable plate of baby food could, find its way and, more importantly, stay on a menu? I wondered. And in the meantime, at every eatery, the gastronomical challenges in the form of beef and pork stared down the little Brahmin boy in me.
I later learnt that I had been eating all the wrong foods at all the wrong places. One strange thing I did not really mind was that beer became a staple at almost every meal of the day, and it definitely took its toll on my belly. Sometimes I was scared that it might venture out in search of a separate existence.
Phase 2: The Awe
The food scene in Budapest has come a long way since I was a student there (the opening of a South Indian tiffin service should be a testimonial enough). Indian restaurants were always present but for a student, the costs can be quite prohibitive. Nevertheless, I chose to remain undaunted and take this life lesson in food as part of my education. India’s true cultural identity needed to be kept alive somewhere in my olfactory region and I hoped that the bag of spices smuggled in from home would do the work.
A piece of invaluable advice: LEARN TO COOK! The perks of being a good cook are many. It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s healthy and it’s economical. And, of course, the way to anyone’s heart, not just a man’s, is through the stomach. There are many people who would drop everything to talk about food. Indian food is especially a “hot” topic. It is easy to become the hero of the potluck dinner party (where everyone brings a dish) with a simple chicken curry. My adventures in the kitchen were all the more fun thanks to my Italian flatmate, Edoardo. We would take turns whipping up Indian, Italian and fusion delicacies for our gastronomical joy and to others’ envy. Good food made so much difference in my life. I was happy and my parents were the happiest.