If I mentioned three things to you, in what part of the world do you think I would be … Sari’s, curry and the Taj Mahal? Yes, beautiful India. A land that is home to many contrasts and contradictions.
My journey took me to the southern part of India, in the region of Kerala, to a village called Varkala. Home to the art of tantra, Ayurvedic treatments, spas, massages, reiki and medicines along with yoga classes, meditation and ashrams …there was so much beauty and romance. Yes, you heard right … Romance!
The aroma of soft spices and the array of blended cultures add to the beauty. There are a mixture of Kashmiri, Nepalese and Indians of all hues—all gorgeous in their own right.
I happened to be fortunate enough to be in India on Valentine’s Day and it was just beautiful. A very close friend of mine, of Indian origin explained that the Indian men are very romantic and that Valentine’s Day is actually a big deal. Such a big deal that a few days before, the men will approach women they have secretly had their eye on for the past year. Unbeknownst to the potential lover, they will deliver or plant a rose somewhere for the woman they have set their heart on and declare their love! Eat your heart out Romeo!
Varkala is a cliff-side beach village. On the beach you find couples strolling along the water, getting their feet wet and gazing into each other’s eyes while the sun slowly sets in the background. Oh what a beautiful sunset!
The beautiful rays of sun that stream across the warm ocean water is likened to the colors and reams of silk that are displayed on beautiful Indian women in their sexy saris. They are designed to show just enough skin to raise an eyebrow, outline the shadows of their curves and hug the parts that should be imagined only in the subtleties of your mind.
That day it was hazy and the evening was balmy with a subtle taste of sea air and a hint of salt on your tongue. There were heart-shaped balloons everywhere and roses being given to every woman who walked into an establishment, whether she was single, married, old or young … You could feel that love was in the air. All the men were full of smiles and passion in their eyes and that mystical feeling of love was apparent. You could smell the sweet scent of romance and the warmth of passion everywhere you turned.
I found a special place called the Secret Garden in Varkala—and it’s truly a secret! Off the beaten track from the beach bums and tourists on the main drag, located on a side street of mostly residences and accommodations, is a hidden gem. The Secret Garden is a restaurant owned by chef Khan. Who at the tender age of 31, has been cooking since the age of seven! So he is the maestro of his own kitchen, conducting his own seducing recipes. Every night the menu is different as he whips up a variety of succulent and delicious dishes that pander to every one’s tastes.
His specialities for that week were Italian, Indian and Keralan style dishes. I was impressed to learn that every region has its own type of cooking and while there are many essentials spices not all are used in every region. The fabulous ingredients that chef Khan uses are:
– red chilly
– cumin powder
– garam masala
– coriander seed
– ground pepper
– fenugrec powder (fish)
– caraway seeds
Coconut oil, coconut milk, pomegranate and potatoes and rice were staples he used to make many of the dishes. At my last meal I was graced with a pumpkin curry, aubergine (eggplant) in coconut milk sauce, steamed butternut fish and lemon rice shaped like a heart! What’s not to love! The food was exotic and delicious – I fell in love with it.
People always say that the way to a mans heart is through his stomach but as a woman my heart skips a beat, just a little, every time I hear the word India! I have just had the first encounter of my lifetime love affair with India.
Michelle Lowe is WBM’s contributing editor based in London and world traveler.