they say India is a land of contrasts….

…and we saw one that won’t read in the guidebooks. It was the contrast between dinner at Anil’s home (Anil is the owner of the tour agency we used), and the dinner at the home of our fearless and faithful driver, Asif.

When Asif extended us an invitation we were surprised, as we suspected he was a man of very simple means (an assumption proven to be true). Then Anil called to extend his invitation to us too (we were feeling quite popular). Not wishing to offend his boss, Asif asked us what we wanted to do. We wanted to go to Asif’s, and we also wanted to honor Anil’s request…so we did both. Dinner, Part One was held at Anil’s gated home on the outskirts of Jaipur. The exchange was cordial, the food (as always) tasty, and the ambiance….a bit stiff. It was 10pm by the time we made it back into the Old City center for Dinner, Part Two at Asif’s home. There, we were met by his two boys, Sajid (16) and Samer (13) and his smiling, petite, beautiful wife Zarin (which Asif proudly told us means “shining” in Arabic). She had handmade us rotis, a chicken curry for Sue and a veg paneer for me.

The entire time, Zarin and Asif giggled with one another, and I was taken aback by the wink Samer slipped in to me when nobody was looking (I concluded that “Samer” must translate into “rascal” ;). The joy and warmth emanated so richly from this SINGLE room (no bathroom, let alone working kitchen) that the power outage and stench from the animals in the street faded to the background. How many proverbs talk about how it is better to be with little and have peace in the home, than have much and strife? Asif is a blessed man.