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Wednesday, 4 May 2016


There are layers upon layers of cultures in India.  Tughluqabad, on the outskirts of the capital city, is a ruined fortress which was once the third incarnation of Delhi.

There’s a story that while this fortress was being built a saint cursed the Tughluq ruler.  He prophesied that the castle would one day be an empty shell where the only people would be shepherds grazing their animals.

Irresistible, right? my friend, Gale, and I agreed.

As we approached the massive beige walls of the ruin, the castle appeared to drift through the pale blue sky.  A young Indian man introduced himself to us as the chowkedar of the place and warned us to avoid the north part of it.  “This place very bad, Memsahibs.  It HAUNTED by cobras!”

At the top, there were no other people anywhere in sight so Gale and I both felt a little spooked.  Apprehension metamorphosed into elation the instant we spotted two baby Rhesus monkeys.

Gale attempted to lure them by offering them mints while I worked on getting a good angle for a close-up picture.  The cute little things seemed only a bit shy and were chirping at us, or so we thought, but then a group of large adult monkeys loped over the crest of the rise.

They were like baboons and almost as tall as me.  I moved forward to photograph them as well, but then their leader, the largest dun-colored beast, bared his long yellow teeth and growled.  Instantly, the other snarled as well and moved into a half-circle formation, cutting me off from the only path down.  Behind me was a long, sheer drop off the castle wall.  The ground all around me was broken and rough. 

Suddenly, I remembered being warned, “Don’t go near Rhesus monkeys.  Many of them have rabies.”

Outside the monkey barrier I could see Gale who had prudently fled the moment the large monkeys appeared.

Now, the monkey leader coughed and came at me.  The rest of the monkeys closed in, too.  I swung my shoulder bag at them and screeched.  They stopped . . . momentarily.

The leader growled again, signaling another snarling half-charge.  Stumbling against rocks, all too aware of that horrible precipice behind me, I backed away, swinging my bag at the ferocious creatures.

Suddenly, a little Indian boy, about nine years old, came flying to my rescue, shouting and throwing stones at the monkeys.  While they were distracted and snarling at him, I made a mad dash forward past one flank of the monkey circle.

As soon as I had escaped, the monkeys calmed down and focused their attention on the two babies.  Although Gale and I were only a few yards away, they now ignored us completely.

The rest of their tribe joined them and a female, excited perhaps by the bravery the males had displayed in protecting the species against a camera-toting human, stood up in front of a male and flashed her bright scarlet rear end.  He took immediate action.

The little Indian boy, dressed in patterned cotton pajamas, ran up to Gale and me with a group of small friends.  Gale rewarded them with all the spare change she had while I had not the presence of mind to do anything but thank them over and over again.

my friends, Yvonne and Gale (sunglasses)


CHICKEN TIKKA  (4 servings)

1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cayenne
2 tsp black pepper
½ tsp ground red chili pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
½ tsp salt
Breast of one chicken

1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
213 ml can tomato sauce
1 cup half-and-half cream
Parsley for garnish

Cook the chicken:
*Combine ingredients for marinade.
*Remove skin and cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces.
*Marinate in fridge for an hour or more.
*Thread chicken pieces onto skewers.
*Broil for 5 minutes.  Turn and broil 5 more minutes.  Set aside.

Prepare the sauce:
*  Stir together coriander, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and salt in small bowl.  Set by stove.
* Cook garlic in butter over low heat for 1 minute.
*Stir in spices.  Cook 1 minute.
*Stir in tomato sauce and cream.
*Take off heat and set aside until just before serving.

*Add chicken pieces to sauce and cook on medium heat just until hot.
*Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Serve with plain basmati rice and raita.