The Heartburn of Karma — December 28, 2016

Vegetable biryani

I have mixed feelings about eating Indian food in a hotel whose 560 rooms go for upward of $1000/night in a city where people are putting their children to bed on the streets. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a lovely place, to be sure, and it has an amazing history, including being rebuilt to its original grandeur after devastating terror attacks in 2008. 

But still. I asked our Mumbai tour guide how people there reconcile so many having nothing in the face of others having so much. 

“Karma,” she said, unbothered. “It’s all what you deserve.” 

Somehow, that’s not my flower child hippie-dippie idea of a principle I always interpreted to mean that I should try hard to send out good into the world, so that there would be more good in the world. 

Looks like karma can be pretty cold comfort in its native land. 

Well. So. Anyway. 

After a whirlwind tour of a city that reminded me of nothing so much as the staid grandiosity of Victorian London seen through a the crazy mirrored reflection of a kaleidoscope, we had lunch at Masala Kraft. Even with a generous side of guilt, it was really very good. 

We started with crispy pappadum wafers with a spicy chutney, then had a great variation of Chana Chaat — street food of crispy chick peas, yogurt and chutney that just explodes in your mouth with spice, texture and crunch, all at once. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was just fantastic. 

Kabuki Chana Chaat

Other starters were mustard-pickled broccoli and grilled paneer cubes. 

Sarson ke Phool
Bhatti ka Paneer

While we waited for the mains I watched a guy throwing dough around in a very cavalier manner. It turned into one of several excellent breads we ate. 

Amazing breads

And then a couple of main dishes. 

It was fun eating my favorite Indian restaurant dish, baingan bharta,  in an actual Indian restaurant. It was served in a cutesy eggplant pot with a real eggplant top perched on it and was really excellent. 

Baingan Bharta

We also had a yellow lentil dal and a really fantastic paneer dish with spinach and the kind of spicy gravy I can never quite pull off at home.  Also vegetable biryani. 

Paneer Makhan Palak and Bhagerwali Dal

No dessert for us. We had our hands washed with rosewater and headed out to do some silk shopping before returning to the ship. 

The ship, which of course is a sort of floating Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. And the four of us, probably the most liberal passengers on the ship by a wide margin. Lunch was great, but it left me grappling with the profound heartburn of karma.

I had grilled cheese for dinner. 

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