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A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur, India. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist).

The Dinner Table at Sonopani

We have spent these last seven days at a Himalayan retreat center called Sonopani–literally, “Gold Water.” During our stay, the group would sit around a wooden table under the awning of the main building. Every meal was served just inside, and we would carry our colorful, flavor-laden plates from the serving area to the table to sit and eat together.

There was Chai on the table–black tea with milk and sugar. There was roti. Near always, there was dhal–a bean dish. The diverse flavors mingled and fused into exquisite, mushy meals that we ate with our hands. As we ate, we always talked, often inquired, frequently discussed, and definitely debated. No topic or dish brought to the table was left untouched.

Stuffed tomatoes, curries, rice, fresh vegetables, curds, and jelabies appeared in the serving dishes and dissapeared into our conversations. Topics of education, faith, seed management, development, service, and politics appeared in our conversations and disappeared into the meals.

The wood table under the awning at Sonopani facilitated our appreciation of Indian food and our appreciation of one another. Eating together, we came to love one another. Sometimes, that love took the form of a debate. Sometimes, that love was a shared chopati. The table bore witness.

Now we have left the table at Sonopani and travel to our next destination–Munsiyari. Wherever we go, I hope we always find a spot to eat together.