I will be shameless and make a full disclosure: Bereft of the legendary beauty, crown jewels, garb and finery, I lived like royalty in Jaipur.

My host and her family accommodated me in the huge guest room of their well appointed home. My room had a living room,  a jacuzzi and an ante room. Beside my room is an indoor swimming pool. The household help Rimla would knock on my door every morning to bring my coffee and biscuits before the morning breakfast at ten.

While waiting for my driver, Kamini would discuss with me my itinerary and would suggest which routes to take. She would then hand to me my snacks –  bottles of cold water, fresh fruits like lychees, jamun and biscuits (pakora) which I would dip in cream cheese.

When I’d get home, a bottle of cold water would be on my side table and my laundry washed and neatly folded or pressed and hung in the closet by Rimla, with her sometimes asking me if I needed a massage. I felt like living in a full service apartment or hotel. Only better – because I would spend evenings swapping stories with Kamini about her daughters, her passion for documentary film making whose subject matters revolve around advocacy on Indian women’s health and welfare. It was through her films that I have seen the flora and fauna of the remotest villages in India with snappy camera work and scenic cinematography. Certain evenings we would watch some of her films together. I was most impressed with her work on Chhattisgarh which was engaging as it was informative.

I was contemplative when I left Jaipur. The only way I knew I could thank her for her winning ways was to hug her in the train station.  I felt like my stay with her was one of the many advanced birthday gifts the Lord gave me for my birthday. When something really wonderful happens in my life, like this time that I met  Kamini and was blessed by her and her family’s inimitable hospitality,  I’d be reminded of a line from a song from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  Sound of Music:Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could/ So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.

Having said that, here’s a sampling of the Northeastern Indian cuisine that I relished and actually miss!

This snap was taken by my host in Jaipur,  Kamini an artist and documentary filmmaker

Potato, Lady fingers, yellow dal with ghee and chili, another dal (monkhee?) with ghee and an Indianized version of Thai soup

Vegetarian stir fried vegetables

Chicken lababdar, her daughter’s favorite

Chicken Seekh Kabab

Chicken Malai Kabab

Mutton marinated in coriander leaves, garlic paste, ghee, salt, chili – stewed and tenderized. My host’s specialty dish among others. Everything she cooked was divine!

It was only when I finished the two bowls of mutton did my host tell me that she cooked half a kilo of it and I ate almost all of it. Was I so embarrassed but it was a testament to how good a cook she was!