Christmas in Tezpur

We decided to spend our Christmas in Tezpur, Assam because we’d enjoyed our previous visit in the quiet, riverside city.  We’d originally just planned to have a quiet Christmas with a nice meal in a restaurant we knew to be good, but India has a way of changing your plans and sweeping you along with it’s own ideas and schedule.

As we were walking along the river on Christmas morning we were approached by a friendly Indian man named Mon-mon who offered us guavas and showed us a picture that he’d taken of us with his family when we were in Tezpur a week or so ago.  He spoke absolutely no English but made it clear after a while that he wanted to invite us to his house for lunch.  Because it was Christmas and we’d felt like doing something today we accepted and climbed on the back of his motorcycle.  His house was big and well furnished (by Indian standards) and sat on a strip of farm-like property with chickens and goats running around on the front lawn.  He introduced us to his family and then grabbed one of the chickens which became our lunch an hour later.  We were first served an array Indian sweets with chai and samosas while we waited for lunch.  Then came a series of dishes including delicious chicken and potato curry, a fresh vegetable salad (from their garden), a cabbage and sweet pea masala, dal soup, copious amounts of rice and little green pickled chilies that Nat made the mistake of trying.  As soon as we managed to finish a dish, it was immediately refilled.  After lunch, they continued to feed us with ripe oranges, guavas and a small oval fruit that tasted a bit like brandy.  We were also treated to paan which is a betel nut wrapped in a thick leaf with a smear of some unidentified paste.  This is chewed to release the juice and then spit out after some time.  Paan is incredibly popular all over India, although we found the taste to be bitter and unpalatable.

Nat was then swept off to a market and I was treated to more fruit, family pictures and an individual photo shoot with every member of this rather large family.  Mon-mon’s family is a bi-religious family.  He and his brother are both Muslim while their wives are Hindu.  The children seem to be a mixture of the two religions (some of them eat beef and other don’t) but this seems to cause no tension whatsoever within the family.

After lunch we were once again whisked off by motorcycle to a number of churches, Christian schools and scenic parks along the river.  One of the churches that Mon-mon brought us to had technicolour lights and rock music (I think the Indians think that our version of Christmas is too boring and nothing helps boring better than loud music and flashing lights).  We were brought back to Mon-mon’s brother’s house where Nat was given a tour while I was given an Indian-style makeover (somehow this happens every time I’m invited into an Indian household).

We ended the night with another feast.  This time we were fed beef curry, a shredded potato dish, dal and more rice.  This was incredibly generous because beef is expensive and very rare to find in India.  Our lunch and dinner with this friendly Indian family were some of the best Indian food we’ve had to date.