On March 5th, 2017, my mission-team friends and I headed to X City to experience Indian culture. We walked towards an Indian restaurant, Rasoi. The sparkling magnesium lights, blinking around the gold-lettered sign, immediately captivated my eyes. The restaurant was like a magnet, unwittingly drawing my hands to reach for the door knob. Visiting Rasoi was an intoxicating experience.
The second I opened the door, the strong smell of spice and curry assailed my nostrils. As I stepped into the place, colorful, festive lights and permeating fog instantly dragged me into a dreamy snow globe. The lights above, shining out in cascades of golden shade, reflected on the polished marble walls and floor. The unique flow of authentic Indian music surrounded me. The fast drumbeats, the melodious singing, and the harmonious sound of Indian musical instruments, like sarod and shehnai, all worked together, transporting me to a foreign atmosphere.
On my way to the seat, I was fascinated by dozens of paintings with gold-inlaid frames that covered every inch of the wall. I was first drawn to the portrait of Vishnu, the Preserver Deity in Hinduism. I saw him carrying a conch, a chakra, a lotus flower, and a mace to maintain the world in peace. To my right was a mysterious oil painting; I saw an Indian boy dressed in ragged clothes sitting on a settee. I thought I heard him playing a traditional instrument, and the music spread across the immense grassland in front of him. On the left side of the wall was a mural portraying a youthful, radiant Indian girl. She had her back facing the viewer while turning her head to the front. Her exquisite golden headdress adorned her long, jet-black hair. Her heavy pearl earrings of delicate geometric shapes hung down, brushing her shoulders. She was dressed in a sparkling, festive, embroidered sari, every detail of which had been patiently and carefully made. Her outfit was so shiny and colorful that at times it matched my imagined version of the gown Jesus wears.
I was seated. The wooden table in front of me was painted with white lacquer in the middle and with jasmine flowers carved at the edge. I traced the exquisite, protruded patterns with my fingers, and I had an illusion: I saw the carpenter sitting under a lamp, carefully refining and polishing every detail. Listening to my neighbor's conversation in an Indian language, I felt intoxicated by a mysterious, foreign culture. A lady with a vermillion mark on her forehead and dressed in a purple silk sari delivered the food to the table. Every delicacy was covered with yellow and orange sauces. Digging out every bit of meat and vegetable under the sauces was like finding treasures under the sand in San Francisco. While tasting the curry chicken, I felt its rich gravy passing from my tongue to my throat, satisfying my mouth. But after finishing the entire bite, my tongue was on fire. The aftertaste of the chicken was so spicy, I was impelled to sneeze. To save my numb tongue, I took a huge bite of the Garlic Naan. Warm and soft, the Naan revived my sense of taste. The purple-silk-sari lady then brought me a glass of mango soda as dessert. After taking a sip, the sweet-sour taste and the sparkling texture of the drink drew me away from my table to picturing myself in front of the Taj Mahal.
When I walked out of Rasoi, I felt I was awakening from a deep dream. I was not only walking away from a restaurant, but from a culture and tradition. Never have I been to a place as intoxicating as Rasoi.