With me at least, Ghanshyam is a quiet man, miserly with his words. He had resisted my attempts to get him to share more than his most basic thoughts. One night, when I asked about his favorite meal, he suddenly opened up. He told me he had been happiest when planning his eldest son's wedding. As the groom's father, he was the most important guest, and he described at length the dinner thrown by the girl's family.
"Mutton korma, chicken curry, fish curry, naan, saag paneer (spinach cooked in cottage cheese), pulao," he listed, along with the desserts: a sweetened rice pudding called kheer; jalebis, which are sweet, fried dough; and ice-cream. On my last day in the village, I drove to Pratapgarh and had a restaurant pack up that exact meal.
That night, under the mango trees, I threw a small banquet for Ghanshyam's family and that of his neighbors.
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