In the dustless hush of 5AM, we cross over stoney grey train tracks and on towards the lush backwaters of Kerala. Passing between high walls of coppery earth woven with ancient tree roots, we peer curiously up the occasional steep stone staircase that leads towards a tiny garden and the scratch-scratch of morning hens.

At this time of day, the only call to permeate the peace comes from a strange dawn chorus: whooping bids up high, cheerful frogs in the undergrowth and if you’re lucky, a flock of bickering eagles.

The jungled suburbia clears and my two friends and I tiptoe across swampy mud to dip our feet in the water. We sit. We chat gaily like children. We watch as the sun rises through the haze. Eventually, the time comes when we must return for breakfast and each of us quietly hopes that the other has remembered the route back and can navigate this maze of pathways.

Traffic awakens somewhere close by and the toxic stench of every household’s personal burning garbage pile spreads but as we pass the Krishna temple the song of his devotees drifts through, somehow purifying the air.

God, and what it means, is on the tips of our tongues but we aren’t quite there yet. Whilst collecting seeds from odd-looking medicinal plants, we discuss love and life and how to do both fully. I have only lived here for one month but these are friendships that could have been woven over hundreds of years, like the roots of the trees that bind the earthen alleyways we walk through together.

  • 1kg diced chicken
  • 1tsp black pepper powder
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt

Marinate the chicken in the above ingredients for 30 minutes to 4 hours.

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp ginger paste
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seed powder
  • 2 green chillies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp soya sauce
  • 2 1.2 tbsp coconut oil or sunflower oil
  • Salt
  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander

Sautée the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli until they soften. Scatter in the rest of the spices and fry for two minutes. Add the chicken and mix well with the sauce. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes and cook uncovered for the last 5 minutes. Serve with ghee rice.

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