entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

The Power of Connections

Here is a story to tell…my dear Aunt Mary and Uncle Jeff live in Portland, Oregon. Both spent time in India a while back and they have a love for Indian food. Their favorite Indian restaurant in Portland is India Oven. This is the place I actually had Indian food for the first time! I remember traveling to Portland with my Mom one summer and aunt Mary took us to this place one day for lunch. One taste of Chicken Tikka Masala and I was hooked on Indian food.

Anyway, Mary and Jeff were at India Oven last month and got chatting to the owners, who are from India of course. It turns out that the owner has a brother living in Hyderabad and passed along contact information to my aunt who passed it along to me.

I soon received an email from the couple, Taranjeet and Raman Samra, inviting us to dinner! Tonight they picked us up at the main gate of campus full of words of welcome. They drove us through the city and into Banjara Hills to a restaurant called Serengeti. We walked into a jungle, literally! Fake trees lined the walls with vines hanging from the ceiling. The chairs were lined in animal prints and all the waiters walked around in safari outfits- haha! The food was phenomenal! We let Raman order for us. We started out with Paneer Tikka- deliciously tender paneer cheese rubbed with spices and backed in the tandoor oven. Served with mint chutney, this dish melted in your mouth.

For the main spread:

  • kaali daal (black lentils)
  • paneer marsala
  • fish fennugreek (tender fish fillets in a green, spinach-like sauce)
  • hot, buttered naan

Wow, was it all amazing! Perfectly spiced and flavorful. At first, the naan came out. Taranjeet immediately sent it back. He explained that the food should always be on the table before the bread comes otherwise the bread gets cold to fast. “We like our food garam.” He said. Garam = Hindi word for “hot.” And there is nothing better than garam naan!


As we dined, Emily and I got to know the Samras. The couple is from Punjab, in North India. They moved down to Hyderabad when Tarenjeet got a job at a company here. Previously, Tarenjeet was in the army for years. Raman was a teacher and is now a principal at a public school. However, in India, a public school means “private” in our terms. 1,800 students grades K-12 attend the school. It also functions as a boarding school. The two live on the campus in faculty housing. They have two children- a daughter in New Jersey and a son in Canada! And they are practicing Sikhs.

As you can imagine, there was lots for us to chat about: religion, schooling, families, etc. Both Emily and I found them to be a very warm and inviting couple. We so appreciated their hospitality and kindness! I was so caught up in conversation that I neglected my picture taking!

They even invited us to join them at their home next week to cook! What a gift of friendship. I so look forward to getting to know them even more.

Thanks auntie Mary and Uncle Jeff! 🙂


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Connections

  1. You can never undersestimate the value of a connection!!
    Yeah Jeff and Mary! I, too, remember India Oven for the first time!

  2. Pingback: Sunday Hospitality | entering the land of the gods

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