About the author - Anindita Chatterjee is a senior professional in the Mining/Mineral and Commodities Sector.Her passion includes travel, music, food, books, wine and words.
When life becomes a series of predictable and measurable outcomes, an adventure into the unknown jolts our numbed senses somewhat like a tremor
An unpretentious restaurant tucked away in an unassuming street of Ho Chi Minh city, ‘Noir’ (black) was my first unique experience of dining in the dark. Being a foodie, dining in absolute darkness plagued every cell of my anxious control mechanism. I stepped in through the door of a beautifully lit world of a restaurant housed in a colonial building, my mind resigned to carte blanche. The transition from familiar to the unfamiliar, light to darkness was gentle, assuring, stripping me gradually of all my trappings- the gadgets, material trinkets, instruments of technology; there was no rushed endeavour in this process, or frenetic usher as my gentle hostess Linh and I tiptoed into an incomprehensible ‘heart of darkness’.
An anxious fearful darkness spread like a thick, impenetrable sheath around me, until a soothing voice broke the last frontier of defense; it was Linh, my hostess. She sat me down on the chair, took my hand gently to make me aware of my surrounding, in this case the table set in front of me, position of the plates on it, assortment of glasses, knives, fork and spoon. Needless to say, even though I was not expecting myself in any esteemed royal company, I had ordered the food with an elaborate wine pairing, which meant I had to identify the wine glasses as well, while battling a nightmare of glasses shattering around me, out of the control of my deft exactness. What was I scared of at that instant? It was that prickly loss of control over all calculated and preconceived notions of accuracy and prior knowledge. For the first time in my life I did not even see or remotely know what I was eating; my guide was my heightened sense, savouring every bite, twirling them around my tongue to absorb each flavor, texture and smell. Every bite was a revelation, a pandora box of probabilities cause this was not the domain of certainty or absolutes. The eye did not choose, hence rules were not set at the onset about the likes and dislikes, the do’s and don’ts. The mind was unfettered, senses free to savour and cherish. Each bite became slow and languorous, the body eased, the tense muscles relaxed and darkness became an accomplice as the wine circled around my tongue.
Linh came as each course ended, gently touching my hand, replacing my plate, filling my glass and asking about my thoughts on the food. Guided solely by favour and texture, we played a soulful game of guesses as to what I thought I ate and what was served. By that time I had eased into this world of sublime pause, a delicate silky world of senses, the soul replacing my myopic vision and moments of quiet reckoning to bond with the ‘other’ side of perception. Minutes passed, hours spread like a blanket around me, until I felt a tangible tingling sadness that the moment might just be over. Linh held my grateful hand and ushered me into the familiar harshness of the neon lights, the lights that have no significance in her dark world, the soulful eyes that felt and did not see, the lips that smiled from the heart even though they had not seen me, and the hands that touched and warmed my soul. For a brief while Linh and I shared the same universe, Linh as the soulful visionary and guide, and I as a spectacled short sighted lost traveler. Yet in those moments there was a strange sense of liberation, almost questioning who actually is blind: us or them?
Dining in the dark- Noir- 180D Hai Bà Trưng, Street, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam