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How to tell if your egg is actually hardboiled? 1. It doesn’t crack up if you tell jokes like Q: What did the egg say to the boiling water? A: “I don’t think I can get hard — I just got laid this morning!” 2. It spins quickly. (Raw eggs only give a few slow spins.) [This and all photos unless otherwise noted are ©2018 Janine Smith & Jayalakshmy Ayyer]

How not to boil an egg. In a hotel room. In India. REALLY really rural #India…

It was the lion’s fault.

I’ve been exploring India’s amazingly diverse state of Gujarat along with travel companions Janine and Jaya. The three of us met as students at the University of Chicago when we moved into Little Pierce student apartment #203—three bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and lifelong friendships. By now we’ve been friends for over forty years, and traveled together on multiple continents, so we each have our jobs at a new hotel. Jaya makes coffee. Janine boils water. Lots. (Once and only once we believed our hotel’s usual “our water is all filtered” statements. I have the patient ID bracelet from Don Bosco hospital to prove what a good idea that wasn’t.)

Tower of Power(cables).  

My job is to assemble the various power adaptors from the US and UK in a precarious tower at the (usually only) available outlet.

Once phones, tablets, and laptops are charging away, we all sit down with coffee to go over our travel options, make plans, hear what Jaya has planned for us.

[NOTE: When it comes to travel, Janine and I have worked out a strategy we like to call ‘Whatever Jaya Says’. It’s simple, straightforward, and 100% foolproof. As a trip planner, Jaya is just that good.]

Take our current trip to the Gir Forest National Park—a wildlife sanctuary and home to India’s endangered Asiatic Lions. The previous day we’d been in Kuch, admiring local artisans, palaces, and temples. Now as we headed for the forest, Jaya explained about the Indian government’s efforts to preserve India’s rapidly-dwindling Asiatic Lion populations. The hotel Jaya had booked—a newly acquired property of our favorite Club Mahindra chain—was on the far side of the forest preserve, so we kept eyes open for lions as we drove. No lions.

[Okay, I admit it. I was secretly relieved. Please don’t judge me—I’ve seen The Lion King, and was pretty sure where I’d end up on the Circle of Life…]

But this time, our assigned room was #203—the same number as our long-ago apartment back at University of Chicago, and surely some kind of sign? (Remembering some of our Apt. 203 adventures, we weren’t sure if it was a good sign or…)

Arriving at Club Mahindra was like coming home. While each of their resorts has its unique flavor and décor, we already knew to expect the microwave, dishes, generously sized rooms, origami towel animals on the bed each day, huge bathroom (with hairdryer!), unexciting restaurant meals, and of course, wifi available only in the FunZone**.

Sadly, this is as close as we got to seeing lions at Gir Forest…

Next day we headed back into the Forest on our ‘gypsy’ jeep safari through the Gir Asiatic Lion Sanctuary. Although we spotted leopards (sorry, couldn’t resist), crocodiles, jackals, deer, antelope, lots of peacocks, and enough birds to make dedicated birder Jaya and photographer Janine giddy with joy, we didn’t see any lions. (Remember the lions?) Thus instead of triumphantly sending dramatic lion footage to everyone we know, we were out shopping for eggs so we could avoid the hotel breakfast. We stopped at several minuscule roadside stores, but apparently eggs were almost as rare as lions in these parts.

Dharmesh, our long-suffering driver, asked how we planned to cook our eggs. We explained about Club Mahindra, and how we could always count on a microwave in our rooms. He remembered seeing some eggs the day before, so he pulled over, ran across the road to a nondescript house, and came back triumphantly holding a plastic bag of eggs, with one extra that he asked us to boil for him.

He’d also heard about a little home-based business that would provide good dinners, so he promised to deliver our dinner when he came back for his egg.

Club Mahindra public service announcement: Eat at the Club restaurant or…

…take your life in your hands. Your call. Have a nice day.

Back in our room, we looked at each other. Despite having well over a century of cooking experience between the three of us, we had no idea how to microwave a hardboiled egg.

Jaya: “How hard can it be?”

Janine: “I heard something about eggs exploding in microwaves?”

Me: “Exploding?”

Jaya: “Maybe we just put it in a cup and cover it with water?”

Me: “Ex-plo-ding?”

Janine: “That doesn’t sound right.”


Jaya put the egg into a mug, covered it with Janine’s precious already-boiled water, and I turned on the microwave. Almost immediately, there was an ominous bang. We looked at each other but nobody moved. Finally Jaya bravely opened the microwave. “Ewww.”

It seemed almost impossible that one egg could have produced so much… eggness. Eggy liquid oozed from every microwave surface, congealed egg bits bobbed sluggishly in the mug, while eau d’egg wafted out in a sulphurous cloud.

Jaya grimly mopped and scooped and poured egg-bits out of the microwave.

Me: “We should tell the Front Desk we need a squeegee, because that’s a lot of egg.”

Janine: “We should tell them we need a new microwave, because I don’t think this one will ever be the same.”

Jaya: “We should just tell the driver no eggs.”

Me: “Google says all we need is a bigger bowl, more water, and salt.”

Janine: “We should tell the Front Desk we’ll need salt, a squeegee, and a new microwave. And maybe a few more towel animals.”

Me: “Club Mahindra is going to think we’re having a LOT more fun in here than we actually are.”

Jaya (holding up the truly unpleasant and surprisingly large remains of the exploded egg): “I’m going to flush this down the toilet.”

Janine: “What’s that smell?”

Me: “We should tell the front desk we’ll need a toilet plunger.”

Jaya: “We should tell the front desk we’ll need another room.”

This is the meal Dharmesh exchanged for his egg—delivered in a stacking tiffin (lunch box).

Clearly, we got the better deal.

EPILOGUE: Eventually, we did manage to hardboil the egg. So our driver got his breakfast egg, we got our wonderful dinner, and nobody got to see lions in the wild. Maybe next trip?

Maharshi House Cooking

Maharshi House Cooking staff.

**[Funzone digression. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Just try…] My running battle with the FunZone concept goes back to our first India visit years earlier. Club Mahindra is a chain of five-star resorts catering to Indian families instead of foreign tourists. Their properties are each beautifully developed and tailored to their locations. But whether in individual bungalows surrounded by water and lovely little bridges, or a mountain village, or an old palace, one thing each Club Mahindra resort has in common is the FunZone.

Our room at Club Mahindra.

My working theory is that some Mahindra executive’s kid accidentally got an MBA, and came back with all kinds of ideas on how to attract hip young affluent resort guests. Instead of looking at their guest demographics (or maybe just in hopes of sidelining MBA-kid’s damage potential), the FunZone concept was born. Why did I care? Because the one place in each resort that offers space, wifi, isolation, wifi, lots of power outlets, AND WIFI** is… the FunZone. (**Have I mentioned that I really, REALLY like wifi?)

Since most resort guests are either middle-aged patrons who only enter the FunZone to send email or check Facebook, or else young families just before putting children to bed, I usually had the FunZone’s wifi all to myself. Until, that is, it was time for The Program. In fact, the only people remotely inhabiting the age zone targeted by The Program tape (slightly out of date American and Indian pop songs played at decibel levels meant to strip paint from walls and hearing from a teenage audience) are the mercilessly cheerful Program tape purveyors themselves.

The first night this happened, we retreated in shock to our room and our earplugs. In our next resort stop, I called the front desk and asked if they could stop The Program, as I could see that the room was empty except for the karaoke attendants. No dice.

Then came the third resort. When the unmistakable sounds of The Program accompanied by laser strobe lighting signaled the exodus of every FunZone patron, I had enough. I went up to the DJs and asked them to turn it off.

The two young men (who had costumed for The Program by putting on sunglasses and baseball caps turned backwards) told me that wouldn’t be fair to the other people who would be expecting The Program.

This wasn’t a job for Mrs. NiceGuy. I needed to find a (virtual) phone booth and change into my alter ego, SuperMom—able to leap specious arguments in a single bound, scare football hooligans into sitting quietly and using their indoor voices, and fight for truth, justice, and wifi. Especially wifi.

Barb/Mom: “Look around this room.”

Program Tape Purveyors: [obediently follow my pointing finger] “Yes, Madam.”

Barb/Mom: “Do you see anybody enjoying The Program?”

PTPs: [Visible flinch] “No, Madam.”

Barb/Mom: “Do you see anybody at all?”

PTPs: “No Madam.”

Barb/Mom: “Turn. It. Off. Please. You are perfectly welcome to turn it back on the second a Justin Bieber fan comes in begging for a fix.”

PTPs: [Removing baseball caps, sunglasses, and The Program CD.] “Yes Madam.”

The next time Jaya and I went in to use the wifi, she said the attendants turned pale and pointed at me. [Oh, no—who let that Mom in here again?] They leaped to turn off the music and turn on the lights, whispering warnings that Madam was back. FunZone victory was mine, and it was sweet.

Alas, it was also fleeting. We’ve stayed in Club Mahindra resorts all over India, and there are only so many FunZone battles you can fight. By now, we’ve accepted that when the disco lights start pulsing and The Program music blaring, we can only admit defeat and return to our room, where both the food choices and the wifi are limited.

Hardboiled egg, anyone?