I got interested in India in the early 1980's. I don't know why. I think after seeing the miniseries "The Far Pavilions", something just sparked in me. I worked at the local library back then, first as a volunteer and then as an employee, and loved my time there. Books are some of my most favorite things in the world. Libraries, with such bounty to be had (even in a smaller one, like where I worked) make me feel like a kid in a candy store. I have always felt this way, since the first time I walked into our tiny school library at age 6!
After watching "The Far Pavilions", I found the book in our library by M.M. Kaye! A large and lengthy book; my favorite kind! I read it and felt myself immersing in that culture. Then I discovered "The Jewel in the Crown", by Paul Scott, a 4-part series, and later the miniseries made of that one. Granted, these are British Raj versions of life in India - but it was the foreignness of the Indian continent and everything involved in the culture that so called me.
More recently, I discovered a book written only in Spanish, called "Pasion India" by Javier Moro. It is about a Spanish dancer, Anita Delgado, who marries an Indian Maharaja. I was interested in the story, and I can read Spanish, albeit slowly. It was slow going, but it was a good refresher course in Spanish, for me, at the same time reading a true story mostly taking place in India.
All these books are great, you say - but what about food!? Well, along with reading, I also discovered Indian cuisine. Recollecting back, I don't think it was until the early 1990s, but once I tasted some of the foods, I was totally hooked!
When I lived in Louisiana (my husband managed medical practices back then), one of the doctors and his wife were Indian, and visiting with them, I discovered true Chai tea. They took us to an Indian restaurant they frequented in Metairie, to introduce us to some of the foods. It was a very large buffet, which is an excellent way to become familiarized with the foods. There is such variety! Much like here in the US, with cuisines changing from one region to another, so it is with India. The foods one would find in the north of India are far different from foods in the south, or west, and so on. The cuisine most often found in Indian restaurants here (ones I have frequented) is the more northern, Mughlai style, with a strong Persian influence.
I have quite a collection of Indian cookbooks now! I have three particular favorites, but there are lots of great recipes to try!
A menu I created for an Indian dinner I made
for two of my sisters and their husbands