By Robert Bradley
Some seeking a better life are lucky. Most, however, take a route that is much more laborious, fraught with danger, and requires a level of endurance few choose to withstand. Such was the case for Chinnu and Abin George.
Chinnu no longer felt safe in her native India. Her medical training as a nurse exposed her to the trauma of sexual assault, common in the southern India culture. She rarely ventured out alone and to do so at night was unthinkable. It was no way to live.
Her position in the medical community also exposed her to “agents” who would, for a considerable fee, introduce her to opportunities out of India and away from the dangers. She chose a firm that was expensive but had a high success rate in placing clients in desirable countries to pursue careers. After considerable soul-searching, she decided to relocate to the country of her dreams, the United States of America. She packed their bags, bought plane tickets and said goodbye to her families.
For a variety of reasons, much of it involving racial prejudice, Chinnu’s move to the U.S. proved a bust.
Saddened and disillusioned, she looked for another country, eventually settling on Ecuador. She would be right next door to North America, right?
The flight that carried Chinnu to Cuenca was, so it seemed, her last gasp. She was underwater financially, having invested all her savings in the effort to find peace and security. Once on the ground, Chinnu discovered to her dismay that the wages for nurses in Ecuador were abysmal. They needed a Plan B and part of that plan, it turned out, was Abin, who she met in Cuenca.
Abin is a talented chef specializing in the cuisine of southern India, a style that emphasizes vegetarian and vegan recipes. As word spread among friends of his delicious creations, more and more folks started calling him to prepare dinners in their homes. He expanded into a delivery service, and slowly but determinedly, Chinnu and Abin began rebuilding their lives. And then, as so often happens to those who persevere, magic knocked on their door. It came in the guise of a middle-aged couple who are committed vegans.
Expats JP and Amelia vlog regularly on their website and YouTube. They love living in Ecuador and take particular pleasure in sharing their insights and experiences with a loyal following of viewers. Fortunately for all, Chinnu and Abin and JP and Amelia met over a vegan dinner that Abin had prepared and the tide of fortune turned.
After nearly four years of struggle in Cuenca, JP and Amelia — along with other friends — provided the encouragement and support for Chinnu and Abin to open Paradise Indian Restaurant, across from Parque de la Madre on Av. Frederico Malo.
The restaurant has been open for just three months but it has already proved wildly popular. Paradise Indian Restaurant has yet to suffer a week without profit — in fact, Abin and Chinnu are already servicing their debt, months before they ever thought it possible.
The menu of Paradise is thicker than the phone book of Anchorage, Alaska. I counted over 20 vegetarian dishes, an equal number of chicken and fish offerings, as well as plenty of meat options for the carnivores among us. The warm colors and spicy mix of exotic herbs central to Abin’s cooking make dining a pleasure that will bring customers back time and again. It will also bring you tears of joy and, well … tears. Don’t be as foolish as I was. When they asked how spicy I wanted my meal, I said, “Bring it on!” I soon wished Chinnu would also bring a fire hose to quench my flaming lips. Oofda…
Paradise Indian Restaurant is a great example of fine home-style Indian cooking that has evolved over hundreds of years, and it is already in my expanding rotation of great dining options in Cuenca.
Prices of entrees are delightfully moderate, averaging $7. The restaurant offers a wide selection of yogurt-based drinks, a full selection of desserts, and more flavors of naan, the traditional flatbread, than anyone could hope for — and I want to try them all.
Paradise Indian Restaurant: Av. Federico Malo 1-160, across from Parque de la Madre; Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Phone: 098 462 8976; Facebook
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