Last few days have been extremely busy with lot of family gatherings and celebrations. I feel exhausted from all the gatherings and heavy delicious Punjabi food to say the least. We are one of the very rare and lucky Indian families in America that get the best of both the worlds. We have a luxury of living in USA and are yet surrounded by all our immediate as well as extended families. All of my family (with an exception of few cousins) lives within 10 miles radius from us!!
Many years ago, festivals felt very different to me as a new bride, in a foreign land away from my friends and family. It was very hard for me to adjust and start a new life amidst different culture, new language and unfamiliar rules and social norms. I often missed the food, warmth of home, the familiar roads, the warm smiles and the comfort of knowing my surroundings.
I would highly recommend everyone (Indian or Non-Indian) to read this amazing book. One of the things I loved the most about this book is that it gave such an insight in to a side of India that I will probably never see personally, and to be honest, one I never really ever thought I wanted to see. It shows the extremes of the city from the unwavering love and loyalty of the Indian people, to the depth of the corruption and power that ultimately runs the city, as well as showing what life in the slum would be like compared to the rich who live there. Being an Indian I can attest that his take on India and culture is spot on!
Amazing tale, very well written, great characters, just an unforgettable book! You won’t be disappointed.
Fast forward to TODAY and USA is no longer a foreign land to me and my family. This is where my home is and this is where my family now lives. After having spent a decade here and loving every part of it there still are some things we miss a lot about India especially around Holidays.
Here are 10 things you will miss about your ‘Desh’ (country), the moment you step outside:
- Street Food:
Yes, no more Golgappe, Chaat Papdi, Samosas or Chole Bhature from your favorite joint that you have always been in love with and costed way under $4 for a stomach full of food. I miss having the option to eat unlimited chaat whenever and wherever I wanted.
Here you can only Chat’ about that ‘Chaat’.
I miss the smell of chai and samosas on the streets of Delhi. I miss the smell of Vada Pao and Pav Bhaji on the streets of Mumbai. I terribly miss our Indianized version of burgers in Mc Donalds (Mc Aloo tikki, Mc Veggie). I could go on and on.
Once you step out of India, whether you learn to do anything else or not, you definitely learn to cook Indian food.
- God sent Maids aka Kaam Wali Bai:
The saying “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is absolutely true and in the case of house maids it stands very true!
Even if you have cursed her million times for coming late or taking uninformed chuttis (leaves), you will miss her terribly now while you wash, mop, clean, shop and cook (especially around festivals) all on your own.
I miss my maid that cooed every morning “Bhabhi pehley bartan saaf kardoon” (May I clean the dishes first), Chai bana doon bhabhi ( May I make some tea for you) Kapde dho doon Bhabhi (May I wash the clothes)… These are all gone…
Luxuries of living in India are very different. Every morning someone washes your car for you, you have maids to cook, clean and run errands. Personal chauffer to drive you around town and carry your bags. Clothes are being ironed and dropped at the doorstep and what not…one does not need to be rich to be able to afford such luxuries in India.
- The Rickshaw and Auto Walas (local transportation):
Even though they’re noisy, bumpy and you have to constantly haggle with dishonest drivers I have a certain fondness for them.
My mother in law and many older relatives would have a very different social life had they been in India. Its saddening when my mother in law is stuck all day long at home as she can’t drive herself anywhere. I myself spent first few months with no car and driving license in this foreign land and they were the most frustrating few months of my life.
No matter how well the transportation is laid out here, it can’t provide the convenience of the Rickshaw and Auto parked right outside your doorsteps. With one shout of “Rickshaw” or “Auto”, a ride stops right in front of you and takes you wherever you wish to go.
- Community feeling:
In India, it is not uncommon to seek help from your neighbors. Being a neighbor automatically endows you with the right to ask for onion, tomatoes, sugar, borrowing the extra gas cylinder or anything else you are in an urgent need of.
Do not even dare ring your neighbor’s doorbell and demand any such favors here in US. You would be deemed as an insane person and make your neighbors very uncomfortable.
Also, generally food is not cooked just for the family members in India, but also for the homeless that sits under the shade of the tree opposite to your home and for the old lady that lives alone or for the neighbor who enjoys that dish cooked by your mother.
- The Festivals:
Here Indian festivals just come and go. It is very easy to miss them before you know it. There are no neighborhood aunties, workplace parties or decorated markets to remind you of Diwali or Holi.
Whatever Indian festivals we witness here are smaller and mostly Americanized versions of our king size celebrations in India. Most festivals are not even celebrated on the exact day of that festival.
On Diwali we can’t burst firecrackers or decorate the outside of our house with Diya’s and Holi hardly has any color to it. I constantly have an urge to be in India for Diwali.
- Fresh Paneer:
Paneer just does not taste the same in US. The paneer we buy here has probably been sitting in the refrigerator since the time I last left for India.
- Legit Coconut Water & Juice Walas:
I miss the vendors that visited our residential neighborhoods selling freshly squeezed fruit juices or coconut water straight from the coconut. You don’t get that elsewhere. One could be spotted at every corner.
“I just bought 5 laddus for $10 that were barely palatable. Glad my Mom In-law made some delicious sweets at home this Diwali. Enough said.
- The little fixes:
You find a tailor, cobbler, mechanic, a carpenter just around every corner….for doing little fixes for you for a myriad of things. So if something is broken you don’t throw it away, you could get it fixed for very cheap.
It is the beauty of this dynamic constantly moving and jugaadu macrocosm that I miss the most.
- Everyday Wisdom:
Everyone is a philosopher in India and can teach you a great life lessons and wisdom from the maid or the vegetable vendor to the milkman. Surely, everyone has something to say.
I was surprised to hear that my maid sent her kids to private well-known schools while she worked hard cleaning, scrubbing multiple houses a day and her husband worked long hours at a factory. They worked hard to provide better future for their kids. One of her kid wanted to be a teacher while another one wanted to be an accountant.
Its interactions like these that make you humble and grateful every day knowing that everyone has their own share of struggle to handle and yet they never complained. It made me feel very connected and grounded. I miss that feeling.
Desi (Indian) Readers – What do you miss the most about India?
Non-Indian Readers – Have you been to India? What did you love most about the country?