5 Things I miss about living in India

When I was living in India, I couldn’t wait to get back to the US.  Now that I’ve been here a while, without being able to visit India in several years, there are some things that I really miss.

1.  Food.  Specifically, STREET FOOD!

There is something magical about street food in India.  It tastes about a 1000 times better than regular food. And it’s everywhere. All along the streets near train stations, near schools and colleges, near residential complexes pretty much anywhere there is a large collection of people.  And that is literally Everywhere!

There are so many varieties of street food.  There is dosas, pani puri, pav bhaji, Chinese (Indian-Chinese fusion), samosas, vada pav, the list goes on forever. I am planning a more detailed post on street foods soon. But bhel is one of my all time favorites.

Every evening a bhel vendor would walk through our residential complex at around 6 pm.  He would shout Bhel Wala! Bhel Wala! over and over as he walked through. My brother and I loved that sound.  We would wait for him several times a week and enjoy a bhel or sev puri. So delicious!

Another one of my favorites, is the standard Indian sandwich.  It is a delicious combination of sliced bread slathered with butter and a spicy cilantro chutney.  That is filled with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, boiled potatoes, and sometimes beets.  It is eaten dipped in ketchup.  So good!

2. The Monsoons.

There is something spectacular about warm rain that falls fast and furious for days on end. I love the smell of the earth right after a rain fall and I love how the air feels so moist and cool right before it’s about to rain.  But most of all I love just standing outside in warm rain, getting soaked, letting it fall onto me drop by drop.  It always give me a feeling of “oneness” with nature.  As if all the distractions of modern life suddenly cease to matter. The rain just envelopes you.  It’s beautiful.

It’s important that the rain be warm otherwise you are just freezing your ass off! And that’s no fun for anyone.

When I lived in India, it was common practice for me to “forget” my umbrella at home on the days that it was expected to rain. There are so many rain nazi’s  always fawning over you telling you that you’re going to get sick if you get wet in the rain.  I can honestly say that I’ve never gotten sick from getting wet in the rain. I think the real reason why they want people (especially girls) to stay dry in the rain is because they (collectively as a society) are terrified of the scandalousness of the “wet t-shirt” effect.

My response: Get over it! They’re just boobs! Half the population has them.

3. Mangoes.

There is an amazing variety of mangoes available in India. There is the super expensive Alphonso that everybody loves. And there are varietals for juicing, for eating ripe or for eating raw.  Although I like the revered and over sweet Alphonso, it’s not my favorite by any means, maybe because I overdosed on them growing up on an Alphonso farm.  I love the Pairi mango and the Totapuri mango.

The Pairi is distinctly shaped with a pointed nose. It is a very fragrant juicing mango. But I love to eat it sliced.  I think it has the best flavor – the perfect balance of tart and sweet. It is a little fibrous and deceptively ripens while it’s still mostly green. You have to test it by checking it’s firmness. You push down near the stem end and if it gives a little, it’s ready to eat. I don’t mind the slightly fibrous pulp at all either.

The Totapuri is a oblong, tall mango.  It has very firm flesh and a very mild but unique flavor.  I love the texture of this mango.  It’s my everyday go to mango.

I really miss having a sliced Totapuri or Pairi for an afternoon snack.  The mangoes available here don’t even come close in flavor.

4. Clothes.

Me dressed for Navratri (a nine day religious festival with garba and dandiya folk dancing ) in my Chaniya Choli. Navratri is one of the few occasions I get to dress up in my Indian outfits.

One of my favorite things about being Indian are the clothes.  I love wearing a sari or a salwar kameez.  I love wearing a bindi on my forehead.  But I don’t want to be stared at or answer a million questions every time I do it.  So I normally avoid wearing Indian clothes in America unless it’s for an event.  I love that when I’m living in India I can wear jeans just as casually as I can wear a salwar kameez.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I really miss that!

And I miss being able to buy Indian clothes easily.  It was such a headache trying to shop for our wedding here in California.  We had to drive over a hundred miles to Artesia and deal with a very limited selection that was priced ridiculously high.

5. Last but not least, I miss trains!

I miss how easy it can be to travel by train, especially because I live in car crazy Southern California!  The Indian train network is extensive and you can pretty much travel anywhere by train.

As someone who gets motion sick on long drives, on windy roads, on air planes and on boats, trains have always been comforting. I love being able to hop on a train and easily get to my destination without having to drive through crazy traffic and fight off the urge to vomit. Granted, on most Indian trains there are plenty of other hazards to deal with:  Like unbearable crowds – always running the risk of falling out on a commuter train. Or sitting in the aisle of an overnight train because it is common practice to over sell tickets.  But it also makes for really fun conversations with strangers.

Note: If you are a female traveling alone, remember to get on a ladies compartment. Or risk some serious groping as soon as it gets crowded (it’s what happens in sexually repressed societies).

I commuted to school daily for an year during Mumbai rush hour.  I would have to fight my way onto the train and spend several minutes smashed between so many other bodies that the only way to breathe is to look up.  The pressure would ease at the next stop and I would find my spot by the door.  Hold on to the bar and hang on for dear life.  I always walked away with a sense of accomplishment.

I can’t wait to go back. Steve and I are really looking forward to the trip we’re planning for January.

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