Saturday, August 14, 2010

On being desi

Earlier this year, I spent a weekend in DC with a couple my family knows well, who have been like second parents to me while at C’ville. Over filter coffee (Tamil style) one of the mornings, I got to talking about their story of how they came here so many years ago, met and married each other and now had a full, happy life in this country. I wondered who had been their support system when they first moved here, at a time when Indians in America were concentrated in the Universities and the Valley and were not as ubiquitous as today; I had them, and over my three years in America, various other people, who have been my support system to help me settle down. I wondered who was there for them, whether they brought a year’s worth of tamarind from India for sambar and special idli rice and even their filter coffee powder!

Since my move to Florida, I had not cooked anything Indian, and had survived on fruits and pasta and ramen noodles… nothing wrong with it, but when I started craving curries and rotis I knew I had to fix it. At one of my fruit-buying trips at the local Publix, I spotted an Indian. I struck up conversation with him and asked him to give me directions to the Indian store. And as a freebie, he threw in directions to the Indian temple too! So this morning I drove up to the Indian store and within ten minutes I had a basket full of frozen rotis and daals and spices. I got to talking with the store owner and she offered to give me ideas on all the spices and stuff I would need to get my kitchen started. As I browsed through the aisles (there were just two), I savored the sound of all the people shopping there and the various languages they were conversing in.

I have always believed that as someone who cooks a lot Indian food at home, I wouldn’t want to go to an Indian restaurant on the weekends when I eat out. By that same principle, I’ve always tried to get to know non-desi folk at school/work because I rationalized that I left India to get to know people of the world. But today, as I perused the aisles of the store, I savored the little India around me, enjoyed speaking Hindi with the people there and felt comfort and at home for the first time at an Indian store.

I guess no matter how much we try to acclimatize ourselves to our new “home” land – America or Argentina or anywhere else – we never really stop being desi… You could suppress the desi-ness but it comes out in the least expected places and times… sometimes all it takes is the sight of bhindi (okra) and you can almost smell it frying in your kitchen in India. To my desh on its 64th year of Independence, I hope you know that your influence stays strong even so far away.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A Third Summer

This past weekend I moved to Florida to begin work with a company on a short-term basis. While the move proved more difficult that I had expected – more on that soon – I was struck by just how different the weather here is compared to any of the places I’ve lived at in this country. After a dry, hot start-of-summer at the Ville and a hot-by-day-cool-by-night summer at southern California, the heat and humidity and thunder storm filled weather of Ft Lauderdale is quite a change… and quite reminiscent of Madras.

The move here itself was very last minute – due completely to my own denial that the vacation with the sister had to end! – and therefore not as smooth as I would have liked. My achievement for the week would probably be successfully navigating from my hotel to the office without the GPS and without getting lost! Work, on the other hand, is pretty fast paced and energizing, which is great! I have been on the job for three days now and I am already staffed on an engagement and have deliverables due pretty soon! Work hours are long, compared to any of the places I have worked at before, and I am still trying to squelch the temptation to pack up at 6pm!

Personally though, the move has been challenging. For the first time, I am struck by how much I have relied on my social network and support systems in the past. I am not all alone here – MV, a fellow Section D’er, and her fiance – live/work in Miami and have been a phenomenal source of help and support, especially in the first couple of days after I landed here. But I miss my sister and miss eating healthy home cooked meals. But maybe I should use the time back on the east coast to do a spot of travelling… definitely something to work on.

(obligatory iPhone picture for this post coming soon - how about a thunderstorm?)


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