Three cans of KC Das roshogolla, please.
Globalisation may have brought dosa batter to Houston but there are still those special little things that can only be found in a dusty store, three blocks away from your childhood home in India. So when someone in India mentions an impending visit to your new home 'abroad', you make these exhaustive lists tinged with a slight hint of desperation asking for the things you miss.
Ivy Mukherjee asked a few Indians living abroad to share their personal lists of the things they crave from a place they still call 'home'.
Illustrated by Mayur Mengle.
Ravi lives the NRI bachelor dream of having a freezer filled with homemade food cooked, frozen and labelled by his mother from when she visits him in Houston.
1. Puna’s Special Chakli- 5 packets
2. Bhakadwadi- 2 boxes of 50 grams each
3. Kayani’s khari biscuits- 4 boxes
4. Mathri made by mom
5. Tharu’s Sev mithai- 5 boxes
6. Cadbury’s 5 Star- as many as possible
7. Old Monk- 2 bottles Army canteen variant (travel safe plastic bottles)
This list belongs to the author who lives in Houston with her husband. She misses not having to launch into the complicated math of time zones while battling bed hair in preparation to Facetime with her parents in India and in-laws in Kuwait. She also misses the ritual of curling wordlessly over a cup of morning tea (which she did not make) while reading her section of the Times of India next to her parents, wordlessly doing the same. Her list is fulfilled by her mother.
1. Anardana goli- 5 plastic bottles
2. Amla, sun dried on the balcony
3. 1 YSL bag, from Sarojini Market
4. 1 plastic box filled with Premu Aunty’s besan ladoos
5. 1 4*6 Kodak album filled with childhood photos with deceased grandfather
6. 1 illustrated copy of Tagore’s Gitanjali
7. Embroidered Jaipuri jutti- size 7
8. 1 jar Garam Masala- roasted, cooled and ground under mother’s expert supervision
This list belongs to Mishita Jethi. It was constructed with contributions from a resolute mother, Mishita’s latent Punjabiness and her pregnancy hormones. Mishita lives in Metuchen with her husband and has been recently joined by a gurgling daughter.
1. 1 jar of homemade ghee- packaged carefully to sneak past customs
2. Almonds to make badam-doodh
3. Premium kesar from Kashmir for the shining complexion of soon-to-be born grand-daughter
4. Moong dal halwa sparkling with ghee
5. 1 jar of Gondh ladoos- in spite of loud protests from daughter
Shikha Mehra is a Delhi girl living in the Orange County with her husband. She prefers the mountains to the beach and India to any place on the planet. She copes with homesickness by plotting extra days off work to extend her trips to India.
1. 1 packet Kachori acquired specifically from Bikaner Paharganj
2. Pudina dried to crackling perfection in the Delhi summer heat
3. Red and Pink anarkali to be worn at friend’s engagement
4. 1 set of cotton bedsheets, forced upon by mother (with full knowledge of mismatch in mattress sizes)
5. Miniature white marble elephant from Benaras for son-in-law’s boss
6. Mata ki Chunari for upcoming Navratri
7. Special cardamom ordered from Dubai-wali Aunty
Debarati lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter. Her Bengali tastebuds yearn for kumro phool er boda (the butchered translation being pumpkin blossom patties) among other sweets and treats that Toronto can’t replace. Her list was fulfilled by her mother, who visited right after she gave birth to her daughter.
1. 2 simple chiffon sarees- red and turquoise
2. Post-pregnancy body friendly salwar suits- 2 anarkalis to wear on occasions and 2 for the home
3. 3 cans of KC Das Roshogolla
4. 2 boxes of Kaju barfi
5. Madan Mohan’s Jol Bhora Shandesh
6. Customised mangal-sutra – made sturdier with a gold chain binding the beads for protection against the baby’s unrelenting grip and tugs
7. Infant sized mattress with matching pillows and side pillows- stuffed with cotton and mustard seeds to cradle and gently shape the baby’s tender head
Tanvi is a Punjabi from Calcutta living in Shanghai with her cats Dolores and Umbridge. Her cats are imaginary. With her parents in India and her sister in New York, she misses the era when home was one place where all her loved ones lived together. That, and the Indian-Chinese food from the street carts. Her list is fulfilled by her mother and replenished by her friends.
1. 3 bottles of Puchong’s chilli sauce in it’s original low grade plastic casing available only in Hatti Bazaar
2. Packets of khakhra- Pani Puri flavoured
3. 20 boxes of Nutties (rationed for a year)
4. 10 Sticks- Maybelline Colossal Kajal
Verne D’Souza lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He misses the unspoken confidence of being on his home turf and the ability to not wear woollens during summer. His list is fulfilled by his own escapades to India during the GoT-like winters of December and partially by his father and sister.
1. Basic anti-biotics and multivitamins at non-bank breaking dollar amounts
2. 10 packets- Uncle Chips
3. Rose water- to DIY the bhang infusion for Holi
4. Aloo Chooda and Corn flakes Chooda from Laxmi Narayan, Poona
5. Himalaya herbal winter-cream for himself and kajal for friends
6. Carton of Classic Milds for a friend who smokes
7. Sandalwood sculptures of Gods and animals from Kaveri Arts Emporium, Bangalore to acquaint the boss and colleagues with Indian handicrafts
8. Dhol and tabla, to join an arsenal of Indian percussion instruments
9. Collage of images of his family with his mother, who he lost to cancer
10. His mother’s book of recipes, her diary jotted with words of wisdom and inspiration and ICSE English textbooks with her contributions
11. Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction, White Tiger, some Jhumpa Lahiris and other obscure cookbooks
12. Old box full of stamps, coins and silly childhood poems about sibling rivalry