Today my aunt asked me to change my home address from India to New Jersey on my resume for a job at Chipotle.

My cousin said, “My appetite after coming to USA has increased. I can finish an entire rice bowl at Chipotle.”

Assimilation has varied forms.

The extra and the ordinary

As I walk down the station, I can’t help but notice the bullock straining under the weight of the blocks of ice as its master delivers a slab to the wailing fisherwomen. The cats which have been gorging on the morsels of tuna and Bombay duck in the dark alleys beyond the field of human vision salivate as another batch of fresh salmon makes its way into the bustling market.

I smile at the coconut man who smiles in return as he passes me a tender coconut drink on a hot day. With grateful eyes, I lap up its sweet white contents as I quench my thirst.  I love the animals that squeal and chirp at the oil seller’s store. I love the parrot with his humorous anecdotes, swishing his broken green tail in the customers’ face as the tiny squirrel darts its way through the mounds of dried coconuts to its master.  I love the ruckus created by their dog that wanders off on its own never too far, crossing roads and bringing back bits of news from the streets as soon as he sees the boys returning from school.

In the evenings, I love sitting by the sea watching the dark pall of twilight fall over the city that never sleeps. The twinkling lights of the advertisement hoardings and the cacophony of the horns with the occasional band baaja never fail to make me marvel at the undying spirit of the people.

Clutching a mug of hot chocolate, I gaze in amazement at the sparkling stars as they shine their way through the night. They possess an indescribable beauty about them. A beauty beyond words, a beauty I can’t yet fathom. Till this day, I wonder at their mystifying magic that keeps me encapsulated. I love falling asleep to the soft melodies of my favorite songs as I snuggle under the covers of my warm fluffy bed.

My heart races at the thrill of seeing the gold rays of the sun piercing their way through the lavender sky in the morning. My daily routine somehow always seems to be interrupted by the chirping of the mynahs and the smell of simmering coffee. The silvery sheen of the dragonfly wings create rainbow patterns in the sunlight as I watch thousands of them buzzing over the newly blossomed gulmohars.

A good laugh on my way to college is always provided by the urchins along the station who sit with their mats spread out over the cobbled pavements; a perfect picture of pity. Their pleading eyes and despairing demeanor soon vanish as they whisk  into thin air when the heels of the occasional policeman make their appearance.

I continue my walk to the whistling trains, with a satisfied smile on my face as I go over another day with its picturesque stories and hidden magic. ‘Cause I know that in the mundane humdrum of my daily life, I’ve managed to find that extra in the ordinary.

The Dirty Picture: Simple people, simple rules.

Namaste. Welcome to India. I assure that you will have an enriching experience during your stay. My name is Ria Gandhi and I will be your tour guide on your visit to India.

India is essentially a land of simplicity. Simple people, simple cities, simple festivals and simple rules. First things first, let me brief you through the journey.

You will be taken to the four metros of India. Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta and a few stops in between.  On your ride, you are free to enjoy the rosogullas and the aloo tikki. You must try the pani puri and the dosas. Apart from that, we feast on a meal of roti, sabji, chawal, suh-laad (salad), pakoda, dhokla, chhole, naan, dal and jalebi. Simple menu no?

Our first stop is a collection of seven islands, home to Bollywood and the fisher folk, Mumbai. Its Ganesh Chaturthi festival will leave you in awe of the elephant headed god as you see idol after idol blocking the meter wide roads of Bombay Mumbai. (My sincere apologies, Thackeray :P) It’s not the idols who block the road. It is the processions and the non stop road orchestras.  I assure you it is quite natural if you find yourself complaining about hearing impairment the next day.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Ganesh Chaturthi

Make sure you have the spicy pani puri and the chaat of Mumbai that will leave you running for water all around. You will not get clean water from a Kinley bottle. Oh no, that is just water filled in plastic bottles from taps. If you really want to go for hygiene, go for the golas. The ice flavored candies, a specialty of Mumbai, will leave you sucking on the ice long after the syrup has drained off.  I assure you that the vendors use the finest quality gutter water. I challenge you to find a tastier gola than that found on Chowpatty beach anywhere else in the world.

Golas :D

Golas 😀

The Chowpatty beach

The Chowpatty beach

The Taj Mahal. The word speaks for itself. Don’t be surprised if your mouth drops open as the first rays of the sun bounce of the cool white marble bathing the edifice in a warm golden glow. The building reeks of love. Love of Shah Jahan for his pride and honor. Love that overwhelmed him to such an extent that he made sure the craftsmen of the Taj Mahal had their hands cut so that it could not be duplicated.

Me :)

Your tour guide 🙂

Disclaimer for the ladies: Be careful to cover yourself in the holy city of Haridwar. You wouldn’t want to break years long of penance of our priests, right? The pundits detest skimpy clothing, you see. As for themselves, they prefer to keep it minimal. Just a sheer see through waistcloth for their ash smeared bodies would suffice. Like I said, we prefer simplicity.

a sadhu in Haridwar

Harki Paudi

Harki Paudi on the banks of the Ganga

We then visit the great Mother Durga, and her kohl lined three eyed figurines.  She holds a striking pose as if watching over her Calcuttians as they  gorge on the rosogullas.

Goddess Durga

Let’s travel a little down south. Here  are the banana leaf platters and the finest of dosas, lighter than a muslin cloth. You have the intelligentsia here, who speak nothing apart from Tamil and undiluted English. Talk to them in Hindi and they will gape at you as if you are a mental asylum resident. Why bother learning the national language when you are aiming for globalization? Simple, no?

Traditional banana leaf meal

Finally coming down to India’s people. Like I said, we are a simple folk. Our politicians are very simple too. This simplicity is reflected in our rules. We believe in dealing under the table than over it. Over the table only talks are made. Of abolishing poverty, hunger and misery. We make sure we stay faithful too. Faithful to our countrymen as we make those promises year after year.

India isn’t a land of hypocrites. It is a land of simple people with simple rules who don’t follow what they say.