In preparation of our return visit to India (our expat home for 8+ years), I keep coming back to the things I miss most about it and why I feel the urge to return after only leaving 2 years ago.
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This is always the top of everyone’s list – no matter where you are, you always miss the food from where you have been. It’s what I missed most when I didn’t live in the US and it’s what I currently miss most about not living in India. I can only now, after 2 years eat the somewhat passable Indian food options we are provided here in LA. I couldn’t stand any of it for the first year. Now I have managed to find a few favorites – but they do not even remotely resemble the food I am so looking forward to eating in India. Spicy black dal, tandoori paneer, crispy perfect garlic naan, dal tadka made to perfection, chole biryani, cripsy bhindi fry, sev puri that has just the right amount of sweet and salty eaten on the roadside. Parsi food which is unheard of in the US. South Indian coffee. Chai. Indian sweets. Spicy crunchy samosas. The list can go on and on. I hope that my lack of spicy food in the US hasn’t made me unable to eat my favorite dishes in India! And as an added bonus, it will be so wonderful to be back in a place that has many vegetarian items on every menu!
This also topped my list of what I missed most about living in the US, but in a totally different way. It seems that everything I buy in LA comes from India, complete with a grossly inflated price tag. I miss being able to buy all of these things for a 1/4 of the price! In the family sphere, it’s all the rage to use as few plastics as you can, so now everyone buys stainless steel tiffins. I luckily brought back several when we moved, but now I realize the need for even more and of different types. Linens – why can’t I buy a beautiful, well made cheap table cloth in America? Because they all come from India and that means we have to pay for it to come all this way. Instead, I will just go back to the source. I wish i could load my suitcase with carpets and knick knacks as well, but I will probably have to settle with stainless steel cups and plates and tiffins, a few linens, books and medicines.
I always felt like medical care in the US was the best, but after living abroad for so long, I realized that while we do have amazing doctors and state of the art research facilities, it is not always easily accessible. The same could be said in India for the majority of the population there, but for people with a moderate income it’s a different story. In India, if you have money, and it doesn’t have to be a lot, you can access good healthcare quickly and efficiently (as efficient as India can do it!). I can get an entire blood panel work up done with a physical for less than 50 USD and completed in one day. I can go get my blood typed for 25 rupees (.40 cents). I can walk into a prestigious hospital and have a basal cell carcinoma extracted from my arm within the hour and for 50 USD. I can have a child and be in a top Indian hospital, in a VIP room for 12 days, and pay far less than the copay for most Americans (with insurance) who have a baby and are released in 24 hrs. I had access to amazing dentists, dermatologists, GPs, etc almost as quickly as I could make a phone call. The doctors in India work long hours for little pay, but they aren’t bogged down by insurance companies or lawsuits (although my big shot OB was starting to experience that western phenomena of lawsuits right when we left. Sad really) which maybe is where a lot of the different actually exists. Anyway, I cannot wait to see my dermatologist, dentist and even my child’s pediatrician.
Pharmacy / Chemist
This sort of goes with medical section above, but it’s amazing all that you can buy in India over the counter and for cheap. And really, thats the way it should be. Why should only the privileged be allowed to have access to medications? When I first arrived to India I had my backpack stocked with all of my western medications – now I leave with an empty bag and load up on all of my Indian branded medications, bandage supplies, bug sprays, homeopathic ointments, etc. These medications are just as effective as the ones here in the US for a fraction of the cost. I cannot wait for my chemist visit to stock up.
Everything is possible
This is what I miss on a regular basis. Anything and everything is possible in India. If you want to tailor clothes – done – quickly and cheaply. Maybe not always correctly, but at least it’s not super expensive! I need a new coffee table – bam it’s made or you can get a nice one for cheap at FabIndia (which we would buy in the US for an astronomical amount). If you to make a stamp with your name on it or a random picture, you can do it and for cheap. If you want to frame all of your photos, you can do this quickly and for a small portion of the price you would pay in the US. You want a gardener to come clean up your plants and repot things. Yep. You want little auto rickshaws embroidered on a duvet cover. Sure thing. So many things are possible in the consumer sphere, but it extends beyond that. A common thought in India is that rules are meant to be negotiated and/or broken. This means that literally anything and everything is possible (to people like me, but probably not the vast majority of Indian people).
I so so so miss having someone clean my house 6 days a week. I miss being able to give my cook a new recipe and coming home a few hours later to see it cooked to perfection and waiting on the counter. I miss having people carry my bags in and out of a store or the house. I miss having an awesome trainer who would come to my house 3 times a week at 6 a.m. I miss having security staff at every building. Most of the time they are asleep or not actually doing what they need to be doing, but they can be helpful occasionally! There is an abundance of help all over India. Even when you don’t need it or don’t want it, someone is there to offer their help. Now that I don’t have it, I mis it.
Oh I really miss delivery services. Anything and everything is delivered in India. Even McDonalds. I remember calling down to the corner store at the bottom of my building to get a diet coke brought up. Yes, one diet coke. OK I know that is lazy, but this really would come in handy here in the US when I am stuck at home with a sleeping toddler. Even more so when I’m craving an ice cream sundae. You can get anything delivered and usually pretty quickly too. Indian food. Beer and wine. Groceries. Vegetables from the market. Snacks. Medications. And to top it off, things are open late, which means you are almost never without your local delivery service.
I constantly miss this. I love being able to just wonder around aimlessly with the knowledge that once you are tired or lost or bored you can just flag down an auto to get you back out. I love the wind sweeping through my hair, hearing all the noises of the road and yes, even smelling all the smells of India as you drive past. love how cheap they are. How you can take one even a few blocks away (well as long as you don’t tell them where you are going!). And I love that it enables my non-driving husband the ability to run errands and get out and about freely without me or without taking forever by walking. I cannot wait to take my 4 year old on them again. He loved them as a baby, so I am sure he will love them even more now.
You never know what each day will bring in India. There could be an elephant walking down the expressway. A herd of cows out front of your apartment building. The roads could be clogged up with marching bands for a wedding or a funeral or a festival. There could be a massive monsoon downpour that floods the streets. But what you do know is that it will be noisy, chaotic, full of people, energy and excitement. I don’t miss this on a daily basis, but it is nice to have things spiced up at bit here and there!