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VISITING INDIA- EXPERIENCING DEMONETIZATION   Dec 4TH 2016

The Modi government in India demonetized the 500 and 1000 rupee notes ...

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 SONAL KULSHRESTHA DES SE .... Journals ...  AUG 2016

#5.INDIA TRIP ... ITS ABOUT FAMILY ...

 SONAL KULSHRESTHA DES SE .... Journals ... JUL 2016

#4. THE DRIVER & THE ROAD TRIP IN INDIA ....

 SONAL KULSHRESTHA DES SE .... Journals ... JUN 2016

#3. AND THEN THERE ARE THOSE  

The good are all good and then ..

SONAL KULSHRESTHA DES SE .... Journals ... JUN 2016

#2. KIDS IN INDIA  (AN UPDATE)

SONAL KULSHRESTHA DES SE .... Journals ... JUN 2016

#2. KIDS IN INDIA  

SONAL KULSHRESTHA 

des se ... ....Journals 

May 2016 

TEN THINGS THAT HAVE NOT CHANGED IN INDIA... 


desideewar border se....with Neerja Mehra 

At the India-Pakistan border...

Nov 2013

Aaha.....It's "Amrood" season in India.....

Remember "Amrood"? Of course you do. If you hail from India, you're probably wondering what kind of a question is that. When I first came to America, I was surprised by the fact that although grocery store's juice shelf displays couple of different brands of guava juice, what you don't see is the guava fruit itself. If you live in the New Jersey, LA, Chicago or Dallas area, you'll find the fruit in Indian grocery stores occasionally, but hardly ever in american stores.


So yes, just the thought of it being the "amrood" season in India makes you crave for the fruit. Although the fruit is available all year round except for the summer months, Nov-Dec and then Mar-Apr are the peak season. Personally, my memories of guava are associated with visits to our grand parents' house in Allahabad during Diwali. How we loved eating the half ripe green variety! It had to be that perfectly "crisp" kind. Really. It HAD to be that perfect green color and that perfect crisp texture!!! And add to that, some "kala namak" to complete the taste of freshness, sweetness and crispness!

Aah!...the "amrood" in India!!! 


(by Sonal Kulshrestha)

 

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Some health-facts on Guava: 

Guava is regarded as one of the "superfoods", according to health wikinut, having the following health benefits-

1. Lower cancer risk (Vitamin C – 628% DV)- has four times more Vitamin C than oranges.

2. Reduce risk of diabetes (Fiber – 36% DV)

3. Promotes good eyesight (Vitamin A – 21% DV)

4. Supports fertility (Folate – 20% DV)

5. Stabilizes blood pressure levels (Potassium – 20% DV)- has almost as much Potassium as bananas.

6. Maintains thyroid health (Copper – 19% DV)

7. Helps the body make use of key nutrients (Manganese -12% DV)

8. Relaxes nerves and muscles (Magnesium – 9% DV)

9. Keeps brain healthy (Vitamin B6 – 9% DV)

10. Good for the skin (Vitamin E – 6% DV)

Sept 2013

Starbucks In India 

(Photo by Raashi K: The above Starbucks location is at the Varanasi airport in UP, India)

 

Here in America, we love Starbucks for its coffee. Lets' face it, only for its coffee. In des, Starbucks might have recently (Oct 2012) made an entrance into the Indian Eatery Industry, but apart from the aromatic & piquant desi coffee (yes, coffee is actually 100% local- brought to you by Tata Coffee, thanks to the alliance between them and Starbucks to serve India), the yummy cakes, the snacks served there are one of  

the reasons you would stop at the nearby Starbucks as well. What's so tempting on their menu? It's 'Tandoori Paneer Roll', 'Elaichi Mawa Croissant' and 'Murg Tikka Panini'. Now tempting really is the right word, right? Told you. So next time you visit India, be sure to make a quick stop, when a Starbucks you spot! (There aren't that many yet) 

Aug 20 2013

desideewar des de with Kanan Garg....

Traditional & Non-Traditional Saris in India

Sari might not be an every day wear for us anymore, unlike for our mothers, but we do love our saris.

There's the traditional sari and then there's the non-traditional sari. The traditional saris from the South, from Bengal, Orissa, Maharashtra, and various other parts of India have been and will always be around, but the non-traditional saris have definitely carved their own niche in the global sari market- thanks largely to the Hindi movies and famous designers like Manish Malhotra.

Seen here is Kanan Garg, in a gorgeous traditional raw silk sari with thread border, with her sister-in-law (faces blurred in both for privacy) is sporting a beautiful Manish Malhotra original while attending her parents' 50th Wedding Anniversary party. The two are visiting Hyderabad from US for the occasion and provided desideewar the picture to reflect the two ravishing styles of sari fashion that rule the market.

 

 

Aug 19 2013

desideewar des de with Kanan Garg....

Maids in India

For those of us living outside of India, we're very aware of the fact that while we lived in India, lets' face it, we didn't really give much thought to the maids in India. We really took the whole situation for granted. The maids come once or twice a day, cleaning our house, washing the dishes and clothes. There were times we were made painfully aware of their plight at home when occasionally their abusive husband would show up at our door-steps. Not to say, we didn't care. We did. But we didn't know of a different arrangement.

After having lived in America, we do! Man, do we! But it's not just the comfort and the luxury that the maids provide that we're deeply aware of. Yes, we almost envy our peers who have the luxury of having a maid, a cook, a driver and even a gardener :). Almost- because we see the down side too- the dependency on them for smooth running of the household, the waiting for they often don't show up on time, the disruption in the daily routine when they take unscheduled time off- basically their management. But even more importantly, we feel the pain of the maids, we're 'aware' of them, their life, their kids and their plight like we never were while we lived in India. Not just us, our kids who have not witnessed poverty in such close quarters in America, are even more aware of the maids, they feel for them. The maids have a hard life and we feel a sense of respect for them, for what they do. For their own family and for ours.

(Written by Sonal Kulshrestha on the advice of Kanan Garg who also provided us this picture of the maids who work for her mother in Hyderabad, India.)

 

desideewar des de with Kanan Garg....

Des Ke Phal (fruits from back home) - Cheeku and Sitaphal....

'desideewar des se' with Kanan Garg

Meet Virat....the Camel!

A Camel right outside the house.....Only is Des!!!

 

 'desideewar des se' with Kanan Garg...

Daily Puja in the home temple in des.....

We all remember waking up to the sound of the 'puja' bells and 'aarthi' as our mother, father or grandmother performed the early morning prayers. The 'prasaad' (offerings to the God) afterwards was the best part :).

Those were the days.....

Aug 13 2013

Housing trends in India

In the last decade, the kind of homes and apartments that are available in India have changed greatly- to say the least. If you live outside of India, visit to the big metropolitan cities back home every summer or every few years, must surely have amazed you. When they first came into being they were popularly referred to as 'NRI Complexes' largely due to the amenities provided that attracted NRIs (Non Resident Indians) to invest. And also because these could be bought at 100% 'white money'. They were very convenient for returning NRIs as well. The amenities? - 24 hours water supply, full power back up and 24 hours security. In fact, the maids and other service providers are issued a photo id and vendor entry is restricted. This is of course, perfect for retired seniors too. In fact, for anyone who could afford it. 

Complexes like these first emerged in Gurgaon, in the outskirts of Delhi- though technically, Haryana. The prices then, more than a decade back, was 25 lakhs plus. Pretty soon these would be everywhere- Greater Noida, Noida, Dwaraka- all in the outskirts of Delhi as Delhi spread into other states- Haryana in North and UP in South West. Not just in Delhi and surrounding areas, but in Mumbai, Banglore and other large metropolitan cities as well.

Mrs Sushma Varma, who lives in one such apartment complex in Greater Noida loves the amenities these offer. After her husband retired, they were at first undecided on where to settle. They bought the apartment in Greater Noida mainly because their children insisted and their son in the US did all the research work for them. The 24 hour security was the biggest attraction. Having lived there for over three years now, they couldn't be happier. In Mrs Varma's words- "I feel that the apartment complex is pollution free, beautiful and clean. Coming here feels like having reached heaven. There's all kinds of convenience here. Apart from the 24 hours water and power, mechanic and plumber services are readily available too. These are self sufficient with respect to grocery, salon and other basic needs. There are large playgrounds for the kids, there's a pool, there are basket ball courts, tennis courts and badminton courts. Kids are seen taking skating classes in large groups too. There are fountains that make the ambiance beautiful. Festivals and other occasions are celebrated as a community with much fanfare The best part is the security." Her husband, Mr Ravish Varma who's a retired bank officer, adds, “the association even sets up large screen TV during IPL cricket matches. Its fun to watch the games together.”

Today a three bedroom apartment in Gurgaon in an 'NRI complex' is anywhere between 2 to 6 crore rupees. The new ones emerging are in the same ballpark, little further away and way more posh.  

(Photo: Eldeco Green Meadows, Greater Noida)

During our recent trip to India, we accompanied Mr Rajendra Prasad and his wife, Nirdosh, who were in the market for buying a three bedroom apartment, as they took tours of the new and upcoming areas. We were blown away with the kind of apartments that are available. The most posh ones we saw has an air conditioned reception, lobby, hall ways leading up to centrally air conditioned apartments, with modular kitchen- fully furnished with steel dish washer, steel fridge and frosted glass contemporary style cabinets. The apartment had wooden and marble flooring, beautiful fixtures, frosted glass cabinets all over, media room, study and get this- a two bedroom and bath maid unit also air conditioned with independent service elevator. This was 4600 sq ft and worth 6 crore rupees!

We left the place with a feeling of awe, even the kids in our little group were totally impressed. They were quite fascinated not just by the apartment, but also with the shoe covers that we all had to wear (not manually- a shoe cover dispensing machine did it for us) before entering the model, unlike in US, where prospective clients are free to walk around in model homes.

That's today's India for you- at least the part that's progressing in leaps and bounds, keeping up and even surpassing the developed nations in some respect. 

July 30 2013

Cows on the Road

Coming from India, living in America, we have at least once been asked by an American if there are cows and elephants on the road in India.

Yes, there are cows on the roads in India. And amazingly enough, nobody seems to mind. The cow seems to be much at peace with itself and its location and the people maneuver around it, some calmly, some while honking- more as a warning to the cow than in any real annoyance. The cows even settle down on the very narrow divider or the almost non-existence shoulder, oblivious of the non-stop buzz around them. And all stays well. Oh yes, they are very much part of the rush hour traffic in India- and the non-rush hour traffic too.

 

 

There are other animals that are just as much a part of life in India. Yes, you guessed it- dear old dogs! My kids were actually really touched to see some half dozen stray dogs freely mingling amongst the guests at a 'tented-off' dinner gala. They were happy to see how 'India lets the stray dogs in on the party and eat the left-over food'.

That's India for you- where cows and dogs on streets and parties are not just tolerated but accepted as normal.

P.S. No, elephants and camels are not so easily sighted. No, didn't see any snake-charmer either. 

(Photo- the 'Tandoor Stall' at a wedding dinner in Benaras, UP)

July 25 2013

Indian Breads- Tandoor Se

Indian breads- freshly made and served with butter or ghee, are world famous. Living in America, I have often been asked by co-workers to recommend a place where they can get ‘naans’ from, or if I make them at home. In some upscale restaurants around the world you can even watch through the glass panels as they are made in 'tandoor'- a clay oven. In India however, you get to witness the process in road side ‘dhabas’ (small restaurants at street corners) all the time. Growing up in Delhi, I remember how we would often get tandoori rotis made from a nearby dhaba. These were times when mom made something special like chicken/ mutton curry or in case of power failures- that occurred often enough. We had the choice of taking our own dough even. We loved it.

 

It is not just tandoor rotis and naans that are made in tandoor. There are various different varieties of Indian breads that are prepared in a tandoor. During a wedding in Benaras recently, we had the sheer pleasure of witnessing and eating the varied kinds- the traditional tandoori roti and naan, paneer stuffed naan, potatoes stuffed naan, missi roti, laccha tandoori paratha, etc- all made and served fresh, right in front of our eyes at the tandoor stall. The kids loved them all and we pretty much hovered around the poor guy making it. Needless to say, it was divine!

 July 24 2013

Washing Machine in India

Washing machine in India actually has a 'Sari' option.  The 'Delicate' is a separate option. How interesting!

It was good to see the dependency on the maid recede away (atleast for washing of clothes) with machine machines becoming common in most middle income families. In some families of course, it's the maid that operates the machine, putting the clothes up for drying after the machines do their part- for dryers are still uncommon. Apparently, the maids sometimes even demand that you have a washing machine that make their job so much easier.

P.s And the washing machines have their very own cover as well- a good idea to protect it from the dust.

July20 2013

An Indian Salesman Is An Involved Salesman

(by Sonal Kulshrestha)

Ever been to a small bangles shop to buy couple dozen of bangles and instead stepped out with at least 10 dozen? Don't be fooled by the simple look of the sales man in India. He might not be wearing a crisply ironed shirt and formal trousers, in fact, he might look like his appearance is the last thing on his mind when he leaves his house for another day of hard work at his job (for good reasons probably), but his skills at selling the products is no less than the smart looking salesman in a large US store.

So obviously you have guessed that I walked away with some dozen sets of dozen bangles of various different colors having been convinced, "Aumrica se kaun sa roz roz aana hoga." The Indian salesmanship does not stop there. An Indian salesman is an involved salesman. He does not just sell, he  participates in the process, the experience of buying and selling. There was this one time when after picking up quite a few items from a large showroom, when i was checking out, my credit card wouldn't work. Now, in the US, the onus lies with the customer to provide a credit card that works. But no, much to my surprise, the cashier completely took over. He tried different tricks. By now three or four other cashiers from  nearby counters had gathered to help him. With a quick, "Madame, give us your purse", they literally took my wallet from my hand before I could form polite words to object. They tried various different cards from my wallet and when none worked, they figured out that the issue was the amount. Very aptly they divided my loot into groups, did differect transactions and I was soon on my way out.

 

An Indian salesman is an involved salesman. He gives his opinions- his unasked for advice. I was in this store buying suits. As I tried various different suits, there was this one suit that I loved but seemed just a tiny bit tight. I said I'll buy it. But no, the guy goes, "Perfect madam, I'll make it an inch lose and pack it". I was appalled at his comment, wondering if he is even allowed to say that, being used to very politically correct language of the salesmen in US. Half defensive, half dismissive, I say, "Oh no, don't bother, it's all the eating in India. I'll lose weight after going back". But if I thought he was going to let me get my way, as a customer, I couldn't have been more wrong. Much to my complete surprise he goes, "Madame, jub weight  lose karyega, tub karyega. Abhi tou lose karwa len aap" (when you lose weight you can think about it then, for now get it loose). And my jaw almost dropped when he carried on, "Sab kehte hain, Madame,

 

 

 

but ho nahi pata, meanwhile suit pada reh jata hai" (everyone plans on losing weight, but it doesn't happen, meanwhile the suit is left un-worn). I was truly taken aback by his honest and frank remarks, his insistence, and mostly at his degree of involvement. Just selling was not enough, he wanted me to wear and enjoy it too. I let him make the suit an inch loose. This was two years back. And every time I wore that suit, not having really lost those extra pounds, I think of that salesman who wouldn't let me buy the suit as is. And I silently thank him.

That's India for you!

(Photo- Salesman at a bangles shop in Lajpat Nagar, Delhi, taken with his permission for desideewar)

 

"Maaikaa" perks by Roli Mehrotra

 

One of the advantages of Indian tradition for women, specially Hindu women, of visiting their parents' house or "maaikaa" during summer vacations is to get pampered unlimited.

Meet R Rawat, ( full name withheld due to privacy reasons), an aspiring Kathak dancer getting formal training at a renowned dance school , a trained cosmetologist and a masseuse who works part time to finance her education expenses and to support her family in the village. She is heaven personified for me- head to toe body massage everyday sheds away the stress of 11 months w kids, housework and full time work. It is one of the advantages of a labor intensive economy where service industry thrives due to reasonable but cheap labor compared to industrialized nations.

My Bhabhi or sister in law commissions her each year during my visit. Bhabhi ho to aisi!!!

If there is heaven on earth, it is at your parents' home. I am in my "maaikaa" , heaven can wait.

 

 Corn (bhutta) In India...

Corn (bhutta), with lime and chatpata masala, during the rainy season in India is something those of us living outside of India often remember , miss and talk about.....

Do you have a special story or memories associated with this? If so, email it to us at desideewar@gmail.com

July 7 2013

Daily Life Hustle N Bustle In An Indian Household

(by Sonal Kulshrestha)


In India, on any given day, there's a constant flow of visitors. The day starts and ends with a visitor. Early in the morning, you wake up to answer the knock-knock of the maid. Within an hour the dishes are all clean, the floors are all swept and wiped. All taken care of as the adults enjoy their morning cup of chai. The kitchen is all ready for use and the rest of the house is spick and span for the day.


Next comes the 'press wala' to collect the clothes for ironing from various different houses in the neighborhood to start his day. He'll be dropping by later in the evening to return the ironed, well-crisped clothing. Now, he never writes down the house number or the number of garments he's taking, but somehow always returns the right clothes, even though the owners meticulously note down the details each time for their own satisfaction.


By now it's time for the cook to come for some. Much like the maid, she's doing her round around the neighborhood as well- cooking meals for several families- either older retired parents or families where both husband and wife work. The maids and the cooks are mostly young women in their 30s. They each have their own stories. Sadly, sometimes, an abusive husband even.


While the cooking for the day is being taken care of, some may have the driver come by to wash the car. The ride to work is now ready too.


As kids leave for school and parents for work, or even if the family is home, there's always somebody ringing the doorbell- the neighbor who wants 'dahi ka jamun' (yogurt culture), the 'zamadar' (toilet cleaning person), the post man, the 'subzi wala' who sells fresh vegetable on a mobile cart, or just a friend who drops

by to catch up on the neighborhood gossip. Not to mention the mama-mami and other relatives to drop by as well.

 

The series of visitors ends with the milk man who comes by later in the evening so your milk is ready for chai the next morning. For some, he's the first visitor of the day along with the 'newspaper wala' (the newspaper boy)- 'Jo na kabhi dekhae de, bechara sirf sunae de'. Remember the famous Mr India song? That literally translates to one who's never seen but just heard. And seen he's certainly not, just heard- by the loud thunderous sound of the newspaper hitting the balcony floor. He seldom misses the mark- even if the target balcony is small.


In an average household in India, there's never a dull moment India for sure. :)

(Photos of the actual maid, 'press-wala', cook and milk-man, taken with their permission to publish)

 

July 3 2013

The beautiful view from the front balcony (left), the view of slums from the back balcony (right) of the same apartment in a very posh complex!

But this is almost a necessity, the apartment complex next door provides employment to those in the slums. As for the people in the posh complex, they certainly don't want them shoo-ed away because they get cheap labor. Who's the world to complain, when the relationship is mutually beneficial? Afterall, jab miya bibi razi tou kya karega kazi? 

 The first time you see Hindi signs when you get off the plane at Indira Gandhi International airport.....

 Indira Gandhi International Airport- the husta mudras at the  Immigration point. So beautiful. So cultural.

 Ah. The first desi connection in flight to India on Fin Air...

 The first time you see Hindi signs when you get off the plane at Indira Gandhi International airport.....

In this segment-

desideewar des se
(meaning- desideewar from back home)

We're sure quite a few of you living outside of India are planning a trip to India this summer. And while you're there, we're sure you'll be visiting places that are close to your heart.

We all have memories of hanging out at or visiting certain places in India that- let's face it, won't exactly make it in the 'must-see' places list, but are still special in some ways. It could be the 'Chacha Di Hatti' by the street that we ate chole bhature at or perhaps the tea stall we had bread-omelette at with a cup of chai.

We all certainly talk about the 'gunne ka juice' we had at the gali's nukud (street corner). It could be a temple that you often visited or a movie theater that has become a part of your memory quilt. It could even be the sight of rickshaw-pullers or the bumper-to-bumper door-to-door traffic.

So while you're in India, keep sharing your pictures and/or videos of anything and everything that evokes nostalgia :)
by emailing it to us at desideewar@gmail.com. We'll upload it on to the website and here.