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Visiting India is always exciting. Especially for first generation emigrants. We look forward to meeting friends and family, we salivate merely thinking about the scrumptious food that awaits us, we brood over the nostalgic times that we spent during the 'good old days', we plan our shopping trips, we discuss at length the changes we anticipate to see or wonder at what will be different from our previous trip.

And finally when we land in India, our picture taking starts right at the airport for we have already noticed the advertisement for the new Dunkin Donut stores that have stormed the Indian market. Nostalgia floods us as we start seeing the signs of having arrived in our mother country. We notice the signs in Hindi welcoming us, we notice the directions to baggage claim and the likes in our native language. We even notice that smell- 'Phenol' was it?

Over the years, each subsequent visit to India has had us squealing in delight at the discovery of bigger and posher malls-the all-air-conditioned shopping areas with huge food courts that boasts of hundreds of variety of Indian food. Of course, things have changed.

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We see the changes in the NRI apartment complexes that with pride provide 24 hours power, 24 hours security and 24 hours water supply. We see the changes in the highways that have been constructed across the city, the metro train lines that are operational in many parts and in the foreign luxury cars on the streets. We see the changes in the gadgets being used by the people in India and in their purchasing power. 

Of course, things have changed.

However, despite the changes there are some things, make that lot of things that remain the same. Here are ten (good and bad) that have not changed in spite of the high-end NRI complexes, expensive cars, high-priced malls, international food chains and branded cosmetics.


#1. Men still pee by the roadside 

#2.  There are make-shift 'stores' right on the streets 

(Seen below is a "henna shop" and a "chai-shop" in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi)

#3.  You still see men walking by with arms draped around each other.

#5.  There is utter traffic chaos on the road even in places where metro trains are operational and good highways are seen. 

#4.  You see the cramped shoe-shop on the streets even though there will be numerous high-end shoe stores in the malls selling foot wears well over $ 50.00. The same is true for other stores- grocery stores, etc.

 #6. Middle class and up families still enjoy the luxury of a maid, a 'jamadar' (the toilet-cleaner), a driver, a 'press wala' (the guy who irons the clothes), a 'dudh wala' (the milk man), a car cleaner and now add a   

cook to the list of people who visit each day to make their life easier. Oh what luxury!

#7.  People still openly and unabashedly stare!

#8.  People still go out of their way to help you out.

#9.  Salesmen in India are still the best- be it the 'choori wala' (the guy who sells bangles in a small street corner shop) or the sari salesman at a upscale boutique at the mall; be it the car salesman or the realtor who politely says, "Uncleji, aap ne kyun taqleef ki, main aa jata" (why did you bother, I could have dropped by).

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#10. In spite of the many ritzy restaurants in five star hotels and else where, "Maa Ke Haath Ka Khana" (food cooked by mothers) with the many accompaniments, is still the best!  

(Seen here- 'Neemona', left, and 'Paneer Tahari', center, 'Daal Phara', center- right, 'Bhatua' Paratha, right,- delicacies cooked by my mother, with the many accompaniments that my dad helps her with, during my recent India trip)

By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Sonal Kulshrestha is a first generation Indian American living in Dallas, Texas in USA. All photographs shown in this article are taken by her during her recent India trip, Feb 2015)

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