Food, festivals & other things that Indian diaspora misses

Indian students’ experiences in the US

Diaspora

April 9, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Food, festivals & other things that Indian diaspora misses

Indian diaspora students say that it is not difficult to adjust as they easily find Indian communities & neighbourhoods (Photo Credits: Sanyukta Ghosh)

From food to festivals and from cricket to public transportation, Indian diaspora students, pursuing higher education in the United States, share their experiences and what they miss about their homeland.

“You don’t know what you have got till it is gone,” says 28-year old Rekha Acharya who is pursuing a PhD degree in Physics from Michigan State University in the United States. Acharya belongs to New Delhi, the Indian capital city, and had moved to the US for higher studies.

Acharya has been living in the US for over two years now and says that she enjoys her stay, independence and experiences as a student. However, despite the better quality of education and a life outside her motherland, she misses certain things about India, which she feels, cannot be found anywhere else.

She is not alone to feel that way. Many students who have moved to the US for higher studies in the recent past, resonate with this feeling and point out certain specific things that, according to them, are common among all Indians living outside.

“No matter what, there are a few things that cannot be replicated or recreated anywhere except India. While it is extremely amusing for my American friends to listen to my stories from India, I cannot help the feeling of nostalgia and ‘missing out’ while I narrate these,” says Acharya.

Indian food

“In my initial days in America, I felt how much I missed my home but as days passed, I realised how much I missed India, as a society and our lifestyle. Because I have lived in India for most of my life till now, I have a whole new perspective about many things,” she says.

Among all the things that Acharya differentiates between an Indian and American lifestyle, the most prominent one, undoubtedly is food. “I used to wonder how I could feel satisfied without gulping down a bowl full of dal-chawal (pulse & rice) twice every day? It was really difficult for me to imagine not having full two meals with, at least, 6-7 different dishes in a day. Though I am used to the food here now but I miss a thali (plate) with six items,” she explains.

The great Indian cricket matches

While Acharya continues to talk about food, Poonam Dhillon, a classmate of Acharya, also from Delhi, talks about the other thing Indians love dearly about their country- cricket. She explains that while people are enthusiastic about sports in the US as well, there is no comparison between the madness around a cricket match in India, especially if it is between India and Pakistan. “While watching cricket matches with my friends here, I miss shouting and hooting on every run and every wicket,” she says.

She goes on to say that one does not have to be in the cricket stadium to feel the adrenaline rush of the last nail-biting overs of a match. “It is one of those moments when the entire nation stops to pray for the victory of their country. And not to forget the enticing celebrations with crowds dancing on roads, beating drums and sitting on car rooftops and shouting slogans. All my Indian friends miss the cricket enthusiasm that India has,” she adds.

Conveniences at doorstep

Payal Tyagi of Mumbai in Maharashtra is currently studying Architecture at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in the US. She says that while she has moved there for better opportunities and a better lifestyle that comes with it, she is always worried about savings. “We would want to save on our daily expenses too. Things that we perhaps took for granted, weekly shopping, for instance, is something we have started to dread. For a long time, we could not find the typical Indian items on our grocery list. And even if we did find them, they were exorbitantly priced. A small comparison is that of a garam masala (a blend of spices). What would cost not more than INR 40 in India, costs about INR 500 here,” she says.

She goes on to say that shopping for groceries is only one little part of the things that she thinks is very inconvenient for her. She points it out that public transportation is one of the most common things she misses about India. “If you have lived in India, you know you will find an auto-rickshaw or an electric one, in almost all parts of the country and at all times. You don’t have to take a bus or a metro always,” she explains.

“But here, there are no public transports that carry individual passengers. You get taxis and cabs but you can’t afford it every day if you are a student or trying to save money,” she says.

Festivities and fun

“Indian festivals are an epitome of fun. More so because your entire family and group of friends gather to bring it in. It is great to have Diwali, Holi bashes here, but it is not like you are celebrating with your family,” says Tyagi.

Tyagi’s words echo true with Sanyukta Ghosh who is studying medicine at Stanford University in California. She says that though she has attended a few functions in the US at her friends’ homes, they feel nothing when compared to the festivities and chaos around any celebration in India. “You also miss out on family weddings and have to prioritise your visits and attendance as per your schedule. You meet people and dance and listen to music but that is like any other day in India. The chaos that surrounds any festival, party or even birthday functions in India is absent here,” she adds.

“When would I wear a million sarees I have or the many suits I bought? It is all sleeping soundly in my cupboard in Delhi!” says Ghosh.

However,  students from the Indian diaspora say that it is not that different or difficult to adjust as they easily find Indian communities and neighbourhoods, especially for the student community in the US. According to Ghosh, despite the facilities, there are some things that so ‘Indian’ about the lifestyle and society that one is bound to miss their country. “Earlier, I did not assume that so many things that I take for granted in India, like easy transportation, festive chaos or even rituals would become so essential to my identity as an Indian citizen living in the United States,” says Ghosh.

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