I could always understand why there was so much fanfare or tamasha to receive a NRI earlier! The ‘receiving’ audience was more interested to know what is he bringing along with him .. depending on whether he is coming from Middle east or the US of A?
More important were the gifts ( electronic goods, games, ‘phoren’ dresses etc) that are brought along! But, times have all changed drastically in recent years. The foreign ‘bug’ has gone away and we are not shy to own anything that is Indian-make any longer and also, the NRIs do not really attract so much attention as they used to do earlier.
I have always found one reason to return to India – at the end of the day, I feel at home here and I get my kind of food to eat. Also, I have ‘done’ enough of ‘roaming’ around and now .. food matters a lot. While I was in Muscat, Oman – I frequented the Indian restaurants a lot .. as I could not change my eating habits to ‘bland’ American or spice-less intercontinental food. Yes, but I still prefer intercontinental breakfast and that’s about it! Though, Meals during the afternoon or at night should be Indian!! It could be non-vegetarian or vegetarian.
Indian restaurants located abroad can never really reproduce the same tingling taste that is integral part of our dishes like – Vethai kulumbu with Pappadam, Paruppu Usali with steaming rasam, steaming Idli (that is soft enough that it melts in your mouth) or the steaming dosas with famous multiple-variety chatni preparation to go along with sambar. Other foods are Daal makhani or Tadka daal with hot tandoori roti, Punjabi samosas, Dhokla from Gujarat state, Appam from Kerala (called as God’s own country), Bhajre ki roti accompanied with frozen dahi etc. Lifestyles of Indians do not really change much – while they are eating at home when abroad. Probably, initial curiosity develops interest in others to try other foods – like American food, Italian Pasta/ Spaghetti, Pakistani Non- vegetarian specialty dishes, Thai Sea food, Persian Irani style ‘chicken biryani’/ Mutton Kheema etc., but the initial curiosity ends sooner or later! Always, we revert to our traditional foods to keep our palates satisfied.
That is why .. nowadays .. when a NRI meets any one coming back from his vacation in India, he asks – hey dude, where is my achaar?
(Achaar is an oil based preparation using Indian spice and chosen vegetables, sometimes even fruits are added along with taste inducing ingredients – the preparation is commonly used as a side dish with all Indian foods. Besides Achaar – made of lemon, mangoes or vegetables, I like Vadu Manga .. small kidney-shaped mangoes soaked or dipped in salt and selected spices for long duration of 6 months or so)