As Indian as Apple Crisp
What is the defining characteristic of any country? What makes India India, the U.S. the U.S., Jamaica Jamaica? Is it the people, the government, the landscape, the soil, the border on a map, the customs, the food, the way of dress or the language? As I have started to feel at home in my new surroundings I have been pondering this question. What is India? Not “what is India like compared to the U.S.” but what is India itself? What is the essence of India?
India can be described in many words: loud, colorful, crowded, dusty, hot, chaotic, and bustling. India is also welcoming, warm, delicious, happening, young, vibrant, energetic, ambitious, and beautiful. The people of India are devoted, to their sports teams, their faith, their families, their profession, their studies.
In a world that is becoming ever more interconnected, India has maintained a unique identity. In New Delhi especially, and other big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, definitively Indian style lives alongside with Levi’s, Lacoste, and Blackberry. An influential player in the global economy before Marco Polo, India’s rising star is fueled by entrepreneurship, democratic ideals, and sheer gumption. Many of the Indians I’ve talked to note that opportunities for employment are increasing in India. This rise in opportunities back home, and the arrival through globalization of the “creature comforts” once sought in the West, means that many members of the enormous Indian diaspora are looking for the chance to move back to India.
Like any world capital, New Delhi is home to citizens of all nationalities. As I travel around India this year I will gain different perspectives of what makes this country so unique, so Indian. At home in St. Paul, MN I feel very connected to the larger global community. Here in New Delhi I feel that connection even more. I think my constant connection, through newspapers, news media, Skype, Facebook, and email, to the global diaspora means that I might feel at home anywhere in the world with a wireless connection. Even in a country where I don’t speak any of the twenty some official languages, I don’t feel as far as twelve time zones away. Folk musician and fellow Minnesotan Peter Mayer sums up my feelings very well in his song “Earth Town Square”, a place where there are “Germans selling Audis filled with gasoline from Saudis to Australians sipping Kenyan coffee in their Chinese shoes…”
Tonight is my last night at home with the Shahani family, and they really do feel like family. I will be eternally grateful to this loving bunch who have made me feel so at home here in India since my arrival two weeks ago. Today I made an apple crisp with my Indian host brother Rohan. There is a supermarket nearby that has everything you could ever want from all over the world. Next time I go I am bringing my camera because it alone is worth a write up in my blog. I got brown sugar there, and with oats, dal flour, butter, Himalayan apples, and fresh lemon juice (we forgot the cinnamon & nutmeg!) we made a pretty good replica of my mom’s apple crisp.
Tomorrow I am moving into the flat with Lesly & Lena. Today we did the final walk through with our landlords and broker. The furniture we bought yesterday was delivered, so my bed is already made and waiting for me to crash tomorrow night after my first day of classes. I have two classes tomorrow: 1) International Trade, Finance & Development, and 2) Polity & Society in India. The first overlaps with another course I really want to take that doesn’t start until the 15th, so as usual there will be some kinks to work out in the beginning of the semester before I get settled into a set course schedule.
Finally, I am introducing a new page on my blog titled “Question of the Week”. Each week (or so) you will have the chance to ask me a question. Out of all your questions I will choose one and respond in a blog post. The first prompt is “What would you like to know about my experience in India so far?” Post your response on the “Question of the Week” page below my prompt by entering it in the comment box under “Leave a Reply”. I look forward to your questions!
Thank you all for continuing to follow my adventures. Writing to you is one of the joys of my time here.