My husband returned from a trip to Desi-land, a few weeks ago. He brought back a lugguage full of all of the favourite desi gifts that he could. It made me wonder… we live such an NRI* life! The little things that so many Indians back home take for granted, we consider them precious drool worthy gifts. Do you have friends from the Indian sub-continent? Do you wonder what Indians really want as gifts?
*NRI- Non Resident Indian
Since so many bloggers are writing their version of a gift guide, I thought I’d tell you what to get someone who is from India and living abroad.
I consider myself blessed to have a South Indian mom and North Indian mannered Dad. We have had a very Indian upbringing. From speaking Urdu at home to learning to read and write atleast two more regional languages; from Dosa for breakfast to Rampuri Kadhi for lunches; from Chakli as snack to Doodh peda for dessert; my parents made sure we were Indian even in Expat land. We were always provided the latest designs of ethnic wear and movies were sent to us from relatives back home. They trully knew what expat kids needed!
I got a chance to go back to homeland when I was 16… Oh, the shock of finding India to be not what the movies said it would be. Slowly, one layer after another we shed our firangipan to become desi. Ten years in India later, when I returned married, I found myself in my parents shoes. I am an NRI now with a taste of India lingering in my mouth. You don’t get the seasons like in India anywhere in the world. You don’t get that desi feeling either.
So, for those who have left behind India, what do they really miss. What is it that you can’t find anywhere in the world. I asked a few of my Indian friends, who are also expats, as to what they really crave. Our list came out really hilarious but oh-so-truth! I am going to tell you what a Desi really really craves. From being an expectant new mom to big boys… what do Indians really want? If you are travelling from India, consider these and don’t worry, no Indian is going to think you to be silly. Infact, we’ll call you thoughtful!
1. Aam/ Mango: You are not a true Mango lover until you know your favourite one by name. There are so many varieties in India and please there is more to Mango than an Alphonso! Pidda rasal, chinna rasal, totapari, himayat… every region has it’s own. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t mango season and you only find the green raw ones because, we love those too! In fact, they are better gifts. We will make aam panna or aapshola out of them and if not, we’ll make our own chutney or achaar out of it. Aam in any form, is gift worthy! See #3 to know what I mean.
2. Ber/ jujube berry: You are not a desi if you don’t know what it is. Stinky little ones or big golf ball size, desis love ber! Most people abroad cannot find them and those who do, swear it isn’t the same thing as the Indian variety. If you can and you don’t mind the stinky smelly little fruit, by all means get them! Oh and just make sure you pack them well. Smashed or crushed ripe ones smell for days!
3. Achar/ pickle: As I said earlier, aam in any form is a great gift. Pickled, will endear you to your friend. We will always remember you with ‘he bought me achaar’! Grandma made or mom’s recipe or that special Achar ghar (Pickle house) on that ‘nukkarh ki dukaan’ (neighbourhood corner shop) kind!
4. Bangles: A desi girl loves her bangles. Bangles are love. If a lady gives it to a girl, it means friendship… Best friends for life kind of friendship. If a guy gives it to a girl, it means love. So umm… you better be careful about sending mixed up feelings! They are perfect gifts for little children too. Toddler to tweens to teens. Everybody loves bangles.
5. Mithai/ sweets: The coconut burfi or the khalakhand… Mitthai means celebration for Desis. There are so many different types and the taste of India lies in the pure ghee ones made in India
6. Mathri. These are savoury crunchies from Gujrat. We like khaara too. That is our kind of a trail mix. And… we like our sev daal. These come packaged too nowadays and Haldiram provides them all, all over the world but.. Hyderabadi khaara… It just cannot be found anywhere else!
7. Biscuits especially Parle-G. I remember my SIL telling me ‘I found Parle G!’ and me exclaiming Oh my! You did??! In India, people think not much of it but all children grow up on ParleG. It is synonymous with tea in some places. Nobody care for their ParleG back home but when in expat land, your tea looks so pheekee and your kids look so under-nourished because they didn’t grow up on glucose from ParleG.
8. Sitaphal custurd apple. Every desi hurts in the heart when they think sitaphal. i cannot but tell you how much we all want them. custurd apples need to be perfectly ripe for you to eat it. when you buy them raw, they will stay so hard and there is nothing much you can do about it. you can wrap them in leaves and place them in rice for a few days to ripen then but most of the time it just dolesn’t work. I have on more than an occassion told my desi friends that we got sitaphal to make them jealous. Ofcourse I tell then after we finish them off.
|Taal – Chickpea pods|
9. Taal- chickpeas. Taal or Boott as it is also called are chickpea pods that have been picked from the plant while still green. i didn’t grow up around these but those in india are lucky enough to dry roast these or just have them like green peas. these are only available through October to december and most households who have farms are luckier but you can occassionally find these sold too. If you can get this for your friends back in expat land, you are a very thoughtful friend!
10. Hena or Mehndi cones Pre Rolled Empty Henna Cones Come Eid or Diwali, desis love their henna cones. unfortunately, we don’t get this very often in ex.pat land. We can easily buy empty cones but those filled ones are so hard to get! these make perfect gifts for someone about to marry too!
11. Imli or Tamarind. yes, you can find imli everywhere but you cannolt find the fresh dried ones like in India. Fresh dried Tamarind is brown in colour, soft and is easily dissolves in water. The kind you find in asian storres is black because of aging, hard because it has been refrigerated and it gives our curries a black colour. :((
12. Gajrey Garland of jasmines! we love jasmine garlands on birthdays, in weddings and to wear in our hair! I know quite a few pwoplw here who got people to get these for a wedding or an occasion.
13. Lasa lamsa. Tea. Darjeeling tea that comes in chocolate and vanilla flavours. Some cities abroad are importing this but usually you don’t get it. you can get this for your foreign friends too… Just get ready to take orders for an years supply though.
14. Kabab! There are too many different types of kabab in India but what I am talkibg about is the sun dried beef. these are especially made during eid al adha but people make them more oftwen in summers. It has now become a custom to send this to all those missing relatives living abroad. Yes, it is meat and believe it or not people want these!
15. Hajmola. Digestive drops or candy. I don’t know what is comparable to these.
16. Sweet betel nuts and candied fennel mouth freshners.
17. Everest Kitchen King masala: This is a mix of spices that is used in some curries. We love our curries and ladies actually get these for each other!
19. Chawal ke Papad. Popadums, yes. I know poppadums are available at asian stores but you just don’t get rice ones. The reason for this is these are more thin and delicate and break easily. If packed well and airy, they do survive transit! I had once invited my hubby’s office mate and his young family over for lunch. She saw the papad in my pantry and remarked ‘you have papad? Where did you find them?!’ I make ours at home. She went home happy with all that I had.
20. Dahi ki mirchi. These are chillies that have bee marinated in yoghurt and spices and sun dried. Don’t laugh! I know quite a few men among family and friends who want this from India.
What do you think? What would you miss from your culture and country if you had to live abroad for years. Come on and share. I’d love to hear from you!
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