Gimme Gimme

08 Apr
Gimme Gimme

Long, long ago, back in the good old days, when the future was bright and terrorists weren’t blowing things up whenever they felt like it, Ye Olde Aunties and Uncles would regally alight from their much-delayed Air India plane and spread their capitalist bounty amongst their poor, socialist brethren. Their grateful family members would take anything that was offered – cooking chocolate might well have been the finest Godiva, nth-tier whisky was truly the water of life, and t-shirts made in Bangladesh but bought with dollars were a fashion statement.

Alas, those days are long gone. Now when the other half of your family comes on their annual visit Home on one of the multiple daily flights that zoom in and out of your city, they have no idea what to get you.

A Mars bar? Daddy is so sick of it, beta. The local supermarket is overflowing with it. A bottle of fine champagne? But Didi gets better stuff than that for half the price these days. You just have to know where to go. Look, Calvin Klein jeans! Except Munna says Diesel or die. Appearances are so important these days. Liquid handwash, sale bought lingerie, drugstore make up, dollar store chocolate – where’s the love these days?

When the Auntie from Abroad asks “What would you like?” these days, she’s more likely to hear her formerly grateful relative dismiss her kind offer to lug a trunk full of everyday goodies with an airy “Oh, we get everything here these days.”

But is that true? Here are five things I still can’t get in India:

5. Bacon – You can get it in India. I just wouldn’t eat it. Well, there was this one place in Delhi from which I’d trust it, but my mother wouldn’t let me cook it at home anyway. Someday I’ll be able to buy bacon in India that wasn’t imported from some swish European deli that sells it at the price of gold… and my mother will actually let me cook it and eat it in peace.

4. Mac and cheese – I will never understand this. A nation full of mothers who see no harm at all in bringing up the apples of their eye on a steady diet of Maggi noodles… and not a single box of mac and cheese to be found anywhere? Where is the Kraft Tasty Tamatar Mac n Cheese? Annie’s Organic Maa ka Masala Mac n Cheese? Why must I make it from scratch every time and be forced to listen to my mother hiss: “That much cheese? With that much milk? And butter too? Hmmmmmmm.” You sent me to school with parathas smeared with Kissan mixed fruit jam!* What did you think would happen to me?

3. Loofahs – Yes you can get a loofah in India – substandard ones made with what feels like recycled plastic. China’s just next door, cheapos! Import the good stuff! Here’s an actual conversation I once had with a saleslady at a large supermarket (granted this was several years ago, but still):

Me: Hi, I’m looking for the loofahs. I can’t find them.
Saleslady: Huh?
Me: Loofahs? Things to scrub your body with?
SL: Huh?
Me: Sometimes they come free with shower gels but I can’t seem to find those either.
SL: *blink* Shower gel?
Me: Bodywash? I want the funny plastic wire thing that comes free with them.
SL: *blink* We don’t have that bodywash.
Me: I know. That’s what I said. But I don’t want shower gel. Bodywash. I want a loofah. That scrub for your body. (Make scrubbing motions)
SL: Oh, we don’t have those.
Me: At all?
SL: We have the Ayurvedic one.
Me: There’s an Ayurvedic one?
SL: It’s a fast moving item.
Me: Great! Where is it?

She rummages somewhere in the dust at the back and comes out with a PVC pipe with a coconut husk wrapped on one end. Ladies and Gentlemen: the Ayurvedic Loofah! It won’t just take off your dirt, it’ll take off your skin with it. Problem solved at the root!

2. V-necked t-shirt – I guess only sluts wear outrageous designs like V-necks. Nice, decent Indian women wear round necked Ts that hit them halfway up the windpipe, fitting snugly against your throat like a noose. Not even men are allowed to wear them apparently. India is a round neck nation. With pinheads going by the teeny tiny opening of those ts. And giant shoulders.

1. Cheeseburger – Holy mother of God. Not one that’s made with lamb or chicken or potatoes or the cow that was grazing in the rubbish heap outside the kitchen five minutes ago. And not served heaped with a variety of useless condiments designed to cleverly disguise the original taste of benighted thing. The day I find such a thing… well, I’ll make sure not to tell my mother, first thing. It’d probably be my favorite joint and I wouldn’t want her to spit in its direction every time she passed by.

* Highly recommended. Especially when hot, with just a dab of butter. Yum. Also works with puris but you can skip the butter in that case.


Posted by on April 8, 2010 in Life, Personal


26 responses to “Gimme Gimme

  1. Sindian

    April 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    You forget that not many Indian guys can pull off the V-Necked look anyways.

    But seriously, can I haz a cheezburger please?

  2. bollyviewer

    April 8, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    hehe I saw the title of your post and was reminded of a long-forgotten ad: gimme gimme gimme Vijaya butter (at least I think it was ‘Vijaya’ butter!)

    I’ll keep your list in mind, next time I visit India, though I dont think my parents would appreciate any of these things! They just prefer fine Belgian/Swiss chocolates and dessert mixes (cake-mixes, Dr. Oetkar’s pudding-mixes). I’m just thankful that there are some things I can take to India.

  3. Banno

    April 8, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I thought NRIs do all their shopping here these days. But wouldn’t mind a cheeseburger.

    • Shivani

      April 9, 2010 at 3:36 am

      Yeah, they do! My cousin travels with an extra bag exclusively for Fabindia stuff on her annual trips 😀 And that’s all she wears over there too.

  4. Beth

    April 8, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Auntie Beth will send you crates of Kraft’s finest! I think they make it just down the road from my house. 🙂 Also, does this mean that Shahid gets his Shahidporn cleavage-sporting v-necks FROM ABROAD? Chee!

    • Gradwolf

      April 9, 2010 at 2:09 am

      No. Manish Malhotra can make them. For 10K each.

  5. rayshma

    April 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    apparently, u don’t get butter in the form of sticks! 😀
    you get the SLAB! this was discovered by my mom, actually! she triumphantly told me “i’m taking unsalted butter sticks with me. baaki we get everything.”

    and ur post made me hungry. so i goes to have french toast (made your style!) for dinner.

  6. dipali

    April 8, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    There’s a relatively new Maggi mac’n’cheese called Pazzta, which ain’t bad. And I did buy a v-necked tee from Westside. But yes, they are few and far between!

  7. M

    April 8, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    You need export surplus stores – I’ve bought many V-necks from such places….as for loofahs, I think they’re called body scrubbers or suchlike – I was handed one every time I bought shampoo (why?) last time in India – left them all with my mother – apparently they work well to clean the tiles/basin in the bathroom! We’ve always used “real” loofahs – the fibrous gourd that is a weed in India and costs the earth here…

    I’ll add one major thing to your list – cereals – not the sugar bombs that children like – good cereal that won’t send you into a diabetic coma…it’s pretty much all I take back nowadays – that and cereal bars.

  8. Gradwolf

    April 9, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Hmmm I haven’t gone looking but do you get those kettle cooked jalapeno chips anywhere?!

  9. Shivani

    April 9, 2010 at 3:34 am

    When my aunt from Ummreeka asks me what I would like from there, there’s actually only one thing: good footwear. I have giant feet & Indian shoemakers just prefer to ignore the fact that women like us live in their country.

    #Bacon: Go to Goa! It’s the most sinful variety I’ve ever had.

    #Loofah: The ayurvedic one sounds pretty barbaric but my skin came out with the usual Palmolive free-ka-maal as well 😦

    #V-necked tee: By strict definition, Pantaloons & Globus do sell them. But the V ends right below your chin.

    #Cheeseburger: **sigh** no luck 😦

  10. Mudra

    April 9, 2010 at 5:22 am

    V-necked shirts! Seriously! 😦

    • chinkurli

      April 12, 2010 at 1:30 am

      I know. I can *never* get a decent V-necked tee of my size, which doesn’t say things like “Naughty girl inside” or somesuch attention grabbing thing/ sequins/ pink stuff all over them. Also, tee shirts are always LONG – never seen one that I can wear with a skirt, and still look smart in. And they have teeeny openings, making them look like a kids’ tee. Argh. If you ever do find out about the tee shirt thingy, please let me know!

  11. DewdropDream

    April 9, 2010 at 6:23 am

    I buy Scotch, a different one every time for the ‘collectors’ in the family. And DVDs of shows etc that one doesn’t get in India 😀 Or books that aren’t available there. And bolero type sweaters because they have to be worn under a saree and are hard to find in India apparently.

    I guess the family and I are both inventve that way. Hmmm …

  12. Amrita

    April 9, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Sindian – This is a true! On both counts!

    BV – chocolates never go out of style! Esp ones with liquer filling which are the only ones not yet easily available in India, I think. I dont think I’ve ever had Vijaya butter.

    Banno – how times have changed, eh? 😀

    Beth – FEED ME! And Adithya is right, those things woouldn’t be allowed to touch that righteous bod unless it was fabulously overpriced!

    Rayshma – this is true! Such a pain when cooking and it used sticks of butter as a measure. Enjoy my pudding! 😀

    Dipali – good old Maggi!

    M – I convinced my mother to make her own granola and it stood me in good stead. It’s really not that difficult and all you need is an oven, a non stick pan and preferred ingredients.
    And I think I know an export surplus “store” in our town. It resembles the Salvation Army but what the hell…

    Adithya – ha ha ha… No. You can get jalapenos though. And capers and olives and all sorts of things. Buy a homemade packet of chips from your local shop around the corner, heap with minced jalapenos and voila! You’re welcome 😀

    Shivani – ah, that’s one thing at least I can be thankful for. My hoofs are strictly average. I think I have seen the V-neck you mention. FabIndia has those too and they always make me laugh but I buy them anyway because beggars cant be choosers. And maybe you should give those Palmolive ones to your mom like M above – at least you’ll have clean bathrooms if not skin!
    Goa, eh? I shall keep that in mind.

    Mudra – it’s the most flattering neckline! why can’t we have it? I dont get it.

    3D – I must try liquor! I suddenly thought of all the uncles over the years for whom i bought “thoughtful” gifts and their downcast faces make so much more sense now :mrgreen:

  13. memsaab

    April 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Cheese. You do not have good cheese in India. Or good cheap wine. That’s what I miss when I’m there. Sharp cheddar and plonk.

  14. ppcc's loofah

    April 10, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Re: your loofah problems, I have just discovered, during my Nth shower of the day (and my Nth attempt to combat this heat), that the FabIndia rose soap I purchased contains an INNER LOOFAH. And I don’t mean that spiritually, I mean it FIGURATIVELY. Rs. 85, and it looks like an alien sealed in a protective rosy wax. (Then again, I’m a sci-fi nut, so almost anything looks like an alien sealed in protective rosy wax to me. Jalebis=Martian arteries.)

  15. ppcc's loofah

    April 10, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Freudian slip, I didn’t mean it spiritually or figuratively, I meant it LITERALLY. Arghhh, curse xkcd – they’ve ruined me this week.

  16. Beth

    April 12, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Alright, so, my multi-lakh business model is clearly importing tasteful yet interesting v-neck t-shirts and mac ‘n cheese. Brilliant.

  17. pitu

    April 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Ugh. I never shop in India. It’s 2010 and garment manufacturers seem to not understand how to make clothes that won’t shrink/ have buttons fall off/ have colors bleed or fade. FabIndia is the pits, wear their cotton stuff twice and it’s fit to do pochha with. The cosmetic brands are harsh, the decorative items have problems. No thanks, I’d rather shop here or on my Middle East/Europe trips. It’s so funny, the husband only shops at Gap/Banana Republic and many of their clothes have the Made in India tag but the quality is simply excellent. The US stores who source in India probably have tight quality control happening. I have bought vases in Jaipur that leaked water all over my dining table and vases made in India but purchased at Pier 1 Imports here that are perfectly fine. Heck, the mehndi I buy for my hair comes from, it’s sourced from Iran/India/Pakistan and is simply phenomenal whereas the so-called mehndi in India has so much milawat it’s not even funny. So yeah, India shopping = blech count me out!! Just load your suitcase with tons of snacks/food and call it a day.

  18. ramesh

    April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    @pitu .. oh well us poor aam aadmis will use that awesome vase as a hand washing unit

    • pitu

      April 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      You do that.

  19. pitu

    April 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    In fact, methinks you have inspired a blogpost 😀 Of course, the ranting may result in several YOU INDIA HATER TRAITOR DIE DIE type comments but whatever, righ? I’ll just put a disclaimer on top: I don’t hate India, please don’t kill me.

  20. Piyush

    April 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    I am going to India on the 27th so this is all valuable information.

  21. Amrita

    April 13, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    memsaab – omg, so right! I found this one shop that sold a decent cheese selection (sign over cheese section: “Blue cheese is SUPPOSED to look like that. please check with salesperson if you’ve never bought it before” Hee! So maybe they were a bit snotty) and they went out of business because all people wanted were those Kraft slice thingies. And there’s Indian wine that definitely qualifies as plonk in the taste department (the wateriest, nastiest red I’ve ever had in my life! My mother makes better plonk with gooseberries) but still retails between $20-30 a bottle which is way too high a price for something that nasty. 😦

    PPCC – Inner loofah? I do not understand the purpose of that. Is that some kind of gift to console you over spending that kind of moolah on soap? :mrgreen: I must try sometime.

    Beth – it wouldnt even have to be tasteful! Have you seen the kind of neon colors they sell? And this was at a Benetton outlet I went to.

    Ramesh – lol, its about the same water pressure as the municipality tap I bet!

    Pitu – it’s a testament to the enlightened nature of my readership that nobody of that sort has shown up here yet 😀 I wish India would adopt those quality control nazis the Amreekans have because you’re right! The made in India ones are perfectly fine as long as you pay for them in dollars. Grrr.

    Piyush – remember, liquor + slutty clothes = WIN!

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