Of Samosas Stale and Fresh

WAH

A plate of samosas sit in front of me. Steam coils in wisps above the coffee cup dissipating into nothingness. Nursery rhymes play on a loop on my phone. Laddu hums along as she drinks her milk. I pick one of the samosas and feel for a moment how limp it is. I tear a piece and pop it into my mouth. An intense longing for the crispy onion and potato filled samosas of my childhood in Madras overpowers me. I can taste the raw onion chutney, pungent, sharp and exploding with flavors in my mouth. I feel disoriented. I pull myself together and get through the ritual of my evening coffee before the kids get home.

I realize with a start that this month will mark fifteen years of my moving to this country. I remember days when such longing would have caused me to drag Saathi and drive over two hundred miles for fresh samosas and chaat. I sigh and promise to myself that I will not eat limp samosas no matter how tempting they may seem. At least I will attempt to heat them in the oven instead of in the microwave. It occurs to me that this mindset right here is probably a legacy of being an immigrant.

The making do, the approximating, the substituting and the attitude of settling for somewhat similar. I lean back as I watch Laddu clap her hands in glee and realize the moringa leaves in the fridge will not be tinged with emotion for her as it does for me. All around me are marks of a person in flux. As I look ahead to our summer in India, I realize the lens through with I view India is not the same with which my daughters will see it. For them, it is an adventure. For me it is pilgrimage.

I am tempted to pull out my wedding albums, to trace my fingers along the younger me as if to figure if there are physical repercussions of being transplanted in alien soil. Then I realize I pass it each day in the mirror, in my closet full of clothes, in my kitchen pantry. The etchings that come from battling the dichotomy. In the long distance calls that mark my mornings. In the token celebrations over the weekend of every major festival. The colors that seem faded and the sweets that seem tame. The led lights replacing the thick smell of oil lamps. The readymade rangolis that decorate my golu, the silver coconut and mango leaves that stand in for the real deal.

I see it in the six large suitcases under the stairs closet. I see it in gold gilded picture frames that grace the back of my study shelf. I see it in the avocado parathas and the coconut garnish on daikon cubed and curried.

The melding of selves, old and new, the faint longing for a life lived in a different universe and the gratitude for the life I currently live. I reach for the second bite of my now cool and limp samosa and savor it slowly, knowing this is better than no samosa.

114 thoughts on “Of Samosas Stale and Fresh

  1. Maha says:

    This post reminds me of your pasta upma post from years back. You know just today I was talking to my cleaning lady and telling her that I probably came here this week 15 years back. And I thought to myself that I should write something about it. Wow, 15 years, flew by just like that!

  2. Vijayalakshmi Harish says:

    Relatively new to the US, and still not sure if my future is here or in India. This sense of “making do” is my life right now! It feels like something plus rather than something minus. When I have kids, and if I am to bring them up in the US, then maybe I’ll feel differently. Till then, samosas for the win (limp or otherwise!)

  3. Aww the line about it being a pilgrimage hit me the most. Living away from India somehow strengthens your bonds to the place like nothing else can. I remember that from being a teenager in Kenya.

    Your kids will make their own pilgrimage. It won’t be the same as yours but that’s beautiful too. Cannot wait to see you πŸ’“

  4. Radha says:

    I came here 22 years back and although the India I left behind has changed a ton, the longing in me stays on. I crave for rawa dosa, hotel sambar, vazhai ilai saappaadu, Indian tomato soup, jackfruits, sapota, and a whole lot of other foods. The only problem I seem to have is that everything I remember from back home, also has lost it’s original taste. Some of them just linger on as memories in my taste buds, including the verum arisi adai with murungai leaves that my paatti used to make.

  5. Having lived my twenties out of India I can feel a connect to what I used to feel, in your words.
    Fifteen years is a very long time. I agree your children might not feel the same connect with India, but then the pieces and parts of India that pass on from you to them in countless ways everyday will serve as the threads bonding them to the legacy you miss while you’re away.

    What I loved most was the balance of nostalgia of a world you’ve left behind with the feeling of gratitude for belonging in the place you chose to be the home for your family.

  6. LG says:

    I yearn for that Madras too… and I live in Chennai now. So…not sure if you really need to be away from a place to miss it. Perhaps time…

    Ah, you went to the US the year I returned to India.

  7. I guess even though they say that ‘home is where the heart is’, sometimes it’s impossible not to trace back your journey and frequently remind yourself of your childhood. Your children will have their own pilgrimage – perhaps not to India, but back to these memories that you are creating with them presently.
    Will be good to catch up when you’re in India; of course, if you have time.

  8. Living away from India is definitely something which teaches you or makes you realise a lot.
    Lovely post.
    Do head over to my website at etwblog.in and let me know if u like itπŸ™‚

  9. Ugh I’m sorry but those samosas look so limp! I was in fact eating a samosa while reading this post and I could just imagine how you felt. The taste of my samosa (which was very crispy and perfectly Indian) kind of decimated.
    Indians are truly paradoxical. When they’re here, they long to go abroad. But once they’re NRIs, they miss this place so much.
    But there is so much to miss, I can’t blame youπŸ™‚

  10. I am not in USA but in NZ and got here a couple of months ago. And your post made me miss the food so much, I always miss the food too much.

    Good luck for the upcoming summer in India, I think it will be rainy season now

  11. What a superb write up. How I can truly relate to it, it has been just 5 years for me staying away from my motherland. Here all traditions seem very superficial and the real essence of festival always seems to be missing. Than I again think to myself why am I not going back to where I belong ?

  12. So beautifully written. When i started reading about Samoa, I never imagined the blog would ultimately culminate into such a deep feeling. You just made me realise what a beautiful country I live inπŸ™‚

  13. This feeling comes when you’ve traveled far from where you once used to be, not just in terms of land but also in terms of emotional and mental journeys.
    This feeling is beautifully captured and absorbed into the post that a reader can’t help but feel nostalgia and reflect on their own such experiences.

  14. What a beautiful description of Samosas! I still dream of traveling to India and had many Indian friends growing up in Nevada oddly enough. When we visited their homes to play Super Nintendo , we were always treated to a piping hot serving of vegan Samosas and glass bottled Coke a Cola ( I still to this day don’t know where they purchased those bottled Cokes! ). Thanks for your post!

  15. Having spent more than a decade in countries other than my own leaves me with an advantage to read and relate to your words! I am often suspended in the thoughts of the beautiful days I spent in India all year round, and when I am finally there the dreadful task to come back a month and a half later drowns me! The people, the place, the scenes, the chit-chats it’s that something you would fall in love with back in India! NOSTALGIA. I really do miss the frequent family visits to Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Srirangam (A temple in Tamil Nadu where I hail from) which is the best bit of my time in India. It all exists in the form of colourful images in my memory and it was you with your incredible piece of writing that bought back the beautiful memories of the beautiful country. I must thank you for which, Ma’am! Have a great day and a fabulous week ahead! Thank you again!

  16. Referring to my strange choice of a limp samosa that lies in front of me at a Cafe Coffee Day outlet here in Mumbai against the many freshly fried hot ones out in the street stalls, it is quite ironical that those who immigrated physically end up having their thoughts rooted at home strongly than those who are home physically but away from it in thought.
    This is the first article of yours which I have read and I am gonna go grab a hot samosa now to remind myself of what I am losing. Thank You for the sameπŸ™‚

  17. Nice images. Careful balance of what you have and haven’t ! Enjoyed the read and see how one feels when away from “home !” and left with the puzzle which one ?

  18. hemasmixedbag says:

    Oh wow, Lakshmi, what a poignant post. Loved it as much as I love samosasπŸ™‚ “For them it’s an adventure, for me it’s a pilgrimage”, omg, that is some beautiful writing!

  19. Lakshmi must say a great blog written in simple words and touching perhaps because it has come truly from heart. Indeed some things scratch the memory card and give a feeling of nostalgia which can make the going pleasant even in tough times,isn’t it?

  20. very well written..description of first paragraph create an intense desire to have samosa immediately:-) how much year had been passed ,one can not forget their roots..our grandparents still remember there village and can smell the sand of there farm …we can smell and feel the samosa and for your sure our future generation will take something from there surrounding as a legacy for there next one!!!

  21. Each word of yours makes me wonder, if your limp samosa reminds you of the days gone by, when you had the same thing fresh and full of flavor, now you have to be contented with one in front of you at least in form and shape it looks the same but what about the taste?
    I enjoyed reading it maybe because I’m from the same part of the world and I know exactly how you feel!

  22. Oh god this post brought me to tears. I thought I was mad. I thought I was the only one who felt like this. I want to go back to India so badly. It is not that I’m ungrateful for living in a western country where I could provide for my family, but home is still home. I travel two hours on the subway to go to mandir and eat good food from back home. That’s as far as my dedication to my land will go.

  23. This post reminds me of the dahi vadas which my mom used to make. She is no more now. I have had many types of dahi vadas since then but her’s still lingers in my mouth. Still in search of that “special” taste.

  24. I absolutely loved your post! Feels like you were narrating my story – I’m not married or with kids and I’m constantly battling the decision of moving back or staying here

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