When I returned to the United States from India this past December, my friends asked me, “So, how was your India trip?” I felt like an actress who holds a press conference and says, “Oh I had a whirl- wind tour. I was all over the place, promoting my film.” My trip to India was a whirlwind tour all
right, except, I was not sure what I was promoting. My love
Visiting people the very first time after you get married is
an exciting time in India. Here in America, my husband and
I, were all by ourselves. Our getting married did not make
much of a difference to us or to anybody else, as life continued without any change. So when in December, I had a lot
of unused vacation time, I decided to make my trip to India,
ditching my husband Kiran, who couldn’t make it.
I was itching to go home for the sake of the people, the
costumes and the ceremonies. I knew, rather hoped, friends
and family would be excited to see me post-wedding and
treat me like a princess. Nervousness set in as I began my
22-hour journey to Hyderabad.
It was 6 am Sunday morning. We were hovering over the
Indian sky. I got the feel of Hyderabad as soon as the steward started serving Upma-Dosa for breakfast. I was sitting
with two other guys; all three globally displaced Indians,
returning home for our annual India trips.
Don’t know what went into my head when I asked my husband to order a gluten-free vegan meal for me when he
booked the ticket. Perhaps I was being incorrigibly optimistic about the airline chefs. Gluten-free vegan meal
meant khous khous, mushrooms mixed with tomatoes, and
fruit for desserts. I won’t even mention the portions.
“I will not eat anything now,” said my first co-passenger. “I
know delicious lip smacking Idlis will be waiting for me at
home. I want to keep my stomach empty. I will not fill it
with this useless food.” I thought, Oh God! What should I
do? It is only 6 am now. By the time I get my luggage, go
through immigration, meet dad, and go home, it might be
10 am or later. The last time it had taken me nearly three
hours to get out. Will Mummy make me Idlis?
“I agree. Even I don’t want to eat this useless stuff,” I said
even as I took my gluten-free wrap from the steward. I
Bittersweet memor y
From humoring an incessant flow of relatives to dealing
with the country’s ever-familiar quirks, Mallika Kiran recounts
her first trip to India as a new bride.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier
squirmed. The same stupid mushroom stuff. The third guy,
whom I will call my second co-passenger, noticed my puke-
“I don’t mind sharing my breakfast with you. Why don’t
you take some of my Upma?” he said. “Uh! oh! No, I am
fine,” I answered. How could I share (grab) breakfast with
two guys whom I had met just eight hours ago. I didn’t even
remember their names even though we had whiled away
time chatting nonstop about everything under the sun.
Shameless! I was acting like someone from a food-deprived
land. Yet I couldn’t resist the Upma-Dosa’s appetizing
Not my fault, I thought, it is the gluten-free food the air-
line has given me in the past 22 hours that is making me
shameless. How can I refuse when salvation is so near and
ummmm so drool-worthy? Think like an adult, I told
myself. After all we were all responsible, global Indians,
returning home after a long journey. But how would it mat-
ter if I shared some of their food, I debated? In fact, my
sharing their food would keep them from overeating, and
their families would be happy when they got home with half
empty stomachs. There! I felt much better.
Hyderabad welcomed me with the smell of good food. I was home. As for the queues, the luggage, the immigration, it took only an hour. I had been wrong. Hyderabad
was developing at a faster rate than I had anticipated. I was
home by 8 am. What more, mom chose not to come to the
airport. Instead, she stayed home to invite me with lip-smacking fresh Idlis. I had no choice but to devour them on
a full stomach.
My first weekend in India was fast approaching and I had
to do something about it. I wanted to meet my maternal
uncles and aunts who were spread over three towns in three