Friday, June 28, 2013

26 years. Yet, nobody can take the India out of me

I love walking around in cities.  It is the energy of the people selling, buying, walking, chatting, rushing, and whatever else.  The lights, the sound, the noise, the smell.  I can't quite explain it all, other than to shrug my shoulders and say je ne sais quoi.

After four days in the calm, peaceful, and rustic Orosi, I was all ready for San Jose.  I was about to step out after a quick lunch when the gods above opened the fire hose.  It came down hard.  And it kept pouring for an hour.  Finally, when it seemed to have eased up, I darted out with my camera in one pocket of my cargo shorts and my wallet in another.

An advantage of the hilly terrain is that once the rain stops, the water is all gone.  No big puddles at all.  For three hours, I walked.  With a ten-minute sitting down, which is the real story.  But, let me give you the long version.

I never walk around aimlessly though.  I had a plan--to take in the sights and everything else and end up at the Mercado Central.  I was equipped with a map.  It is just that I never strictly follow the plan but I improvise along the way.

I stopped to take photos of parks, monuments, and people.  What incredibly beautiful young men and women, and older men and women!  I wish I could have taken photos of the beautiful women and handsome men who rushed past me.

I stopped to explore the Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica.  I scanned the displays and found that there would be an opera performance the following evening. A premiere at that!  I got myself a cheap ticket in the nosebleed section.

A couple of minutes from there and I was in the thick of the shopping area.  I saw a sign with an Indian name, Surya, and selling a whole bunch of Indian stuff including the stick-on forehead dots. Imagine that!  An Indian fashion store in Costa Rica!

I resisted the temptation to walk into the store and find out whether the owner was an Indian or a Tica.

A few more minutes of walking, and now another store--this is Chandra.  What the heck, right?  It seemed like there was very little overlap between the merchandise in the two stores.  Plus, Chandra seemed way more upscale.

Let me remind you that this was all in San Jose in Costa Rica, not in California.

A few more steps and on the other side, yep, another store with a name that could be based on an Indian one:

What is going on? Did I miss a bunch of readings on the popularity of Indian stuff in Costa Rica?  Do young men and women dance to the Bollywood beats at the discos in town?  Has chicken tikka masala diffused into the Costa Rican culture too?

I had to walk into this Gangas store. The women working there didn't have any distinctly recognizable Indianness in them.  It was like a clothing store in India--bundles and rolls of cloth and people buying whatever they liked at lengths to suit their needs.  It looked so Indian.  Including this roll that said "chiffon print"

I certainly hadn't expected so much of India in the shopping area.  I was even more energized with this unexpected twist.  I entered Mercado Central.

The smell from the food stalls was not always pleasant.  I suppose too much of authentic food smell can be overwhelming to those not used to it.

A fruit stall got my attention.  As I neared it, I saw guavas.  My favorite green guava.  The ones that I buy when in India.

The guavas were being sliced.  Then into a plastic bag, with a little bit of lime squeezed into it, and a pinch of salt.

I started drooling.

As soon as those customers moved away, I said "uno guayaba, por favor."

She said something and I told her "no Espanol."

She picked up a guava, weighed it, washed it, and sliced it.  When she reached for the salt, I showed via hand gestures that I didn't want much.

After paying, I knew exactly where I wanted to sit down and enjoy the green guava that was in a plastic bag of freshly squeezed lime and salt.

I sat on a cement bench in the promenade right outside Chandra and slowly ate the guava. One small bite each time, one slice after another.  For a few minutes, I lost track of the fact that I was in Costa Rica, and was transported to those magical memories of years of green guavas in India.


Ramesh said...

There are Indians everywhere. Even in Vladivostok !! And where there are Indians, there are Indian shops and Indian food joints, given how we like to have the familiar things around.

And when you are out of India, there is a always a special fondness for things Indian. Even if you are a firang like you !!!

My favourite "Indian moment" has been in Guangzhou China. Although there is a fairly sizeable Indian community there, its still an alien land. And in an Indian restaurant there, there was this Indian singer who had a lovely voice and sang old Hindi songs every day. Imagine sitting deep in China and listening to Mukesh and Mohammed Rafi songs live and eating roti and sabji - I never failed to be amazed despite the number of times I went there.

Sriram Khé said...

I had forgotten what firang meant ... looked it up. Yes, a damn foreigner I am when in India. My father doesn't even let me hire an auto because he is convinced that the drivers will take me for one hell of a ride ;)

These stores that I saw in CR were not set up to serve a Desi market, it seemed like. Neither the people working there, nor the customers, even remotely looked Indian. Which is why I was all the more impressed ...

That Chinese set up you describe is quite surreal. It would have been even more surreal if it had been a Chinese guy singing Rafi and Mukhesh ...

Ramesh said...

An interesting side titbit is the origin of the word firang or firang, which by the way is not derogatory but only mildly teasing :)

Apparently it was during the time of the Frankish empire during the middle ages that the eastern word came into contact with the white man. Therefore every white man came to be called as a Frank and the derivation is found now in many languages - Frenk in Turkish, al-Faranj in Arabic, Farangi in Persian, Barang in Khmer, Ferenggi in Malay, Farang in Thai and so on ....

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