Now that we’ve packed up and moved to Hong Kong, it’s time to settle in and make this city home. We love the Ikeas and Zara Homes but we miss our Pepperfy. Fortress and Broadway are great, but where’s Vijay Sales? And yes, the highstreet brands make our wardrobes swell but we do miss good ol’ Westside! Meenakshi Gupta enlists the little bits of India that she stumbles upon in Hong Kong.
As far as convenience is concerned, no place does it better than Hong Kong. It has everything… you just need to know where to look for it. Sure, we miss the tastes, smells and sounds of India but before we know it, we will discover them interspersed within the city. There are some quintessential Indian things we are surprised (and comforted) to see retailed here. And when we find these little nostalgic items, they ease into our uber-urban lives, keeping that homesick feeling at bay.
- Maggi Masala: Just two minutes and you’re transported home at the first slurp of our favourite noodles! We live in the land of noodles but there is a very specific craving that only Maggi satisfies. Add some finely chopped green chili, the Indian one from the market, for that extra zing. Available in most of the Indian grocery stores in and around the island, Maggi packets in all their varieties and quantities, are the best to stock up for those midnight home movies and thunderstorm days
- Parle G: Forget Ranveer-Deepika, chai-Parle G have been the reigning jodi of every Indian heart. In India, it’s the biscuit that does not discriminate! You’ll serve it to dadi with chai, distribute it to the street kids at the signal and also feed it to apni gali ka Sheru. Other than Parle G, the Indian stores (online ones too) stock many Indian biscuits like the sugar-dusted coconutty Nice, achingly sweet Jim Jam and the sweet ‘n’ salty 50 50 Maska Chaska!
- Amul Butter: Literally the taste of India! We Bombaywallas know that the whole joy of having pav bhaji is about having a spoonful of Amul butter on the hot bhaji with a butter-drenched pav – spare the guilt. And when you’ve had other butters, you know it’s the excess saltiness that makes Amul our favourite. The Indian stores stock the whole range, from the butter to cheeses, spreads and even the Amul chocolates. Try their dark chocolate, its surprisingly smooth.
- Thums Up: Somethings just wash down well with Thums Up ‘cause all the Pepsis and Cokes in the world can’t match that thunder! Whether its pav bhaji or paneer tikka roll (which are both very much available here), they’re incomplete without our favourite cola!
- Char Minar Camphor Tablets: Yes, the very brand of kapoor you used at home for Friday evening Laxmiji’s aarti, is retailed here in Hong Kong. Not only camphor but everything you would need for your pooja – Chandan haar, agarbatti (incense), dhoop, diya-baati (wick), kumkum (vermillion)… is all found here.
- Mehendi cones: not only the henna for hair-dying, but readymade henna cones are available all year through at the Indian outlets. If only we could call for mehendiwalis just as easily!
- Torans and rangolis: Our version of a welcome mat! You know it’s a desi home when red, saffron and gold torans with bright coloured stick-on rangolis are at the entrance. In fact this is a bit too Indian for most urban homes of even India to relate to. But if you want the authentically desi welcome, this is the thing.
- Chavanprash and other Indian remedies: Oh, I can still taste the spicy-sweet spoonful of warmth mom fed us on winter mornings! The gooey goodness of chavanprash before school, protecting us from winter colds all day. You will find both Zandu and Dabur varieties. And more products from both the brands. There’s also Safi, Kailash Jeevan, Hajmola… Not exactly from our childhood but just as familiar – Patanjali and Himalaya products.
- Rin bar and Vim bar – because the fancy liquid detergents just don’t undo the tadka greese in the kadhai!
- Old Spice Aftershave – This one brings back such memories! A whiff of Old Spice in the air, meant dad was home. An army officer dad often away for extended periods, when he came home, it was a treat all around for the children. Scores of uncles and aunties coming over for dinners and parties, great food, music and dancing into the night, parents generally in a good mood. All those memories are revived, upon spying the white bottle of Old Spice on a store shelf!
A bonus this season are the cratesful of Alphonso mangoes straight from the farms of Ratnagiri. Of course, the usual, atta, ghee, papads, pickles are all there too. Trust Indians to make India wherever in the world they go! So, the next time you’re missing home, indulge in these little soul soothers to feel closer to India.