Went grocery shopping today. Nothing major, just the normal weekly stuff. And was struck by how important the local “Indian Store” is in the lives of all Indians living abroad. It is, in most cases, a small corner store, which you can spot from afar by dint of the Indian-style posters pasted on the glass. And is generally characterised by its very Indian habit of keeping the store closed on Mondays. Once you enter, it feels like a microcosm of India. The shelves neatly stacked with Puja paraphernelia and other indigenous stuff which it gives you a thrill to behold. No mean feat, considering the vital fact that you simply cannot make this ‘sabji’ without that ‘masala’, or ‘curry’ without tamarind. The posters of the latest ‘bollywood’ movie are always displayed prominently. Latest issues of ‘Stardust’ lie scattered near the main counter, full of juicy gossip about filmstars. The ‘aunty’ at the counter is always ready to talk with you about the latest news, and sometimes, even help you out with the recipe and ingredients required for making that perfect ’til laddoo’.
It is a world in itself, a small snapshot of what home feels like, and really is. Outside, the foreigners (or maybe i should say, the local denizens, as we would be the foreigners in this case) move past with only a fleeting look. For them, it’s probably a dingy wayside store at the best. At the check-out line, you stare outside and see the surroundings for what they really are. Notwithstanding the number of people you know, to make you comfortable in a strange country, it is just that. Strange. It will never be your home. And you realise this in that store, surrounded by the familiar smells and sights (even if not sounds) of the goods around.

These places remind us of home, and all that we have left behind, be it ad hoc or for-ever, for myriad reasons ranging from studies to work, in venture of a better life and bigger bucks.
And that’s how these local stores make life a wee bit more bearable for us migrants.