Mom's Didi

Mom was the most excited to see this person. Her Didi. Her Dad's brother's daughter. Her house was in Silau, so we brought her peras :)

Anyway, Mom was so excited to see this lady, she asked Mamu three times on the way if we were there yet. She hadn't seen her since she got married and the reunion was so sweet. Her husband didn't recognize Mom right away, but when he did, it was such a joyful moment.

Runs in the Family

This is a picture of Mom and her sisters. Laughing. The exact way that my siblings and I behave when we are in the same room together.

There were about 10 of us crammed into Bina's tiny room. Bina's family has a Bhel tree(a slimy, gross fruit). To eat it, you crack it like a coconut on the ground, but the fruit itself breaks into 3-4 pieces. In this case it broke into 3. Mom and her 2 sisters got a piece each. The rest of us just sat there watching them eat it, pin-drop quiet. Mom's youngest sister breaks the silence by saying in Hindi, "Everyone watching the three fat sisters eat". The room went into the loudest, longest laughter I've heard in a very long time.

Good Times.

Road to America

I felt compelled to take this picture of the road leading out of Dad's village. It must have been the same road Dad walked on as he ran away from home at 16 to lead a better life for himself and eventually us. Walking into and out of his village I can't even begin to imagine how he dreamed so big and how he made his dreams come true.

Respect is all I can say.


Mulgujari- Property Taxes. Also the name of the person that collects them.

One thing my Mom had to do while we were in India was pay the taxes on Dad's land. She needed a receipt to show that we've paid it, and they only will cut a receipt for Dad's direct family, meaning Mom, Pankaj or Jayant. (Yes, the daughters are not considered direct family, since we will eventually "belong" to someone else).

We get to the Mulgaujari's house and state our business. He has no idea where to even look to see how much we owe. In his small office/house are stacks and stacks of these red thin bounded, handwritten books. He goes through them one by one. Mom makes a point to tell me that there's no internet so it takes a little longer. Im thinking, no Internet? There's no nothing!

Finally he finds that we haven't paid taxes in 5 years and it costs 1500 rupees, about 30 US Dollars. But it gets more complicated. Dad's father purchased 3 lots of land while he was still alive. Dad then added 2 more plots. However, Dad purchased those 2 plots while in America and had one of his relatives cut the receipt. That relative is no longer living and the receipt is nowhere to be found. Therefore the Mulgujari has no idea that we own the other 2 parcels. We sat there and brainstormed how we can prove we own the land. No solution. Will actions speak louder than a receipt? Our relatives ARE the ones cultivating and maintaining it...

To be continued...


Sanjaya is my Dad's sister's son. So my cousin. He is our voice for our land in India. Meaning when we need someone to represent us for whatever reason in India, land, family, etc. on Dad's side, we call Sanjaya.

Anyway, we met him and his Mom (my Bua) on the street near his house. The road to his house wasn't complete so he took a rickshaw out to make our commute easier. At this point it was about 4 PM, 100 degrees outside. We were so tired, seeing that we had woken up at 5 AM and had already sat in the car for about 5 hours. We also had gone through 4 water bottles with no more cold water left. The only water left was Chottu's back washed, warm water. No Thanks. :)

We asked Sanjaya where to closest place was to get a nice bottle of water. He frankly replied "Yahan par kuch nahin hain." And he was right.


Meet Chottu. He is Mamu's youngest child and son, 2.5 years old. I don't think I heard this kid say anything without his crying/whining voice. I mean it was the cutest thing. He cries so much he carries a rumal everywhere he goes. And when he cant find it he says in his loudest crying voice, "RUMMAALLLLL". I had to take a picture of his crying in action. So cute.

Marriage Proposal

You can't go to India without getting at least one Marriage Proposal. Even if you are the girl. I can't imagine how many proposals guys from America get during their visits.

Anyway, this is Mamu's neighbhors son. He was on the balcony the same time I was with Mamiji. Mamiji introduced us and told me to take a picture of him. I did. Hence the picture. And then walked inside. Out came his Mom who then asked Mamiji to get my Mom. Mom went outside and I heard Mom say "No, no, no. She already is spoken for." (In Hindi of course).

Don't worry Nit, my Mom has your back :)


Bihar is known for their Khaja sweets. And there's actually a village thats the sole producer of it! Silau. We stopped in and picked up 3 Kilos of the mitais to hand out to the various family members we visited.

Palm Trees

Many times during my trip I got asked, "Why dont you move to the village? Your whole family is here, you'll be taken care of, your Dad is well respected..." I dont know if this is mean, but I felt like saying, "Man you have no idea what you are missing!" We have electricity for God's sake!

When I saw the Palm Trees all throughout Bihar, I dont know why but I felt like telling them about Hawaii...

There's No Room!

This is the picture of the car that Mamu rented for 8 days to take us around Bihar. The other picture is of our driver. Very nice man, his name was Anu, but I called him Driver-Sahb. He would literally stop at every cold water place to get Mom and me packaged cold water. Took us to the "touring" spots in Bihar, and played good Bollywood songs for our long journeys!

Anyway, back to the point of this story. The wedding house was about 2.5 hours away from Mamu's house in Patna. The people that obviously were going were: Drive-Sahb, Mamu, Mamiji, Anjali, Aarti, Abhishek, Chottu, Mom and Me. Lets count: That's 9 people. Look at the picture of the car again.

10 minutes before we are all set to leave, Mom's BFF comes strolling in with her youngest daughter. She wanted to go to the wedding too. Normally we'd use the slogan, "the more, the merrier". Not this time. We squeezed, we tried, we pinched, we pried. We just couldn't do it. Mamu, being the nicest man he is, even tried hiring another car. Needless to say in the end, Mom's BFF and her daughter got left behind. And because of that, they didn't come say bye to us when we left either. Sad!

For Sale in Bihar

Mamu is in the market to buy a new house for his family. He currently has 4 kids and a 2 bedroom apartment. He converted the main room into a bedroom so that his 2 boys can sleep on one bed, and his 2 girls in the actual bedroom. While we were there, he had an appointment with a "real estate" agent to show us a place that was "hot on the market".

So anyone that has ever been to an open house in America knows the drill. The seller puts the prettiest foot forward. Meaning, they usually paint, prim and proper up the place, maybe add some rented furniture so that when the potential buyer steps into the home, they can picture their family nestled cozily on the couch, or planting a fresh garden, or grilling salmon on the grill.

Well, Bihar has a different view on how to sell homes. I think these pictures speak for themselves.


Bata is as big of a brand in India as SRK is. In fact, I wonder why SRK isn't the face behind this brand?

Anyway, Mamu took us to a huge bazaar in Patna, reminded me of a the San Jose Flea Market. We went from stall to stall looking for random things. The stalls were mostly open air, maybe a curtain on top, type of stalls. There were some hole in the wall type of stalls too...The types that you pull the garage open, and there's a 3'x 3' to house your for sale items. In the middle of this chaotic bazaar was only one American looking store-- Bata. It had glass shiny doors. Huge. Probably the size of a Starbucks (which is huge in Patna). And lastly and most importantly in 100 degree weather, it had air conditioning! Mom, Mamu and I must have sat in there for an hour cooling off, and of course buying some $2 shoes for the family.


There really are Milk Men in India! Every 4 days a milkman comes to Mamu's house to give a bucket of milk! Can you believe it! He was shy when I took a picture of him, but I know some folks need to see it to believe it.

Dolla Dolla Bills

Holy Smack! When's the last time you saw stacks of money? Come to India and convert $300 into Rupees. I felt like Mr. Moneybags walking out of that bank.

We Have Fire

How lighters have not become a hit in the villages, I have no idea. Everything they do is with fire. Their stoves, their lanterns, their garbage disposal, their bong pipes.

Anyway, I brought candles and lighters to the village, knowing very well we'd have zero electricity. The first night we were there, Bina (the bride and my cousin), wanted to light a lantern for us. It was already dark, and low and behold she couldn't find it. I offered my candle and lighter (I only had one bag so I knew exactly what it was). I took it out and lit the candle with my lighter. The expression on Bina's, Mamiji's and her three kids face was priceless. Mamiji asked me in Hindi to do it again. And again. And again. They all took a try at it. I didn't realize lighters were so complicated to use. Turn the knob with your thumb and press the button, all in one motion. Like this. No, like this. Press it harder.

I cant even remember the first time I used one and how I learnt to use it. I just can't remember not ever using one.

I wonder what and if the lighters left a deep enough impression to be a permanent village-hold item.

Kithna Kamathe Hain

I must have gotten this question a million times. How did I answer it? I said "Thoda". Salary in America is too tough to explain, any figure sounds like a large sum to people in India...but what they fail to understand is that we don't live in the village where you eat 2 meals a day and you have a neighbhor cow that gives you your milk and your heat. Everything and anything in America is a dollar sign. Therefore, I never really answered the question.

Mom's Best Friend

I met Mom's childhood best friend. Mausi. She is Mom's Dad's brother's daughter. So Mom's cousin. Coincidentally she also has five daughters. She came to Mamu's house the first night we were there. Very nice lady. Her daughters were even nicer. The eldest 22, the youngest, 13 [Rina, Rinky, Sandhya (Mickey), Nisha (Madhuri), and Neva]. I sat and talked to the daighters for a long time. We talked about Hindi movies, school, college, America, food, weddings, etc.

Mausi met Pinki, Sandhya, and Anita when Mom came back to India back in the late 7-'s...before the remainder 4 of us were born. She had some funny stories about how Sandh would eat so many raisins, her excrements looked like raisins and Sandh would cry because of it! LOL! She also told me how she would put Anita to sleep by rubbing thel (oil)on her back. She said Dad didnt like too much thel on the kids because it smelled bad. And finally she talked about how she used to harrass Dad about anything and everything.


ESL in America stands for "English as a Second Language".

ESL in India stood for "English as a SECRET Language" for Mom and me. Everytime we needed to talk smack about something/someone or Mom wanted to make fun of something/someone, she would quickly say it in English.


Rupees to Dollars

Today the conversion rate is 50 Rupees: 1 Dollar. As soon as we landed in the International airport we did our conversion. I took Anju's advice and got some small rupee bills to ensure I could bargain. Great advice, btw.

I started talking to Mamiji about life in India vs. America. It's no surprise that things are just different. It costs money to send their kids to school, $15/month/kid. Doesn't sound like too much here, but for them it is a lot. It got me thinking about how lucky we are to have a public school system, and how great it is that our parents heavily focused on education. Like my Mom told my Mamiji, "You can lose everything, but you can't lose your education." Very true.

And her kids are so smart! Her 2.5 year old already knows his complete Hindi & US alphabet! Her eldest daughter (11) knows how to play the sitar, the harmonium, can write and speak in both Hindi and English, can draw. She looks forward to school and appreciates and respects her teacher, calls her Madam. These kids might not have much material wise, but boy do they have respect.


Mamu and Mamiji live in a flat on top of a bunch of markets. And in between the the flat and the markets is a slab of concrete for advertisements. The advertisements are ALL around Shahrukh Khan. This guy is the spokesman for everything from soap to toothpaste to watches. Talk about branding yourself.