A Taste of India
A Taste of India
for Pursuit Magazine
Behind the doors of the apartment in a sleepy, gated neighborhood lies flavorful food, strong community and a blend of cultures. Thrangini Pualla and Sindhu Kanamata, master of business administration students, and Preethi Pamidimukkala, master of public health student, at California Baptist University have transformed this apartment from a house into a home. Ironically enough, all three roommates lived in Hyderabad, India before coming to America where they connected and became friends.
The apartment is furnished with simplicity and efficiency in mind. A pile of books rests on the ottoman as a reminder of their purpose in America: education. A calendar on the fridge venerates a Hindu idol as a reminder of their religious duties. Spices from India wait in the cabinets to be used; their rich scent filling the kitchen. The girls are dressed in traditional and colorful kurtis which is another hint of India. In this apartment a collision of Indian and American is present.
When in need of Indian spices or ingredients, India Sweets and Spices on Magnolia Avenue is the place the girls go. As they swing open the door to enter the shop they open a portal to India. The pungent scent of spices fills the air, captivating the senses. The shop is covered with bright colors in every aisle and on every shelf. The girls enter with a comfortable familiarity. Everyone is friends, everyone is family.
The bond between Indian students is evident from the way they interact and talk about each other.
“If we know an Indian is missing his family, we go to his house and encourage him,” Kanamata says.Encouragement in the form of food is most common and is a binding agent for the Indian community at CBU as they frequently gather together to celebrate birthdays and festivals over dishes from the homeland. “Our survival is food,” Pualla says.
Spices are vital in Indian cuisine and culture. “Without these (spices), Indians can’t live; that’s all,” Pualla says. She hums along to a song by Rihanna as she points out different Indian spices on the aisle.
Pamidimukkala’s spice collection cannot be found in American stores. She brought her spices from India, along with homemade ghee, clarified butter commonly used in India, made by her mother. Dinner is made with the combination of these aromatic spices.
The bright little kitchen is the heart of their apartment. The girls laugh as they prepare the different components for dinner. “We do everything together,” Pualla says as she asks Pamidimukkala to warm up the chapati naan. Their language is seasoned with “sweetheart” and “dear,” reflecting their affection for one another. The little steam cooker screeches in anticipation for the meal as it cooks the rice. “The screams means the rice is ready,” Kanamata says.
The distinct smell of the spices quickly permeates the apartment. The classic chicken curry is a bright orange, colored by the chili powder and hinting at the zingy flavors encapsulated within the dish. Yogurt drinks are served to soften the blow of spicy curry and ghee is mixed into the rice to tame the flavor for the less spice-tolerant diners. The combinations of flavors prove to be exotic and complimentary.
The smell of cooking wafts out of the little Indian apartment into the streets of Riverside. It is home away from home.
*previously published in Pursuit magazine