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Indians are the masters of reusing and recycling all forms of paper products, metals, and plastics. As an American living in India, I threw out soda bottles, empty paper towel rolls, used plastic bags, and a plethora of other articles that would promptly be plucked from my garbage bags and sold in the streets.
It is said that there are four or five layers of recycling in India. Someone would go through my trash and read my old newspapers, take my empty bottles, and whatever else they found to be of value. Then three or four other people would follow them, doing precisely the same thing.
Plastic bags and bottles became containers for screws, while nails and fabrics were made into decorative ribbons for auto rickshaws.
India has some of the best street food in the world, from vegetarian chickpea dishes to tandoori shish kabobs to pani puri — one of the most famous street meals, made up of a small wheat shell filled with a mixture of potato, peas, and spices. The shell is then dipped in spicy water and eaten 8 to 15 at a time. For breakfast or an afternoon snack, jalebi is fried to the point of looking like an American funnel cake.
North India is mostly desert, so the temperatures range drastically from hot to cold. Women wear saris throughout the warm months of March to October, while men wear light clothing and turban-like headwear. Saris look deceiving — three layers of clothing and a head wrap — but they are the coolest thing you could wear because of all the air flow you get. Winter calls for heavy blankets and scarves made from pashmina.
India celebrates multiple holidays throughout the year and each one is celebrated profusely. Throwing colors and drinking bhang (a drink made from milk, marijuana, and Indian spices) goes with Holi. Lighting up the cities goes with Diwali. And sweets like barfi (made from sugar and milk) are always given on birthdays.
Because Hindus worship gods of fertility, wealth, heroism and seasons, there are literally holidays almost every day of the year. The people take these times to visit their neighbors, make food, and enjoy life together.
There are men on every street corner in India with carts brimming over with fresh pomegranates, oranges, bananas, and pineapples. They use little blenders for juicing the fruit and serve it in flimsy plastic cups. When in season, fruit can be bought by the kilo for under the equivalent of one US dollar. Stopping by for a mango smoothie or some pomegranate juice is an everyday occurrence for many. Lassi stands are also prevalent, serving up a delicious drink of blended yogurt and spices in clay cups.
From the Taj Mahal to the many forts and palaces of cities like Jaipur, India is well known for its architectural masterpieces. Marble is used in many buildings, adding an air of dignity even to regular homes. Brilliant blue and green colors are abundant and different cities are known by names such as the Pink City (Jaipur) or the Blue City (Jodhpur).
Family and elders are the most important people in India. Once educated and married, the children will start taking care of their parents. The oldest son will marry and move his new family into his parents’ home in order to take care of the entire family. Family pride is so important that the children will study as hard as possible in order to make their parents happy. In India, family relationships are the only relationships that will last a lifetime.
Indians are famous for many dishes: tikka masala with a tomato sauce base, madras curry with chili powder, biryani with rice, meats, and vegetables, and of course tandoori. One of the few foods not eaten in a broth or sauce base, tandoori chicken, goat, and lamb gets roasted in a large clay oven that gives the food an unforgettable Indian flavor. India is famous for these beautiful ovens, and rarely are they seen anywhere else in the world.