Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Frozen Memories

(As a comment, I wrote a few words about frozen memories in another blog. Our blogger friend A asked me to write a post on frozen memories. So, here it is.)

Before I started to write my own blog, I wrote this post as a “guest” in Insignia’s blog. I am reproducing that post (with Insignia’s permission).

We immigrated to USA long time ago. Even though we visit India frequently, our memories of India are frozen at that time we left. Since then every time we visit India, the changes, good and bad, give us shock. For example, an ordinary Kancheepuram silk Saree now costs Rs.7000.00. Even though we can very well afford, my wife says “my marriage saree” was less than that. When we go to a restaurant in India, our mind automatically think about the price we paid before leaving India for the dish we are ordering . But it is not shocking to the people who live in India because they grow every day with that change.

This frozen memory happens to all of us. Say we had a friend in school. We have not seen him/her in the past 15 years. Our memory of that friend is still the same as we saw him/her the last time. If we see him/her now, we will be shocked. In school, he had a nice thick curly hair and now he is bald-headed. She was a cute little beautiful girl next door and now she has 2 kids and weighs 185 lbs.

Going back to the place we visited long time ago is also the same. The last time we visited Delhi was in 1997. We visited again one year ago. I was pleasantly shocked to see the Los Angeles style freeways. The toll plaza at Gurgaon looks more or less the same as the toll plaza at the San Francisco Bay Bridge. In 1997, the Ring Road from Moti Bagh to Safdarjang Hospital to AIIMS to Defence Colony to Lajpat Nagar was crowded and congested. Now there is a smooth freeway.

In the past 300 years, lot of Indians have migrated to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Fiji Islands, and West Indies. Their memories are also frozen at the time their forefathers left India. In those places, those Indian origin kids learn about Indian traditions and customs from their parents and grand parents. They, in turn, learnt from their parents and grand parents. Therefore, those Indian origin kids think as Indian traditions and customs what was practiced 150 years ago in India.

This happened last month. We were invited to a cocktail reception in a friend’s home. The host and hostess are from Malaysia and speak Tamil at home. They have never visited India. As soon as we entered their home, the host shook hands with me. The hostess started to fall on my feet (to get my blessings) and half way through I stopped her. She said she is delighted to receive me because her grand parents told her that it is auspicious and good luck if a “Brahman” comes to the house. I smiled and said I am not that kind (old, pious, learned, knows 4 Vedas) of Brahman. In fact I have come for a cocktail reception. She said “I do not care. All I know from my grand father that it is auspicious and good luck if a Brahman comes to the house. Therefore, I need your blessings”. (I was thinking in my mind that after few more drinks, I would start blessing everybody. Hahaha.)

Memories are not only frozen but passed on to the next generation also.


  1. Very good post.

    You are right culturally we are frozen in time.

    Another similar example is the ENGLISH language used in India is of 1947. British don't use some of those phrases any more. But India is frozen is time with British English.

    One solution for Indians is keep going back to India though personally I don't like to go too often but my wife wants to go every year.

  2. Very true. The state we leave someone / some place in is etched in our minds that very same way. Nice post.

  3. Thanks for your comments A. 1947 is very recent. India is still following the laws established by the British for their "colony" 150 years ago.

  4. Thanks for your comments Titaxy. Very true. The girl I had a crush is now married, 185 lbs., with 2 kids.

  5. Thanks for your commens Sulagna. I understand what goes through your mind right now.

  6. Nice one. Our thoughts are frozen in time.

    Its not only with places and culture; but will people as well. You meet someone after a long time assuming that the person would be the same since you saw met him/her. When you realize lot of things have changed; you are in for a surprise. The interesting thing is that we dont realize how much we have changed as well but end up carrying old habits and values.

    I seem to have digressed from the post :-) But I see this as an exntension

  7. great post SG enjoyed reading it :)

  8. Absolutely agree and I enjoyed reading thru that I read again :)

    I was meeting a school mate after 4-5 years after we left school and neither of us thought it important to share, the info about our looks/dress/table ... We just assumed. the truth is the thought never entered our minds, of course we know each other, been BFs for long time... however, it took us some time to recognize each other...frozen memories, so true..


  9. SG
    I loved the last sentence,'I was thinking in my mind that after few more drinks, I would start blessing everybody. Hahaha.)'

    Keep writing.

  10. What a great sentence to end with. A fascinating post, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. What you say is very true, SG! My son is not able to digest many things here, now. Our family friend's children who are abroad now, were 'sleeping over' in their school days in our house and used to be very close to us. But now if I wish them on their birthday by email also, no response. For us, they are the same small kids, but they are family people now.

    Yes, we are the only people who still follow the British English, which even the British don't follow anymore!

    The last line is very correct!

  12. Thanks for your comments Insignia. You did not digress from the post. Your comments are not only an extension but also value added.

  13. Thanks for your comments Shuchita. I am glad you enjoyed this post.

  14. Thanks for your commens Pinash. This happened to me also. Could not recognize my best childhood friend.

  15. Thanks for your comments Chitra. I am glad you liked tha sentence. I really thought of that at that situation. Here I have come for a cocktail reception. And, the hostess wanted to fall on my feet to get my blessings. I told her I am not that "person". Naan avan illai. Hahaha.

  16. Thanks for your comments Tracy. I am glad you liked this post and also the last sentence.

  17. Thanks for your comments Sandhya. If you grow with the change, you don't realize. When you see the change suddenly it has a great impact. When we visit India, and a cup of coffe is Rs.15, we are stunned. But it is not a big deal for people living in Chennai.

    As you said, kids are very much attached to us. And, when they grow up, they don't even recognize us.

  18. I love this post. Frozen memories are the sadness of us emigrees, I think. While it's good that things change (and inevitable) there is always a sadness that comes with finding that you don't fit exactly where you should any more in your own country. Or anywhere else.

    I'm going to Barcelona soon, for a holiday (I lived there for 1.5 years) and I'm a little nervous to see what frozen memories I discover..

  19. i live nostalgia..for me, this post was a jewel..certain things better remain frozen, for they always give you the feeling of an all together a new era..

    touching feet is something I have so far not digested..I some how fail to see a logic behind this custom..but again, in hindu families, it's compulsory to do so!

  20. From stranger...

    for some reason I cannot post opted this way...

    Good post SG.

    I know the cultural shock we all receive when we visit India each time but still home for me is India. I prefer to raise my kids in Middle East since it is more safe here but look forward to returning one day.

    Things have changed a lot. People, places, culture ... wish I could return to the time I left ...

    Hats off to your last line. Perfect

  21. Thanks for your comments Emily. You are correct. If you are out of the country for a while and when you go back, you don't fit in your own friend's circle.

  22. Thanks for your comments Neha. I also think it is good for certain things to remain frozen. That way we keep our happy memories.

    I thought touching the feet was a custom in North India and not in the South. I admired North Indians for that. If they see an elder, they touch the feet even if they happen to meet in the street.

    I am glad you liked this post.

  23. Thanks for your comments Stranger. We can go to the place but not to the time. I am glad you liked this post.

  24. Yes good memories are given in inheritance... beautiful post!!

  25. True and very nicely written SG. I have felt such freezing also happens even on one's life. Some stay in their comfort zone like sticking to one city/company/job/certain place and find it difficult or don't want to come out where as some others keep moving on, like changing their job/place/move around countries etc.

  26. What a surprise SG! I have written about the same thing. Here's my post: Frozen in Time

    Great people think alike :)

    ~ NRIGirl

  27. Thanks for your comments Swatantra. I am glad you liked this post.

  28. Thanks for your comments Vanitha. Yes, as you said some people live in their comfort zone and some keep changing.

  29. Thanks for your comments NRIGirl. I read your post. It is very well written. I am glad you liked this post well.

    I originally wrote this post about 20 months ago as a "guest writer" in Insignia's Blog. Now reproduced in my own blog with her kind permission.

  30. This post of yours was really good.
    I do miss the old coke and fanta , they don't taste the same anymore, and the samosas, and balle, chukski, and the fallodas, oh God! why don't they taste the same anymore?
    But I like the progress that we have made and wouldn't want to be frozen in a particular time zone. We have so many good and wonderful things to look forward to in this ever changing world. I am all for the new world.
    It was very good reading your blog.

  31. Very interesting post.
    Yes, this bit I have observed in every NRI that when they come to India, they are shocked/pleasantly surprised to see its progress. Oh! you guys also have this now. You have all the brands now. Cmmon! India is just no less now. Which is why I am so much in love with India, specially Delhi. I holiday overseas at least 2-3 times a year and I know that by all standards, we are leading the same life- Same dish washer, Dryer, detergent, freeways, gas stations, restaurants, brands etc etc.
    So sometimes, in fact, I get irritated if someone expects little less from India.
    And Mr Brahmin, it is not "fall on the feet". It is "touch feet".

  32. I've heard some of my friends who have settled down in US say the same things.. nice post

  33. Thanks for your comments Rama. We all welcome the change. But, restaurants are not the same as it were before.

  34. Thanks for your comments Kiran.

    Take it easy Kiran. I did not do any "India bashing". Just wrote about frozen memories of individuals. You wrote you are in love with Delhi. Did you read that I praised the freeway system in Delhi is equal to that of Los Angeles freeway?

    Thanks for correcting me about "touching feet". I have lived in USA all my life and come from South where touching feet is not common. Therefore, I am not an expert on this. I will take your word for it.

  35. Thanks for your comments Bedazzled. I am glad you liked this post.

  36. Hi Kiran,

    An additional observation.

    My wife just read your comment and my reply. She told me that North Indians touch feet by bending down. South Indians fall on the feet with both the knees touching the ground (for women) and the whole body touching the ground (for men).

  37. That was such an interesting, insightful post. It is very apt. I feel the same shock every time I visit Kochi, my home town. I keep seeing the new,trendy malls and coffee shops where young teenagers throw parties and splurge money like its water and can't believe this is the same Kochi coz it is almost becoming like Delhi, which is where i live now. As you mentioned, even recognizing the same people you knew is so difficult because their faces, their details and even their behavior is sort of frozen in time and its so hard to accept they may have changed with time.

    Terrific post, buddy.

  38. Thanks for your commens Sanand. You hit the points. Since our memories are frozen, it is hard to accept people may have changed with time.

  39. @ A - I certainly do not like your statement, though personally I don't like to go too often but my wife wants to go every year."
    So typical NRI- Non reliable Indian.

  40. @ your wife- Rs. 7000/- for a saree (a good saree) is a steal now. Be prepared to shell anywhere from Rs. 30,000/- to Rs. 1,50,000/- now for a good saree. Be prepared for the shock.

  41. Thanks for the advanced warning Kiran. Will bring enough much needed hard currency to India on our next visit.

  42. KIran,

    Oh My God !!!

    I am really sorry if you don't like my statement...I would not like to upset anyone on blogs and you will be the last person I will annoy even unintentionally because I know you are a very very nice person - a happy person.

    I should clarify....

    We go to India every wife wants to more frequently..that will make it six months. Now the issue is not India..Issue is MONEY.

    1. Mostly we go in peak season. Summer it is aorund 1500$ per person and winter it is around 2000$ per person. So for three of us that makes around 5000$.

    2. Then my wife likes to shop (I KNOW WHY YOU TAKE HER SIDE. She thinks fashion changes in six months and does not want to wear Suits/Sarees that she purchased in last trip. Imagine rougly 10,000 RS (lower end) and she decides to buy 20....

    3. My brothers are busy and they don't have time for me anymore...I cannot expect them to leave their work and play with us every six months.

    4. I don't have a single friend in India any more. They are all here.

    So Kiran...these are the reason I don't like to go ...Spend money and I get bored...I know Delhi so well...really it is not possible for me to go to same place every six months.

    With regard to Non Reliable Indian:->>> Visiting a place for tourism would not make more or less reliable. I do my best what I can do for India where I make living. Most American feel good about India when I tell them I AM FROM INDIA. I spread Indian culture. Celebrate all Indian festivals. Even take my American friends for Indian festivals. I am up to date on Indian politics.

    ALSO I tranfer money to India...which is good for Indian economy.

    I will let you make the final call but I am sincely sorry if my comments made you upset.

  43. excellent post,
    yes India is changing

  44. Thanks for your comments SM. I am glad you liked this post.

  45. New Reformed IndianOctober 22, 2010 at 2:24 PM


    Hey SG,

    I saw your blog and some of the hilarious comments.
    One of your followers ‘Kiran’ may not like this but I too don’t like going back to India too often.
    Hell, I don’t like going back to India in general. Yeah, I said it!

    Not to offend anyone but that country is kind of a dump.
    Not all of India is a dump – but it’s a hell of a lot more dumpy than the USA.
    If my relatives didn’t live there, I’d never go back.
    You can keep your sarees and their inflated prices.
    I will keep my US dollars and not contribute to your runaway inflation.

    Maybe I couldn’t see the stark contrast between INDIA and other nations a long time ago.
    But every time I go back…I just kiss the ground when I return to the USA.
    India is YEARS (decades) behind the GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH – the USA.

    And yes I too am amazed every time I see minor changes in India.
    I do say…oh do you have freeways now?
    Oh…do you have these new brands now?

    But I have never said the following and probably never will -
    Oh you have less corruption NOW?
    Oh you have more controlled traffic everywhere NOW?
    Oh you have better infrastructure (roads) everywhere NOW?
    Oh you have electricity 24 hours a day in all places NOW?
    Oh you have running water in all places NOW?
    Oh you have public restrooms in all public establishments NOW?

    Give me a break. Washers/Dryers and Laundry Detergent is stuff other countries had in the 1960’s.
    Good job though – you are only 50 years behind.

    NRI – New Reformed Indian

  46. Love The Post.

    So very true that memories are frozen in time.

    I saw people in my 20’s whom I hadn’t seen in years and I was shocked at how much they aged and changed.
    Same was true when I was in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.
    Every time I see people after a long time, I am stunned at how they look after so many years.

    Yet, on the flip side, those same people were never shocked when they saw me after so many years.

    Dick Clark

  47. Thanks for your comments New Reformed Indian. And, welcome to my blog. Please don't be shy in expressing your views.

    New Reformed Indian, please visit here as often as possible. Thanks.

  48. Thanks for your comments Dick. I am honored you chose to visit my blog. I am glad you liked this post.

    You are 81 and still MC (Master of Ceremonies) New Year Eve Party every year at the Times Square in New York and several other television games shows. It is true others look aged to you and you don’t look aged to others. You never grow old. No wonder you are nicknamed as “America’s oldest teenager”.

  49. That's right. Not only for people who have emigrate, but even for Indians who go back to a place after a long time can be a shock. I have sometimes gone to places where I lived as a child and have been shocked, not only by the change in place, but also because I met different kinds of people, which conflicted with my memories of the earlier times.

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. Yes, the Brazilian Carnival is the most gorgeous! Goa comes only second to it.

    You may like to read my online journal on South Asian culture. Please see

  50. Thanks for your comments Archana. Yes, our childhood memories are frozen and we get a shock when we visit the place or our childhood friend.

    Sure I will read your online journal.

  51. @ New Reformless (Spineless) non indian- Empty vessels make the most sound.
    Kindly continue kissing the A...ground of USA.

  52. @Kiran KBS

    That's it?
    That's all you've got to say?
    What a disappointment (just like your country...and Delhi)!

    I just took a DUMP all over your previous posts like I drank some of your Delhi tap water and this is the best response you can give me?

    I took your own stupid words and sorry examples and then proceeded to give you a beatdown like you just spilled orange juice on my white carpet...and the best you can say is Spineless?

    Oh boy, this is going to be like the USA rolling over Iraq - I've got tanks and you've got a water pistol and rocks.

    Why didn't you say anything about my examples instead of calling me names?
    Why didn't you refute the bashing I gave instead of calling me names?
    Why didn't you defend the "Oh you have that NOW" statements I threw out there instead of calling me names?

    I know why you ignored all of that - because you can't respond to it.
    What I said is true.

    Your previous comments were at least average attempts at "trying" to formulate a thought.
    However this last laughable.

    Look, you can talk about your laundry detergent and washers/dryers.
    And maybe in 50 years you can also say that most houses in India have an HDTV and blue-ray player.

    But first - why don't we start with the basics.
    24 hours of electricity and 24 hours of running water in all places in India.
    Do you have that now?
    Will you have it in 10 years?
    Is there even a plan to EVER make it a reality?

    KBS - Don't ever step to me and say India is on par with the other industrialized nations in this world.
    And if you do step to me - don't bring a knife to a gunfight.

    Oh are just full of BS OK?

    NRI - New Remarkable Indian

  53. Non Remarkable Indian,

    What is your definition of 'development'?

    If you consider 'material comfort' for young people as development, the USA is far more developed. Japan is even more developed as compared to the USA.

    But are all people in Japan and the USA happy?

    In the population of around 400 Million, say roughly 350 million have material comfort in the USA. In India, out of population of 1.2 Billion, 400 Million have very comfortable life style...more comfortable than 350 million of the USA.

    All the USA companies are trying to get a pie out of these 400 million Indians...

    Now if comfort is defined as machines then the USA has more machines but if comfort is defined as someone taking care of day of day to work...India is far ahead. A middle class person can afford to hire people do cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving etc. That is not possible in the USA.

    Traffic->>>compare LA/NY with Chandigarh...haha...

  54. Non Remarkable Indian,

    I can go on...

    I can provide a better comparison of India and the USA if you want but first we have to establish the your criteria because I am not going to spend time to convince you if your 'HAPPINESS' comes from driving on 90 Miles Per Hour on freeways and drining Diet Coke/Soda and watching Football on a big sreen TV while eating pop corn.

    You tell me what makes you happy or what can convince you...I promise I will write a post objectively comparing India and the USA.

  55. @A

    Dude, isn't the knockout punch that Kiran gave you earlier enough abuse for you?
    I mean, you already apologized profusely and ran around with your tail between your legs and now you want to step up to me?

    Ok, where shall we start.
    Oh I know, how about the fact that you haven't addressed what I said but came back with questions.
    The funny thing is that you answered your own questions, with assumed answers, and then gave reasons to back it up as if I gave that answer.
    Hilarious! You can't make up this type of lunacy.

    Hey A - Regarding 'development'...let's start with some basic human needs for human society.
    Running water all day and all night.
    Do you have it all across India?

    Electricity all day and all night.
    Do you have it all over India?

    Public Restooms for Men and Women.
    Do you have it all over India in public establishments?

    I'm not going to talk about material comfort because you already conceded that to me.

    ~ A wrote "But are all people in Japan and the USA happy?"
    Not all of course, but there are hell of a lot more happier people in the USA than compared to India.
    I see a long line of people trying to get out of India as quick as possible.
    At the same time I see a HUGE line of people trying to get into the USA.

    ~ A wrote "A middle class person can afford to hire people do cooking, cleaning, laundry, driving etc."
    Thank you for proving my point that you have a large lower class population who need to be addressed.
    I'm sure these people are thrilled with India's "development".
    Many, many people in India have a daily struggle for food, shelter, and basic needs...and you tell me that India is developed and have "happiness" like other countries.
    How dare you step to me with that nonsense?

    ~ A wrote (paraphrased) that USA has 350M comfortbale people while India has 400M people who are more comfortable.
    I don't even know where these numbers came from but let's roll with it as I continue to carve you up like a Turkey on Thanksgiving.

    400M comfortable out of 1.2B - Holy Moly! Need I say more?
    That's 800M people who are not comfortable everyday. Using your own numbers your country is awful. Face the facts.

    USA 350M comfortable out of 400M.
    Thank you! Why do I need to counter argue when you have put it out there for me?

    And to your last point Traffic.
    I can travel 300 miles from SF to LA in 4 hours by car.
    Can you do that in India?

    I too can go on and on about how great the USA is and how crappy your points are for India but I'll stop here for now and show you some mercy.
    Oh yeah, one last thing.
    I see that you are also picking on the name NRI as Non Remarkable Indian.
    Step to me again with your weak arguments and I will no longer start with @A.

    @A-hole would be more fitting.

    NRI - No Regrets Indian

  56. @SG

    Hey man,

    I just wanted to say Thanks for letting me speak my mind on your blog.
    I know alot of haters want to silence me but I'm sure that you're a proponent of FREE speech and allow all sides to be heard.
    So many wimps don't allow people to “rock the boat” on their blog but I applaud your courage to let people be heard.
    I'm sure your patience has limits too but I wanted to take a quick second to recognize your ability to be tolerant and fair.

    Your blog is the best!

    By the way – disregard my e-mail to you about having difficulty posting on your blog.
    It looks like I was able to push it through. Thanks for fixing the problem.

  57. Thanks for your comments NRIndian. Yes, I am a proponent of free speech. This blog is just like Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park in London. All views are welcome and will be published. The only regret I have is I don’t like name calling. For Example:

    Non Reliable Indian (from Kiran)
    Non Remarkable Indian (from A)
    New Reformless (spineless) non Indian (from Kiran)
    @A-hole (from you)

  58. I can identify with the frozen memory you mention.

    I'm glad that time will leave some threads untouched so we can revert to them at a time of our own choosing, and have those moments recall us to 'then'.

  59. Thanks for your comments Anil. And, welcome to my blog. You are right. Time will leave some threads untouched.

    Anil, please visit here as often as you can. Thanks.

  60. N R Indian,

    I really thought you were using that name. It was not intentional.

    About this discussion, you are constantly taking what other write and make your own argument with distortion and taking it out of context instead of adding any value. So before I spend too much time, answer these question (just specific questions)

    1. Do you think happiness is material comfort?
    (Yes or No)

    2. Do you the meaning of US Declaration of Independence?

    (Yes or No)

    3. If you answer 'yes' to 2, explain it here please.

    4. Do you know exact divorce rates in the USA?
    (Yes or No)

    5. Do you know how many USA people see a shrink every week?
    (Yes or NO)

  61. hiii!

    this 'bhraman' thing still happens with me many times :)

  62. Very true. It is somewhat a culture shock when NRIs visit India. And for that matter, even when I visit a locality in my own city ,after a few years, I cannot recognise the place.

  63. Wonderful write up SG.
    I like the phrase 'frozen memories' per se :)
    And my long time crush now looks SO different, I can barely recognize him. I'd rather freeze my memories :D

  64. Thanks for your comments AS. Happens to you too?

  65. Thanks for your comments Radha. yes, we all experience frozen memories.

  66. Thanks for your comments Shruthi. Long time crush? Tell him. Don't just freeze your memories.

    I am glad you liked this post.

  67. @ New Reformed Indian...

    Dude, like SG I too is not into name calling but I cannot help commenting on your comments...

    If you are an Indian as I believe, then it is India which made you capable to settle in USA. If you are born and brought up in USA and your parents are Indians then still it is India behind your success....

    My parents are not as fashionable or educated or technosavy like us but they will never cease to be my parents. I love them with all my heart and is not ashamed of any of their innocent actions which might not fit with mine or my kids style anymore. They are still and will always be my parents. I wont wish to exchange my parents after seeing my friend's Dad or Mom who are more fashionable, capable or rich. That is the way for us with our Motherland too.

    I love my India with all its imperfections. I live and work in another country now but will return one day to my motherland. I am here to make money and do what ever I could for this country but home is India for me...

    You know what... I feel you are laughing at us and you really are not like your words here...

  68. It is so true, I see the NRIs dressing in away popular in India in 70's:)

  69. wow ..nice post.Thanks for enlightining me with the concept of "frozen memories".We all have these frozen memories which are always kept frozen over the time.

  70. The same thing happened to me the last time I visited EL Salvador in Central America(my country of birth). Everything seemed different, new buildings, people had different life styles. I felt that after being away for years from my place of birth; it made me feel that so much had change there that I didn't feel part of my country anymore. It was sad to have that feeling. Here in the USA I feel that sometimes I don't belong and then that day when I visited the city San Salvador it felt like I didn't belong at San Salvador either.