Every time I go back to visit my parents in Lucknow, India, I feel as though the city is changing beyond recognition. Every year, historic mansions give way to multi-story shopping malls. Ford and Chevy SUVs cram the already crowded streets. Roadside scrap dealers, street vendors, housemaids... everyone has a cell phone now. Cash-rich Indians dress up to go to McDonald's and Pizza Hut as they become new landmarks in the city.
This summer, when I was walking around town, I found out that my favorite chai shop now sells beer and wine, but no more chai. Disappointed, I walked some more and saw someone smiling at me. It was my old tailor, who recognized me and invited me in. I noticed he didn't have a measuring tape around his neck. His shop looked different, more upscale. He told me tailoring is not his main focus anymore. He handed me a shirt with the American brand Arrow on the collar. "I sell readymade garments now," he said with a grin. I was happy to see him doing well, but sorry to see his old profession die.
A few days later, I was sitting in my parents' living room, watching my daughter glued to "Dora the Explorer" on their flat-screen TV. For a second, I thought I was back in America, but I was soon reminded I was still in Lucknow when all of a sudden darkness filled the room. Power cut!
Now that I really am back in the US, I often have dreams that mix up place and time, and I wake up wondering where I am-India or America?
Today, I woke up to find my daughter watching Dora the Explorer on a flat-screen TV. I sat in my bed and looked on, dazed. After a few seconds I realized she was watching TV in my living room in South Bend, Indiana-her show was playing, no power cut here.
And then, I thought about Lucknow. It is still home to me, but it's definitely not the city I left ten years ago.