Making Maggie (instant noodles) Reminds Me of Home — Karishma Shah
NAME Karishma Shah
ROLE Assistant Director of Marketing at the Whitney Museum
BIRTH CITY Mumbai
CITIES LIVED IN Mumbai, New York
What made you move to a new city?
I came to New York to visit my nieces and my family on a vacation for twenty days. I was in the middle of switching jobs in Mumbai, where I grew up, and spent 24 years of my life. At that moment because I was in a transition phase, I figured it’s a perfect time to explore America. Once I was here my sister kept pushing me to move here because she would then have a sibling close to her. Essentially, the twenty-day vacation turned into an additional month to see if I could find a job, and I found one, so I never went back. It wasn’t the most ideal job at that moment but it felt like a good opportunity, a different experience right for me at that time. And I just went for it!
Was it challenging for you to move here?
When I moved here I didn't really realize what I was doing because it was all very spontaneous. I always had my sister around just a train ride from here. I had my nieces whom I met and immediately felt like home. And my parents keep visiting every six months. So family has always been around when I needed them. Till date, it's been five years now since I moved, I make it a point to call my mom on FaceTime every weekend, even if it's just a 5-minute call and we’re talking about the weather. But the biggest things that I miss are my friends. I spent my whole life until I was 24 years in India and had built a strong base of friends. I constantly call them, we’re in touch every single day, and I share the smallest things with them.
Of course I found new friends here, but again your childhood friends can never be replaced.
What gives you a feeling of home in New York?
Some silly things that I keep doing, like making Maggie (instant noodles), reminds me of home. It reminds me of my friends.
Every time we used to go out in Mumbai and we had a long night, one thing that we all agreed to do after was to make Maggie. It has to have the perfect amount of water. It cannot be super soupy because I don't like that. I add the masalas (Indian spices) that my mom specifically sent for me from India. Then add a whole tablespoon of butter, which I’ll throw in there and a little bit of salt. That's how I like it. I like to make it spicy and have the perfect balance between it being dry but also a little bit soupy.
Being around people I love is what makes home for me. It’s not the physical things, that couch is not going to give me life. My fiancée’s family and my own family matter most to me when I am here.
How did you meet your fiancée?
Mumbai and New York have a lot similarities — it's the similar kind of craziness. So in some ways when I just moved to New York it felt exactly like home. You have people pushing you on the streets of Mumbai, and you’re struggling to get through the crowd. In New York, it’s the same! However, in Mumbai I had my strong foundation around me, so yes, there were times in New York when I felt lonely. It was a struggle to meet new people. Especially during the weekends when people are usually going out, I would stay at home, read a book or watch a movie all by myself because I didn’t really have that core group of people.
I never imagined myself being on a dating app because when you compare it to a country like India, dating apps weren’t the norm and have just become popular right now. You meet people through mutual friends in India. A dating app was the last thing that I had thought I would do. I don't know what happened, but the next thing I know, I was swiping right and swiping left. I went on a couple of dates, thought it was an absolute disaster. Two years later after I decided to go on Bumble and that's where I found my fiancée.
How do you make yourself feel at home here?
I know there are certain things that I'd like to have in my house that my fiancée and I build for us that takes me back to my Mumbai home. Even though I'm not a religious person at all, I would like to recreate something that my dad had in our living room — a small space for different gods. That would be a way for me to remember home. Along with that, other small things like celebrating Diwali.
I’ve celebrated Christmas for the last five years, and I would like to celebrate Diwali as well, as a way to bring back little traditions that I left behind.
Is there anything special that you’ve carried from home?
I came here on a vacation and decided to stay. My mom parceled 24 years of my life in five boxes. I was surprised — Is that it? Is this all my life? That was refreshing to see. I think the most important thing within those boxes was my folder with all my certificates and report cards that showed my achievements. That’s a folder I always have with me.
Do you have memories of your first childhood home?
My childhood home is the same apartment my parents still live in. We have three rooms and my parents decided to have four kids. As a result, I had three other siblings that I had to share my room with. A big room that all four of us stayed in. We had a bunk bed that all of us have used it at some point. Initially it was one of my sisters and my brother, then it was my sisters, then when one of my sisters moved, my brother and I moved to the bunk bed. It was a complete scramble. There are so many memories linked to that room. We have shared secrets, have hated each other, have also hated the fact that we are siblings and wanted to get away from each other, and at the same time come together to have a lot of fun. So it’s always nice to go back to that house and reminisce.