Friday, December 18, 2009

ALL FOR ASAFOETIDA........My Saga of Hing

ALL FOR ASAFOETIDA........My Saga of Hing



My love for Asafoetida has been inherited by me from my dear Late Mother.Not only Asafoetida, she gave me love for all spices, Green and Red peppers, Ginger, Garlic, Onions or whatever. But on top of the chart stands Asafoetida or HING as we call in most of the Indian languages.

She was the one who taught me how to test Hing and how to use it in daily cooking.
She did not cook often as we had a full time cook, but when she did, we knew she was cooking by the aroma of Hing.

I used to hunt for Real Asafoetida every year as slowly people had started using milder compounded versions which had no life in them.No matter what, I would always get the real Heera Hing, "The Raw" Asafoetida Resin from anywhere.

So When it was time to leave India for good (My sabbatical of 3.5 years was getting over as permitted by INS), I had two major worries on my mind.
One was to land a job in US and the other was getting my quota of Asafoetida(Hing) into USA.

My another worry was getting best Hing from Iran-Afghan border belt which is reported to yield best quality white /cream coloured Hing .

I had informed my Marwadi supplier Mahesh Provisions stores owner that he should try and get me the best possible hing as I wanted to take it to the USA.

About two weeks before my departure , I was informed by him that he had received the best possible real Hing supplied by Heera Hing people from Amritsar/Delhi.

I reached his shop and when I was shown the content of tin container, I was just dumb struck.
Never had I seen such fresh and real White Hing from Iran. And here was a tin full of 10 kgs of choicest real Hing. The rates had come down from 6000 rupees per kilo to 2500 per kilo.

I bought 250gms of Hing which could last me for over 2 to 3 years.(So you can imagine the strength of the Hing). I took a whiff of the sample and to my surprise, I burped. This is a sure sign of real hing.

When time came to pack my prized possession, I carefully packed it in triple layer of plastic and then the whole thing went into poly propylene container which was sealed by me using liberal length of tape.

I don't know what made me not add it to my checked in baggage. I removed it from my luggage and kept it in un accompanied baggage which was to come through DHL.I think I was afraid that all our clothes and bag's contents will smell of Asafoetida. And that's why I , at the last moment decided to put it in DHL parcel.

My friends sent the DHL parcel after a couple of days after my departure from Bangalore.

Soon after reaching Detroit from Boston , I received a call from my Son In Law that the boxes numbering three had arrived. The DHL had cleared two boxes and the third box could not be cleared as customs had refused to clear it and had kept for closer inspection.The boxes that were received at home did not have Hing in it. So my Son In Law concluded that the detained box was detained because of the Hing and spices packed in them.

Next day, I received a call that the customs had asked for the detailed list of the box. I sent the list by fax .
There was a silence from Boston for two days.
I started getting all sorts of morbid thoughts. I could not sleep due to the fact that the Hing had originated in Iran-Afghan region which is also infamous for Opium, Heroine and drugs. What if the drug paddlers had used strong smelling hing as camouflage to hide drugs to mislead customs?
What if some traces were still there in my asafoetida?
What if the dogs at the airport of Boston had sniffed it out from my parcel?
In fact I was really scared.

All of a sudden, there was a call in the afternoon from Boston that the customs wanted my passport copy and my green card copy and also my Social security card copy.

This demand made my heart miss many many beats and I was , for the first time, Shit scared. My son talked to DHL lady and protested about social security card and gave only the number and rest of the demands were met by fax.

Again there was a silence of couple of days . These two days were sheer torture. I was under fire from my wife, son, daughter and who not?
They said I must be crazy to bring Asafoetida to US, everything was available here , and what was the need to bring Hing?
I had no answers to their questions.

Again on one Monday, there was a call from DHL saying ," No sir, mere Social security number won't do, Customs want the photocopy of the card."
This was the last straw on camel's back.
I was now certain that some son of a dog had made it certain that I should go to jail in USA for importing drugs laced spice called Asafoetida.
Maine Minnat bhi maan li, Bhagwan ko bola ki sab thik ho jaayega to Guruwar ka upwas rakhunga." etc etc.
The whole family was looking at me with sheer disbelief that a man can do such a thing like importing Hing...and that too real Hing and get caught for it?

Evert time there was a sound of 911 passing near the house (it was many many times), I would think that the US police has come to invite me to be their guest.They will surely deport me after passing some time in jails. What will happen then etc etc. Such morbid thoughts were not leaving my mind.

To be honest, my visits to the loo in those two days increased as I developed loose motions because of the fear.
I faxed the copy of ss card and waited with prayers on my lips and chanting sahastra nama.My face had gone pale and spirits were at the lowest ebb.
I just could not sleep in the night .

There was no news from Boston till next day after noon.
The phone rang.... and my heart again missed many beats. I thought that there can't be any other news but bad news.

My son in law was on the line.
He said, " Papa, there was a call from DHL and the lady told that they had come to deliver the parcel and since no one was at home, they can collect the same from their office"

I have never been more relieved in my life than that day..
So I learnt a lesson.....If you want to bring Hing from India, never bring it in unless you are prepared to bring it with you in your checked in baggage in original packing. The lesson I have not learnt is, I should not try to bring Hing into US. For Hing, I will do anything .

At last, I got the parcel in my hands after a wait of another 4 days making it in total 24 days. I opened the box and checked if they had seized the Hing container or left it intact for me....Ahhaaa....It was safe and is safe still. I can rest easy for another 2 years and enjoy Hing to my heart's content...sorry stomach's content.


  1. A nice story! Gosh I could just imagine all the thoughts going through your mind! Actually, I have read other stories on the net similar to yours!

  2. Jennifer,

    If you have read on other portals or communities, if this is the story you have read, then it is my story posted by me with different handles like Nichiro, NJA, TLG etc.

    You should have been in my place. O God, I will never forget those three weeks. LOL

    Hemant Trivedi

  3. Now, i was planning to send karivaeppilai with my daughter...I don't was a University student going thro' this. I shall refrain from sending her anything. I went along similar emtions just reading this post! But I am glad for you that your two years quota of hing is home intact.

  4. Thank you for your posts, Mr. Trivedi. Today, I contacted Mahesh provisions. Heera hing is available for Rs. 4000 per kg. The adulterated hing which is available in shops here, has gum arabic which causes a bloated stomach when consumed. I managed to find pure hing, all thanks to you!