Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why did I move back to India?

In a horrible mood today.

I wonder why I ever bothered to move back.

It's so easy to let matters get out of control.

Doing it amongst a billion insensitive people makes it a billion times more amazing experience. Yahoo...!!

However, the most important question - why are all my organs dancing on hot coals?

The country that is host to the largest population of homeless children in the world despite being a supposedly growing economy dreaming of world power has to be a country of callous people...

Stop feeling this absurd surprise already! empty spleen sure feels good!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Romancing India's East Coast...

...Ok, the title is rather misleading, scavenging is more like it! Scavenging for a decent place to rent as a short let in the refuse heap of Vishakapatnam Real Estate.

...The jewel of the East Coast, where the thickly wooded Eastern Ghats and the cerulean blue waters of the Bay of Bengal romance each other for miles together along with stunning white beaches and startling black rocks...

...Where a city, who's earliest written records go back to roughly the 5th century BC is being raped to death in the 21st century...

...Where entire hills are being decimated to build massive, soul-less apartment buildings and garish resorts because people are seemingly too boorish to comprehend either ecology or aesthetics...or they truly believe that leaving behind a legacy of blood money from a destroyed earth is better than leaving behind a beautiful earth to their descendants...

And then there's Venkat, a funny, sweet guy, honest to a fault, ruefully presiding over his real estate business and collection of brokers, deflecting his chagrin over the sad state of affairs with cynical humor...

...Looking over the umpteenth newly built apartment, this one somewhere in the far vicinity of the sea, on the 5th floor of a building, I am standing on the balcony feeling paralyzingly claustrophobic when he comes out,

"You even have a little bit of sea-view in the distance" he points out and then "but to enjoy that you have to first see this"...turning my attention to the massive open drain filled with fetid liquid ( I can't call it water) and garbage, sluggishly trying to flow past the apartment..."Whew! Thanks Venkat!"

On the other side of the same building, within a short distance, beyond a few buildings, is one of the many hills, thick and green rising up straight from the earth like a gloomy warrior watching over the death of his troops...and I ask him,

"Are there any apartments right next to the hills?" and he bursts out laughing...

"No! but don't worry, the tiger comes to the city these days, SO YOU  don't need to go that far!"

Here's wishing the beautiful land of Vishakha a posse of man eating tigers to eat up all the "developers" responsible for greedily destroying their home...

...and I think I finally found a home as well, a small apartment in an older building across from the beach, which currently looks like a haunted house with a particularly impish ghost in residence but once cleaned up and done up should make for a charming living space, at least, that is my fond hope of the moment...we'll see...

Moving back to India is proving be very like experience of extremes!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too disappointed for words India...

I came in this morning intending to follow up on a suggestion given by blogger Kunal in the comment section of my previous blog post, to write about the 10 things that make R2I worthwhile, I like the idea because it is both interesting, as well as an exercise in happy thoughts ...but was brought up short by the results of a Newsweek Survey that I happened to see online.

The survey was conducted to find out the worst countries in the world for women and India ranked as one of the very worst...not quite but very close to the top ten worst countries. Of the 165 countries surveyed in order of women's status, India ranked 141...falling behind our neighbors Nepal and Myanmar, politically chaotic countries like Libya and Syria and impoverished ones like Haiti and Malawi...

(I mention the countries compared above to reflect that women's status, unlike popular belief, does not have much to do with the political/economical/religious reality of a country...instead it is culture and societal norms, values, mores and expectations that well, something's rotten in the culture of India)

There goes my happy thoughts for the day! Sigh...maybe I'll come back and attempt the R2I post sometime later...after  the disappointment over this "status quo" has somewhat faded...

Also, this one has me in a puzzle, so any thoughts, reflections, comments, opinions would be really appreciated!

P.S. DH (Dear Husband) is of the opinion that this is very to be precise, the question is, What makes this country such a difficult place for women and why?

Friday, September 23, 2011

My country messing with my mind...

All my antiquated notions about child labor took a hike after watching the kids who sometimes fill in for my house maid, at work in my house.

When my first maid first sent in her son and niece ahead of her to do her job, I was annoyed. They were kids, they had just come back from school and according to my lofty ideals, they were not supposed to be doing housework...then they began to "work".

We had just moved in and there was hardly any furniture in the lots of open space...the bathroom with it's shower board with the numerous buttons was their pleasure dome...between getting soaked cleaning the bathroom, scampering all over the apartment and me in the process of cleaning it, trying to teach me Gujarati and having me teach them English words, they had a royal cleaning!!...Now how could I have put a stop to this saying I don't want kids working in my house? Would they even understand where I was coming from or would I have simply been an uptight Bi.....?

The next instance was when my current maid took french leave and I asked our apartment building cleaner if she could come in for a day or two...she said she was busy but she would send in her came this little 9th grader with a big smile and cheerfully cleaned up the day she brings her even tinier little sister with an even bigger smile and the two did the work together. They go to school but they take in such work for after school and weekends. They are obviously from a very poor family and are very proud of being able to contribute to the family income in their spare time. The little one even proved herself to be quite the "take initiative" kind of person by asking me if our regular maid cleaned the bathrooms, if not, could she get that job! Hmmm...I guess I shouldn't be surprised she zeroed in on the bathroom of all things!

So yeah, if I had turned them away from doing a job they are actually good at (unfortunate perhaps but still good at it...)and gives them some extra income to maybe buy books or something,  am I doing them good or harm?

I suppose I am still against kids being taken out of school to work full time but I wonder, if I get an intimate look into their lives, thoughts and feelings...if that principle would hold good as well? I don't know! 

India My certainly have a genius for complicating the simplest of principles, overturning pet notions and scattering confusion like rose leaves in bath water...

A Recap of the R2I experience...

A year and four months since I moved back to India -
Let's see how it feels...

Much of the intensity of the loss of a lifestyle is gone. Stray thoughts bother me at times...maybe when I watch a Hollywood movie or come across a favorite cold weather outfit and high heels hidden away in some corner but otherwise for the most part it is a pretty sanguine existence.

The material negotiations of life, like haggling, scolding, arguing, endlessly chasing...all feels normal again...

Traveling through insane traffic and sticky pollution is no longer the big deal it seemed to be once upon a time...if you get into an accident and only your vehicle is hurt...fling curses at each other and move on...if you are hurt, go to the nearest hospital and pay your own bills...the other person has to do the same too...if your vehicle happens to be the bigger one, regardless of whose fault it is, give the small vehicled guy/gal some money and lots of apologies and move on...and oh ! obviously if you die...Rest in Peace.

The climate feels fine too...after the grandeur of the monsoons and the pleasant warmth of winter, summer is the price you pay for enjoying the rest of the seasons...after all there's no such thing as a free lunch! So what if you go absolutely psychotic in the summer and live in fear of losing your mind and sticking a knife into somebody? As long as you don't actually do it, you are OK! 

Keep your eyes open for the heartwarming resilience of life, be it poor little children or the brilliant flowers that grow in the teeth of so much that is deadly about Urban India.

If you get tired of the politicians' embarrassing and most times downright criminal activities, remember that they are politicians and they at least are doing their jobs without us having to chase fact they are so good at it that we have to chase them to stop doing their what if we don't have the world's best athletes and the like? We have the world's best politicians!

And before I get carried away by my own cynical eloquence, let me remind myself that none of this is as bad as it least, I am free to get into traffic accidents, enjoy the seasons, revile the politicians and generally make an ass of myself to my heart's content with no fear of being stopped, either legally or violently...

R2I? Wise or let me know!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meaningless Conformity...Is that any way to live?

I think the most annoying thing about living in India is the petty stuff that comes about due to our immense cultural  diversity and differences and the godawful number of unwritten rules that make up the day to day lives of us Indians. Every culture is convinced it is the best, every person is convinced that s/he knows best how to follow what should be followed, every role is expected to be played out with inhuman perfection...and any so called transgressions are considered crimes extraordinaire...

On the surface, there's a veneer of progress but any attempts to put that progress to hard testing and it invariably collapses crushing you under its stinky weight...

Will this ever change? Will we ever go beyond our differences and culturally imposed expectations and recognize the frail humanity beneath that could so easily flourish if it were allowed to do so? Or will we continue to hold a gun to each other's heads and demand meaningless conformity?


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Good Lord! Am I in a polyandrous marriage after all???

Disclaimer: I am not obsessed with's just that I couldn't find a better analogy for this state of being! 

Ques: (Me) "Can you not come home early? Your schedule is throwing  mine off pretty badly and I cannot continue like this any longer. You used to come home early before, what happened now?"
Ans: (Cook) "No...I have work to do... places to go before I come here...excuses excuses... whine whine... and don't take tension, I will come even if I am late" (????!!!!!)

Another time, another person

Ques: (Me) "You can't keep doing the disappearing act and calling me to inform that you've already vanished from town..can you not be a bit more responsible?"
Ans: (Maid) "I am not lying, sachi..promise! Sometimes, things come up...Can I just come in sooner or later, morning or night, sometime or anytime...?" (WTF??)

Whew! A year and three months since I moved back to India and my household "help" trauma continues unabated. 

I am at my wit's end and sorely tempted to turn off the cook and after buying some appliances turn off the maid as well. But DH (Dear Husband) is a total scaredy cat when it comes to living without household help for fear that I'll play my "I am an aspiring writer" card and force him to become the "household help" by default...well, I can't blame him because that is probably what will happen anyways!

Also, to be fair to my cook and maid, they work well once they come in, I like them, trust them enough to leave my house and plants in their care when I travel and... thank God they don't know this but they are very much an integral part of my pathetic social life here...!!! All of which makes me feel like I am in some insane polyandrous marriage.

I grumble, complain, converse with them, seek their help sometimes and throw orders at them that they have no qualms about disagreeing with if they don't feel up to following on that day. I continue to let them be a part of my life no matter how frustrating their unprincipled attitude towards time - and meeting our needs the way I need them to at least most of the days - are for me. Many times I feel as though I adjust my times and days to facilitate their needs instead of the other way round. Now, if this does not sound like marriage, what does? 

You know, the state of being where it can get frustrating to constantly work at twining your life with another individual, but once you've started on that route, it feels senseless to let go unless the issues are earth shattering?Well...hobnobbing with Indian maids is kinda like that...

So here I am , a year and three months later working hard at making my relationships with my maids work...good thing DH and I had already had four years to work at our marriage before we landed here...else I shudder to think of the consequences!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Eve Teasing/Female sexual harassment in India

There was an interesting response from "Bharathiya Nari" to my previous post - titled India Bashing: Favorite tourist activity - commenting about "eve teasing" of women on the streets of India.

Why do we have this problem, this "eve teasing"? 

Three reasons;
One, our culture seeks to confine sexuality to marriage including placing intense emphasis on a women's chastity while being very forgiving of male peccadilloes; thus repressing and titillating some men...

Two, men do not have innumerable outlets like topless bars, strip clubs, peep shows etc etc (as these outlets are rightly considered distasteful in our culture) to satiate their lust at whatever level they choose. I mean, not every one is hungry all the time for the complete sex act, or always up for visiting sex workers! What if at the end of a long hard work-day, a man decides that the best way for him to de-stress is to watch a pair of bouncing boobs without being called upon to perform in return?! Yeah yeah, we have Bollywood but what if he feels that nothing beats a live act? Not that there are live acts on the Indian streets but he could use the "male gaze", I mean his X Ray eyes on live women.... everywhere else in the world, women in India too are objectified one way or the other which means they are open targets for male entertainment whenever and wherever the men choose to use their "privilege".

So does this mean legal and organized sexual entertainment for men, using a woman's weaknesses, be it moral, emotional or economical, in the form of strip clubs etc has no connotations of sexual harassment??

Aren't both eve teasing and the regulated sexual entertainment industry different symptoms of the same problem? A forgiving acceptance of uncontrolled male libido and objectification of women? Well, of course, eve teasing is not legal and not considered least in theory.

Eve teasing is another instance of a universal problem assuming a unique form in India. 

1. I am aware of the existence of male strippers, male sexual harassment by females etc...but this post is chiefly about female issues in response to the comment, not a comprehensive analyses of this topic.
2. I am not branding the entire male population as repressed or sexually uncontrolled, only those who get their joys out of eve teasing/sexual harassment.

Friday, August 19, 2011

India Bashing...Popular Tourist Activity

I think the Indian Tourism Dept should get together with our Great Indian IT Wizards and create centers of India Bashing activity for the unhappy tourist...

I have read plenty of writings written by Foreign Visitors to India, "concerned" about our various "issues"...traffic, pollution, corruption, heat, smell, etc etc. There have been some really "thoughtful" and "deep" complaints...some real "heartbreaking unhappiness" over this issue has been expressed as well. But none made much of an impact on me as listening to a writer actually read such a piece. 

Suddenly, I had this vision, of setting up India Bashing Centers (IBCs), preferably near airports and around hotels. As soon as they land on our soil and actually see soil and freak out and before this terrifies them completely along with the traffic, the air, the dogs, cows and hidden snakes, they can destroy everything potentially hostile in the world of virtual reality and create a pure, sterile India sans traffic snarls and holy cows, pollution and power cuts... in short along their own needs, in those IBCs. Maybe after this kind of cathartic activity, they'll have a better chance of being happy in India for a week or two or three whatever... we don't want our guests spending so many days of their life in unhappiness now, do we? Athithi Devodbhava and all that....

Are you wondering why listening made me so sad for their ordeal while reading didn't impact me much? While reading it in a book, no matter how evocative the writing, the tourist trauma did not come through as clearly as it did when the writer actually read it out. Can you imagine, making all those plans, spending all that money and getting to India, only to collapse in utter disbelief and discomfort? Their vacation utterly ruined! How devastating that must be to them!! We are actually making them forget their very human status by inviting them to our dirty country...if you don't believe me, pay close attention to their complaints for heaven's sake! Their misery is all encompassing...they feel so brutalized that they forget concepts like compassion, analyses, balance, cultural and lifestyle peculiarities and priorities...

How can we be so blind to their sufferings? We can't change our country unless a combination of plague, fire and earthquake (PFE) wipes out half the population, which is obviously not the alternative would be to create IBCs...with the PFE option of course, so, if they want to indulge in virtual destruction, instead of verbal destruction and jump in glee, they can do that as well!!

Monday, August 15, 2011


Studying and traveling in the UK...Oxford Uni is awesome, just doing a summer course and gaining so much from it! Tremendously enjoying the weather, the ease of getting around, the gorgeous countryside, the sights and sounds and things...everything...but it's not home! Dreading going back to my searing hot country but looking forward to it as well!!
Happy Independence Day India! You are the best...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bombay Bombing...

More bomb blasts in Mumbai. Considering they were RELATIVELY low-level, I fear if this is a forerunner of worse things to come. The crucial question? How can this be stopped?

Many people here compare the condition between India and the US, specifically the fact that after 9/11, the US has successfully prevented more attacks. Well, the stories of these two countries are entirely different. The US does not have home grown terrorists like India does...and as for the differences in systems organization and population...I really need not say anything.

The way I see it there's only two ways this situation can be resolved. The really ideal, Gandhian way would be to engage the darn militants in peace dialogues and cause a change of heart....I better stop dreaming!

The  other way as I see it...train the citizens for some kind of citizen watch. Let's be realistic, India is too vast and crowded and multicultural and contradictory and unpredictable for us to rely solely on police protection systems. Considering how easy it is for people to just disappear in the crowded streets and by lanes of cities like Mumbai, there is no other solution. It is not enough for citizens to simply be alert...especially when you don't know what form the next attack may take. People need to know what to look out for and where and how to respond if someone or something appears suspicious.

The logistics of organizing a citizen watch program may seem incredibly complex...but honestly, what other choices do we have? If it were only a question of preventing outsiders from coming in, it would have been a different matter...when the madmen are either from this country or can pass off as Indians very easily, how can they be apprehended without proactive citizen help?

Another and train the poor's foolish to expect a house cat to do a tiger's work! For instance, when I found out the pittance of  a pay that our traffic cops who spend hours on these insanely crowded, polluted city roads under this harsh sun get...I had to appreciate them for being smart enough to figure out the entire bribing system...(Who pays how much for what!...long back I once had a cop who first inquired what my monthly pay was before asking for a "fine") they can also live a comfortable life.  They even have to chuck the crappy cloth they get towards making their uniforms and end up spending their own money to get good stuff!! Not to say all cops are helpless victims of the system of course...but still...!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We really don't need to live in the past...

Another Midsummer madness...went out down with a cold, sore throat for a few days...just when I was beginning to think maybe, just maybe I am done with my sick days after all! But no big deal, it is on its way out too....
Anyways, to dispel the boredom brought about by this, DH and I visited the Calico museum, the famous textile museum of Ahmedabad. It was beyond anything lovely. Personally for me it was awe inspiring! I struggle to maintain my focus almost every few minutes when I am doing anything else other than reading and these people focussed for hours, days and years to create such beautiful pieces of cloth!. And to think they even supplied cloth for Egyptian funeral services where they buried a whole lot of household goods with their mummies and made them according to the designs provided by the Egyptians! To think foreign trade in such exquisite and highly refined ( custom made designer?) textiles has gone on for thousands of years from these shores is mind boggling. 
The guide who showed us around was knowledgeable and totally immersed in the glories of the past, extolling the virtues of the days gone by and bemoaning the sad state of people and affairs in the country today. She certainly has her points I suppose...but then life moves forward, demanding our attention and commitment to things beautiful and strange, regardless of how everything compares to everything else, past, present or future. Sometimes chaos does give way to clarity after it has destroyed a few extraneous things in its why become so hopeless and keep running back to the past? Be it individually or collectively? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

R2I Blues? Don't let the monkey out....

Coping with reverse culture shock can get messy unless you develop some  internal boundaries and let them gate-keep your emotions. There's only so much emotional excitability that a body can tolerate at any given time. Although I wouldn't go so far as to say that you need to sit down and make a list of things that you will allow yourself to be bothered about (stuff you can do something about) or not be bothered about(stuff that is really not under your control), some sort of mental exercise along these lines wouldn't hurt!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Desi Bahu...or the Indian Daughter-in-law...

Those of you conversant with what's going on in India are probably familiar with the Baba Ramdev drama. In the midst of all that hullabaloo, one line struck me forcefully as one of the many ridiculous things that continues to drag our country down. His remark about Sonia Gandhi - "She is the daughter-in-law of India, she doesn't understand her mothers and sisters".

Let me analyze this line in its entirety as it does not make sense to me...

Sonia Gandhi has made this country her home for a zillion years now, she is clearly a citizen , albeit of foriegn origin and was a prime ministerial candidate who gave up her chance to lead the country  to Dr. Manmohan Singh. To begin with, she is an individual in her own right...not solely a "daughter-in-law". But then, despite her high profile status in the country, whenever there's a political issue, she gets branded as "the daughter-in-law". If someone of her exalted status is still open to attack as the "daughter-in-law" by an equally exalted yoga guru no less, is it any wonder that women continue to suffer because of their gender in this culture?

"Daughter-in-law" of India...I am sorry but Baba you need to get your facts straight, she is not the daughter-in-law of this country, she is the daughter-in-law of the Gandhi family and an ordinary citizen of India, an "individual" who also happens to be the president of a major political party.

"She doesn't understand her mothers and sisters".....????What? Now here, I am completely lost. Why does it become her responsibility to understand the rest of the women in this country? How many people in the sphere of political activity and social activism  including Baba Ramdev himself have tried to understand this group categorized as "mothers and sisters"? Oh! Since they are not the "daughters-in-law of this country", they don't have any duties in that that it?

Ever heard of any person, political opponent or social activist, taking on the government at the center, at any point in Indian Political History, attack each other saying, you are the "son" of this country, you don't understand your fathers, brothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, dogs, cats, parrots, snakes....etc etc?

(I am leaving out the "daughter" tag because it's gonna get too tangled to explicate...for one, there are not that many compared to "sons"...for another...I would have to unearth their history to determine whether they should be referred to as "daughters" or "daughters-in-law" - because that matters right?? and it's beyond the scope of this blog article)

So who or what on earth is the concept of a daughter-in-law and/or a woman in Indian culture? An individual with the normal rights, duties, emotions and limitations that go with being a human being or a human ball of clay to be formed and reformed according to the ideas put forth by all these babas and swamis and acharyas or whatever...the so called "learned men" who wrote all those nauseating tomes about the rightful "position" of women in Indian society?

Any thoughts anybody?

P.S Women moving back to India, brace yourselves for some discomfort coming from having to negotiate with a culture that is still deeply androcentric, beginning with shamelessly demanding that women include marital details while filling out forms but does not require men to do so...etc etc.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adiga's White Tiger...Author's Pride, India's Shame...

I don't like to keep referring to books that I read because this blog is not about books...BUT just finished reading Arvind Adiga's "The White Tiger" and feel rubbished and roughed up and what not...really, may be writers should have the freedom to write and publish what they want, however writers like these need to be dropped into those dungeons that have no outlets...only entry points through holes in the ground...and oh yeah! drop all the damn books written by them in there as well...right on top of their big fat brainy heads!

Whew! That feels good...actually I could get more violent but don't want to be clapped up in a prison somewhere myself as a potential threat to the author's safety!

I wonder what the author was dreaming when he wrote this book? Is he aiming to become a Voltaire or a Rousseau and incite a modern day Indian Revolution? 

Ok forget his intention...he probably just wrote a story that was sitting in his head slowly driving him insane...may be I should ask what possessed me to pick it up and read it?

To begin with, it is a smart piece of writing worth every penny of whatever the amount of that Booker Prize was. A free flowing, easier to read version of the Dostoevskyian novel...from beginning to end the book screams, everything is because it just is and that's the way it is. Ok...the reader gets it.

What the reader also gets, especially if you happen to be an average Indian is a massive kick to the gut, a bleakness and devastation that is beyond anything you have ever known could exist. When everything from your land to the person next door to you and everything else in your life in your country is presented to you covered with dog shit and arsenic but stinking of selective truth and reality, how do you come to terms with it? 

I finished reading the book at one sitting and came out with a depression so deep, I felt I had finally achieved a state of Nirvana...the nirvana of depression. Then, came the anger. What need for him to fill pages and pages with his sense of hopelessness and flood the markets with it? Yeah I's not his hopelessness, it's the hopelessness of the poor that he's filled those pages with...however what rankles is the finality of the hopeless state. Is that all there is to life and art? A final resting place in the dungeon of despair?

Sure, the protagonist lifts himself out of his miserable state at the expense of one sure death, a few possible ones and maybe a future murder...Is this the best hope a poor man or woman has? If so, do we really need to create a work of art around it? Do we need to normalize it through non-judgmental, "realistic" writing? 

I have no quarrel with the possible reality of the picture portrayed by him. What I couldn't stand was the relentlessness of a single-minded and overwhelmingly bleak narrative that stubbornly refused to inject some sense of hope or beauty into the book. I suppose he can argue that that is how life is for a certain section of society. How real is that? Basic human nature contradicts this. No matter how difficult or harsh the life or circumstances, people find a way to find some relief, some joy, somewhere. Our survival instincts demand this...otherwise mass suicides wouldn't be uncommon. However, in this book, initially the protagonist's  joys are tainted by mere foolishness and stupidity, later by murder. That gets to me, in the entire book, there is no single instance of untainted joy or hope or happiness or even a mere lightness of spirit at any point in anybody's life. This actually makes me question the author's grasp of reality and his claim to have the authority to decipher the "real India" which apparently lies somewhere beyond current economic progress. What does he think is going on here? An economic holocaust? 

My ire boils down to this fact...writing an entire book focussed on one aspect of life, "poverty" and using it as a weapon to strike at the heart of hope and the dream of a decent life in this country is a petty war to wage against one's nation and her people in the name of exposing reality.

To quote Balram, quoting Pinky Madam, "what a fucking joke!". What a fucking joke Mr. Adiga, what a fucking joke! 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Growing Fatter and! Or where you live matters more than you think...

I am beginning to think that much of a person's ability to be productive, effective, whatever has to do with their surroundings especially the climate. Was dragged to the gym by DH yesterday, no matter how much I whined and complained about it and once there, it really came as a rude shock to me when I realized just how badly out of shape I have become since moving back to India. After 20 minutes, I had to bite my teeth, limp across to a chair and flop down carefully trying hard not to scream in pain...jeez!!

To begin with I never was much of a "gym" person but back in Cleveland, I loved working out at home and the local Metro Parks, so was in fairly good shape. Since moving here, my motivation levels are below zero. I simply feel too hot and lazy to lift a finger...forget working out. 

Going to the gym also gave me a chance to actually see myself in an alien mirror (which has become rare of late as I have given up shopping) where I looked so ghastly and unhealthy that I couldn't believe it was me! At home, looking at ourselves in our own friendly, gotten used to for a while mirrors, we never look as bad as we truly are I think! Strange mirrors have a way of shocking you out of your complacency! 

The final Piece De Resistance that I tried to prevent myself for indulging in but some kind of sick fascination with my deterioration led me to - the weighing scale - showed that I am slowly but steadily gaining those dreaded pounds.

The worst thing of response....ah! Who cares? It is too hot to do anything...this city probably has to be the shittiest possible place that breathing spaces, no beautiful outskirts so to speak of...once read in the paper that this city is either the 1st or 2nd ranking place in India for lifestyle not surprised at all. Soon, I'll probably be one of those "lifestyle diseases" statistic too....ah who is too hot to do anything and anyways there are good hospitals here, albeit expensive!!

So dearies...planning to move back to India? Start with your requirements, absolute must haves in terms of climate, city amenities, pleasant living in clean, pure, unspoiled settings (for this you may just have to move to Bhutan not India) anyways....what I mean to say is try to move to a place where you feel motivated to live and won't spend the better part of your days becoming a "who cares?" philosopher!!

To end on a reasonable note, there's pros and cons everywhere. For instance,  electricity is not a problem in Gujarat, no power cuts/failures etc which is a huge blessing in a place where life literally depends on AC systems least for those who can afford it - the flip side of the coin...these very same things are increasing atmospheric heat.

Away from the city, the heat is intolerable but does not feel as lethal...makes me wonder, would it have been truly impossible for us to develop eco-friendly ways to deal with the heat instead of compounding the problem with heat generating climate control systems? In this case, we only had to look at history...after all, people lived, survived and thrived in this climate for centuries before electricity came in to save our lives!!

So life goes on in this blessed manner...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Killed by a speed bump? Do we really need to use our money to rain sorrows down our heads?

I woke up this morning to read some really sad news in the newspaper. Four young engineering students from wealthy families crashed an Audi and two of the kids ended up dead.

I couldn't help but question, what on earth were they thinking? Well, obviously they were not thinking....

Back in the US, for a while I used to drive a Subaru Impreza WRX, manual transmission. I still remember how we ended up buying the car. One boring weekend, because we had no plans and because DH loves cars, we decided to take in the auto show at the Cleveland IX center. Once there, we immediately fell in love with the Subaru the totally uninterested one in cars fell hook, line and sinker for that one and encouraged DH to get rid of his beat up old Honda Accord and buy this car. I used to drive a sedate Honda Civic at that time. Well, first of all an STI was impractical for our needs and secondly we couldn't even dream of affording it and so bought the Impreza WRX instead, as the next best choice. After DH left for India, we sold the Honda Civic and the Subaru was entirely mine.

Initially I found the sheer exuberant power of that car intimidating but eventually, I fell in love with it so much that it was a wrench to part from it when I left the US. In fact I can get quite maudlin and talk about all the drives my car and I took together and thoroughly of the finest being tooling it around the curving, mountainous highways of West-Virginia. However, right from the beginning, I was conscious of its power and was careful to both give it its head and not take liberties unless I was absolutely sure of my skills in handling it on any fun or difficult stretch. Looking back I guess I was old enough and experienced enough to not lose my head and do something wild that would turn out to be a foolish risk, nothing more.

Coming back to these kids, the Audi is a powerful car for our Indian roads with its massive traffic, unusual occupants like dogs and cows and infernal speed bumps. These kids were driving along at 2.00 AM,on an empty stretch of city road, did not spot a speed bump, hit it full speed , the car flew high in the air and crashed, mangling itself and killing two of them.

Makes me wonder, do we really need to use our money so recklessly? I know this  is talking after the fact but   should young testosterone driven kids be indulged with stuff that's beyond their true understanding as they have neither the experience nor the patience for caution and forethought? Isn't it ridiculous that two kids on the threshold of life die on an empty stretch of road within the city limits because they didn't understand their car and didn't spot the speed bump? Killed by a speed bump? What can be sadder than that? And no, they were not drunk or high or anything like that.

I am beginning to think there's more to the traditionalists' claim of diluting our culture than what meets the eye. In some ways it worked in the past when parents were strict and the kids did not have a freedom that they were not capable of using responsibly. But then, most parents did not have the kind of disposable income that they have now to indulge their kids either!

So the question, how much freedom is too much freedom? Is it really necessary to spend money thoughtlessly because we have it and end up with heartaches and heartbreaks? How will the parents of these kids come to terms with such foolish tragedy?

For those of you planning your move back to India, please don't remain focussed on recreating your past lives here! The realities are far too different for life to flow along the same lines as it did on the other side of the world or any other country you might be coming from. But that doesn't mean you cannot be equally happy here. You can, if you work with the differences instead of going against it!

And now...let me go try to practice what I am preaching...working with the differences instead of against it....

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Is it my choice after all? To settle down or not settle down?

It has been a year since we moved back to India. However, the feeling of being a repatriate continues. I am beginning to think that this just might be a lifelong "feeling". On the other hand, being back here is beginning to feel good too. What a confusing mess this process is! Despite all this feelings I talk about, I can't for the life of me say that I am happy to have moved back or still unhappy about having moved back! 

It's not all about feelings either. Even, as I consider and compare lifestyles, vocational requirements etc, I still see how being here, makes everything a little harder, a little more difficult, somewhat crazy, sometimes impossible etc. On the other hand, I seem to be slowly growing into this personality who, if not able to do something to change the circumstances, can change shapes to accommodate myself within that circumstance, whatever it is.

Is this a positive aspect? I don't know. Am I truly making peace with it or compromising for now, which might just result in an outburst later?...I don't know that either.

But strangely, ask me, do I want to move back to the US now?...and I'll say no. Do I still miss living there? Yes I do. So, how does one make sense of this?

I am telling myself that this is just another step in the process of getting reoriented and settling down in one's home country after being away for a while. Maybe, just maybe, when I am writing here after another year has gone by, I'll be saying...yeah! this is where I want to be, in India and in no other corner of this earth!

As I write this, I am beginning to realize, it need not be that random or "happened to me" kind of event after all. Maybe I have the choice to work towards making that happen - towards putting myself in a place, or creating a state of being within me, where I am truly content to settle down here and put down my roots. Maybe in this journey of repatriation, I still haven't reached the place where I can make that choice...yet...but soon, I might just get there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

First rains and spiritual joys...

It rained yesterday. I woke up from my afternoon nap to find the world enveloped in a pearly pink haze and the wind blowing strong, chasing immense amounts of dust in all different directions. And then, it rained. The first rains, especially in this part of the country feels so unbelievably glorious that you feel as though you've suddenly broken through the gates of hell and reached heaven!! Ok...too much exaggeration maybe and I don't really know what that feels like anyways...but truly, you not only feel a lift in your mood but also sense your entire body, mind and soul rejoicing in the event...the strength probably comes from the fact that every creature around here, human being, animal, bird or reptile is happy when the rains begin. It is almost like collective spiritual joy and you crave to squeeze out every last bit of beauty from it. The feel of it, the smell of it, the taste of it, the sight of it....

Sadly it ended almost before it began around my place...apparently on the outskirts of the city it rained a lot.

Can't think of many things in life that induce such an exquisite feeling of joy and wellbeing like the first rains after a torrid summer in the arid regions of Western India. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

What is home? Is it a personal concept or a political one?

I was up half the night reading Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna and was captivated by her vivid descriptions and fast paced plot. It being historical fiction set in my hometown of Coorg, I was further intrigued by the fascinating glimpses this book provided on the development of Coorg under European but chiefly British influence, their club culture, pioneering coffee plantation, influence on language, food and costumes but most of all their gift of education. Despite all this bonhomie between the colonizers and locals, albeit with lingering superiority on the part of the colonizers and distrust and equally lingering superiority amongst the locals, generations of Europeans continued to make Coorg their home, until the Nationalist movement and impending freedom from British rule, wrenched the connection apart and the Europeans left en-mass.

It made me wonder the question of "home", again. What is home? The Coorg-European relationship was free from formal struggle and surrender, the Coorgs having actually invited the British in as an ally against Tipu Sultan who was hellbent on not only annexing Coorg for Mysore State but even went in for forced conversions of Coorgs into Islam. So, despite starting off as allies, the relationship ended pretty much the same as it did everywhere else when India gained independence. The Europeans were the outsiders and they had to get. out. now. Seemingly, nothing that they had done over a few generations, qualified towards them considering Coorg their home as well. 

I am not romanticizing the colonizers here. Political supremacy and racial superiority as a collective evil did exist. However, beneath all this, there was also the matter of simple human connection, relationships built on shared land, society and economics. How easily that seems to have disappeared in the face of political freedom!

Why am I obsessing about this question of home?Well for one, I have been pondering this question ever since I first became an expat in the US and continued to ponder the question when I moved back as a repatriate. For another, home truly seems to have become an amorphous concept today.

Today, in the modern world, moving around from place to place in search of security and stability with even international borders feeling porous, what is home? Can any place where we settle down and be productive be called home? If this is so, then is there a place in our life for our heritage?

The Europeans had to get out of Coorg, because no matter what goodies they brought into the land, their heritage branded them as outsiders. Does this attitude hold good even today?

Although, individually we do not take up significant political space when we "move" to another country, will collective appropriation of economic space be considered consuming political space by default and thus come across as undesirable at some point? Does this mean, the meaning of home will always be in a state of flux changing with shifting fortunes and attitudes?

What is home? Any ideas, anybody?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Of Gandhiji and life in the check-out lane...

I was out shopping for groceries yesterday, deliberately chose a weekday morning as weekends are a downright bedlam in stores like Reliance and Big Bazaar. Then, I realized I had forgotten to count in the stay at homers...the stay at home, home-maker and mommy brigade was out in full force....oooooops!! I am a stay at homer too, aren't I??? Dang Dang!! Anyways...

The store was choke full of women, some with their houseboys (young male, jack of all trades live in servant) in tow piling their carts with enough fruit, vegetables and dry goods to outlast a famine but the ultimate joke was one such lady at the check out counter. Her cart looked as though she was planning on feeding a houseful of wedding guests, the amount of cash in her hand and the bored looking houseboy beside her did not by any means scream that she lacked for money...but she held up the line for a full half hour after her stuff had been priced and packed, haggling over the total, a couple coupons in hand and a bag of sugar going back and forth between her and the cashier. The coupons were worth a hundred rupees by the way, but her total bill was undoubtedly somewhere in the thousands. 

The lines were serpentine in every counter and the others and I in this line just kept waiting, thinking at least her stuff has been checked out, so there's no point in moving to the end of another long line - and ended up irritated and tired. At one point, I wondered if I should step in and ask her to stop haggling and leave, I mean, if she is that fond of saving every penny and bargaining for her rights, she shouldn't be shopping in a busy supermarket...she would be better off going to one of those veggie vendors whose prices go down dramatically the more you buy from them and the the local kirana stores where she can quibble and haggle to her heart's content while the shop fellow engages with her and serves ten other customers at the same time. He doesn't have to worry about fancy cashier machines, that won't let the cashier in a supermarket multi-task but accepts only one payment at a time!

But of course I did not do any such thing, can you imagine the fracas that would have resulted if I had done so? In a minute there would be a mob, two parties and for lack of stones to pelt( stone pelting is very hot on the hot streets here this summer) we would start pelting packets of potato chips and bottles of juice, both being the handiest items near the check out counter!

More and more, as the days go by in this hot hot summer, I tire of city life and look for ways to simplify. It is ironic that I should live in the city that houses Gandhi Ashram and dream of a simple life but remain absolutely clueless on how to make it happen here. But then again, the only simple spot in this city is the Gandhi Ashram. If you go in there and walk around the large open grounds, stand by the banks of river Sabarmati and take in the cool simplicity of the buildings standing under the shade of beautiful old trees it's hard to believe that life can or should be anything but simple living and high thinking like Gandhiji advocated. Then, you come out of the ashram gates to be stared at by the glaring face of  21st century, urban India and thoughts of simplicity simply flee like frightened rabbits...

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The New India...Where a Millionaire's daughter is my maid...???

It's been a long time since I wrote something here. Having fallen into a lethargy brought about by this stunning heat and focussed on survival and future plans, words kinda disappeared from my life...until today!

My maid came in requesting that I allow her to change her timings from morning to evening for a few days as she is busy scouting for a house that her father would buy for her. Ok, sounds reasonable...and then she goes on to say, he sold some land for a few million fact just a little short of a million dollars and check this out, he only sold half his land!! So of course his darling daughter gets a house and some 50 odd tolas (don't ask me for conversions, the mind boggles simply at the thought of calmly paying cash for all this stuff) of gold, her older sister already owns three houses so she gets some 100 odd tolas of Gold.

Ok...and that's not all, apparently her brother has been dealing in gold bullions and has had some stacked up already so his sisters need not look far to buy their mighty tolas of gold. And then she says, I kept meaning to ask you if you wanted to buy gold from my brother but I feared that "Bhaiya" meaning DH, would wonder what these people are upto approaching me to buy gold....well I don't know what he would think about them but he would definitely be concerned for me if I suddenly started talking about buying gold bars and biscuits! When our house was burgled last year my first thought was for my "antique looking" Nataraj statue, thoughts of my gold only came much later but on the other hand my dear, I do have a lot of dreams and plans that require a lot of cold hard cash. So may be you could convince your "papa" to start a interest free, take as long as you want to pay back loan business!!! I would definitely sign up for that!!

All this while, she was calmly doing my dishes and was about start on my clothes....yeeks, the clothes I wear these days, especially my home-wear Ts are old, worn out, shabbily out of shape with a hole or two...simply because they are the most comfy clothes I can find to wear in this atrocious weather...hmmm, should I explain that to her? I mean, she might be thinking, forget buying gold, this woman seems to be unable to buy clothes even...Good God!  What a sobering, saddening thought!

On a serious note, this is actually a common phenomena here these days...rural farmers and landowners are becoming millionaires overnight due to the urban sprawl hiking up land prices in the surrounding areas. The developers of course make obscene amounts of money so in comparison what these people receive is probably a pittance and the implications of this kind of progress...better left un-thought! But then again, who said progress and development is clean, cool and is a messy messy process and that's where we stand now as a country and a more thing to ponder over if you wish to move back. Do you have the patience to live in a messily progressing country? Or are you too comfortable in an already developed environment? A maid with a millionaire father is a non-issue compared to everything else that you have to get used to when you move back.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Bleakness in Summer...

A year ago, I was under the impression that nothing could be bleaker than the endless winters of Cleveland, Ohio. The bitter cold and grayed out sunless skies that would last for days together gave you this eerie feeling of being buried alive. Until today...
The doctor tells me that my problem is inability to adjust to this climate as the temperature's steadily soaring...he gave me more medications and advised me to take it slow, stay home, drown myself in drinks (the non-alcoholic kind!) inside and out and stay out of the sun...
So, essentially he is telling me I am going into a decline because of the heat and I need to spend the next how many ever days mollycoddling myself...if that means till the end of summer I am dead...From the endless winters of Cleveland to the endless summers of Ahmedabad...What a life!! Be careful what you wish for dearies, all that wishing for sunshine that I indulged in over the last few years in the US has been granted me with one big bang right now and boy does it hurt!!
So the next few months I am scheduled to stay home...and do what else? Read myself blind I suppose! I felt buried alive in Cleveland but I am truly buried alive here...Hmmmm maybe it's time for me to get out of here....Can't believe that the land I grew up in is turning against me with a vengeance...sighhh....

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Polyandry Advocacy Club Anybody?

...Shocked? Scandalized? Read on Dahlings!!

In my previous post, I moaned n groaned about a possible typhoid relapse. After waiting out the mandatory 48 hours with my fever showing no sign of loving me any less, we went back to the doctor today...I was expecting a typhoid relapse verdict and was all set to work on kicking the little bugs(gers) out of my system again and the doc states it doesn't look like's probably something else!! So after shelling out some more bodily fluids for some more tests we came back home...results will be out in the evening.

Anyways, to get back to my point...

I spent the past couple days home alone alternately starving my fever and throwing things at it (read pills) as DH had to go out of town on business. illnesses dare not be an excuse for him to cancel his plans anymore as they are too much and too frequent...after all somebody's got to pay my medical bills! And make sure we don't end up homeless, which if left to me seems to be a distinct possibility! The cook and the maid can do all I need and my books have always given me awesome company. However, none of these can be a real substitute for your husband or you see where I am going with this?

By the time DH came back home, I was ready to do some gentle in home socializing with an actual human being...which means, I would lie on the couch like a pathetic little sickie, DH would sit beside me holding my hand and engage me in gentle low voiced conversation on mellow topics perfectly suited to an invalid. 

The reality? This pathetic little sickie is on the couch clutching her kindle while DH is sitting beside me clunking away on his laptop...which he has been doing ever since he came home yesterday ( he calls it "follow up" work...after that he needs to focus on "move forward" work). ?????? WHAT am I supposed to do??? SO, I decided to take a stand to ensure my wellbeing as well...the solution?

I will take a lesson from ancient history...(Nothing new eh? We Indians are so fond of referring back to our glorious history and culture every chance we get)...Heck! my life needs a new purpose outside of exploring the wonderful world of tropical diseases...I will go back to the Mahabharata and emulate my dear Draupadi (will also ignore the teensy weensy fact that she ended up with five husbands by mistake!) I will begin Polyandry Advocacy.

The first step is to walk the I informed DH I need a second spouse, quite definitely unemployed and DH can have the privilege of supporting us both! DH reaction...Thunder and Hailstorm!!...Fireworks, Verbal Bombs, copious tears and going down on his knees to beg my pardon....ah! how sweet is fantasy....REALITY - flying kiss aimed somewhere over my right shoulder which went right out the large windows behind me and even louder clunking! And Horror of horrors! One hand is reaching out for his "out of body mouth and brain"...his cell phone...fizzle...phish...whimper.... whimper...

Any supportive voices out there? Anyone interested in joining me to form a Polyandry Advocacy club?....     (Most definitely not interested in helping form a Polygamy Advocacy Club...yeah yeah I am happily unfair)

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moving back to India? Preventative Health Measures...

It looks like my typhoid fever is back again after  a couple weeks' break. How I wish I had taken some preventative measures before leaving the US! I never even so much as thought about it.
Much as we would like to think ourselves Indian and the matter of moving back as simply getting up and getting back home, it is not so. Whether we like it or not, long term stay in a country like the US changes us physically as well. 
This is not to say that everybody who moves back will be prone to illnesses the way I have been. However, if I had but given it a though I would have realized some of this before I moved. The only problem I had while growing up in India was health issues. I would very often have little niggling problems ranging from respiratory infections to allergies and sinus inflammation. The healthiest I have ever been was in the US. So, having gotten my body used to the environment there, I should have been a tad more thoughtful before hurling myself onto the relatively harsher environment here.
What would I have done differently?
1. Considered vaccination and immunizations options before moving.
2. Moved during the Winter months.
3 Being very careful and taking my first year as easy as possible - stayed put in one place as much as I could instead of running around and travelling like the world would come to an end tomorrow - Tried my darnedest not to use public restrooms - Avoided eating out as opposed to frequently eating out ( You would think that that would be a no-brainer except it is kinda hard when you step out of home in the evenings and come smack upon deliciously spicy aromas all around you from street food vendors to cafes and restaurants !!SO, GUARD AGAINST TEMPTATION!) In my defense, Food addiction seems to be a major issue in this city and just happens to be another one of those contagious diseases that you can easily catch upon moving here. put it in a nutshell placed myself under voluntary house arrest for at least a year.
Why do I keep saying "a year"? Apparently, the human body needs to experience one complete cycle of seasons to thoroughly acclimatize itself to new environments. 
The key is to be extremely careful and guarded when it comes to issues of health and personal property when you move back to India. The casual, carefree attitude fostered in you by the relatively comfortable lifestyle in fully developed nations is best left behind when you move back home.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Talent is a species of Vigor"

I came across this line somewhere along my always intense reading journeys. This made me ponder about the talent required to readjust as a repatriate in home country. I am beginning to think that the key is to rigorously  or VIGORously persist as that is the only way out of this conundrum of feeling alien but you are not an alien, you want to belong but you secretly long to fly back to your previous life, you love being back home but hate everything about it, you are supposed to be the host here but feel like an unwelcome guest...etc etc.

In other words, like everything else in life this too requires some hard work, persistence and also talent to recreate yourself to meet the needs of your familiarly unfamiliar environment and feel at home again.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The dreaded heat has begun...

The temperature's steadily climbing up and my body's steadily revolting against it...feeling burned inside and out...wonder how to survive the summer....

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hanging upside down with a bad haircut!

Ever heard of a little guy called Trishanku? If not, you can read up on him here -

The longer I live in India this time round, the better I appreciate the poor fellow's condition. I am not drawing an exact parallel here, for instance, I don't presume to choreograph any metaphorical dances with the concept of heaven and earth etc. I mean to draw just one definite line of connection between Trishanku's state of being, hanging upside down in a world created due to his desires and my state of being in the land of my birth.

There are days when I FEEL as alien as if I am walking around on my head. Then there are days when I feel I LOOK alien with my short crop because women in this part of the country have such lustrously luscious long hair that when I go out I spend most of my time shamelessly ogling female heads...which reminds me...keeping my hair short here is such a trial because hair stylists are so inexperienced when it comes to short hair cuts.

The first guy I went to did a fairly good job of cutting my hair except in the course of the conversation when he finds out I just moved back from the US goes..."Oh, my short hair techniques are American" and I am impressed and relieved when he goes on to say "Yes! I learn from YOU TUBE and CDs"....whew! Do you mind if I snatch my head away from you boy???!! However, I was happy enough to want to go back to him except that the next few times I went/called to get an appointment with that guy I began to get the run around which in the end made me fear I might be mistaken for a cougar (he's a very young guy you see!) so I had to give up and find someone else...and someone else again...and nothing's worked out so far...they do a fantastic job of coloring but short cuts are another story then I proceeded to give my dear husband a heart attack by announcing that he needs to start funding my periodic trips to Paris for fashionista purposes...thereby also rounding up my identity as an alien Desi! (To clarify, by history, heritage, nature culture etc etc we Indians are happier saving our money rather than spending it...just like it's said in the new Maruthi Ad!)

So now, what with a crazy hair cut that's growing out into it's "in between" stage, typhoid induced weight gain because when I am not eating, I am sleeping and my general air of bewilderment at finding myself in a little alien world of my own creation where I am happily empathizing with Trishanku, I truly well am hanging upside down and boy is it enervating!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

When Typhoid comes, can Malaria be far behind? And the lucky thief...

It has been a while since I wrote anything here or anywhere else. Moved back to India in May 2010 and life was a whirlwind of activities - settling down stuff, family issues, travelling frequently - come Feb 2011, I heaved a sigh of relief as we had nothing significant to focus on and I determined to put an end to aimless travelling and refocus on my LIFE. I planned on finally staying put in Ahmedabad and looking into my career needs and options as well as finish up something else that I had committed myself to months ago in the writing field.
Well, so much for my plans! I spent the first two weeks feeling progressively ill, then it looked like I had come down with viral fever but it finally turned out to be typhoid fever. Spent a few days in the hospital getting, I know not how many bottles of IV fluids and antibiotics and came home with more medications and extreme weakness. Now I am focussed on "regaining my strength" and "trying not to eat anything that might overwork my weakened digestive system"...apparently it will take some few weeks to get back to normal again...groannnnnnnnn! BTW, this is by no means the first time I have fallen ill since I moved back to India, this is the second time I was hospitalized and I have lost count of the number of times, I have been ill at home...whew! 
As if this were not enough, one day I had DH take me to a book exhibition as I was beginning to get cabin fever staying cooped up at home. Now, when I am around books I forget everything else including my existence and some lucky thief made away with my wallet which had everything from cash to cards and ID cards etc!! 
SO anyways....I am beginning to think I need to consult an astrologer and see if my stars have all aligned themselves in a way peculiarly inimical to my existence!
And Oh! When Typhoid comes, can Malaria be far behind? Hmmm...maybe I should spend the next few months vaccinating myself with every known vaccine to man...along with consulting the astrologer of course!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Do you want an Audi?

Hey Ya'll! Do you want an Audi free of cost? Just come on over to Ahmedabad, India. I am right now on an "Audi Agent" hunt and I am sure to find one soon...If you are wondering what this is all about, here goes;

There was a very interesting bit of news in the paper today. A guy with flashy clothes and jewelry walked into an Audi showroom nearby my place and took an Audi Q7 for a test drive accompanied by the sales guy. After he had driven it for a while, he requested the salesman to drive it so he could sit back and enjoy the drive and the "view" alongside SG Highway (What view???Grimy rooftops and massive hoardings???) 
So the poor fool got out of the car and walked around to the driver's seat, when the "cool customer", slipped back onto the driver's seat and drove away, literally and figuratively leaving the sales guy choking on his dust!!! How easy was that?! 
Check this out..the showroom does not have security cameras, so they have no way of identifying him...apparently they have relayed information to the police check posts along the highways. Will this guy really try to get past police check posts with that car looking the way it did? My guess is, he will lie low for a while somewhere around here, change everything he can beginning with the color of the car and drive away with his aged parents, wife and kids or a bunch of kids or in some such "good citizen" avatar! 

Anyways, I finally got myself a bank locker and stowed my remaining jewelry in there...I don't recall if I ever mentioned this but our apartment was burgled a couple weeks after we moved to India and the stupid fools that we were, we had left some of our valuables here while we went out of town so, the thieves definitely had a ball...the police then told us that this city attracts out of town robbers due to its wealth but now I have this sneaking suspicion that it is not wealth alone but carelessness as well!

So, people moving back here, do watch out! We have some of the world's most enterprising people in our country!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

India Repatriate - to be or not to be? Or Why relocate to India?

I received an email from a blog reader who is currently pondering this question. As I finished reading her mail, I began to think back to my decision to move and how I would go about making my decision if it were now - that is, when I actually have first hand knowledge of what it is like to move back to home country.
It had always been my intention to move back to India but in my case, the timing sucked....however that's another story!
I never really had an answer to the question "why do you want to move back?" The reason being, there is no material reason to move back. Much as we would like to tout the progress India has made in recent years, it is still far from being the United States. It probably never will be...India is too tropical and too crowded to ever have the kind of space and resources that makes the US such a pleasant, easy place to live. Philosophically, we Indians are too relaxed, easy-going and fatalistic to constantly innovate, recreate and figure out the next best thing to improve our lives and our country at a rapid pace.
Living in the US, I not only had access to every single thing that I needed but was free to let my "wants" grow like weeds on steroids, fully secure in the knowledge that they would be gratified sooner or later! Living in an atmosphere where space, system and technology conspire to help you grow rapid and large it was easy to believe myself to be this bold, confident person who can make it anywhere in this world...and then I moved back to India, thinking, "so what if this is not exactly the right time in my life for relocating, I can make it work!"
India brought me down to earth with a nice big crash. Wading through my swampy first few months here, I cannot find words to describe how badly I regretted my decision and how many times I have spoken and still speak about moving back to the US. The question "Why did I move back?" haunted me endlessly until one day a few weeks ago, I realized that I will never really have an answer to that question...There is no answer to that question. I don't have reasons;
I am not here under the illusion that India is progressing and so this is the place to be.
I am not here under any delusion that my country needs me and I need to give back; whether I am here or not, whether I do something or not India will survive and move on. To put it another way, I need my country far more than my country needs me!!
If you ask me, I will say that I loved my American life better (and that despite being a totally stressed out mental health social worker for most of my life there!) than I love my life here.
If I did not have the option to move back and were forced to settle down permanently in the US, I would have happily made myself at home there for the most part. (Once upon a time, I would have thought that a traitorous attitude but not anymore. We are who we want ourselves to be and if you are born Indian but feel American and are happy being one, then so be it...all of us are human beings first and different nationalities next!)
However, would I have completely forgotten my country? No, somewhere, deep down, I would have continued to miss India and that emotion would have resurfaced from time to time, preventing me from resting content. And that is the only answer I have to the question, why I moved back to India. This is home, this is my heritage and ultimately, this is where I want to be.

Having said that, I will also say that I could have timed it better and prepared myself better for the move, in other words, I could have been a little smarter about it!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Settling down but not settling down...

The longing to be back in the US, living my previous life has been steadily receding, I am also beginning to feel happy about being back in India. I still continue to feel alien for the most part but I also feel at home more often. I still struggle to accept the easy manner in which people invade our privacy here but I am beginning to harden myself into maintaining my boundaries according to my needs. I am still confused about my place and my sense of self but I am beginning to accept that I will never be one thing or the other but a cultural mongrel of sorts and that is ok.
What I have not been able to do so far is actually work on putting down my roots here. For reasons unknown I balk at the thought of complete acceptance. This is funny because I remember going through the same feelings during my first couple years in the US. There was this fear of letting my old familiar self go in order to become the different person I needed to be to survive in a totally different environment. I never once thought I would feel the same on my return to India. But then, that's how matters stand, I am going through a similar struggle all over again and sometimes it all gets so overwhelming that I long to fly back in time and space to my cozy little apartment overlooking the chagrin valley in Northeast Ohio. At other times, it feels good to be back in this country of mine with her relaxed air and abundant sunshine. Go figure!