My Views About Moving to India

Disclaimer: These are MY views about moving to India after living in the U.S. for over a decade. Many before me have done it successfully and many will continue to do so long after this post has been published. Many like me have struggled to find their footing and gone back to the life they once knew. Which category you will be in is totally up to you and depends on your unique circumstances and personality.

Three things top the list of priorities when you move:

  1. Job
  2. Place to stay
  3. School/ Education (if you have kids)

And some other priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Weather
  3. Time

Job/Career

We already had a place to stay and the kids had gotten admission in a school in Chennai that had a considerable NRI population. So all we had to do was get a job. I thought Indian companies would be vying to hire my husband who has over 15 years of experience in IT and has worked with some big name clients in the U.S. But that was not the case. He barely got any interviews and the ones he got happened only through referrals.

In my opinion it is better to obtain a transfer through your company to India or work remotely for your U.S. employer, if that is an option. Many NRIs who come back to India to settle down also start their own business ventures or consulting companies.

Before you move, secure a job (offer letter and the whole shebang). If you have only a few years of experience or are looking for entry level positions, you can easily find jobs. But if you are mid-senior level, it isn’t so easy. Referrals, recommendations, or having a former colleague as the CEO of the company you are interviewing for doesn’t help. Even approaching a company you worked for before leaving the country may not help. So here is the bottom line – No Job, Don’t Move!

Education

If your kids have only studied in the U.S., then schools in India can be a rude shock. The sheer workload and the amount of writing, testing and homework they have to do is mind numbing. Also the whole rote learning thing got my kids ticked off. They were used to learning concepts and applying it to different situations or contexts, not reproducing word to word the answers that the teacher writes on the board.

Make no mistake. The fees to attend some of the top schools has doubled or tripled since I last attended school but the quality of education has deteriorated. Fees may go up to a couple of lakhs per year per student, something you can’t keep up with if you are not earning. My kids also spent a lot of time commuting to school because the good schools seem to be clustered around certain parts of the city.

I also realized that doing high school in India meant many sleepless nights and unabated pressure to score the top marks in every subject to secure admission in top colleges. The competition is just too much and the stress levels are off the chart. There was little time to pursue art, music or sports except during summer vacation. And that was not something I wanted for my kids.

Family

Most of us move back to India because we miss our family or want to stay close to them and take care of them. Similar sentiments drove my husband to make this decision. We ended up staying with my husband’s parents. It was ok for the most part but after a while I found it hard. I missed the freedom to do things my way.

Vacations in India are always a preview to what things will look like if you stayed with your family. If you have a great time with them always, then you probably won’t have any trouble moving back. If you have niggling issues that crop up every time you are with them, be sure that they will morph into something bigger when you live in such close proximity. Sometimes so big that it could actually sabotage your relationship.

When it started affecting my relationship with my husband, I knew it was time to move. Let’s not forget that I did have the option to move back to the U.S. because we didn’t burn all the bridges. We decided to move only after procuring the coveted permanent resident status.

Weather

Hot and humid with barely any reprieve for most of the year. Add to that cyclones and flooding and an infrastructure that is so fragile that it collapses with every storm. Chennai is not an easy place to adjust to.  Yes, we had air conditioning but only in the bedrooms and sometimes even that didn’t help if you had a power outage. I don’t know how I lived there for 23 years of my life but I absolutely hated the weather when I lived there from 2015 to 2016.

Time

The traffic situation is pretty grim and people spend a remarkable amount of time commuting to work, school or to do errands. Most tasks that can be accomplished using a computer or smartphone, for instance paying your bills are just beginning to get computerized in India. Internet speed is slow, ATMs run out of cash pretty fast and now with demonetization things aren’t getting any easier or faster.

To live a satisfying life it is important to have some control over how you spend your time. For me it felt like most of my time was spent doing chores or commuting from one place to another. Social activities took a back seat and I simply felt like a hamster on a wheel – doing so much but not getting anywhere at the end of the day.

It’s not important where you stay, what’s important is that you are happy, your family is happy, you have a job to support yourself and time to spend on activities that enrich your life. That was not the case for us and we were lucky to have the choice to move back to the U.S.

 

 

A Chapter from my Book : Thank You Dadima

Weekends at Dadima’s house were a lazy affair, for me that is. I woke up late, wandered around in my PJs, with my hair in a tangled and disheveled mess. Dadi would be up by 7.00 a.m. and would wash her hair, starch her cotton saris and put them on the clothesline for the maids to stretch out and dry. Dressed in freshly ironed white cotton salwar suits, she would then proceed to supervise Smaller (yes that was his name) as he polished all the brassware in the house.

Around 8.00 a.m. she would notice that her bed was not made because I was sleeping in it! She would try to wake me up. I would moan and groan and throw the blanket over my head to muffle the noise. She would then peel the blankets away from me and insist that I wake up that instant. I would join her for breakfast after hastily brushing my teeth. Still clad in my wrinkled nightie, I’d take a look at her freshly scrubbed glowing face, her damp hair loosely held with clips with not a single strand out of place, and sigh. The idlis on my plate looked off-white against the brilliance of her kurta. I knew what was coming next. She would tell me to go have a bath and get dressed before guests started trickling in after ten in the morning. There were the regulars – the family doctor, the nieces, office staff, and then sometimes someone unexpected came along.

After breakfast, I hid in the guest room which doubled as my study room when there were no house guests. She would seek me out and give me another disapproving look before I meekly went to take a shower. If I was too lazy to comb and braid my long hair, I would just put it up in a bun, which would meet with instant criticism. “Buns are for old ladies. It doesn’t suit you!” she would say the moment I walked into her room to watch some TV. Jeans were also not her favorite. Or faded T-shirts for that matter. Both of which happened to be my favorite weekend outfits.

For years I wore a white uniform to school and Dadima wore her white starched cotton saris with matching white sandals. Given the nature of the place she worked in, carrying a white handbag and expecting it to stay white over a week was wishful thinking. Dirt, dust, grime, ink, carbon paper left no mark on her black handbag which she carried to work every day. The white handbags came out for special occasions – parties, weddings and conferences.

White was something widows wore to somehow symbolize the lack of color and joy in their spouse-less worlds. But one look at Dadima was enough to let you know that for her white was a fashion statement. She did not wear make-up, jewelry or a saffron dot on her forehead like married women. Her blouses were always stitched in the latest style, she wore dressy heeled sandals, chic sunglasses and a big-dialed omega watch. White did not make her look colorless and boring, but made her stand out. It was her trademark. Her signature. Her power.

No matter what her health was like on any given day, she would get up, wash up and get dressed. If guests were coming over, she would brush her hair and sit up straight on her bed with the support of pillows. Even at the hospital, she cared about her appearance. She never wanted to look sickly, hapless and pitiful. To portray herself that way meant that she was weak and could be easily tricked. That did not bode well for a business woman who wanted to be taken seriously and respected for who she was.

White demanded respect and helped her get into places others could not. In hospitals, she was mistaken for a physician and could enter restricted spaces and even talk to senior doctors who were not very approachable. The lack of color also concealed her true identity. She could pass off for a Jain, Christian, Muslim or Sikh. And when people cannot pin you down and compartmentalize you based on your appearance you become universal. Now white does not magically confer all these qualities to a person who merely chooses to wear it. I have seen other widows who wear white but don’t yield the kind of power she does. So why did it work for her?

Widows evoked images of heartbroken women, shunned by society and living on the fringe, boding bad luck for those who crossed paths with them. I vividly recall one such widow. The widow next door in her faded orange sari with her prickly hair peeping out of the edge of the sari clumsily draped over her head. Her wrinkly face and arms made me wonder if she ever had oil baths. But what struck me the most were her sad soulless eyes. In fact she had an air of melancholy that somehow seeped under my skin and made me shudder. Every time I saw her I quickly looked away and secretly pledged never to be her.

Dadi had sparkling, lively eyes, sometimes full of mischief. A strong positive vibe emanated from her. Her white clothes almost gave off a glow and it attracted one and all. She took the stigma associated with white and turned it around to her advantage. Probably because she never once looked for pity and knew pretty darn well how to take care of herself. In fact she took excellent care of herself. She never denied herself or neglected herself like widows were wont to. She moisturized her skin, ate vitamins and a lot of healthy foods. Every Sunday the family doctor would come take a look at her and check her pulse and heart.

People notice the way you dress and the way you portray yourself to the outside world. When you neglect this aspect of yourself, people don’t take you seriously. Dress sharp and people know you mean business. A well-dressed person is also confident and competent.

The law of attraction also plays out in this. When you dress like an affluent person, wealth and abundance must naturally come to you. If you dress in tattered, unkempt clothes your financial situation could deteriorate. Dadi dressed well and attracted abundance of all kinds into her life.

I still like to wander around in my PJs till late in the morning but I try to tidy up my act when I go out to work or when I have people coming over. When I wear white I feel a connection to my grandmother and feel powerful and confident. Thank you Dadima for teaching me to dress for success.

 

New Year and New Hopes

I don’t know what it is about a new year that makes us all so optimistic. It is just another year, like the many others that have gone by, leaving behind dreams, aspirations and resolutions that never really took off. And yet every year is vividly different from the one before and the one after it. I believe it is what we make it. For in the present moment we are planting seeds for our future.

With so many people taking time to celebrate and ring in the new year, the energy and excitement is palpable even if you are home and celebrating in front of the television. Many of us can simply ride the wave of excitement coursing through the world. Here in Cary it was a rainy day – ALL DAY! That would have been enough to dampen my spirits but I was on a high for no apparent reason.

And so it continues. Even after the kids left for school yesterday, there was this mounting excitement. Again I had no clue what was causing it. It wasn’t some outside event or circumstance. Sometimes when something bad is about to happen our soul senses it and we feel uneasy. I guess the same is true when something good is about to happen.

In contrast, December had a very different energy to it. The end of an unsatisfying year and all the trials it brought with it. One day I was just done with it. I’d had enough and wished that if 2017 was going to be the same old, same old, then I didn’t want to go on.

The next day I woke up with this song in my head – Don’t Let Go, You Got The Music In You. And it kept playing in my head all day. On the way to my kids’ eye appointments I switched radio channels and this song started playing. I was blown away. The lyrics if you haven’t heard it goes like this – Don’t give up, you have a reason to live. When the night is falling and you cannot find the light, If you feel your dream is dying, Hold tight. You got the music in you.

It kind of set the trend for 2017 for me. And somehow the way you feel on the 1st of the year sets the energy for the rest of the year. I felt carefree, light and happy and hope to cruise through the year.

I spent the last few months of the year in sober solitude and I vowed to make more friends in 2017. Let’s see how that reSOULution goes. Made a tiny step in that direction by enrolling ourselves in a spiritual group that meets every week. Things take time and perseverance. My motto is to not give up too soon, before the results show up.

Wishing all my readers a very happy 2017 filled with all good things, world peace and abundance in every corner of the world. Do share your resolutions when you comment and let’s all support each other.

Why I Volunteer

So things haven’t changed for the better since my last post. I’m still looking for work and resigning myself to the fact that I will have to wait until next year for something to come my way.

When I feel stuck or feel that things aren’t flowing or working for me, I do two things.

  1. Write in my gratitude journal. I did this to land my last job. I wrote thank you for my new and wonderful job in my journal every single day and even wrote about the kind of job I was looking for.
  2. Look for opportunities to give or serve. This worked for me years ago when I was trying to get back to work after a long hiatus. I volunteered in public schools for several years and then landed a job in a charter school.

It doesn’t help that most people are posting pictures of cruises and vacations in the Caribbean when I’ll be doing a staycation this year. So I decided to look for volunteer opportunities on Idealist. I found something that would use my skills as a writer/ editor and for a cause close to my heart (children and education).

Volunteering helps you feel good and gives you the satisfaction of contributing to the community in meaningful ways. It also helps you make friends and learn new skills. By taking away your focus from what is lacking in your life, volunteering allows you to appreciate what you have.

You have to give to receive. So whenever you feel things are not flowing to you, it is a good practice to give and get back into the flow of the Universe. Waiting till you have enough will keep you waiting indefinitely. Give how much ever you can of your time, money and efforts and you will be rewarded with peace and contentment.

Even if you are in a good place in your life, take the time to give back. There are so many out there who are hurting and can benefit from your generosity. Serve wherever you are, even if it is for an hour every week or every month and you will find it brings you more joy than all the comforts and things money can buy. This is truly one of those cases where the giver of the gift benefits as much or more than the receiver.

Still need convincing? A study report by CNCS titled “Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment” found that active volunteers were 27% more likely to get a job than non-volunteers.

A Day in the Life of the Unemployed

The novelty of moving to a new place has quickly worn off and I realize we are still unemployed albeit in a different part of the world. The days seem to bleed into one another. It doesn’t matter if it is a Monday or a Friday. Only weekends seem different, with the kids around. The rest of week sees us following pretty much the same routine. For me, my day starts with the alarm at 6.00. I rush into the kitchen to pack lunch for the kids. I set the cereal and milk on the table for breakfast. Then I keep screaming the time out, to make the kids hurry. Followed by banging on the bathroom door to get them out or screaming up the stairs to get them down.  I see them off at the door and then the house becomes incredibly quiet.

After all that excitement I settle down in front of my computer and compulsively check my e-mail, junk mail and spam for mails from prospective employers. Disappointment washes over me when I find nothing and then I go to social media to take my mind off it. After breakfast, a renewed vigor comes over me and I start sending out resumes to half a dozen companies. On some days there are no new jobs posted and I slip into despair wondering if I will ever work again. By noon I am spent and resign myself to the fact that I probably won’t hear from half of the companies I applied to. I cook lunch and eat it quietly. A weariness comes over me as I think of the whole evening spread before me. I curl into bed with a book to again escape from my cruel mind and the horrible stories it tries to feed me.

The kids return from school and suddenly the sleepy house wakes up. Battle over the computer and who gets first dibs. Piles of homework to be done. After school activities have to wait and I’m clouded with guilt when I see kids marching off to karate in their stiff uniforms or carrying violin cases down the stairs. If it is a Friday and the weather is good we end up playing tennis together.

Weekends are hard because I know I won’t hear from any employer till Monday. It’s also hard to stay hopeful and cheerful in front of the kids when despair is eating at your heart. Sometimes I snap at them in frustration and they wonder what they did to get on my bad side. But on most days I play the part well. Every grocery trip, every trip to the gas station, I know we are dipping into our savings. As our bank account shrinks, the number of days spent unemployed grows and grows and there is this huge chasm in my resume that I could slip in to any day.

Social live is nil. Who wants to admit to perfect strangers that one is not working? How can you admit your brokenness and then expect to make friends? Like water finds its own level when poured into containers, people also reach for others at their level or above. Everyone has their own problems, who wants to take on another’s!

Hope is my only reprieve and also this responsibility I have to my children. If I give up too easily, how can I lecture them about trying hard and not giving up when they fail? So here I am, back at the computer, applying for jobs and trying to stay upbeat even though every part of me is exhausted by this constant search for something in the distance. Something seemingly unattainable and yet so close I can touch it.

I know in spite of it all I am lucky. There are unemployed people out there who are hurting, there are people who woke up and saw their life’s earnings disappear in the face of demonetization. People on food stamps and people living meager existences in different parts of the world.

So this holiday season as you go on vacations, shopping sprees and holiday parties remember there are some amongst you who will be staying home just wishing they had the means to provide for their families. Pray for them, send them your good vibes and if possible give them something in kind.