Tag Archives: children

The Best Job in the World

The other day while surfing channels I chanced upon a news story that made me stop. A janitor was cleaning floors at a school and the reporter was saying that we shouldn’t judge a person by the work they do. And yet I had made a lot of assumptions about this silver-haired person with a mop in his hand. Uneducated, poor, can’t afford to retire were some of the things that crossed my head. I was in for a shock when the reporter revealed that the unassuming janitor was actually part of a team of engineers that sent astronauts to the moon!

So what was he doing cleaning floors for a living? He had suffered a stroke which impaired his cognitive memory. So the former electromagnetic engineer had to give up his career of choice and took up a job as a janitor to stay  healthy and keep himself occupied. In the process he has struck quite a rapport with the students, who love hearing about his mission to the moon and give him hugs and high-fives.

When posed with this tricky question, “Would you go back to your old job if you got your cognitive memory back?” the former engineer said that he loved his job and would not trade it for anything. “These kids say – I love you and thank you – not something I heard from NASA as far as I can remember,” said the old man.

Watching this reminded me of my short stint as a teacher and being associated with children and schools in any capacity. The pay wasn’t that great but I loved every minute of it. Kids are unpretentious and genuine. It is a gift to work with them and for them. After that it is always difficult dealing with adults.

Hugs, laughter, games, cards, and flowers are given freely to show you that they care. I remember when I had to leave a long-term substitute position because I was moving (story of my life!), the whole class made cards for me and I had only worked with them for a month! If the schools in my county did not require substitutes to complete a mandatory training, I very well would still be working in a school. I look back at those days and see all those innocent faces, the laughter, the tears, the skinned knees, the hugs and the sweetest compliments, and it warms my heart more than a fat pay check or a promotion.

I feel incredibly grateful that the universe gave me the opportunity to work with children, to touch their lives and to be touched by their grace, beauty, wisdom, genuine love and affection.

Power Up, Bring it On!

This post is dedicated to all the supermoms out there. Who knew that the tiny bump growing in your belly would one day unleash dormant powers that you never knew you possessed. In the first few days of your baby’s life you realize you can wake up at unearthly hours, sleep-walk to the crib, feed and burp a baby and go back to sleep. You can survive months or years without your daily quota of 8 hours of sleep. You become immune to stale spit-up all over your t-shirt or find yourself ignoring the dirty dishes calling for your attention.

How about the one that allows you to keep a deadpan face while your toddler is howling and screaming in the grocery store. Or the one that allows you to straddle a baby and do chores around the house.

If you have a boy or a girl who is into sports (unlike yourself) you suddenly develop motor skills you never thought you possessed. Shooting hoops or hitting a baseball like a pro becomes second nature to you. This goes for things you never warmed up to as a kid but then find yourself doing and also enjoying as a mom. Like say camping and the outdoors.

And then there are other brave moms who venture back to work while nursing infants. They work, attend meetings, commute, stay up at night feeding their babies, cook dinner and still have enough energy to go around. I call it the energizer bunny superpower. I never tapped into that power since I decided to stay home with the kids.

Now when my kids are in middle school and high school, I’m back at work full-time and have to get back home and take care of dinner and the dishes. Throw in some homework help as well and you can see how busy my day is.

Like that wasn’t crazy enough, I have to wake up at 5.00 a.m. to get my daughter to the bus stop at 6.00. A week into this schedule and I was ready to call it quits. But then my superpowers kicked in and somehow I manage to get through the week. There are moments when I find it hard to string a sentence together because my brain has fallen asleep.

Then throw in after-school activities and your walking-on-a tight-rope superpower gets activated to make sure you don’t end up falling on your face. It takes a while to grow into your superpowers so don’t be disheartened if you feel like you are falling apart.

Any challenge you face as a mom, be sure that there is some secret superpower you wield that can help you ace your game. Two sick kids and an ailing parent? You got it! Crazy commute and a husband who is travelling frequently? Bring it on!  Colicky baby and a brand new puppy? Oh yeah!

Now that I have kids, I have a lot of respect for my mom and the way she managed her time and energy to make sure that we were well-fed and that we had clean clothes to wear, while working full-time as a Hindi teacher. Her day started at 5.00 a.m. and she went to bed after 10.00. Also kudos to my dad for driving me, mom and my brother to and from work, college, school and wherever else we had to go.

Same goes for Ganga, my second grandmother who cooked and packed lunches and got me ready for school, and waited by the gate till I got home. My Dadima used to drop me off in school every single day before she went to work. And it was Sharma aunty who used to pick me up from school every evening. It’s not until I had to do it that I realized it wasn’t so simple to show up every day at the same time especially if you had to work or manage other responsibilities. This I call the time-keeper superpower. It makes sure kids are woken up in time to catch the bus, that lunches are packed and kids get picked up on time.

I may have missed a few. If you supermoms/dads out there have any more to add please comment. Power up! You got this!

 

 

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 Poltergeist who Loves the Toilet

It has been my secret fantasy to encounter a ghost. Not the scary ones that haunt, possess and kill their victims, but the cute and cuddly Casper the friendly ghost types. My grandma met her fair share of ghosts in her lifetime and I thought it only fair that I should too.

We moved into our apartment in North Carolina last month. One morning I woke up and my husband announced that the toilet had flushed by itself. I laughed when I saw his expression, intent on giving me a scare. He insisted that he wasn’t making it up. But I didn’t believe him for a second. He tried the same thing with my daughter and I shook my head and continued pottering around the kitchen. He tried the same ploy with my son as well. But we all openly dismissed the idea of a ghost that flushes.

A few days later I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, owing to jet lag. I used the bathroom and sat down quietly on the spiral stairs that went up to the loft. I didn’t want to wake anyone. After a few minutes, I heard the toilet flush. I dismissed it thinking that it was probably the tank filling. But I did mention it to my husband. Over the next couple of days all of us heard the toilet flushing. One time however no one had used the toilet and I actually went in to check and there was water flowing into the toilet! Yup we had ourselves a poltergeist.

We alerted the property manager and she sent a maintenance guy to fix it. Well, he did a bad job fixing it because then the toilet didn’t flush with enough force. So my husband who is handy around the house, fixed the flush. The anonymous flushing started all over again. And as if to confirm that I was right about the poltergeist, this happened.

So I was in the kitchen cutting veggies for lunch. The rice cooker was sitting on the counter right next to me. It was on and the water was barely bubbling when it switched to warm with a loud click. I turned around to see that the rice was not cooked and the water wasn’t even boiling. So I pushed the switch back to cook. It switched back to warm again! I switched it back to cook and it stayed. The same thing happened a couple of weeks later.

Now we’ve made peace with our harmless poltergeist. The kids have even given him a name. He seems to like the toilet and I’m ok with that. He sometimes likes to make the bathroom door creak open slowly. Just as long as he knows that my kitchen is off-limits I’m fine! On several occasions I did ask him to leave in the name of God. But he has ignored my pleas. I was a little concerned about the water bills though and he seems to have read my mind. The number of flushings per day has gone down considerably. And I am thankful for that. Happy Halloween everyone.

 

My Big Secret – Part 2

I think I left you hanging long enough. So here is my second big secret. If you have been following my blog for the past year, you know of my big move to India and all the trials and travails that followed. It wasn’t as easy move after spending 13 years of my married life in the U.S. And my husband being unemployed did not help matters either. Add to that the education system which came as a complete shock to my kids and me. The fact that I did not have my own space or freedom made matters worse. So after much deliberation (mostly on my part) we decided to move back to the U.S.

In a week I will be moving with my family. You could say I am escaping, running away because I am too weak to face the challenges life has thrown at me. But I am just returning. Returning to a familiar place that I have come to call home. Where I have the freedom to be the person I want to be and not feel guilty about it or be ostracized for it. For those who think I am weak, let me tell you that I faced these challenges for a year using all my strength, faith and all the support I could garner. But at some point I had to admit to myself that things are not working out as planned and that I would never be truly happy here. And that somewhere along the way I ceased to belong to this place. Since this is my big reveal, I won’t go into the challenges I faced in Chennai in detail. That is material for a whole new post.

We have been moving every year since 2014 and this time I intend to put down roots, put my foot down and cement myself in North Carolina. For the next several years my kids need the stability of attending one school and growing up with friends they care about. As for me, I am tired of packing and giving away stuff and moving like a freaking nomad.

For the record, I lived in the same city for 23 years of my life, attended the same school from kindergarten to 12th grade. I attended college and university in the same city and had friends I knew from the cradle! I think my kids deserve a little bit of that too.

If you are reading this, please know that it isn’t as easy as it looks – hauling your family half way across the globe and then back in a year. We don’t have jobs waiting for us. We have to buy everything from furniture to vehicles and insurance. It is scary, but less scary than having to live in Chennai for another year without jobs. America isn’t called the land of opportunity for nothing! So I beseech you to keep us in your prayers as we make this move and settle down. Thank you and wishing you a lot of success if you are making big changes in your life. I will leave you with this quote I saw on Facebook yesterday that really resonated with me – If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree. (Jim Rohn)