Tag Archives: children

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)

Along Came Lucky

My daughter rushed into the room, “Amma! There is a kitten outside and it has been abandoned by its mother. It was hungry and we fed it some milk and Acha named it Lucky,” she said. It was 8 in the morning and I was still in bed contemplating another miserable day spent languishing on the couch. But my curiosity got the better of me and I got up and went downstairs. My daughter beamed proudly as she pointed to the kitten crouched behind some cardboard boxes. I hadn’t seen her this happy in a long time. I peered behind the box and two little grey eyes with a black and white face looked back at me and mewed pleadingly. Something melted deep inside of me and all my defenses came crumbling down. All my sadness stood meaningless in front of this poor helpless creature.

lucky

“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you. We’ll feed you. We love you,” I found myself saying these words. I was offering the very comfort I was seeking and in that moment my life changed. If I could have named the kitten I would have gone with Joy because in a trice it had pulled me out of my sorrow.

Lucky was very wary of us on the first day, darting quickly behind the boxes whenever we made any quick movements or loud noises. The kids were relentless in attending to its needs. They made sure that it felt safe and it was fed. Now feeding Lucky was a challenge because both my husband and I had only had dogs for pets. Its diet on the first day was milk, curd rice and biscuits. When I went to sleep I prayed that Lucky would be around the next morning. The kitten had opened up a part of my heart that only pets can – by being vulnerable and by loving us unconditionally despite our flaws.

The next day Lucky seemed to be more at ease with the kids and allowed them to come close and touch it. It didn’t eat as much as it did on the first day. We replaced its coconut shell bowls with a plastic tray, now that Lucky was a part of our household. As we were playing with Lucky after dinner, a cat jumped onto the compound wall. My husband beamed the flash light in its direction and it slunk away into the dark. Could it be the mother cat? Will she whisk Lucky away in the dead of the night? Fears of losing him clouded our minds as we retired for the night. I prayed that he would be waiting for us in the morning.

My son gave Lucky an old ball to play with. In two days the frightened, helpless kitten had transformed into a sprightly fly-chasing fur ball! It let us stroke it and rub its belly. It ran to my son when he called his name and enjoyed playing with the kids. It tried to follow us inside but we decided to let Lucky be an outdoor cat. I remember how the neighbor’s cats used to steal fish from my grandma’s kitchen and I didn’t want any of that.

The kids had wanted a dog for a long time but life gave us a cat. In a moment of deep understanding I uttered these sage words, “We didn’t choose Lucky, Lucky chose us.”

Today we figured out ‘it’ is a male kitten. He showed up when we most needed it and it turned my focus outward. He touched my maternal chord. Triggered the flow of selfless love. If he wasn’t already named Lucky I’d probably have named it Miracle.

 

Who Stole my Childhood?

 

Running carefree with naked feet,

Reaching for mangoes up in the trees,

Endless summer days of fun,

Spent in the lap of the sun.

 

Hours spent in glee with friends both imaginary and real,

Board games, hopscotch, badminton and dolls,

Trips to the beach on moonlit nights,

And ice cream treats to beat the heat.

 

Walks in the evening with pleasant friends,

Vacation at grandma’s comes to an end,

Back to school and back to the grind,

Churning homework day and night.

 

Weekends come and weekends go,

But the churning never ceases,

Cooped up indoors under a light,

Write, write, write, write!

 

Then come the tests that are pointless,

And activities that are no fun,

Slowly they suck out the vital force,

Falling ill is no excuse, the homework must be done still.

 

Summers pass by without a trace,

Holiday homework takes its place,

No where to go and nothing to do,

But homework through and through.

 

Chugging along school and college,

Silencing the child inside,

Work, responsibility, commute, stress,

Replace school work and projects.

 

Working hard, working long,

Surely has taken its toll,

Popping pills and skimping on sleep,

Need to make sure you never skip a beat.

 

Bigger, bigger, better, better,

That’s the mantra of a go-getter,

Going where and getting what?

We all end up in a six-foot plot.