Tag Archives: life

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.

 

The Rise of Heart

Had enough of the negativity and the ugliness that is popping up everywhere? Do you believe that the world is on the brink of an apocalypse? Do you really think that all the good is gone and only dark days lie ahead of us? Then this one is for you.

In the midst of death, despair and devastating loss, I’ve seen ordinary people do extraordinary things. Now it’s easy to open your heart and show kindness to less fortunate folks when everything is going plum good in your life. However, it takes a different kind of heart to shift your focus from your suffering to the plight of another.

A friend’s friend, who is recovering from a serious illness with prolonged complications, is constantly in pain and sometimes unable to perform day-to-day activities. In the midst of her health crisis, she managed to rescue two injured cats and even opened her home to a dog recovering from surgery. Mind you, she already takes care of five cats and an ailing relative. She truly has a big heart and is a blessing to all the animals she cares for.

When my parents returned from Sweden after visiting my brother, their house help quit due to ill-health. Luckily, my mom encountered this lady who used to work for my grandma and later for her before relocating to another state. She couldn’t afford the rent in Chennai and her step-son asked her to vacate under the pretext of renovation. Being a widow, she is entitled to the widows pension granted by the state government and visits Chennai every month to collect it. Now when word got out that she was not residing in Chennai anymore, the authorities refused to pay her. To make ends meet she decided to work for my mom. She found a temporary place to stay and was provided two meals a day. My mom packed breakfast for her in the morning and also gave her a cup of tea and snacks in the evening.

All was well until the landlady started acting up after a couple of months. She made it abundantly clear that she wanted our house help to leave. Poor lady had no where to go. My parents decided to let her stay with them. In her retirement years instead of living a quiet life with a roof over her head and enough dough to sustain her, here she was homeless and forced to earn her living.

Recently another lady who worked for us and is now unemployed showed up and my mom took her  in as well. She now cooks for my parents. They really don’t need two people to help out around the house but they couldn’t turn her away because she has to support her family.

I think everywhere everyone’s heart has opened just a little more. I was surprised when my mother-in-law offered to feed our kitten – the one we had to leave behind. We raised it as an outdoor cat although we fed it a few times a day. She knew how to hunt for lizards and mice so we resigned ourselves to the fact that she could survive without us. But the fact that we may never see her again after we left for the U.S. broke our hearts. Seeing how distraught the kids were, their grandma decided to do the least she could do to make the kitten stay.

Then there are some brave souls who are in a vortex of adversity and still look out for others. A friend of mine suffered a loss, was sick and had to fend for herself. She had endless paperwork that had to be followed up and submitted and had to deal with uncooperative staff. She still found time to call and check on me and give me hope during what was a very dark year for me. Her dad’s friend’s sister was in the hospital and she offered to cook and provide meals for them to the extent of neglecting her very own health.

So is there still hope for this world? I’d say YES! It may not be obvious and it may not be breaking news but in small ways, small people with big hearts are showing us that love and kindness are alive and well in the world.

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)

Womanly Woes

I caught a glimpse of a serial on television the other day. This was the scene – a blind wife throws herself at the husband’s feet begging to be allowed to stay with him. Her disability is seen as a major hindrance that prevents her from doing her wifely duties and chores. Well-wishers urge the husband to dump her at an ashram and find a new wife to take care of the house and his child. With tears streaming down her face she begs this stone-faced man who scolds her and tells her to make her way to the ashram.

She painted such a pathetic picture of herself, wailing uncontrollably, helpless and totally at the mercy of her husband that it stirred something in me. This was no modern day soap but inklings of such desperate behavior do show up in pretty much every television offering. Forget television, in the back drop called real life a lot was going on. The triple talaq debate for one. Raping an unconscious woman gets a Stanford student a light sentence to protect his future. And in another part of the world a woman gets on the wrong side of law for reporting sexual assault. A Bollywood star (I’d rather call him scum) compares the rigors of shooting his film to being raped and if history is to be believed he will get away with it thanks to his celebrity status and blind fans who will back him up unashamedly.

Where is the justice? I wanted to reach into the screen and shake up that waling woman and tell her she was better off without that jerk of a husband and to stop treating him like some Greek God that needed to be appeased. Known for people pleasing, we women take it to another level when it comes to men. We deny ourselves in order to please our men. Oh he doesn’t like me wearing make-up. Oh he likes my hair short. Oh he doesn’t want me to work. What the hell do you like woman? Does he honor that as well? I hope so or he is so not worth it. Some women deny their own needs to the extent of living in loveless or abusive relationships. You deserve to be loved and honored for what you are. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. It is sad that so many economically impoverished and uneducated women are left high and dry by men who use and abuse them. It is sadder that many educated, highly capable women suffer in silence instead of walking away from abusive or adulterous husbands.

The excuses are many. Kids. Society. Financial dependence. But when a man does the same thing no one questions him. He can wash his hands off his kids and get away without paying child support or alimony. But women? Oh no! Walk away from an abusive relationship and you have ruined your child’s future, marital prospects, psychologically damaged them and what not. And guess what? It’s always the woman’s fault!

If educated women can’t stand up against these atrocities then what hope does a poor housewife who can’t read or write have? Her fate is sealed and she can be cast out on a whim or just by uttering a word three times. Or worse held hostage and made to do the housework while the husband carries on with other women. Victims of aggression and insatiable lust, these women suffer unspeakable horrors. Some pay the price for standing up. They are burnt alive or marred for life by acid attacks. When will this end I keep asking myself. Sometime soon I really hope and then even the media will reflect that change with empowered women who hold their own without a man hovering in the background.