A Full Circle

This day last year. I do that a lot. Just a way of loiking back at stuff, I guess…

This day, last year, 26th of June 2012, was the day when we packed off our belongings, to India. We were in the middle of wrapping up our lives in the UK. Daughter and I were to go ahead, and move to Bangalore, because we didn’t want her to miss a lot of the school year there. Husband was supposed to join us later, but unexpectedly, there came up an opportunity for him to be in India for 6 weeks. That meant that he could come with us and keep visiting, while he was in India. And if we were lucky, he would be able to join us permanently soon.Too good to be true. And it was. That didn’t happen, at the very last minute, it got cancelled, and he had to stay back.

To cut a long story short, we moved to India and moved back, all in the span of a year. We just got our shipment from India. A full circle. Back where we started from. Not the same location, but back in the same country. How does it feel? Weird. But good weird. It was not in our fate, to be in India just yet, I guess. But it is nice here as well, back to being a family, back to everyday life like it was. Do I miss India. Of course! And hopefully, the next time we do this, we do it together, and stay there:)

Until then, I’m just glad that my shipment has brought me the things I was so missing. My grinder, I’ve had dosas after ages. And finally some of the curios that we had picked up, and kept safe, for when we live in Bangalore have seen the light of the day.

image

Isn’t this gorgeous? I love these Liliput lane cottages!

If there is anything this whole exercise has taught us, it is to live in the moment. To live fully. And not wait for the time to go back to India, and then do stuff. Even if it is silly stuff like putting up the curios we picked up.

Advertisements

A Full Circle

You understand what coming a full circle means at times like this.

Last year, we had been all excited, packing, planning and getting ready to move back to India. We hadn’t booked tickets, but pretty much everything else was done and dusted.

This year, I am getting ready to do the reverse. Packing, planning and getting ready to go back. I had never thought this would happen. My friends had been a little shocked that we had not booked return tickets as a back up. But then, I was super confident that we would settle in fine, and we did too. But fate, clearly had different plans. Husband’s job was the deal breaker. We had given it time till March, and now it is finally decision time.

We still haven’t booked tickets but the decision has been taken -kind of. There is really no option, as daughter puts it. So we have to just go. Do whatever it takes to get everything sorted and re-start the life we left there, but in a different city.

And how do I feel. Sad..but excited about being together as a family.. And all hope is not lost – yet. We can still try to come back here, only the next time, we are definitely moving back together after husband gets a job. That I guess, can count as a lesson learnt, I guess. And this time that we spent here, showed us that it is no big deal to relocate and settle down. It has reinforced our belief that we would not find it tough to resettle here. And this time, we have even more friends(family has always been there) to look forward to when we come back here. Actually, not just us, but daughter has her friends too. So yes, definitely more to look forward to, when we return.

For now, we pack our stuff, store our memories.. give away our plants and plan for a new life in the not-so-new country.

The Best and the Worst of two worlds..

Living away from a place, in a lot of ways, makes you a stranger, ill equipped to deal with simple things, sometimes..

– Talking about the weather doesn’t make a conversation starter. These days, if I start a conversation with the weather, more often than not, I am met with a blank stare. I’m sure the other person must be thinking I’m a little soft in the head. On the other hand, if you ask about their children – you can be rest assured that you might not need to contribute much for the rest of the conversation 🙂

– You feel decidedly unhappy when it rains, and people think you’re crazy. Yes, the sight of sun streaming in, still makes me happy 🙂 Years of yearning for the sun does that to you, I guess. Just this morning, I rearranged all my balconies such that my plants get the optimal level of sunlight. The only complaint I have is that at the moment, one of my balconies – the largest one, gets no sunlight at all. Can’t get everything, I guess.

– You almost buy clothes without trying them on, only to remember that I can’t just return them later. It sure helps in reducing random buying though. It works only for clothes – I wish it were more effective for food as well.

– Random people being rude to you, for no reason at all. While I do understand that it must have been the over all stress and chaos that makes them rude, it takes me back at first, because I start wondering, what I did to trigger it.

Of course, there are plenty of habits which I’ve acquired here, that is going to make my life tough if/when I do need to go back. I’m going to miss the delicious breakfasts I get to make -ready made dosa batter to the rescue. And of course the gorgeous weather will ensure that my batter will rise- when I end up buying a grinder. Being able to step out on a Sunday evening and not feeling desolate at the sight of closed shops, even if one had no plans of shopping.

But what I will miss the most is the ease of meeting family. I had family over last week, and it was such a wonderful time. Going out, meeting relatives, sitting around, chatting, gossiping, eating.. What fun it was! Of course, it helps when you have aunts and uncles who are closer to your age than your parents 🙂 How lucky would I be, if I could get all this in one place 🙂 Or at the very least, get to stay on here…

For now, husband is going to be here on holiday in December, tickets are booked, plans fixed and we can’t wait! We’re counting days now!

Return to India by Shoba Narayan

Shoba Narayan’s memoir of her family’s Return to India process, after living in the US for about 20 years. I knew I had to read to read it as soon as I came across it. To add to it, Smita, heavily recommended it on one of my posts. I just had to get hold of it.

Shoba charts her journey from the time she first started to dream about going to America. Her parents are horrified at the idea, and try everything to stop her. Fate, finally, had it’s way, and she made her way to America as a student, with stars in her eyes, all set to live the American dream.

America gave her opportunities that she had dreamed about. She had come to America to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, but ended up a full-fledged art major trying to do a master’s in sculpture, For Shoba, this was the essence of America’s opportunities.

As Shoba immersed herself in America, she also develops close friendships with her fellow Indian students as well as her American friends. Living her new life, the experiences of being a student on grant in America, studying subjects that excited her, finding funding and help in the most unexpected places, washing dishes to make some money, Shoba is content. Somewhere down the line, she gets married – a traditional, arranged marriage to Ram.

From her happy existence in America, her perspective on living in America starts changing after she became a mother. She slowly started thinking about the ‘India Question’, with more and more of her friends and people around her talking seriously about moving back to India. The country that she had fought to leave, was now, beckoning to her. The culture and society that she had once tried to avoid, was the one she started trying very hard to inculcate in her daughter. There are some hilarious episodes mentioned of how hard she tried to make her daughter ‘Indian’. She calls herself a ‘born again Hindu’, when she drags her family to the temple, she had never before visited, or tried to wear a sari the whole day, for a month, just to make it familiar to her daughter. In her own way, trying to bring India or being Indian, closer to her American born and bred daughter.

While she was passionate about moving back, her husband Ram, was more resistant to the idea. He was less bothered about the parenting worries that Shoba had. She was quite worried about how to parent her daughter, the American influences worrying her tremendously, while her husband believed that with the right values, their daughter would be fine anywhere. They had their discussions, their disagreements, and their concurrence on the ‘India Question’. Finally, after a few years, things fell into place and they did indeed move to India.

So, how did I find it? I really enjoyed her perspective on life in America(or abroad anywhere, for that matter). Her observations of how people behave, some reject India completely, while others become born again Indians. The way she herself changed after her daughter was born, is quite interesting to read. In some places cliched – just the way, we have heard of NRIs behaving, and in some places interesting.

When I started reading this, I couldn’t help wonder if I would find similarities in my situation with what she recounts, but I have to say, her situation, and her reasons for moving back were quite different, so I did not really relate to her story much. It was just reading her story than reading a story that I could totally relate to. Probably because we had not lived abroad for so long, nor had we ever planned to live abroad. Returning to India was a given for us, rather than a ‘question’. Also parenting worries of the sort she had, somehow, does not bother me. Influences of all sorts, would be there in any society, in my opinion. My daughter’s childhood cannot be exactly the same as mine, even if I went back to the town I grew up in, and did everything my parents did. But that is entirely my opinion.

An interesting read, in some places very cliched, but pacy and gripping all the same. The way her priorities changed over the years with changes in her circumstances is very interesting to read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes memoirs although I think I enjoyed her first book – Monsoon Diary more. Would I recommend it to someone who is relocating/planning to relocate to India? I don’t know. Mainly because I could not relate to it at all, but perhaps if you are in a similar situation as her’s you might relate and enjoy it much more. Other than that, as a memoir, it is an interesting read.

Back to Square One(almost)

In other words – we might just have to go back to the UK.

Returning back was something, I was confident, we would not end up doing.

Just goes to show how unpredictable life is, and even the best laid plans are not enough – sometimes. We might need to go back to the UK. We might have to return, not for the usual reasons, but because we can’t find a job here!

Eight years in the UK, we refused to put down roots there. Mainly because India always felt like home, and there was nothing we looked forward to more than coming back to Bangalore and living the dream we dreamed. Everything was as per plan, when we moved back in July. Or rather, until Daughter and I moved back – husband was still there for a while, until he got a job in Bangalore. How difficult would it be? Not too difficult, is what I had assumed, husband was far more realistic, even then. But clearly, I assumed wrong. Apparently, most companies just want him to go back abroad on projects. That doesn’t exactly bode well for our, ‘End of nomadic existence’ plan, does it? If we have to be abroad, we would stick to his current job, and stay in one place – UK, rather than be shunted back and forth on projects while being an India employee.

So right now, we are wondering if we took the decision too quickly, if we should have waited till husband got a job before relocating. At that time, this seemed the best thing to do, to come here at the start of the academic year, so that daughter would not have to miss much, so that she could settle in easier. And it worked too – to that extent. Daughter is comfortable, well settled in school but missing her Daddy terribly. She just cannot understand why he can’t get a job here, or why he can’t just come here and find a job.. It’s taking a toll on all of us but hopefully, we will be able to look back at this phase and smile, in a few years time.

Hoping for the best, here we are gearing up for the worst – having to pack up and head back. After a year apart – we plan to give it a year – until the end of this academic year, and lots of money(and effort) spent on the apartment(and other things), we might just have to head back. The mere thought of that make my heart sink. While it would be wonderful to be back with husband, I only wish it were him joining us, rather than the other way around. The main reason we decided to move back – parents, would still be a reason which makes it tough for me to go back. It feels really bad to be so far away, at a time when they might need us… I so wish we were living some place closer to home.

On the positive side -I do believe that daughter would have it better there – in many ways, education, opportunities. And most importantly, safety. Every time I read the newspaper, it scares me. I know, its silly to worry like this,but one can’t help worry. As I have mentioned earlier, I had/have my doubts if India is the best place for daughter, but I was still hopeful that we would be fine. Every country comes with own set of problems, but being in India had so many things we were looking forward to. Being close to family, the fun, that feeling of belonging, and to be finally able to set down roots. For daughter, it is those simple things like being able to play outside everyday. Not having to worry about rain spoiling her playtime. But after the first few months of soaking in the new place, the new atmosphere, now, she has started missing her old school, and friends and also comparing them. Although she hasn’t been very upset, she does wonder why they don’t do some things in the school here, like experiments. But she’s alright, and I suspect she will be perfectly at peace here, once husband gets to join us. Right now, I think the situation has started to unsettle her, just a bit.

Being in a situation like this is annoying, and frustrating, to say the least, the uncertainty, killing. ‘Suspended equilibrium’, sort of situation. No idea which way we go. I’ve stopped getting work done on the flat. We had been looking forward to so many things, not knowing that what we would get is uncertainty and confusion. Right now, I would settle for some definite plans – either way, it would just be good to know which way.

Taking one day at a time, doing just what needs doing, at the moment, keeping our fingers crossed, and hoping that whatever be the outcome, we have the strength to face it, and make the most of it. And if we do go back, one thing is for sure, we would not be doing any relocation, unless all of us move together – lessons learnt, eh?

Joys of not being in the UK

– Shops don’t close at 4. What joy that is! Not having to rush out at 3:30, hoping against hope that you might just slink past the security guard, one minute before the store closes. Once we’re in, we’re safe, as husband says. Not quite, because we have that voice telling you that you need to get your stuff to be billed in 5 minutes time. What pleasure it is, to be able to stroll out and shop when it pleases you on a Sunday evening.

– I yearn for the rains. I never thought that would happen to me. Not after living in a place where it rains all the time. I guess there is truth in the saying,’Never say never’, after all.

– Not having to carry a jacket – just in case it rains or it gets too cold. It’s true freedom, I tell you.

– Getting someone else to do all the housework – what joy! Although I can see it adding to the inches on my waist.

– Being able to call a store and ask for provisions to be delivered home. There’s nothing like it when you are home alone with a sleeping child and urgently need something before the shops close for the day.

Despite all that, I can’t help feel a tiny bit homesick when I read Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. Especially when he mentions the familiar places like the Yorkshire Dales or Harrogate. It makes me sad to think that I will probably never go on a drive there, on a Sunday evening, just because there is nothing else that we can do.
Or plan for that holiday in Lake District where all we plan to do is relax, and walk around – which never happens, by the way. Both of us can’t just do nothing on a holiday. Or go back to North Wales and hike up to Snowdonia. Or complain about the rains, the never ending rains – that is fun too, you know. But what I miss most is to be able to walk into a store and get a packet yeast, just because I fancy baking some bread.

See, I told ya. The grass is always greener on the other side.

When I was away..

..India turned into America:)

One of things that puzzled daughter at school was the fact that there were no toilets. She kept insisting that there were no toilets, and I kept telling her to ask her friends. I did not want to email the teacher about it. She was, after all, old enough to figure this out, right?

Turns out the toilets were called, ‘restrooms’. ‘But why?’, Asks a puzzled daughter, so I explained that what they are called in America. ‘But we are in India not America’!

Well, what do I say to that 🙂 And now, I notice ‘restrooms’ everywhere. I had a waiter look down snootily at me, when I asked for ‘the toilets’. Apparently toilets aren’t called toilets anymore 😦

All that I need now, is to ask for ‘queues‘. Not that most people seem to have a clue what it means anyway:)

Regret

‘I wonder if we made the right decision in moving back to India’, said somebody I had just met at my apartment complex.

The place we live in is full of people like us who have lived transitory lives, and there are quite a few who have relocated at the same time as us. So its really nice, in so many ways, having friends who are in the same phase of life, facing similar challenges and situations. The icing on the cake was the fact that daughter even has classmates who joined at the same time as she did. So it really has been great, mostly.

So when some one expresses regret(not one of my friends but someone else who has just relocated), I can’t help but thank my luck. Thankfully, we regret is the last thing on our minds. The only thing we really want is for husband to join us soon, everything else can be managed fine. As for the actual problems, yes, there are problems, there are things which are different. I could wish the traffic were more orderly, for instance, but if it affects me only if I let it affect me. I do get frustrated at times, but that is something I am sure would happen in similar situations anywhere. Some things are intrinsic to being in India, but then, I can’t expect every place to be exactly the same, can I?

So do I regret? Most certainly not. Things like being close to my parents, finally being able to share my childhood memories with daughter(more on that in another post) all makes our life so much more richer. I can’t even complain of not having enough books anymore. I’ve learnt to schedule my library pickups really well. That, my apartment library and flipkart are enough to keep me happy, very happy.

Daughter is busy once again with activities, which are all based out of our apartment complex, so that makes life slightly easier for me.

Regrets? Certainly, not for me, at least not at the moment. And let’s hope that it stays that way.

Daughter in India

Daughter has settled in quite nicely. She is happy in our apartment complex, with all the play areas, and the school, her new friends. What delights her is that even after rains, the play area dries up really quickly. Back in the UK, rains meant no playing in the park, as everything would stay wet for a while.

However, there are some things that get her goat. Mosquitos, for one. They seem to love her, which she finds rather unfair, because they don’t bite me half as much as they do her. She also gets huge bumps on her skin, which is just not pleasant. She has become obsessed with the mozzies, so much so that when asked, which is the most common animal she gets to see in India, pat came the answer, ‘Mosquitoes’.

The other thing(s) that she is absolutely petrified about are Ants. She is absolutely terrified of them, and cannot understand how they come all the way up, to our floor. ‘They must have a secret ant elevator’, apparently 🙂

The other day there was a baby lizard in the house. It had both of us in a tizzy, scaring the life out of the poor lizard. Finally, I had to coax the poor thing into a bag, and leave it outside before madam agreed to get off her bed.

She can’t understand that running on a wet floor can be dangerous. So used to carpeted floors, she sails across on the tiles, and sometimes lands on her bum, scaring the life out of her mum.

She is, however, a consummate road crosser. She is totally adept at it, while I still get palpitations of the heart. We need to cross the road, everyday to get the school bus, and we end up taking 5-10 minutes because I am too scared to cross the road, until it is completely safe by my standards 🙂

School is just as much fun, if not more. She had much more work back in the UK. Here she’s having a ball. The only thing she misses is the library in school. Touchwood. May she continue enjoying it. I, being an Indian parent, is slightly worried that she might forget everything she already knows. I know, I know, I am being silly : )

The one thing she misses is the pastas we used to get. For her, even the mildest pasta is spicy:( Which makes it very difficult for us to eat out. But that also ensures that she eats home cooked food everyday. And her low spice tolerance also ensures that she doesnot try out any junk food here 🙂

All in all, I would say that she’s quite happy to be here. If only her dad could bring the tv we had back in the UK, because she finds nothing worth watching here. I am, of course, delighted that whatever little tv that she used to watch has also stopped.

A Month

Sometimes a month just flies by, while other times, you wonder, has it just been a month? I’ve had one of those months, when I feel – has it just been a month? Last month this time, was I really in Leeds, just getting ready to fly to India(No return ticket – as my friends joked:)).

It has just been a month, but it has been a wonderful month, but for the fact that Husband is far far away. It would have been so much better with him around. But then, we’ve got to take what we get, yeah?

Normally Julys are months when school gets over and we head over for our summer hols, right in the middle of the monsoon. This year, it was for a whole new start, a new life, in a home that we had dreamt of for years. We had been apprehensive, with some of my friends being quite optimistic that we would be back in the UK soon – which I sincerely hope doesn’t happen. I don’t think I can handle one more relocation, nor can my bank account – we’ve spent way too much money and effort on the apartment here 🙂

Hopefully, that will not happen, given the fact that we are quite happy to be here. Daughter loves her school – that was my biggest worry, and it is such a relief to see the same enthusiasm in her to go to school everyday. The bus ride seems to be fun for her, and not too long. Over all, things seem to be in place.

I still have a lot to do in my apartment, the whole day passes off in a flash, and I am completely and totally exhausted at the end of the day, but it all feels worth it. Hopefully, I will have something to show for all the hard work I have been putting in, at the end of the day year.

As I put together our home, in a completely random way, I have to say, I just hope it turns out decent. Time to time, I wish I had the luxury of time and space to plan the flat better, to tour around Bangalore before deciding on stuff, knowing what to look out for… Times when I wish I had two of me to be in two places. Times when I wish I could just forget all that I need to get done, and just go and relax in a spa 🙂 There are times that I feel so lonely that all I have energy is to just sit down and cry. The only thing that stops me is daughter – that would be way too scary for her. But those moments pass, only for me to wonder what made me feel so desolate and lonely, when there had been so many things going for me.

Missing old friends, making new ones, finding help from unexpected quarters, getting a domestic help who is extremely sweet, a pleasant surprise after all that I had heard from friends, seeing daughter happy… I can only be thankful at the end of this month in Bangalore.

While there have been challenges, there have been far more blessings, and that is that matters in the end, isn’t it?