Reality Bytes: Six months later

It’s hard to believe that we left US 6 months ago. We left before spring and now it’s almost time for Fall.

I miss Seattle all the time, the friendly faces, familiar neighborhoods, stores, organic produce and most importantly all our friends. I miss our home – I wonder if the lilies bloomed, and the blueberries ripened on the bushes, I wonder if the new owners sit down on the deck with a cup of tea after work soaking in every bit of August summer, if horses still trot down the trail behind our home…and then Vipul gently reminds me that it’s no longer ‘our home’. Someone else lives there and are making it their own.

As far as our Hyderabad home goes – it’s actually good, once you get used to the life in India.


Traffic is gnarly. Vehicles of every size possible (trucks;  mid-sized,  mini and nano sized cars; cycles, auto rickshaws and bikes/mopeds) form 5-6 lanes (where there are 3) and weave in and out of each others’ path just in the nick of time. People jay walking and sometimes even buffaloes join the fun. Driving is stressful as you have to be alert all the time.

To add to this chaos, the local municipal corporation, decides that monsoon is best time to dig up roads for utilities work. There are no advance warnings, re-route information or anything. You see these massive dig outs along the road side. Traffic jams around these work areas are the norm and what should take 10- 15 min ends up taking at least 30-40 mins.

We use this time to point out tiny shops, vehicles and even butterflies to Varun in an effort to ‘edutertain’ him!

Restaurants, Groceries and Lifestyle

Hyderabad has many good Indian restaurants but for anything beyond that the choice is limited. I long for a good salad bar, dumplings at Din Tai Fung, French food at Rovers, brunch at Cafe Flora, thin crust gourmet pizza from Serious Pie, good cheesecake, Can-am pizza  and assorted wines from all over the world. Oh, and all the home cooked /baked goodness by my best friends! I think you make tastier fare than most restaurants in India – I kid you not.

I sorely miss  Trade Joes, Fred Meyer and Costco. You get decent variety of ‘international foods’ at QMart for a premium (Rs 600 or ~ 11 USD for a box of Cheerios? No, Thank you.) but if you need anything beyond standard stuff ( good quality baking chocolate, aluminium free baking powder, non stale tasting frozen berries…)- tough luck. I have heard Bangalore is better than Hyderabad in this respect but till then I have to beg friends to get me things from US  when they come visit.

India is expensive for folks like me who have champagne tastes but don’t have quite the budget (or should I say paycheck) to match. Before we moved, we had an excel spreadsheet that listed typical expenses and ball park range of what we thought we will pay and it seemed that we will be able to live happily and have some money to travel. Now , it is possible to live within that budget – just not in the same lifestyle that you are used to in US.

In US, food, beverage, and most necessities in life (clothes, medicines, shoes, even entertainment) are discounted. Most folks never pay full Retail price for anything – there is always a coupon or a discount code available – yes, even for designer clothing, perfume, accessories and more. I haven’t found any such things here (other than air line travel and credit card rewards) so yes, paying full price is painful. It would not be as painful if I get the same quality as in US, but for most stuff that I have shopped for ( Varun’s clothes, toys), the quality is a hit or a miss.

Working at IDC

Working at IDC is almost the same as in Redmond. In IDC, we have more exposure and access to senior leadership team – be it working with SLT on campus recruitment, or GM reviews, demos and compete study’s.

Work life balance is still a bit off. Mainly because Vipul’s team is in release mode and he spends most nights on call followed by emails etc. And then he travels at least once a month on recruitment trip. Add to that Varun’s activities that seem to go in a high drive in the evening, we almost get no evening to sit down and have a glass of wine 😦 At least in Redmond, Vipul never had evening/night calls so he could share in ‘Varun caring’ activities – nowadays most evenings I chase him around and have no energy left.

The other challenge I see at work is that as folks want to be polite to each other, they don’t say ‘no’ enough. So either they burn midnight oil to deliver, and this happens over and over again or when shit hits the fan complain about impossibility of the task.

Chores and Help

Oh, and you will do a lot more chores in India than you ever did in US – inspite of having to do your cooking, laundry, ironing ,dishes and much more yourself. You see, you will have to manage the maids that come to do all these chores for you. One day, they will call in sick, next, they may not show up at all. You can get the clothes washed and ironed, but you have to be careful not to give your favorite shirts lest there is an iron mark or worse a tear due to high heat.

You will have to track and pay various bills – by check as online bill payment is still in its infancy and may not be accepted by the provider ( rent, daycare, electricity, maintenance, water is all paid by check on various days of the month).

Also, you will act as marriage counsellor, financial advisor, teacher , doctor and a shrink to your maids. They will tell you about their families, kids, in-laws, extended family etc. While its fun to share and listen to every day stories, it’s very hard to react when one of them comes with a swollen cheek as her husband got drunk and beat her for money. As an outsider, I don’t know whether to help her cope through this or help her out of the misery.

But all these issues are overshadowed by getting to meet family often and spending festivals and birthdays with them. Having them around is a blessing as then I get to catch my breath and do something fun and creative (like the photography class we took!). Varun hates when grandparents leave and this time around he is missing them more than ever.  every evening when we come home he runs into grandparents room to see if they have ‘returned’. Can’t wait for mom and dad to visit in October!

Someone had told us that have a clear reason in your mind as to why you are returning to India. You will question yourself over and over again, at every turn, as to why you uprooted a perfectly happy life and moved to India. For many its  taking care of aging parents, following a particular religious sect, or even a better career opportunity. For us it was to experience work life in India, being closer to family and travelling in and around India.

When I watch Varun play with his grandparents while I sit back and enjoy a hot cuppa of tea made fresh when I arrive, I think  our reasons for moving back are playing out perfectly as imagined! Now, on to the next trip planning 🙂

About rutujak

A travel addict, self confessed foodie and a mom trying to make SFO my home after a decade in Seattle and a stint in Hyderabad, India.

Posted on September 7, 2012, in India Relocation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. There are surely many more things to look forward too … Ageing parents, support…. Its better life for kids too …For one, you dont need to drive your son to a taekwondo or a swimming lesson …. Most apartment communities are social, vibrant and full of extra-curricular activities and events for all….
    I agree that you would probably pay 300 bucks for a starbucks coffee lying in the freezer for months of the so-called international section of a grocery chain and that you check the expiry for the goldfish crackers …. But then its a bit analogous to shopping outdated stuff at the Indian stores here ….
    This is my third (short) trip to US and heading back home soon ….and I am not complaining 🙂

    • Sure – we are not in that phase so dont realise the importance of kids activity as much. Also, probably as neither of us are from Hyderabad and parents dont stay with us it feels just as distant/far away as US. Though I enjoy my frequent chats with cousins and parents very much.

  2. Hi R,
    Thanks for sharing the reality check. It is ironic, those of us living in US crave to live a life back home (similar to your objective before moving), and from your post we can see how much you miss your US stay. I have great respect to both our cultures (India, US). The liberty, Federalism (Seattle and a small rural town in Mississippi share common thread in layout, regulations, etc.), citizens’ respect towards established systems – laws,driving, at-will employment is unbelievably profound. Similarly India (the oldest, continuously existing human society) offers wonderful solace in spirituality, strong family bond, our deep heritage, and collective wisdom at play (Maharashtra, AP, Kerala, etc. that make up our Republic – which perhaps is unheard of in terms of languages, customs, foods that you see when you take a train trip to Kanyakumari to Kashmir).

    Timing has to do somewhat with your relocation. India was/is growing at a rapid growth (compared to the West). Rates in the past few years range from 5-12% GDP. Hence, people, systems, including the power grid is overwhelmed. Train reservations are a challenge, although there are on-line, agent options. I wonder how life is, say in S.Korea and other fast growing countries?

    As time goes by, you will start appreciating and defining priorities with your work, family, life in general. Emphasis on wellness, nutrition, staying closer to home helps immensely (4 day long weekend trip in India will set you back by 2 weeks due to tiredness, trip challenges, hydration, dust, emissions etc.) may be quite helpful. One approach to getting our lives back is by simplifying life to reflect our own inner calling. This may require to get involved in volunteer activities by giving time & energy to serve all those who may have sub-consciously prayed to the universal intelligence to send some one like you. Even a simple act / thought would get a boost in endorphins to you/your family and the potential recipient can give you a place to start

    Here in Chicago, we are eagerly waiting the SV150 festivities in 2013 (Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary)

    As always, all our family & friends enjoy your posts. Keep them coming.

    Off to the Gym..(before our 5 year old wakes up) on a 35F October Saturday morning in Chicago….7:18am local time.

  3. Hi Venkata, Thanks for your detailed comment. Different perspectives is what makes returning to India and staying in India challenging. I really like your thoughts on ‘reflecting on inner calling’. As we grow older (and wiser), we respect both the countries that we have lived in and really want something ‘in the middle’ which doesnt exists. Its the inner calling – be it volunteer work or otherwise- that will keep us grounded, at home and at peace.

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