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 🙂