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Reality Bytes: Eight Months Later

Diwali is around the corner. Family is in town. Lights, lanterns, festivities, shopping, sweets and delicacies and fire crackers. We celebrate Ganesh festival, Dusshera and even smaller festivals like Kojagiri Poornima.This truly encompasses what being in India is all about.

Our last two months have been more on adjusting to life in India.The usual suspects are still lurking around.

Traffic

Traffic is bad. I feel even more now that I have started driving. With our small car, we had to take the car seat out when we had family in town for a month. Now Varun refuses to sit in the car seat though he usually sits only on backseat.Once a valet didn’t come forward on seeing us as he suspected Vipul was a driver as he saw Varun and me in the backseat. Since then Vipul insists on all of us sitting on front seat at least when we go out dining. We even did a long road trip recently ( though Varun was on back seat on the long drive). Most of our long distance driving is restricted to-day time; but I must confess I have been on one trip with colleagues when we drove at night with kids on laps. But in our defense, these friends are used to driving in India at night and the highway was divided as well as lit – so its didn’t feel as dangerous as I would have once assumed it to be.

Lifestyle

The temperature has become more bearable. We have made several trips making most of the good weather. Mumbai and Lonavla for Gauri and GanapatiKochi and Kumarakom with my brother and SIL, Kurnool with colleagues and Srisailam with parents.  Only one regret we couldn’t visit a waterfall and have a good soak this monsoon. Maybe next year.

We visited several in Hyderabad as well – Lotus Pond, Shilparamam, Jagannath temple – photos will be shared soon!

We have shopped a fair bit – Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Promod, Marks and Spencer’s, Pantaloons. Cant always defer to US or Mumbai trip for shopping. Next up is a quest for a tailor.

One good part about Hyderabad is that there are several Sunday brunch places around the town. Westin, SO, Taj Krishna, Novotel – have a buffet style brunch that you can indulge in. Varun runs around, tries his favorite pasta and chicken, bread sticks, juice and ice cream and dozes off on the way home. We don’t have to worry about what to order. And as we eat early, almost always are first ones on the scene. Fresh food, attentive service, happy Varun- what else can I ask for.

Working at IDC

Finally with release of Windows 8, Vipul is now a bit free and relaxed. We went to Ramoji Film City for his Ship party and made a movie – It was insane. Varun and I went along with him ( family was invited) and we stayed overnight and had a custom ‘Nizam night’ hosted to celebrate the team shipping and watched the movies made.

This past month was also a month-long Giving campaign at Microsoft. At IDC, this takes a new dimension as one of the goals is to ensure everyone participates. So variety of events were planned at team, division and at Microsoft IDC level. On our team we had a sports tournament (where I was named MVP as I had most points..hahahah!) , Talent show (where all girls on the team performed a medley), Auction and a Family event (where we invited families and hosted them for an evening with Bingo, food, music and fun!)

It was a fun way to bond with team mates over the month.

We had our ship party as well as released in October as part of Office 2013. Our ship party was in Leonia Resort where we spent the day and then did the Gangnam Style performance.

Yea, its been most fun at work with manageable work loads. The atmosphere is more college like with all young recent grads actively participating and leading these events.

Chores and Help

Our honeymoon phase is definitely over.  Our cook left us for some unknown reason and we had to scramble to find another one. This new cook is getting used to our taste and schedule. She comes twice a day and prepares better food than the previous one – although charges a lot more money than the previous one.

Our maid is still the same – though she sometimes skips work and we are stuck with a pile of dishes to clean. I am seriously considering getting a dishwasher. And a dryer is on the list as well since our existing one died on us.

The guy who cleans the car comes regularly though does a poor job of cleaning the interior of the car. Vipul or I go down once in couple of weeks and deep clean the car. Varun loves this part as he can make a mess, play in water etc.

A lot of folks ask us if we will stay or return. We still are on the fence. I have seen quiet a few folks return due to work reasons, charter changes, reorganizations etc. I have seen quite a few folks not move back but find another role in IDC. I have seen a steady stream of imports as well ( as our PM directors calls us ;)) in management positions. Returning to Seattle will be very hard. I don’t look forward to the rainy drizzly overcast winters. And living with out all this basic help outsourced will be harder now that we have had a taste of good life. But we are nowhere near to rushing out to buying our own house and settling here.Lets see. Time will tell. We had decided to try it out for couple of years before we make up our mind.

I have heard about 12 month mark being a true life changer. Onwards to that. Till then I have Diwali, sweets, shopping and fire crackers to think about!

Tranquility in the City – Anand Buddha Vihara

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

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 🙂

Reality Bytes : Two Months Later

Well, it’s almost two and half months since we moved, and today, I have found some time to sit down and write again. Life has become so busy and hectic that there is almost no time to do anything else.

Between work, Varun, swimming classes, house hunting, car shopping etc the days have simply flown. So here’s a rundown at how things fared in last couple of months:

Working at IDC

It’s a little bit different from working in Redmond. I am slowly getting a hang of work life in India. In US, work life revolves strictly around work. Statements like ‘ I spend enough time with you all during the week, I need evenings and weekends for family’ are not uncommon. Work life is more social here. It’s a cultural thing to bond over meals and IDC is no exception.As soon as meetings or serious work is over, people hang out together – be it for lunch or for tea and snacks – virtually no one eats at their desk. I tried that a few times and then promptly gave up. It’s hard to resist the interesting conversation that happens over meals.

Redmond ‘Softies read books like ‘Dont Eat Lunch Alone’ – here we live by it. Networking is not the goal (as the book defines), but it’s just to spend time with friends and catch up.

The biggest plus point of this social culture is that the management shares information, business data etc in variety of different forums as well is available for reviews/walkthru with us ( and not just limit themselves to key audience).

There are people playing table tennis or carrom at all times of the day . Work pace is bit relaxed during the day and then picks up pace in the evening. This is largely due to the younger crowd at IDC than in Redmond. Moms like me typically end up leaving early and logging back in later at night to catch up on work.

And, all hands are an interesting experience. Visiting exec’s from Redmond are treated like superstars, complete with showbiz style introductions. People applaud enthusiastically and are generally interested in the All Hands content which was not the case in Redmond. The focus of all hands is not just on the Division goals and progress, but its on overall Microsoft. Needless to add, the event was catered – Chinese, Chaat and Kulfi 🙂

Life in Hyderabad

Like any other second tier city in India, Hyderabad life is predictable. Maybe life in Hyderabad with a kid is predictable. Which is not a bad thing. Traffic is manageable. Its not as polluted as Mumbai or Calcutta. We are within 20 mins driving distance to Jubilee Hills and the indulgences it has to offer. The only thing that is making us miserable is this heat. 42  C – 45 C is not something humans were meant to endure. By the time I drop Varun and reach office, I feel that I am dehydrated.

And for the couple of days that the AC is not working, we are melting in our own sweat. We just cannot sit in a room without the AC’s on. To say evenings are warm is an understatement. The hot stifles around me as Varun and I take a walk at night. And the constant hum of AC’s around when we are out for a walk tells me we are not alone. I really can’t wait for the monsoon to begin.

Relocation Experience

As we could stack our relocation benefits, we are still in corporate accommodation with the cook, help staff and driver at our disposal. After 2+ months, its hard not to feel pampered and it will be even harder to give it up after the benefits are over. I don’t think we will live without a cook or a maid in India, but driver is something we are debating about. Spoilt rotten that we are now, we are in fact thinking of getting someone for evenings and weekends so we can actually get some more free time 😉

Also, in the last few weeks, we accelerated our house and car search. After visiting 25 + gated communities ( apartments and villas), almost signing a lease and then backing out, we are planning to stay in JayaBheri Silicon county (details to follow) – the same community that we had our temporary accommodations in. And after test driving 3 cars, we have booked Skoda Rapid as well (again, details to follow). As much fun it is staying in all paid for lodgings with a chauffeur driven car, we long to be in our house with our belongings and drive our own car.

We changed too many things this year, now its time to bring sanity and routine to this change. Hopefully, we will truly begin settling in once we move into our own house!

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