Should we settle here or move back to India? Why? Because it is home.. because our kids will be raised in our values and culture ? Are you prepared to watch your teen daughter get ready for her prom date?..We were in the US for 10 years and moved back 3 years ago with a daughter who was then 5 and a son 1 year old…I am penning down my reflections from the past years here…
The Good: (Why I am Glad I am back!)
- India is home!.. It truly is..
- Never have to worry you will get that terrible phone call from home that a loved one is sick.. and wonder if you are going to make it in time.. or worse still…you haven’t seen them since last two years and now never will…
- Never wonder if that immigration queue will update your status ?will you get an H1-b renewal intime.. worry how to move jobs until the coveted Green Card and then…. and keep it alive? Till you reach the pinnacle of the American Citizenship (We Walked away when we were a year away from that ..)
- Never have to try and light and decorate your house for Diwali and watch the rest of the neighbourhood adorned with spider webs and graveyards for Halloween!
- Never miss the streets decked for Diwali , smell the firecrackers and the incessant noise of the laars and tons of home made goodies
- For vegetarians only – Never have to explain that white meat (fish and chicken) is non-vegetarian and so are eggs ..Never wonder will my choice to continue my daughter as a vegetarian cause her to stick out more?
- Never miss cheap, ultra-spicy freely available street food specialities or seasonal fruit like Mangoes….In india , you are imply spoilt for choice!!!
- Never wait for that one or two big-budget Shah rukh or such movie that appears in a high quality Big screen multiplex and depend on either that friendly Indian store or the latest friend who visited India and came back with the fresh dvd loot
- Never stop to wonder whether you are raising your kids with desi values.. Do they to touch the feet of their elders? Know some slokas? Do they go to a Bal Vihar to learn some mythology and value stories?..If youa re in more high Indian place, then may be a classical dance is possible…otherwise atleast Bollywood dance!
- You will never have any one mispronounce your name ..
The Bad: (Stuff I miss the most..)
- You already knew …India still sucks! In so many ways… the crowds , noise levels ,the lack of infrastructure, lack of regard for cleanliness, lack of respect for traffic rules, lack of time sense…
- Eve teasing, item songs and senseless dress codes that determine who you are still rampant
- Domestic help – maids, drivers, cooks are entrenched into the system –good ones are hard to find and even harder to retain …
- Green spaces, public parks – there was always a nearby park , lake kind of spot to just drive to and relax, here..if there is one, it is crowded, dirty and noisy..that serene bliss is hard to find ..not impossible though (our kashid beach trip /Ganpatipule near Mumbai were good examples)
- Public Library system of the USA – I sorely miss those huge libraries and nice bookstores like Barnes and Nobles where my kids had the access to the choicest of boos in the finest of atmosphere
- Not just the lack but the terrible quality of TV programs. PBS kids, Nick Jr and its kids friendly shows had my first kid learning and enjoying at the same time. Here the zombies of Chota Bheem and the bad language of Doremon or insensitive fighting in so many of the other ones, make me aghast that these can even be called Children’ TV
- Long weekends and the possibilities of fascinating trips to wondrous natural spots , child friendly museums , adventure trips…Now India doesn’t have a lack of places with beauty or museums,just that attention and care that is given to showcasing it and making it rich and memorable and easy trips in the US is missing here..
The Surprising, Shocking, Sad..
- Senior Citizens –With all our talk about family values, there is a serious lack of care for the senior citizen.. with broken platforms encroached upon /lack of ramps and lifts, it is often a struggle for an old man to get out and go anywhere. Many of them are lonely with their sons and daughters in the US and other countries and wistfully look forward to skype calls and snapfish shares. There is no effort to make life more accessible to them.
- Working Mom with kids – With the lack of the US daycare system, or just the need to cater to kids with the long-hours of work +travel , stay-at-home Mom is often a preferred option until kids hit Grade1. Exceptions exist –only if you trust that dedicated maid and/or have in-laws at home.
- Kids Birthday parties are becoming shockingly big events with event organisers, backdrop cut outs and hosts and catered food. Return Gifts are important decisions.. A costly affair!!
- Education – I had often though the education in India always prepared you for much more rigour. Now I find it divided by class and sorely lacking in diversity– the rich/professionals send their kids to the IB schools, the next set to the ICSE, and SSC ..(yuck!) .
- Everyday niceties and Technology Preoccupation – I used to once smirk at the habitual “Hello , hi” and one second flash-smiles that everyone exchanges even with strangers in the USA.. So superficial. But now, here I miss it. No one smiles at strangers.. Even in my building lift each one is busy texting away on their own phone…Even kids have their own gadgets. No one says ..Have a good day to their fellow passenger as they leave the lift and somehow I miss it !
Yet, my kids have adapted to it with ease. The talk with the help in broken Marathi and enjoy the desi Pizza. They do the Lungi dance and enjoy the Chaat. They love their school (Shishuvan) which is nothing like what I went to. They do miss some of our regular US outings, but I am glad when they disappear for a couple of hours to the garden to play with friends without chaperones!
For me ,Yes, it is a mixed bag. And yes, we will always find the grass greener on the otherside each time we hit one of the roadblocks here or in the USA. But to me, this is our home and may be it is a fixer–upper in bits …if I don’t do my duty to my parents and my country today but how can I expect my kids to work hard to make things right rather than pick the easy path to escape?
In the wise Dumbledore’s words..