Friday, March 05, 2010

V said..

Tags: Return to India, R2I, Bangalore, Move to Bangalore.

I was reading a blog about life in Palm Meadows and stumbled on this very long comment to that post.

I think I agree with almost everything that V says :)

Do read if you are planning on moving to India. I am posting it here since I myself get a lot of questions. It is a fair bit of advice and probably the same that I'd give and I don't think I could have articulated *all* the things I wanted to say in one shot like he/she did (this also tells me there is no word limit for comments on blogger ;) )

My own summary: If you want to be happy in India, you will be. If you want to nitpick and find faults, you will find. It all depends on what you want to do.

Here is the original blog. Thanks Sujatha.

BloggerAnd here is the stellar comment.
My India!

Hi Friends,

Good day to all of you.

I want to share my thoughts on ‘returning to India’ topic. I am a ‘Gulfie’ having lived in Muscat and Dubai since 1987, so I am qualified to enter the discussions. I want to contribute my thoughts for both people who want to go to India for a change and who want to consider seriously going back for good. I am also qualified to write from one more angle, I own a villa in the paradise on earth – Palm Meadows.

In this topic of going to India, the Gulf Indian and the USA/Canada Indians are not in the same field. All reference to Gulf in this paper is to the Arabian Gulf. Gulf Indians have been in touch with India and have made their properties there, always wanting to return back ‘home’; they go to India once, twice or even more number of times every year. The ladies have the luxury of going back home for child birth and getting back much later when their mind asks them to. But Gulf Indians also crib a lot about everything Indian; they live in frozen state of India when they left; now a days, the cribbing is somewhat less once India starting ‘shining’ and the general image of Indians outside went on a high tide.

Western Expatriates in Canada, when they went, they closed their doors to become Canadians. First generation Indians still hold on to India with a hope of returning; many first generation families split with one branch staying back and one coming back, with a pendulum approach to family life. U.S. Indians stayed back mostly because they grew into what they are in challenging situations. They make U.S. their home; their ‘thought honeymoon’ with India is mostly a sweet nostalgia, better left intact. U.S. Indians are probably more realistic and less fantasizing or fearing India. Many Canadian Indians probably did not migrate to Canada to become Canadians; they went to live in Canada with an Indian expatriate’s mind set. This is true of many Gulfie expats who migrated from Middle East.

So experiences of Indians in general getting back for short time or permanently is likely to be different depending on the world they come from.

For all of us, a positive mind set and acceptance of brutal facts will help be happy in India. India is a great place; it is a place of people with such endurance, such positive vibrancy, such festivity amongst statistically absurd chances for success and survival. I have always wondered and asked people in India - what makes them laugh and smile so much sitting where they are! You can enjoy India if you go with a sensitive mind. Imagine this – you live in a 30 apartment building, all 30 have cars, children, friends, outing, et all of best life; you laugh and return boisterously every night at 12 o clock – and the security man has to watch all of you 12 hours a day, with not an Indian dime in his pocket, does not know when his next tea will come from, his total take home of $ 72 a month vanishing in 7 days flat; he cannot touch with his money, what you can afford to throw, he has an orbit of rice and sambhar day in and day out. Can you be sensitive to him or do you habitually sermonize on how these incompetent security people sleep in duty? You will enjoy India if you are able to sensitive to lives. Otherwise, my advise will be, don’t go. Enjoy South of France. Remember one thing, no one is waiting with bated breath in India, they have their little lives to battle with.

I am not sermonizing and am not lecturing morality or social consciousness. Vital for you to enjoy – can you love people as they are? I think the arithmetic percentage of good people to the total population will be the highest in India – absolute numbers we win hands down, except for China anyway. Of course, myself having interacted with at least 40 nationalities, I can say, humans are humans, basic traits are the same. Am I contradicting myself? No; due to many cultural differences, the general comfort levels when you go to India are much higher than most countries – one good competitor could be Japan.

It will help your psychology very much if you remember simply this fact – India is not living there to make your life comfortable. India has 1 billion people and majority is poor. India is trying hard to make lives of that majority better and is striving for the same. Every year there is improvement there. India is busy with itself, making its life better, its life tolerable; your comforts and Palm Meadows are immaterial to India. The main point is, can you make yourselves comfortable in what is India? It is a place where abject poverty interacts with Palm Meadows residents; the poverty goes back to T.V. and sees serials where people laugh and eat and do things which seems out of reach eternally for them. In an aggressive country, probably Palm Meadows residents routinely will get their throats cut; in India maids short change them for 2 dollars. I was amazed when a Palm Meadows resident was passionately out pouring about how a patch of grass has not grown properly due to bad maintenance and the unfairness of the same.

This is a good place to address the issue of a maid cheating; firstly, I have not been exposed to blatant theft; yes they try to make little money here and there – they have to survive. Mostly maids cheat, because we have no long term commitment to their lives; because we will pay a Rs. 2000/- bill at Pizza Hut or Baskin Robins, but negotiate the salary with the maid. If I approach a maid with a mentality that I am here to make one Indian family live well, you will see a long term relationship. None of us would have survived their lives, believe me and kept up the ethical and moral standards they have kept. The beauty of India is that moral and ethical standards are indirectly proportional to the social status. Why does a driver change jobs with no commitment? Because there is no commitment from the employer; what they pay is an immaterial small sum to the driver; his downsides of losing the job are not enormous. If he get a 40% raise with the neighbor, what is wrong in shifting? You did it in your career, didn’t you?

In India you will live happily and comfortably, if you treat all your servants and maids as you treat them in New York. We expatriate Indians want to have the cake and eat it too. We want the service and commitment levels of the advanced societies at the costs of ‘old’ India. A driver gets Rs. 6000/- - exorbitant and prohibitive? It is US$ 120 for the whole month of 12 hour duty for God’s sake!

I have a home in India and my maid has a key. Trust them; also give them long term solutions to their miserable lives, see how comfortable you are! It makes perfect business sense for you to pay the school fees for one year for your drivers’ child. Do it and see how loyal he is. Saying I am there for a short time is an excuse. You get committed to the country; the country gets committed to you. Otherwise, please you are there as an extravagant attachment, India is busy with its life. Approach your trip from this mental get up and I guarantee you a comfortable and lovely stay. What these small people need is not even what your money w ill do in their unsafe lives; the reality - a generous person like you is such an enormous comfort; such a lovable safety net. Like belief in God, it is not important whether you live up to that belief or not – you are a great psychological comfort; remember this, you will enjoy India.

Someone raised the issue of safety. Safely is no issue in Bangalore or Chennai or Bombay or any other parts of India. I can personally vouch about interiors of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Kerala and Maharashtra. I have a belief that other places will be as safe. Individual experiences are bad luck, it could happen in NY. It is like I hear about some students in USA getting shot by a horrible monster and I cancel my trip to USA. India plods along. However unfair it is to the poor masses there, the well to do have an organized life. They are well taken care of. Go there in the safe thinking that there are two Indias inside one – one India of you and me enjoying life and another India of maids and drivers and security men, taking good care of us; and a Police system which protects you and me well, not them please. Interiors of India are heaven to enjoy, but with that special mental make-up; go to the streets of Ahmadabad and talk to the auto rickshawallahs; visit the temples of Tirunelveli; come back and tell me I am right! Wow, India is great man.

Majority of the poor people in India are – surprisingly - taking their lives with dignity and strength. This is the training of centuries of our culture. Put the burden on God and carry on. Majority are honest. Globalization has its own impact by disturbing their minds. There are too many things and life styles beyond their means. This is opening a new unnecessary struggle in their small lives. But you must treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. Enjoy that little flower vendor who cannot go home even if she has a wet day and has a splitting headache – get her an aspirin and hold her hands. You want to enjoy India to the hilt? This is where a treasure lies. You will never be disappointed. No other country (talking from a position of pride and not literally, I do not have statistics) has such majority of helpful and well intentioned people. No other country has so many numbers of people spending their lives helping others (here I am statistically correct, we are huge in anything).

Depending on your budget and comfort levels you expect, choose your apartment or community. There are plenty. Are you ok with a pent house near Palm Meadows? There is Purva Fountain Square, you get a three bed apartment, with an open terrace total 2800 sq ft for Rs. 18,000/- pm. Convert again, it is US$.360/-. This is a good time - too many properties too cheap. Again safety is no issue; having said that, if you are unlucky you could get robbed in your country too. No one is after your money; all you need to be is to be generous to the poor people servicing you.

Now for comforts – well, internalize a few facts:

- India is noisy; you can do nothing about it. Get some nice ear plugs; get an apartment in the 11th floor. India is not going to change for you and me, it will remain noisy.
- India is congested, it is horrible traffic, it is completely undisciplined, and on the street it is rule of the Tarzan.
- India is dirty; it is horribly dirty in some places; have you seen slum dog millionaire? Erase the filmy aspects of the movie and see the slum scenes, you think it is exaggerated, please do visit Dharavi. People live like that, it is a fact. If you are going to Bangalore, remember you will live on the streets, if you have to go to places. You cannot imagine how terrible it is, unless you go there.
- For personal living comfort it is dusty, you can’t walk without chappal inside home too.
- It is polluted like hell in some cities and places. Nothing will change in a hurry.
- If you are going to Chennai – 8 out of 12 months, it is horribly sticky and impossible to enjoy living even under a fan; love for Chennai makes people like us blind to this fact.
- It is greatly unsophisticated; most times you have intruders and you have nosy millers.

You can do nothing about the above – like you can do nothing about street robbery when you go to Rome. Then how do I make myself comfortable?

Well, when I go to London, I spend well for my comforts, my sightseeing, my visits; where I don’t mind spending is the common infrastructure, the rail and bus, which are very comfortable and far cheaper for the quality. But then remember, if you want quality in a country which does not have quality common infrastructure, you are ordering quality custom made. So you need to pay like the West; in West you pay for different things and in India you pay for different things. Once you pay about half of what you spend in the west, you get almost the same quality, with which you can cocoon yourselves. Cocoon yourselves is the concept.

You need to cocoon yourselves; have a driver, if necessary have two maids, have a car at your disposal. If you are ok, then hire a chauffeur driven car every time – it is cheap; remember to use only the modern cars with air conditioning. Ambassador, niyet. Have a good accommodation, free from all ills above – not noisy, not dirty, dusty and not hot – or enough air-conditioning around.

Power is a problem sometime, so have inverters.

Food is the best part of India; you have food and food and food at unbelievable prices. You can go to any level you want, idli dosa camps to vegetarian authentic Italian joints – bars, wow, you can’t get enough. But what is lacking again? There is no great entertainment and places to go to daily inside the city, like what you have in each city in the West; you have to go to eating joints and bars with company, you can go to movies, some malls. Having said that, this is not entirely true too; do you have interest in traditional visiting places, culture, history, temples, and authentic food, you have enough to do. You can go short distances to great places. Socializing in India can occupy your whole life time.

You must be having relatives and friends who opted to stay back and make a career there, when you wandered out. Have you seen them enjoy their lives? It is fascinating to watch how they permanently cocooned themselves to be comfortable. They have big enough cocoons to be butter flies and fly around. To be comfortable, follow their model.

Summarize –

a. Nothing like going to India, whether short stay or permanently.
b. Be a people person when you go. Small pleasures come from being sensitive to small people dealing with problems of existence with no tools in hand. Try this, surprise an old lady (I hate to call her a beggar) by giving her a 100 re note – see the pleasure and gratitude – see the karma credit you get by giving 50 Rs – you get 50 $ worth.
c. Pay international level to servicing lot of people, after all they need to make lives out of this.
d. Get committed long term with small people.
e. Safety is no issue at all.
f. Accept brutal facts and cocoon yourselves; organize well before you go; get your own comfort universe, insulated from the mayhem around you.
g. Enjoy the food.
h. Enjoy your social circles – you make friends easy in India.
i. Remember – India plods along right! Finally it plods right!
j. Also tell yourselves, India is there for the Indians there, they are busy trying to survive; they need not create a world to suit me. Don’t expect the India you left behind.
k. Budget well; don’t cut your budget because it is India, but surprisingly Rupee goes much longer than what it is worth in US$.
l. Relax and enjoy.

Cheers friends. Finally, this issue of whether I will be happy in India is not an external question, it is an internal one. I have to be happy where ever I am. If I am completely happy in where I am now, why should I be asking questions about returning to India? Go to India from a happy position of being happy where you are and go to India to be happy. Happiness is in the mind. Really!

March 19, 2009 2:28 PM


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