Of roads less travelled

Dear Diary,

"jaane kya dhoondhta hai yeh mera dil, tujhko kya chahiye zindagi"

This seems to be the question of my life these days. This time shifting turned out to be a milestone in our lives. I’ve shifted quite a few times after my marriage, in these last 6.5 yrs. In all these times, it never seemed arduous.

For the first time in our lives, I and Tarun have come to a point where we want to settle. We want a nest that we can call ‘home’. We always thought of doing things a certain way in our home but we never did that in Indirapuram, despite it being our home. There was always a thought that we would move out eventually so what’s the point. Now, we’re in my Mom’s house and it’s as close to our own home, as can be. The feeling is ‘this close and yet so far’.

This new place is quite close to our workplaces. Both of us work in different companies now but the workplaces are barely 10-20 mins drive away. And the day-timings or traffic conditions don’t change this travel-time. But, this is still quite an underdeveloped area. For everything, you need to take your car out. And, I didn’t know how frustrating this can be. As the person responsible for managing household, the frustrating part all gets down on me. Now, for everything I’ve to bother Tarun and as an independent woman, this is a very annoying practice. It’s not a habit I intend to adopt. So, let’s see.

Ever since I returned from US trip this February, something has changed for me. I’m not sure what exactly it is. I can’t pin point. It seems like a passion-switch got switched off. So, all the bright enthusiasm I used to feel for my work, it seems to have trickled down somehow. I want to believe it’s a phase but it doesn’t seem to pass. Now, job is just job.

As I try to focus more on my home and Anay, there are quite a few times when I wonder if I should actually try and quit it all. Many times the reservations we have against any idea, it is mostly because we have a heavily-prejudiced sense of normalcy. What any one of us considers ‘normal’ is mostly defined by what we grew up seeing each day. So, for women like me who grew up watching a working-mom, being working mom is normal. Now, when I see Tarun’s mom, his sisters, I see them content with being a home-maker. And I wonder why I can’t be content with just that. Why do I have this urge to make a career, keep this identity for myself. Would it be that bad if I ended my life as just being Anay’s Mom, or Tarun’s wife?

The only answer I have is ‘What if you indeed regret it later’

And with that thought, I stop. I carry on with my life till I have a definite answer which tells me which road I want to take – the road frequently taken, or the road less traveled.

-Hope

The real picture of life in US

Dear Diary,

Remember I once spoke about how life in US has its own pros and cons. It’s not as perfect and rosy as we see it to be, sitting here!? Well, as my yearning to go there increases (Well, I’m staying at my in-laws place these days. What to say!?) I think it’s time to write down those reasons.

The reasons why people living in India wish to go there

1. Romance (+easy sex) is in the air, thanks to all the movies/serials that we see

2. World of job opportunities

3. Growth prospects

4. Cleanliness

5. Availability of resources

6. Medical facilities

7. You earn shitloads of money that you never earn here (India being my point of comparison)

8. Awesome places to visit

If I’m not mistaken, I have covered pretty much all the reasons here. I’m not including ‘peer pressure’ here which is, unfortunately, one of the major reason for people to migrate. I’m not including it because that’s not ‘your’ choice then. It’s your incapability to make a choice on your own.

Now, let me burst the happy bubble slowly and steadily here

1. Romance: As much easy-going and fun-to-be-with US people seem from the movies, it’s totally opposite. People don’t interact with strangers. They don’t even talk to their neighbors so unless you work together or are relatives, or met at university, chances are you’re as lonely as Bhaskar from the movie Partner. And, you don’t need to be a Bhaskar to reach that position.

When I went to US in 2009, the only people I met or spoke to were my colleagues. This has nothing to do with the fact that I spent most of my day working my ass off in office. This is also because nobody talks to you. If someone approaches you at a random bus-stop, while you wait, it would be a person trying to make you change your religion and accept the holy bible and Jesus.

I did approach couple strangers once in a while, when I was stuck in a situation, like looking for coin-change to call home. Stuck somewhere without a mobile and must call someone for help. So, stuff like that. But, I don’t think any of them became my buddies. Or, would have agreed to exchange numbers (either gender) if I had asked for. People are extremely private and cautious of whom they share it with.

There was a time when I was so lonely and thirsty for some conversation that I broke down in front of my parents on a skype chat. That was when my brother dug up his friends-circle and got me in touch with a friend who was pursuing his studies there. I ended up spending a day with a guy 4.5 yrs younger than me. Practically a brother. So, no romance there.

So, all in all, if you’re not signing up for a university which brings you to US, I don’t know how you’ll get to make friends or interact with people.

In India, things are way better. If you keep going to your local park every day, there are chances you’ll find some yoga friends, or walk-friends, or market-friends. You could even stand and talk to the grocery-man if nothing else. Forget everything. If you were bored, you could go to Connaught Place and do some window-shopping. There’s no concept of CP in San Fransisco.

No wonder there is such high percentage of depression and suicide cases there.

2. World of job opportunities: There are lot of Indians in Bay Area. So, I don’t see any dearth of opportunities there. I haven’t tried it for myself so I don’t really know the complete picture in that regard. But, the work culture is a different ballgame all together.
The work culture is quite different there than India. In India, because of the sheer number of people you’re competing with, chances are you’re growing up in the ladder with minimal efforts. If you were ambitious, you would see a major accelerated growth. Things get pretty competitive in US. In semiconductor industry, where I’m employed, most people are Ph.d. You may meet some M.Sc but meeting a B.Tech or B.Sc? Chances are close to none.

Since people are so highly qualified, and the number of jobs are quite limited, you work extra-hard to prove your worth. The expectations are way higher. The work environment is always about technical discussions. People never ever talk about their personal lives. They don’t share unless it’s a causal 1-2 liners about their kids or pets.

3. Growth prospects: If you’re an Indian who was brought and bred on competitions and ambitions, you would have a hard time adjusting to the settled life in US. The increment is almost same, no matter how hard you perform. The starting salary, the increments, it pretty much is set. There is very little difference. So, if you want to grow, you really have to think and work out-of-the-box. Something like a part-time-job to increase your salary from what it is. Or, startups etc.

4. Cleanliness: This is one place where I’ll go hands-down and bow to the place. There’s no comparison and never can be.

5. Availability of resources: Yes, it’s true that you’ve most things there. But, I don’t see a dearth of the same things in India now. Indian market is catching up quite fast. There are very few things which are available there and not available here. Unless you start talking of 5% fat milk, or low protein 1% fat milk. You got the drift, right!?

6. Medical facilities: The doctors, the facilities are world-class. It’s no question that if you’re struggling with a disease and there is a cure known to mankind, then you’ll get it in US. There’s no question about that. The medical team gives their 100%, more than 100% to make you live. But, if I were to look at it from the other angle, I’m not so sure. If I had a severe disease, or my kins had it, I would definitely want to be in US. But, if I didn’t, the medical insurance is a pain.

If you’re lucky to be fit and fine, it’s nothing but a significant chunk of money getting cut from your salary. You bear with it thinking it’ll help in my times of need. But, if you were to actually fall sick, they take care of your costs at that time, but they pump up your premium going forward. So, what you paid them doesn’t matter any more. Your medical history will have the disease in it, and your premium goes up. So, you end up paying whatever they paid you during your time of crisis, after the crisis passed.

I heard of a family where the wife required Physiotherapy regularly and the husband was extremely bitter about the medical insurances and the ways of US.

Another friend had someone part of a minor car accident. You would think my car insurance would protect me. On the contrary, the accident goes into your credit history. Your premium goes extremely high. You realized the insurance company didn’t pay as much for the damages than what you’re paying now as part of premiums.

It’s ultimately a vicious circle which ends up beefing up the capitalist society and sucking from the common man.

In India, things are way more accessible.

7. Money: This is the biggest myth most people have. No matter what salary they’re offering you, you would end up spending 70-80% of it on your living costs. From what you save, even if you were living meager, you’ll realize, over long term, it is equal to what you would have made in India. Here you earn less, you save some. There you earn more, save in dollars, but the conversion only happens once – when you return. And, it may look like a lot at that time, it ends up being not much. And the people living out of India, in that whole time, would have made much better from their savings while you would be starting all over.

8. Awesome places to visit: This is true but if you have the money, you could go visit any place on the earth. You don’t need to be living in US for that. And, from my point of view, worthy places to visit are in Europe than in US. So, if you must live abroad, live in Europe 😉

What do you think?

-Hope

Of values and superstitions

Some random ramblings I wrote a few months ago. Posting now.

 

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All my life I have been the decent girl who never did anything that made her a ‘bad girl’. Even when I was in love, I was the decent, good girl in love. I never wore anything hot or provocative. Ever. I always believed that when I get married, I’ll dress up in all those dresses and flaunt it with my man by my side. My Mom never did a lot of makeup.. I discovered makeup at the age of 30. I’m still grappling with it. Will you believe if I told you that I tried my eye-liner a day ago, yesterday, that is 31 Jan’2016.

Before a girl is taught language, she’s taught boundaries, rights and wrongs. She’s not told about exploring her femininity but how to cover it. How to curb any thoughts of doing things on her own. What is unacceptable in the society.
I remember I found my femininity when I went to US. It was only then that I was really away and alone from my parents. I thought having lived in the hostel and PGs for good 6 yrs should be sufficient to teach me a thing or two. It should have made me independent. But, it seems they didn’t. In US, being all alone, single, I found my true self. Open, free. I explored the clothes I wore. I tried my first lipstick. I still didn’t explore other shades of lipstick. Even that exploration has only started now. I wanted to be hot. I am 31 and I don’t want to think myself as old or over with my youth. I wanted marriage to free me of those limitations. But, unfortunately, it has put more limitations.

I have now found that my soul knows no limits, no inhibitions. I learnt a thing about Mr. Guilt too.  Guilt mostly happens because you think you did something against your values. The values, which have been ingrained in your mind, all these years. I don’t know whether what they teach is right or wrong. I think values, when followed blindly are as much superstitions as those Hindu vrats that one does. Without understanding their meanings, without your mind accepting them, they are just baseless bullshit with no results. They tell you of all the bad things which may happen in future. But you don’t know whether that’s true or not. No one got out alive of it anyway!

I remember reading ‘Illusions’ by Richard Bach. It has a para that says ‘If God asked you of his one work that he wanted you, His ardent followers to do, would you do it? The followers said’ Yes, Dear Jesus, tell us what you want and we’ll lay our lives for it. God said ‘Are you sure you would do anything and fulfill this work of mine?’ They all said ‘Yes Yes, we will go to any length to do it.’ God said ‘ Be Happy. I want you all to be happy’.

The quote has stuck with me. I think that’s precisely what God wants from us, all of us. To be happy. To chose happiness over anything else.

The Action Plan

Dear Diary,

Some dreams never leave you. They keep bugging you, sometimes softly, sometimes strongly. Similar is my dream for living abroad. Maybe it’s my weakness towards the grass on the other side of the fence. More than my own farm, I end up envying over the green pastures on the other side. Well, never mind. This too shall pass!

So, as I discussed in my last post, I was strongly thinking of quitting my job so that I could take care of my son. All my life, I’ve always believed that working women take equally good care of their children as home-makers. My Mom was working and took extremely good care of me and my brother. So, I could too. Now, the myth was broken. So, here were the constraints:

1. I have no way I would give anything less than the best to my child. If I believe I can give the best care to my child even while working then I should.
2. If I’m not giving my best, then what is it I’m lacking?
3. Will my quitting job fulfill the purpose?
4. Can’t I do that WITH my work?

So, through these questions, I found my action plan and some further questions which I seek answer to:
The Action Plan:  I take a 1-month leave from work, spending time at home, while my son’s summer vacations are on. Once this finishes and his school begins, I and my husband juggle between work and home. He picks him up at 12.00 from school/bus, stays with him for 2-3 hrs and feeds him lunch. I stay at work from 8 AM – 2 PM and head home. As I reach, husband heads back to work. I work from home for the rest few hours I’m supposed to log-in. In the meanwhile, Anay takes his afternoon nap. As evening arrives, I’m done with my office and free and available for my son. No daycare!
The Questions
1. I try to give my best to my son. I try to find out what extra I’m doing for him.
2. Do I end up procrastinating, as I expect I would, if I became a full-time-home-mom?
3. Am I able to keep my sanity staying 24-hr at home?
4. Find out how life would be if I were completely at home? Find out if I can manage to work AND take care of my child.
5. If I do not want to leave my work, how do I manage to provide all that with my work?
6. Any external factors which further come into play?

How’s it going so far?
It’s been close to 10 days since I started doing this. I’ve gotten quite a few answers and this is how it’s going.
My son is thoroughly enjoying his time at home. He buggers me with his constant ‘Bore ho raha hoon (I’m getting bored!)’ unless I agree to his demand for TV or start to play something with him. He doesn’t have a care that I’m on a Leave-without-pay and that means less money. Nothing’s complicated in the 5-yr old’ world. However, that does seem to irk the adults. So, my husband and my parents have been softly and consistently telling me that while it’s okay to take some leave, 1 month is just too long. I’ll lose touch with my work! (If that’s even possible) I’ll  get no money at all this month. etc. etc.
Well, that didn’t bug me too much but then I had to go to office for a day, and I realized that taking a month off did have its repercussions. Before I decided to quit/not-quit, the people above had started wondering the same. And, making adjustments!! That’s something I definitely didn’t want. I want to try my best at my work. I’ve worked hard to build my career and I do not let it go just like that. If I decide to quit, it’ll be when I decide I can’t do it. Not before that! And hence, I had to make arrangements so that I continue to work for few hours scattered through the week, while still being on vacation. My manager was kind and adjusting enough to allow me to apply for a working-day accordingly.
So, you make some plans, life makes its own plans. Each action has its own reactions and you gotta be prepared for them. I was able to do damage control, thankfully but things could have slipped out of my hand very soon and easily.
I’m trying to work-from-home but working with a 5 yr old at home is not easy. Hence, I realize I’ll have to make some arrangements if I want to not send him to daycare and yet WFH. And, I do end up frustrated and itchy by being 24-hrs at home.
But, one thing I did learn, my son needs a lot of my time. No amount of time is sufficient for your child. You can give as much and it’ll still be less. Tarun says you can’t give quality time the whole day. If you give 1 hr of quality time in the day, that’s sufficient too. And, I somehow realize it’s true. I can’t keep my patience and mental strength to keep him engaged in variety of stuff, all day long. Somewhere, I think it’s not that necessary. If you just ensure that you teach him one new thing each day, even if for an hour, that’s sufficient. What’s crucial is to keep the child at priority. What’s crucial is to not forget him in the milieu of things that happen in our regular working lives.

It’s okay if he’s watching too much TV. It’s a phase and shall pass. It’s okay if he’s fooling around and wasting his time. Trust God that it’ll teach him something too.

Ultimately, he’s the child of the Universe. What he gets, what he doesn’t, is all his destiny. I can only try to do my best. Try to impart him the common sense and the sense of the world, as long as it lasts. Enjoy the time with him as long as you have it. Share some laughs, some litchis, relish the twinkles in his eye, and the innocent laughter on getting the unexpected chocolate, the squeals in the pool, the detailed arguments with people for getting his way.

Thank You God for being kind enough.

Love,
Hope