The loyal brood who know me and who have read some of my posts, would know by now that I’ve lived on four continents, and worked in five, Asia, Middle East, North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific.
After having lived overseas for several years on and off, I was finally going back, back home to Bombay. Yes, yes, I’m still stubborn and call it Bombay, not “Mumbai”. Man this is what I grew up with, and I’m not about to change it for anything.
I didn’t know how it would all pan out, many challenges, several hurdles or I would readjust seamlessly? I didn’t know how long I would be there, but it seemed at least a few months if not more….. Hindsight is a great thing, and so I’m still here in Bombay, albeit, I travel quite a bit.
By now I’ve lived in major cities in the four major geographies, Singapore in the Far East, Abu Dhabi in the Middle East, Chicago in the US, and London in the United Kingdom, apart from travel to many, many countries for work and just a little sight seeing. Living abroad is a fantastic experience, broadening your horizons, a lot of learning about culture, psychology, customs, traditions and so on and so forth. Highly recommended and an essential grooming for one and all. Go for it and encourage your kids if they want to do it, its well worth the challenge and the adjustment.
Once I knew that I was going back, I was a mix of emotions, apprehensions ….. would I re-adjust, would I like it, would I get used to the heat, dirt, etc, all associated with Bombay and India. Don’t get me wrong, if you cut me I bleed Indian, but people who have lived overseas will understand what I mean. There are so many things we take for granted when we live abroad. And living is so different from visiting on business or for personal reasons. When you live someplace nice, you get used to the comforts, the conveniences mainly I think.
From the beginning of January 2009, I had known due to professional developments that I will have some change in my job profile, which could possible lead to me moving to another country, perhaps back home, back to India. In October 09, due to certain unfortunate “developments” I received a call from my boss and on speaking to him it became more likely that the move would happen sooner than later. A few days after my call with him, it was confirmed that I would need to go back and work from Pune, in India until it was finally decided what was to become of me. By mid November 2010, I was asked to return to London, wind up my establishment there and come back.
So by now in this job I had moved from Bombay to Pune, Pune to Chicago, Chicago to London and finally from London to Bombay, back to the home of my parents, back to the family.
The “fun” part was getting all my stuff shipped back to India under the re-location package my employer had given me. I’ve been away several years and in that time I had gathered a “little” stuff, stuff that I could not just throw away or discard. So the packers and movers were called in to pack my stuff in London, and arrange shipment and related formalities in India.
I’d thought of where a lot of the furniture would go, replacing some of the older items at my parents place. Now nobody knew what was coming their way, except Krishanu who had visited my in London, and seen all the “stuff” I would be bringing back.
The essential fact that a combination of 60 cartons and boxes of assorted dimensions were headed home was information not for the faint at heart! But was I ever so professional at getting all the stuff in, especially the larger items of furniture like the bed and sofas. In two days flat a majority of the shipment was unpacked and stowed away. The balance was completed in another week, so all in all great going, with minimum pain.
What was worth seeing, was my mothers’ face when she saw the guys unloading 60 assorted boxes into the apartment! However, it was all hands to the wheel and everyone pitched in to get it sorted.
During my stints overseas, I visited India almost every other month, but mainly for work, and just spent a day or two at home. But in October – November last year I spend about two months in India, so I had a whiff of what it would be like, and that time perhaps helped me get used to being back and living like I had in the past.
One of the great things about being back is that I’ve had the opportunity to spend quality time with my kids, Krishanu the older boy (almost 20), Keertana the darling girl (15), and the little fella Kartikeya (10). Living abroad for an extended period of time had in a lot of ways estranged me from my family, and whenever I did come back I was a visitor for a couple of days, en route to some location or another.
It has been a period of bonding, of getting to know each other all over again, for the kids to realize that there is a father figure standing behind them. It’s been very hard on the family, my being away, and I had no realization of how difficult it must have been, until I’ve stayed put and spent most of my time at home with them over the past six months.
Bhavna kept telling me that I should try and spend time with the kids, go away somewhere with them, that they are growing up very quickly and are very interesting. Being caught up in my world of the corporate, flying all over the place, hotels, lunches, dinners,
I just didn’t have the time to do that, or perhaps it would be more honest if I just say, I didn’t make the time to do that. She and the folks had been doing that, and I would get supplied pics that did often, leave me in tears.
It is my loss as time has gone by, I’ve already missed those times, but I’m so happy for the last several months of being in that “in-between” condition as they put it, when you’re seeking another challenge. Talking on the phone or Skype or email periodically does not really include you in the day to day stuff that goes on with the kids.
Just today, Krishanu my eldest, comes to me and shows me this note. Its a “To Do” list made by Kartikeya. See what I mean? Its these small little day to day things that you miss when you are away.
I’m beginning to dread the prospect of being away from them again should things pan out the way I plan. The way it’s looking, I will get much better opportunities overseas, and that will mean relocating yet again, something I’ve become quite professional at.
I’m sure my audience will say, “so stay put in India dummy” or “don’t you know what you value more” or something to that effect. However, “its complicated” as they say, and it will suffice to say here that I’ll look for opportunities back home, but its not a huge possibility. I’m hoping that they will elect to study in a location close to me, wherever I am, and that way I will get to spend quite some time with them.
But let’s talk about the day to day logistics of being back. Well for starters, no room to myself, so I share with Krishanu. He’s kindly emptied one of his closets so I don’t need to live out of my suitcases and boxes. Even before I moved back, one evening, we were on chat, and I felt bad that he was forced to share space with me, and I told him as much and thanked him. Krishanu being Krishanu, (that gentle, sweet boy), and insisted that it was no problem at all. And I’ve not been used to having so many people around me, mom and dad, three kids, Bhavna, house help, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment that.
I had gotten quite used to being the recluse, my time was my time, my way of cooking (my time of Zen), my way of cleaning, all of that stuff. Then there is the stuff about transport, having only one car one that “belongs” more or less to Krishanu (he calls it “Nightwing”), getting around is not as much a taken for granted thing as it normally is. Even simple things, like waking up, sleeping, dinner times, etc are all adjusted to suit all. It was hard to begin with, but I settled into the rhythm, and everybody has been really accommodating about it. I’m pretty sure that on one side, they love having me back, but sometimes they probably say, “what a pain!!!”.
Then of course there is the train and bus system which is great, but of course the crowd, the levels of cleanliness, all pose certain challenges to using mass transit.But that’s all the flip side.
Personal relationships and friendships are so much easier in India, just hanging out at the local coffee place, the street corner, at the club, one meets old friends and after the first meeting aeons after the last and the catching up, it’s like I had never left.
I met my cousin sister Anuradha, after about 10 years, and we picked up right where we’d left off, reminiscing about the time we spent as kids in each other’s houses. I
I’ve made a firm resolution that no matter where in the world I finally end up, I will make that extra effort to keep in touch with immediate family and a few select friends. Casual bonding, instantaneous rendezvous, unplanned coffees and dinners and drinks with friends and family, is such a rarity in western societies in general.
I made a good friend in London, and over drinks one evening, Sulamif (that’s what we’ll call her- she likes it, something to do with Sulamif being the favorite and most beloved wife of King Solomon-The Wise) and I got into a long argument about culture and traditions. I think she sparked something in me (maybe my pride in my rich traditional and cultural Indian upbringing was hurt), when she said that the English had a lot of tradition and culture. Because my reaction, we dwelt on this particular aspect quite a bit, and after an hour or so of arguing, sometimes animatedly, I discovered that we were agreeing violently about the same basic tenets.
My only objection to her stand was that she seemed to generalize and believe that the English traditions and culture were deep rooted across all levels of society, to which I violently disagreed, but only because I’ve seen tradition and culture in India, the Far East, the Middle East, The Americas, UK and Europe and it is my belief that if there is tradition and culture across all strata of society, then the Far Eastern societies are leagues ahead.
Of course we both supported culture and tradition and I have developed a lot of respect for Sulamif, therefore we were able to reconcile our views and opinions and grow the friendship. Maybe I should do a blog entry on Culture, Tradition and Religion. So maybe I drifted a bit, what was my point….. hmmmmm, I think, it was to say, that being back in India, I’ve been re-exposed to the traditions and culture of my youth, and my knowledge and experiences are recharged by my time here. So that’s been another good thing!
Then of course there was the wedding. My cousin, Nikita getting married, all the relatives and old friends reassembling after many, many years, a traditional Indian wedding. I can say that it has been one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended. The arrangements, the events, the bonding, all went towards making it great. I could write so much more, but that is saved from another installment, a website complete with pictures, et all. But as a parting shot, I really felt for the first time in my rather colorful life, that I would soon be in the same position as Mickey (my Uncle), getting a daughter married!
Strange feeling that. Even though she’s still very young (not so youn, I could almost feel deep pain in my heart, as if she’s going away already. I did get a similar feeling when my kid sister Shruti was getting married, however, I was too preoccupied with other serious goings on in my life at the time to dwell on it.
Coming back home has meant spending quality time with my lovable mom and dad… I call them Mama and Papa.
Papa turned eighty earlier this year (we think). March and April are when most of the birthdays happen in our family, with the exception of Shruti, myself and Krishanu, who are in July, August and October. Mama and Kartikeya in March, Bhavna, Keertana and Papa in April. Well, Papa happens in March and April, but that is something we will leave out of this blog. So we did nothing special, except order cake on one of the days, and went out for a common birthday dinner to Basilico.
I think they really would like me to stay put in India…. having a son around I guess is reassuring. Me, on my part feel better if I’m closer to them as well. They have been there in my absence for the kids, who have essentially had to deal with an absentee father. What can I say about my parents! They are the best!
They have faced so much in life, they have taught me by example, they have taught me to face adversity and hold my head up high. They have taught me to face life, its not what everyone gets to learn from parents. I’ve learnt a lot from the school of very hard knocks, however, they taught me the principles and values and above all they gave me faith, which has been my foundation in the face of storm.
What more can I say, except that I feel more and more love for them each day (but I’m a bit off in expressing that openly enough), and tearing myself away, if that comes to pass will be very difficult this time around.
I should write about each one of the family, they are all wonderful people in their own right, I stand humbled before them in so many ways.
Before I get too nostalgic, I’d better conclude, and so in conclusion, I love being back, albeit with some minor challenges, would love to remain here if I get a good professional opportunity (which seems quite unlikely), especially as I’d be so much closer to family, culture, traditions.
On the other hand, wanderlust, professional aspirations, a desire to be at the top of my game, and to have that which has been missing in my life……..But that’s not in my hands as of now. Maybe another blog entry of yet another stint abroad will be supplied. Time will tell…….