Thursday, February 28, 2013


A lot went into planning the move to India and like everybody else we had very limited time. It doesn’t matter how long you have known that you will go, when the time comes you will be scampering around trying to figure out what to do. To top it all there will be a struggle going on in your head about the sanity of the decision you just made. Even after you move, you will still keep thinking about it for a very long time. My suggestion would be to keep thinking about it. Let it out of your system, talk about it with friends, do whatever it takes to get your head around it! At the end of the day you made the decision based on what was right for you at the moment and you shouldn’t have to defend it for the rest of your life.

Now, comes the planning part. You will thank god for the internet every single day of your life until the move is said and done and for a long time after that. It is the best resource to find out about schools, accommodation, travel options, moving companies and everything else under the sun. The Indian counterparts may not have as many options as the USA but if like me you are trying to manage things from there, then you will thank your stars for it. Even after you have moved it is a good resource to find out about local restaurants, activities for kids, transportation and anything else you can think of. You will be surprised how much you can find out by doing a web search in India these days J. This is very different from when I grew up where word of mouth was how you found out about everything.
We moved though my husband’s company and although they provided monetary help with the move, they didn’t have the experience to provide us with any practical help. They didn’t have resources to help us find schools, accommodation, temporary travel arrangements etc so we were on our own there. Fortunately we had a few friends in Bangalore and the Internet on our side J
So, I set about trying to find the basics while I was still in Dallas. I went to work during the day and scanned Bangalore city websites by the night to research schools, temporary accommodation and permanent accommodation. We had never lived in Bangalore and didn’t know that distances shown on online maps could be deceptive because of the traffic conditions in the city and we couldn’t make up our mind about the livability of the so called serviced apartments advertised on the web.
After getting overwhelmed for two days, I decided that a school was the first thing on the list so I set about trying to find a school for Vivek first. We decided on a general area we wanted to be in based on DH’s office and as luck would have it our friends lived in the same vicinity so we were able to get some idea of the area. I then scouted the web for a few weeks trying to find out information about schools and after a few rounds of research, talking to schools over the phone, discussions with family and finally a tour of the school by my in-laws, we finalized the school. It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined but I was glad it was over. I will put more details in a separate blog entry which you can read if you are interested in the specifics.
The next was trying to find accommodation. DH’s company would pay us for the first three months of accommodation in addition to the move so we decided to stay in a serviced apartment while I came back to the US to take care of things in Dallas. DH’s friend was very helpful in identifying service apartments ad well as rental properties for us while we were still in Dallas but we wanted to look at them before we signed up for it. That was a very good decision! The service apartments were nothing like the pictures put up on the website and after looking at a few we decided to rent an apartment for a year and furniture for 3 months while we waited for our stuff to arrive from Dallas. Again, more details about finding an apartment in a separate blog J
So with the big things taken care of we started talking about what we need to take with us. The last time I moved across the world, I was younger and travelled light. My entire “move” happened with two suitcases that weighed about 70 pounds each. This time around it took ¾ of a container which ended up weighing close to 9000 pounds. What can I say, it is difficult to travel light when you have two kids :P.
We had read a lot of R2I blogs and forums so I set about making lists and more lists to keep track of those lists and then I went around town frantically buying everything on my list and finding more stuff that I “thought” I would need and adding them to my shopping cart and when I was finally “done”, I remembered there were some other things I “needed”. The planning and shopping for the move was going on till the last minute. So much so that when the packers came and packed half my stuff on a Saturday, I went shopping again on Sunday so I could add more boxes when they came to finish the packing on Monday. Wait, I actually went again on Monday afternoon as well. The list is never ending. Even after you get here, you will remember a hundred other things that you should have bought when you had a chance. My thought was that everything else will be a big adjustment anyway so if we had the same or similar comforts at home, the transition might be easier. I am glad I made that decision.
Although there is nothing that you cannot find in India, from toilet paper to kitchen towels, EVERYTHING is expensive and the quality is nowhere close to what you are used to. It is strange that a lot of things you find in the USA including clothes have a made in India/Pakistan/china tag but you will not find the same quality over here although you pay the same amount of money. I wonder what the logic behind that is. I bought everything I could think of for 2 years including clothes for kids, myself, Kishen, shoes for all of us( multiple sizes for the kids because they grow like weeds!), kitchen essentials like non-stick cookware, kitchen rags, towels, furniture, you name it, I bought it. I raided Bed bath and Beyond and Target like I was planning to go into hibernation for the next 2 years!  I had the experience of quite a few friends to fall back on and after talking to a few of them and looking at the R2I Blogs, I decided it was better to have too much stuff than get here and get frustrated about the small things.
Believe me, if you take care of the small things and are not frustrated by them, it will be a much easier transition than if you just pack 8 suitcases and try to set up everything from scratch!  So, the shopping  was done, the movers hired, the packing done and the container finally shipped. At which point I remembered 30 more things I should have bought and packed J. So much for planning and keeping track of things. Oh well, I was still in the US so I had an option to ship more boxes when I moved J which by the way I did…


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deciding to Move

We had been thinking about the move for a long time before it actually happened. It was never if, but when it would happen. A lot of people who move out of India have plans about moving back. Some of them materialize and some don’t. Everybody has their reasons to move or stay. Ours was to be closer to family for some time, maybe help the kids identify with their own culture a little more than they would while living overseas and also for us to reconnect to India the way it was today and not get a culture shock each time we visited because India had changed so much since we left it.
So, after a lot of thinking and deliberating, we decided this was the right time for us when the kids were still young enough to adapt without rebelling and we were not too old to take on the challenge of moving a family across the world. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy decision.  
There were a few things we were thinking about when we talked about making the move. The first one was always education for the kids. We wanted to make sure they got a well-rounded education with a good balance of academics and extra-curricular activities. I didn’t want to subject them to the school system that I remembered from my childhood where academics were the priority and any semblance of a balance between academics and extracurricular activities was a fact of dreams.
We also had easy access to a variety of extra-curricular activities for the kids like soccer, swimming lessons, little gym, vocal lessons, karate etc. My younger son was too young for any of these activities so we weren’t worried about him but the older one had been going to soccer for almost two years and finally getting to like the game when we decided to move. He was very disappointed that he won’t be able to play soccer in India but he quickly came up with his own solution saying, “it’s OK mommy, I will play cricket instead”.
Growing up in India me and my sisters learnt Indian classical dance as well as took Karate lessons but trying to find a swim lesson or sports coaching outside of school was very difficult. As a result we never learnt how to swim until we were adults. Most of our friends from India had the same experiences and like many of our generation we thought India was pretty much the same as we left it 10-15 years back.
I haven’t found any extracurricular activities for the kids yet but based on experiences of friends who had moved to Hyderabad a couple of years back, things have changed a lot. You can easily find lessons for swimming, tennis, roller skates, dance, music and instruments (Indian and western). It may not be as easily accessible as things would be in the USA but there are a lot of options.
The next thing was housing. We lived in Texas where land is cheap and easily available so houses are huge and spacious. We were also blessed with a huge backyard which our kids enjoyed playing in. I wasn’t very happy about leaving the house especially since we built it from scratch. Our house also happens to be on a closed cul-de-sac which gave our kids a lot of room to play outside in the evenings and the kids from our street used that area to its fullest.  So, in my mind housing in India was going to be a step down. I couldn’t bring myself to make the decision to sell our house so we decided to rent it out instead. We eventually put it up for sale because it just didn’t make sense to manage a rental property in the USA from India.
Although housing was one of my biggest concerns I knew that housing in India has changed a lot and along with the old style apartments and independent houses from my childhood there were also the brand new state of the art villas which would give houses anywhere in the world a run for their money. Be prepared to pay skyrocketing prices for that kind of luxury though.
Finally there was the fear of not being able to “fit in” in a new place anymore. We are past the age where we make friends easily. We had a support structure in Dallas, people we had known for as long as we could remember. People who had become our “adopted” family there. How do you replace them? You cannot. It almost felt like when I first went there. I was leaving behind everything that I took for granted, everybody I knew, the streets I knew like the back of my hand, the stores I shopped in regularly, the walls I woke up to everyday in the morning, the car I drove all day, the familiar faces of strangers I saw on my early morning runs and innumerable other things that I didn’t even realized I would miss and moving to a place that was frankly very alien to me. I thought about it a lot and eventually I decided not to think about it too much and just go with the flow. Try to reconnect with old friends in the area and hope to make new ones soon!
And then there are a lot of creature comforts you will miss. Frankly there is nothing that you cannot find here in India but you will be surprised how much more expensive everything is here. You will have to pay a price for “luxury”. If you want to stick to the brands you have known and loved for the last 10 or so years, you are in luck. You can find them all here, for practically as much as you paid there in dollars! My suggestion, try the local brands. They are not bad at all and they have been tested in the local environment!
We did have the experiences of a lot of our friends who had moved back in the last few years to give us hope. They have been living in India for anywhere between 2-5 years and they love it. I have also seen people who came here and decided it wasn’t for them and went back. So, we decide to try it out for ourselves. I have been told that it takes at least a year to get used to living in India.
So, after thinking about it for 5-6 years, planning our careers around it, looking for options for two years we finally decided to make the move last year. And here I am blogging away about the craziness of the last 6 months.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What the kids feel

I thought it would be difficult for the kids to adjust to a different lifestyle in India. They have visited every year for extended periods of time but have never lived here. To them, India was a place they visited every so often, met their grandparents, got pampered while mommy shopped till she dropped and then came back home. Most kids don’t travel very well but we have been blessed with kids who love to travel as much as we do so although the journey was long, it never bothered them or us.

When we first decided to move, my 7 year old was distraught. He just didn’t have any means to express his feelings. We didn’t figure it out until our friends threw a farewell party for us that he was really upset about moving and would miss his friends as much as we would miss ours. We had a circle of friends whose kids routinely had sleepovers at each other’s houses and played endlessly while the adults had their own parties and I never realized that my kids were forming bonds and friendships of their own.

The day of the farewell, we went over to a friend’s house for an after party with those folks and when we left, my son asked me if we would have a birthday party for him in India? When we said, of course we would, he asked if all his friends from Dallas would be there. We stopped a minute before answering and told him, they probably won’t be there but he would make new friends. Poor kid burst out crying and said he wanted his old friends to be there, not new friends. At that moment, I was pretty much feeling the same and there was nothing I could think of to say to him that would console him!
My kids are troopers, they let us move them across the world, stayed without me for months while I tried to sell the house in Dallas and didn’t complain once. They missed me more than anything but they didn’t give my in-laws or DH a hard time. They just waited for me to ship our stuff and take care of the house. Vivek went to an entirely new education system, with new subjects, teaching methodology, not to mention new attitudes from teachers and classmates but he figured out his own ways of dealing with it. When kids teased him about his “British” accent, he put on a fake “Indian” accent which sounds like something out of Madagascar. No amount of pep talk would make him revert back to his original accent! He wasn’t upset about the teasing, he just hated the fact that they didn’t know it was an “American” accent, not a “British” one! More on the school later…
When we first decided to sell the house, it broke my son’s heart. We had told him that we were only moving temporarily (which is true although temporary is about 4 years long) so when we told him that we had decided to sell the house and not rent it out, he was very upset. The first thing he said was, but if you sell the house, where will we live when we go back??? We told him we would buy a new house but he didn’t like the idea. After a while he decided he better get used to it but he still doesn’t like it. Even my 3 year old recognizes the house in pictures and tells me, that is his house. He keeps asking me when we will go back to Dallas.
I realized today that with me being away, they thought this was all temporary and when mommy returns things will go back to normal and they would go back to Dallas and their regular life. This morning my 3 year old asked me when we were going back! I told him we weren’t going any time soon. I asked him why he wanted to go back, he said because his house was in Dallas. I told him, well this was our house now and since all of our stuff from Dallas was already here, there really was no need to go back. He immediately said, but we can always get new stuff in Dallas or ship our stuff back! That is when I realized that even my 3 year old misses Dallas and his life over there.
Vivek would call my friends’ kids and talk to them on the phone, want them to play with him on the phone, all because he missed them. Nakul talks about his old babysitter and some of the friends he does remember. He saw pictures of the house and immediately pointed out the front door, his room, the garden and the garage! He even remembered that he used to play on the cul-de-sac with the neighbors.
Until yesterday, I was getting adjusted very well but after having this conversation with Nakul, I realized how stressful this has been for them as well. Moving across the world is not easy but we assumed that since the kids were young, they would adjust easily. I realized today that it is as difficult for them as anybody. In fact, it is probably worse because they can’t really express themselves very clearly except in the little ways that mine are trying.
It has been almost a month since I came here and until today I was only seeing the positive side of things. Somehow today the last one month feels like ages and I wish I could take all the stress we put the kids through back. I was talking to a friend today and mentioned how the kids were reacting. I couldn’t help but want to scream out that today it feels like ages even though it’s barely been a month and I practically wished I could go back if it would erase all the stress my poor babies had to go through.
They are adjusting pretty well, Vivek loves his school now, has made new friends, his teachers have great things to say about him and he is feeling more like himself now that I am back. Nakul is having a blast watching a lot of Diego on TV every day and not having to go to daycare during the day. They do remember that mommy used to work and they had to be at day care and I think they like this better but in their own way, they miss their old life and when they express that in their own little ways, it breaks my heart!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What I miss the most

A lot of people have asked me what I will miss about Dallas. How I will get settled in India after such a long time. Honestly, I have also been pondering these questions for a long time myself.In fact for over two years. The family moved here 5 months back and they were all settled by the time I got here. There were not many complaints from them including DH who had to figure out how to get to work without a car and my 7 year old who got his first taste of the school system in India. So settling down here was not too bad.
I was worried about not being able to figure out how to run a household in India, never having had to do that in the past! That was taken care of by the time I got here. I just had to take over the reins. I guess I will have some hiccups but because the kids and DH have had a chance to adjust already, it is much easier.
I haven’t looked for a job yet. Don’t know if I want to either. For the first time I don’t have a plan for my career. I don’t know what I will end up doing. I was conditioned to always have a plan. I freak out when I don’t have a plan or at least a hint of a plan. I don’t have a plan but I have options and happily I am not worried about the lack of a plan.
I thought I would miss the freedom I had in the US the most. The ability to go grocery shopping in the middle of the night, not feeling threatened walking down the street by myself and being independent. I have seen that things in India have changed since the last time I lived here. We may not have a 24/7 stores in India but I have been out fairly late for Indian standards and not felt threatened in Bangalore so far. Now, I went to Delhi for 10 days and that was a different story but it’s like the difference between being in Dallas and being in New York. As for Independence, I think there is a different kind of independence here. Public transport is easily available, and with the advent of cell phones, your reliable corner auto or taxi is only a phone call away! Last week I ventured out to do groceries by myself and all I had to do was call the taxi driver on his cell adn he was here within 10 minutes. I went to the grocery store, got everything and was back in 2 hours. The best part is I didn't have to drive or lug the groceries back to the house myself :)
I thought I would miss my workout sessions but even before I could get here, I enrolled in power yoga classes, tried it this week and liked it. We also have a pretty good gym with a personal trainer at the place I live in so I can’t really complain. What I do miss are my companions and my coaches. I had a camaraderie with them that will take some time to build up here. I do miss being able to go out of my house and running on the local streets though. The traffic and the condition of roads here is not conducive to running. Maybe if we lived in a huge apartment complex with nice paved streets, I could go running on the street again, until then I will have to find a different way to get my cardio.
I really miss my dance classes. I started learning dance within a year of moving to Dallas. Never thought I would start learning at that stage in life but a dear friend was learning and I loved to dance so I started taking classes as an experiement and almost 13 years later was still going to class until two months before I left. My teacher is an amazing woman who could handle teaching adults like me who had never learnt to dance their entire life but were enthusiastic about it even after life caught up with them J. I have started my quest for a new dance teacher in Bangalore but I cannot get my head around learning from anybody other than Padma.
The kids miss their activities as well. I haven't found a little gym where I can enroll the kids. I need to find swim lessons, vocal lessons and some sport that they can enjoy outside of school. I am sure I will be able to find it but I am worried about how to get them there and back without having to hire a driver. I think I better get used to the idea of driving on the streets of India soon!
What I do miss most is my friends, my support structure. The people who were an integral part of my life. Some of whom I have known since the first day I landed in Dallas, others who I had met along the way. The ones who were so close to me they were practically family. I might as well have been married to them! Anybody who has lived in the US for an extended period of time knows that we build a web of friends around us who become our family there. They are the ones who were but a phone call away any time of the day or night, the ones I shared my successes and failures with. Who were as happy as I was when I bought my house, had my babies or got a new job. They are the ones who would babysit my kids, tag team for drop off and pick up duties for kids’ activities, come to midnight shopping sessions with me, kept me motivated to continue my dance, music and workouts through all the craziness of being a working mother of two monsters.
The ones I would call in the middle of the night to rant about the insane people I had to deal with while trying to sell my house, the ones who would hear me cry on the phone and come over so I could vent some more. The ones who would show up at my door with food because they knew I was alone and sick and too tired to cook. The ones who stayed with me through all the craziness of trying to wind up things in Dallas by myself, the ones who gave me all the support I needed to manage that madness. They are the ones who formed my support structure in a foreign land. The ones who cried when I left.
That is what I miss the most. I am sure I will make new friends but there are some people who are irreplaceable and I left some of them back in Dallas. They are the ones I miss the most!
I do miss some of the creature comforts that I was used to in Dallas as well and I will blog more about that later but this is about what I miss the most :)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Getting a phone in India

Now this was an experience worth mentioning. First of all, anybody walking off the street cannot get a cell phone in India. DH came here back in August and he couldn’t get a sim card for himself so a friend had to apply for it and lend him the sim card! In comparison, I was able to get off at London airport, go to a cell phone store in the terminal and get a new sim card within minutes!
When I came here last week, we started looking for a service provider. Now, since DH has been here for almost five months, it should have been easy enough for him to establish proof of residence, proof of employment and get it all checked out. You would think all this could be done over the phone but since physical verification of the address is required, it took, brace yourself, four days for our sim cards to be activated!
I understand all this added security is important because there have been way too many times cell phones have been misused here but four days?
The first step was getting the sim cards. Regular stores wouldn’t even entertain us because apparently we don’t have what passes for proof of residence in Bangalore. Thankfully his office has an agent who is a representative of the cell phone company dedicated to help the employees( the perks of working in India! You get your own rep for the cell phone conglomerate).So, getting the sim cards with the number was a matter of hours. So far, so good.
And then the wait started. The cell phone company needed to verify his employment and residence before the cards could be activated. They called us to say they would verify his employment on Tuesday but DH was sick and at home so, it got delayed. I still don’t understand why they couldn’t verify the residence on Tuesday since he was home but what do I know? Anyway, the employment verification happened on Wednesday ( although now that I come to think about it, was it really necessary since the Airtel rep delivered the SIM cards to the office originally!!!) and we had to wait another day for the residence verification to happen. Why they couldn’t do both on the same day beats me!
Thursday afternoon, somebody shows up at our door and asks if DH lives here. I answer in the affirmative. He asks some legit questions about the duration of the stay, whether we are renting or own the place etc. Finally he asks for address proof! At this point I am thinking, hello! Did I not just answer all your questions? Anyway, he explains he needs a copy of a utility bill or something which shows him as the occupant and finally a light goes on somewhere in my head. I can understand the need for paperwork to establish proof of residence.
BTW this was a total surprise! We didn’t expect them to ask us for a copy of the utility bill. If that was all it took, was it really necessary to physically verify the location? When I gave him a blank look, he says, anything would suffice, even a visiting card!!!! At this point the entire purpose of checking and rechecking identity is lost on me because as far as I can see, anybody could print visiting cards and have their name on it. AND the visiting card that “sufficed” as proof of residence, didn’t even have our home address on it!
It is a mystery to me why they have such detailed rules and processes when there is always a loophole for all of them! I think the verification process is good because at some level it limits the misuse of cell phones by antisocial elements but if it takes 4 days for somebody to get a cell phone activated, I think there is room for improvement in the process.
This wasn’t the end of it either. After all this verification, the agent calls us and congratulates us on being proud owners of new numbers with the cell phone company. DH tries to get the sim card installed and SURPRISE! “No Service”. So, he calls customer service and asks them what was going on. The customer service is not only unhelpful, they hang up on him! So, he calls his office rep for the phone company who promptly conferences a customer service rep in, gives him a piece of his mind and asks him to figure out what’s going on. After being on hold for 15 minutes, they don’t know what the issue is. Finally somebody figures out that after all this verification, we had to call them back and ask them to activate the sim cards. It’s ok to expect a new sim card to be activated but it would have been nice if somebody had told us that!
So DH calls and gets the sim cards activated and 15 minutes later we had service! YAY! But wait; what’s this, we don’t have access to the data network! WHAT????? So we get on the phone again and you guessed it, data network activation needs ANOTHER call! At this point I am speechless! We want to call and yell at them but don’t see a point in it so we call back and politely ask our data access to be activated. Finally after another 15 minutes on the phone and ANOTHER 15 minutes of waiting we have both phones working! Phew, what an evening. Just thinking about it makes me feel tired! Jet lag is still keeping me up though L. Trying to go to sleep now, stay tuned for more…