Thursday, August 15, 2013

One year and counting

So, it’s been a year since we moved back and believe it or not I love it here. There are a LOT of issues here and I mean a LOT but there are an equal number of awesome things too.

For one, you can be comfortable in your own skin. You don’t have to feel like an alien and have people stare at you when you walk in the supermarket. I know how people here think and would react to a particular situation. It may be a good reaction or a bad reaction but I am glad I can predict it most of the time. 

My internet doesn’t work most days. Especially at night. If I call them, the tech support guys answering the call have no clue about what is wrong with the system. They are fed a few lines by the engineering staff( unavailable after 9:00 PM) and they just repeat it to the customers. They are at the receiving end of irate customers but they will smile and talk to you like a buddy. One of them told me, please come down to the office during the day and yell at them, maybe they will put better quality control in place J. No plastic smiles here. Don’t get me wrong, I would trade all the friendliness and buddy talk for better customer service any day but I do like the fact that I can connect to the person on the other end of the phone better.

The roads have more pot holes than the grand canyon and are a case study in relief features, my new car’s mud guards are in tatters because of all the illegal speed bumps, the wheel alignment is probably nonexistent and the car has aged 4 years in 4 months but I don’t really care! I have gotten used to the bad infrastructure and de-sensitized towards mundane issues like the lack of safe drinking water. It is definitely a dangerous thing but living here would do that to you. You stop noticing the bad stuff after a while.

It is probably because the good stuff masks most things. Living here makes me feel like I am at home. I know this place. This is how I grew up. I know the people. I love the fact that my children can recite the Indian National Anthem. That they know the national flag, national game, national bird, national animal and the unofficial national game of cricket. I love to hear my 7 year old rattle off names of team members of his favorite IPL team member and to hear him tell me that he wants to be a cricketer when he grows up and play for the Bangalore team J. My 3 year old came home from school the other day and started yelling ‘Jai Sind’ followed by a very eclectic rendition of ‘Jana gana mana’ which was recognizable only by its tune.

They actually know the names of all four grandparents and have met more cousins, aunts and uncles in the last one year than they did in their entire life in the US. They have a concept of extended family, miss their grandparents when they are not here, ask me to call them so they can talk to them and they want to go visit cousins in Delhi and Hyderabad. Vacation for us used to be a visit to a tourist location but now it is usually visiting family and that is just fine by me J.

I remember having neighbors who would help at the drop of a hat regardless of how long they have known you. And that is something that hasn’t changed at all. I don’t have to watch my kids when they play outside. I know they are safe in the community. I love the fact that I can knock on my neighbor’s door to ask for some ‘cheeni’ or a few green chilies if I run out and they do the same!
Talking about people, it is very endearing to be invited to your auto-vallah’s house for Satyanarayan katha or to your child’s school bus driver’s daughter’s wedding reception. I am not kidding! We got invitations for both and we went there as well. I had never had this experience before. Not even when I lived in Delhi. It says a lot about how people want to share their happiness J. These are things that haven’t changed in a long time and I sure hope it remains the same for as long as I can foresee.

One thing that has changed for the better is convenience. If you have money, life can be very convenient. Make a call and groceries arrive at your door. Domestic help is fairly cheap (finding and keeping the reliable ones is another story), including temporary help like part-time drivers. Although if you are lucky enough to find good people, keep track of them and don’t let them out of your sight! Public transport is available (however bad it may be, at least autos,taxis and buses are easily available).  And living in a gated community has its perks – security or the sense of it, maintenance people on call at all times of the day or night, ironing services available inside the complex, some even have their own grocery stores and salons. They are practically mini cities! It definitely beats having to find a different repair person every time something needs to be fixed, taking time off from work to be available for them at home and then paying an exorbitant price for a simple repair! 

The newspapers give you a gory picture of life in India, the roads are horrendous, the water undrinkable, electricity and internet service are missing in action most of the time, customer service is practically nonexistent, passing the buck has become the national sport and law and order is a joke but it is the little things that keep you tied to this place regardless of all the madness that goes on around you.

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