Relocating from the US to India? Decide which set of problems you can live with.
Somebody said you fall in love with the US in the first five minutes and then spend the next five years discovering what's wrong with it. With India, you hate it the first five minutes and spend the next five years discovering what's good about it.
When we lived in the US, every weekend we'd meet other couples and invariably the conversation would veer to this topic – returning to India. Everyone would say that they'd eventually go back, maybe the reason was aging parents or wanting to raise kids in India, not wanting to grow old in the US in a senior citizen home, or simply because it was home. But going back home is not the easiest of decisions.
There are problems everywhere. As my husband and I went back and forth about the decision, one thing was clear – decide which set of problems you can live with. If terrible roads and even worse drivers get you all fired up, think again about moving to India. But if living in a foreign land where the Greeks hang out with the Greeks, the Italian neighbors have their own barbeque, the Indians in the building celebrate Diwali with the handful of Indians pot lucking with papri chaat and dhoklas appeals to you, live in the US.
Why, when the US is such a cosmopolitan country made up of immigrants, does each community gravitate towards their own to celebrate, enjoy, and let their hair down? Is it so we can put our guards down and speak without being politically incorrect? And we can be ourselves and I can be sure that you will "get me" without having to explain?
My husband, kids and I made our journey back to India a year ago and I must say the past year has not been without doubts and questions about whether we took the right decision about returning. This happens whenever we're frustrated with the way things work or – for the most part – don't work here. But my kids are small and I need all the help I can – and cheap, affordable help is what you get aplenty in India. When I say cheap help, it is worth exactly what I pay for it - cheap. The quality of help is below mediocre and undependable.
A lot has been said about the upside of living in America – the global opportunities, the strong dollar, systems that work, material comforts, etcetera. I'm sure my husband has a different list of reasons for returning to India. But here is my list of problems with living in the US:
Sheer manual labor: I have physically aged more than my counterparts in India just working to the bone, doing hard work – cooking, cleaning, taking the kids to daycare/classes, daily chores, grocery, shopping, housework, laundry, work, work, work. Since some of these chores don't require my educational level nor skill set, I should be able to outsource them to people who match the job requirement. But it's too expensive.
Cold weather: Getting bundled up six months a year to protect against the debilitating cold in NY - not a nice thing to do. And if you've got kids, make that a couple more hands to cover with mitts before you've got yours on. Sure, the homes are warm, but it still snows and you need to get out and push that stroller or drive that car through a snowstorm.
Raising Indian kids in the US: My uncle moved to the US in the early 70s, got married to my Indian aunt and their now thirty year old children are second generation Indian American kids. Though their kids have turned out exceptionally well, I'm always intrigued by one thing – why are all their really close friends Indians? Could they not integrate into mainstream America? I asked them, and they said that friendships are strong only when people relate to similar life experiences. That's what binds them together. So Dussehra means nothing to your American friends just like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah don't to you.
Isolation: Yes, we had a great set of friends who became almost family. But you can't take them for granted. Maybe your best buddies want to help you when you're sick or jobless, but there's only that much they can squeeze out of their busy lives.
The INS: They're very professional and matter-of-factly during the interviews, and we're trying to appear worthy of living on their land. You want to scream that you pay your taxes and follow every law of the land, but get no benefits whatsoever from the government – no social security, no unemployment benefits, no childcare benefits. But the homeless guy snorting drugs gets handled with kids gloves bought out of your tax money. Fair? I think not.
And here is my list of problems with living in India:
The government: Unfortunately, India is what she is, despite the government. So far, the government's primary role has been to impede the progress of the country, put roadblocks in the way of corporate India and law-abiding citizens. All in the name of weeding out wrong-doers. Woe be the day you actually need to get some official work done through the government.
Domestic help: You think they're the solution to all your problems. And then they become your biggest problem. I returned to India firmly believing in the virtues of an egalitarian society, treating them like equals until I was repeatedly proven stupid for doing so.
Bad infrastructure: Broken roads, water shortage, power shortage, ill-maintained public places, open garbage dumps, choked sewers, malfunctioning traffic signals – the list goes on.
General lack of civility: Say with a stroke of luck, bad infrastructure gets fixed in the next ten years, but what about the people? Survival instincts are so strong in a populous country like India that shoving and jumping the queue is second nature. Be it the apparently well-heeled woman with sunglasses perched on top of her head, standing in line for movie tickets or the corporate-type guy driving a Honda City who will not stand behind you at the traffic light, but will zoom ahead to create another line, so what if he blocks incoming traffic in the process.
There are some lucky people in this world who quickly adapt to the place they live in and never question it. I wish I was one of them. But every day in America, my husband and I questioned if this was where we belonged. And the answer that came back was always no. But do we feel we belong in India? The answer is again no. Maybe life's experiences changed us and we didn't notice. But we've got to live somewhere and can't become global nomads. Let's say that India is where we feel more at home than anywhere else, so this is where we'll rest our heads for now.
Chillibreeze's disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of Chillibreeze as a company. Chillibreeze has a strict anti-plagiarism policy. Please contact us to report any copyright issues related to this article.
Out of 5 “chilies”, our editorial team gave this article...
—About our writer:
A business and technical writer, Mita believes that everything is mix of the arts and the sciences like cooking, astrology, music and ...technical writing! She is a mother of two, who hasn't had a good night's sleep since her older child was born four years ago, loves to explore the world through the eyes of her little ones. She has a Bachelors in English from Miranda House, Delhi University, Business Management program from New York University and worked with IT and management consulting companies.
>> Read more articles written by Chillibreeze writers: