Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Coming up with a birthday

There were plenty of non-profit schools around the health center my grandmother ran for YMCA but the number of children going to them was unexplainably low. After meeting with parents it was found that illiteracy prevented them from filling out the forms required to enroll their children into these schools. So my grandma got volunteers to help fill up these forms. Lack of reading and writing skills were not the only issue. Many details were unknown and one of these was often the child’s birthdate. Here is the way many birthdays were ‘discovered’ -

“What is his birthday?”

“Ok, what month was he born”

“Was it hot or cold, Durga Puja, Holi or Christmas time?”

Then the child was looked at to assess the year he was born.

The best part followed as the child was asked his favourite number and that was assigned as his birthday.

The parent was given a piece of paper with the date on it and asked to keep it in a plastic bag – to remember this was the child’s birthdate and use it for all forms hence forth.

2500 forms were filled and many children passed out to become nurses, worked in insurance companies and started their own businesses. As my grandma put it – they were not stupid, all they needed was a chance. And of course having your favourite number as your birthday must have helped.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Returning to India - the pros and cons.

After talking to a lot of people it seems apparent that moving to India is harder than moving back to US (when people do return). We all know the pros and ease of living in the US, things are way more streamlined, so I guess the question is why voluntarily leave it in the first place. The reason that has struck most to me is - to try something new and gain a few more experiences in life. Hopefully these experiences are enriching to your career, your kid’s outlook of this world and to your parent’s/relatives’ relationship with you.

We had a very easy move in many ways and have settled in with few issues here. I am the one with most problems adjusting amongst the four of us but after seeing how my kids perceive the world now, how amazing Diwali was with my parents and how much my spouse is growing and learning at work I have little doubt this was a good decision.
I have jotted down some pros and cons and also some things that surprised me a little.

· Can be great career move and an opportunity to try new things at a lower cost – India is just a different ball game and even I am hyper excited about startups and the market here.
· Closer to family – can’t stress the benefit of this enough.
· Children see a different world – can make them have a more global outlook and be more charitable.
· Help at home – allows you to do more and have better vacations.
· Certain luxuries are very affordable - personal trainer daily, photography workshops, getting a home theater setup.
· Celebrate festivals like we did when we were kids.
· Travel more in and around India – amazing places are 2-3hr flight away - Sri Lanka to Dubai to Macau and rest of Asia.
· Food – I loved the food in US but am enjoying the diversity and availability of my favorite foods here.

· India is expensive if you want to live like an American. On the other hand money can get most things done for you easily.
· Lack of parks, good hiking trails and things for kids to do on weekends.
· Attention to detail and reliability is missing in work and people here.
· Pollution ( not so bad in Bangalore), noise, traffic and general dirtiness.
· Bureaucracy – knowing people who know people. US is more straightforward in how we deal with people and things.
· Being nice is not the way to go – you need to toughen up.
· Kids can get spoilt with help and get impervious to poverty. They can also imbibe the above mentioned cons rather easily ( throw rubbish out of window etc).
· Easy availability of everything is missing – HDMI cable to cookie dough to latest iphone. You can get a lot in India these days but still it is nothing like walking into Frys or Costco or Trader Joes in the US. Same goes for internet reliability and bandwidth – so if you are someone who thrives on being on the cutting edge of tech. it can be issue at times.

Things I thought would be cons but are not -
· Relatives visiting all the time – I love it now. I am not the one cleaning up the rooms or figuring out dinner. They come, play with kids and it all makes me feel closer to them.
· Weather and bugs – Bangalore is actually rather pleasant weather wise and bug free.
· Nosy Neighbors etc – People are busy and not interested in gossiping about you.
· School and education – I was unsure if it would be good or the style would suit my kids but there are plenty of schools here and we found one that works great for us. Kids are learning a lot and loving it.

Things I did not worry about but are cons -
· Long work hours and travelling – this maybe the nature of the work you do but you do end up syncing up more with US and thus your nights are pretty busy regardless of the day schedule.
· Managing Help – I have great help but still keeping health, emotions and working dynamics of some seven people on a daily basis is management overhead.
· Lack of independence – not driving, knowing the place. It is hard to be dependent and feel lost in a city but this is something that will go away with time.
· Making new friends - after living in Seattle for 13 years it is hard to let go and after a certain age it is harder to make friends.
· Being nice is underrated – people will take advantage of you, you will not get things done.

The other big problem I hear about is getting sick. If kids get sick in first few months it spoils the move for everyone. Then the whole family wants to return and that feeling engrains itself in the family for a long time.
Also, if you do plan to move make a rule that regardless of how miserable you may be feeling at that moment you will never say that you want to return in front of the kids.
There is good and there is bad but once you decide it is the attitude that matters. Keep it positive and enjoy the good that each place has. US or India they both have pros– make the best of it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I was driving to work today. Like I had done a thousand times during my years in Redmond. An apple in hand, listening to the radio, mind on autopilot – the point where you know the road so well that you don’t even think about it. A fire truck broke the routine for a bit and just as I was pressing the accelerator to settle back into the comfortable monotony I said- I love this. I said it out aloud to no one in the car. Not doing this for two months and realizing that I am not going to do this for a long long time made it so real. I realized that this comfortable taken for granted drive on the road is going to take a long time to attain in another place Yes, I love driving on the ramp up to 520. I love seeing some random poppies that someone planted along the way. Love not hitting the ramp’s red light. Even the slow shuffle before I get off West lake Sammamish parkway provides moments of entertainment as people try to get 10 seconds back changing lanes. West Lake is beautiful, trees that change color and cars that flash their lights at you if a police car is parked ahead. Every so often as I drive up the last steep road to work I wonder what it would take to bike up this. I did this for way too many years and it took going away to make me realize that I love this.

In a year’s time there will be a note about me asking my driver to change the CD on as we pass “Annaji Biryani House” and I know the road traffic will suddenly get lighter, I will be driven faster, I will no longer laugh as I see the menus painted on doors of shanty restaurants proclaiming they have the “sweatest juicys”. I will know exactly what veggies will be on sale on the carts and most likely the right price for them. I will no longer get excited seeing the fruits I missed all the years I was in Redmond. I will get familiar with that too and stop noticing it and smiling or shaking my head as much as I do. At that point I hope we will be brave enough to make another change so I realize that I love it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Shut a group of people up and stay asleep

From Ankit's Mother's day note -
My mom is amazing at doing anything. She can cook, drive, sing, clean, stay up, (and on the other hand) stay asleep, teach, comment, criticize, deduct, strategize, spy, care, lecture, explain, manipulate, remind, discipline, shut someone up, shut a group of people up, plan, entertain, run, and in result catch, play, hide, seek, and a whole bunch of other stuff that your current moms CAN’T do.
I may have been advertising how great my Mom is to you, but here is one thing: YOU CANNOT HAVE HER! She is my mom and nobody else’s. There is no way that you can get to her, and if you do, I will unleash my full array of ninja moves on you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I come home.

When I come home- be it 6pm or 8pm - I am often greeted by a very happy 10yr old at the garage door. As the door lifts up I see him smile as he confirms it is me before his face changes into a look of intense concentration as he remembers and commences his dance moves. Often I blink the car lights for special effects and this encourages an even more emphatic response – the Egyptian move combined with a break-dance number. Every so often a 3yr old peeks out and screams in delight before he runs all over the place. He does not have the self control yet to just stand and do the crazy welcome home dance. You have to be of a very special age to do that. And you have to be a very lucky mom to see it.