A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

About lands that glitter

Posted by Pepper on April 20, 2011

As a child, I had a very different view of America. Different from what it really is, I mean. America was equal to this far away glittering land full of wonders. I don’t really blame myself. My dad’s brother, and two of my mom’s sisters lived in the US. As a result, I was given doses of everything American every summer when my cousins visited. The new clothes they’d bring me smelt of distinct foreign lands. The scent that emerged out of their suitcases was enigmatic and sweet. The chocolates they would get me were so much more delectable compared to what I usually ate. Earning in dollars, they had such a high capacity to spend money and go on unrestrained shopping sprees. They drank only bottled mineral water, because the water I grew up drinking was not clean enough for them. I would often try and imagine the elevated standards of hygiene in the country they came from. From their talks, I gathered America was all about smooth, expansive roads, zooming cars, huge houses with basements, etc. They spoke about the kind of technology I could only imagine, never witness. To add to that, they would bring me little goodies like fancy, scented erasers, fancy hair clips, fancy socks, fancy pencils and other fancy stuff that you could tell came from a far away fancy land. All these little bits were placed in the canvas of my mind to form an intriguing, magical picture that was America.

As I grew up, I read books that only fueled my imagination further. As a young teen, I read the whole serious of Baby Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Party of Five, Goosebumps, etc. Has anybody else read them? All these are written by American authors and thus, set in an American backdrop. I would absorb all the little details that would give me a better insight to the country. The characters in those books would spend a while deciding what to wear to school everyday. Their outfits would be described in good detail. All I had was the same old uniform to wear on all days. They had personal lockers in school. I had to lug around a heavy school bag. They drove to school at 16. I had to chase BEST buses and trains. They had prom nights and Halloween celebrations. Their lives on the whole seemed so much more exciting and fun compared to mine.

And then we had shows like ‘Friends’ that were aired on TV. They went on to give us a big scoop of life in America. With this, the final image of the country was sealed in my mind. America was all about glitter and glamour.

But as I grew and stepped into my late teens, reality started sinking in. Sure the country was about glitter and glamour, but it was about a lot more than that. I don’t know what came over me, but at one point I was sure I did not want to live there. Especially after I stepped out of India for the first time. I realised that in India, we have glamourised the whole concept of ‘foreign lands’. I was most exposed to the US, but I suppose all that I mentioned is applicable to any foreign country.

Life is strange, and despite my reluctance and apprehensions, I ended up moving to the US. A lot of aspects fascinated me immensely. But a lot of aspects also made me value India so much more. After moving here, I had to make peace with the fact that my family was oceans and continents away. I had to accept the fact that we live in very different time zones and I can’t just randomly call home if I want to. I had to make do with seeing the photos sent to my inbox instead of being able to see them in person. I had to accept the craving for certain food that is available only in India as a way of life. I had to get used to emailing and chatting with my BFFs as opposed to talking to them on phone multiple times a day. I had to make peace with the amount of work load that is a part of your everyday life. At all times, there are either dishes piled up in the sink waiting to be washed, or veggies to be chopped, or dinner to be cooked, or trash to be discarded, or the bathtub to be cleaned or the floors to be vacuumed, or an overflowing laundry basket to be dealt with, or clothes to be folded, or something else. Phew. I envy the comfortable life style most of us can afford in India with maids, cooks, etc. It leaves you with time to do other things. Again, some of you who live here might be used to the work and won’t think much of it. But for me, it is a huge factor.

Despite everything, I love this country. But in my opinion, living here definitely has its own flip side. I wonder if people realise that?

I was chatting with my friend today. She, as per her family is of marriageable age and her parents are groom hunting. She has only one condition – the boy should be living in the US. I found that quite stupid and asked her why. She is said, ‘because I want to move there’. Why? I asked again. She said, ‘because its cool’. I found that so ridiculous, I didn’t know what to say.

But then I realised. She has romanticized the whole idea of living in America. Just like I had when I was a child. I grew out of that spell. But perhaps some people in our country don’t. It makes me wonder, is that why people are so desperate to move abroad? Another friend who works in IT was telling me how people in his office have been indulging in dirty politics just to grab that project that takes them ‘on site’ and gives them a chance to live in a foreign country. Why? After graduating from college, so many people are desperate to do an MS in the US, just to use that as a path to enter this country. I am curious to know their reasons. If they dislike certain aspects about India and want to move elsewhere, or want to move because they think it will give them an opportunity to explore new shores and make money, that is their choice. I chose to study in UK because I had personal reasons that I don’t want to reveal. If anybody has well thought of reasons to move base, I understand. But if they want to simply because they think it is ‘cool’, then they definitely need a reality check. I hope people weigh the pros and cons carefully before deciding to move.


52 Responses to “About lands that glitter”

  1. Bikram said

    Yes it is all dramatised, I have so many cousins who want to come here and if they dont or cant they blame me for it and those hwo have come now find the going very tough .. as its not as easy .. yes we earn money and all that life is good .. But we have to work for it and work HARD.

    Its a rat race , I have a cousin who is not even 5th class pass and he has come on 4 years visa for HIGHER EDUCATION, 🙂 yeah i was shcocked too.. but now he has bene here for 6-7 months , hasnot got a job , and the money he brought is al lgone so parents are helping him..
    but he still wont go back, and oh yes the money tree i have in my backyard, they cant seen to get hold of that .. 🙂

    I do think what u say if you have it all planned and are sure , then do come over but otherwise life is hard its not all that cool ..

    a very good post…


    • Pepper said

      I don’t understand it. Why would your cousins blame you if they are unable to come? That is strange.
      And what kind of a job does your cousin who came expect to get? How can you work full time if you are on a student visa anyway? 🙂

      • Bikram said

        Well i am blamed casue according to them maybe i do something , and since i am myself here in HEAVEN 🙂 i dont want them to come .. mentality issues basically ..
        yes student cant work but he never came t ostruy he came to work chori chori and earn the money but no work now .. obviously the agent in india took lakhs of money to get him this fake admission ..

        He expects labout work but today in uk , even that is difficult cause of EUROPEAN union there are all these europeans who have come to worl legally and they work at any price the same way when 40-50 years ago indians started to come to uk and work for pennies thats what the easten europeans are doing now … so no work for asians …

  2. I agree. My uncle and aunt would visit once in 3-4yrs and going by the things they got for us, we always thought America was a fantasy land.
    It still is nice but it has its flaws just like any other country. That is what I tell someone who thinks this is a perfect land. And living here comes with its share of compromises that you cannot ignore.

    Wanting to move here just because its ‘cool’ is unfathomable to me!

    • Pepper said

      Absolutely. Living here comes with its own shares of compromises. Move here only if you are fully aware of them and willing to live with them. The ‘cool’ thing is unfathomable to me too.

  3. mehmudah said

    Another well-written post.

  4. Comfy said

    I agree with you on the whole romanticizing living outside of India. I know of a girl from a very well to do family in India who wanted to get married to a guy in the US. I would always wonder why. She would call a servant to hand over a glass of water that was kept on the other end of the room. Taking public transportation or even driving was way below her. How would she deal with all the cooking, cleaning, driving and so many other things that you need to do when you don’t have a maid I asked? I got a snap response back along the lines of, ‘she does not stay in India and does not want me to get out of this place’.

    Oh well what a disaster that one turned out to be. She is back in India, living her life through her maids and drivers. The rose coloured glasses are off.

  5. Pepper, you brought a very good post, as a kid even I dreamed so much to go in a foreign land especially US, I only heard good things abt this country. First time I came here for a short visit and I totally enjoyed being independent and all that. Later when we moved here, I slowly understand the pain, frustration and depression it gave me. I always see people cribbing abt weather, back in India we never talked abt weather. Also I saw many of my friends including me transforming our self into a maid/cook roles. Most of us were depressed during the cold freezy winter days. I dreamt of snows when I was in India, not anymore. Now if it snows its double work for me. I am still living here with all these pains, I don’t know why, May be coz of our work and other responsibility. I terribly miss my friends, parents and sisters. Life is not same when you are away from family and friends. Every year we think we would go back, but its yet to happen..I hope it happens real soon..I took alot of space in your blog..Sorry for the rants..

    • Pepper said

      I totally know what you mean Little Fingers. It is a tough life here. And snow is fun only for the first few times. After that it only doubles your work. Though I might disagree when you say people don’t discuss the weather in India. I think people there crib almost as much about the heat.
      For the rest – I fully agree. Missing friends and family is not a small price to pay right? That is why I say moving here should only be a very well thought of decision. I hope you are able to make up your mind and move back to India soon if that is what makes you happy. And please don’t apologise about taking up this space. It is all yours.

  6. Superbly well written post!

    Though I cannot recall fantasizing about the ‘fancy land’..I certainly plead guilty of wishing my ‘groom’ would whisk me away to live in a foreign country some day 😛
    ( and I ended up marrying H who had no plans to move out of country)

    Agree when you say, people who think its all very rosy here, needs a reality check. However, cannot entirely blame their perspective, me thinks.

    The quality of life ( think roads and traffic in India), the appreciation ( think greedy politics at work), the money is all better here.

    Certainly there’s a lot to the flip side ( no maids, no help, distance from family), but it is totally upto the person which way of life does (s)he likes better.

    Sorry, took up much space here . Just my thoughts 😀

    • Pepper said

      Of course you cannot blame their perspective AHK. The media – the sitcoms, movies, books do make it all look very rosy.
      Agreed, the quality of life, the appreciation and the money are all better here. But those are valid reasons right? I said if you have good, thought of reasons to move, it is your choice. I only find it odd when people move here thinking this will be some ‘cool’ magical land. Because its not. It entails a lot of hard work and a lot of compromises too. You got to be aware of them before you make up your mind.

  7. Mahes said

    Nice post, peppy. My first encounter with US was when my friend brought ziplock bags and cool looking erasers to school. I never ever thought I would live here. Your friend’s reasoning sounds ridiculous. I miss family back in India, but the only thing I absolutely do not miss is everyone throwing in their 2 cents. I hate unsolicited advice. Your friend will be hit with reality when she moves here 🙂 oh, and these days people back home pity for NRIs, LOL!

    • Pepper said

      I know. That is one thing I don’t miss about India either. The unsolicited advice really gets to you. And yeah, if at all my friend ends up moving here, I hope she doesn’t end up getting too many nasty surprises.

  8. Bhavani said

    Good one Pepper..you are so right..pretty most I had the rosy dreams of going to the US..was not desperate but yes wanted to go types…..

    But this time when I visited India and friends over there I felt if you earn decent money..people go on a shopping spree more than the Visitors from here…every house has a Maid, Cook, Nanny, Driver….the only thing maybe the commute is a pain..

    I have also started feeling what are we doing here so far away with kids getting to see their cousins grand parents once in year or 2 when they visit or we visit them…and working hard to maintain a house by ourselves without much help..

    All said and done I love it here and I have made this my Home..but I could pretty most relate to your post


    • Pepper said

      True. You’ve to work hard, maintain a house, and are able to see family once a year or two. Some people who move here without thinking of those aspects might find it too hard to cope.
      I love it here too. But these those things still bother me.

  9. Well for me moving abroad would be more to experience life there, clean roads and hopefully i wont work and all the Tall one would.

    But the housework you spoke scares the living daylights out of me…Hats off to all you girls who go there and adapt to that!

  10. Manisha said

    Hello Pepper,

    Been reading you for a while, now you might know the reason how the traffic to your blog comes more these days 🙂

    This topic which you wrote about is one of my favorite ones to discuss, Because as a teen even i fancied studying abroad and wanted to settle down there. People in companies wanting to go onsite have one more reason to do so, may be i have that as a reason, I could visit abroad on a long vacation on the expense of the company and make a good saving!! 😛 I have visited abroad but, the very good feeling comes when i return back home, I say to myself “Home Sweet Home”. The time difference, the distance and the indepence is something I crib about when in abroad. Back home , its a pleasure to be here..!!

    P.S: you have got a wonderful blog, I can relate most of you to me!

    • Pepper said

      Thank you! 🙂 Yes, returning back home after a stay abroad is one of the nicest feelings. Especially if you’ve been away for an extended duration.
      Good to know you like it around here!

  11. Manisha said

    psst.. even the tam and north indian combo!

  12. R's Mom said

    Awesome post Pepper (Thats why you are a versatile blogger :)) But I totally agree with you…its just rose coloured glasses we wear. In our case, both bro and me were never keen about settling abroad. I think one of the main reasons was my dad who has been to most continents in the world and used to describe everything in detail and we would never be too fascinated. I went for the first time to London last year and honestly Pepper, its just like a lesser polluted and lesser crowded version of Mumbai. Another thing I have realised that now with the globalisation in place, there is nothing that is unique to a particular place at least materialistically. Whatever you get in the US, you get in India and vice versa. One reason if I would ever want to shift from India is lesser pollution (then R wont have her asthma and RM will be happier:)) Sorry, didnt realise the comment would be so long!

    • Pepper said

      Good to know that R’s Mom. Few people are not fascinated. Most are. Good to know you are not one of them. Everything is available in India like you said.
      London is so much like Mumbai! I fully agree with you. Everything about the place, including the tubes, and everything else reminds me of Mumbai.
      About the pollution, I know. That is one thing I wish I could change about India. In the coming years, we might have to strap oxygen cylinders on our backs as we walk on the roads.

  13. Anil said

    Nicely articulated.

    The projection of soft power through mediums you noted are the biggest draw. I’d also imagine the lure of India extending beyond the obvious conveniences of house help and the like, extending to additional tangibles – languages, people, the fragrances, the life on the street, the informality and more.

    • Pepper said

      Definitely. I only spoke about the most obvious issues that make me value India more. Of course the country has so many lucrative factors attached to it. Your last line brought a smile to my face 🙂

  14. S said

    oooooooo.. you are one of those!
    when i was a child i would envy all those who have relatives in amreeka..(there was a strange co-incidence of the “bua”- father’s sister- being in US)*rolls eyes*
    all my uncles and aunties and others were well settled in Bhaarat 😐 and it was so annnoying.. when i was 12 finally one uncle (my favrrrrrt uncle :P) shifted to US.. and first time he came back I got myself a firang barbie doll 🙂 i was sooo happy! 😀

    coming to your point about leaving India to become ‘cool’ is so STUPID.. the girl already thinks like blonde before reaching there 😉 heehee..

  15. I was one of those who spoke about living in India and changing it for the better when I was in school. Hell, AB still thinks he must join politics. How we landed ourselves here can only be called as flow of time 🙂

    Interestingly, when I announced I am going to the UK, people around me made a confused/sorry face and asked why not the US? Af if UK is Afghanistan 😛
    US of A craze is just something else in India!

    • Pepper said

      The craze is something else in India, isn’t it? People asked me the same ‘Why not US?’ question too, when I decided to to study in UK 😛 It’s so ridiculous!

  16. Bharti said

    That was wonderful to read…and relate too to some extent.

    I must say i also used to be fantasized by the foreign land but never ever thought of moving here.
    As luck would have it, i had to move when i got married.
    as rightly said – every place has its pros and cons.
    It’s all rosy from far away…be it here or India. Everey place has its ups and downs. What is needed is to feel at home wherever you are and try to relate to that.

    On the other side, I get so upset when I see people in India commenting on how “these NRI’s” behave when they visit India. Perhaps their experiences are so.

    Well – it was nice to read this. Triggered some emotions. Fist time here and will keep coming for more. Nice to connect!!

    • Pepper said

      Welcome here Bharti! Hope to see you around 🙂

      Very true, what you said. Though what exactly do you mean when you say you get upset when people comment on ‘these NRIs’ and the way they behave when they visit India? I might be guilty of doing the same. I absolutely dislike those NRIs who visit and then crib about the county, the traffic, the pollution, etc. I haven’t figured out why.

  17. scorpria said

    I’ve read all those books, seen Friends, seen a lot of american romantic comedy flicks — but i’ve always NOT wanted to live in america!

    but i’ve always wanted to go live somewhere in scotland or some part of europe (never once because i think india is bad, but for all the castles they have, all the lovely farmhouses and all the snow!) but never US — wonder why!!!!

    • Pepper said

      I don’t blame you. Scotland is so beautiful, with all its castles 😀 I totally loved that place when I visited. I wouldn’t live there though, cos I can’t take that kind of cold.

      And yeah, good to know the books and the media portraying America didn’t succeed in enticing you too much.

  18. Sands said

    Nice post Pepper. The grass is always greener on the other side I guess. I can totally relate to how you felt when you had cousins/aunts/uncles visiting. My life was very similar and I had pretty similar views of the land away from home as you. My dad was very particular that he wanted his girls close to him when we got married. Unfortunately we all flew to different continents from home leaving them by themselves when they need us the most. That is what kills me the most. I love this country as well but to me the worst is the distance from the people you love 😦 And it breaks my heart when I see people there wanting to come here thinking it’s all glitz and glamor!

    • Pepper said

      It is exactly what kills me the most too Sands. That is why I’ve made up my mind about one thing – I am not going to live here forever and let my parents grow old alone. Its okay for a while. But I do know at some point I will move back.
      Somethings though are not our control. I hope you make peace with your situation 🙂 This place surely is about glitz and glamour, but it is also a lot more than that.

  19. Tanishka said

    I just don’t understand this fascination of moving abroad… I have a lot of friends and relatives staying abroad and ever time I talk to them I feel all the more lucky to have such a luxurious life in India… I would never want to move out of India and two major reasons behind that are food and maids… 😀 😀 😀

  20. ajay said

    Nicely written. Effortless and easy. That’s what I like. You should consider writing more full-length posts. 🙂 Does this culture of having maids exist only in India?

  21. Ashwathy said

    You’ve already given your answer in your blog post…
    People viewing it from distant lands will see it as a land of opportunities and totally different lifestyle. Part of it is true. But then only once they move there do they realize the flipside of living there (like you did yourself). Having to do all the housework oneself, encountering third-class citizen treatment (not everyone has to go thru it, but its there at some level I believe), having to do all kinds of part-time jobs for lack of the opportunity one was actually looking for etc. are some of the challenges faced.

    Of course in India it still remains a matter of pride to say one has a daughter married and settled in the states/UK/Australia (insert any other country). I guess it has to do with the mindset.

    • Ashwathy said

      Your next post is password protected?? 😐

    • Pepper said

      I did realise the flipside before I moved here. Which is why at one point I was sure I didn’t want to move. But then, life happened. Yes in India, it is still a matter of pride.

      That post was just some stupid ramble. I made it public for a while before deleting it.

  22. Rohini said

    So true. There is this big halo effect around the Western lifestyles. It definitely has its positives but your summed up the cons comprehensively. I don’t see myself moving there for just those reasons. I want to be closer to family and CANNOT see myself doing regular housework.

    • Pepper said

      Lol. The house work is what is extremely difficult for most of us. We learn to live with it when we have to. But yes, if you’re sure you won’t be able to deal with it, then it is best to not move out of India.

  23. UmaS said

    Whatever said and done, India is the best place to live, acc to me. 🙂 I can go to diff countries, earn well and all that – but to really live life, its got to be India. 🙂

  24. binpin said

    I blame “Bold and Beautiful”:). Have you ever watched that lame a** excuse for a Soap?Whenever I first move here,some of my friends asked me whether I went clubbing every night*shudder*. Here I was worried about getting 8 hours of my sleep without having to starve at the same time:)

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