A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for June, 2012

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Posted by Pepper on June 27, 2012

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The icky factor

Posted by Pepper on June 18, 2012

In me, it runs high. Slimy substances gross me out like nothing else. Hell, they might not even be dirty, but in my mind, those things are untouchable. Till date, I shudder at the thought of pulling out my hair from the bathroom drain. When I am forced to do it, I use plastic gloves. I can’t imagine cleaning out the waste from the kitchen sink, without wearing kitchen gloves. I can’t imagine touching the wet cloth that is used to mop the floors. Those things make me want to puke. Really.

One of the reasons I am not sure I will be a good mother is because I can’t imagine changing diapers. I don’t know if I have it in me to clean poop, wash the baby’s bum with my bare hands. I see parents doing it, and they never cease to amaze me.

My mother is a person who is rarely grossed out. She will effortless clean every soiled surface within her sight, without any thought of dirtying her hands. Each time she would ask me to swab the floor in the maid’s absence, I would agree to do it most reluctantly. The mop would be held by the tip of my fingers, so that I could avoid as much contact with the slimy cloth as possible. Most times, she would laugh and take over the task on seeing my agony. A lot of times she told me that the cloth was actually clean. That it had been washed, but nothing convinced me. In my mind, that object was classified as ‘dirty’. It repulsed me. All along while growing up, I heard my mother telling me, that one day, I would be forced to do something that I considered gross. Only that would help me overcome this feeling of disgust.

And it happened. Your mother’s words always come true. Always. I was in college. We were at a friend’s place, working on one of our group projects. I decided to take a loo break. She had an Indian toilet. I had my cell phone in the back pocket of my snug fitting jeans. You know where this is heading, don’t you? It’s always hard to squat while wearing tight pants. The moment I bent a little, I heard a little splash. To my utter shock, I saw my cell phone inside the hole on the ground with a pool of water surrounding it.

I ran out in a frenzy and told my friends. They were thoroughly amused. What was to be done now? I still remember my friend’s words. “Dude, did you just pee on your cell phone? This has to be the funniest thing, ever!”. No, I hadn’t peed on my phone, I assured her.

Really, what could I do? I was a student, and I really valued the cell phone my dad had bought for me. I couldn’t afford another one. Should I sneak in my hand and try fishing it out? I couldn’t even bear the thought. On the other hand, the phone was completely submerged and it might never work again. Was it worth putting my hand inside? Perhaps it would be easier to bid my phone good bye. Perhaps I should just flush it?

I spent two minutes thinking about it. Much as I dreaded it, I decided I had to try and rescue it. Even if there was a 50% chance of my phone surviving, it was worth it. I hadn’t earned that phone myself. I couldn’t afford to burden my dad by asking for another one, again.

My friend whose house we were in, told me she would ask her maid to pull it out for me. I considered this for a moment, and tempted as I was, I declined and told her I would do it myself. How convenient it is for us to pass on such chores to people who belong to a lower strata of society. That, according to me, is nothing but taking advantage of our social economic status. The poor maid may not have had the authority to refuse, even if she wanted to. I didn’t want to subject her to that.

So after pulling a plastic bag up my sleeve, I walked in to do what I couldn’t imagine doing. My friends were excited, gearing up for the entertainment, surrounding me with cameras, to record the feat and pass it on to my other batch mates. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes and put my hand in. By now, the phone had gone in deeper. I could only see a little silver tip. Since my hands were covered in a plastic bag, I couldn’t get a hold of it easily. After a few minutes of effort, I pulled it out. The next second, I threw up.

It was my lesson in humility. It was important for me to experience it. And yes, the phone worked. All it took was the hair dryer. It was a Nokia 6610, in case you are wondering.

Since the past few days, my maid has been on leave. We take turns to do the dishes. Each time it is the sister’s turn, I see her refusing to touch the food waste lying in the kitchen sink. I don’t insist on her picking it up. I cringe and do it myself. Because I know where she comes from. Perhaps one day she will be more willing to do it.

As for me, I have come a long way. I still cringe and at times, refuse to pick my hair lying in the bathroom drain. But perhaps, that is because I have a husband who, unlike me, tells me he has no problem doing it.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 56 Comments »

Questions you don’t want to be asked..

Posted by Pepper on June 15, 2012

Question: What do you do, when you peep into the bathroom and see the maid cleaning it with surprising vigour?
Answer: You smile. Who doesn’t want to shower in a sparkling, fresh smelling bathroom?

Question: What do you do, when you happen to see a blur of familiar blue in her hands?
Answer: You panic.

Question: What do you do, when you suspect it is your blue bath sponge that is being used as an instrument to scrub the bathroom floors and drain?
Answer: You scream.

Question: What do you do, when it dawns upon you, that this may not necessarily have been an isolated incident?
Answer: You cringe.

Question: What do you do, when you decide to confront your fears and ask the maid if she has used that bath sponge for bathroom cleaning purposes at an earlier time, and she says ‘Yes’, with a ‘what else do you think I have been using!’ look plastered on her face?
Answer: You cry.

Question: What do you do, after a few moments of crying, you realise that the maid is using another blue sponge, and that your bath sponge is lying safe and untouched, in its original place?
Answer: You cry again. This time with relief.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 55 Comments »

Because I am angry and sad..

Posted by Pepper on June 14, 2012

Of all things that bother me about our nation, one that tops my list is the ‘I only care about myself’ attitude. People will screw you a million times over, just to race ahead by a few steps. Well, that is an extreme statement. Talking about less extreme examples, I see cab drivers bringing their cabs to a halt in the middle of the road when they see a passenger. And then they take their own sweet time to move ahead. Perhaps their old engines take a while to splutter to life and come to speed once they are turned off. This adds to the snarling traffic jam. Why not stop in the corner so that other vehicles can pass? Why do you have to stop in the middle of the road, obstructing traffic? Oh right. It is because you don’t care about what others have to go through. Why should you take the effort of moving on to the side?

And then I see people littering all over. A lot of times, I have seen people in little shops lining the road, cleaning their floors and sweeping out the trash directly onto the road. I feel appalled. Why do you do that, I ask them? They say it takes too much effort to collect the trash and put it into the bin. Okay, so to save that minuscule bit of work, you will dirty the streets? Clean your own home, because it belongs to you. It is your personal abode. Dirty the road because it is not your personal property. Who cares if others have to wade through the dirt in order to walk? Your own homes remain clean and that is all you care about.

A month ago, the sister and I were observing a family of four. After having eaten some bananas, the kids handed the peels to their parents. The parents said “Yahin par phek do” (Throw it away right here). Horrified, the sister and I picked up the peels from the road and looked around for a trash can. When we couldn’t spot one, we pulled out a plastic bag and put the peels in it. We told them we will carry them back and discard them in the trash can at home. All this was done in front of the family. We then told the kids that littering on the roads is not right. Beside that, anybody can slip on the peels and have a bad fall. All of us should try and keep the roads clean. The kids nodded quietly. The parents, a tad embarrassed, told us, they had asked the kids to throw it on the road only momentarily. They were planning to pick it up from there themselves. Of course!

My mom, who was witnessing all of this, told us it is useless talking to people and explaining to them. They will continue to do the same things.  The sister and I argued with mom and told her, useless or not, we will do it. These kids are the future of our nation. I cannot watch their parents encouraging them to litter. If they have to hear from a stranger on the road, so be it. Perhaps it will make no difference to them. Or perhaps it will. The 0.1% possibility of it making some difference makes it worth it.

And then there is my biggest pet peeve. Spitting on the road. Have you noticed? 9 our of 10 auto drivers spit on the road. Most of the times, it is a disgusting red paan and gutka filled spit. Almost every auto I travel in, I tell the driver to not spit, whenever I see him doing it. I try my best to be polite. I resort to begging.  Some of them listen to me, but since they are chewing gutka, they have to spit it out. They can’t swallow it. So what should they do? I don’t know. I tell them to carry plastic bags and spit into them, but at the back of my mind, I know how unfeasible that is. Beside that, it is not a very environment friendly option either. And if there is no way out, then they shouldn’t be chewing those nasty things at all. Unless they are doing it at home. I ask them, why don’t they spit in their autos? Because they know it will dirty the auto. So then why not worry about dirtying the road. Just because it does not belong to you the way the auto does?

When I was a child, I was told that people who behave this way have to be pitied upon. They lack education. They are ignorant. They do not understand hygiene. But as I grew up, I realised that is not true. In most cases, I see educated citizens having the same kind of disregard for anything that does not belong to them. If those people did not care about hygiene, how would you explain them cleaning their homes, while dirtying the roads? How would you explain them not wanting to spit in their autos? I really do not know why Indians have the ‘I only care about myself and my personal property’ attittude.

Let me get to the reason behind this rant. Two days ago, my dad slipped on a banana peel. He didn’t notice it because it was hidden beneath layers of dirt. He fell down, head first and hurt himself. Badly. His lip was torn. His glasses were flung across on the road. He bled profusely, soaking up handkerchiefs. When he got home, we were beyond horrified to see his wounds. Not only was his lip swollen heavily, the contours of his upper lip seemed disfigured. It was a ghastly sight, one that we couldn’t bear to see.

His wounds are now healing, but whenever I think of it, I can’t help but seethe. If only I knew who it was that threw that peel, I would drag him out by his hair and thrash him till he begged for mercy. You walk over me a hundred times, and I might take it. If you mess around with my parents even once, I swear I will tear you apart. When it comes to my parents, I am that protective tigress that has  knife like claws and a threatening fang for added measure.

It was my dad who fell the other day. It could have been anybody else, including the family members of the person who threw that peel there. Why don’t people realise that? When people spit out on the roads, they might not care about the disgusting stains it leaves. But how can they escape the pathogen filled air that they create? It might get to their dear ones, if not them. People in our country can live with this ‘I don’t care about you attitude’ only for so long. Ultimately, every action of ours has a consequence that we have to bear ourselves. The day we understand this fully, our country will be a better place.

Posted in Life in India | 66 Comments »

A true blast from the past.

Posted by Pepper on June 12, 2012

Warning: A very long post. Written very, very long ago. I found it in a draft in my old blog. Wanted to put it down here. This was written at a time when I blogged privately, so it has been written without any reservations. This was long before I was married. It talks about the time when Mint was visiting me in UK. Loaded with cheese. Layered with mush. Read at your own risk.


Posted on Tuesday, January 13th, 2009.

It happened. He came. Dear God, thank you for granting him a UK visa. I know, few people are as idiotic as him. Who would submit a 2 year old photograph with your visa application, when the instructions clearly state that the photograph has to be recent one? Moreover, he submitted the same picture that is present on his US visa, which is a few years old. Obviously they would find out. Phew, thankfully it was sorted out. Or he would be so dead.

What can I say about the past few weeks? This is what they mean when they say ‘It was magical’, perhaps. Some of the happenings:

– It started with a big surprise. I better write about it in detail another day. It so needs to be put down here. For now, let me just say it involved a magical appearance in my room. Bewilderment, sudden shyness, curiosity, amazement and yes, scented candles, were all part of the package.

– Of all the things he wanted to do in the coming minutes after we met, I was particularly amused by this one. He wanted to make me wear my socks. Yes, he wanted to put them on for me. He begged me to allow him. And then I saw the joy on his face as he rolled up the socks above my ankles. Strange joys.

– We had been looking forward to this trip of his for months. Last I saw him was a year ago. I couldn’t believe he was there for real now. That I was seeing him in 3D, out of the webcam. That I could hear him in person, without relying on phones and skype connectivity. We spent the entire night cuddling and chatting with each other, cherishing every passing minute. I still count those as my ‘too good to be true’ moments.

– We were to stay in M’s house for a few days. Because I am scared of people in general, I did not want him to know Mint and I were seeing each other. So I insisted on pretending to be ‘just friends’. Which meant, letting go of each other’s hands and distancing ourselves every time M walked into the room. Mint thought I was funny.

– London is so beautiful in December. There were Christmas decorations put up everywhere. It was really cold. You could see the mist shining in the lights. We could see the cheer around us. We stayed out through out nights and went home only early in the mornings. I hadn’t had so much fun in a long time.

– I woke up on Christmas morning to see Mint wearing a red cap. A lot of cards and gifts were handed out to me. The words on the cards are soulful, and oh, cheesy.

– We spent a lot of days in search of a good winter coat for me. I had been on the look out since a long time, but I couldn’t find the perfect one. It was either too pricey, or it didn’t fit me well, or lacked something else. Mint said he would help me find one. After scouring hundreds of stores and malls, we finally found one that we liked. This winter coat will always remain special to me. A lot of combined effort has been put into it. It also contains a lot of happy memories.

– We went clubbing. And, I was accused of being too drunk and was thrown out of the club. I am still in denial. I am not ‘that type of a girl’. I can’t be drunk. I can’t be kicked out. No, no, no. I hate Mint for laughing at me when those guards held me by my arms and threw me out. This couldn’t have happened to me.

– Mint was visiting me, in a city I have been living in. It totally sucked that I got lost every time I ‘took him out’. After going around in circles, trying to find the way back home in the cold, I would begin giving up. Much to my embarrassment, Mint told me he would take me back to my own home one day when we were lost. He actually cut through campus and showed me a shorter route to get home. Talk about embarrassing.

– We took the train to New Castle one night. We had a 5 hour waiting period there, after which we would get our train for Edinburgh, Scotland. I thought we would kill time at the station, but what do you know? They decided to shut the station for those 5 hours and threw us out. It was in the middle of the night, and not a single restaurant, coffee shop or store was open. This being end of December, it was freezing! The temperature was -7 degrees Celsius. The wind was howling. We were out in the open, with no shelter for hours. I could feel my teeth chatter, my limbs turning immobile, and my body trembling. I really wasn’t sure I would make it through the night. Just then I caught sight of a tiny shop. They were selling hot water bags. The sign there said “Buy these hot water bags or you will get hypothermia and die”. Interesting and realistic way to sell their product.

– Another noteworthy point – I reached Edinburgh and decided to catch some sleep for a few hours. Since we couldn’t check in to our hostel until a particular time, I decided to sleep in an interesting place – the bar. I spent about 3 hours there, sleeping on Mint’s shoulder. He did nothing at all. Just sat there for hours with no movement, so that I could get some undisturbed sleep. Have I said I love him? I really do.

– Edinburgh is such a beautiful city. It has so much of history. It has such an old world charm. You can’t shake out the fairy tale like feel when you pass palaces and castles while walking on those roads. The place is colourful and has such a vibrant culture. One of my dreams was to walk on the streets of Edinburgh, go up cliffs, watch the castles, churches and live bands with Mint by my side. I couldn’t believe I was really living my dream.

– We visited the cafe in which Rowling wrote her first novel in the Harry Potter series. The cafe calls itself the ‘Birthplace of Harry Potter’. We sat on those tables, and pictured her writing there. We could even see the castle she overlooked. How totally awesome! In case you think I am lying, I have pictorial evidence to prove it. All you Happy Potter fans, take that!

– I realised Mint was a hotter version of Santa Claus. He would keep pulling out gifts for me, out of nowhere. At one time, he reached into his pocket and give me a neat keychain. Another time, he pulled out a pretty stole for me out of his bag pack. One time, he gave me a Linkin Park broach that he bought for me when he attended one of their concerts. I had so many little gifts being given to me at different times. I guess he loved taking me by surprise. My favourite gift is a diary he gave me, in which he has written one message for me for each day of the year. So it has 365 little messages tucked in. He even searched for a pen that would let him write with my favourite colour! How much I treasure it.

– This was probably one of the best times I’ve had in life. How we gorged on food, especially bangers and mash, those sinful, lip smacking chocolate desserts. How many long hand held strolls we took despite the cold, how I enjoyed giving him a tour of my university, how many long conversations we had. I couldn’t believe it was time for him leave. Of course, I sobbed. I remember standing at Heathrow airport with fat tears spilling out of my eyes.

And it’s been exactly a week since he left. I can’t believe how lonely I feel. One thing I look forward to everyday is waking up in the morning and turning the page to see the note for the day, left by him. I’ve promised to not turn pages ahead of time. Today, I really didn’t feel like waking up. With a lot of effort, I trudged to the table to turn the page and see the note for the day. And guess what I see?

How did he know I wanted to sleep in today? Coincidence? I am so stunned and so pleased. I went back to sleep with a big smile on my face.

Cliche as it may sound, I can’t imagine life without him. But, I live with so many fears. I know his family won’t accept me easily. He tells me to not worry. But, what if things get too messy? I don’t want him to break ties with his family. Neither can I bear to be without him. Why do people give so much importance to caste and community? Will we really get married one day? If so, when?  How much will we have to fight for it?  And where will we live? Should he move to UK? Should I move to the US? Should we both move to India right away? What does life have in store? Why am I so scared?

Posted in Splashes of Mint | 66 Comments »

Shoe many problems!

Posted by Pepper on June 11, 2012

I still remember the heartache I felt when I was forced to give away half of the stuff I owned. While moving back from USA to India, I was left with no option but to sort through my clothes, shoes, handbags and only take back what I really liked. I remember filling bags after bags with stuff that was to be given away to Goodwill. All my stuff was in pristine condition, and it was really hard to choose what I wanted to carry back. But what could I do? I had a limited luggage allowance and even the boxes we were shipping separately were almost full.

After giving away more than half of my belongings, I went on to pack the remaining stuff so that it could be shipped. We were told, the shipment would take about 2 months to arrive to our home in Mumbai. I couldn’t wait. We had our TV, our PS3, the newly purchased kinect, our home theatre system, clothes, bags, shoes, household items, books, DVDs, all waiting to be delivered.

The only problem was, we had more than 10 big cartons in our shipment. We were already struggling with space shortage at home. How would we accommodate all that stuff? We decided to deal with it at a later time. And then forgot about it.

A few days ago, my stuff arrived. I couldn’t have been more excited! Today, I decided to unpack some of the boxes. I started with the shoes. I spread them out on the floor, and was beginning to put them away. Suddenly, I heard a gasp, followed by an ‘Oh my God!’. I turned around, to look at my mom, and her worried expression. “So many shoes! Where are we going to keep them?”

I looked at the shoes and counted them. There were 20 pairs here. This, after I had given away most of my shoes. How did this happen? I don’t even use most of these. I hate wearing heels. What was I thinking when I bought them? Why did I buy them in the first place? Oh right, I remember. It is all Mint’s fault.

Now what do I do? 😦 Does anybody want to borrow some shoes from me?

I think it would be wise to not open the remaining boxes.

Posted in Er-rant-ic behaviour | 39 Comments »

The morning sounds

Posted by Pepper on June 8, 2012

Dad to Mom: Have you seen the car keys anywhere?
Mom on the phone: Ek Britania ka cheese spread bhejna, Ek amul butter ka packet, ek..
The sister *hollering from the bathroom*: I forget the towel. Can somebody bring it for me?
Mom to sis: *Putting her call on hold* How can you forget your towel everyday?
Dad to me: Have you seen the car keys anywhere?
Mom to me: Please give her the towel before she brings the roof down.
Me to dad: I think I saw the keys on the dining table last night.
The sis *from the bathroom*: Can somebody give me my towellll..
Dad to me: They aren’t on the dining table.
Me *handing sis the towel*: I don’t know then. Ask mama.
Sis *emerging out of the bathroom*: I am late today. I am leaving.
Mom to sis: You can’t leave without eating breakfast.
Dad to mom: Have you seen the car keys anywhere?
Sis to dad: I am late. Drop me to the station today.
Mom to sis: I said you are not going anywhere without breakfast.
Dad to mom: Have you seen the car keys anywhere?
Mom to dad: Make the dosas for her. I am busy with these calls.
*Door bell ringing – The sister opening the door* : Did you call for anything? The delivery guy is here. Collect the stuff and pay him.
Mom to dad: Don’t forget she doesn’t like her dosas too crisp.
Dad to mom: Have you seen the car keys anywhere?
*Phone ringing in the background*.
The sister *screaming*: The delivery guy is waitingg..
Me to mom: I’ll answer the calls. You take care of the delivery guy.
Dad *screaming from the kitchen while making dosas*: Has anybody seen the car keyys?

And it goes on. Sweet chaos.

Posted in Slices of life | 59 Comments »

Manipulative and dominating? The labels I have to live with.

Posted by Pepper on June 7, 2012

This one is going to be a rant. I apologize for engaging in such a stale discussion, but having crossed my endurance limit, this is something I have to talk about.

I have, like a lot of other people, defied tradition by choosing to retain my own name after marriage. Oh by the way, what is the deal with calling it your ‘maiden name’? Hell, your name is your name, no matter what. Where does ‘maiden’ fit in? Anyway, I digress.

After we got married, I really did not see any need to change my last name, or even add Mint’s name to mine. I am emotionally attached to my last name. It is a family name, one that is shared by every member. It brings with it a certain history, other associations and traits that connect me with my family. As per tradition, a girl is supposed to drop her own last name and take on her husband’s name after marriage. Not being the kind to follow tradition blindly, I rejected this idea immediately. If there is any reasonable explanation behind this custom, I’d really like to hear it.

Honestly, I have absolutely nothing against women who choose to change their last name, or add their husband’s last name to theirs after they get married, if they do it out of their own FREE WILL. What I cannot stand is the societal pressure on those who choose to not do it.

Let me say my family name is ‘X’. That makes me Pepper X. Mint, like a lot of people in South India, does not have a family name. Since he has to comply with regulations formed by the Western world, he uses his dad’s name as his last name. Let me call it ‘Y’. That makes him Mint Y. Unlike me, he is not attached to his last name at all. Mainly because, it is not even a family name.

Unfortunately, the world just cannot accept me as Pepper X and him as Mint Y. People assume I am Pepper Y. Every time we get an invitation card, I see myself addressed as Pepper Y. It bothers me, and I don’t know what I can do about it. The other day I happened to browse through my aunt’s phone book, to make sure she has my new number saved, and I saw my name saved as Pepper Y. This, despite telling her a lot of times that I continue to be Pepper X. They just refuse to get it.

I am working on my passport renewal, and I don’t even want to talk about how much of a struggle it was to convince the agent of my choice in retaining my own last name. Why do I have to even give him an explanation you ask? Well, because he refused to do my job. After a couple of lengthy arguments with him, I hung up and decided to figure out another way. It’s sad, when I have to struggle so much to accomplish something that is well within my rights.

My dad, for the longest time has been telling me to add Mint’s name to mine. Why, I ask him? He says a common name links the couple and establishes their marital status more evidently. And why do I need to establish my marital status? He says I don’t need to. A common name according to him, publicly unifies the couple and for him, it brings in a feel good factor. Umm. Hmm.

I’ve given this a lot of thought. Would we save ourselves the umpteen administrative hassles if we have a common name? Sometime ago, I discussed this with Mint. He asked me if I wanted a new name altogether. One that we create and share, one that didn’t originally belong to either of us. I toyed with the idea for a while, before tossing the thought aside. I wasn’t willing to drop my own last name. To add another new name at the end would sound silly.

We gave it some more thought. After which Mint came up with another idea. He said if we had to have a common name, he would change his last name to mine. I stared at him, asking him if he was serious. He said it was only logical. He is not attached to his last name, the way I am. He does not have a family name, unlike me. If one of us has to change it, it makes more sense for him to do it. How does him being a man make a difference? I remember feeling extremely proud of him and congratulating myself for marrying such a guy who was capable of thinking like that. I know very few men would consider that thought.

Him changing his last name to mine is a possibility we are willing to consider. We may or may not end up doing it. But what matters is that we have the option. Since the time we evaluated this thought, I’ve taken it upon myself to tell all and sundry that “Mint might change his last name to mine”, just to test their reactions. When I told my parents, they thought I was kidding, and that I was making this up. Until Mint told them on his own that I wasn’t. He really didn’t think using our family name was a big deal. A lot of people laughed out aloud. A lot of people shrieked in horror, asking me if Mint was insane. Some were convinced that I was the evil overbearing wife who made her husband dance to her tunes. I was called manipulative and dominating. Somebody asked me if Mint had no ‘family pride’.

And the same people expected me to take on his name without a questioning thought. Interesting world.

Posted in A penny for my thoughts | 144 Comments »

A different kind of beauty

Posted by Pepper on June 3, 2012

Since the time we’ve moved back to India, I find myself confronted by a few common questions. “Which country do you like more? India or USA?”. That one is not too hard. In all honesty, I tell them I can’t choose. Both the countries are close to my heart and special in their own way. What gets my goat is the assumption people make. I’ve had some folks come up to me and tell me, “Oh so you didn’t like the US at all, which is why you moved back right?”.

That assumption riles me up like nothing else. I love USA from the bottom of my heart. That country gave me a home, gave me immeasurable joys and everlasting memories. It is an integral part of who I am and I can never deny that. Till date, I find myself getting dreamy when I think of my beloved Bay Area and I let out a wishful sigh. So when I dispute all those claims and tell those people in no uncertain manner that I absolutely loved the US and I always will, they view me with suspicion. “What? If you loved the US then why did you move back?”.

Sigh. I usually take a deep breath before I even attempt to answer that. What can I tell them? Why did I move back to India when I loved the US? That is a valid question. If only it were that simple. There are so many layers to this, but when I am forced to answer them in one line, I say “I moved back to be closer to my family”. That apparently, is not reason enough. So I let go.

And then there are other people, NRIs mostly, who are considering a move back to the homeland. They are keen to know my experiences, in order to procure some help in their decision making process. Again, I don’t know how to answer their questions. All I tell them is, not to base their decisions on my experiences. Each of us has some different goals, ambitions and priorities in life. What I find easy to deal with might be extremely hard for you. What you think is enjoyable might be torturous for me. Whether you should move to India or not is a decision only you can make.

I know people a lot of people dislike the ruffled existence in India, and would choose the smooth life any day. Fair enough. I did enjoy the smooth life to a great extent too. When I lived in the US, I appreciated everything that the place had to offer. It was easy to express my appreciation to people. Most of the benefits are tangible in that country. I could talk about the scenic drives, clean air, quality of life and people understood it.

Now that I live in India, I lay my focus on appreciating everything that this country has to offer, but it is a lot harder to define the positives in a few words. Most of it is intangible and people do not understand me when I tell them I like India because it lets me ‘feel’. If all of us had an inbuilt switch, I would say in India, our internal switch is ‘on’ ninety percent of the time. You either feel happy, angry, sad, dismayed, excited, unnerved or something else. I like this ability to feel something different, at all times. Life here is unpredictable, full of surprises and shocks.

Do I like living in India? That is an easy question to answer. Yes, I love being here. Not only because it means being close to my family, but also because India inspires me. And the same aspects that inspire me can frustrate somebody else. I enjoy being around people. India, with it’s vast, ever growing population has no dearth of people. You see people walking on the road in throngs. You go to the petrol pump (or gas station, depending on your location), and you are greeted by people who will do your job for you, unlike the US, where you have to fill gas on your own, with no human interaction. You have tailors setting up shop in the middle of the streets. You see people selling their wares on busy roads. Everywhere, people are doing something. Even if you stay indoors, you have maids, watchmen, dhobis ringing your door bell. Sometimes I wonder how the day goes by. There is so much of one on one interaction with people. When I compare this to the quiet, programmed life in suburban America, I realise I feel a lot more alive in India. In the US, an average human is surrounded by more machines and less people. In India, it is the opposite.

I am not saying India is all good. Far from it. Chaos reigns this country. I often find myself screaming in my head, feeling the kind of frustration that makes one weep. I question my choices when I pay a killing price for a bumpy auto ride that almost throws me out of my seat, when I sit inside with sweat dripping from my furrowed brow, nauseous because of the poisonous fumes coming from the surrounding trucks. This is a part of my everyday life that I cannot ignore. There are certain aspects about India that I abhor. Like dowry, female infanticide, gender biases, but I can afford to sit in my high chair and say ‘these things don’t happen to me’. But something like an auto ride? The traffic? The pollution? There is no escaping it. No matter what you do.

Despite all of that, I think the pros override the cons. I find simple pleasures here that make my life worthwhile. When I go for walks in the evening and make some spur of the moment plans to stop by at a street side chaat corner, when the sister and I see a giant wheel in the middle of a chaotic road and decide to have some fun, when my maid comes and hugs me with delight, when I am able to see, touch and hug my parents whenever my heart desires, when I get to play with my cousins’ kids  and watch them grow, from babies, to toddlers to little adults, when I stand in my balcony, watching the world and see a frail man playing the flute as he walks by, when a morning walk in my building premises brings with it a whiff of incense. The sweet fragrance lingers on for a long time. All these aspects bring me fulfillment.

USA is beautiful. Most of us will agree. It is the kind of beauty that the world recognises. India is beautiful in a way that not everybody can recognise. These are two pictures, both taken around suburban residential areas, one in the Bay Area, close to where I lived and one in Mumbai, close to where I now live. Both speak a thousand words. And both these beautiful places will always remain close to my heart.

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