A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Sometimes, lack of choice can be good

Posted by Pepper on January 30, 2014

It hasn’t even been two full years since we moved back to India. But to me, it seems like I’ve been living here for a lifetime. I do miss my old life in the US, I miss the home we had, I miss the people there, but I am happy here. More than happy. I remember writing this post one night after dinner, after I had just finished talking to my parents. I remember looking at our home in the Bay Area lovingly, and wondering how I would ever find the courage to take the plunge and move back home.

It all seemed so uncertain back then. Beside, life in India did not guarantee happiness. I wanted to move back here to live close to my parents – in the same city. I wasn’t sure we would have an opportunity to do that. I wasn’t sure if the work culture here would allow us quality time with the family. Thankfully, things fell in place for me in the most perfect way ever. I live close to my parents, in my city. Both Mint and I have very flexible and balanced jobs that give us more than enough time to pursue other things and enjoy some quality time together. I cling on to my life in this country.

The problem though, has always been the same. Mint does not want to live in India. He agreed to move back to homeland because I wanted to.I still consider that to be the biggest sacrifice he has made for me. We decided to try living in India for about 3 years. If he absolutely hated it, we would move back to the US. Does he hate it in India? No. He has a good life here. Does he still want to move back? Yes. Because he thinks this country is killing us. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat here, it is killing us. And if we are undergoing a slow death, the good and happy life we have here does not matter much.

The fact that Mint works in the same company now as he did in the US does not help. His managers are all based in California. They will be very happy if he agrees to move back there. They keep asking him every now and then, if he is interested in moving back. As a result, Mint keeps popping the question to me. “Shall we move back?”, he asks me this every few days. I pause for a minute, and then shake my head and say no. I love it here. Does not matter to me if I am dying. He does not get this. He tries reasoning with me in every possible way. When I argue, he pulls out his trump card. He reminds me of the fact that I want to have kids someday. “Do you want to subject them to this environment? Do you want them to breathe this air that is killing us?”

What am I supposed to say to that? Please tell me. I tell him there are a million people choosing to have kids in India, it does not mean they want to subject their kids to any harm. He tells me that majority of those million people do not have a choice. Whereas we do. So I will actually be choosing not just for my own self, but I will be choosing this deathly surrounding for them too. He knows how to trap me in my own guilt. He even goes on to the extent of saying he would never want to bring up his daughter in this patriarchal country. He will want to move out of here, especially if we have a girl.

What about all the love that our kids will miss out on if they aren’t living close to grandparents and family? What about our aging parents? Should we forget all of that. He says we can work out a solution for all of that. I don’t see how that is possible, but I let go. Because our arguments in this matter are unending. 

It is tough, living on opposite ends of the spectrum. Ofcourse, the corruption, pollution, attitude and apathy of this country is unnerving for me too. It makes it even harder for me to endure it, because I can’t vent to Mint. If if do, he has a ready response. Each time the traffic makes me snap, the pollution makes me choke, the outrageous attitude of our countrymen makes me see red, Mint tells me the same thing – “Well, you’ve chosen this, so don’t complain”. I have chosen this, yes. I hate this surrounding, but I still love my life with my people here. It would help if I had the opportunity to release my frustrations without being shut up with his standard remark. But then I have learnt to live with it.

The more I think about it, the more I realise how much happier I would have been without this choice. We would just be like the scores of Indians, complaining about the system, abusing it and then moving on. But this available choice, it forces me to pick a stand. It forces me to not complain, because well, I chose it. It forces me to choose responsibly. It forces me to face the consequences of my choice. It forces me to evaluate my choice.  None of which is pleasant. So I will deal with it all another day. For now, I will go back to my happy life and forget all about this burden of choice.


34 Responses to “Sometimes, lack of choice can be good”

  1. D said

    good post pepper. I want to settle abroad for few years, to experience the life there. Not that we have an option right now, but i am too skeptical to try…for the various reasons you mentioned above. Its actually a matter of choice. All the best, May you two go with the best option without any regrets…:)

    • Pepper said

      Thanks D. I do believe living out of India has a million advantages too, and I hope you overcome your apprehensions and get the chance to live there for a while atleast.

  2. Sumana said

    Hmm true, i can understand how it feels moving from one country to another and facing all these, be it your own. We did this 5 years back after staying 7 years in Chicago. Kids though are US citizens, we have no GC or even a valid visa to go back. So left without choices really helps sometimes. You just make do with the situation. Mint is right in a way and so are you. But put in the pros and cons and see what helps you guys best.

  3. Shweta said

    OMG! You make India sound like hell!
    We always have choices. It’s just the consequences of what you chose make it difficult.

    I agree to every bit of what Mint may be stating. But in my mind, it is not as bad. May be he’s being way to practical!
    We can do our bit staying here. Running away is not a solution, is it??

    • Pepper said

      I only spoke about the air, water and other pollutants, Shweta. If you go by those, India is hell 😦 I don’t know any other way of putting it.

      Having said that, I do try and not bitch about the place I have chosen to live in. But really, with a horrible government, what can you even hope to achieve, that too on an individual level? Pardon me for not being optimistic enough. I do my bit in all the ways I can, but I don’t think it adds up to much. The bigger issues are not in my control.

  4. yes forget the burden and enjoy, tomorrow you can think about it like Scarlett o hara did.. its good you vented here … 🙂

  5. Ouch. Sore spot that one is. There is no right or wrong. We fight our battles and pick our sides. At the end of the day, happiness is subjective.

  6. MR said

    This is present everywhere. There is no one perfect place for us all 🙂 Its a choice, you made it be happy. I do feel bad for Mint though, but i think he loves you a lot to give up so much, v sweet. I have the opp dilema, i dont want to move to india, I love it here, love my life , love everything about it, my husband and kids love it here, yet sometimes i get frustrated with parents back home na daging and in-laws getting old and us not being there etc., and when i complain and rant to hubby i get the same thing , ‘ Its a choice we made’ dont complain’ — yes we did , in our case the choice is mutual. i prefer to raise my daughter here, nothing wrong with india but for us this is a better choice and like mint says we have the option. but still is frustrating sometimes, and although it’s no use venting, it helps 🙂 like you i love it here but want that world too. to be there for aged parents and siblings without travelling 24hrs… but such is life.

  7. What a wonderful post Pepper. I love your clarity of thoughts. I can never express my thoughts in this fashion. Myself and R went through these thoughts several times in the last 6years when we had to chose where we wanted to live and riase our kid. Now that we have made a choice. I am happy and peaceful. I wrote my reasons here in this post http://weourlife.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/why-we-chose-to-buy-a-home-here/

    but I think I still have lot to tell, that calls for another post. Decision making is never easy but as long as you are content with your decision that’s most important.I wish you and Mint the very best of everything. Hugs.

    • Pepper said

      Read that post, LF. And I loved it. I am *very* happy with my choice too. But like I said, it is difficult when your partner thinks differently. I hope, one day we are able to ‘choose’ the same, 🙂 I hope Mint starts living in India out of choice, as opposed to living here as a compromise.

  8. I typed a really long comment and deleted it. I hate to be a grown up, to summarize. 😦

  9. anisnest said

    so true
    # by-a-victim-of-the-choice-who-returned-to-usa-in-just-4-months-of-r2i

  10. The only thing that tugs me hard to move back to homeland is my people there. Isn’t it for all of us NRI’s? Kills me to even think of parents falling ill…how would I deal?!

    Other than that, I surely don’t miss the pollution and the traffic. In fact, whenever I try to persuade the husband to move back, that’s the point I let myself loose to.


    Pepper – there is always big compromises involved in any big decisions we take. I think, one always has to remember what is their priority and choose what to compromise on.

    This post made me think of this song I heard on desi radio this morning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHQez1ieR-E

    • Pepper said

      Very well said, AHK. In my case, I don’t allow myself to lose to the pollution and traffic point because they don’t matter to me as much as being close to family does. In the end, we have to really weigh it out and see what factor tips the balance for us. And for me, it is always my family that does it.

  11. R's Mom said

    Confusion confusion confusion 😦

  12. A said

    Oh I hear you! We moved back to India 4 years back after living in the US for more than 7 years. I was a bit hesitant then, but my husband wanted to. Now my husband wants to move back for his career and I don’t want to. I have the same reason as you – Family. I see how much comfort and security I bring to my parents by living just an hour away. I have bonded really well with my nieces and it is a joy to meet my cousins at weddings and other functions. Here I feel like I am living, compared to the monotonous life we had in the US.

    So even if this country frustrates me to no end at times, and even though I still think about the comfort I had back in the US, I will breathe this polluted air, drink poisoned water and die slowly, with the satisfaction that I gave lots of joy to my parents when they needed it the most, goofed around with my nieces, and spent hours chit-chatting with my siblings. 🙂

    This is life, isn’t it?

  13. Confusion hi confusion hai…solution ka patta nahi…

  14. ferret said

    This must be a difficult one. I’m not very connected to my roots and generally value detachment a lot. These two are the biggest reasons for me, that i don’t like the feeling of being settled. So in our case it’s me who keeps wanting to move.
    I do see Mint’s point, but i want to side with you so much more. It’s precious, the joys you describe here to us, i wonder if anything could outweigh that.
    There is something that my tennis coach used to keep telling me all the time when i played, he’d say ‘one shot at a time!’. And i know how much difference that used to bring to my game, the moment my focus went to the game instead of the shot at hand, my game would suffer. And i find it so relevant in so many decision making situations that come up. A lot of times if i just stop dwelling upon things, they straighten out themselves and the best choice becomes obvious. Of course there are difficult choices to be made a lot of times, but a lot of times we spend more time thinking about a future probability in so much detail at such an early stage that it causes nothing but more confusion.

    If i can ask, does mint really think India is that bad? It sounds quite strong from this post, the dislike..

    • Pepper said

      The joys I experience here are far more precious to me than the comfortable life I had in USA. My life here makes me feel very happy. My life in the US made me feel comfortable, but not exactly happy. So for me, I don’t feel any confusion. I just feel guilty because Mint doesn’t feel the same. I absolutely love what your tennis coach said to you. Will try and apply that in all spheres of my life 🙂

      And to answer your question, Mint does think the dangers of living in India are so high. So the good life doesn’t justify the dangers to him. It is not so much about dislike, he is just too practical in his evaluation.

  15. Boiling said

    i am late but I had to comment on this.

    Hmm.. I definitely am on the mint camp on this one. I prefer living abroad definitely any day. I do miss the food, family & friends but other than that, I for sure prefer a smooth day to day life. I was constantly angry when i was in India because so many things from the dysfunctional system to roads, blah blah annoyed me. i like my freedom, a system working, water electricity transport blah blah.

    I do wonder about my parents though & hope to come up with a solution (in the future). I don’t feel any need to hang out with my relatives or whatever, so that’s good. My friends are in different cities, so, it is not like I am meeting them daily if I were in India too.

    • Pepper said

      I agree with what you say completely. Just that I don’t mind the rough life as long as it gives me other perks. I guess we’re all wired differently 🙂

      And totally know what you mean. Worrying about a solution for parents is the topmost thought on the minds of most people who live away. I really wish we find a way out. It would simplify things for so many of us.

  16. namita said

    Oh dear. I could have written this post. I find so many things about this country infuriating but I love my life here. My family. The informal access to neighbors home by my kids. The maids. The ability to talk in Hindi in office. I also carry the option of being able to move to US anytime and that does not help. And like Mint said, I really do not want my daughter to grow up in this patriarchy and face the so called “eve teasing” that comes with it. I do not want to curb her freedom either! Every 6 mo, we discuss moving to US seriously and then drop it for the time being. But I know eventually we will….. I am as confused as you are!!

  17. Nandita said

    Hey Pepper,
    First time commenting! And that too because what you say is a current situation for us! We moved back from the Gulf to India 6 years ago when we had our first kid. We moved since I wanted him to be close to his grand parents and I wanted to be a stay at home mom. It was awesome! I loved the access to mom/dad/family. The conveniences of home. The seamless fitting into my friend circle. Until we began considering some major issues. Good schools in Mumbai are unaffordable. Good housing is exorbitant. Even decent options are unavailable on a single salary! And if I were to go back to work, good childcare is impossible to find esp. since both our parents have active, full lives of their own. So about a year back, when we had our second kid, we started looking for jobs in the Gulf again,. We chose this as it is still close enough to home and allows us to save and offers options that are just not possible at home. This time around, I landed a job and we have now moved back here.
    Honestly, it is lonely sometimes but I have a great friend circle, full time reliable help, great public amenities and the ability to have our folks over all the time (if we so choose!) and I have made my peace with it. But I can say without reservation that this is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. These choices that rend us in half always are. I only did it for my kids. And that is the point of this rambling comment. Never say never. things happen, circumstances change. The only thing is that we should be thankful we at least have this choice. If we wanted the change but had no choice, wouldn’t that be much harder?

    • Pepper said

      You know, I think it is not about India here. I think Mumbai is a big problem when it comes to affordability. Other cities seem to be okay. I totally empathise with your situation. We don’t have kids yet, but when we do, I shudder to think of how we will cope with the expenses.

      Looks like you made a wise decision, though I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I agree, I should appreciate the fact that we atleast do have a choice. Would be a lot harder if we wanted change but found ourselves stuck.

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