Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Returning to India

Every once in a while, I'm asked whether I'm happy I returned to India. I vary my answers based on who is asking the question. If it's an old friend from the US asking me, I say "Yes, I'm happy though I miss a lot about my old life". If its someone from India, I say " Yes, I'm very happy - who wouldn't be?". The common thread I find that I say is "Yes, I'm very happy". Is that the truth? I'm not sure.

Recently someone I know who had moved here around the time we had, has decided she just can't live here anymore. She has tried to fit back in, she has tried very hard, but says she just can't do it, and doesn't want to try anymore. And they are moving back.

I find that things aren't so black and white for me. There are several things about India that I love. I love that my daughter has so much family around her - that she gets to grow up with grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles. I love that they want to spend time with her and love to be with her - that I don't have to pay someone to spend 2 hours with my daughter while I have dinner. I love that people are genuinely willing and wanting to help at any time if you need them.

But I desperately miss personal space. I miss sidewalks. I miss parks. I miss open spaces with no one in sight. I miss being able to go to a grocery store and being confronted with a shelf of choices.

A close friend is moving back here. I've known him forever and when he genuinely asked me, "So would you recommend I move back?", I was only able to give him the pros and cons. It works for me, but I can understand when it doesn't work for someone else. Its a very personal decision. And there's no way to plan for it.

I found that everyone - and I really mean every single person I know - asked me "why did you move back?". It seemed like people moved back only for a reason - lost their job, not enough money, terribly homesick, enough money to retire - but none, like us, who had no reason at all. We still ask ourselves sometimes What prompted us to move back? And still there is no answer - we just always thought that we would.

Some people need 6 months just to adjust to the idea of moving back and another year to plan it out - career options, living options etc. For some, like us, you just book the ticket, don't think about it too much - pretty much jump into the water and learn how to swim again. And sometimes, the pool will be filled with water, and other times, it might be cleaning day, and you might hit hard concrete! :)

38 comments:

sansmerci said...

i kno how it feels .. i had the same prob wen i moved bak from US ..ppl wonderin why the hell i did.. but i am so happy i did .. yea i do miss the wonderful grocery shoppn exp the side walks.. the pvt life.. wen i was there i was longing for the ppl here.. so m happy now i guess :)

Bharti said...

The million dollar question.
Every place had it's pros and cons. The point is which of those cons is a person better able to deal with.
I wish there was an easy answer Arundathi- I know so many people who struggle with whether to stay here or go back. It's like an umbilical cord forever attached to people when they move here.

Arundathi said...

@ sansmerci - yes you do miss a lot but its a Q of compromise.

@ Bharti - nice to see you here! I know - I guess neither will be perfect for me - its just a question of what i'm willing to compromise on! but i do miss being able to buy fresh blackberries and to take that to the park for a picnic! :-)

Jayashree said...

Like you said, it always is a compromise. I miss the total independence that you have while living in the US. Here, there are always a thousand people to question what you do and give you "advice".

Arundathi said...

Jayashree - its incredible how much unsolicited advice comes your way! lol! i've finally learned to say no thanks.

sansmerci said...

chek my new blog

http://chennaifoodreviews.blogspot.com/

i've blogrolled u in there too!

Vaishali said...

Wow, these are the same thoughts moving in my head. After a year of living in Chennai which I really consider a hardship, I've decided to move out. But not back to the US but to a different city in India where I lived before living in US for 8 years.
This other city I know will offer me the kind of life I'm looking for in terms of good homes, parks for the kids to play in, where language is not such a huge issue and like you say, grocery stores loaded with stuff (believe me they do exist in other parts of India!)

I know there are lot of lovely things about Chennai which are wonderful, but for some reason it is just not working out for me. I've really struggled this past year and hence arrived at this decision. Well, I guess when I came here the pool was really empty and I hit hard concrete.

After stumbling on your blog, I've enjoyed reading your experiences about your life here and believe me some posts have helped me a lot.

This comment of mine is not meant to put Chennai down, just how it has affected one person. Please feel free to delete it if you want to.

Thanks for your comment space.

bitterscotch said...

I think it all depends on accepting what a place has to offer and then go on from there.

living in chennai for the past three years after living abroad for 18 years, i can say for sure that i dont want to go back to dubai. You come to realise that its not money alone that makes you happy, its a lot more than that. life here is such an adventure that you will never get bored of it.

Arundathi said...

Sanmerci - Gonna go over and check it now!

Vaishali - I agree Chennai isn't for everyone - you can either make the best of it or hate it - but for a non-Chennaiite, its a difficult place to live. Having lived here before moving to the US, I'm used to it and have family here, which is the main reason we chose to live here. I agree that some other cities in India are more fun and easier to adapt to.
Good Luck with the move!

Bitterscotch - I totally agree. There is something about Chennai - we complain constantly that there's nothing to do, yet we don't seem to have a minute to ourselves! lol! It takes a certain kind of person though to adjust to any place, and I understand when someone isn't able to.

Joe said...

If you put the circumstances aside, ignore the fact that you are in a lotta ways taking a step down when returning to chennai (or any of our towns for that matter in terms of infrastructure, maintenence, et al), the bottom line as to why most people return is simple: Home is where the heart is.

There are people who spend all their lives wanting to live abroad.. but i know of many such folks who returned home at the first chance. Not because they are cowards.. but mostly cause no matter how dirty the streets are, you always feel welcome to be home. The people are friendly and you're never an outcast. And that, makes all the difference.

And trust me, been there done that.. i'd give up my right arm to return to chennai or bangalore at this very moment.

Home, there's nothing like it.

Oh, and nice post :D

Aparna said...

Just discovered this blog of yours. Don't ask me why I didn't notice it before!:)

Where is life better? I guess its all about what you are looking for in life. One thing is for sure. You can never have everything in any one place. So you decide what is most important and then make the decisions.
Of course, there will always be days when you hanker for what don't have, but that's human.

Arundathi said...

@ Joe - Yes, I agree to an extent. I'm not sure that I was treated (as an average working girl) any differently because of my roots or race. But I'm sure people have had varying experiences there.
... and thanks! :)

Aparna - Thanks for stopping by! Absolutely right and exactly what I wanted to say in my post. I guess its a question of what you are willing to compromise on.

There's definitely no clear-cut winner. And sometimes one country might be better at a certain stage in your life and the other one in other stages.

Anonymous said...

hi arundathi,

you've got two neat! blogs. good stuff! - what do you do by the day? dyu work or run your own venture? :)

regards
sriram

sriramiyer.com

KK said...

We will be going back to Chennai this weekend for god ( or bad maybe?!) I was trying to prepare myself and was doing a general search on Chennai when stumbled upon your blog - in particluar this post. Gives me a lotta reassuarnce that there are folks like you in Chennai. Thanks for this post!!

Arundathi said...

Sriram - thank you - yes I do work.

KK - You are welcome and good luck with the move.

Madhuram said...

Well written post Arundathi. Straight from your heart and definitely informative and you have reflected what each person who has this idea of moving back will have in his/her mind.

I'm terribly homesick, but coping it here, because my husband does not want to move back to Chennai or India. As you have mentioned there are a lot of pros and cons in both places. Once a decision is made it's better to make up our minds to stay in that place we have chosen and not think about how would it have been in the other place, because the other side of the grass is always green.

Arundathi said...

humans are amazing that way and can adjust to where they are (even though they complain like crazy). I truly think the faster you start enjoying what you have in one particular place, the faster you will realize the two sides of the fence are just the same - neither worse nor better than the other.

Vidhya said...

Nicely written post Arundathi. We have plans to move back to chennai next year around march. As you said, I am gonna miss the park, grocery stores and Library where I spend most of time with my twins. Of course, I do have some advantages from moving, like help from relatives. But not sure how much they are willing to, cos they have their own work and families. I hope my kids like Chennai.

Arundathi said...

Hi Vidhya - Thanks for stopping by. Its an adjustment for anyone, incl. children, but my personal experience has shown that kids adjust much faster and easier than adults! :-)

Weena said...

hey, i just started reading your blog and i find it quite enchanting. i am from california and moved to chennai for a job, of course i find adjusting a little difficult, especially with the language and cultural barrier. i also live in alwarpet and will be trying many of your suggestions, maybe one day we will run into each other at one of the restaurants, thanks for all of the information!

Arundathi said...

Weena, welcome to Chennai - thanks for stopping by. I do hope we run into each other someday!

Cilantro said...

Very well written Arundhati, I enjoy reading your posts. I believe all the places in the world are like the swimming pools sometimes filled with water and other times we wil have to hit hard concrete.
We are planning to move back next summer to Chennai. My daughter wants to move back.
I also think adults find more problems than the kids.

Arundathi said...

Cilantro - Definitely the parents have more of a problem. But we are the ones who are supposed to look at all aspects of the picture, right? :-)

aksammy said...

Hi Arundhati.

Stumbled on your blog while looking for restaurants to visit during my trip to madras. I just spent the past hour reading your posts and noting down all your suggestions! If there is one thing I like about the bay area (and its taken me more than 2 yrs to say I like something about this place after having spent the previous 6 in tucson) its the quality and variety of food - it'll be nice to check out some of the restaurants you've mentioned. Thanks.

-Arvind

Arundathi said...

Arvind - thanks for stopping by. I'm sure you're gonna enjoy your trip to madras!

Anaka said...

Hi Arundhati,

I just left a comment on your rant post before I read that you too have lived in the US. I guess we all have different things we miss and don't miss. I miss cooler weather sometimes, but most of all I really really miss the music and having more places to go out to. It seems superficial I know, but small things sometimes make a big difference.
Oh and I wanted to introduce you to my cousin's food blog- she often shares recipes as well.
http://lululovesbombay.blogspot.com/

Arundathi said...

Hi Anaka - please see my response to your other comment as well.
Yes, I agree I miss superficial or rather "material" things. At the end of the day, are you willing to trade the material for the emotional? :-)
sometimes you just want those bagels and that coffee!! lol!

thanks - I've been following lulu for a while now. she writes very well.

uvrao said...

just discovered your blog and enjoyed reading this post. As you said it, it all depends on what you want. People ask me if we would move back to india and if I like it better in india or the US. Moving back to india I think, depends totally on my husband bcz of his work. One fine morning if he says we are moving back, I will happily pack my bags and hop onto a flight. One thing that always worries me though is, if we move back, will I be able to compromise on private space, that I soo got use to, living here in the US for so long..

Arundathi said...


uvrao - Yes, it will be a compromise on private space, but no more a compromise than when you went to the US and had to give up relatives and friends from India!

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anubhavati said...

Hi Arundathi,

My life is about Chennai and will always be. Although I am in the US now,. my mind always wanders around my home place. I guess in the initial stages of marriage, its fun to be here...as you have one or two kids, you start missing traditions, supprt systems, family, weddings etc. I am very firm about movng back...and so is my daughter!!! ENJOY!!!

Arundathi said...

Anonymous - Thanks. Maybe at some point later.

Anubhavati - That is very true. I'm glad that we were there before we had kids but its wonderful to move back and the kids have a large, extended family.

workhard said...

Awesome post.. although it might be difficult for a return to live here its not impossible...

Poetry

workhard said...

Awesome post.. although it might be difficult for a return to live here its not impossible...

Poetry

Anonymous said...

I chanced upon your blog when I was googling a restaurant in Mds, found it interesting and proceeded to read all your entries. This is a great blog for someone that lives abroad and loves Mds, great work!

Maybe because I read all your postings in one go, it gives me a good sense of your background. And I have a question for you. It is TOTALLY not meant in any bad way so please do not take it that way.

How much of your positive rediscovery of Mds has to do with your socio-economic background, who your family is in the south business scene, the consequent opportunities that arise because of that, etc.? Would you be just as happy going back to a more upper middle class life? I ask only because I often wonder, like many others that have posted before me, if I would be happy going back. And when I first read this post of yours, my thought was that hey, this could work. And by the time I circled back after reading everything else, I wasnt so sure.

On a lighter note, keep the shopping and restaurant recos coming. I plan a vacation in Oct and this is a great resource for that! BTW, have you shopped at this place called M'souri Sara and is it any good?

Deepa

Anonymous said...

Hi,Love this post.Good read.

Safia.

Anonymous said...

hi arundhathi... u've said all what i wanted to say.... do few others too feel like this when they read this blog...? .. we too returned to india for good a couple of months before...i wanted my daughter to grow up in the same environment where i grew up and and i want her to be drenched in the love of her grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles (excluding the relatives who make politics in families) here... and personally i feel that i don't want to spend my days in guilt for not spending days with my parents after they r gone.. which many people do now in US... and i feel that these 2 reasons r more worth than the clean and traffic-free roads and the so called better-life in US. And as u said.. it all depends on what one wants and what will make them happier...
regards and keep up the good work,
Dhivya.A

Arundathi said...


@ Workhard - Thanks. Yes, its not impossible.

@ Deepa - a HUGE amount of it is due to the socio economic background. If I could've given my family and me a better life financially in the US, I might have stayed. There are lots of people for instance who drive cars, large apartments, can maybe one day own a house too. When these same people return, its almost impossible to be able to live the same or a similar lifestyle here. The inequalities in income are far too great.
But should that stop you from moving back? I think not. If people who are intelligent, hard working and want to make a difference don't move back, India will be worse off. We need people who will strive to improve the country!
I will try to write more again about the restaurants etc, haven't been very regular!

@ Safia - thanks

@ Dhivya - Glad you moved back and glad you like it here. Family members who "make politics" are the bane of my existence!