The stereotypical perception of a just returned NRI is that of someone who complains volubly of just about everything in India – the heat, pollution, noise and filth, the sorry state of its roads and infrastructure, criticises the Government, its policies and roams about with a sanitizer in one hand and a bisleri water bottle in the other.
All through my years of being an NRI Bride, I can’t remember a single day that went by without me missing something or the other about my life back in India.
The other day a friend asked me a question – ‘Now that you’re back in India for good, you really must be missing out on so many things that you were used to in the US? How are you managing?’
She wasn’t the only one to ask me that. Like her , there were many who found it almost unbelievable that after my 6 year stint abroad, I managed to seamlessly blend into our Indian way of life without much ado.
I find such questions annoying to say the least.
I hold nothing against the US or any other country or culture for that matter. And I do admit that the complexity of what we enjoy across cultures intrigues me. The United States is a pretty amazing country by itself – a melting pot of cultures. A country of clean roads, great infrastructure, amazing medical system and education system and nice people. My life in the US was smooth, uneventful and fascinating to the extent that it was almost surreal to someone like me who wasn’t used to so much of ‘planning’ and ‘perfection’ in life.
But somehow I found my life abroad , cut and dried compared to the spontaneity of life back in India. I missed the very chaos and randomness of the Indian Life that many complain about. Back in my apartment at New Jersey there were days when I would tire of watching endless cars whizzing by and long to see some real people and faces. I was peeved by the perfunctory ‘Hellos’ and ‘How do you do’s’ . To me , all the malls looked alike, with similar looking shops and restaurant chains. Although ,one great thing was that you could see people from all strata of society shopping from the same ‘Walmart’ or ‘Costco’ and lining up in the same queue at the billing counter, irrespective of who they were or what they earned. You would never see such a thing in India, I’m sure!
But , living a life where everything had to be meticulously planned – your holidays, laundry, shopping, medical appointments even salon visits – somehow took the ‘fun’ element out and made it all a tad boring.
(I’m sure there are better ways to live when you’re abroad, but I’m referring to the life of an ‘average NRI’ who is living out his ‘average American Dream’ , not the others.)
There’s nothing ‘typical’ about a day in India.
At its chaotic best, you wake up and find that the maid is on leave and you’re left in the lurch cleaning, chopping, cooking and ranting off ! Or you suddenly find out that you’re out of milk/sugar/salt and without a second’s thought knock on the neighbor’s door with a bowl that gets promptly filled up. You sometimes get an impromptu half a day off work on account of a power shutdown. You take a walk down the street and come back laden with shopping bags and the smile of someone who has successfully negotiated (read haggled) an awesome deal! The doorbell rings atleast a dozen times a day – the milkman, the garbage collector, the maid, the courier guys and on occasion the unexpected relative who lands unannounced and stays put for days, throwing your entire domestic life in disarray!
Although it might seem to be a big pain when you actually face it, you start missing it all when life gets into a rut as it did for me in my years abroad.
There were so many other things that I sorely missed – loafing around and talking loudly, the filter-kaapis and the elaichi chais (brewed the ‘Indian’ way), lip-smacking street chats, chole bhatures, masala dosas, attending big fat family weddings and celebrating festivals king-size, the vibrant colours at a saree shop or the free jalebi from the sweet vendor across the street, striking up friendship with just about anyone you meet on the road or in the train, hearing the neighbours fight and squabble, riding pillion on a borrowed two wheeler – I missed the very familiarity of Home , of family and friends and the reassuring thought that nothing could go wrong.
Bluntly put, it was this very intermingling of collective lives and the comforting presence of humanity that makes my life here a million times better.
Home is where the heart is…and both of mine are firmly rooted in India.