Someone recently asked me, ‘ It’s a year! So, how has it been ?’
As of July 2nd we completed a year in Mumbai.
There could be many ways to answer this question – the good versus the bad, the strengths versus the weaknesses or the positives versus the negatives. But being a student of Accounts, I opted to draw up a profit & loss statement listing out the debits and the credits of the last twelve months.
Time flies. It was only last year that I was filled with doubt on how to go ahead.
I’ll start with debits; keeping the best -the credits, for the last 😉 –
Family Friends – Debit
Over the year, we’ve missed our family friends – Weekend dinners,celebrations, barbecues… We’d meet so often and we were so close that friends were more like family. The beauty of these friends was that they ensured they visited us here at the first available opportunity they got to ensure we were doing fine- each one of them. Those who couldn’t make it have ensured they’ve called regularly to make the transition smooth.
We haven’t had success in this area here. Maybe it takes time to build that kind of a relationship here as people prefer making friends with those they know are here to stay and not those who may eventually move away.
Things associated with not having a 8 to 5 job – Debit
I do not miss my job which is surprising even as I say it but I do miss the things associated with the job – working in a team, achieving goals, the dressing up to work and the credit at the end of the month in the bank account.:)
Loss of privacy – Debit
Its common to have a domestic help in Mumbai and not uncommon to have a full-time help. So we hired a full-time help, one who was supposed to work from 10 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. However, our new help refused to leave home until 7.00 p.m. initially, then 8.00 p.m. and later 9.00 p.m. While it meant we did not have to lift a pen at home and she did everything, our privacy had been invaded upon and well, home did not feel like home. Thankfully we end the year with a part-time maid and I am happier despite chipped nails and messy buns. Guess, I dont belong to the ‘rich man’s club,’ afterall.
Culture Shock- Debit
Little did I realize that my ideas about India were stuck in the nineties and this was the 21st century. India had changed. Children had changed and parents had changed.
With the entry of fast food giants like K.F.C and Pizza Hut, we had turned ‘fast’ too. Dating was the norm and it started as early as in grade 5. It was funny. Because though we had lived abroad and the children had studied in an International school, this was new. For one, the parents here seemed to be more accepting of it and even joked about it. They were totally cool when they said, ‘ So and so is dating so and so,’ ‘ My kid got a love letter today.’ The kid in question is 8!
We were aping the western culture- but not in its’ entirety. We had adopted the so-called ‘cool’ part while continuing to mollycoddle our kids just like we Indians have always been known to do. The disciplining of children, the setting of ground rules or grounding the kids as the westerners do when rules are broken, had been conveniently ignored. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. I’m saying it was totally alien to me. Thankfully the girls’ found it weird too, saving me from believing that I had become outdated.
When we joined the new school, the teachers made it a point to announce that the school did not believe in the children going for tuition and that all doubts however small would be cleared at school. At the end of the orientation, I stood up extremely happy that we had chosen the school. At the threshold, as we awaited the rains to abate, a few parents introduced themselves very kindly.
” Hello. I’m so and so. Oh you’re new here? Have you enrolled your child for tuition?”
‘No we haven’t. But didn’t they just say they do not believe in tuition’
“Oh they just say it. Everybody in class goes to X tutorials. I’m not sure if they will enroll her now. But you can try”
And in my mind ran a thought, ‘ Thank God something has not changed. I knew that it was a crazy rat race here. This was just the beginning.’ At the end of the year, I can safely say, ‘There’s no need to get affected by the race.’ The place does not enforce itself on you.
This is the general approach to life here. ‘Chaltha Hai’ or ‘Jugaad’ are Hindi words which I became acquainted to in the first month of my moving here. Its impossible not to know it once when has stayed in Mumbai. It means ‘If it works, its fine,’ ‘Put two and two together to make things happen. Who cares for quality?’
‘There is no need to stress. There’s a way to manage everything’
While I wished to tear my hair apart initially, I provide a certain allowance these days for ‘Jugaad.’ While I do not compare the service to the quality of service in the U.A.E., I haven’t forgotten either. For forgetting would mean becoming a part of this ‘accepting system.’ For now and while here I just wait and watch and wait again for while in Rome do like the Romans do. It takes time for things to happen but eventually it works and all’s well.
Work Culture – Lack of professionalism – ‘Chalta Hai’ – Debit
It’s probably due to the huge divide in terms of qualifications and experience between top management and the lower level employees, but the difference in understanding the objectives of the organization or speaking the language of the organization is confined to the higher levels and does not percolate to the lower staff. Leading a department here or being in the top rung is difficult if you’ve moved from a country where quality is essential. The attitude of ‘Chaltha Hai,’ a close cousin of ‘Jugaad’ allows people to be laid back and not fret over the nitty-gritty. I guess when one has learnt to travel 3 hours to work in a train in which there is no place to put your foot in and when life is no bed of roses, the finer things hardly matter. Its about letting go and living life – its gets tough when the same approach is applied on the work-front.
As long as you do not let it rub off on you, you’re good to go.
Absence of free home delivery for the lowest value items – Debit
There’s not a country in the world which provides this facility other than the UAE. Its 10 p.m., you need coriander leaves – call the grocery and the delivery boy will deliver it in 5 minutes. Even if that’s the only thing you’re ordering and it costs no more than 1 Dirham! UAE does pamper. And while I must say I’ve learnt here to be more organized, it was tough in the initial days for all of us.
Now coming to the credits of having been for a year.
I would be lying if I did not agree that they far exceed the debits
Whats App groups – Credit
The school has whats app groups and so does the building in which you stay. While it all did seem overwhelming at first – managing all the 200 odd messages that come in a day, one has to appreciate the usefulness of such a group.
Need to learn painting – ask the group if they know of classes close by. You get the answer
Need to know which is the best saloon for a haircut – ask the group
Need to know how much to pay a maid – ask the group
With regards to the school, I’ve never found it easier than this year. With good parents who check and question every action of the school and ensure the school is on the right track, parents like me can continue to take a back seat.
More social awareness -Credit
There’s a lot more social awareness here. Runs, beach clean-up drives, collections for orphanages, blood donation camps, feeding the less privileged, planting trees are just some of the things that are done by ordinary people with no personal motive and with absolutely no government help. People in general want to improve things and are more willing to sacrifice their weekend for the greater good. The place teaches you to survive and while survival is all about the fittest, Mumbai teaches one to help too. A year here, I wouldn’t say people here are selfish. There’s a stronger community feeling here than many other places that I have resided in.
When we moved back here last year, was the exact time that Mumbai implemented the plastic ban. With all my awareness of reducing plastic usage, I would practice it on and off but never regularly. With no plastics provided at department stores, we struggled with carrying back eggs, bread and as much grocery we could between four pairs of hands (cloth bags can be bought at the store but after being forgetful for a while, we had a collection of cloth bags at home which never made their way to the shop). 12 months forward, I can proudly say plastic’s disappeared from our lives.
We’ve each made our own set of friends here. Having a girl gang has been one of the highlights of having moved here. With me not working, its given me the opportunity to hang out once in a month or once in two months for a coffee, lunch or brunch or just chit-chat. And honestly, its worked wonders on how good I feel.
Trips – Credit
In one year, we’ve traveled much more as a family and individually than we ever did before within the country and outside the country. As a family we traveled to Gangtok and Darjeeling in the North and the East of India respectively and Mangalore and Chennai in the South. The girls’ together traveled to the China border with the Indian Army in a life-changing experience. The older one also went to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean and tried scuba diving and the younger one went to Ladakh in the foothills of the Himalayas as part of the school trip. We traveled outside the country to nearby Bali (Indonesia) for a family holiday to celebrate our one year in the country.
Each of these trips has been a learning experience and have helped the children to understand how diverse India is – in terms of language, culture and even the physical appearance of the people. They have come to appreciate the beauty of the country and respect the sacrifice of the Indian Army. I love that they finally have become a part of the country and no longer behave like aliens.
Activities – Credit
The opportunity to learn is far greater here in terms of choice, cost and availability. There is something for everybody here. One just has to want to do it.
I’ve spent the year improving on my painting skills and have learnt Knife art and Phad painting ( a Indian form of painting). There are so many more forms to learn that it feels like a lifetime isn’t enough.
As a family, we’ve gotten more active here. There’s been more family walks and going to the gym. Back in the UAE, life was more mechanical – from home to office and back. Weekends meant meeting friends or going to the mall.
Thanks to the building residents being proactive Garba classes (a dance form from Gujarat) are held before Navaratri (a festival of music and dance) so one can brush up on the steps. We’ve celebrated independence day and Diwali in the building, set up Christmas stalls and the children even walked bare feet to create awareness of how under-privileged children manage without shoes.
Language – Credit
One year hence, the girls’ have learnt to speak in Hindi. That’s a major achievement and its not over-rated. Despite the fact that they have no clue of the tenses or the genders, its’ lovely to hear them gain confidence in speaking the language. I had tried in vain all these years but a year in India they are up and running.
Experiences – Credit
The girls’ have assimilated experiences that they did not, in the last ten years’ of their lives in the UAE. From dancing on the streets as part of the Republic Day parade and taking part in a 10 Km run for the community in which they live, to singing the National Anthem every time they go to the theater as a reminder that we Indians are one or seeing that the distance between the rich and the poor is only a wall, the stay here has taught them much more than any text book could possibly teach them.
Going to school getting drenched in the rain or sweating out in the heat because switching on the air-con 24 X 7 is not an option or come September, celebrating a string of festivals one after the other until Christmas while continuing to work towards exams and visiting aunts, uncles and grand-parents more often has taught them the essence of the big Indian family.
Seasons – Credit
Being used to the availability of all fruits all round the year in the UAE and 2 seasons- summer and winter, one is unaware of any such thing as seasonal fruits. Here, there are 4 distinct seasons – summer, monsoon, winter, spring and each season brings forth a new fruit – Jan- Feb brings Pomegranates, custard apples, chikoos and guavas March- April sees grapes, sweet melons, oranges and strawberries on fruit trucks May- early June is the season of mangoes and lychees. July and August which is the monsoon season brings a lull and the only fruit available then are those that are there throughout the year like bananas and papayas. September- December brings fresh pineapples, figs and guavas.
While there are supermarkets selling vegetables here, there is also the facility of buying farm fresh vegetables. On every Thursday, a farmer’s market is put up close to home. Other than this a few farmers also bring freshly grown vegetables in a van every morning. ‘One has to say there is a huge difference in the way the vegetables taste here,’ so said my brother-in-law who had come visiting from the USA.
Online shopping – Credit
Its huge here. With the convenience of sitting back at home ordering, one tends to over-spend at times but the truth is it makes life overly comfortable. Daughter has a dance, needs a dress for tomorrow, go online and place an order with delivery date ‘Tomorrow.’ That’s how easy it is and the example I’ve given isn’t fabricated.
News Despite our many pleas, newspaper reading is not a habit the girls’ have acquired and yet they are fully aware of current events after having moved here as its all over the place – on T.V., when you’re travelling, discussions at restaurants, with family etc.
Its hard to remain deaf or blind to what’s happening around and in that sense, its’ made them more aware. Indians are concerned and more aware of what happens everywhere and everywhere has no limits. That this has rubbed off on the children is an asset.
I could go on and on listing out the credits because the truth is I have found many but for now this is sufficient. With this listing, passing the verdict or answering the first question that led me to list these points is unnecessary.
But before I end the post, I have to share with you the biggest credit that far outweighs all others.
Coming to India has allowed me to meet more literary folk than I had an opportunity to meet in the UAE. There is no dearth of talent here and its been wonderful that the writing fraternity welcomed me with open arms.
I celebrate the end of this year in Mumbai with a book of poems published by me and Vandana Bhasin ( someone I came across through WordPress)
I am extremely happy to announce that our book will be available on Amazon shortly. For now, am sharing the cover with you. Would love to hear what you think.
Thank you for all your support, encouragement which helped me muster the courage to publish my first book of poems alongwith Vandana.
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