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It is a year ago today that we landed in Bangalore airport, in the wee hours of the morning. The following few days weeks months were all about the struggle to settle down into life here – school admissions, rental home and then moving to the new move, adjusting to new groups and colleagues at work, getting used to the traffic, congested roads and pollution here. Not to sound all negative – a year later, we are at much more at ease with life here. Not that there aren’t any problems, I wouldn’t know where to start. But it wasn’t that life in the U.S was totally blissful for us. I can quickly summarize what I have liked and disliked so far.

The positive things:

  • We are still able to do the things we enjoy – hiking, biking, swimming etc. Just not possible to do it as often as we used to. Although weather is conducive for outdoor activities much of the year, information is very hard to come by. It is not like there is a lot of information published on the trails or how to locate the trail heads. It involves stopping frequently and asking a lot of the villagers and finding your way. I have also heard from reliable sources that personal safety is an issue (hooliganism,not wildlife), so you should have at least 2-3 families going.
  • The kids enjoy a lot of free play outside. They have a lot more friends in their age range and always have company, so they don’t feel bored. Weather is a factor here too. In the North East U.S (where we lived before relocating here), almost 5 or 6 months in a year, people hibernate indoors because of the severe winter.
  • Probably the #1 reason we moved – the proximity of family. We are able to visit both sides of the family several times a month since they are all local. The kids have developed a bonding with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. We chat several times a week on the phone (vs weekly calls from the U.S) and they are all happy that we are close by.
  • The community where we live has turned out to be excellent. I didn’t know what to expect, but they really make the daily life here bearable. Many are more than just neighbors – we have done movie nights, ladies only get-togethers after dinner and everyone’s kids are in bed etc. This is besides other family activities like picnics, hikes and parties for Holi, New Year etc. Other than that, people here truly care about you and your kids. If a kid from several streets away gets hurt while playing, or someone is missing for a short while, you can see other parents being genuinely concerned and acting on it as if it were their own kid.
  • Back to our culture – the kids are observing traditional celebrations of many of the festivals for the first time. They had a blast during Deepavali, lighting the fireworks. They are seeing other rituals like naming ceremonies, thread ceremonies etc. Even though they are not immersed in following the rituals, there is some awareness. And I like the social aspects of these get-togethers. They are seeing dances like Bharatnatya, hearing Carnatic music etc. They are exposed to more languages here – Kannada, hindi, tamil etc.
  • This is the city I was born and grew up in, so I have a lot of school friends and college friends here. Many were living abroad for several years but have moved back in recent years. I don’t see them as often as I should but it is definitely more than once in a few years!
  • Weather – have I mentioned this before?! Although the summer got unbearably hot for us (nothing that an AC cannot fix), Bangalore is still one of the cooler places compared to Chennai, Hyderabad etc, not to mention North India. One visit to parts of Tamil Nadu in April left me longing for home, sweet home. Other than the scorching 3 months of summer, rest of the year weather is very pleasant. Winter was barely felt here after 10 yrs in the Boston area (We definitely didn’t miss the heating bills!). And I like the monsoons, although it plays havoc with traffic and power supply.
  • Domestic help – Dishes, folding laundry etc are mostly a thing of the past. No more vicious cycle of loading and unloading dishwashers, folding loads and loads of laundry over the weekend. There’s a cook to help out on weekdays, so everyone gets to eat a proper meal instead of the quick fixes I did in the U.S. there are two sides to this story (see the negative side below).
  • These days I’m biking to work. This is probably unique to me and not necessarily a perk of moving to Bangalore. In fact, for most people it is the opposite. Their 20-30 minutes commute times in the U.S have turned to like 2 hr commutes

On the negative side:

  • Probably traffic, congestion and related air pollution ranks as the #1 negative thing. It has all the negative aspects of big cities like New York and L.A (traffic jams, long commute times, impossible to find parking in the city) without many of the positives of those big cities.
  • Because of the above, many people have 2 to 3 hrs of round trip commute to work everyday (for distances of 20 to 40 miles round trip).
  • Because of the above, I’m yet to start driving here. That means a loss of independence. Most people eventually learn, but there are plenty who have just resigned to dependency on drivers or cabs. I need to start soon, lest I never dare attempt. This is was the single most thing I enjoyed on my recent trip to the U.S – to be able to go where I want when I want to go.
  • Infrastructure – Broadband internet is not very reliable . Plenty of water problems in the city.  Although we don’t have power supply disruption issues in our community because of diesel generators as back up, most of the city suffers planned power cuts. Roads are full of pot holes.
  • Dependency on domestic help – they are unreliable. Very often, they don’t show up and they don’t find the need to let you know in advance. If your driver doesn’t show up, or your baby sitter doesn’t show up, you may have to scramble for alternate arrangements at very short notice.
  • There is no concept of customer service in most businesses here. They are bordering on rude with an “I don’t care” attitude. Dealing with banks, mobile phone companies etc is very frustrating.
  • Crowds everywhere – there is no avoiding this and I don’t see a solution. PK described the Indian retail shopping experience as “Take the U.S stores/malls and reduce their size to 1/4 of the original and pack in 4 times the number of people and there you have it”. Check out lines are long, stores don’t run AC, so it is stuffy inside. Movies, malls, amusement parks, restaurants, roads everything is just overflowing with people. Although I don’t see as much smoking in public places as I remember from my childhood, people still spit, dig noses, litter with trash in all the public places.
  • Work hours are definitely longer here – it is not me or my company. It is just the nature of the business. Most people working in hi-tech MNCs have to co-ordinate with other geographies, so late night meetings are an almost daily affair. And this is usually besides the regular time put in office.

PS: I just counted 9 positives and 8 negatives! So I must be happy here :).

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Fri, June 19, 2009

My friend’s family left for India today, so she went to SFO to drop them off. We unloaded the car and returned it @ a total of  4414 miles, on our cross country trip. It was all driven by PK. I didn’t as much as touch the wheel. I offered, but he was not ready to have a ton of snacks and drinks at his feet and dole them out as needed. He found that more stressful than driving.

The repacking, re-arranging of stuff is driving us nuts. Friend has offered to get one bag for us when she visits in August. But we still have a mountain of scary stuff which we are trying to optimize to fit in 8 bags.

For dinner, we are meeting another friend in Santa Clara whom we haven’t seen in almost 10 yrs. Should be fun …

Tomorrow, the plan is to leave for SFO after lunch. AK wants to see the golden gate bridge. So hang around there, have dinner and then fly out. Supposed to be our last night in the U.S and no time for reflection, nostalgia. We are all exhausted and frankly we don’t see an end to this madness, right now. As soon as we land in Bangalore, there’s the schools to chase for admissions, a temporary home until ours is ready etc….

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Utter chaos

We were hoping to clear out the house by 3.30 pm or so and set out on our cross country road trip. PK dropped SK off at day care in the morning, hoping to get uninterrupted time to finish off the last chores. AK was at a friend’s house, so I did work at a frenzied pace. The car buyer for our CRV turned up at 10.30 am. After that PK had to go pick up the rental car, drop off plates at the RMV, deposit the bank check from the sale etc, so he was running errands for several hours. We dropped off tons of stuff at the donation centers, gave away so many things on Craigslist, but still there was so much "stuff" in the house which we were not taking with us. I separated out all the plastic (mainly tupperware), card board and glass stuff into recyclables. But I could not seem to make a dent in the clutter to be disposed. Around 2 pm, we were having lunch at a friend’s place and that’s when we decided we could not leave today. There was just too much to be done and it was killing us. We hoped to use the evening and night to finish up and leave early next morning (before 6 am). We were momentarily relieved after that decision. We called our friend in New Jersey and told him of our change of plans.

But the evening was spent on some unexpected socializing. First was tea at a friend’s house and then it took another hour to say bye to our long time neighbors. So, we were back to square one in terms of time crunch. To add to our misery, the rental SUV did not nearly have as much cargo space as our CRV, which is what we had used as estimate for our road trip. We bought the vacuum seal bags and packed up comforters, pillows etc (for camping) in those bags to reduce volume, but it would still not all fit. Then at 10.30 pm, we dropped off one of our bigger bags (mainly luggage for India) at a friend’s place and asked them to fedex it to San Jose (our final destination on the road trip). After that it looked better, but by 11.30 pm, we were still loading and the car was really full and we still had stuff that we needed to take. We took out the other big bag, ridding us of all India luggage and leaving us only with the road trip luggage. And that barely fit into the car. After that, we were exhausted. We decided to do the rest of the stuff in the morning. We relaxed with a drink and it did give me the chance to reflect on the things I couldn’t do the previous night.

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Thursday, June 4th, 2009

The last week has been a blur. Every night we have been working like crazy, trying to empty out the house. Since we are working during the day and attending to the kids in the evenings, the tasks related to the move have to be done after 9 pm. We have barely been sleeping 5 hrs for the last week or so and are very sleep deprived. Even if we work all night tonight, it doesn’t look like we will be done by tomorrow. I’m feeling pretty distraught right now. This is not how I wanted to spend the last night in the house, working non-stop like a in a zombie state. I wanted to have at least 15 minutes to collect my thoughts and reflect upon the good times and the hard times we have spent here, the birth of our two kids and so on. But in the current state of mind, I’m not able to do anything.

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Still alive

The everyday life has not been going well off late (almost 2 months now!). Lots of work at work and to-dos at home. We have been painting the house and doing this room by room while still living there is hard. I’m barely meeting the kids needs, and we, as a family, are facing some big changes this year, so it is gonna be a stressful year for sure. I’m trying as hard as I can to be calm and not stress out too much, but that’s not easy.

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For a month now, we have a piano teacher who comes home to teach AK. I absolutely love the convenience of the at-home lessons. I get some chores done around the house, SK is entertained (although she occasionally needs reminders not to disturb them) and we don’t need weekends reserved for these lessons. Otherwise between soccer games, piano lessons etc, our weekends were shot for any day-long fun activities. The other reason I’m also relieved is that when winter arrives, I don’t have to drag both of them out in the cold. One little thing helping me stay sane. The icing on the cake is that it is even slightly lesser than what I was paying at the music school!

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I missed it

I’m so disappointed that I missed the historic Wimbledon men’s singles final yesterday. I’ve been rooting for Nadal for the last couple of years and I’m so glad he pulled it off. We just returned from our camping trip and I haven’t had enough of reading about it. Although I’m sad I didn’t see it, I’m not sure I could’ve stomached all the drama, not to mention the length of the whole affair. Anyway, to quote a cliche, all is well that ends well 🙂

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