And Then, There Were Curtains

As most of you know, we moved back from the US about a year ago. And it has been quite a transition- not so much for Aari, but Chandu (in his silent way) and I (in my not-so-silent way) have struggled a little bit. At times, we still wonder if this is where we should be.

We have been asked by many people why exactly we decided to move back. Did we have visa issues? Did Chandu lose his job? Why? Why would we want to move back when everything was fine for us there? We usually tell them the truth, which is that we wanted to be closer to family, and that Chandu had always wanted to be in academia in India…but that answer doesn’t suffice for most. I can tell from their faces that they still think something did not work out for us there.

What is it about the US that we so unblinkingly adopt and make our own? What is it that makes it terribly hard for most people to move back? Is it the infrastructure, or that there are systems in place for everything and that they actually work? Is it that there is very less corruption, at least in the lower levels of these systems and less red-tape? Is there more freedom there? Or is the US seducing us with its big malls, and discount prices and wooing us with the American dream?

I have plenty of friends and family, who will disagree with everything I said in the last paragraph- some because they have actually moved back seamlessly, some because they want to move back seamlessly, and some because they are nostalgic. But before you guys start getting on my case, let me be clear. I am not saying it cannot be done. I’m just saying that even though the numbers are increasing now, it’s still a very small percentage that actually move back.  And I’m wondering why.

What I do know is that I don’t like bargaining and negotiating for everything. I don’t like that people can be, and even expect to be bribed. I don’t like that getting any official work done requires you to navigate through miles of red tape. I don’t like the pollution, and I don’t like the traffic. And I don’t like the heat. It’s interesting that most of these things didn’t even get a second thought from me only 7 years ago, but now they really put me off.  I’ve been told that in another year, I will again stop noticing these things, and I hope that’s true.

Also, I think it’s harder to move back once you have kids. I miss quality child-care. Here in India, it is very difficult to find someone you can trust with your baby, which makes it very hard for me to go back to work. People who live in large families, or those that have grandparents who can look after the kids are lucky. But in a nuclear family setting like ours, it’s hard to find viable options.

Okay, I’m not trying to do a US versus India thing here. I’m not saying one place is better than the other. I’m still largely glad we’re in India. People are living happily in both places, and it’s more about what works for someone rather than absolutes like “this is definitely better than that.” Okay, now that the disclaimer is done, I guess the whole point of my rant is that it’s taking very long to reacclimatize to India. Did it take me this long to acclimatize to the US? I don’t remember that being the case! I have to be honest…I really thought I would come back and India would fit like a glove. Maybe I was stuck in nostalgia, in memories of my childhood and college days, and didn’t think of the ground-realities of living here. There’s a glove, all right. But I haven’t used it in a while…and I need to find my way into it again.

So, through the doubts and uncertainties, we are slowly settling down. We actually own stuff now. And we have routines- Aari goes to school and loves it, the maid comes in to clean, I drink my chai at 10am, Chandu goes to work everyday and likes it. We have cozy corners to lie down in and read books, and photos on our walls. We are leading life in baby steps. One thing at a time is the plan. But each baby step feels like a giant leap into making this place our own. GAS CONNECTION! CAR! CURTAINS!

We will get there…I think.



12 thoughts on “And Then, There Were Curtains

  1. You will get there. And yay! You have curtains 🙂
    Everything here is a bit like the traffic — never smooth, never easy and never predictable. But you always make it to your destination. Sometimes with a scratch on the car, sometimes a wee bit late. But just let go of the road rage, laugh at the audacity of the TVS 50 traveling perpendicular to traffic and enjoy “Chikni Chameli” on the radio. It’s more fun and you’ll have a story to tell at the end of every ride 🙂

  2. transition is never an easy path….it took me a while to settle into philly and now one month back i think i can adjust back to bombay, but ask myself do I want to adjust to noise, pollution and people in my face.i totally get what you’re saying here…i guess we just have to live our lives in baby steps till we know which destination we’re heading towards…. 😉

  3. I have always looked at the bigger picture of why we made the decision to move back – then everything else becomes easy.

    It will be a little hard for you, if you decide to work before Allika starts playgroup – child care, maid – punctuality, reliability etc. will be irritating. (Kannan bore the brunt of it all!)

    But look at the brighter side:

    a) You dont live in the concrete jungle. Living so far from the city, you are a better planner as you can not forget to get your things from the city!
    b) You have 99.9% uninterrupted power and water supply.
    c) You dont have to take appointments for Aari to go and play with some kid.
    d) Milk is delivered to your door.
    e) You can email your grocery order and items are delivered free of cost.
    f) You get to eat lots of alphanso and other mango varieties
    g) You appreciate the pool and monsoon more – after the HOT hyd summer
    h) You can actually take a vacation – other than the yearly finish all your vacation days trip to India and start looking for the next weekend, after coming back, to relax!
    i) If you are not disturbed by the scratch to your car – you will enjoy the car rides – we treat them as “car ki nazar utar gayi”
    j) If you decide come what may you will not bribe – things still get done – you just need to devote some extra homework time to know the rules, procedures and paper work. You are a better informed person!
    k) Your parents are not asked by the immigration officials why they should be allowed to meet their children and grandchildren so often.

    The day I let go of the sanitizer, we knew we had settled into India!

    Happy transitioning!

  4. I would agree with everything you say in para 5 about not liking the red tape, bribes, pollution, and most of all, the apathy that people show towards these issues. I would say yes to every one of your questions in para 3 about what the US has got right. But, there is a fundamental flaw in the position of the last question – it is an American dream – it is not mine and perhaps not yours. It is my dream to make a difference where it really matters, to build a society and nation unlike any other, that can achieve despite its various fundamental problems, to be a part of the minority middle class that understands and restrains the differences between the two sides of the economic bridge, to care and provide for those closest to you and to receive their care and protection in return, and a chance to leave our next generation with problems different from our own. I don’t see this as a part of the American dream. For this, I’m willing to face inconveniences and even pain. For this, I’m willing to get ‘used’ to the problems.

  5. @Harini- You always have a fun way of looking at things. I need to call you more!! 🙂 And yes, yay for curtains- yours and mine!! And your new car!
    @Chanthara- I’m guessing it’s still status-quo on your decision to move back?
    @Mohana- Thanks, that does put things into perspective! And those are actually things I already keep reminding myself about! We’re trying to let go of the sanitizer…slooowwwly!!
    @JP- Yup, you’re right. It is an “American” dream. 🙂

  6. Regarding the “Glove” part of the conversation. It all really depends on the kind of glove that you are wearing. Ari wears one which fits well irrespective of the place he lives in. You used to wear a different one when you visited US for the first time. The gloves are changed at different time points of our lives, and I believe they play a part in adjusting too.

  7. Hi, I came to your blog from Chandu’s FB post…. My husband was in NW with Chandu and we too moved back to india 2 years ago. Hubby came back after 10 years and i after 6 years in Chicago (PhD/MBA) and Washington DC (jobs). Thank you for writing this post as I can not even begin to describe how completely i relate to each and every line in your post – nostalgia, peer group confusion, all the likings and dislikings about re-acclimatizing into India and we even share the reason of moving back to India (being close to family)…

    Coming back into the job world, i missed the professionalism of the American Wall St. but i dont miss the coldness of the Corporate world where i was always this brown kid who took no interest in most things American – sports, gossip, politics. Now with our first baby on the way (i too am taking a break from working full-time) I often think about the differences in quality child-care my child would receive as compared to what my sister’s kid is getting as they are still living in the US.

    I can surely say that its been a roller coaster until now but i am also enjoying it thus far partly because being an Army-kid i was used to uprooting and rerooting every few years. Looking ahead, there so much to see in the world and so much to experience. Living far away in the US we saw a lot of the world but we also missed out on being part of the happy/sad experiences of living close to our family and friends… India sure feels home and will always be so.


    1. Thanks, Manasi. It’s really good to know that I’m not alone in feeling like this!

      Being close to family has definitely been huge for the children and us as well. As for the traveling and exposure, there’s so much to be seen in India and around too. You probably already have with your army background. The prospect of seeing more of India and Asia is very exciting.

      Congratulations on your upcoming arrival!


  8. Preeti I just ran across your blog from your LinkedIn profile! I was rummaging through your archives to find this particular post – I’m really interested in finding out what your experience has been moving to India, being there and back and your feelings. It’s something I’m constantly thinking about! I’d love to talk to you about it sometime. 🙂

    1. Hi Jessica,

      Good to hear from you! How have you been? Thanks for reading. Yes, I would be glad to talk to you about our move, which has been both amazing and frustrating! 🙂 Just messaged you on LinkedIn. Do feel free to get in touch.

      Hope all is well with you.


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