Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life in America

I am in America now. While here I cannot help comparing my life in India to life here. Which one is better? My heart insists that with all its shortcomings India is better. I suppose with time I may change my opinion if I ever I relocate to America in future. Just as I preferred life in my maternal home to the one I led in Jamshedpur when I first came to the steel city and now swear that no place in the world is as good as Jamshedpur! People tend to adapt but right now I feel ' East or West, India is the best'.

I think I will make a list of what I miss -

I miss the bustle of the morning hours in India. At five in the morning we have morning walkers greeting each other in loud voices -

" Jai Sriram".....

We have a park adjacent to our apartment complex and people of all ages come there for walking, jogging, yoga practice, for chatting with friends, to discuss politics and what not. They stay on till six thirty or seven in the morning only to be replaced by young mothers who have sent their children to school and go to the park for a quick run and also to exchange notes with others of their group. Class tests, excessive home work, a child's illness and the husband's quirks are part of the group discussions that take place simultaneous to those of senior ladies who leave home after sunrise due to gout, arthritis etc. that get affected by the chill morning air.

And then the school vans and auto rickshaws buzzing in and out, the milkman and the domestic helps arriving on the scene. TV programs heard from neighbors' homes with devotional songs playing at full volume and no one seems to object. Sipping my morning coffee from my balcony I don't even have to step out from my house to socialize. Familiar faces, a wave of the hand and a pleasant look that says 'how do you do' is enough to start my day.

In America you wake up to be greeted to deserted roads and an unfamiliar silence. Not a soul in sight one is left wondering whether it is okay to walk down the wooden steps uncertain if the noise would wake up the neighbors.

One went for a morning walk in India, accosting other morning walkers with a nod or a raised hand. On your way back you picked up milk, a packet of bread and fresh vegetables from a local vendor on his way to the market place. You haggle over the price while he outsmarts you by quoting a higher price condescending to give it at a rate that is midway between his and yours. You miss a day and someone or the other enquires after your health and wonders why you were not seen the previous day. Morning walks in the US are different. Known as well as unknown people greet you with a 'hello' and it is evident that they are being polite and you reciprocate. Beyond that they are as wary of you as you are of them. The nearest store is at least one and a half mile away and one has to get past a busy intersection to get there. The traffic baffles you and you prefer to be safe than sorry. Milk, grocery, bread, vegetables and fruits are all bought during the week ends and stored in huge refrigerators. Bargaining?? What's that? Never heard of it in America. The woman at the check out point says 'have a good day' but it is nothing like our roadside vendor who misses us if we took longer than three days to visit the marketplace.

Another thing I miss here is public transport. Anywhere one wishes to go in Jamshedpur we have the choice of taking an auto rickshaw or mini bus. And the town being a small one we reach our destination in a maximum of ten minutes. The rule here is to own a car to be mobile. Each family has two cars land once the child turns 18 she/ he will have a separate car. Now, assuming that we know to drive, isn't it unfair to expect them to have a fourth car for visitors? So we tag along when possible or end up reading books at home most of the time.

And how about the lack of domestic help in America. They are our lifeline in India. Oh, yes we have dishwashers and washing machines in which we can wash a week load of clothes and driers that can dry them up instantly. But at least for me domestic helps are like family. We had Rajamma who worked for me from the time I arrived in Jamshedpur and left us after 22 years. Then Ashok my launderer again an asset who is responsible for starching and ironing my sarees and drycleaning my woolens when winter is over. The clothes are dried out in the sun and ironed without a crease. My interactions  with them help me appreciate their role in our society.

Please don't get me wrong. In an earlier post I had complained that my husband bored me with his opinions on political issues but I seem to miss it now. We usually start our day with it. Reading it on the net isn't the same as hearing him rant and rave over corruption and rising prices of essential commodities.

But I see that all three children of mine have adapted to life in America like fish to water. They don't seem to mind. They want us to relocate and be close to them. I understand their concern and may give in sooner rather than later. But how long it is going to take for me to adapt is to be seen. And to top it I call myself flexible and adaptable till now. I am not sure anymore.


Shachi said...

It is very interesting to read from your perspective. I am sure my parents would feel the same. The sense of belonging with your crowd/society/family/friends is something that needs years to build here....

And I can also relate why your kids love it here - I do too.

Some reasons:

- my work (very difficult to find similar work in India)
- my work-life balance and flexibility
- no bureaucracy to deal with on a daily basis (school admissions, bank matters, etc)
- libraries and national parks (definitely value both highly)
- freedom (clothes, food, opinions, etc)
- I personally don't mind the lack of domestic help. I have a house cleaner who comes every 2 wks and have also had a cook/nanny when I needed. So its out there if u really need it and can afford it, but yes, most of the chores you do yourself. And teach your kids very early on to help. I feel it's a great life-skill that kids learn which is missing from Indian youth. (I strongly feel that is the one of the main reasons Indians don't think twice before polluting in public places).
- sports - playing and watching. I learnt tennis, swimming, racquetball, long-distance many things after coming here. And most of it was free, just needed to purchase basic equipment.

Could list many more but you get the general train of thought.

Great post - got me thinking!

Unknown said...

Great post!
I was surprised to learn that you are absolutely able to express mu

mind, my feelings and my opinions.
But I also feel that once you get old it is better to adapt yourself and relocate near to your kids.

Humans are very adjustables and though not easy one can do it.

My parents also relocated themselves from small town to Mumbai just to be near me.

So. Changing is life!

Hip Grandma said...

Sachi: I know that life here is not as stressful as in India for your generation. You have others of your age to interact with and a job to keep yourselves engaged. I too relocated from Tamilnadu to Jamshedpur forty one years back and found a niche in the new surroundings. Will it be the same now if I ever relocate to America? Maybe if I am compelled to move for health or any other unforeseen reasons I need to change myself a lot. Instead of considering myself to be a parasite on my children I ought to take it to be an opportunity to spend my twilight years with them. Not easy. But worth trying.

Aparna : what you say is true and your parents did the right thing. It is the only practical option that will work for both parents and children alike.

Anonymous said...

My daughter studies in a CA distinguished school .It has perfect 10 rating due to its high API scores.
Do you know even in this reputed school where 40% are ASIAN the indian kids all herded together and put in one class?
The white kids get pulled for IMPACT classes for Math and reading but not so for the Indian kids.
I felt the resentment of some of the class teachers...even during a polite conversation ,I am a putting butter kind of person on teacher ,she said rudely why dont you go back to India!!

How do you respond to such ignorance and racism !!
Our city was voted #1 pleasant pleasant city in America !!!

India is best , IF we have money ,the quality of living is better here but the heart loves better in India .

Teachers suck here , they are biased , have no desire to educate themselves ,complain about large class size(28) , frankly we should kick them out of schools and get teacher from India

Hip Grandma said...

Anon: the racism that you speak of is felt by all immigrants irrespective of the part of the globe one comes from. The insecurity that we experience makes us sensitive. That apart it is also seen that fair complexioned people look down upon darklings even in a family set up. From the perspective of the host country or state, their people feel that immigrants are here to take up their jobs and are viewed as competitors. So there prevails a kind of unease in our interactions with them. That is why we feel the want of a comfort zone and long for home.

The teacher however had no business to ask you to return to your own country. The technical skills of Asians - particularly Indians is useful here otherwise we wouldn't be here at all.

Anonymous said...

thank you for the sensible answer:-)
anon (mom who posted )
My mom studied in St josephs Trichy , a HUGE FAN of 60 , 70s songs ...

Hip Grandma said...

Anon: I did not know that St. Joseph's Trichy was Co-Ed. My older brother studied there. Shake hands with your mom on my behalf. I love the 60 and 70s songs both Hindi and Tamil and listen to them even now when my mood takes a downswing.

Anonymous said...

not st.josephs , Holy Cross ,a Christian college .
She did her B Sc Math there and went on to work ,she could not get into physics :-)

Hip Grandma said...

i was a student of holy cross too. i studied there from 1968 to 1971. when did your mother pass out?