By Isheeta Sanghi
A lot of readers have said, ‘Ok so you moved to India, and you’ve told us it’s not that bad. Great, so what?’ They’ve asked me how I’ve coped, how I handle the poverty around me, how I adjust to the social scene here, and how I’ve adapted in the work environment.
I have done all of the above, but it has taken time, more time than I could have imagined. How I’ve managed to do it? With a positive attitude. It sounds cliché, but that’s the honest to God truth. I won’t be able to answer how I accomplished all of those things in one go, but here’s one for starters.
When I started college I quickly realized all of the people in my school were your typical rich Delhi folk. They drove around in fancy cars, wore huge sunglasses, were probably a few years older than me, and never came to class. Needless to say I really didn’t have many friends in college. The few students that did end up coming to class once in a while, either conversed in Hindi (and my Hindi is probably as good as Katrina Kaif’s in her first few movies- no offense, I’m a fan, I love her) or thought I was a total weirdo/loser since I attended each and every single class without fail.
So yes it was tough, and initially I thought, I was going to be such a loner and my only friends in college would be my professors. Luckily that didn’t happen. I managed because I found people that I could relate to – outside of college.
I joined the American Women’s Association in Delhi (men have no fear; you are allowed to join as well.) It’s an organization that allows you to interact with other Americans who are working, or going to school mostly in the NCR area. Being part of the organization makes you feel at home, because you’re doing things that you would do if you were in the States. They organize all sorts of activities from 4th of July BBQs, to Easter Egg Hunts, as well as events for a cause, like the annual ‘Walk For Life’ which I was privileged to have been part of.
All your major cities will have some sort of expat community. In Bangalore there’s the Overseas Women’s Club, in Mumbai there’s the American Women’s Club – yes they all have the word ‘Women’ in it, but men can and do join as well.
I’ll also go ahead and say that though some of my really close friends are parts of these organizations- I can’t spend all of my time in the expat community. For starters, you’ll go broke, because they tend to wine and dine at the five star hotels and restaurants, and secondly you can’t always relate entirely because at the end of the day they may not have any sort of cultural ties to this country, but you do.
India is not the same place we use to visit as kids; there are plenty of people like us working, volunteering, studying or just living life here. You just have to make the effort to find them, and when you do you’ll be able to talk to them and share stories and frustrations – which funnily enough will make your stay here enjoyable.
Also, you really need to start looking at the whole experience as one big adventure. That’s how you will get through this, and that’s how you will be able to have happy memories of India. I’m not saying that life isn’t serious, and that there aren’t serious issues that you will eventually have to deal with, but if you look at it from a different angle, you’ll relieve some of the stress you’ve started to carry with you.
Yes the infrastructure isn’t ideal, and there are cows on the road, there are huge buses with way too many people in them, there is pollution all over, there are places that smell bad, there are drivers that drive like maniacs (how many drivers have you seen with glasses on- you’re telling me they all have 20-20?), there are people who cross the road when they shouldn’t, vagera vagera. Seriously, my advice is to look at it as one big game of Mario Kart.
I’ll never forget one winter morning in Delhi. My Mom and I were taking our daily stroll around the building and we saw my brother walking towards us. Apparently he had missed his bus. Now, my brother is like me, he enjoys going to school and getting full attendance. We decided to follow the bus route and catch it ahead.
We call my Dad from the lobby and tell him to bring the keys to the car. We get into our inherited dark blue Maruti 800 (which if you ask me, really does look like one of those cars in Mario Kart), and were on our way. First road block, the water tanker, conveniently unloading water when we need to get out. After twiddling our thumbs for 2 minutes we’re on our way. Next road block, traffic light, which refused to turn green, “Come on man, come onnnnnnnn,” another 3 minutes, and we’re on our way again. Driving, driving, bumpy road – no shock absorbents on this baby! Watch out for the pothole, Dad I think we lost a wheel! Now we see the bus! Yes, we’re almost there, hmm why is the traffic moving so slow? A big, brown cow! Can anything be more clichéd?
Jai Ho, now get out of the way, ah we see the bus it’s pulling into someone’s building, we made it!! Brother goes to open door- but the door doesn’t open (really really old Maruti 800.) Mom opens door up and there goes brother, on his way to school, backpack, brown bag lunch and all.
See, there were two ways of looking at the situation. With my backseat commentary the full way, I’d have to say that this experience is probably one that my family and I will take with us for a long time, and we can look back and laugh at it. We could have looked at it as a problem. Mom and I didn’t get to do our exercise, Dad didn’t get to have his morning tea, the car probably got a few extra dents in it, the roads were bad, and we were driving around in this crappy car when we were used to driving around in Fords and Toyotas our whole life, but that was all irrelevant at that time.
Be IN the moment, as a wise guru once said. You have to enjoy it – live it and be there- nowhere else. Stop comparing. In America it may be like this or that, and that’s great, but you live in India right now, focus on that. Philadelphia cream cheese costs about 500 rupees, which is insane; it’s however also the same amount that I believe people pay in the States for a bag of namkeen.
There are days where you will curl up into a ball and just cry your heart out- think about how life used to be, where your life has taken you now. If you didn’t have those days I’d wonder a little about you, it’s only human to have those feelings. Crying helps, but I get up the next morning or maybe it takes me a few days, and I realize not everyone gets to do this. Not everyone gets to move to a place like India and live life, heck not many people even get to see India.
You can go on living life here and constantly imagine how wonderful your life would be in the States. How you’d go out and party at night, how you’d be able to drive around by yourself, how easy it would be to get work done and how customer service is excellent, how your apartment would look, and how you’d have a dishwasher. Try to live IN India – with your mind and body. Life isn’t exactly a cake walk in the States either.
Give it time, let it grow on you, and only then will you be able to finally find your comfort zone. How you manage also depends on you, and your personality. But yes, being positive and making lemonade when life hands you lemons, in my view, will help your journey be all the smoother.
Picture courtesy Foxypar via Creative Commons