Category Archives: Culture Shock!

Moving back to India – what to expect.

Missing India

By Isheeta Sanghi

After a visit to the FRO in Bangalore, a speedy two day trip to Delhi’s Ministry of Home Affairs, many police reports, thousands of copies of birth certificates and passports, and a penalty fee of 2000 Rupees, I was finally all set to make my journey out of the country, back to America.

I could not help but sense some excitement; after all it had been two years since I had left the country. New York has been my dream, (I think it is a lot of people’s dream – hence the crowds.) I wanted to live my life in NYC, meet the perfect guy, and live a perfect life. Ask any of my high school friends and they will tell you that I was the crazy girl that was willing to give up the San Diego sun for New York snow. I came to New York a few months ago, full of expectations, interning (for free!) with a magazine.

But I think things in the US have changed quite drastically or maybe it is just me. I find myself missing something. For the longest time I could not understand what it was. It’s not like I was missing my parents or was homesick, it was not that I was missing home cooked food (ok maybe it was that a bit); I was not missing the easiness of school life, lord knows I wasn’t missing the BSNL internet connection. It was something else, and I did not quite figure it out until a few weeks ago.

I was missing that excitement, that craziness that only India has. Do not get me wrong, New York is pretty crazy- but it is not India-crazy. I still can not believe that I am saying it and admitting it quite openly, but I guess I have come quite a long way. I miss India! I miss the smells, the crazy dogs, the crazy traffic, the noise and of course the everyday tamasha. I miss it all. I miss arguing with the auto rickshaw guys, I miss staring back at all those Indian men that stare and seeing them realize that I know they are looking. I even miss the annoying kids that wake me up in the mornings yelling at each other with their accented English as they play soccer outside my balcony. I miss it all!

I am waiting to get back so that I can just sit out on my balcony and drink a cup of coffee in the cool Bangalore breeze. I could stick it out longer here, and make a life for myself, but I know that I will be missing something- and that something is India. It is contagious, and once you get over the dirtiness, you realize that you are much closer to reality- dealing with problems like poverty, hunger, lack of electricity in the villages.

I am not going to go all Swades or anything, but I want to go back because I think I can live a much happier life in India. Here I see people of Indian heritage in New York that are shop owners in the subways, or that wheel around a kebab cart, or that are selling newspapers on the street wearing their salwar kameezes. And I am not going to lie; my heart breaks a little bit. Because I know that that is not what they had planned; those women who were once girls had not dreamed of getting married, moving abroad and selling newspapers on the street. Likewise, I did not forecast graduating, and coming to the States only to intern for free and go order people’s Starbucks. How long can you do it for?

My Dad and I (whom most all will agree) rarely see eye to eye, but recently it is been very different. So many things happened prior to me leaving India that said ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’ and I remember feeling frustrated that I would never be able to get out of the country. I did not realize that I had already achieved the one thing I wanted in life, contentment. The supersize everything is not exciting anymore. I can not believe I am saying this but Starbucks really is not worth what you pay at all, and even though I still haven’t found the GAP factory in India, I can no longer justify spending $50 on a ‘Made in India’ shirt. I figure I’ll just go to Shankar Market, find the left over material roll and get it made from my favorite tailor.

For anyone moving back or thinking of moving back- give India a chance. It is a beautiful place, and the people are amazing. You need to give it time, look at things with humour (even in the toughest of situations) realize that even if one of your expensive wine glasses broke in the process of moving that you’re not going to take those wineglasses with you in your afterlife, and also, it is not India’s fault that it broke. Realize that what you should take with you are the memories of where you have been more than the material itself. I have finished up my internships, and am excited about heading home to India the cows, my roots, my family, and of course the craziness that truly makes India such a uniquely beautiful place.

HAPPY DIWALI!

Isheeta Sanghi lives in India but is spending a few months in the US interning in NY.

Roots

By Isheeta Sanghi

There’s something infectious about India. When we get off the plane, we are disgusted with the so called bus that takes us to the terminal, we cringe at the thought of those oh so familiar smells of poor hygiene, sweat, and masala.. And of course, none of us look forward to being bombarded by thousands of (mostly short) Indian men all advertising one thing as soon as we exit the airport ‘Taxi Madam?’ No baba, nahi chachiye- obviously NRIs have family coming to greet them!

The fact remains that we all make the pilgrimage home at some point in our lives, maybe even a few times a year, because that’s what we do. We know that our grandparents, maybe a handful of aunts and uncles live there and that is the primary reason that we go. As a child, the trip is somewhat monotonous. The same things being said ‘oh the last time we saw you…’ or ‘oh you’re so big now!’ You get to a point in life though, when that trip is worth more than just bringing back lehngas (which are rarely worn) and pictures of exotic India to share with friends. It’s more of a homecoming. We’re exposed to our roots and our heritage, which in today’s fast paced world is something that we all will learn to appreciate more and more.

Roots are the origin- the starting point, and no matter how high up a tree may grow, branches may extend and leaves may appear- the root remains the origin. Likewise, no matter how much we may try to convince ourselves that after being born and brought up in America, that we are truly only American is a little bit of a lie. No matter how far apart we may grow from our traditional colourful culture, values and heritage; there is a part of us that will inevitably always be connected to our roots.

Initially I was hesitant about acknowledging my heritage. I convinced myself and everyone around me that I did not care for anything Indian. What I realized, after living in India, is that it really is not all that bad. Sure there are things that are ‘typical’ Indian that still I am still ashamed of- like the underworld that rips away the innocence of so many young girls and boys, the lack of preservation of the many monuments, and of course the smelliness of some of the gullies. However, there are more things that make me proud to be of my heritage. I love the family values, the colourful festivities, and the warm people.

Going back to your family’s heritage is amazing, and if you are lucky, you will have family members who have it all mapped out, and you can see where your origins lay. You may not have met most of the people, but just knowing about them gives you a sense of pride. You can smile at the accomplishments of those who came before you, and recognize that if they didn’t do what they had done, you probably wouldn’t be in the place that you are in right now. I learned that if my great grandfather had not pushed my Dada out of the country to pursue his higher education, we would be leading a very different life.  Since my Grandfather studied outside the country, he saw some benefit in it, and encouraged his own sons to venture out as well. When you hear about things like that you only learn to appreciate your roots- either family roots or cultural roots- even more.

Like you learn to love people, you learn to love India. You start to take pride in the fact that the country has come a long way- a very long way- sure it’s not perfect, but what place is? It takes time, and it will take a lot of compromise from your end, you will have to treat it like a child, and forgive its inconsistencies and wrongs.

Picture courtesy this blog.

The Support System

By Isheeta Sanghi

I read The Namesake when I was in my first year of college. It was a very delicate time in my life, as it is in the life of any college going student. I was separated from my parents, not simply by state borders but by countries and oceans. College is a very important time in life because we can reflect, and really think about what it is that we want for ourselves and our future. After reading The Namesake, however,  I didn’t think so much about myself relating to the character depicted by Kal Penn in the celluloid version of the story, but rather I thought more about Ashima and her story, and how I could relate all of her experiences to what my Mother must have experienced, moving to a different country after marriage.

Though my Mom grew up in the metropolitan city of Delhi, and had elder sisters who were married, two of whom had already made the journey westward, and was well educated, the fact remains that when someone is taken out from their natural surroundings naturally life becomes tough. I don’t know much about my Mothers past, but what I do know is that I could picture her standing by the stove cooking beef for the first time in her life, crying because she had grown up in a vegetarian household, and had to bear a smell that was devastating to her. I could picture her standing innocently by a street light not knowing that in order for her to cross the road she had to press the button on the pole. I had a sinking feeling in my heart throughout the book because Jhumpa Lahiri has so beautifully depicted those emotions that I’m positive had been felt by my own Mother. Continue reading

What’s your father’s name, and what blood type are you?

By Isheeta Sanghi

College in India is something that would never enter the mind of an Indian American. Because really, that’s why our parents moved to the States, (besides the whole ‘chasing the American dream’, that is). My parents moved to California for that, well that and the great weather in Sunny San Diego. The thought of college in India sounded twisted to me; it was like some sort of joke that just wasn’t funny at all. When my Dad drove me out to the Integrated Institute of Learning Management in Delhi I remember just thinking about the my situation in total disillusionment and disbelief. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t happening, that I was going to go back to the States and finish my degree, that my parents were just tricking me trying to see how hard they could push me into saying that I wanted to stay. Continue reading

The BIG move back…..

By Rajeev Minocha

Perhaps the x= x+1 syndrome has been around from the time desis started coming to the US. For the uninitiated, the x is the year in which the desi targets to return back and of course the value on the right side keeps changing and so does the time to return!Of late, however the value on both sides has become a constant and many are actually taking the plunge to return and many more are actively exploring. It is difficult to estimate the actual number of moves that have taken place, but a couple of sources have pegged this as 20,000 to 25,000 in the last 2 years.

The reason for this desire to move back is not hard to identify. Although some may cite personal reasons such as ‘my parents are aging’, ‘want to get the kids to understand the Indian culture before they become too old’, etc. but that is NOT the true reason. Parents have always been aging and the kids have been growing older. Continue reading

Incredible India

By Isheeta Sanghi 

   Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Amritsar, Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Mysore. That is the comprehensive list of cities that my friends and I visited last summer. It was a crazy trip, to say the least, not only because we crammed in Agra, Delhi, Amritsar and Jaipur into four days but also because of the lessons that were learned along the way. Continue reading