Sorggame endralum…

The title of this post is the beginning of a song from a Tamil movie and goes on to wax lyrical about how good one’s hometown is compared to even heaven.  Really corny Ramarajan number and I cannot believe I’m using it for a post, but it absolutely sums up how I feel – except in my case, ‘sorgam’ is India and ‘namma oor’ is my little village in midwestern US.

Yes – I’m back from India after 6 glorious weeks, and settling back into my non-guest, unemployed-by-choice existence.   Still a bit jetlagged after 2 days (or is it 3?).  While in India, just couldn’t find the time/focus to sit down and write my thoughts down so will have to go through the jumble of memories to write this post. 

My soap box – have to get this all out:

As clichéd as it sounds, India keeps changing every time I go there.  I felt it starting from my flight to Bangalore from Paris – where about half the flight was filled with desi consultants returning from a short assignment from the US, and a few non-Indians going to India to meet with their offshore team, as Obama famously said, I felt that India has ‘arrived’!

Even Diwali has changed which was a bit harsh for me – it no more means getting up at 3 in the morning, having patti or amma put oil on your hair, and give the new clothes, having an ‘oil’ bath while you’re half-asleep, and running out to do firecrackers in your new clothes.   Heck, Bangalore was quiet at 7 in the morning on Diwali day! All the sweet-making is totally outsourced to Adyar Anand Bhavan and other such establishments.  Everyone’s relaxed.  Our family wasn’t glued to the TV watching how the stars celebrate their ‘thalai’ deepavali or the patti mandrams (debates) about who works hard at home – husband or wife or what is more successful – arranged or love marriage, but I hear those are very popular these days.  Diwali was a bit of a disappointment for me as I was all psyched about being there after 16 years during diwali time! Oh well..

As for the economy and the general scene, there’s a sea change.  There’s so much drive, and fire to get ahead that it feels pretty much like the US.  My brothers-in-law (2 in upper management, and one running a business with his father) all work 12 hour days.   The downside is that the wives are left to deal with everything else – which is much harder to do it in a culture that’s predominantly at the mercy of maid servants, drivers (car and auto), iron-wallahs, the milkman and the 500 other random people who keep coming and going all day long!  I swear the bell rings every 30 mins.  And in a family like mine (5 daughters and a father who insists on calling and telling you to check the email he sent with a picture of your daughter), the phone simply doesn’t stop ringing!  It drives my mom crazy and it drove me nuts!   My sis in Hyd had 4 servants come and go in about 3 weeks.  

But what’s confounding, at least to me, is that with all the manpower available for hire to do everything from cutting vegetables (it’s true!!) to getting a home facial and massage (I had both done) it’s not all resort-style stress-free living.  People are stressed – or maybe it was just me.   To each their own, right?

This may make some desis angry but it’s my opinion.  While India has ‘arrived’ on the global scene, it has a LONG way to go in terms of infrastructure.   The basic infrastructure has not caught up with the growth in the economy.  

Take for example getting from place to place.  The traffic is unbelievably bad.  I really think that is a main source of pain for the majority of the people who have to be on the road any longer than 10 minutes.  The auto drivers rule!  I thought Bangalore was bad with the auto wallahs charging an arm and a leg to go anywhere until I went to Chennai – they don’t even pretend to use the meter.  One has to fix a price before stepping in and if you’re like me, with no sense of direction or distance, you really are screwed.  

Traffic rules are a joke.  The intersection near my parents’ house in Bangalore is a nightmare between 8 am and 8 pm.  Everyone just wants to go and try to squeeze in to any inch they can find, but if they step back and think a bit, they could really avoid all the gridlocks that are caused about every 30 minutes.   I may be naive here, but I feel that a simple 4-way Stop system  like we have in the US will solve a lot of the jams.  

The thought that kept crossing my mind was – our people are incredibly resourceful and talented, why is it so hard to fix these basic issues…mystery!

As for the wedding which was one of my primary reasons for going, it was a blast!  My cousins number about 20 and one of them was getting married.   16 of us were at the wedding!  It was so much fun to see everyone.  Our family has a majority of girls, and this was one of the few groom-side weddings we were part of – so relaxed, and stress-free for everyone. 

Ties that bind…(and gag!) 

It was very different being there without my kids and husband, and I got to spend a lot of time with my aging parents.  Which was a whole different story!  They’re both in their 70s and don’t sleep much.  On several nights, I would wake up to use the restroom and just about scream at the scene reminiscent of the scene from the movie ‘The sixth sense’ – you know, the one where the little boy gets up to pee, and sees the ghost in the kitchen with all the cabinets open.   Replace the ghost with a tiny Indian lady in her 70s.  I am not kidding, every light in the kitchen would be on, the cabinets  all open, and my mom would be cutting vegetables or cooking breakfast in the middle of the night!  Catching up with my dad on family news, they’d make coffee, drink it and go back to bed whenever, or not.  

My dad was his usual self – criticizing my spending habits, turning off lights and fans behind me as I moved from room to room, driving me everywhere at his age in his new Maruti Alto without complaining but cursing the desi lack of traffic sense, the roads, the traffic cops (or the lack of them) the whole way …not much has changed there!

I had a lot of fun with my 3 sistsers who are in Bangalore and Hyd, and their kids.  Especially the youngest 2 – oh my, how I miss my littlest ‘laddu’ niece – 5 months old, roly-poly and all pink!  She would literally light up everytime she saw me…and everyone! But I felt rather special!

A boost to the Indian economy…

What is a trip back to India without shopping… yes –  I shopped.  Nausea caused by diesel fumes, rain, a closed car with a perspiring driver (read: choked by BO) – all of these did nothing to stop me from shopping in Hyderabad with my sister who accompanied me cheerfully.  We actually had to pull over to the side so I could throw up and continued …Black friday cannot hold a candle to shopping in India! 

There’s a new trend in saree selling these days! Ladies, if you thought having the saree wrapped around you was so cool wait till you hear this – the salesmen actually put it on themselves so we could see how a saree looks draped on someone!  This was only in Hyderabad – not so much in Bangalore.   What is that pazhamozhi that goes something like ‘nai vesham potta koraichuthan aaganum’ (‘If you act like a dog, you have to bark’).  I think that’s taking it a bit too far, don’t you?

On the whole, it was a great trip.   Hope to do it again – in 2 years!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Padma
    Dec 07, 2010 @ 23:29:06

    Pretty good read… it was like going thru the range of thots and emotions that I go through when living here [ in India].

    As for the talents … well talent is there in every country. There is a creamy layer – which is top 5% or 10% and then the middle layer – a broader range, and so on. Well in India the numbers are big.

    India never solves her problems … they learn to live with it alongside till that problem either disappears or becomes an asset … something like its population – which was a big challenge 20 years ago and its demography is much envied today.

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    • sri
      Dec 08, 2010 @ 11:42:50

      I never thought of it that way (about India not solving problems) but I think you’re right. They do tolerate things and find ways around it, instead of solving it. Maybe they’ve just resigned themselves to it due to lack of good leadership from the government, and given up without even trying!

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  2. sandhya
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 22:49:42

    man i wish ad and i could’ve come with you! maybe another time…

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  3. vtkbhoopers
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 22:52:35

    Snore…wow! sorry, seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel–only I’m not driving, I’m reading this blog. How clitch can you be??

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    Reply

  4. vtkbhoopers
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 22:56:15

    Here is advice in the form of a poem:

    If you write too much
    It shall be such
    Your poor, sad readers are out of luck

    They’ve come to a page
    So long and dry
    That makes the heavens want to cry

    It’s not too late
    To keep them here
    Just shorten your page
    With clippers and shears.

    Like

    Reply

  5. sandhya
    Dec 25, 2010 @ 22:58:18

    vtk, stop this cyber bullying dude

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