While chatting with a friend, a topic came to fore which has always been lingering on my mind. Am I doing right by opting to settle down in India or I should have taken my chances to move out of the country? When I talk about moving out of country, I mean US or UK. For an Indian, these are the only foreign locations. At least for most of the Indians.
While I keep hearing the comments from my family members – “Kitni aag jala di, lekin ketli hai ki garam hi nahi hoti” or in simpler words – “Most of your life you claimed to be studying in promise of a good future. And we have been waiting for you to go out ever since you started working. But You are just not willing to buzz.”
People term me a job hopper which I categorically deny. Just that whenever my employer has tried to separate me from my beloved motherland, I have separated myself from my employer. Hence my first passport died a virgin . While second passport has been conceived, I try to analyze the reasons I prefer to stay here. May be the opportunities I got were not meant to fructify. May be future has much better opportunities in store for me. Or maybe I am simply xenophobic.
One of the reasons I could find out by thinking about few advices given to me by a friend when I was about to file my papers for processing visa
“Dude, you must learn how to cook food”
“Why? I will hire a cook”
“Dude, you are going to the US of A. Be rest assured that you will be paying your monthly salary to your cook even if you manage to hire one”
“Do all of them work for Hilton or what?”
“Dude, it’s a land with population density of 1/10 that of India. Service of any mammal may cost you more than a car, depending upon the mammal and the service. Don’t you understand that the basis of your job is that high cost of service?”
Entire idea of getting back from office and cooking food for myself gives me shivers. Make no mistake by my slim trim figure, I live to eat. Or let me correct. I don’t like eating out. I live to eat home cooked food. Few years back, when I was a bachelor, I was sharing a flat with three friends. Their average weight was 40% more than my weight but my diet was 30% more than their diet. If you know me, you must be aware with the fact that I cannot survive without eating at least a kg of potato every day. I am not sure if they grow potato in California or Canterbury.
Another of multiple suggestions I got was as below -
“Take a haircut. I would suggest get your head shaved.”
“Why? Don’t they have barbers?”
“They have but their barbers don’t sit under the trees, making their clients sit on a brick and charge Rs. 5/-. They will cost you more than a celebrity saloon might cost you here. “
“Yeah but I am going just for a month. It takes more than 6 months to get them back”
“Yeah but you have a habit of taking haircut every 15 days. You don’t have much on your head anyhow. Your barber must be joyous to get customers like you. If we calculate the ratio of his fee/number of hair cut, you must be a chart buster for him. Get your head shaved”
“I can, but the problem is that I am not confident enough if they will come back.”
I cannot live without taking a haircut after every 15 days. I cannot wash my cloths. I cannot clean my house. My wife has been trying her level best to domesticate me but I will still be graded 1 out of 10 in the matters related to household work. But I enjoy the backup of excellent support system here. I am not sure if any of my friends abroad have that luxury.
If I understand clearly, biggest attraction for any Indian to settle abroad is huge difference between the quality of life here and there. The 8 lane highways even to go to your toilets, the 150+mph travel by car, supposedly low level of corruption, the ease of paying your utility bills, the neat and clean air, and all those beautiful photographs people keep posting in their FB albums. But beautiful places are good for the purpose of tourism. Peace is at home. Home may have a different definition for different people though. Some have changed it, most have not. I have not.
One of my friends has stayed in Detroit. I was told by him that people often visit shopping malls because they want to see people – it’s so deserted there i.e. out of India. Here in India, we are running away from people. If on any day I see less than 20 heads per square yards on Dadar station at 11:00PM in night, I will be scared for life. Because that will make me think there just has been a terrorist attack. In fact even in that case we might have thousands of onlookers. If I go to Kanpur and see less than 10 rickshawawals trying to pull my hand as soon as I move out of station, I will think there has been a curfew imposed there. When I try to imagine myself, driving my car on some highway in Europe for a stretch of 100 kilometers without even a single pedestrian trying to stop me waving his hand, I tend to think as if I have been asked to act in Raaz 3 – the sooni sadak. I am addicted to the crowd.
Every time my son demands Kurkure, I can take him downstairs to a shop and buy one. Will it be possible in those desirable locations? What if he demands it at 9 in the night? Either I will have to drive some 20 odd kilometers to get to a gas station to buy one or I will have to keep a stock myself. In India, there is no concept of a market area and a residential area being separate. They are inseparable. Tell me, what good an apartment with all the modern amenities is if I can’t have paanipoori downstairs? Some may call it a complete lack of planning a city which is witnessed all over the country in many forms – roads, power, water supply, bridges or even family. Probably best way of planning in India is to have no plan at all. But I like to have no plan.
My friends boast about the civility of cops in foreign countries towards civilians. I am often told that - Even if you have drunk truck loads of beer, ran away from the bar without paying the bill, driven at 400mph, broken a few signals, barged your car into a police station and stopped at the toes of police commissioner, the police man will come and say “Sir, can I have your license please”. Imagine doing even half of it in India. I am sure your imagination will not be half as real as reality could be. Can you imagine a policeman calling you sir while imposing a fine on you for writing numbers on the number plate in light black (One of my friends has faced this situation)? Assumption here is that you are not travelling in a lal batti. If you are, he may even touch your feet. I am not saying I am addicted to corruption. But I am used to of it being part of my life.
Every day I meet one particular group of strangers in the train. They don’t know me. I don’t know them. But hear their conversations – sometime interesting, most of the times boring. But I know, if I talk to ten of them tomorrow, I will not be too averse to talking 5 of them on the day after tomorrow. I am sure I will get along well with at least two of them. Common connects are language and our issues of life – job, cricket, politics, films, stock market and the ever increasing crowd in the train. I start shivering at the onset of talking in any language other than Hindi. To add to it, discussing Obama’s speech on north Africa’s conservative economy policies resulting in soaring commodity prices and its impact on socio-economical balance in Mozambique or appreciating Dhobi Ghat for its artistic brilliance in showing the Mumbai spirit in true colors doesn’t excite me at all. I would rather discuss a scam on our own land; we have millions of them, or simply cricket. You may call it fear of coming out of my comfort zone. I agree. I am afraid of coming out of my comfort zone. Tell me who is not?
In India, daily life is a struggle, it’s a fight for survival, and it’s a war. I am too addicted to it. May be life will be lot easier out of India but the thought of that ease gives me discomfort. If I reach home in a hassle free journey of an hour, what will I crib about? My mind will have a lot less to worry about. Worries keep it occupied. I won’t be happy with a less occupied mind. May be an occupied mind is likely to be happier than an unoccupied mind that’s why India ranks in top 25% in happy planet index . I like this fight for survival.
Few years back, Ramchandra Guha had summed up our condition beautifully saying - “In India the choice could never be between chaos and stability, but between manageable and unmanageable chaos.” If there is one addiction which has covered entire nation, it can be called chaos. Not surprising that I am also addicted to it.
I know there are loads of issued with the governments here. I know we have lot of racial issues based on caste, religion, and region. But a democracy which doesn’t think twice before appointing a minority candidate as its PM, president or captain of the cricket team provided he is worthy enough, this is the best democracy in the world.
In short, I am too used to of the lifestyle I have grown up. For example, a cactus will never survive in a pond because it is too accustomed to a desert. A polar bear will never survive in African forests because his body is so used to of snow. A Rohit Sharma will never do well in International cricket because he is made for playing IPL.
To top it all, there is one abuse I will never hear in India – “Bloody Indian”. May be out of north India, some may call me “Bloody North Indian.” I have a tamilian friend who I often call “Blood South Indian.” My friends from Mumbai can be called “Bloody West Indian.” But no one can call me a “Bloody Indian”, no one. I am going to stay here, forever.