Ever since I have moved to Ahmedabad (nearly 3 months now) after almost 18 yrs I get a lot of questions about how have we settled in, why did we decide to move back and how are the kids taking it. Lots of those asking questions are either themselves considering moving back or have wanted to but have not managed to or plain curious. So thought of writing this note wholesale jerseys with my thoughts which I have to keep repeating in separate emails/phones etc to everyone. The thoughts, ideas and opinions are totally personal, driven by my own thinking, prejudices and experience and in no way can be generalized to appeal to everyone
Reason for moving back: This is something everyone asks either with genuine reason to find out or with the attitude of “why the hell did u come back??!!” (as if we have returned to hell) or “whoever leaves Singapore to come back to Ahmedabad???!!” or “na faavyu tyan?” (= you couldn’t adjust there???) – with a hint of indication that we may not have managed to settle there or we may have got into trouble there so we HAD to return)
Well, we had planned to move back almost 10 yrs back while we were still in Japan – knowing that 2 main factors will decide the time (1) kids age – before its too late for them to adjust (2) parents age – since they would need us around more.
The reason to move back was driven NOT by patriotism or purely the need ‘to serve our parents’ etc what a lot of people like to believe/talk about. Our need was driven by preparing the kids to be able to survive anywhere. We also wanted them grounded and rooted to one specific culture (good or bad) till they were 21. We realized that those brought up in countries like India, China (3rd world) can survive anywhere vs. those brought up in much developed countries (Japan, Singapore) have a tougher time if placed in these challenging countries – purely on basis of being able to do with less, being street smart, tough and not taking too much for granted (that trains will run on time and people will come on time or there will be abundant resources). We also were clear that we don’t intend to send our kids abroad for graduate studies and spend a few million dollars on their studies in US, UK etc Drunk (which would have to be done in case we lived in Japan or Singapore and if they went to International schools) – we didn’t want to slog all our lives to give them million dollar education at graduate level (if they are smart, they will find their way around at masters level studies wherever they want to go in the world) – and eased the pressure off my husband to continue his MNC job forever.
Then came the timing and preparedness.
- We ensured that kids went to Indian International school in Singapore (and not other America/Australian schools like most of our peer group) to ensure kids get the Indianness all around before they moved to a pukka desi school.
We ensured they learnt Hindi outside of school (in Japan) and in school.
- We also sent them to India 2-3 times a year (and last 4 yrs they would spend a month in Ahmedabad with grandparents all alone). SO they knew Indi a and Ahmadabad and how it works without being too judgemental about it.
My husband also had to work at being independent of his MNC job (he was with same company for 18 yrs!) so that if we had to quit we could do so based on OUR plans and not be dependant on company to kick us out when it felt like! I worked on being independent with my wellness work (though it never was enough to run the family but prepared the base to make it big if required).
- We also found out the cost of living in Ahmedabad and planned on saving and investing in a way that for 1st 6 months to a year our basic cost of living could be covered (since we had made separate fund for kids education in India and we had already invested in our own home in Ahmadabad while we were still in Japan)
- We also kept them more ‘Indian’ (than lots of kids in India as well ) by enrolling them in Balvihars of Chinmaya Missions where they learnt Sanskrit chanting, our Indian values and history, our culture and tradit
- Once all this was done and we had done our bit, things just fell in place and we made the final move in August 2013
All through out we got mostly loads of discouragement from all our well wishers and friends (who only had good intentions and lots of concern for us) who kept telling us to think again, that we were making a mistake and we were being to idealistic and not realistic. We were told about rapes and corruption and dirt and poverty and pathetic education etc etc (which we knew of course!). We looked at their discouragement more as their concern due to their own point of view and experiences and didn’t let that discourage us – in fact we knew if we remained positive our experiences will also be the same! After all this was the time to put to use all our spiritual reading and yoga practice
We also did talk to those who had made the move and they only gave us positive encouragement. Its like someone who has been there and done it was always positive and those who hadn’t been there or done it only had fears and negativity to share.
While our parents who would have also loved us to be back also initially – discouraged us – “why u want to bring ur kids to this unsafe country? Why you want to quit such a nice job of 18 yrs? Why you need to give up ur life in Singapore which is so well set?” but again they were driven out of concern and love for us. Once Read they knew we were firm they only supported us whole heartedly. My own father’s demise in Feb (leaving my mom alone) further strengthened my resolve to come back.
We locked in kids school, applied for admission much early on and secured their seat subject to when we return. We put them in CBSC school (not international) and they loved the campus and the school set up (its one of the few good schools in Ahmadabad – high on discipline and culture and overall development of the child vs. just making them good mathematicians and scientists)
Are we settled?
While my husband and I both are born and brought up in Ahmadabad we were returning after almost 20 yrs. Everything had changed. It was not so much of ‘returning’ but more of coming to a new place totally! Gunjan got a job in a much smaller company (vs sildenafil citrate generic. the MNC) but with like minded and same age bunch of friends)
The first few weeks were all about getting used to the chaos, the utter lack of commitment by people providing various services, getting use to the weather and kids emotional issues due to the move. But vs other countries like Japan and Singapore we settled totally in 2 months. We also got a pet within a month of moving (which most people thought was another one of our stupid moves) but that helped my daughter (14 yrs) to manage her transition struggle better, emotionally.
The first month was about changing maids and cooks and servants and all that goes with typical Indian setup – carpenters and plumbers and all taking us for a ride, overquoting, lying, cheating, and some honest folks who kept up our hope.
I came back to no close friends (all are out of Ahmedabad), no work (since I was very busy in Singapore with my yoga and wellness work) and getting used to totally unorganized way of managing home (unpredictable and unreliable support staff). But I am happy that we have a roof over our head (not dependant on a foreign govt for PRs ) and family close to us. Once we got a hang on how things work here we quickly got used to working around that (which is human nature – it took us longer to get used to the super organized Japanese way!!) and we are settled!
YES, India is chaotic, unsafe, dirty, unpredictable. But if you are prepared to go knowing that’s India (vs. comparing or trying to make it like Singapore or Japan or USA) then its good. My husband says ‘If its in the dumps, it has a chance of going up, but if its high up, it will only go down!’ – so everything in India will only get better. We are going with that mindset – and it is! And its always exciting going up the roller coaster vs down or straight, isn’t it?
My son (9 yrs) has become Amdavadi in his language and style in 2 months! My daughter has to still find her space Bab and friends but it will happen I know – may just take a bit longer. I am happy they have seen the world, lived in most advanced economies and are now managing to survive and enjoy in India with all its challenges. Till 6 months back they were petrified of crossing the road – now they cycle to the nearby Kirana shop to buy ice cream or 5 star! They are recognizing the roads and main areas in Ahmedabad and slowly preparing to go by auto/cycle alone in nearby places. It’s a journey and learning curve like anywhere in the world – only its in our own country, among our own people!
- I am excited about making new friends (since I have changed over last 20 yrs and so have many people I knew of) based on my own thinking and lifestyle and connecting with more like minded souls.
- I am excited about starting my own Wellness Centre in Amdavad and also doing lots of work with kids and corporate in this area. I miss my clients and students in Singapore but I know Amdavad also has these in store for me – Though everyone in Sg told me nobody will pay for wellness in India! :))
- I have managed to learn to expect no show from most of my helpers (its still a bit tough but getting better at it) and also learn to NOT expect things to happen when they are promised to happen.
- I have managed to make do with horrible car drivers on the roads who bully me with big cars and bigger road attitudes
- I have learnt to appreciate my kids and my attitude and pov due to the exposure of living in 3 diff countries and yet not to judge those who haven’t had that perspective.
- I have learnt to get inspired by those around me who have so less and yet are always happy and content, stress free and always ready to smile and help.
- I have learnt to appreciate whatever comes my way on daily basis and be grateful that things move a day at a time smoothly and to thank GOD for that (since only GOD can make India work, no economic rules can)
- I still don’t read the news papers or see the TV news or serials – my mom says its escapism and I say its just reducing the negative clutter from my life
- I am a returning NRG (non resident gujarati as they term it here) but theres more to me now than what there ever was when I left it 18 yrs back and that makes me more Gujju than before