attitude

Dublin Diaries – 6

Dublin Diaries – 6

Still Smitten

I think I am smitten by these affable people and the fascination gets augmented with each passing day. Why am I so smitten; what about the Irish fosters this feeling in me? This time around let me attempt a macro comparison. India – Ireland comparison make me melancholic. Ireland is a joyous place and so is India. So, I take a bit of detour this time.  Bitten by the travel bug, I can claim to be cosmopolitan. I have been in and out of many countries and transited through many more airports. I will limit this episode to my experiences at different airports. Practicing the ‘Last in First out’ approach I recapitulate my freshest anecdote first.

Last May, my daughter and I visited Vrads Sande in Denmark, for a meditation workshop. Our flight had a stop-over at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam; we had to pass through the whole immigration rigmarole and then board a different flight to Bilund, Denmark.

One thing I find most disconcerting about Non-Indian airports and comforting about Indian airports is the people! If I have a doubt or a question all I need to do is tap someone’s shoulder and ask! There is people everywhere and all have time to listen and assist. Anywhere else I am forced to read the whole notice board, look at signboards, follow the arrows, am sure you get the drift of my predicament here. This cautious following of arrows is very stressful and with another impending departure to my destination; these immigration lines are harrowing and unnerving, always. So, after dutifully following the labyrinth of arrows and notice boards my daughter and I were standing in this Schiphol Airport immigration line. I freeze at the mention of looking at maps and finding directions; my mind goes blank; hence I won’t describe my state of mind again.  

The officer looked at the passport, then looked at me, and again looked at the passport. I smiled, a natural reflex for me, even though I was inordinately nervous. He looked past my smile, unmoved and asked, ‘You are going where?’

I said, ‘Vrads Sande.’

Officer, ‘How long?’

Me, ‘Two days’.

Officer (with a very skeptical look), ‘You going back to India in two days?’

Me, ‘No, I am going back to Dublin, Ireland, which is where I am presently living.’

Officer, ‘You Indian, here for 2 days ONLY…. Let me see your return ticket!’

Now, his scrutiny and his unreasonably cold voice was getting on my nerves. I was getting a bit miffed with his looks and highhanded attitude too. Yet I calmly pulled out my return ticket and handed it over to him. He took his time scrutinizing and reassured himself that we were really returning! He asked my daughter also, the same set of questions.

I felt as if my integrity was being questioned. I was merely transiting and this person was making me feel distinctively unwelcome. I calmly took my stamped passport, mentally making a note to tell my husband NOT to book any more transits from this pricy place.

I was still simmering from the recent experience in Amsterdam when we stood across the Bilund airport immigration check. The officer was not as stiff as the Schiphol officer, but equally cautious and took her time inspecting my passport, Visa stamp, return ticket and all. In the span of just 3hours I felt unwelcome and totally robbed of my dignity.  I am sure, they were doing their duty.

These two episodes were like a déjà vu. I remember feeling the same way when we went to Singapore, at Changi airport, years ago.  And worse when we went to Adelaide, South Australia. Singapore, I did not mind that much. The queue was too long and most of the people before me were having language problem, understanding simple English in a different accent is a huge headache if you have frayed nerves and are tired from a long flight.  It was tempers galore and I was happy to just be done with it.

Adelaide is a different story. It was a long uncomfortable flight. Squashed in the middle seat with my seven-month-old daughter on my lap for 9 hours, was, needless to say, a one torturous flight.  We were going to meet my sister. It was Christmas time and my first visit to Australia. I had painstakingly bought gifts for every member of the family and carefully gift wrapped and named them.  Secondly, travelling with my seven- month daughter; the packing had only two sections; carefully wrapped gifts or my daughters milk powder cans, diapers and other accessories.  I was glad when we landed at the Adelaide airport, I would soon be able to stretch my legs, change my daughter pooh loaded nappy!

This is the only airport where I have seen sniffer dogs. Every suitcase is ripped open and every item searched thoroughly. This again is procedure, I agree; yet, having all my gifts getting ripped open and commented upon, left a bad taste in the mouth. Obviously, they found nothing suspicious. I kept requesting them to check through a few items; I had a screaming, restless 7month old in my arms, but to no avail. They stringently did their duty. When all was done, the opened bare suitcase was cast aside and I had to bundle everything back into the suitcase and shuffle out. Weary and exhausted I was almost in tears.

Now coming to Dublin airport.  We have been here a year now and been in and out of that airport about a dozen times.  The immigration officers are smiling and very friendly, that’s the first distinctive difference. They make you feel at home. They also ask all the necessary questions; the tone and attitude is not menacing though. My husband travels a LOT; lives more at airports than at home! The Dublin immigration officers recognize him and remember his name.

After checking my passport, the officer asked me how long we will be staying in Ireland.

I said, ‘Maybe three years or so, not very sure, sir.’

The officer smilingly said, ‘That’s great! Welcome, and hope this country treats you well!’.  

Now, that was the first time I was being welcomed so lovingly! Now you must forgive me if I continue to be smitten by this place and its wonderful people.

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Defiantly Complacent

Recently,  I went for a training program  where I happened to be the only Indian amongst all Irish abhyasis. They were curious or keen to know about my country and countrymen. The sheer diversity of the largest democracy and how we Indians could be best described. Their main query was how we experienced and stayed in sync  with all such diverse cultures, languages, cuisines, religion. While I was trying to tell them about my country and what made us the way we are today, the above title sprung to my mind. I feel, these two words best describes us….’’Defiantly Complacent” I think those two words describe my Indian mindset! They were appreciating the fact that Indian husbands are so accommodative and understanding (my husband took me to the venue which is almost 180kms away, spent the day with our daughter, returned to pick me up in the evening). Had it been an Irish male he would have refused to budge out of the bed on a Saturday morning. I had a very complacent look on my face, but my mind had many defiant reasons to counter their appreciation. I complacently accepted the gesture that he drove me all the way, back and forth. My mind defiantly countered, ‘These foreigners! they want to be independent about everything and yet want an accommodating partner too! It takes two to tango. Whenever,  we wave the independence flag, then we end up having to do everything independently! What do we need anyone else for!’ I did not know how to drive and my understanding husband had graciously done his duty. I was defiant that he had to be specially appreciated for doing something he should have done spontaneously! Am I making sense? I was defiantly complacent at the same time. This emotional tug of war is akin to my country folks. As a country reflects the sum of individual faces and philosophies, isn’t it? I think I have already cited few examples of inconsequential or not so relevant issues where we have been profusely vocal and defiant (the ones that play ‘Dangal’ with my mind!). Then a few issues which I thought had merit and concerned us. The people of the country and we accepted those decisions without a demur, very complacently.   Another recent episode that comes to my mind and takes me on my thinking mode  is Amma’s demise. Half of Tamil Nadu went into mourning and the other half was keeping a hawk eye on who would be the heir to her abundant wealth. She left no apparent heir and has wealth enough to buy the whole nation. As she was the leader of a state, her wealth belonged to the state and not to any one person or successor of her political party. Neither it belonged to her ‘so called’ illegitimate daughter whose pictures were all over the internet. But, the funny thing was, we whole heartedly were shedding tears and mourning our sad loss. Her despicable wealth was such a big issue. We all knew in our heart of hearts what kind of a person she was, yet we cried our heart out and very complacently did nothing about which way her amassed wealth finally goes. It may very well have landed into the wrong hands yet again, and we would very humbly accepted it. Not a whisper about any of this amidst all the teary blogs, twitters and media posts.   The other instance that sprung to mind concerns the very popular show ‘Koffee with Karan’.  One of the guests (it is always a cine world person) said, ‘this is all we talk on the sets, in between shoot break, in the make-up vans and the buzz is all about who said what about who on this show’. Now, this made sense to me. They belong to that world and it is their life and they wish to keep themselves updated.  What puzzled me was the ensuing posts that popped up from everywhere else! We seem to have no life of our own, we have too much time on our hands. We are clueless about how to put this abundant free time to some constructive and productive use. Thus, we idolize these movie stars, emulate them, judge them, for their deeds or misdeeds. Their life somehow seems to add sparkle to our otherwise drab lives and makes it more purposeful.  It somehow gives me a feeling that we thrive on other people’s affairs; the more distant and disconnected the person the more is our curiosity to pry and be aware. After all, they lead a happy, rich and fulfilled life, and we squabble about them and miss out on our life. The fact that we don’t even argue about worthy stuff, is my other concern.  When Sania Mirza married the Pakistani cricketer, we had nothing to say. She happily got on with her life and keeps coming on the cover pages of glossy magazines, not sure how popular she is in Pakistan, she is a big role model in our country. Even our beauty pageants make a beeline for acting as if it is the  only career option for them. Their behavior affirms that “Beauty is skin deep” and young minds get convoluted with all the glamour and show. Why no one ever puts a ban on these beauty queens from taking up acting as their career choice is beyond me. With all the mindful  and meaningful interviews they give and all  the brand endorsements they would have signed, they should prove their point doing something more worthwhile than run of the mill acting! Yet, we have no say on this either.   We get very angry that people from other states have encroached and robbed the original residents of good jobs. We go on endless strikes trying to stop Karnataka from giving water to Tamil Nadu. We have divided our states for whatever political reasons. We stage dharana’s trying to put an end to the influx of people from Bihar and Jharkhand to Mumbai, Maharashtra. Within our own country, we are unable to share our resources, give umbrage, we become defiant. The gross truth is that we are not very tolerant, we are not as secular as we pretend to be, either. Yet, almost the whole state of Andhra Pradesh has gone and set camp in America; we are very complacent. We are entitled to go abroad, we encourage this move and are very defiantly too.  What sort of a logic is this? How can one explain this is beyond my understanding?  Are we not a very contradictory lot? Hypocritical too, if I may add.  We turn a blind eye, become defiantly complacent and take everything for granted in all the aspects pertaining us. And very defiant when things don’t affect us at all, how bizarre are we?

Decidedly Undecided!!

Decidedly Undecided!!

Before marriage it was my dream to settle in Canada, (anywhere abroad, really!).  This fancy had taken such a feverish pitch that my father warned every prospective groom that if he (the groom) did not have plans of living abroad; at least travelling abroad was imperative; I would assuredly refuse to marry that boy! So, if the groom liked me and intended to woo me and succeed, the safest bet was to say, “I am going to settle abroad after marriage!”Today, after 20 years of married life and few stints abroad I have definitely come a long way.

The man I married is a travel freak and always on the move! Thus, though we did not go abroad the first 7 years we travelled a lot in India itself. He refused to settle down! He must have changed 6 jobs in the first 7 years. Every job was in a new state and thus we lived out of suitcases for the first 6-7years! We would just about start getting comfortable at home when some crazy new opportunity would present itself and we would be packing our bags again.  The good side about all this was that we covered Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in great detail! Every temple, landmark, and place worth visiting known or unknown; we have been there! With so much travelling the thought that I wanted to settle abroad did not come to me. His next job opportunity took us to Singapore.

Singapore is not exactly ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’ if you know what I mean. It is typically mini Tamil Nadu! The length and breadth of the country can be covered in probably 3hours! So, I was abroad but not abroad really. I learnt to speak Tamil in Singapore; (Definitely not abroad). Technically though, it was abroad and we would be NRI’s. We had all plans of continuing to live abroad permanently. That was the mind set with which we left for Singapore. Finally, my dream of becoming an NRI was going to come true.

Very soon though, some disconcerting truths about being an NRI and what it really entailed came to light. My thinking and perception changed and I really understood what it was to be an NRI and the verity hit me that I did not want to be one. I started to wonder why in the world I wanted to settle abroad in the first place (back to indecision)!!  In Singapore I was searching for Indians! (Luckily, Indians are many in number, and enjoy a global presence). I was not very comfortable making friends with the Singaporeans because I was clueless about their culture, language, customs everything! Why would they want to befriend me? Like they had nothing in common with me, I had nothing in common with them either.

A new facet about me came to the fore front. I wanted to live abroad but among Indians! (What was this? I don’t know!)  This was one part; the second part was Indians abroad are different from Indians back home! The second truth was very disconcerting to me and I was unable to adjust to this for a long time. (I just needed to blame my ‘indecision’ on someone-something!)  I had a very different opinion about families which lived abroad! I used to think that they would be starved for their ‘own kind’ and welcome with open arms people from their own country, somewhat like they way they show in the Bollywood movies (what a load of falsity! such movies should be fined – banned- sued-something-everything!!!!). The other truth is with our booming population every 5-6th person you pass by anywhere in the world will be; has to be an Indian! So being starved for ‘our own’ was a far cry! The residents of any and every country may soon be starved to see ‘their own’ faces in their own country, an inevitable fact! We have over stepped rather extravagantly over the last 50years!

Amidst all this deciding and re-deciding and changing decision yet again, so on and so forth for the nth time and last time; we checked out our options of settling in Australia too! Singapore was a definite ‘no’ (I had decided!) because it was very close to India and had too many Indians! (The reasons I have, honestly! Till date I continue to wonder about my own sanity and maturity!). It did not feel like ‘abroad’ ‘abroad’. In that 2-3 year stint my husband explored his opportunities in Sydney, Australia and tried to convince me that if I did not fancy Singapore we can also consider moving to Sydney, bag and baggage. My state of mind changed again and this time it took an absolute about turn! I did not want to settle any where abroad! I wanted to go back home, to India.

We spent almost 9months in this state of suspended animation. My husband gave me a few other options, Malaysia, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were a few of them.  He intermittently rubbed in my ‘original ardent dream’ of settling in Canada and may have also hinted that from here, as in Singapore or where ever I finally agreed to stay on; fate might lead us to my dream destination! Who knows? It was foolish to come abroad and go back to India and restart! It was easier going to a different country when one is out of India. The life style is better. The money is more. People abroad have a great work culture and follow the life-work balance exemplarily well.  So, he would be able to spend more time at home! He must have given me all plausible temptations and brownie points in favor of foreign residency. But to no avail. I had decided, I wanted to go back. That was all. I no longer cherished a foreign dream.

My spouse has another way of describing my ‘decisive stance’. (I am like the ‘kingfisher’; I stand on one foot and relentlessly hound him till he succumbs and yields to my decision.) So, the ‘kingfisher’ got her way and we moved back home (India), to Delhi! Our longest stay so far has been Delhi. We did do a bit of house shifting from a rented house to own house. We rented a house in Delhi and later bought a flat in Delhi (NCR) which is actually Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. In NCR we shifted again from a smaller own house to a bigger own house. We did stay put in Delhi – NCR for 9 years but did not stop our travelling. These nine years we covered the Northern states of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh (the now Uttarakhand too), Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh.

The day we came to a point where our travel wheels came to a grinding halt (our son had entered his year of board exams and such short stints and getaways were no longer feasible) my better half got a work assignment abroad! Atlanta, in the much sought after US of A; and the time to decide came to the fore again!

The two years our son spent deciding his future; college and the stream he wanted to further his college education in, my husband and I kept weighing our options on whether we should move to Atlanta, bag and baggage! We were still undecided and seeing our perpetual indecision, fate decided on our behalf.  The Atlanta assignment got over and a new opportunity opened in London this time! I was continuously reluctant to move abroad (finally decided) . America, Europe made no difference, and I was happy in India.

This time the decision was not in my hands though, and we shifted to London. My short stint of 6 months in London I was still unwilling to settle down abroad. Finally, I could decide that I was too ’desi’ to settle down anywhere in ‘Videsh’. I needed my comfort level and the freedom of indiscipline (Western world is too disciplined; scares me totally!). It was no longer about Indians and others. Everyone behaved the way the place dictated their behavior; “when in Rome do as Romans do”.  It was about me, I wanted to remain ‘desi’ in ‘videsh’ and kept forming opinions about others!

Like I said, I had definitely come a long way. This long prologue is to prepare you all for my ‘Dublin Diaries’…my mind set (not so ‘desi-desi’  anymore)  has decidedly changed (once again) after coming to this extraordinary place…