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…

Shades of Grey…London Hues

Shades of Grey…London Hues

About London again, this is where I am presently residing, (I am posting this article from Dublin, Ireland; wrote it when I was in London!!!)  the discovery is ongoing and a daily affair.  I started my sojourn in London with a heavy baggage of misconceptions. Thus, my learning starts afresh every day. I am enjoying breaking my own misconceptions and I am also enjoying confirming a few home truths I received before I landed here. Even with so much preparation and warning some things about this place continue to strike me odd and still continue to surprise me.

The first is the rain in London, it surprises me still. God simply decided to pour in these parts of the world; for reasons best known to HIM alone, that is all I can say. Every day, very expectantly, my daughter and I check the weather status, praying for some sunshine and a respite from this pervasive wetness and gloom.  There is a silver lining on some days and we excitedly plan our day. It happened twice in the last three months. Nevertheless, the gloom failed to mar our indefatigable good spirits and my daughter and I toured London in the rain. Rain became our constant companion. We started enjoying the rain and the wetness. It came to a point where we stopped checking the weather report. It did not matter anymore.  In an auto mode both of us planned our day, packed our kits, raincoat, jackets, cap, hood , umbrella et all and headed out to paint the town red!

Paint the town RED! That brings me to the second aspect of this city which continues to amaze me. The color of the houses or buildings in this wet land, they are all grey, all of them! God decided to give this city a gloomy, dark, dull, wet weather round the clock. The residents decided to augment the gloom a bit more by coloring all the houses, office buildings and shopping complexes uniformly in one of the most drab, lifeless colors one can ever imagine, GREY! Being one of the oldest economies of the world, the History of this place is Ancient! Almost every alternate building is marked as ‘Historic’ ‘Pre-Historic’ ‘Ancient’ or ‘Heritage’!  They all are a part of the past and look aged too, so it is very acceptable that they are all colored in the typically stone grey color. Many have moss or fungus covering because of the incessant rains. Stonhenge, National Maritime Museum, London Bridge, London –eye these are all old –old sites and are in ‘grey’ which is very understandable to me. But the newer constructions like O2 (Theatre complex where the likes of AR Rehman perform!), Shard (The tallest building in London which a panoramic view of the whole city from its terrace) the metro stations; all of them are grey or tinted grey glass finish! How weird is that! Houses, we re-do our interiors every 3-5 years, right? How many of us repeatedly paint them the same color; that too of all the colors why choose ‘shades of grey’ every time? India has a ‘pink city’, a ‘golden city’, a ‘blue city’ and these three colors are from the same state, mind you!

It’s as if just because God gave them a grey climate to live in, and live with; they have acclimatized so beautifully that they need no second color at all! They abide by the God’s dictate! The most popular jackets in London are Black or white! In the initial days my daughter and I used to be jumping and eager to visit the shopping malls, Harrods, Zarah, Debenham’s. Two trips were all it took. We searched high and low, every section of these places, clothes – black or white or some mix and match shades in between like off white , cream, grey etc. very very rarely we spotted a pink or a –sea green ( we bought those!). That is all. Even their crockery cutlery is mostly white! No second color choice in that section! My daughter’s school dress is Black! My husband’s office attire is Black and blue (the company he works for has color Blue; nothing to do with London preferences hereJ). The umbrellas are mostly black in color and the raincoats too! Goodness!

Funnily, the sports shoes come in all colors you can think of! From fluorescent orange, to dark green, to light pink, to a deep magenta and you are spoilt for choice! That was the surprising part! Now, when we visit a restaurant the usual practice is to remove the coat and hang on the coat hanger. Then, settle down comfortably in the cozy ambience and have your meal. When you are about to leave you reclaim your coat. The first time we were five of us, all in black coats, and all hung in the corner. Imagine my plight when I went to collect our coats…  I took one look at the endless black, black and black coats; beat a hasty retreat and sent my better half! If he picked the wrong one he had only himself to blame! I was safe!

The best is yet to come! London is such a wonderful place that sightseeing is kind of mandatory! Staying indoors because of rain, distances etc is a shame and a total loss to the visitor. So we did do a lot of sightseeing, and sightseeing entailed the next natural event of ‘memory collection’; or photographs! The first day we went out, we clicked many pictures and put them on Face book, sent to ‘family’  ‘wats app’ group and received many compliments ‘wow’, ‘beautiful’, ‘amazing, etc . Next time we went sightseeing, we again took pictures and as we started to upload the pictures we realized that they looked the same as last time! The first set was near Thames River (near our house, in Greenwich area), it was raining that day, so the jackets were there, and it was my daughter and me! The second set was near London Bridge, so Thames River again, raining too (obviously) so jackets were the same and it was my daughter and me again! Both set of pictures looked exactly the same!! Same people, same clothes, same place too, uh! So much for seeing London and different places in London!

I told my great pati-dev (spouse) that I now no longer needed dresses! I needed jackets and more jackets in all shades, every possible shade of black-white – grey. Till then, no pictures for family and friends, only happy sightseeing of this history enriched wondrous place which never ceases to surprise me!