Living in India was one of the best decisions I could have made not only for my marriage but for my personal growth as well. When I made the decision to move to New Delhi, I made it for two reasons. First and foremost I wanted to see how the kids and M and the kids would interact on a long term basis. Secondly, I needed to be exposed to M’s culture first hand. It’s one thing to hear how a place is and yet another to experience it.
I still remember the very first time I stepped foot from the plane onto Indian soil (before we moved there). It was an assault on the senses. Even in March it was hot and sticky, it smelled of so many intermingled scents that I couldn’t make them all out (some of the scents weren’t too pleasant) and it was noisy and filled with more people than I had ever seen. I was overwhelmed but not enough to turn back. I was also intrigued.
The move to Delhi was made with much consideration and thought about the adjustment of the children. I needn’t have worried. They were in heaven and fascinated by the cows roaming the roads and the rickshaws. The same noises and scents that made my head swirl amazed them. They adjusted just fine. I on the other hand went into the experience thoroughly optimistic and although I reached out to find other Americans (even through the Embassy), I never found anyone. I wound up isolated in a bubble that made me painfully aware of my Americanism. During the day while M was away at work, the only contact I had with others was the housekeeper and the water delivery man. The kids had one another so they never got bored and they became so good at their Hindi that they could communicate with the housekeeper during times when I couldn’t!
Because traffic is so crazy in Delhi, I didn’t drive. Here we obey traffic laws, follow the lanes and stop at traffic signals. There, they all seem to be invisible. It’s a life you have to get used to! We used a car and driver the majority of the time and rickshaws for things that were close by. It was the kids favorite way to travel. I basically spent my days on the inside waiting for Manoj to come home for work so that we could go out. M, poor sweet thing, worked night shift and would always go out with us no matter how tired he was and he never complained. Those daily outings were my life preserver. For someone like me (an outspoken go-getter), having to rely on someone else for so much was a humbling experience.
Because I had nothing else to do during the day but keep house and cook, that’s what I did…but because I’m not like that at home, it set up some new issues for Manoj and I later. He was accustomed to having food waiting on him when he got home every day so when we got back to the states and I was on the go all the time, jumping into my car and going wherever I wanted to go, whenever I wanted to go, it was a rude awakening for him.
Life in India was beautiful, crazy and vibrant. While there is a great deal of pollution and poverty, there is also a great deal of LIFE filled with determined spirit. No matter how miserable the circumstances, the people are always working to survive.
Sure I saw some strange things-men pooping and urinating on the streets, street-side dentists and barbers but as strange as it may sound, after a while those things were no longer odd (except for the bodily elimination on the street-even other Indians are embarrassed by that!) However, nothing can replace the sight of bright colored saris, the scent of curry spices or the taste of masala chai.
I realized that there were many things that I took for granted here like having electricity 24 hours a day. In the summer Delhi has rolling power outages because there is not enough infrastructures to support the number of people using the power grids. Thankfully we lived in a neighborhood where the power was only out for an hour and a half to two hours each day and it was scheduled so we knew how to prepare and when to expect it. The inverter also helped a great deal.
Some people were without power for more than 8 hours out of a day. We also had get up each morning to flip a switch to pump water into our flat. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have water coming through our faucets. The water delivery truck came twice a day (early a.m. and in the evening). We could only use this water to bathe and clean with. Drinking water was delivered to us. Even grocery shopping was different. Here, we rely on lots of microwavable, frozen and canned goods. There, mostly everything is fresh including the meat. In our neighborhood, the vegetable man would come through each morning calling out loudly to let you know he was there to sale. The markets also had what we needed. I had forgotten how beautiful and colorful fresh fruits and vegetables are when they aren’t pumped up full of hormones and chemicals like here.
Whenever I am in India, I lose weight. I walk more, eat fresh vegetables and fruits and relax more even though the pace of life seems to be more stressful. There’s something to be said for their way of life no matter how foreign it may seem to us. The basic foundations of health are in place (fruits, veggies, waters and juices and more importantly exercise). Hopping in car to go a few blocks isn’t always the most convenient thing in a city that caters to the walking.
Oh and the beef thing- In the northern part of India, it is extremely hard to find beef unless you are on the American Embassy property or something similar. In the south, places like Goa tend to cater to the Westernized tourists tastes so it’s not that difficult to find if you’re really searching. There are Western restaurants there like McDonald’s, KFC and even a Papa John’s in Gurgaon but the menus are different. Instead of beef burgers, you get lamb burgers (which I don’t eat) and chicken. When I moved over, I wasn’t sure how the kids would adjust to the food there so I packed a big suitcase full of some of their favorites from home. Not only did it give them a taste of home when they missed it, but it also gave Manoj a sample of what we liked.
Shopping in India is great. The prices are good and if you’re the type who loves to bargain, the markets are full of places to do that. I loved going to Dilli Haat for work from artisans from all over the country.
I think that’s the basics (and whew! Enough) about life in India. If I didn’t address something you have a question about, feel free to ask. Until the next blog…