Monday, September 7, 2009

On living outside the bubble!

As an expat in Thailand it was easy to live in a bubble . On our return, even though our intentions were to get involved with the real India, Roopa calls it the nitty-gritty’s, it is no surprise that our first instinctive reaction was to get into a similar bubble here as quickly as we could! We soon learnt that a lot more time is needed to accomplish this feat.

We were fortunate in Bangkok as we were absorbed very early on by the Indian Diaspora and began to feel that we belonged! While you miss your home and family in a new country, you are in some ways a pioneer! Your friends are your family and they are mostly of your choice and are like minded. You are given tremondous support that you did not expect and it humbles you!

In Thailand, while you may stick out like a sore thumb, you still retain a kind of anonymity. While you know you are an Indian, you will be surprised that it is not so obvious to many. I have been asked if I was a Muslim from Pakistan. Some of them do not even recognize your county of origin and ask you 'where you from'! It is funny but I have even been mistaken for a German or a Japanese.

But I felt very soon after my return that I was treated differently by the public here and surprisingly I felt different as well! I surely did not blend with the scene here! Your craving to be accepted, to be able to share the very valuable lessons you think you have learnt becomes very strong! While I have yet to find avenues for sharing my experience, my age being a deterrent and there are so many like me, there are certainly many ways for you to share your hard earned savings!

To my chagrin the vegetable and fruit vendors invariably overcharge me, while Tara seems to have a little better time. There are still a lot of adjustments to be made. For instance, the maid Tara hired, while a nice person, expects to be adopted as one of the family. We are made to feel obliged to take care of her various responsibilities. There are loans given for school fees for her children, sister's marriage, renting a house and parents ill health as of today. They also go missing often on various family errands. It is apparent that it is not just the IT and BT stalwarts who are offered 'Signing up' bonuses and flexi-times! The lowly maid is also able to manage the same perquisites in a very subtle way!

Then there is the experience of renovating our apartment! Probably that is a story for Tara to tell and I bet she will not! But she got it done to her credit!

I will soon blog about the fun of buying a car and hiring and managing a driver! I expect it to be as challenging as any! While waiting for the car I now use the auto as my transport. I guess it has to be an other blog as the experience gained by dealing with the auto drivers is really very diverse and deep and surely affects your psyche and creates an urge to find your bubble fast and crawl into it!


Sriram said...

There is a perverse pleasure to be had in not blending in and establishing a unique identity!

The maid servant saga is pretty common across the board, doubt that it has anything to do with your ex-Bangkok status. I'm sure that my grandmother would have fainted with shock just hearing about how accommodating and flexible one needs to be in order to continue to retain their services!

Arun said...

Ouch!- the bubble bursts!!- even on short trips to India one moves from being seen as "One who lives abroad!" to "Chalo, bakra mil gaya...!" in a very smooth and seamless fashion. But when resettling after 20 years it must be Bursting much more explosively!!

Mukti said...

When we start living in a foreign country, you rely on advise from those who have been there earlier. But it takes almost no time to adopt to the new conditions. But I guess it is more and more difficult when you go back to India. It might have to do also that our expectations are higher in our own land. Uncle, I hope people like us would rely on your experiences when we plan to move back. I am sure that you will find your own world soon.