Making choices

The day you get your permanent residency is a very important day in an immigrant’s life. Today is that important day in TCG’s life and mine, thank you.

This means that we get to live in New Zealand for as long as we like, without having to worry about our visas anymore. It means that every time we go overseas and come back to New Zealand, we don’t have to stand in the long common queue for international visitors; we get to line up the ‘Kiwi’ queue, which is smaller and faster of the two queues. Cheap thrills, I know. I am silly that way.

It means that, God forbid, if we lose our jobs, we don’t have to pack our bags and go home.  It means we know which direction our life will be moving in, at least for now. It means that the uncertainty hanging over our heads is laid to rest, and we can focus on having small to medium term goals and achieving them one at a time; until it is time once again to do some serious long term thinking like where we eventually want to live; New Zealand, India or elsewhere, whether we want to buy our home here or in India, whether we want to raise our child (when that happens) in a foreign land or homeland…

But for now, we are happy. The dream we were after for so many months, has finally come true.  And it has put a lot of things in to perspective. We have some clarity now and we are no longer insecure about immediate future. It means I will have better job prospects, and I can perhaps hope to get a job of my choosing.

It also means having to decide whether we want to continue living in Wellington or move to Auckland. TCG and I have been toying with this idea for a while now; we haven’t been able to come to much of a conclusion.  You already know Wellington is a cute, little compact city with the best of both world. It has the glitzy city charm with its quaint cafes and popular clubs, as well as the laid back country side to it. It is big enough to find all modern-world pleasures and small enough to reach anywhere within measured time.

Auckland, on the other side, is the biggest city in New Zealand with the third of the country’s population living there. It is highly metropolitan and home to all the cultures of the world. It’s faster and glitzier and offers little more opportunities to do things on weekends. TCG has lived in Auckland for over two years, already has a thriving social circle (which sadly we don’t in Wellington) and knows the place too well. I have never lived there, and knowing my love for big cities, a part of me aches to give that city a shot. We would earn slightly better than we do in Wellington, but that would be set-off against higher rents and added costs of living. Living in Auckland will also mean accepting that traffic jams will be a part of our lives once again and we might not be lucky enough to stay close enough to work like we do in Wellington. Which in turn would mean spending an extra hour or two commuting at the cost of missing workouts. But if we manage to find good jobs, and a right place to live, it would mean a better way of life. And oh yes, it would mean saying bye-bye to cold, harsh and windy Wellington weather. Auckland is way warmer.

The reason we can’t decide is TCG has a hi-profile job here in Wellington; I, on the other hand started at the bottom and am making my way upwards slowly. My current employment contract ends in a couple of months. I have been working here for a year, and have hopefully gained ‘enough’ kiwi experience to get a slightly more interesting job.  There is a good chance that I find something of my interest in the very same organisation by the time my existing contract ends. Am I prepared to forgo a year’s efforts and start everything afresh yet again in Auckland? And would TCG find an equally satisfactory job? He quite enjoys his present job. We keep going in circles without making any headway. We are tempted but we don’t want to make any impulse decisions. I know it will boil down to prioritizing what is important to us, but it seems scary because lot is at stake.

Hopefully, we will figure out soon!





Living abroad

Each one of you, who thinks that living abroad is glamorous, let me put it out there. Living in a foreign country is certainly not easy. It sure has its own perks, mainly depending on which country you live in, but it also has many downs. It really brings out those hibernating aspects of your personality that you thought didn’t exist. It tests your endurance and it tests your willingness to change and adapt.

Living abroad:

Means that you find yourself to be in a socially awkward place very often.

Means you don’t get their local jokes and you have to take cue of other people’s laughter and laugh along in order to not look like a fool.

Means struggling with their accents. Here in NZ, for example, ‘a’ is pronounced like ‘e’ and ‘e’ like ‘i’. ‘Later’ sounds like ‘Laiter’, ‘ladies’ sounds like ‘laidies’, ‘Jenna’ is ‘Jinna’ and ‘yes’ sounds like ‘yis’. Dear Lord, it’s difficult. These are the things you only begin to understand after a while.

Means dreading phone calls because you just don’t get their accents right. It means having to use phonetics even to get their names right. It means asking them to repeat more than a couple of times and imagining their sighing faces on the other end.  It means losing out the main bits of the conversations.

Means trying too hard to make new friends only to realise that it’s too much of an effort to actually start developing a bond with them. You realise too soon that finding like-minded people is not easy. And you soon start preferring staying at home than making forced attempts at friendships with people you share little in common with. It takes a loooonng while before you really can find company that you would like to keep.

Means sleeping on ultra-soft beds that give you a sore body each morning. You start missing your bed back home terribly.

Once the novelty dies down, the sudden realization one fine morning that your parents are miles away hits you hard. You miss them. You miss your dad’s constant nagging. You miss you ma’s dal chawaal.

Means missing your friends, their weddings and feeling helpless and miserable.

Means missing the general buzz around the city you grew up in.

It means fighting the sudden craving for a samosa or a wada pav, and making do with a sad burger.

It means missing out on Bollywood movies.

It means not being able to watch ‘Comedy nights with Kapil’ in real time.

It means *sob, sob* missing alphanso mangoes.

It means having to answer all your new acquaintances in the foreign land questions like:

Is India really how it is shown in Slumdog millionaire?

Are there camels and elephants on the roads?

Does everyone in India practice Yoga?

Have you met all the Bollywood stars?

Do they really have arranged marriages in India?

Do you have internet in India? Seriously??!

Do you have wifi then?

Do you use curry powder in all your dishes? Can someone please tell them there is no such thing as curry powder. Who invented this term curry powder? What they know as ‘Curry Powder’ is essentially just a mix of all the spices. That people don’t use curry powder in India. Can someone please also tell them that every Indian dish they eat is not called a curry? And while we are on the topic, can someone please tell them that there really is a world beyond chicken curry. They might not believe you, but still try you can!

And the clichéd:

It obviously means doing your own cooking. There is no mom to pack your lunchbox or to make your meals or to run behind you with your handkerchief and your wallet and your socks and your water bottle. I know many adults who are guilty of this. And I also know that many moms usually don’t mind this, no matter what your age. It’s a very Indian way for moms to show their love. REGARDLESS of your age.

You obviously know about doing your own dishes, cleaning, your laundry, and the dreadfully boring task of ironing on a regular basis.

Grass is always greener on the other side, my friend!