Home and back again

I know this post is long due. I know you have been good and waited so patiently to hear about my big trip home. I hope that each one of you has had a relaxing break and that each one of you has a great year to look forward to.

Truth be told, I have not only been extremely busy on my return, I have also been a bit scared about doing this post and confronting my feelings. Because there is a truckload of thoughts to process.  My mind is a landmine at the moment, ready to explode, if only i’d rock it a bit. But I sure can attempt to share a few highlights from the trip. It was one hell of a whirlwind trip.

The moment I saw my family at the airport is the moment I realised how much I had actually missed them all long. I was seeing them after almost a year. That’s a loooooooooong time. We didn’t bother to hold back our tears. And a few hurried hugs and kisses at the airport pick up point certainly didn’t seem enough. Hasn’t Karan Johar told us that it is all about loving our family?

The chief reason for this big trip home, as you already know, was the upcoming wedding of my brother-in-law. An event we were all looking forward to for so many months that we were tired waiting for it and just wanted it to arrive soon. We were a bit jetlagged, no doubt, but the endorphins kept us going. The first few days of our arrival before the wedding obviously had us running from pillar to post: to the tailors and to the salons and to the market and the caterers, the decorators, the photographers, and what not. Running zillion errands, last minute shopping, fittings and trials, bringing the whole mad house under control made us completely lose track of time until the day of journey to the far, faraway destination was finally upon us.

And how did the wedding go? Oh, it was beautiful, the journey, the venue, especially the gorgeous bride, the arrangements, the food, the dance…it all surpassed our expectations and had our guests grinning from ear to ear. No major hiccups, no glitches whatsoever! And what a big task that is to achieve when you are travelling with the entire baraat for two days non-stop. A few sparks are bound to fly, someone bullies, someone gets bullied, but it was all in good humour.

Soon upon my arrival back in Mumbai, we had yet another major wedding to attend. That of my first cousin. It wouldn’t be wrong if I said that in the past decade or so we have literally grown up together. We lived in the same neighbourhood, which obviously meant catching up with each other on a daily basis and sharing all kinds of stories, secrets, clothes, moments and many, many jokes. It is the kind of bond that only sisters can share. It was hard to see her go. I was simply not ready for that. And the knowledge that she would be moving to a different continent altogether was no comforter either. Thanks to Skype and what’s-app once again, we will survive. Thank God for technology.

Then came my first wedding anniversary. Looking at our busy schedule, I didn’t really expect it to be a biggie. But I was wrong. TCG whisked me away to one of the most exotic and classic hotels in Mumbai for the night and pampered me silly. Between gifts and hugs and over a 3 glasses of bubbly, he said all the right things that I wanted to hear so badly and made my day. I know I should have given him more credit than I did. Looking at our busy time, I really didn’t think that TCG would go to such lengths to make that day so special for us. That will remain to be the most treasured memory of this trip.

Soon after this, we braced ourselves for the big trip to Kutch. By this point, yes we were a little tired, yes we were sleeping very less, yes we were constantly squeezing in time to meet all the people we wanted to really catch up with, yes it got painfully hectic, so much so that we had to literally stick to a timetable to be able to squeeze in all. But the endorphins kept us going. This was my only chance to purely ‘family time’ and I wouldn’t sacrifice that for anything. TCG’s family and mine were together on this trip and I, for one, had the best time of my life. We visited the breathtaking ‘Kala dungar’ (Black Mountain) and the enchanting ‘Safed rann’ (White desert) and marvelled at the beauty that nature is. If you haven’t been to these places, I would definitely encourage you to go there. Several hundred photographs, entertaining conversations around bonfires that we had going every night to keep away the chill, awesome food and treasured moments with my families are the moments from this little trip that I have locked away forever.

After this trip was my last week in India, which I planned to spend at home in Mumbai. But I have two homes now, the house I grew up in and my in-law’s. And I was torn between the two. This was my first trip home after the wedding and sub consciously whenever I thought about home I thought about the home I grew up in, and not my in-laws. And that I think is natural. Even when I was visiting my parent’s home, I had so many things to do, and there were so many guests who visited that I never found any time at all to sit down peacefully with my folks alone, undisturbed, forgetting the new responsibilities that come with being married and asking them how they really were doing without me. I couldn’t ask them if they missed me, I couldn’t ask them if they were doing fine, I couldn’t ask them about their health, I couldn’t ask them about the new developments in their life. There was no time to do any of that.  It pained me to think how marriage has changed the nucleus of life. I know that my parents had been looking forward the whole year to spend some quality time with me, but that could not happen.  There always were people around; there always were things to do. The part that hurts me the most is that I could not find one private hour to spend with my mom and to take stock of her health. And imagine my guilt when I found out, soon upon my return to New Zealand, that my mom was admitted to the hospital. I felt terrible.

I know in my heart that ever since marriage, I have prioritized my marital home over my parent’s. I tried my best to give neither side a reason to complain. And I know for a fact that if anybody at all; it is my own parents who would have received a step-motherly treatment from me because I was always prioritizing my new family. But I guess that happens. I guess that is the called being ‘grown up’. I guess that is part and parcel of marriage. I went out of my way to make things happen seamlessly and to supervise and coordinate all the wedding-related and other arrangements. But I may still have fallen short. Some things may have slipped my mind, given the fully-packed nature of this trip. I may have overlooked a thing or two and I may have hurt some feelings unknowingly. And often the things you miss are the things that people take notice of. Right?  What can I say? I did my best. But I really hope I have given my fair share of time to all who matter. I think, every married Indian woman living overseas and visiting home once a year would be facing this dilemma of dividing her time between two homes. It sucks, doesn’t it? Being all grown up and responsible…not fun!

One of the most irritating and painful lows of this trip was a bad case of my dental health. About ten visits to the dentist, two ceramic fillings and one root canal is definitely not something I had on my itinerary at all. It took up a lot of my time, my mindspace, money and patience. And even upon my return to New Zealand, I still have one rigidly sensitive tooth that has just stopped obliging and behaving. And that it will cost me a bomb to get it treated here, is not in the slightest way comforting. Buying a ticket back to India and getting my tooth treated would be cheaper. AND I AM NOT EXAGGERATING!

The hero of this trip was my brother, silently slogging, chauffeuring us through heavy traffic, taking us around, helping us shop, lifting our bags (not literally), bringing us things, and overall just helping us with everything possible and treating us like we were the most important people in his world. He never once lost his cool. Vishal, you are the most amazing person in my world, and I miss you the most.

And since I am in the mood of giving credits, special mention of TCG is a must. He single handedly overlooked all the travel, all the wedding arrangements, all the coordination, and in addition to that all the very boring documentation work related to our visas. He with is Zen-like qualities is the epitome of patience and calm. I wish I could have a part of that at least.

It felt like the month raced past us in a blink of an eye. Waking up in Wellington felt unreal.

2013

I know this is a month too early. But this is as good a time I would get in the next six weeks (Yes, my big trip home back is finally here and you don’t expect me to blog during my vacation, do you?) and I cannot say good bye to 2013 without this post.

This is a post reflecting on the year that went by in such a rush. I feel like paying homage to a beautiful year that is (was) 2013.

Some much needed pondering on the hits and the misses (not too many thankfully). Things that went well and things that didn’t quite turn out as desired.

This post is a summary of sorts that I can attach to 2013 much for my own keeping than for anything else. Something to read on, years from now, when fading memories would need a refresh.

So here goes.

2013 started with a bang for me, as I gingerly entered marriage-hood.  Far from being the demure, shy, nervous, unsure bride, I was more like a confident, relaxed bride who was a tad bit bored of answering the question about post-wedding jitters and difficulties settling-in in a new family. Which should go a long way in saying about what kind of people TCG and my new family really are! Even if I counted my blessings each day (which I do), it wouldn’t be enough. They welcomed me in to their home and their hearts and strangely I never felt out of place.

February had me bidding farewell to my family, my city, my country and all that I had cherished all these years of my life. I thought it will be very difficult, I thought I will break down at the airport and it will turn out to be quite a teary good bye. But much to my utter, utter surprise, I was able to hold up quite well and so was my family. They didn’t cry, at least not in front of me; and I hope they didn’t later. I guess it was the initial excitement of the new life that awaited me. But as time went by, their absence has been a constant hole in my heart. Not being able to see my family has been the hardest part of 2013. Thanks to Skype, I am surviving. I am guessing farewell this time around is going to be a lot more difficult.

I spent about a month in Singapore with TCG’s family much like an Alice in Wonderland without the husband around. It would have been ideal if he was there too. But there is nothing to complain, it was time well spent, and there wouldn’t have been a better time than this to be inducted (very formal but a befitting word) into the family. I had a great time discovering Singapore and my new family.

I flew down to be with TCG in March and oh boy has it been a roller coaster or what! My world changed. From a crowded, lively, vibrant, hot, humid, vast, fast and cosmopolitan place that Mumbai is, I was suddenly in a windy, cold, sparsely populated (anything is compared to Mumbai!), small, compact, laid back, slow and relaxed place that Wellington is. Both cities worlds apart from one another in character and strength. From living in an apartment to living in a house by the sea. From aircons to heaters. From summery, cotton clothes to multiple layers of winter clothes. From rains and floods to EARTHQUAKES(?!). From being a friendly, lively, and social Mumbaikar to an awkward immigrant in Wellington who was trying hard to get her head around the place, its people, the accents, the overwhelming newness. From chaat, vada pav and samosa to cheese, crackers and wine. From having a flying career in Marketing to starting from scratch all over again. Has it been easy? Hell no. Has it been interesting and educative? OH YES!

With 2013 I have truly grown a year wiser.  The time I spent with TCG getting to know him, is the kind of time you want to save in a special place in your memory. The time I spent with myself, is the kind I have never spent in all these years that went by; may be out of lack of options, but best time nonetheless.  It’s amazing how much you grow and learn when you are away from your nest.  Qualities you never knew you possessed, show up. Things you never knew you were afraid of, are discovered. Strength you never thought you could muster, pumps in your veins. In the past nine months that I have been in the New (Zea)land (haha, did you see that? I crack my self up sometimes), I have learnt so much. The whole new world opened up for me. I was like a frog in the well, and now I am a frog in a new well.  I feel I have grown as an individual, (re)discovered my passions, spent a lot of time blogging and cooking, travelling and exploring this wonderland that is New Zealand.

About New Zealand – Oh it is so beautiful! You have got to see it to believe it! Cities here have the best of both worlds – comforts and luxuries of a modern city and unmatched scenic beauty of a country side. Tall, glossy, glass buildings on one side, and trees, plants with hundreds of colourful flowers on the other. It’s like viewing a bustling city and vast patches of greenery in the same frame. A place is known by the kind of people it has. People make places. And after spending almost a year in this beautiful country, I can safely say that Kiwis are a lovely bunch of people. Warm, friendly, smiling, greeting, cheering and easy to work with.

Flying back home in a couple of days feels like coming a full circle, like fully completing a whole cycle of transition. 2013 feels like a dream. Could it be that I am actually dreaming and when I wake up I would be the old-me once again? Do I want to be that old me? Not sure. But what better way to end 2013 than celebrating with family and friends?

Thank you 2013. Thank you for being so awesome.

Mumbai

Mumbai

Wellington
Wellington

Growing Homesick

You can take an Indian out of India, but you cannot take India out of an Indian.

Having lived away from my beloved home for more than half a year now, I can’t help but nod in complete agreement to the above. May be it’s the distance that is making my heart grow fonder, but the fact is…it is growing fonder.

Isn’t it paradoxical that we realise how valuable some things are to us, only when we have lost them? I now realise how I have (like many others) taken so many things for granted back home. Small joys, small conveniences, family, friends, flavourful food…the list could well go on.

In most cases, people get homesick once the initial frenzy of new life, new city, new country, new friends die down. Once the initial excitement fizzles out, they begin to miss the old life, the old country, the old city and the old friends. Old is after all, gold.

In my case, I knew from the start…that no matter how well I embrace the new, the old in me is so deeply rooted that it will always be on the ‘snooze’ mode. It will keep resurfacing time and again, reminding me of what I have left behind. It can get so overwhelming sometimes. You can actually watch movies like ‘Swades’ and go all teary eyed. Because you can relate to the story so-darn-well. Not an hour passes by, without thinking about India in someway or the other. No Kidding!

It is a complex set of emotions. I am so happy to be with TCG, to be experiencing everything new, to be enjoying every bit of it, yet at the same time there always is this longing to be at home. Every time I see something new, get to experience something beautiful, see a picture-perfect scene of the endless sky in the myriad of colours, gorgeously contrasted by clear green waters of the sea, I wish I could be with my family. I wish they could see what I am seeing. I wish they were here to enjoy the marvellous view. I wish they were here to comment on how beautiful everything here is. What I am meaning to tell is, all the beauty and all the new experiences that otherwise should have been counted amongst the ‘best experiences of life’ are not so best without having shared them with my friends and family.

It’s funny but every time I hear the word India, my heart skips a beat. Every time we pass an Indian restaurant and see the locals going gaga over ‘butter chicken and garlic naan’, I feel my heart swell up with a teeny weeny bit of pride for my country, though I have nothing to do whatsoever with the evolution of Indian cuisine. I feel like telling each one of them, “hey that’s our food from our humble country, isn’t it delicious?”  May be because there is something beautiful about seeing ‘other’ people experiencing and appreciating what you have experienced and taken for granted all your life.

Every time I read about India in local papers, I inadvertently feel a small tug at my heart. Every time I hear someone saying positive things about India, I feel good about myself. Every time someone shares a negative experience, I feel sorry about it and feel obliged to correct the misdoing. It’s like that figure of speech we learnt in our grammar classes in school – part for the whole. When something is said or discussed about India, I can’t help but take it personally.

Indian food, Indian customs, beautiful Indian clothes (haven’t wore them for 7 months?! What?!! Really?!), Indian movies, Indian festivals, Indian ways, Indian attitude, Indian spirit, Indian jokes…I miss it all. I have tried to keep it alive here, inside me. The Indian inside me is too proud to let all these things just disappear into thin air.

India might have its problems. Its inconveniences, its issues, its peculiarities. But then, which country doesn’t? It is what makes us who we are.  I am so grateful to be born Indian. Things I am grateful for: Reason # 21

I miss you India. I will see you very soon.

A very new beginning…

Ambivalence. This is one word that perfectly describes my state of mind right now. Two completely conflicting set of emotions have parked themselves in my mind. On one hand is extreme happiness for starting a very new and radically different life with The Cool Guy (TCG) that the husband is, and juxtaposed are the feelings of sadness and nostalgia for leaving the old and “comforting” behind.

But who said dealing with change is easy? And bigger the change, more difficult it gets to adapt. Because that means coming out of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries to adapt better to the change. But change is the best thing that can happen to anyone, right? And we always emerge better and stonger. Flowing water is never stagnant.

Like you know, I am born and brought up in Mumbai. Mumbai is the world I know and Mumbai is where the schooling, the college, the job, the friends and the life happened. And sadly, I haven’t travelled internationally at all yet. But The Cool Guy (TCG) that I am married to lives away. Very, very far away from Mumbai. Over 6000 Miles away. About a day away. In New Zealand. Yes, that far. And I am set to join him there very soon. The Visa is in my hands.

But I am a bundle of nerves. It’s a different world. DIFFERENT in capitals. If it was the US or some swanky city in Europe I was shifting to, I would probably have been less nervous. After all, they couldn’t have been very different from Mumbai. A metro is a metro after all. Speedy, crazy, thrilling, offering demanding and satisfying jobs and a stressful lifestyle as a byproduct. Not very different from the life I am used to in Mumbai. I am used to the speed, the craze, the stress, the long serpentine queues, the pollution, the dust, the heat and everything Mumbai. In NZ, life is comparatively slow. There is no rush to get anywhere. People actually “live”, rather than just exist from one day to another.  TCG says that people smile at each other for no reason. (Try smiling at a stranger here in Mumabi.  If you know what I mean.) There is no pollution. Its silent, its serene, its beautiful, its calm, its relaxing. And it is postcard picture perfect. TCG sends me such scenic pictures everyday. Unreal they seem, but real they are. Also, people leave offices by 5. They have a perfect work-life balance. (Try leaving your office at 5 in Mumbai!) What could be possibly wrong with such a life, you’d ask? Nothing I say. Only that I am not used to this slowness, this freshness, this natural beauty, this serenity, this silence or even this balanced work-life for that matter. I am used to the din, the restlessness, the craze, the speed, the hop-skip-jump lifestyle and the accompanying stress that my very metro life in Mumbai offers.

Hence, NZ makes me a little nervous. What if I unable to cope? What if I don’t adjust to the very cold climate? What if I don’t make new friends? What if I don’t get a good job? What if I want to suddenly eat chaat, that we eat off the streets here in Mumbai? I live in a big family here. What if I get too lonely there? That NZ is very very far away doesn’t help either. On a whim, I can hardly come back to Mumbai, just to surprise my family or check on them. I don’t even want to think how many of my friends’ weddings I will be missing.  Sigh!

But, at the same time, I am very excited. To start my life afresh with TCG. He has assured me over and over that everything will be fine and he will try to make this transition as smooth as possible. That he will even cook for me, and clean and do all those erstwhile ‘female’ jobs. I am excited about our new house and about doing it they way we want, the new city, the new country, the new friends (whenever that happens), the road trips, the nature, the beauty, about wearing beautiful winter clothes which I never got a chance to wear hear in Mumbai, and about simply enjoying the marital bliss.

So, I have my fingers crossed. I am really hoping that I won’t cry too much and won’t miss Mumbai a lot.  I am sure I am going to miss my family, food and friends (in that order) terribly and there can’t be a replacement. But I am hoping TCG will fill that void. I will also try and be nice and adjusting and not irritate the hell out of my husband.

Side note: I will have more time to blog and read now. Something I haven’t been able to do as much as I’d like. Yay! May be I will do a whole new category on the new life. Maybe not. Let’s see how it goes. But you can wish me luck.