Monthly Archives: March 2008

On being a Stay at Home Mom in Bangalore.

I’m a Stay At Home Mom for now and am in love with every moment of it, well almost all.  I do feel desperate when K decides to have one of her sudden stubborn fits but overall, staying home in India is fun. In the short duration that I’ve been here, I’ve already made new friends. I keep getting questions on what I do all day long. I actually am extremely busy most days. (Don’t ask me exactly what I do, I have no clue!) I have been busy setting up the apartment and getting things ready before our shipment arrives. I do talk to Moms at our typical Van stop conversations. I do drop in to friend’s places and also got invited to pot luck with Moms recently. It was fun! It is relaxing to stay home.  I do have tremendous respect for Mothers who spend 10-12 hours outside the home, especially with the chaotic commute here in Bangalore. Sitting in rush hour traffic for hours on end is something that I can totally identify with. Not so long ago, I used to have a long commute myself too. I used to drive 40 miles one way to work which took me anywhere between 1-1.5 hrs depending on traffic. I did that for nearly two and a half years.  There were days when I’d get back home and plonk on the couch, tired from the drive.  I can identify with every woman who has to endure such a commute. I’m enjoying my break and love spending time with K. I carried a burden through out the time I worked, one of not having enough of time with K. These days, things are just the opposite. There are days now when I want someone to keep K away from me for sometime, while I recovered from “K Time”. I do want to extend my support to all working moms and would like to tell each of you to stop feeling guilty. Now, looking back, I feel K didn’t miss out on anything because I chose to work. She was fine! Of course, I had to multi task and it was difficult, but it was worth it. We all love our kids and that’s enough for them.

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My experience driving in Bangalore

I’m driving my Silver Hyundai Getz that DH loving bought for me before leaving to the US. I am a confident driver and can drive anywhere in Bangalore these days. The other day I drove from J.P Nagar to M.G Road and got great comments from both Sis and BIL. Now for all those people who are already envying me, here is a story I’d rather not share…

I’m driving and the car stops in the middle of the road! Of course I hit the brakes without changing to a lower gear, for the nth time. The great thing about it being in Bangalore and not Dallas is the fact that people still don’t care. They just move around me and I’m not causing a traffic jam. It’s Bangalore, the traffic is already packed and nobody cares about me.  I on the other hand am at a total loss. By now, I’m panic stricken as well. I’m not sure what gear I’m on and how to proceed. The driving instructor sitting next to me is as cool as a cucumber! He instructs me with his usual set of starting instructions – Neutral maadi, start maadi, clutch press maadi, first gear nalli haaki. I do that, put the car on neutral, start the engine and change gears after depressing the clutch. Now that’s the easy part. Next instruction comes – clutch medhuvagi bittu accelerate maadi. I try exactly that, release the clutch slowly while accelerating and boom I stall again. This saga continues, and I somehow manage to move the car and change to the second gear (the only other gear I’m allowed to drive in by the driving instructor).

Now I make a right turn and of course, I’m on the wrong side of the road. I’m involuntarily keeping to the right and I’m doing it often. The instructor coolly asks me to move to the left and avoid oncoming traffic and I do get a lot of honks from the other side! I tell myself to keep left and kept chanting it like a Mantra every time I took the car out for the next couple of weeks.

 I get home, totally exhausted by the clutch and gear and what not and DH is at the door. Of course, he wants to take our brand new car to Namdhari’s and guess who gets to drive. I complain and plead to no avail. Finally we go to Namdhari’s. I somehow manage to get there, thanks to Sis sitting next to me and guiding me. We stall multiple times in the middle of the road during my drive there and again the Neutral-start-clutch-first gear scenario executes itself couple of times before I finally start moving again. 

On our way back, we are at a junction, where I stop and then have to start moving and to my horror I start slowly moving backwards (I’m on the right gear but why is the damn car reversing!). To top it off, there is a big scorpio inches behind us with another vehicle behind him and oncoming vehicles packed on the other side of the road. He had no way to move out until I move forward and he is not happy. DH is patiently trying to explain the half clutch scenario but I’m not listening. I’m in shock and sweating profusely. I’m really scared and to my relief sis is volunteering to get onto the driver side and drive. I’m asking her to drive but DH insists I get out of this myself. Finally, sis has to hold the hand brakes for me to start accelerating enough to move forward.  Oh, and then I’m changing gears from second to third but oops I’m on first somehow, and sis has to have me depress the clutch while she switches gears for me. All this happened in the 15 minutes it takes to drive back from Namdhari’s.  By now, my confidence has hit rock bottom.

I come home to tell DH that I can never drive a stick shift car again. I need an automatic car or he needs to hire me a driver. I’m not driving the Getz! DH does not agree. He feels I can do it if he can. I give him that pleading look. My now not so Dear H can be as stubborn as an OX sometimes. He holds his ground and I know I can’t convince him otherwise. He tells me that there will be no driver other than me. I either drive the Getz or not drive at all. I’m anxious, really anxious!  Then came the turning point.

Good friends RR and A visited from Chennai. DH drives to pick them up. I always thought I could drive better in India because I’ve driven in Bangalore before leaving. He has been driving in the US for 12 yrs and had never driven in India. I’ve driven there only for 9 yrs and I’ve driving experience in Bangalore. What a wrong perception. DH was confidently driving like a pro two days after buying the Getz and three weeks later, I was still struggling!

RR remarked as to how DH is driving so well and how it took them so long to get back into the zing. Phew! What a relief. At least, there are others unlike DH who felt it difficult to drive.  RR commented on how DH has become a typical Desi driver. I told them about my struggle on the road and sure enough A mentored me. A told me how she took to the road in Chennai only after 4 months of coming back and how she struggled initially herself. RR imparted his wisdom making me laugh. His tips include driving to the far right, if possible on the other side of the road, behaving aggressive, turning on and off headlights and scaring other drives before they scare you and getting out and yelling at the driver in front, if you hit him and even if it is your fault!

 A told me how she drives now, involuntarily and how she got it. I think that was when I truly realized that I could do it. She told me not to be afraid and to take as much time as needed to get the confidence in driving a manual car.  A is one person whom I truly admire and look up to and now I had the determination to not give up.

And sure enough, here I am three months after landing driving just like other drivers on the road.

Thanks to DH for having the confidence in me(when I had none in myself), thanks to A and another friend from the apt both of whom had the same struggles as me when they got back, thanks to the driving instructor who patiently made me stop and start for two entire one hour classes, I’m driving. A week after my Namdhari’s incident DH left for the US and I was driving away to glory.  So all those who think it is impossible to drive in India after long stints abroad, you will struggle for an entire month but it is possible and you will drive so don’t give up. Don’t worry about the traffic, just keep up with the rest of the drivers. If you want to start driving slowly, then Bangalore is the place to be. You can’t drive beyond 30-40 kmph anyway! I seldom drive beyond the third gear myself.  Practise daily and drive short distances regularly.

Even now, when I drive to Namdhari’s I remember my first trip there.

   

Nammuru Bengalooru!

Deciding to Return to India was very easy for me. All I had to do was make up my mind and let DH plan it out after promising him a zillion things that he knows by now will never be executed. Eventually, he decided to plan our return and after a few initially hiccups and a postponement, we made it back! We started the New Year with a Bang by landing exactly an hour past mid-night on Jan 1st 2008, quashing my Sis’s New Year eve plans for the second time in as many years.

As expected, many friends and well-wishers had warned me about all the re-adjustment issues to expect back in India after staying away for sometime. I came with the expectation that it would take me months to settle down completely. I didn’t look forward to the tough few months ahead. I remember friends KG and AJ having bets on exactly when I’d return to the US. I can remember many friends and well-wishers telling us, especially me that I’ll not be able to forget all the luxuries in the US easily. I even began to worry that I’d not like it back and of course DH had to spend some of his precious time, which he would have rather spent on his R2I planning, counselling me and encouraging “MY” decision to return. Of course, I had convinced DH and the rest of the world that it was all my bright idea. What people fail to recognise is that all the bright ideas are mine but the execution genius is of course Dearest DH!

So we landed in Bangalore.

 What I felt at the time we touched down was something I’ve experienced only a few times in my life. I felt very confident about being back. I felt like it was a good decision to have come. I think I really felt like I’m “HOME”. That’s a feeling I never got flying back to the US after spending time outside the country.

And then, to everyone’s surprise, the three of us felt great being back. I’ve never felt better. I’m ecstatic to be back. It feels like I never left this place. We fit in instantly, into the crazy mix of traffic, chaos, still incomplete apartment with lots of work to do etc! The simple pleasures are what I’ve missed the most about Bangalore. So what if the roads are bad and the drivers are reckless, I want to stop driving like a robot and have some fun on the road myself! So what if there are vendors all over with no pavements left, I want to eat the Pani Puris that I so dearly missed! So what if people promise to show up, the first thing in the morning and end up at your door only at 11.30 AM, I want to wake up late. So what if the maid is aggressive and I’m at logger heads with her every single day, I changed maids and got a good one! The best part is that I have the luxury of having a maid every single day. So what if the Iron guy shows up with your clothes 12 hrs late, I want my clothes ironed and it gets done! I’ve not touched the iron at home, yet.

Mom was here waiting for me when I got here.  Even now, I pick up the phone and call Mom and Dad every morning and evening to just “Catch Up” and then as soon as I hang up I call MIL and have another session. I really love being able to do that. Sis and BIL are here 24/7 if I need them. She is in the middle of an important meeting and steps out to take a call from me; I’m calling to find out what’s for dinner! I’m sure she is going to loose her patience one of these days and give it to me. He drives to every nook of Bangalore with us! I remember driving myself to Labour and Delivery to get myself admitted (twice) during my pregnancy with K, in Houston.  Despite their busy schedules, they got my kitchen interiors completed before I got here. And of course, Mom got it stocked to the brim! Her stock calculations are so accurate that I have enough rice until I get back to the US for a month’s vacation next week. I remember running to Wal-mart hours after landing to stock up for the week ahead. MIL and FIL are here now and it’s a pleasure to just gossip with her! I remember yearning to talk to someone while DH was away on a trip and the little one too small to communicate.

I think the silver lining is the fact that Sis and BIL are always around. I needed appliances and BIL’s friend owns an appliance store. We got nearly all our appliances from there with minimal issues! And best of all, thanks to improved customer service, each item was installed by the relevant technicians. There were hiccups with them not showing up for days together to install it, of course, but they came and fixed it for us.  I needed a pull and dry to dry clothes and BIL made sure it came home and was installed the same day. I needed a car and BIL took us around and made us test drive every available car in the market. BIL does have a car dealer friend so it was possible. I needed rides to go shopping, see friends and go out and BIL was around. We all needed rides, to stations and airports and BIL of course, dropped and picked us up. We needed phone/cell phones/ power/internet blah blah and BIL got it for us.(Don’t ask me how, I don’t know.) All this is possible with complete moral support from Sis of course 😉

And they are great baby sitters! K needs a bath, sis will do it. She will get her ready for school too while I’m supposedly extremely tied up in the kitchen! On days that she is not around, I’m miraculously free to get her ready on time. K needs to play, BIL is there. The decorations and cake ordering for K’s B’day party is anyone’s guess. BIL drove with me to get return gifts for the 30 invitees that K felt were her best friends and could not be left out!

I have a feeling that by the end of it all, BIL will be ready to relocate to the US!

K just fit in here. She feels great. She had a B’day at our apt three days back and had 30 kids show up for it, all of them, her friends from the apartment complex! She loves her school. She loves the fact that her aunt spends all her precious free time with us. She loves throwing tantrums when her aunt leaves. She loves her cheriachan(my BIL). She wants him around every single day. She loves playing in the park, everyday. She enjoys shopping in Comm St and all the Malls. And of course, she loves eating all the junk I want to eat. She loves picking up the phone and calling my Mom the minute we have an argument. She loves the fact that she can see her grandparents for every special occasion.

Dear DH is such a sweetheart! He had no complains what so ever. Sometimes I feel K has taken after him. Ganga jaaye toh Ganga das, Jamuna jaaye to Jamuna Ram! Like this old hindi saying(which I hope is correct), wherever they go, they fit in easily. After ensuring we were well settled he left only to call me everyday to “CHECK” if I’m still not missing him!

Well well, all said and done, anyone reading this will feel that life is a bed of roses back home. I definitely had my downs(I don’t even remember most of them now). I’ll leave that for “My Struggles Back Home” write up!

I had a busy three months getting our interiors done and getting a zillion other things organized but I’ve got it all going thanks to BIL and Sis and moral support from both our folks.

Overall, I’d say this…

The sights and sounds of Namma Bengalooru are not the same anymore but the place still has its charm intact that I would identify with any day! I’m Happy here and won’t trade good old Bangalore for any other place on the planet. I really have to Thank DH for returning to B’lore for my sake although his first love is Chennai.