Monday, October 01, 2007

r2Blore is moving

Dear readers,

I have been blogging for about 11 months now. I have enjoyed good readership and wonderful participation. Thank you for your support and encouragement! I wanted to let you know that I am moving bag and baggage; nope, not me! :) but the blog. Yep, r2blore has a new home now. I am working on a site that will house all my thoughts and works. And r2Blore will now be a part of it. I plan to do a lot more writing on a variety of things. The site is still a wok in progress and it will be a while before it reaches where I want it to be. All the posts and comments have been moved manually. So, not everything from here is still there. Hope to see you all there.

For general/personal stuff, go to http://chitra-aiyer.com
For R2I specific topics please go to http://r2blore.chitra-aiyer.com

I will be having a couple of other categories too going forward. You are welcome to email me at chitra [_] aiyer [@] yahoo [.] com if you want to suggest topics, discussions etc. Looking forward to your continued readership and support.

Please point to http://chitra-aiyer.com in case you have me on your blogroll/site/blog.

Thanks,
Chitra

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ganesha Chathurthi

It is that time of the year when Ganesha Chathurthi is celebrated in full fervor in Bangalore. This time the Gowri festival (previous day of Ganesha festival) was pretty much washed out due to the rains. I am not sure if I have experienced such rains in Bangalore before. Resembled India's west coast!! A constant downpour with dark skies for the entire day.

The fun part of the week was to take the kids around to see the sights of the colorful 'Ganesha's in the temporarily setup stores, and all the flowers that were available in plenty for the festival.

The way we celebrate is to get the clay from a potter and make a small Ganesha at home; it is a fun family activity that brings a lot of joy to the kids.
My husband making the Ganesh idol
Along with the flowers, Ganesha is also worshiped with a lot of leaves. I went around with my daughter picking the select leaves. She was very happy to be doing all this, the only thing that ups my interest level in the whole affair. And when we did the pooja to the little Ganesha idol with flowers, leaves, traditional sweets and savories, ringing of the bell, the kids wearing their traditional colorful clothes etc, it was a day filled with happiness and joy. My kids are young and are thrilled to bits seeing such activities around them; the big plus for me to be doing any of this.

The atmosphere was festive in the neighborhood with the ladies hurrying around in their silk sarees, and the kids going around in groups to see the many 'Ganesha's. This is my first time celebrating the festival with hub and kids in India. And well, it was fun.
Happy Chathurthi from our home to yours!

PS: The bummer of course is that I am sick now and so is my son. It is the rains/weather change and the viral fever doing its rounds.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Jobs in Bangalore

One of the most asked questions over email from r2Blore readers has been about jobs in Bangalore. And the ways and means to land one. I will write a detailed post on this topic sometime this month. This post is to let you know that right now, I know a couple of MNCs that are on a hiring spree for their Bangalore offices - for a wide range of positions.
If interested, please feel free to email your resumes to me at chitra [_] aiyer [at] yahoo [dot] com . I can forward the resume through my friends. Please say 'Resume' in the email subject for easy identification. More details via email.

Nope, this is not for any personal referral bonuses etc.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Burrp! turned 1

What's Burrp? Burrp's an Indian website where you can find and share your views on local stuff such as restaurants, bars, nightlife, street food, juice centres, desserts, bakeries, etc. Started in Mumbai, it currently serves Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata.

On Aug 15th, Burrp turned 1. The very nice Meenakshi Goveas who works for burrp in Bangalore invited a bunch of local bloggers, burrpers (people who review for burrp) and blahers (people who write for burrp). It was a small, pleasant gathering. The birthday party was organised at Brewhaha in Koramangala. While it was nice to get an invitation because of the blog you write, it was nicer to meet other local bloggers and reviewers; each one of them having varied interests and passions. More here. Thanks Meenakshi!

The next time you want to read up about a local place before you go there, feel free to visit Burrp and read their reviews. Or if you want to post a review, you can do that too.

PS: If you find articles written by a 'Chitra' in Burrp Bangalore, well that is NOT me. :)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

When it rains, it pours!

Bangalore has been getting some really good rains of late. It has been pouring long and hard. If you are home, it is wonderful of course - sipping tea, enjoying the rains from within the comforts of your home, music in the background, etc.

But what happens to the roads - public's best friend? The city's main roads are in very good condition and the rains don't seem to be harming those too much. However, the way the rains have been pouring, the roads are almost always flooded. See pic.

Flooded

The minute you take a turn away from the main roads, and into the secondary main roads, the bumpy journey begins. Typically the prime main roads like the one in the pic above are also those that have some decent pavements for the pedestrians. From the secondary main road onwards the road is the only place for the traffic, pedestrians, animals, vendors, bus-stops, auto-stands, repair-works (road repair, cable, telephone, water supply) , parking lots .... well you get the picture. And when it rains, not only is all the chaos quadrupled, but the roads also acquire new damages. It is as if the rains are eating away the roads. See below.

Potholes
.
These pics were taken after the rains, not during. You can only imagine these during the rains. Also these pics do not reflect the worst case!

So when it rains, with the potholes, the mud water splashing, the honks, and the infamous traffic jams getting worse, you are in for one heck of a joy ride. Of course, you learn to take it all in, take a deep breath and "inch" forward. And if you are not frustrated, well then at least you are learning to be patient and accepting!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Know an awesome pediatrician?

Practicing in Bangalore? If you know a good pediatrician and can recommend him/her highly, please share the info here in the comments section.

I have been quite disappointed with the ones we have been to. Especially when we went for our son's 2nd year physical check up. He is going to be 2.5 yrs soon. He is due for another physical now and how I miss our earlier pediatrician at Sunnyvale. I have said it before, and I cannot help but say it again. Dr. Kaye would spend as much time as was needed with us. We would go over milestones, height and weight gained, things to watch out for, what activities can we start doing with him to enable his development etc. Anyway, with our boy's 2 year physical, we had none of those. There was no accurate measuring of the height. We didn't go over his milestones. We definitely were not encouraged to ask questions. The pediatrician may be bored with all the intricacies, but this is our boy and no, we don't find anything boring! Anyway, this was the doc that came with a lot of recommendation! So, here I am asking my readers from Bangalore for recommendations. For a physical, I don't mind going anywhere in town to see a good doc. The interaction with the doc during physicals matters to me, a lot! For fevers and other small things, I don't mind going to the guys in the neighborhood.

What I would have liked is for one office to keep tab on the kids. But, I don't know if any doc's office does that. Like for example with Dr. Kaye, once he took us in, everything was taken care of from the day the child was born! Emergencies were attended to. Nurses were on call 24/7. If you had a child, and had good insurance plan, you were taken care of. Period. And at times, when he was not in town, we could meet anybody else from the Camino Medical group. I have not heard of offices here taking you in, as in keeping your child's medical records, tracking his/her progress, maintaining a vaccination record, etc. Do any docs here do that? This pediatrician here didn't even tell us that the next physical was at 2.5 yrs. We know this only because we have an older child!

I have been told how every doc has way too many patients here, be it a pediatrician, cardiologist, oncologist, dentist, anybody. Nobody has too much time for one patient. They have that many patients coming to them every single day! So, I guess individual attention is going to be pretty limited. Please share your pediatric visit experiences in Bangalore and your observations. It will be beneficial to us and some of the readers here too. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nanha Munna Rahi Hun

... so came my 4 yr old daughter singing from school one day! And I was totally taken in by surprise. When had I last heard that song? I tried to recall. Probably in the 80s, when DD was the only channel available and Chitrahaar was a popular family entertainment program. This cute kid in sepia would sing this song with full fervor. And to now hear my own daughter sing it after probably having heard it maybe 2 decades ago, well it was surreal! I had a silly grin on my face. She told me how her teachers were teaching all of them a bunch of songs. And when I asked her to sing the other songs that they had taught, she sang bits of 'Saare jahan se accha' and some from 'Hum honge kamiyab ek din'. This was in the first couple of days of August and of course it didn't take me long to realise that they were practicing for the Independence Day celebrations.

The sights, smells, sounds from childhood pretty much define home for me. As an adult, though the appeal changes and one seeks for other shores and other sights, the thought or the feeling of 'home' always kind of gives the warm fuzzy feeling. Some of the neighborhood sights of Bangalore, the feel of the lazy foggy mornings when Bangalore is still only waking up, the smell of the sampige, all define home for me. In the same way, though I was never raised in Kerala, the smell of the soil there, the total rustic scenes, the tunes of some of the native birds still manage to tingle this one corner of my heart. Similarly for my husband too, things that define home are, I am sure, pretty Indian. Why am I trying to define home? Let's look at it this way. What if we had continued staying in the US? Our kids would have assimilated the sights, sounds, smells of the place they are growing in. Nothing wrong with that. Just that those subtleties would have slowly defined 'home' for them. The sights and sounds in the US are something that we love too, but it would probably never feel like 'home', with such strong competition coming from various nooks and corners of our own childhoods; those are ingrained. And in this 'if' scenario, lets fast forward a few years. Our kids will still be our kids, but with a totally different concept of home, which is probably ok. But, I am quite sure it would not have been very ok for me. 'Home' is a lot more than a 4 letter word to me; 'kids' is another 4 letter word that means the world to me. And to have the kids not even remotely think of 'home' as anything that is 'home' for me would have probably been hard. I don't know. Maybe not too. I may have started defining it differently for myself also. Either way, I still would have had the warm fuzzy feeling for many things Indian, for things from my childhood here. We would have probably sent the kids to a bunch of Indian classes in the US, but unfortunately that would still not cut it, IMHO. And she may have never learnt to sing 'nanha munna'. :)

The world has changed a lot since when I grew up. So has India. Raising them here is still going to make the nuances that form childhood memories very different for them. Irrespective, at least there is hope that the 4 of us - kids, hub, and I - may end up having a couple of common things to identify our childhoods with. And in my old age, when I sit chatting with my daughter/son over some nice hot chai, if we can talk fondly about a couple of things from our past in Bangalore or India, then I am sure I will have our R2Iing decision to thank for hugely. :) What do you say?



Nanha munna rahi hun, desh ka sipahi hun,
Bolo mere sang, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind, jai hind!

Happy Independence Day my fellow Indians! Happy 60th, dear India!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tagged!

I was tagged a while ago actually, but am getting to it only now. Sorry for the delay PoppinsMom and SS. Thank your girls for thinking of me. I must tell you both one thing. I like both of your blogs and can relate to you both. You girls are like my cyber-sisters. :))

PoppinsMom gave me a Thinking Blogger award! Thank you! PoppinsMom is an eloquent writer and is vocal about the topics she chooses to write about. Her writing style is really good too. She is a super-woman who does it all from raising a child, to working outside of home, to having a loving relationship with her hubby dear, to blogging very regularly, and everything in between!

Here are my 5 for the Thinking Blogger award.

  • Usha of Agelessbonding: Of course everybody knows Usha and her 'Agelessbonding'. Usha has been awarded before, but I wanted to give her the Thinking Blogger award myself. I admire you tons, Usha! Love your blog and totally love your style.
  • Vijay of Bangalore Blues: Vijay writes about our city, Bangalore and its issues, but and a big but, without venting! He writes everything with a huge dose of humour. Wonderful. Oh and not to forget his story telling skills. Absolutely delightful narrations from his colorful past.
  • Pradeep of Time and Tide: I have a lot of respect for Pradeep. He ALWAYS has his head on his shoulders. In fact, when I read his blogspot, it is his clarity of thought that stands out. Very mature, and good writing skills.
  • Mumbaigirl: She writes about a variety of things, both from her life and from the happenings around the globe. And whenever I visit her blog, there is always something different there. Very well articulated, her blog is always a fun read.
  • Mahipal of r2i2010: Mahipal started blogging fairly recently. And his blog is geared towards his and his family's goal of returning to Hyderabad from the US in 2010. There is a ton of planning that he is doing to enable the forthcoming move. I have immense appreciation for his earlier investments. He has informative posts about Hyd real estate too. Mahipal, all the very best!
I truly wanted to give the award to you guys. Please pass it on. :)


*********************************************************

SS tagged me for the kinds of people I judge and for the things I admire.

Lets get done with the unpleasant one first. :)

Whom do I judge?
  1. Men who matter-of-factly admit that their folks are not great with their wives and in the same breath say 'but hey that is just the way it is'!!!
  2. Women who openly talk ill of their in-laws to anybody who cares to lend an ear. This is a big one for me. On the same note, women who complain about the in-laws to their moms/parents . I think, this doesn't do anybody any good.
  3. Idiots who drive.
  4. Women who choose to not grow. By grow I mean, 'having the willingness to learn something new'. You do not need reasons to learn a trade, pick a hobby, read a book, watch a knowledge based TV program, anything really.
  5. Neighbors who don't even say a 'Hi'. *Rolls Eyes*
  6. People who do not value their grammar too much. (I am crazy!)
  7. People who are not on the Internet. Not because they do not have access, but because they think the TV is enough!!! I don't even get that.
  8. Older Indians who expect respect just because they happen to be older! What the!
  9. Moms who feed junk food to their kids. Sigh!
  10. Whiners who refuse to see the beauty in life. Life is beautiful, one must just choose to see it.
Anyway, now for the good part. Yay! Things I admire:
  1. Good communication skills - written, spoken, anything.
  2. Good listening skills.
  3. Moms who do their best for their kids. Kudos to you gals and more power to you. I totally believe that the future lies in the hands of the mothers. If we do a good job, we have so much to reap in the future.
  4. Men who actually think they are one half of the whole. Very few do.
  5. Men who do chores around the house, who are supportive of their wives' efforts, and who are great with the kids - theirs and others'.
  6. Good neighborly skills.
  7. People who are in the know.
  8. Kids that are inclusive of other kids. If you notice, a lot of the kids are totally into forming groups. :)
  9. Talent. All kinds.
  10. Patience. It is easy to lose it.

So there, I am done.
And for both the tags - 'Kinds of people I judge' and 'Things I admire' - I tag Vijay, Pradeep, Mahipal, Archana, Sloganmurugan, RK.

Friday, July 27, 2007

If you are into flowers or plants,

then Bangalore is a lovely place for you.

A splash of carnations

Bangalore has been big on cut-flowers and traditional flowers for many years now. The market for flowers is huge here and florist kiosks abound the city. You see beautiful, colorful, fresh flowers just about anywhere - Gladioli, roses, chrysanthemums, orchids, lilies, carnations, asters, and dahlias are a sight to behold.

There are many nurseries too in the city. In fact, every locality has at least a few of them. Right in this neighborhood, there are 3 nurseries that I know of. I am sure there are many more that I am not aware of. My mom used to be big on gardening, not so much anymore. It was fun to visit the nurseries with her, carry back plants, and grow them at home. These days, there are many workers available to work on your gardens. You don't even have to soil your hands! The gardeners do a fantastic job of maintaining your plants/gardens for you and offer their services regularly by planting, pruning, and maintaining your plants for you!

When in the US, my hub and I managed to have a decent number of plants. But of course, we did the entire thing ourselves from bringing home the plants, to potting them, watering them, taking care of them etc. We loved buying plants at garage/estate sales. It was fun meeting the owners of the plants; some of them would gush about their plants before selling them. We hated buying plants at stores, it seemed too commercial! Also, with experience, we realised that the plants from homes survived much better than plants from the stores. Some of our weekends were planned around getting home plants and working on them. It has been 9 months since our return and all that already seems so far away. Sigh! Beautiful memories.

Like the vegetable vendors in Bangalore, you have plant vendors too. They carry potted plants on push-carts and bring them right to your door-step! Similarly, the flower vendors bring the traditional flowers like the jasmine, chrysanthemum, crossandra, etc right to your door step as well.

It is a pleasure to visit the local florist and the local nursery. The colors and the smells are enjoyable, espeically if you are a flower lover like myself.

PS: The much awaited Lalbagh's flower show is right around the corner. It is around the time of India's independence day, Aug 15th. We plan to head out early one weekend morning to avoid the crowds.


Some pics of flowers for your visual delight straight from the local florist/nursery. Each flower pic is clickable and can be viewed large.

Have a great weekend, my friends!
You are welcome to let me know the pics you liked! :D


Gerbera


Orchid


Yellow Daisies


Baby pink carnations


Red rose


White gladioli


Dahlia

Orange Gladioli

Double shaded carnation


Strawflower


Goldenrod

Monday, July 16, 2007

When can a child start LKG?

I have had many queries about the age group for Kindergarten children here in Bangalore. Typically, each school has its own cut-off for when a child can start Kindergarten classes. On a broad scale, what I can say is that a child must be 4 to go to Lower Kindergarten, 5 to go to Upper Kindergarten, and 6 to go to First Standard.

The only thing is there are some schools that are extremely particular about their cut-off dates. For example, at Viday Sagar, the child MUST have completed 4 yrs as of May 31st, to start LKG on Jun 1st of any given year. But, there are lot of schools where they are not very particular and take in even 3 and 10 month olds into LKG. So, if you have a Jun born child, you do have to figure out how to go about the admission process; some of the schools may take in your child for LKG even if your child is completing 4 only in Jun and other schools may not.

In our case, our older one was born on Jun 1st '03. One of the reasons we moved in Oct '06 was to start her schooling here from Jun '07. The process in Bangalore is fairly long, what with schools giving out applications as early as Oct/Nov. Most of the schools are done with the admission process in Dec/Jan. And the important thing to know is, it is easier to get seats at LKG level than at any other. All of the seats are available, unlike for other standards when only a few seats are available for 'outsiders'. A lot of the good schools also restrict the number of students per class, so unless some kids choose to leave school, typically there aren't any seats available at higher classes. First Standard would be next bet, since some schools open up another section to accommodate more students. But from First Standard onwards, the kids have to go through aptitude tests etc to "qualify". So, R2Iing for LKG seemed like a sane choice. Please do share your experiences if you have gone through something similar.


PS: I have been so flickred, it is unbelievable! I have avoided flickr for a long time, because I knew how addictive it could be for the likes of me. But, now with the DSLR, flickr is such a default hang out. Sheesh!
I have not been active here, but I will. I promise I will.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Today is my Birthday!

July 4th - I am 33 today. Typically, I do not write anything at all about myself on this blog, but today I am making an exception to that rule.

My birthdays mean nothing much to me. But, my husband makes it special and I like that. My parents are very happy, and I am happy for them. I understand now what it means to have a child and to know that your child has completed yet another year on earth. My kids wish me and have no clue what it actually means, but I love that! So, at the end of it, the day would have meant absolutely nothing without these people in my life! I love 'em and I thank God for having them in my life!

Some random 10 things about myself, and in no particular order:
  1. I love the movies! They have defined a lot of things for me. I 'get' some of life's important lessons from the movies. Yes, there is the Gita, but give me the movies anyday! I must add that I cannot watch any and every movie. I am extremely choosy, but when I like a movie, I appreciate it whole-heartedly. I love some of the artsy/indie type, and of course I like an out and out romance or comedy movie. As long as they have a message, they have an audience in me. Some of the movies that I have truly enjoyed are listed in my profile, and of course the list doesn't cover 'em all.
  2. I totally believe in love, marriage, togetherness, romance, growing old together, going all out to follow your heart, and all that jazz. People who know me will vouch for how much this is all true for me. That said, it does not mean that I am not pragmatic; in fact far from it! Go figure. :)
  3. For a long while now, I have enjoyed the passing years. The teens and early twenties were turbulent! I have enjoyed the late 20s and the early 30s much more. The maturity and the feeling of contentment have been the big pluses.
  4. I love taking pictures. Dorothea Lange once said "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." That is so true. If you look at things through the imaginative lens of the camera, everything will look beautiful. Of late, I have begun playing around with a Canon DSLR. Don't know how far that will go, but I am enjoying it right now.
  5. I did my B. Arch in college. I chose Archi after my 12th for a variety of reasons; one of them being the creativity and the other being the ability to practice it independently and at a pace that I wanted to. I enjoyed the design aspect of it immensely as a student, but by the end of the 5 years, I kind of figured I had lost interest in the field. Sad! I did practice it for about 2 years, and I am glad I gave it up when I did. I then went off to the US and after doing computer courses, chose to work in the IT industry as a writer.
  6. I love writing. I have enjoyed it all along, but now I know it; thanks to this blog!
  7. I love colors! I appreciate all shades that are in nature. I have always wondered how the blind perceive color!
  8. As for my future plans, I have a couple of ideas, and will slowly start working towards those. And as and when the kids are in school full-time, I will have something going on in parallel.
  9. Selfishness, insensitivity, and apathy are a put off. I am a tad too sensitive about the world around me and can't digest injustice, oppression, harassment, and the rest of it. Sometimes, I avoid news if I have to. Most of the times, I wonder what I will tell my children in the years ahead?!
  10. I am thankful for being a woman. I could have neither experienced pregnancy nor become a mom without being a woman! And I am thankful for both of those, especially because I started appreciating life only after becoming a mom!
When I started with this post, I had no clue that this was what I was going to write! But, I did. And you are welcome to ask me questions. :)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

R2I - Work life, a sneak peek!

Please Note
  1. The following points cannot be generalized; they are just based on my discussions with my husband + a few interactions with some of his friends who have also R2Ied.
  2. All of them work for American tech companies in Bangalore. So, most of the points mentioned here only cover such a typical set-up.

Age: One of the aspects that stands out is the average age of the employees - much younger when compared to the average in a typical US office. Hard to say if this is good or bad, but certainly different! The slightly experienced (3-5 years) software professionals are still aiming for opportunities abroad. In an MNC, it is quite common to find the bulk of the middle management to be an R2I crowd, i.e. a crowd that has spent a significant portion of its work life outside of India.

Work Hours: The good thing is that there are really no "working hours". Most of the employees typically start coming in at around 10.00 AM and end up staying late, whether it is required or not. However, based on what I hear, sticking to your preferred work hours is doable if you are disciplined.
In general, if you are particular about spending quality time with your family, you can communicate with your team about your preferred timings, so that they can plan for meetings etc during the hours that work for you. Typically, it is up to you to convey that you will not be able to attend meetings or discussions that are outside of your preferred work hours.
Sticking to your time is more doable if you are an independent contributor than a manager working in tandem with a team. The good thing is a lot more companies are opening up to the value of individual contributors.
Late night or early morning conference calls that you can attend to from home are a given; a majority of the work at middle-senior level will almost always involve working very closely with partners, colleagues, or clients in other countries.

Commute: On commute, less said the better! You have the choice of living close to your work place, which will work well. And if you cannot do that, you can choose to commute during off-peak hours - before 8.00 AM or after 10.30 AM and before 5.00 PM or after 9.30 PM. My husband leaves home at around 7.30 AM and starts from work at around 5.00 PM and it seems to definitely be working for him, since we cannot live close to his work for other reasons.

Work Culture: Apparently, things are more "casual" at work in general than in the US. People seem to chat and “hang out" more than in a typical office in the US, where people are a lot more focused. This may be relaxing or distracting, whichever way you choose to look at it.
For people who have not worked in India before: Typically people do not address their seniors as ‘Sir / Madam’ in this industry.
In general, there seems to be an eagerness to want the title of a 'manager'. It looks to predominantly be a cultural issue; it is kind of considered that you have “arrived” if you are a manager and have people reporting to you. However, this is slowly changing - where some of them seem to be opting for the role of individual contributors and are also more comfortable with the responsibilities that come with it.
And if there's a cricket match going on (especially an interesting one), things are a lot more flexible. You know how it is with cricket!!

Travel - Overseas/India: Travel of some sort is always a given. And if you are back with work experience from abroad, you are very likely going to be traveling overseas to meet your teams, clients almost on a regular basis. This cannot be avoided too much, and is part of the deal!

Interiors & Facilities: On the whole, very nice office spaces and interiors. In most of the offices, the cubicles are designed to seat 2, 3, or 4 people. Some companies do provide individual cubicles, however these are few and far between. Many companies provide gyms, pool tables, ping-pong tables, carrom boards, fooz ball tables, etc.

Cafeteria: There is good food for lunch in the cafeteria. Usually, you get really good Indian food. Some offices apparently have 3 different counters - one for North Indian, one for South Indian and the another serving "diet" food! (My husband wishes that they serve desi Chinese at his place of work! I am quite sure there are companies where they do this too.) In certain campuses that house multiple companies, there are food courts where different cuisines are served. In general the peak lunch hour is between 1.00 and 2.00 PM.

Please add your own experiences/thoughts in the comments section.

Going forth, I will be writing about work opportunities for R2Iers and also taking a general look at the market salaries for the returning Indians. Watch the R2Blore space!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

R2I - Bangalore: Everyday commute options

Before coming to the conclusion that cars are your only option for everyday commute after R2Iing, let us assess all the other available options. The only public transport that Bangalore has right now is the bus. There are a few kinds of buses for public transport; the absolutely basic blue-colored BMTC buses that you see in the pic below, the slightly better Pushpak buses, and the luxury Volvo buses. Unfortunately, the frequency of these buses and the rush of people in them will make you want to turn the other way when it comes to relying on them on a day-to-day basis. If you are a concerned citizen of the globe and want to really use public transport, you may have to wait for the Namma Metro project to complete. The Metro is made to seem like an all-in-all problem solver to our woes. Like always, I will wait and watch before getting too excited! Also, this project has recently kick-started, so we do have a long way to go.

Since there is almost no public transport option for now, you can consider relying on company provided transport for your commute to work. A lot of the companies provide real nice, comfy buses/vans for pick-up and drop-off. The only downside is that you will have to stick to their timings. But, I do know of people who are able to make this option work for them.

The next option would be a 2-wheeler. If you have been away from India for a while, riding a 2-wheeler may or may not be possible for you. Now, if you are going to be the dare-devil to try a 2-wheeler amidst this traffic, then the next deterrent is going to be the pollution levels, especially at peak hours. The smog will make you squirm on your 2-wheeler seat. My husband was one of those that considered a 2 wheeler for his regular office commute, mostly because he was going to be saving a little bit of time. Obviously, your ability to maneuver is far better on a narrow vehicle. Also you occupy much less space on an already crowded/narrow road, and in turn will help the insane traffic in your own small way. But after the initial few days of observing the traffic patterns, he just gave up the idea! :)
When I see all the bike guys halting at the red-light and balancing their 2-wheelers with their feet on the ground, I worry for the safety of their feet. One of my cousins was at the red light with her feet on the ground, and an auto just went over her right foot. Thankfully, the damage was minimal. Since all the vehicles are just inches away from you or your vehicle, the thought is scary. What if it was a bus that had gone over her foot? And of course, there are still others who have had many a fall from their 2-wheelers. Not to mention the inconvenience during the rains.

If you want to use the autos for your everyday commute, you will have to again cover your nose for the entire to and fro journey because of the vehicular exhausts. Whenever I take an auto, after a few kilometres I notice a fairly distinct smell in my hair; all the exhaust fumes taking their toll! The exhaust fumes also make me feel squeamish. The other factor of course is the meters - you may not want to see the auto meter reading all kinds of numbers, since most of the meters are rigged.
A sea of autos. Notice how our rear-view mirror is broken (bottom left corner of the pic).
A simple mishap when one of the other cars was very close to ours!

Your final option is the car. And because of the unbelievable traffic on the roads, owning a small sized car becomes a necessity as compared to owning a bigger one; your ability to maneuver on the already clogged Bangalore roads is a little better with a smaller one. And of course, you have the option of owning a 2nd, bigger, nicer, family car for your weekends and out-of-town drives since the freeways are quite good. Wouldn't you agree about the small sized car? Or is there any other way to look at everyday commute? Would love to hear your thoughts, more so because I like to encourage a more public friendly commute.

On R2Iing, buying a car will be one of your crucial decisions. The good thing is, there is a fair amount of choice for cars in the market, and definitely so for small sized cars. 'Cars' is an exhaustive topic and I will cover all the options available, over a period of time. I will write about the available small cars in the market when I write about cars next. I will also write about the available cars based on their sizes and their prices subsequently.

An R2I Tip: The traffic is really bad; can't stress enough. See pic below. If you are sure about your R2I plans, then the one thing you can already do is to slowly start losing your attachment to your cars/roads there. Things will not be the same here and preparing yourself for it in advance helps. And when you do get stuck in traffic here, you will have the choice of not letting it affect you. That way, YOU still have the power! And you can take that time to think about your true reasons for coming back. :)
Clogged traffic on Bangalore roads - A common sight

PS: If I sounded preachy in the last para, please excuse me. I hate sounding preachy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer of '07

(Alright, so I have Bryan Adams and his 'Summer of 69' in my head as I type the title of the post. Let it stay that way.)

Since the time I went off to the US, I planned all my trips to India during Decembers or Julys, just to skip being here in the summers, not a huge fan of the heat or the humidity. Also, since we had to make a few trips to other places within India during our short India trips, I was keen to avoid the Indian summers. In fact, when we decided to R2I for good, the Indian summer was a concern for me! I hate humidity that much. Anyway, now that we have been through a summer here in Bangalore, I am glad to say that it wasn't too bad. Bangalore was hot and we did complain about the temperatures during the peak; in fact for about a month or so, it was pretty hot. But we were lucky to get some rains and the temps cooled off tremendously, especially since the rest of the country was struggling through heat waves. We were blessed to have some tolerable temps, sometimes making it quite pleasant too. We realised this more so when we traveled to other much hotter places.
Some near-perfect days

Flora: Only when I was actually here, did I realise the familiar summer floral sights that I was missing being away. Not that I missed them particularly when I was actually away, because California has beautiful flora too. Spring would be awash with various hues and some lovely colors. This summer, here in Bangalore, the Gulmohar, Queen's Flower, Copper Pod, etc were everywhere. The splash of colors was beautiful and the Gulmohar seemed redder than in the past; almost like organic coral sprinkled against the clear blue summer skies.
The resplendent Gulmohar lining the streets, making for some very pretty sights

Fruits: The summer fruits in India are a delight - mango, jackfruit, guava, musk melon, papaya, pineapple, chickoo, palmyra (kAti nongu) etc. Though mango is the king of fruits, and summer is the peak season for all its varieties, I have this weakness for jackfruits. And I hadn't eaten any in all the years that I was out of India. So, I made up for the loss this summer! The nice thing was both my kids took to jackfruits as well. So, I had some nice, crazy company to enjoy this (strange) fruit. Jackfruits always remind me of all my summer vacation spent in my ancestral native, Kerala! Just the thought of Kerala conjures up a splash of beautiful images that mean nothing but home - my beautiful exotic home! Though I am a Bangalorean at heart, Kerala will always be home for my soul. The absolute rustic scenes, the down-to-earth temples surrounded by mystique, and of course the food! Thankfully, the jackfruits were aplenty this season in Bangalore and I had a ball, to say the least!
Yummy Yum Yum!!

We enjoyed some kAti nongu too. Some of the vendors take the fruits out right in front of you like the vendor in this picture.

Summer Camp: Our (then) almost 4 year old daughter went to a summer camp for 3 weeks and within walking distance! I wanted something close by and there was one at the nearest Ramana Maharshi Center. What is unbelievable is the kind of positive influence just the 3 weeks there had on her. She used to take at least about 3 hours to relax and start interacting with non-family members. After the 3 weeks at their summer camp, she was quite comfortable talking to everybody and in a 'nice' way. I am thrilled with this development. At the end of the summer camp, all the children put up a nice show for the parents and family members at their auditorium. Splendid! Our daughter learnt a few of their shlokas, some small dance sequences, and some good social skills. I am thrilled! The summer camp was for 3 hours, 6 days a week for 3 weeks. I paid a whopping amount of Rs. 100/-!!! Unbelievable! (A lot of the commercial places and private schools hold summer camps for 2 weeks or so and charge more than Rs. 2000/-) Overall, she had a lot of fun and loved her summer camp!

Not being sure of how the summer would go, at the end of it, I am happy to say that it went off very well. Isn't that nice .... when you are not sure of how something is going to turn out and later realise that things actually went off well? Applies to all things in life, doesn't it? :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Schools for autistic kids in Bangalore

Recently, I have had a couple of requests from readers of this blog for info regarding schools for autistic kids in Bangalore. This is such a co-incidence mostly because for the past few months, I have had an opportunity to meet and interact with a few autistic kids, and the experience has been quite touching, to say the least!

So, when I got the request for special schools, I set out on this task of finding the most recommended school for special kids, here in Bangalore. I discovered that Academy for Severe Handicap and Autism or ASHA for short, comes with very good recommendation. One of the special education teachers that I know speaks very highly of this school and its founder, Ms. Jayashree Ramesh. And when I spoke with KPAMRC*, they too recommended ASHA highly.

1) Academy for Severe Handicap and Autism (ASHA)
L-76/A, (Opposite to L-50) Kirloskar colony,
HBCS 3rd Stage, 4th Block, Basaveswarnagar,
Bangalore - 560079

Phone: +91 80 23225279 / 23230357
Fax: +91 80 22258103
Email: info@ashaforautism.com


On talking to the nice people at ASHA, I have 2 more special schools for autistic kids, recommended by the people at ASHA.

2) Sunshine Autism Trust
280, 6th Cross, Domlur Layout,
Bangalore - 560071

Phone: +91 80 65360892
Email: rao_vanitha@yahoo.com, Sunshineautism@vsnl.net


3) Apoorva Centre for Autism
c/o Lions Club of Sarakki,
21st main, 1st cross, Marenahalli,
J P Nagar Phase-2,
Bangalore - 560078

Phone: +91 80 65710445 / 9243195154 / 9845076140
Email: apoorva@SAIautismcenter.org

If any of you know of other good special schools, please email me or leave info in the comments section and I will add it to this post. I do not want to add schools that I get off of the Internet to this list. If you have a personal recommendation, that will be wonderful. Thanks!

* KPAMRC (Karnataka Parents’ Association for Mentally Retarded Citizens)
Phone: + 91 80 26564608
Email: jpkpamrc@vsnl.net

Thursday, May 24, 2007

R2I - Together time

Since R2Iing, my husband and I have been able to get some time to ourselves, here in Bangalore. In the US, after the arrival of our second one, we hardly got any time for ourselves. It was one chore after another. I had my hands way too full. And I didn't feel comfortable hiring baby sitters for the kids just so that hub and I could step out. That meant that we had to take the kids along wherever we went, and can you imagine the torment that was for the two of us and the kids! Sigh! It was alright when it was just one child, we did manage to get away on road trips, and even on a cruise once. But, with the second one coming into the household, it was almost impossible for the two of us to actually have time for ourselves. If the kids were older, I am sure any of our wonderful bay area neighbors would have been glad to keep the kids for a while when we stepped out. But, the kids were young and we were really not sure if they would have been on their own with anybody else. But here, things are quite different. Since we have my parents near by, and since they are ever so willing to watch the kids, it is so easy to get a little 'together time'. A dinner or a drive or even a movie together! Especially a dinner, it was such a joke trying to step out with the 2 young'uns. It was so much of work to get the kids fed, that we would hardly even be left with an appetite.

Yesterday, for instance, I decided to go, meet my husband at the end of his work day. His office is half way across town. Given that we have a driver now, (I had mentioned here about hiring one) I did not have to worry about getting to the place in peak traffic. Mid-way, it began to rain. And boy, what a downpour that was!? Nothing was even visible and the roads were almost flooded. See pic below to get an idea.
But, I had no worry in the world. The kids were home with my parents and the wheel was in the driver's hands. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the rains! Such carefree joy! And then, when I met my hub, we went out to this nice Italian place that my husband has been insisting on taking me to. This restaurant, 'Little Italy', was really nice. And through the entire dinner, I was neither worried nor feeling obligated about the kids being with my parents! Here's a pic of the dessert, only because it was lovely!
Brownie, Vanilla ice cream, with sizzling hot chocolate sauce. Who knew brownie was available in India?!

It is also this same 'together time' that we enjoyed in the initial years of our marriage in Calif .... that which I will always cherish. Those were some of the best years of our lives, with travels, on-the-spur-of-the-moment road trips, drives, movies, dinners etc., and to get some of that back is wonderful! Yes, the traffic is crazy, the place ... noisy, and yes the roads have tons of potholes, but if you do get a little time to yourselves with a dash of romance, the rest shouldn't matter too much. ;) What say?

PS: To my readers who are looking for core R2I info, those posts are coming as well! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Funny!

While in the US, hubby and I liked certain brands and one of the brands that we preferred for him was the 'Timberland', especially their shoes for guys. So, he has a few pairs of those. These are primarily designed for the outdoors. He has this particular pair that is quite rugged and cool-looking and he prefers wearing these with his jeans, even to work sometimes.

Now, here in Bangalore, he has this American colleague at work. And sometime last week when that colleague noticed this pair of shoes, with a smile, he asked my hub, "You expecting snow anytime soon?". And the outside temps were in the warm 90s (Fahrenheit) !

When he mentioned it to me, well, we had a hearty laugh ...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The disappointment

Indian politics has been a source of distress for a very long time. We see a few moments of spark at times, and then these sparks die just like the fireflies. I am not thrilled blogging about this, because it is very disheartening.

From the late 1989 - mid 1991 and from mid 1996 - early 1998, when we had multiple Prime Ministers for short durations, I felt very unsettled and disappointed. I was just a teenager during the 89-91 phase, and kind of felt like nobody cared about the masses. It was clear that people came to power for their own selfish reasons. Anyway, then there was some "stability" from 1991 - 1996. And then again we went through a few Prime Ministers over a course of 2 years from 1996 -1998. There was wastage of national money and to think that the very people who were not responsible for their actions and were indulging in 'by-the-minute' coalitions also had the power in their hands was pretty scary! The lack of accountability and the nonchalance were glaring. Now, all of this instability happened right around the time of my cross-over from adolescence to adulthood, and looking back I can see how that phase has a big influence on our perspective of the world around us. The political instability brought about a basic distrust. I had become quite cynical and indifference seemed like the only way out. I was happy to get out of the country, happy to go away to far away America.

While in the US, I was content to just keep track of the happenings in India from a distance. And over a period of time we got involved with the events in the US. We discussed and analysed the political scenario there - Clinton's 2nd term, Bush vs Gore, Gray Davis vs Arnold Schwarzenegger, Iraq war, the varied allegations against Karl Rowe etc. It was an involvement from my head (and not from my heart) and some of the emotions that I experienced were intrigue, anger, sarcastic awe (!) etc. Interestingly, I never 'felt' like how I did while in India; betrayed or cheated or anything as basic as that. Mostly because, as Indians, I don't think we can ever get affected by politics anywhere else as much as we do here. It is just the sense of belonging showing up, I guess.

Since R2Iing, a lot of things have been going on here in Indian politics. And with the recent forced resignation of Dayanidhi Maran over a family feud, the Prime Minister having no say at all in the matter and being at the receiving end of the coalition forces' whims, the feeling of disappointment is returning. (As an aside, it is funny to see how President Kalam is all for the 2-party system, and in the US, people want more choices and not be left with just the republicans and the democrats.) Slowly, I can see that all those feelings that I left behind are creeping back in. At the end of the day, I can sense the same cynicism, and the same indifference. Sad, but true. Sad, because personally I think indifference is the most harmful. Somehow, the years away in the US had helped keep the earlier negative feelings away. I am discovering that the feelings are right there, around the corner, waiting to peep out and give a grand show, at the behest of those in power.

PS: These 3 paragraphs have been quite hard to work on. I know a couple of you were wondering why I hadn't posted anything. From the time the 'Maran' issue cropped up, I have been working on this post!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Flying domestic in des

It was ages since I had been to Bangalore's domestic airport. Recently, we had to make a quick trip out of Bangalore and chose to fly. I was pleasantly surprised to see a whole different airport than what I remember of it from the 90s, when I had been there last. The whole airport was quite clean and fairly organised. Now, we went on a Wednesday afternoon when it is least likely to be crowded, so I have no idea how it is on weekends and other peak hours. I have heard people liken it to local bus-stands!!

Now a days, there are many airlines competing to ferry the masses within India. There's Air Deccan, Kingfisher, GoAir, Jet Airways. Some of these operate very cheap, like the SouthWest airlines in the US. So, a lot of people are able to afford and travel by air. Not to forget, a lot of people make a decent dough to afford it too. All of this, a good thing. I got this pic on the right in a forwarded email from a friend and couldn't believe the billboard competition in the sky, literally. Just goes to show how much of a market there is for flying here.
Image Courtesy: Forwarded Email

After getting off of the taxi, this is the domestic terminal we came to.
The waiting lounges all along the gates. This was more than sufficient on a Wednesday afternoon, but I really wondered how it would be on a Fri evening or Sat morning, especially because of the comparison of the airport to a bus-stand.
The air conditioning worked moderately, so the temps were on the warmer side. I prefer it that way, than see tons of energy being spent to keep everybody cold when it is quite hot outside.

A small shop for snacks. It has definitely lost the look of the old government-type coffee shops.
Unfortunately, I didn't use the restrooms to see how they were. After all, in an Indian government setup, I think, the restrooms say it all. :)

The view from the waiting lounge.
The waiting 'Kingfishers'. Kingfisher is not a low-cost airline and chooses to keep it quite nice for its customers. We flew Kingfisher and were impressed with their timing, service, and their overall working ability. The insides of the Kingfishers are pretty good too and makes flying a pleasant experience.
As we took off, here's a shot of good ol' Bangalore.
There's of course the new Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) coming up in Devanahalli. And when that becomes functional, the current HAL Bangalore International Airport is going to shut shop. I hope they put the existing airport space to good use then. Personally, I would love it if they continue to use the existing set-up for a domestic airport. However, that is not going to happen. Now, what remains to be seen is how we are all going to get to the airport that is all the way in Devanahalli, especially when some of us have to only take a 45 min flight to someplace. Yes, they are planning on an elevated exclusive expressway to the airport. We will see! We have to also account for the time lost in security checks, boarding, alighting, etc. It maybe wiser to just drive down to these towns and cities than fly! What with the freeways being quite good?!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Life, death, and everything in between

Being a fairly young Indian couple in the US, hub and I were friends with people in similar age groups. In fact, I think the oldest person we were friends with in the US was in his late 30s! I doubt if we socialised with anybody in their 40s or older! This was not by design, but just the way things ended up being. Now, obviously death is not a very 'in the face' thing for people in that age group. All we spoke about was the opportunities in the tech world, start-ups, stock market, kids, schools, day-cares, weekend getaways, and the like. Not really vain, but definitely not covering the gamut of life. The only older people we got to mingle with were the older parents of our friends and relatives who were there on a vacation. And even then the topics spoken with them were fairly limited. It would typically be about their tickets, airlines, air travel experiences, immigration, comparisons between India and the US, their failing health, etc.

When it was just the two of us, all this was quite perfect for us. And, because we spoke often to our own parents back home, we would hear of other happenings in our extended families, and neighborhoods. But, after my daughter was about 2 years old, and when she started grasping things around her, I was quite sure that the limited social exposure was just not going to be enough in the long run. Yes, she was going to grow up and meet her own friends and get involved in their lives, but still I really wanted the kids to get involved in the myriad of life's experiences that a place like India offers, more so because we have our family in India. One of the very important events that made this a certainty for me was when one of my uncles in India died. Typically, there are multitudes of ceremonies and rituals that happen after somebody passes away. And if you are in the immediate family circle, you take part in most of these rituals. Now, why are these ceremonies important? I am not sure I am aware of the significance of the exercises themselves; however I know that these events make strong impressions in our minds, and such impressions are very important to our own growing self. When I was a young child, I lost my grandfathers, both in a period of 2 years. I was at an impressionable phase, and I was part and parcel of the happenings around me. When my paternal grandfather died, we had to rush to our native place, because my dad was the eldest son, and hence he had a lot of responsibilities back home. This happened in March, just before my 6th standard exams were to start. Now, I was one of those school toppers, and academics was the most important thing in my life or that is the way it had been laid out for me. But, when my grandfather passed away, we dropped everything, took permission from school and just went. Somehow, that helped put certain things into perspective then, and continues to even now. The entire family had gotten together under one roof and we all went through the motions for those 13 days. I was just a child, but a very observant one. Death is anything but scary even to this day because of those few days in my life. And personally for me, I did not want my kids to miss out on such of life's experiences. There is more to life than what meets the eye! Death is definitely one of the vital aspects of life. I definitely didn't want 'death' to be just a concept; something that happened to distant relatives in a faraway land called India, or what happened to innocent victims of random crazy acts in the US.

Another big factor is, in India, not everybody we know is in the tech industry. We know different kinds of people having different kinds of successes and struggles in life. Again, in the US, within our own immediate tech circle, it was going to be very difficult to bring in a variety for our kids. There were probably 2 kinds of people we knew amongst our bay area Indian friends - the fairly well off and the very well off. But here, I am glad that we know people in all strata/classes of society. My kids get to see my maid and her family at close quarters, and then some relatives who continue to live in our native places and leading very different lives than ours, and yet some that are right here in the city and still leading a very different (read non-tech) life. I cannot be anything but thankful for this exposure that they are able to get without any added effort. I really wanted the kids to grow up with empathy. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to provide the required environment there.

In the bay area, almost all of us threw wonderful birthday parties for the kids. The kids, like butterflies, could flutter from one party to another. Each one giving and receiving tons of wonderful gifts. Every kid’s parents being able to afford it all. That was limiting, very limiting. Also, one of the reasons to return back when the kids were really young; before they start missing out on the "good" things after we returned to India.

The uniformity of every Indian family we knew in the US was very good in its own way. We didn't have to think twice about what was appropriate and what was not. We could talk the same kinds of things with everybody, and have "intellectual" conversations with everybody we knew. That had its own charm. But when it comes to raising the kids, we do have the responsibility of exposing them to varieties of things. Also, the reason why I am not ticked off at the lack of infrastructure here. I really think it is alright to grow up with some short-comings in our immediate surroundings. Nothing wrong with that! We grew up with many, many more, and turned out fairly balanced, IMHO! To not have a little electricity from time to time, to use water wisely, and to not have everything great around you in general, can only add value to their little lives.

All that said, there's really no easy formula to raise kids. Here or there, as parents, we have to go through our own battles to raise our kids, and to raise them well. Hopefully, this decision of moving back will be one of those factors that helps us. Keeping my fingers crossed...


Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hardly any answering machines!

If you have gotten used to the answering machines in other parts of the world, it will take you a while to get used to the never-ending ringing on the other end of the phones here in India. Typically, there aren't any answering machines. Surprisingly, the cell phone services do not include the answering machines by default! In fact, my hub got the answering machine service for his cell, but nobody left him a message because they were not used to it! So, he just went ahead and cancelled it. Sometimes, it gets a little frustrating, because you just have to call back the person when you could have just left a message.

Interestingly, there's this concept of 'missed call.' (Some of you reading this may be familiar with it.) Typically, if a person is at work or some place where s/he has access to make 'free' calls, people call her/his mobile and let it ring once and cut the call. That person then realises that s/he has had a missed call from a so-and-so and calls the person back from the 'free' phone and now both can talk without having to pay for it from either ends! Amazing use of technology!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

6 months later - An R2I look back

We recently completed 6 months of stay in Bangalore. Overall, I don't think there were any major surprises. But for a person planning on an R2I, I think what would be of more interest are the things that we missed the most on returning. I expected to miss and do miss all of the following:
  1. Roads and regulated traffic - The city traffic situation and the road conditions are so bad that going out is not in the least bit pleasant, unlike in the US. No amount of writing about it will paint a picture of how the traffic situation actually is. Whenever I have to step out, I try to almost always do it in the non-peak hours. Luckily, I have the freedom. Unfortunately, my husband who works outside of home has no choice but to navigate the traffic at peak hours. He is actually a very good driver and almost always has driven in India whenever we came here for our vacations. However, these days he is considering getting a driver to help him out. Lets see. Here's a pic from Wikipedia of a city road in SF bay area.
  2. I terribly miss the sidewalks and the lovely walks I enjoyed when we were there. The pic on the right shows a typical sidewalk in the SF bay area. Here, unless you live in a huge community that offers some kind of walking/jogging track, it really is no fun! Sidewalks are non-existent or illegally used leaving the pedestrians to use the roads for walking. The traffic situation is so bad that you have to think twice before stepping on the roads. Add 2 little kids to the equation! Gosh! I am glad we will be moving into a community that promises some of these facilities, because the city doesn't offer the pedestrian any infrastructure. You are really on your own out there in the cramped, jostling city jungle.
  3. Pictures of beautiful parks in Cali is all I have left here. There are some parks in a few neighborhoods here. However, after having enjoyed the lush manicured lawns, the ponds and the ducks, the children's play area, picnic tables, rest-rooms of the parks in the US, it is difficult not to miss 'em. The park you see in the pic below, well we lived right opposite to it.
  4. The entire family misses the public libraries that you find in the US and in almost every city in the SF bay area. I often find myself salivating at the thought of those libraries. The innumerable number of books on every subject, DVDs, CDs, videos, children's books, children's learning material, the quiet, the rest-rooms, the views from the reading areas. Sigh! I would take the kids every week, and we would pick loads of age-appropriate books for both the kids. The kids enjoyed picking them out themselves. The easy use of the online library sites that helped us put things on hold, search the library catalog, etc. And to think that the whole thing was for free! How can anybody not miss it? (I do not have a pic of the Santa Clara city library. If you have one, and if you don't mind me using it for this post, please send it to me.)
  5. Lastly, I definitely miss the doctors back in the US. Yes, I did write here about how cheap the medical care facility was, which I still think is the case. For regular everyday issues, it is still alright to go to the neighborhood doc and quickly get a prescription for our illness. However, the experience of a visit to the doc's office in the US is not available here. We had an exceptional pediatrician when we were there. He was good at his job and was wonderful with the kids. We were so pumped with general knowledge of how a child must be doing at every well-baby check! It was almost a disaster here, when we went for our second kid's 2 year well baby check, because of how little the doctor spoke to us about how our child was doing overall, and if he was meeting all the 2 year milestones.

  6. Adding a few more points from my comments, about the docs there: (Apr 18th 5:15pm) Docs there are easily accessible over the phone whenever you have a question. During both my pregnancies, I was able to talk to my Ob/Gyn whenever I wanted. With both our kids, the pediatrician was so good about returning my calls whenever I called in with a question, that I always felt comfortable about their reliable service. There really is no such procedure in place here for our calls etc. Nurses there are available 24/7 via phones. And when you have 2 young children, you almost always have a question to run by them! All our docs talked to us and acknowledged that we were educated adults who could understand what they were talking about. Their bedside manners is commendable. And my childbirths, well I cannot thank the hospital and the nursing staff enough for my wonderful experiences both the times. The nurses are so dedicated, and the hospitals so clean.

    Also, the use of computers in all doctors' offices. Your 'case' is always stored away and nothing will ever be forgotten, either with your prescriptions or your diagnosis. Especially helpful when it comes to the kids, since their growth charts and general progress are all so well maintained. It is the insurance procedures that are a pain, but the docs themselves are wonderful. We have had to go to a few specialists, and we have had good experiences there too.


So, in all these 6 months, what has been worth coming back to?
  1. Family. It has been wonderful to meet our folks as often as we have. Nothing to beat the closeness, and it is so light on our nerves being physically near and not worrying about their health problems from half a globe away.
  2. Hub and I also think that India offers multiple work/business opportunities to do anything that we may want to. Whether we will make use of the opportunities or not remains to be seen, but at least we are in a happening place. :) And to think that the happening place is in our own country is exciting, to say the least!
  3. All the manual help that we can get very easily here. A maid, or a driver, a cleaner, a painter, a carpenter are all very easy to find and very affordable. Since, you tend to do most of the chores in the US by yourself, sometimes it is so hard to have a life what with the kids needing your attention too amidst it all.
  4. No extra effort to get the kids to talk in their mother tongue. We have neighbors who talk the same mother tongue as us, and then the grand-parents and all the relatives. Helps with their sense of belonging too.
  5. Access to a whole range of alternative medical sciences. There's ayurveda, homeopathy, siddha, unani, and tons more. This works for somebody like me who doesn't believe in popping a pill for most anything. I am glad we have access to so many more treatment options, and not worry about insurance coverage to heal ourselves!
  6. For me personally, the temples! Not all, just those that truly matter to me. In the US, I could not relate to the temples at all, just the knowing that they were fairly new and didn't have a "history". Yes, some of the temples there are about 25+ years old, but really nothing like a thousand year old temple. I can relate better to the 'Gods' in such old temples. Yes, if you believe in God, you also know that God is probably everywhere and without form, but the visit to some of these temples does make a difference in the way I feel. And for not an overtly spiritual person like myself, the 'extras' definitely help. And to think that I do not have to cram up all those visits in a month long visit is wonderful. As an added bonus, the kids love meeting the elephants in these old temples! :)

As a concluion, I think coming back has been good. Though I do miss the things that I have listed, and will most likely continue to miss them, I definitely enjoy the pluses. Also, I think I am happier(?)! There, so that's what it is after 6 months! :) Your comments/reactions please.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

R2I - Tips for an R2I move

In my previous post, I made a list of things that you can take and some that you don't need to take with you if you are winding down and returning to India for good. On the same lines, here's another post with some pointers for your move back home. Some of which maybe useful to you.
  1. Do you have kids? Would you be carrying back diapers for them? If so, use all the diapers that you will be taking back for future use as fillers in packing. They keep everything in place and provide good support! :) That's what we did, and everything came back in perfect shape, almost exactly like how we had packed it back home.
  2. I had already mentioned the shipping service that we used here. They are called WorldWide Ocean and Air Shipping Lines Inc. We didn't have any issues either in the US or in Bangalore. When the boxes arrived in Bangalore, they called hub. He went to the warehouse where custom officials checked the boxes. All this was very easy and there were no problems whatsoever. I have also heard from others that all shipping companies do a good job and typically make it all very easy for the customers.
  3. It took exactly 2 months for the boxes to arrive in Bangalore. So, definitely pack the stuff you need for the first 2 months in your suitcases.
  4. Do see if you can ship your stuff a little ahead of your flying out. The reason is, if the boxes are shipped out, then you can focus on your suitcases. Will contain the chaos. :) We shipped almost 2 weeks ahead of flying out.
  5. I took care of most of the selling and giving away of the stuff in our Calif home. I used 'Craigslist' tremendously for selling things. You almost get buyers for everything.
  6. I was also a member in the local 'Freecycle'. So anything that I wasn't selling and that my friends also didn't need or want, I gave it away to people in the Freecycle mailing list. Very useful!
  7. Another helpful tip: We sold both our cars on Sulekha. Initially, we tried selling them on Craigslist, but that didn't work. Dealers list their cars for selling on Craigslist. This clogs the listings on Craigs Autos a lot. However, on Sulekha it was very easy to find Indian buyers who were honest and who made it easy for us. Typically, they also let you keep your car till the last day and arrage for picking it up only when you are completely done! Awesome, eh?
  8. It will get pretty hectic over the last few weeks; especially the last couple of days. However, do make time to visit your friends and relatives for a goodbye. I think we enjoyed that the best. :)
Anything else? Do let me know.