My thoughts after a year of moving back home and living in India
The other day I was visiting family, when one of the hosts, said, “ So how is living in India like? Adjusted?”.
I shrugged suggesting I had no answer for her.
I also shrugged because there would be no particular answer that would satisfy her, except- “Ahh I don’t know.. India is tough!”.
So how has living in India been over the past year?! Well, for starters I wrote an entire post about this transition here . BUT of course I have some more thoughts- I survived a whole year! If anything, I think this calls for some drinks and a blog post filled with major learnings to celebrate!
To mark this momentous time of adulthood transitions, I have categorized my staggering realizations into different buckets for the ease of reading! Documenting this is a personal reminder that I am trying, processing and getting used to my new normal.
A gentle DISCLAIMER: IF at any point, you have a passing thought of, “Wow, this girl is an overthinker”, then you are precisely right. I can’t pen down the depth of my thinking, but I sure can walk you through my discoveries in this post.
You are on edge every single time
Amidst a diaspora of people from different social strata’s and a plethora of opinions, India keeps you on edge. Maybe that’s why I struggle! The second you move out to more developed countries, you almost easily adapt to their culture. Its either like-minded people or people you don’t get along with. Life is mechanical, standards are set and settling in is an easier process.
But India is a different. Every time you think you may have found a common ground with a new person, you realize they’re trailing behind in one department. Or worse off, you yourself have no idea what they are talking about. Everyone has a different experience and everyone is trying to climb up the ladder.
There are no rules in the game. People are constantly discovering unconventional ways of moving up. Maybe that’s the beauty of living in a growing economy. Sometimes, there’s no sense of contentment, because everyone’s too busy working hard and making money.
The sooner you adapt, the quicker you feel at ease with the chaos.
So my #1 lesson learned here is: You either sink or swim. One thing is for sure- you cannot come in with predetermined standards and expect people to listen to you. Especially if you’re a foreign return! 😊
Where there’s a family, there’s ALWAYS extended family
I have aged, physically, well ahead of my actual age, due to the volume of family murmurs I’ve witnessed. And I have fallen behind, intellectually, because of the petty issues I have crashed landed into solving…All because there’s always an aunty or uncle stirring the tea on a family WhatsApp group (If you know, you know…).
You better believe your parents and their siblings are on their phones conducting a post mortem about it too!
Our culture is heavily community oriented. A general trend is if an incident doesn’t fall within the “acceptable jurisdiction” of behavior, then it will be blown out of proportion. Everyone has something to say and it wont stop until it erupts into a clear misunderstanding.
The dark side of the everyday family drama, is its impact. Unfortunately for those of us kids living with our parents, we fall straight into that bait.
Truth is, neither do we care, nor do we want the burden of others’ expectations. But any time us kids voice this, the only rebuttal we hear is “ But are you NOT a part of this family? Do you not care when one of us is struggling?!” The best advice I’ve received is laugh off at the immaturity and hypocrisy the older generations ooze. There’s clearly no win-win.
Lesson #2- Extended family is the boon and bane to an Indian household. To manage them is an impossible task, to ignore them is even harder of a task!
The freedom to do as you please on your home soil
The ability to do as you please as a citizen of your country is a remarkable feeling. It feels like a ton being lifted off my chest after years of being caged in a foreign country as an international.
When people ask me how I feel about moving back home, THIS feeling is what I want to explicitly express. Its not something most people would understand. But I have thrived in an environment that doesn’t punish me with a ticking time bomb of days left in that country if I do not have a job. It feels liberating to operate in an ecosystem that’s encouraged me to “take my time”. And that is something I NEVER experienced in my years abroad. There was always a looming fear of losing everything in a jiffy!
I am truly relishing my opportunity to explore and live without fear of a mere “visa”. It’s a gift, I never take for granted!
Lesson #3: India has provided time for me. And the comfort of being home has built the platform to think beyond a quintessential path forward.
The reverse psychology of the parental generation
Middle class Indian parents and their friends are the only truest and loudest proponents of living and settling abroad. They believe more in “The American Dream” than their own kids! A lot of them take pride in saying, “Yes, my children live abroad. They work for a (insert big boring tech company) and make couple hundred thousands a year…”.
They’ve also successfully built a complex for people who’ve moved back to India, as failures. So while most parents are excited to have their kids come back home, Indian communities on the other hand, have just one question in their mind, “ But why are you coming back to India?”.
For context, I recently even had a couple, who I only met once in my life, gasp in shock when I said I moved back for good! My own parents dillydally between “My daughter is setting a precedent by building a successful life here” vs. “Are you sure don’t want to move out for your masters!?”
I lost a couple pounds just trying to reason with my move back, but at some point it can frisbee back to rattle your own confidence. It’s hard when you build the courage to take a bold step and yet everyone around you believe that you are wrong. But one thing that gives me strength is that I am for now, doing what I think is right. Not what others think is right.
The eye opening Lesson #4: Satisfying the expectations of Indian parents and the broader Indian society is a tough task. Especially when their expectations of success is cookie cutter. But truthfully there’s more kick in doing what you believe is right in the midst of folks who believe otherwise! 😉
Being a 20 something woman in India is not easy
Let me break it down plain and simple: Our society will never burden a 24 year old man, as aggressively as they would a 24 year old woman, with looming questions about their next steps in their life.
If I had a dollar for anytime someone asked me if I wanted to “work or study” with an obvious you-have-to-pick-study-otherwise-you-are-a-failure-face OR when they say to you that “you have time” before you get married, I’d be a millionaire.
To the Indian society my gender and my age somehow determine my next course of action. Which seemingly look as bleak as either getting a masters or getting married. Every time I prove that I am force to reckon with, I somehow feel an internal conflict between falling behind the “Indian society’s prescribed timelines for successful women” and standing up for myself and my journey!
I’m lucky to have a supportive family. But even with that, I feel the pressure of timelines creep in, because our society lives and breathes down a woman harder than they do on a man. To be a woman AND think out of the box, is not something our families are used to.
But this has been my outlook: It’s not my business to tell the old farts of our society to color their grays at the risk of looking older than they already are, as it is not their business to dictate the terms of how I should live my life.
So Lesson #5: You can be as independent as you like, but as a woman in India, you can never escape the million viewpoints on how you should lead your life after 25! I say, lift middle finger up and give it back to them. ;)
In a nutshell:
It’s not a red carpet entry. At times, I can’t help but compare snippets of how I lived carelessly there and how I overthink here. But what’s been revolutionary, is now, I have the opportunity to compare and contrast with live examples.
I have lived not as a tourist or a guest, but as an owner, a citizen and a non-resident. And I know it builds character. There’s no winner between moving home vs living abroad.
While I know India is changing, I do think there’s immense room to grow. Processes are adapting and I hope people do too, in due time!
My only takeaway is that a year at home has given me incredible bits of learning. I have grown closer to people, built relationships and understood cross country dynamics. Its all extremely intriguing.
So whether or not you are convinced of moving back home or to a foreign country, I do hope this serves as a reminder that there is a whole world out there beyond your little bubble!