Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Home is where the heart is

I have decided to take my return to India a second time as a first-hand evaluation of where I see myself: physically, personally and professionally. Until now, I have just been led where my parents decided or where my educational pursuits landed me. I have seen my perspectives change remarkably as now the responsibility for my life and my decisions lie with me.

It sure has been intimidating to see how the city I called mine, Mumbai, doesn’t really accept me…and can even crush me to despair. Human life is not valued and I have failed to see any personal bonding between people, beyond a measure. Maybe this is more a ‘city’ phenomena that even relationships ultimately come down to business. A rat race it is, for sure.

Daily life is a struggle in Mumbai. A 15 km stretch of drive took me 3 hours. I felt sorry for the people crammed in BEST buses still struggling to make it home at 10 pm on Friday. TGIF?!!! Does that concept exist for the common man? Not that this is new to me…I have been there, done it before. However, increasingly I feel the futility and lack of productivity of such activity. How do you retain the ‘LIFE’ in your life?

And this mad rush is to make a decent living as inflation sky-rockets. Never thought I would be affected by what ‘aadha kilo tamatar’ or ‘ek plate idli costs’. Increasingly, I have been able to digest 'these' only when I convert the prices to US dollars! Don’t even mention housing costs. Even as I ponder over my sustainability in such conditions, the rich-poor divide has increased to proportions that may rip the society apart.

Not all’s done for though!!! The simplicity of daily life, relationships and communication quite literally color any hovering grey clouds. In the midst of the traffic mayhem, I did spot a couple relishing Matka Kulfi off the road, as it rained incessantly. Seeing friends laughing and chitchatting on their way to Ganpati Mandir late on Tuesday might brought back fond memories. Guess a lot can be said for the simple pleasures and the sweet nothingness of life. The power of local networks you develop is reassuring too-it was heartwarming to see everyone from the jhaaduwali, electrician, cable wala, and bhajiwala delighted to see us back after a year; and for the sandwich wala to remember my preferences: ‘butter nahi, chatni kam’!!!

The ‘sugar and spice’ of this all makes me wonder- where exactly is my home; where should I choose to belong? The saying ‘home is where the heart is’ acquired a new meaning for me. I have come to believe that home is where you find constructive, engaging and satisfying work; and unwavering companionship-no matter the circumstances. City, living conditions, money and so forth are secondary. They help, but rewarding work and a support system can help adjust expectations towards being incredibly happy. I guess those are what I am out to seek…don’t know yet if I am still ‘in transit’ or if I have reached.


  1. Mumbai is not entirely a liveable city. The amazing part is that we do not realize it until we get out of it and experience a higher quality of life elsewhere. It is not just about living in the US. I have long believed that other cities and towns have a better quality of life. Malls and high-rises might be markers of a standard, but that does not guarantee quality. When we lived there, we were sucked into the daily chaos and we managed to find discipline in the chaos and feel proud about it! It is admirable about how people in Mumbai manage their lives mostly spent traveling in polluted sweaty dirty air. Safety as an issue is never on their mind, but that I believe is a collective Indian mentality that fails to soak and absorb the notion of road and rail safety. What I find most tiresome is the Mumbai refrain of resilience, and the false pride that it is the best city. It is not, and high time citizens realize it.
    This was a good place to rant. :D Love your writing. Keep it coming!

  2. yo jain !

    not trying to say anything about the rest of your post, but i think i like your first para super-best !

    good luck. and a general comment: try to see if you can find a more readable/simpler URL. your blog title is good but the whole thing need not appear in the URL. Do it before the blog becomes famous :)

    - Sheraton

  3. Yup Harini....think people just get along with the way things are. Thanks Sharath for caring to read! Am having a hard time getting people to read...forget becoming famous!!! At least it made me realize the value of reading someone's blog...will get to some of both of yours soon!!! SWill figure out the technical details before my next post. Thanks!

  4. Anita- Lovely writing.

    I find that the real India is best explained through the lives of the lower middle class. My maid in India gets a monthly salary of about 6k to support her family of herself, her 2 daughters and her mum. Not once have I heard her moan about lack of money. In fact she is always very neatly dressed, her kids are educated, well fed and well clothed, she has an active social life and celebrates everything addition to paying rent of almost Rs 1500/month.
    Her earnings are well below the supposed poverty line which could translate to a miserable life....but that is so not the case. In my view life in India revolves around family, food and religion and people who are fully involved in these lead a very high quality of's interesting to see that money doesn't figure very high up in the list!

  5. Thanks Ramya for caring to read!! Yes, I agree with the way you have summed it up at the end.