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Taste of India

If you take 18 as a cut off for being an adult, I have spent 5 years of my adult life in India. The rest of the 18 years have been in the US. The several times I have visited, I have stayed as a tourist, insulated from the everyday business of living here.

This time around, I got a real taste of India. I won’t blame you if you find my post snobbish but I do want to clarify upfront that it comes from a place of observing the contrasting experiences rather than from a place of judgment.

I tag teamed with Aaru to take care of outstanding paper work at a national bank. Suffice to say, customer is NOT the king but on the contrary is at the mercy of the bankers. What had to be a two hour job, to be done by one person, took two days and four people. I am told the experience tends to be positive in a private bank. Thank God for that choice then!

The first time that I heard that children aspiring for IIT and other highly esteemed engineering institutes take 12 to 13 hours of classes per day, seven days a week, I fell off my chair. What an overwhelming burden is being placed on these young shoulders? And it costs an arm and leg. How about folks who cannot afford? Perhaps the specific institute was an extreme example. As I listened more, it started making sense. Not whether it is right or wrong, but about why it is the way it is – a simple demand and supply equation. Too many students, too few seats. It is true that on the other side of the ocean, getting into Ivy league is no cake walk and kids work super hard and get very stressed out in the last two years of high school but somehow there it feels like every person has a space that they can thrive in. I hope that my inference about the dynamics in India comes from not knowing the full story and that there is silver lining that I am missing.

There is traffic and more traffic. My friend spends an hour and half, hops on several modes of transportation, just to cover one way of her commute. Imagine doing the same after working all day when traffic only gets worse and your energy level has plummeted.

For people who can afford, everyday living has gotten easier. Food and groceries delivered at your doorstep. Manpower is plenty, almost any work can be done with hired help. Amazon is so the way of shopping.

Whatever homes that I went to in Chennai did not have plastic covers. It’s all banned. Banning is one thing but common people adhering to it is another thing.

Living in India is nuanced. It takes smartness. It takes niceness. It takes grit. It takes patience. It takes being zen. It takes fighting spirit. Like my cousin who works full time, commutes an hour and a half a day, manages her family of four with little help, and did I forget to mention that after wrapping up her day time job and household committments, she settles down to work on her PhD? Deep deep respect.

Gratitude from the bottom of my heart for all the perspective I have gained during my stay here. Remind me to never treat a gift as burden.

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