Homeward bound…..

…..how I wish!!!! No, I am not going back to India but I am fighting this intense urge to pack my bags and leave UK after living here for 10 years. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH of this gloomy weather, not knowing my neighbours, not seeing people on the streets, having to switch on lights the whole day due to the lack of sunlight and most of all living alone. I was talking to my dad today and asked him why he did not advise me against going to UK for my education when they had lived abroad for more than 10 years, surely they must have know how it was going to be. His answer was simple, I wanted you to experience it. Sure, I did. I learnt to work whilst studying, to live independently, to keep up my self-respect and dignity which might not have happened if I studied in India. But after 10 years, after all the things I’ve learnt, I want to go back.

I read some blogs about people contemplating to go back after living in UK/US for many many years and everyone’s concerned of how it might. Some are nervous about job prospects, some about the traffic, some corruption…everyone’s got their reasons….but let me tell you this….GO BACK IF YOUR HEART IS IN INDIA. Some of us will get to a stage in our lives when we’ll start missing the pollution of India, the cows on the roads, the traffic, the intense heat…and this is when I think is the right take to make ‘that’ decision 😉 Sure, we all miss our families back home…but it is when you miss the ‘not so nice things’ about India…that you are ready to pack your bags.

Last year, I was in India for 6 months. By the end of my holiday, it felt like I was living there and I was visiting UK. I didn’t want to leave at all. I won’t say that my holiday was all hunky dory….there were pros and cons….but the good thing about the holiday was…it gave me an insight into how life in India has changed since 2001 (when I first left). Prices have gone up….even a simple OLAY moisturising cream will cost you more than 500 bucks….parking tickets no less than 100, food prices…..don’t even get me started on this…..snide remarks from men on the streets 😉 and the disrespectful manner in which superiors treat the people who work under them. These are just some of the things I find difficult to digest….but you’ll get used to it eventually. It took me six months to soak myself back again into ‘Indian Culture’ which isn’t that long really. When the time came for me to leave….it was difficult. I was part of the system by then. When it was time to leave, It felt like 2001, the first time I left India and everyone I knew and moved to a new country….the only difference being….I was excited then….in 2009….I was sad. Nothing about returning to UK excited me….S was here and that was the only reason I wanted to to be back.

Most of my friends in UK have always told me that they’ll go back some day but no one has managed to. I always wondered why. There must be a strong reason which is keeping them here? Will I make the same mistake? If the day came when I’ve had enough and wanted to leave….I should be able to pack my bags and LEAVE….simple.

So what is it that has made me think so hard about going back? Let me tell you. I am a social animal. I need people around me all the time. I absolutely hate living alone. Unlucky me, the job market in the UK is crap….so it’s been quite difficult to find a job. I do not know if I’d want to go back if I had a 9-5 job. So anyway, for now it is S and I….we know a few neighbours and most of our friends are scattered all over UK. I barely see anyone on the streets…it’s quite odd. As a student, this was not the case. I lived in halls so you always saw someone. It is this feeling of being alone that annoys me everyday. In India, you at least have a maid who comes home everyday, the ‘phoolwala’, the vegetable vendor, the ‘sweetwala’ etc etc. It is this constant flow of people I miss. Oh….how enjoyable it was…watching my mom bargain with the ‘sweetwala’.

Your priorities change when you have kids. I don’t have any but since most of my friends do….I always end up asking them…..why do you guys still live the UK??? I see most women just stay at home once they have children. All the child gets to see is the mother and the father…and some friends who occasionally visit them but is that enough??? Since the husband goes to work….it is the wife who has to take care of everything….her world revolves around her child and all the child does is climb up the stairs and roll down ….since he/she cannot go out and play because of the disgusting weather. How boring must it be? But somehow they manage. Recently, I offered to help a friend’s son study in the evening. I asked him to bring home some of his books. Apparently, they do not have any. Whatever they need is online…..or something like that. His mom had to buy some books in a store to help him study….it was her initiative. Most of us complain about the burden Indian students are put through in schools…I agree….it is a lot….we can get some sanity into the number of books a child has to carry to school….but no books at all?????

Most of all, when I see my friends kids growing up here….without their grandparents, aunts and uncles….I wonder if they will ever have the ‘family structure’ that most of us had growing up. Family is the most important influence on young people. Meeting your grandparents, visiting them on holidays, going out with your cousins, celebrating birthdays, visiting your uncles and aunts….this is all important….isn’t it??? Because at the end of the day….you might have shit loads of money….a career to die for…but if you do not have family…..it’s not worth a single penny. I would want my children to grow up in front of their grand parents. I will not be happy with 6 month visits (which is in the hands of VFS Chennai) or a phone call when my baby starts walking….or his/her first day of school. If it’s a sports day….I want it to be a family affair….I want my children to have the opportunity of playing cricket or football or what ever they wish OUTSIDE….not just stay indoors and play stupid video games. That is how I grew up. I want them to have a ‘proper family’….not just a mother and a father.

I have so many wishes and so much optimism for the future. Not all plans work out the way we want them to…..and not all dreams come true….but I DON’T WANT TO GIVE UP ON THIS ONE!

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Life ante….vedi vedi pakoda with chai….

….annantha simple ga unte entha bagundu 😀 Sorry…I had to write this post in telugu and english to retain its essence. The weather could be the reason behind this post…or the lack of noise on the streets…or the chatter of people. It’s dull, it’s gloomy….almost dark…and it’s just 4 and supposedly the middle of summer. Just one of those days when I miss home 😦

Podunne pani pilla sarduthu chese sabdam tho lese feeling okati…pin drop silence tho lese feeling inkokati. Mummy kitchen lo help cheyii cheyii ante cheyyanu cheyyanuu antu maha rani laaga day begin ayyedi india lo. Manchi coffee tho news paper browsing….tv channels marchinde marchi…suthi kottinantha varaku…anni channels lo almost yoga gurincho lekapothe lucky stones and best Gods gurinchi. Naalugu thitlu thitti vallani….mummy tharimithe freshen up avvatam. Evaro okaru vachi vellatam…vallatho kaburlu…friends…eating out…walking on necklace road…going to the near by mall…to a book store probably…cursing the traffic…the auto drivers…the guys who purposely rub themselves against you while walking…so on and so forth. Rojulo oka vanda sarlaina politicians ni, TV channels ni definite ga thittukovatam….maali ade tv channels chudatam 😀 Flats lo unte adi inko sarada…evening kalla poolu amme vaadu…snacks amme vaadu raavatam….vaadi venta watch man padatam ‘kaiku aaya re yahaan…kisne permission diya teruku’ antu 😀

There are so many things wrong about India. I can point out at least 10 different things just about today. I sometimes tell S that I never want to go back..that is how angry I get. My parents tell me not to come back. They say life is difficult in India…’manushula manasulu roju roju ki kalushitam authunnayi’ – mummy’s wise words 😀 But day’s like today….I miss home so much 😦 I miss the gulmohar trees…I miss the Irani chai with biscuits…the pani puri…I miss the smell of earth after the first drops of rain…I miss standing in our balcony and looking at road that is ever changing…we could once see the Hussain Sagar from our balcony…but all I see now are tall buildings. A new fly-over’s come up…feel like it’s right outside our flat.

I have forgotten what it means to have neighbours. Here, I do not know who lives next door…there’s no exchange of curries 😉 no bringing babies over…no checking out each others shopping. Aren’t we supposed to be social animals??

We’ll be travelling to India next month…just for a few weeks though…and it’s will terribly busy…but looking forward to it.

May be tomorrow, it it’s sunny, you might see a really cheerful post from me 😀

Ciao 🙂

Religion and its Aftermath

Picture Courtesy: http://www.crystalxp.net/galerie/en.id.3470-religion-wallpaper-gruzz-wallpapers.htm

When I was at school, probably in the 7th standard, applying for public examination hall tickets was a big deal! Applicants’ information had to be precise….’cuz if we screwed it up…the repercussions were endless visits to the board of secondary school offices. Most of my teachers always made sure that I got my name right, every year a new teacher… weird isn’t it? Now, why would I get my name wrong? But my teachers were a little skeptical basically because I had a Hindu first name and a Muslim surname…since my mother is a Hindu and my father a Muslim. Most teachers did not even know if such a name existed…what it meant.  But, never before in my life did I feel like I was different to others…like I was not normal…probably a little ashamed as well…especially when it came to filling the section which asked which religion I belonged to…do I tick Hinduism or Islam? I used to hate that part and still do. My friends never had any such problems and I did not want to ask my teachers for advise or suggestions since it meant telling them my life story which in turn gave me unduly attention.

My parents never brought me up a ‘certain way’. They are not religious people and I grew up speaking Telugu (my mother tongue), applied bindi and went to Temples occasionally with friends. My mother remained a Hindu; she wore her Mangalsutra and bindis too. So my brother and I basically were ‘non-religious’. My father rarely goes to the mosque and most people get a shock of their lives when they come to know he is a Muslim. He is a Hyderabadi but speaks fluent Telugu and that confuses people a lot.

If once I was a little embarrassed that I did not have a sense of belonging towards any religion, I have grown up to be a person proud of my heritage. My aversion with religion started with the demolition of Babri Masjid and the riots that followed. We were living in Hyderabad then and I cannot forget the sense of fear in me. Scared to go out and buy food, wondering if anyone would come home and hurt my family…wondering if my mom could be hurt if Muslims came home or if my dad could get hurt if Hindus came home. There was curfew in the city and the tension was high. A local cable TV network continuously broadcasted images of the demolition of the masjid along with Shri Ram’s Devotional songs. The tension was high. My father rushed to the cable TV network’s office and asked him not to show scenes that could easily instigate people. But the operator was adamant and continued to show the pictures. My father did not have any other option but to confiscate his equipment and bring it home. That night remains one of my scariest nights’ till date. I was sure that some religious fanatics would come home and definitely hurt my dad….but it went without any incident. My father’s relatives who live in the ‘Old City’ of Hyderabad had some horrific tales of violence to share with us…which only scared me even more.

The riots ended gradually and life came back to normal. Since then, I never found it important to associate myself with any religion.  But for some it is very important and I never really understood why. Why would someone want to associate themselves to something that is so violent, something that is only used to kill and increase distance between people.

I believe that my parents symbolize what India is all about. We are ‘supposed’ to be a secular country so when there are inter-religious marriages, it is an institution to look up to and not to be sneered at.

Some tell me that religion is a way of life, a discipline….but these words do not have any value for me now. I have only seen people fighting, killing in the name of religion. Religion has only been used to hurt others and not unite people in love and peace. Probably, once upon a time, religion meant discipline, obedience but now it’s been diluted and used when and where possible to satisfy humans selfish needs. It is used only to divide and destroy people’s lives. I believe in God, but I am not ready to believe that different religions have different Gods and that if I pray to one God, the other God(s) will get angry. My God is Universal and I pray for peace everyday.

Channel 4 and its Love Affair with the Slums of Mumbai

OK…at first when I saw a bunch of  Indians (and cows) getting out of a truck in their various outfits, holding variety of props…I had my doubts of how this Indian winter would turn out on Channel 4 and wallahh….it’s lived up to my expectations. It’s totally crap!!! What’s with channel 4 and its love affair with slums. Gimme a break but India is not all slums and stray dogs. I am not saying channel 4 should not show the slums at all, but I guess one program should’ve been enough. But no, the season started off with Slumdog Millionaire the movie, and then Kevin McCloud Slumming It, and Slumdog Secret Millionaire with Seema Sharma and The Slumdog Children of Mumbai. There’s just one show that appealed to me in this season and that is Gordon Ramsay’s The Great Escape. Watched the first episode yesterday and I really liked it. His trip to Lucknow and his meeting with the really old muslim chef (whose name I cannot remember now) was fantastic…and the biriyani…wow!

But enough with the slums already! India is not all slums and open drains and cows roaming about on the roads. There is so much more. Discovering Indian food is a step in the right direction. It is so diverse. Every state has its own cuisine. Classical dance of India, like its food, is unique to the states. The history of India is immense. The architecture of India does not end with the Taj Mahal…there is so much more…like Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh, Sun Temple in Orissa, the Meenakshi Temple in Tamil Nadu, Golconda Fort in Hyderabad just to name a few.

We really don’t need Kevin McCloud and Seema Sharma slumming it out for us to understand the problems of the slum dwellers. Though I really appreciate what they are doing…I think most of us already know that dreadful conditions these people live in. It is good if we can help but please please do not portray India as a country of slums. If you cannot resist, then at lease show some positives along with the negatives. I think Slumdog Millionaire did its jobs well when it comes to slums and Mumbai. We do not need anymore!!

Weekend Dhamaka and Disappointment!!

I have been feeling so jealous lately!! While browsing through some of the blogs on my blogroll, I happened to ‘bump into’ some very wonderful blogs written by women…just the regular stuff really…about life, love, food, books etc etc. That was what I wanted to do…that was the intention for me to start this blog and  either my adopter gets screwed on a timely basis or I am too lazy to switch on the computer and write.

Well anyways, coming to the events of the last weekend….it was ROCKING!!! I was off the Shef for the weekend and it was also the weekend when the cultural evening of the Uni of Shef was being held. I studied for my undergraduate course there and I simply love university life. Shef Students Union is one of the best (if not the best) unions’ in UK with students from various walks of life, cultures and religions. It has a very strong student community. The last time I went to the cultural evening was back in 2004 with S before we were married. Four years later, I was back there to get a taste of Uni life…as in the late night partying n stuff 😉

All dressed up, we girls left our place in the cold. I am sure it was freezing temp outside. One of our frnds’ was in the fashion show and the other was dancing for the Indian Society. The job myself and this other frnd was to shout and support the indian society when ever they came on stage; the duty which I gladly obliged :D. The Indian society went onto with the second prize that night for the best performance which I think was totally not worth it! There were other societies like the Srilankan, Tibetan Chinese Society, The Chinese Society, Afro-Carribean Society and the Japanese society who performed exceptionally well. Over the years, I have always watched the Indian Society and the Hindu Students Forum dance for bollywood songs. Apparently, that is what they consider Indian culture to be.

When my parents studied abroad many many years ago, they tell me that Indian students would play traditional instruments like the tabla, veena etc and perform our traditional dances like the Bharatanaytam, Kathakali etc to showcase our culture. Now, showcasing our (Indian) culture means dancing on a couple fo bollywood songs…and that too the likes of Aaja Nachlay and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. As a devout Indian…I will support the society by yelling and jumping in my seat whenever then come on stage…but deep inside my heart, I know I am disappointed about the narrow view of ‘India’ they are showing to the people around them who wouldn’t have been to India atall. The only opinion they will make of India is what what they see in the songs…probably the bright colour of the clothes, the jumps and twists and the bhangra!

After the night came to an end, I told my friends what I thought and they simply said…’this is what sells today…this is what people want to see…and that is what we gave them’. I asked them why the Indian society cannot do more to showcase what comes from the south aswell…like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi or Kathakali. Why does it always have to start and end with Bhangra or the jhatak mataks of a Bollywood song? Why is not the culture of the south shown to the world as much as of the north and they did not have an answer. I am sure some of them thought I was crazy to think of all this after a night of fun and dance. I am sure they wondered why I was thinking about this so seriously…I was just supposed to watch, clap, yell, jump, dance and then leave. But the thoughts still linger with me. Some of our foreign friends who came upto us and to chat said ‘oh…..your bollywood society did really well and we had to tell them that it was actually Indian and not Bollywood’.

I am scared when I think that in 20 years time the only culture India will end up with is the ‘Bollywood Culture’. We have so much more to offer. What will happen to our traditional musicians and classical dancers if we don’t learn to appreciate what they do? Most of them are arleady living in poverty…not having enough food to eat. The youth of India these days has the money to buy a cd of Eminem or Rhianna when they do not even give a second look for a M S Subbalakshmi, Balamurali Krishna or a Zakir Hussain cd. Remember, the names mentioned above were lucky to be recognised by the public and the government alike…but there are many classical musicians, dancers who have equally good talent but are given a ‘blind eye’ by our society.

I don’t blame globalisation for all this. Being a young Indian woman, if I can appreciate what my country has…why cant others?? Where are we going wrong?

Happy Ugadi

Here’s Wishing all my readers a Very Happy Ugadi 🙂

For those who are wondering what I am on about….here’s further information on Ugadi. Let’s pray for Love and Happiness to all 🙂

I visited the Venkateshwara Temple in Birmingham yesterday and how beautiful it was. I first visited the temple when it was no more than a couple of concrete buildings. It now looks like a proper temple, as if it were in India. I’d suggest everyone to visit it … even if you are not a religious person… simply because it’s peaceful and beautiful. The place makes you forget all wordly matters and lets you unwind.

Here’s just some shots I took yesterday

The Main Temple