Friday, December 23, 2011

R2IR2U - you got it!

Yes - returning to the USA returning Indian... And now thoroughly confused.
We are heading back to the USA for a 1.5 year work stint. I'm rather excited. Things I'm looking forward to -
- Children's museums & children's theatre
- Infrastructure (sidewalks that work, functional pavements, roads that aren't pitted and raddled, lights on the streets, no garbage and people peeing on road corners etc.)
- Driving
- Getting home at 5:30 PM and not at 8 PM like I do now
- Getting in touch with family and friends whom I haven't seen in ages
- Not having to sign things in triplicate, 4 times over

Im going to miss -
- My mom
- Color of India
- Friendly inquisitiveness of neighbors and random strangers
- Kindness of strangers
- My maid Lakshmi - yes the very same one who destroyed my shirts, but she got the rats too and she makes me coffee every day.
- The sunshine of Bangalore

For those of you who are R2IR2U - here are some things to worry about.
Your kids school... with the best of intentions, our school cannot/will not hold our spot. So this winter, the war begins again. I don't know if we are going to be able to get our kids back into the same school. It's too bad as we LOVED the school. Positive thinking and praying, let's see what happens.
Homes - if like me you are looking at a short term move, and you like where you live - HANG ON for dear life. Setting up is a major battle. So leave things set up and either sub lease, find a house sitter or hold on if you can.
ECSS - A wonderful thing, most places offer the ECSS facility. Which means you can pay everything directly from your bank account automatically. So submit and forget it.
Taxes - Unless you are fully conversant with Indian Tax laws and the tax system, please do set up a tax lawyer who can handle your tax filing for you.
Cars - Sell em!! There will be many new, nicer models available for you when you return and car buying in India is ridiculously easy.
Furniture disposal - very difficult in India. The 2nd hand market just isn't that good, unless you have a good network of drivers, maids etc. who might be willing to buy. Plan on selling for less than 1/3rd and forgt about high ticket priced items.

Miscellaneous - think apartments that you rent, land you own, bank accounts etc. Unless they are strictly necessarily don't even bother being a remote owner... it's WAAAY too hard. Shut shop and reinvest when you are back.

More to come as we get closer to move date... In the meantime - Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Marginal Rate of Substitution in Bangalore

If you had 3000/- INR, what could you get?

- 1.5 shirts/blouses or 0.5 of a dress from Forever New/Jack n Jones/Bennetton or any of the other fancy stores on 100 ft. road.

- A dinner for 1 at one of the 5 stars (with booze)

- A dinner for 5 at Shanthi Sagar

- A 3/4 tank of gas for a Hyundai I20 (a mid size)

- 5-6 pizza's from Domino's

- going salary for 1/2 a maid or 1/4 of a driver

- 10 bunches of fresh flowers

- 2 pairs of sandals from Metro

- Basic Groceries for 1.5 months (daal, rice). With veggies, basic groceries for 1 month.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

It's Complicated

There's this trend underway in Bangalore and indeed in the rest of middle class/upper middle class India with failed/failing/on the brink/just divorced/separated/taking a break/ema's/bits on the side marriages. Here I insert my disclaimer, the sample size is my acquaintance list, and it's not a scientific survey or anything but it is what I have noticed from polling people, reading up about it, talking to friends of friends etc. This is my opinion and observation only and may not represent the true state of affairs with married folk around here. Ok disclaimer done.

A large number of my acquaintances - friends I know, people I work with, people who live in my neighborhood are all going through this "It's Complicated" phase. Gosh were ever 2 words so loaded with meaning...
Anyway, so there it is - and i've been trying to figure out why (in a very unscientific manner). Here are my 2 cents -
- I think women, have developed a lot more independence and empowerment since when I was gone. There's nothing like having monetary power in the marriage equation to have the power to assert yourself. There is also a lot less reason in India these days to be nice to one's partner or to compromise.
- With the pressures of managing life in India. Work is tough, long hours, traffic, crowds, life still isn't as geared up for automation as it could be - Intolerance is on the rise. It's much harder and oh- so much more work to understand, discuss and really make compromises to make relationships work.
- It's financially not super prohibitive to be separated - unlike the US
- I think the sexual revolution has thrown off its covers and got into an oh so sexy bikini and is sashaying its way down middle india. Women and men, talk and read about sex more openly, are much more un-inhibited and are more unafraid of trying out their options.
- Men and women alike have more options, and that is perhaps a different state from the parental pressure when they were looking for partners.
- It's high stress with the working group of married folks. Hang around at an office long enough, with tons of work to do, lots of stress, a long suffering spouse and hey presto - you've got a natural masala mix ready to marinate.
- There a TON more promiscuity on TV (ok, now I just sound old and from another generation).

I am so curious to see where this will lead. This seems like such a blatant contradiction to what was traditionally touted as "the way of life". Im guessing it's a natural pendulum. It's got to swing to one side completely and will eventually come back. I do want to write back with some resources for counseling in Bangalore - for those that need it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The new religion

Pilgrimages to spas, that's my new religion.

I didn't realize how much I missed this stuff when I was in the US, until I came back and someone ran screaming when they saw me - "YIKES, it's the Yeti and it's in Bangalore".
My general appearance combined with stress wars left me acting like a Yeti as well, grumpy with claws.

So one day, propelled by a war with the hubby and the inability to find my face anymore behind the grime I started investigating, and found - oh such a plethora of options that there is almost NO reason not to de-fuzz, smell like a rose, have sparkly teeth, eyes, shiny hair and no wrinkles. And guess what, even taking away the "expat" terms it is still affordable and oh soooo convenient.

Here is where India TRUMPS a whole lot of the rest of North America and Europe. The dazzling, sparkling variety of spas and services are yummy!!!! in the US, it cost a bomb read 100/- big ones for 1 hour of something. The results are ok - not outstanding. In India they will dig into your skin find every bump and wrinkle and iron it out till nothing is left...

So there is basically the high end - you attain nirvana and pay for it; the middle end - your garden variety special temple with some amount of nirvana attached and the low end - maintenance of religious status - you pray, the spa gods hear you, you get a moderate halo of beauty and you're done! There may be other permutations and combinations but these are the ones I have experimented with.

So high end - expensive and interesting options - places like Kaya & Kosmoderma. They can suck the fat out of you. They have doctors on call who do skin analysis and then leave you in the hands of capable sales women who suck the cash out of you. A skin treatment at Kaya that spans 4 months, can run you about 20K Rs/- I haven't tried the lipo bits or the other cosmetic surgery ones yet - but there's time for that still!
There are a few high end, non surgery type spas that have sprouted in the city as well - places like Chandhan Sparsh, White Mantra Spa & Salon, The Spa at The Leela. Chandhan Sparsh for example has a membership package that starts at 20K Rs/- and you can use it year long or services to the tune of 30K.I didn't dare try the membership package but I did try a nice pedicure and a hair spa thing - the former, in a giant massaging chair with the attendant scrubbing the bottom of my feet, massaging till I almost fell asleep. The latter with a hair specialist who massaged a million things into my head and then washed it off. The end of this was a completely de-stressed me and the family loved me that night. I was too sleepy to war with any one. The price for this lovely experience - 4K Rs/- about 100 $

Middle end - places like Body Craft, YLG Spa, Bounce - They offer a different spiritual experience. For a reasonable amount of money - 4K Rs/- will get you a few nice options, an entire japanese hair straightening treatment or a mani+pedi+ hair combo OR a massage + pedi + Mani etc. In other words, this is my usual bi-weekly temple routine. I get blissed out, the fam is happy and I have restored enough energy and enlightenment to make it to work the next week.

Low end - tons of spa's in people's homes, and people willing to come to your house. Think 1K for a whole RANGE of stuff, massage, pedi's, hair oil thing, etc. The ambience, well it's as good as your home is - which in my case can be completely chaotic and insane, kids screaming, husband looking for socks etc. however, the service is EXCEPTIONAL. In other words this is my equivalent of my home pooja room - everyday maintenance!.

I have to say this - If the meaning of life is to find eternal happiness and bliss, the fast track seems to be at the spa. Get your feet rubbed by one of the experts, watch your stress melt away, have less fights, develop a more magnanimous approach to life and everyone around you and the effects rub off on everyone. I can't argue with that....

I would love to post before and after pictures, but you can't take a picture of someone who is attaining sainthood.

And the pilgrimage continues...

Monday, April 26, 2010

How not to do business...

Don't open stores till 11 AM - especially if you are a coffee shop, because, really, why would you want to sell coffee earlier than that?
Employ tons of sales staff who hang around sleepily. When a customer shows up and asks a question, look confused, scratch head or other unmentionables and stare as though you were asked to procure the yeti's front tooth. Or better yet, say "can I help you" and then when you are asked a question, call your equally clueless co-worker and pass the question on. Then you, melt away into the nearest wall.

On the phone, when asked for prices do say "maam, I don't have price list for you, but you do one thing, please leave advanced payment and when it comes in, I will send you a message". Spend 45 minutes ringing up the bill and try to make at least 2 mistakes while you are at it. On the way out, have the security guard glare at you in suspicion and watch while you juggle bags, wallet etc. looking for the sales slip that will then be dutifully punched.

My favorite experience of all time tho is the military canteen. My mom loves shopping there so we go every month. Here is the process, I kid you not - find everything in the store, load into cart. Empty cart at the counter, which incidentally is TEENY tiny and results in stuff falling off all over the place. After stuff has been rung up, put it all back into the cart then proceed to the next counter and empty again. Now someone will go through the bill carefully and recheck everything you bought, this is in case the scanner and the cashier made a mistake. Then you can finally put everything into the cart and go home. The ONE thing that works is they don't give you plastic bags, it's bring your own bag, which I LOVE... at least its a nod at being green!

This is how we get stuff done around here!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Before and After

Indiranagar in Bengaluru was once considered the back of beyond. It used to cost triple the auto fare to get from MG road to Defence Colony. It was inhabited by retired Defence personnel, their labradors or alsatians and their teen kids (like me). The most exciting thing you could do at that time was literally walk the dog and play a round of Badminton at the Indiranagar Club. 100 ft road was quiet, with tons of gorgeous trees and colonial style bungalows.

18 years have left their mark on Indiranagar. Most of the old retired folks have sold their properties and moved away. Their kids are all grown up and mostly live abroad. The homes in Def Col are owned by young, new money. Indiranagar club now has badminton courts, tennis courts, a really nice swimming pool, decent booze and ok food.

And 100 ft. road now has Benetton, Park Avenue Clothes, 100ft Boutique Restaurant, Little Italy, Mugen, Mainland China, Streisand Art Gallery, Bandhej for clothes, Cirrus the club, Take 5 a jazz bar, Xtreme Sports Bar, Zeiss opticians, Kyra a dinner theatre, Relaince Kitchens, Cucine Lube a kitchen store, Reliance foot wear, Reliance Eyes, Reliance Wellness, Chandhan Sparsh a Spa and High Note and B Flat another music oriented restaurant.

Personally, when I was 18 and here, I would have KILLED to have these fun outlets, food and clubs all within walking distance from my house. And now, although I miss the quiet and the pretty-ness of the old Indiranagar, I like having entertainment and shopping options at my doorstep. It also beats having to drive everywhere on the weekend. I also like not living in the "boonies" any more. It's cool to have a tony address.

On my wish list are - multi level parking lots. or at any rate an option that takes the parking off the interior streets; a traffic free day on weekends; pavements that you can walk on and not have to trail run or hike over; a little less traffic on weekends - I get the constraints, but some days it's utter chaos.

Oh well, till the time my wishes come true, at least there are a ton of bars to drown sorrows in, retail therapy to indulge in, and spas to take away the evil effects of pollution.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Om namah maths aayaha

It's exam time in the city (and the rest of India) and EVERYONE, moms, dads and kids are all studying for exams.
That fact has not changed since I left India, neither has the fact that stress levels are high and all kinds of bizarre exam passing rituals are in full swing. What has changed though is that it's not just the exam takers who are conducting these rituals. Apparently, everyone else is as well. Here are some choice ones...

Temples in Chennai are offering special homams to pass Math, Finance, Economics, English etc. God, not only cares about you passing, she (im assuming these homams are for Saraswati) also cares about a barter system - offer me a coconut and flowers and i'll make you pass. Bigger and more expensive the offering, hey, maybe you will pass multiple subjects, not just the one you are praying for.

Reiki for your exam takers anyone? Krishnan's friend ran into a group of parents who were sitting outside the exam hall in meditative silence, channeling "exam passing energy" into the room where their hopeful progeny were no doubt receiving it and converting it into useful text.

Astrologers now give you special charts and wearable gizmos that can predict the outcome of your exams. Move over Predictive Analytics folks - there is a far savvier, reliable source in town.

My mom used to give me and my friends coffee laced with Kalhua - now that explains a whole lot... maybe she should have tried the whole positive aura, energy thing instead!

K and I are thankful that we are done with exams for a few years. The Valley School doesn't believe in exams until the 9th grade. That should give us enough time to strategize on approach, remove sins so Saraswati listens to us and earn enough cosmic karma so we can channel positive energy towards t's exams.