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Our Return Ticket 16 Years Later

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

[Editor’s Note: After an extended silence in the R2IProfiles category, I bring you an interview with a recently returned (to India) fellow blogger, Vasantha Gullapalli. Most of the answers below are partial or full extracts from her blog (which you should frequent, especially if you are contemplating a move to Hyderabad). She and her husband are “Class of 2010” returnees which makes them two years our juniors 🙂 As it coincidentally turns out, Vasantha and her husband are long-time Sapient’ers and friends with Soumya Banerjee (of Bengali Mumbaikar takes the long way home fame).]

Q: How long & where did you live in US? When did you return to India?
A: Lived in the US for 16 years mostly in the New Jersey/ New York area. Returned to India on Sep 25, 2010.

Q: Why did you return?
A: [Reproduced entirely from her beautiful post – Home is where the heart is] In the most basic sense, ‘Home’ is nothing more than a shelter or roof over one’s head to protect from the basic elements of nature. But, is that all that is needed in a home? So, what is it that we need in life? One practical point of view suggests that all we need is air to breathe, food to eat and a shelter and then you add to this the basic human craving for love, companionship, etc., we are already talking about personal needs such as family, friends and then as we move towards being a social being, we are treading into professional aspirations, social status, etc. One of my friends said something that struck a chord with me which is something like this (shamelessly plagiarizing): Life revolves around these three pivots – Personal needs, Professional needs and Spiritual needs and finally Home is where all these three pivots can be balanced and satisfied. It definitely sounded very thought provoking and deep, but for me it has always been ‘Home is where the heart is’ and that heart sometimes doesn’t listen to my head 🙂 So, in the process of trying to understand my heart better, my head started listing down what the above statement really meant? What do I need from my home/life? Here are some that I could put down:

  • I want to be able to be surrounded by people that I can relate to. I want to be able to understand what their lives are like, what struggles they have, how I can help them and want them to understand my life and lend a hand when I need it
  • I want to be able to share my beliefs, superstitions or idiosyncrasies and not be looked upon like a ‘fool’ or ‘stranger’
  • I want to be able to walk out of my home and be able to relate to even a complete stranger because we share the same background
  • I don’t want to be planning every meeting and every moment that I feel like spending with the people I love
  • I want to be able to drop things at a moment’s notice to be side-to-side with the people I love and care and selfishly would like the same from them in the time of need
  • I want to be able to show off my little day-to-day victories or my kids accomplishments before that moment has passed
  • I want to witness the special moments in ‘my peoples’ lives right then
  • I want to be in a place where I will be missed when I don’t show up one day
  • I want to be in a place where the difference I make will make a difference to me

Q: Which Indian city did you move to and why?
A: Hyderabad (given the proximity to career opportunities and family).

Q: If proximity to family wasn’t a top concern, which city would you have rather moved to?
A: Well, our priority was not just proximity to family, it was both good school and employment opportunities, a social circle that is needed for day to day life and just to have a life. Given these, I think we would have stuck with Hyderabad and second choice was Bangalore.

Q: Dwellings – apartment, villa or independent home? How did you arrive at this decision? Did you move all/part of your household belongings?

A: In Hyderabad, we will be moving into our apartment which is not done yet. Currently, enjoying our stay with our parents and my sister. From US, we shipped all the things that we thought we could use here plus things we and kids are attached to. We did not/could not sell the house and so rented it out, sold the cars, got rid of a lot of stuff that we either didn’t need anymore or not attached to as much. Since shipping was being taken care by my husband’s employer, we didn’t have to worry much. In spite of this, there was a lot of decluttering I had to do.

Q: Which schools are your kid(s) going to? And what were your criteria in picking schools?

A: Indus International School, Hyderabad. Short list and criteria discussed in the School choices post.

Q: How do you rate your return to India on a scale of 1-10 (10=love the place, why didn’t we move earlier, 1=hate_the_place; currently planning my return back to USA)
A: 7 [Editor’s note: considering it’s less than 6 months since their move, I’d call this a pretty high rating]. For context, check out our 1 month progress report.

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely love about India since you returned?
A: From our first quarter progress report, the top 3 are:

  • My people around me – Lot of relief that I don’t have to save up vacations just to spend time with them, confidence that I am right here and they are around me if they or us need anything anytime.
  • Kids adjustment – Kids have blended in so beautifully, they are enjoying school, making new friends, learning Telugu, enjoying our festivals, even enjoying the unexpected bandhs 🙂
  • Time for each other – Although, I am having some time management issues, in general we don’t feel rushed and don’t have to wait for the weekend to have our breakfast at the table or sit down for a cup of tea in the evenings

Q: What are the 3 things you absolutely detest about being in India?
A: Corruption, the state of politics in Andhra Pradesh, and the lack of professionalism in people you interact with day to day.

Q: What are the 3 things you miss most about America?
A: Here’s our top 3:

  • Privacy and coziness – I miss the privacy and coziness that comes with being just the 4 of us. I hope we will get this back once we move into our own home (we are still not there yet)
  • Dependence: The Indian society is very tightly knit and how smooth our life is depends on the contacts we have. With this, comes some amount of dependence and unpredictability. I miss being able to drive down to the grocery shop. Since I am still not comfortable driving in India, I have to wait for some driver to grace us before I can step out.
  • Streamlined day to day – In general, life in US is pretty streamlined and after the initial settling down and figuring out, our day to day was pretty streamlined and we were pretty confident with how to get things done. On the flip side, either because we are still not over the initial settling phase or perhaps this is just the way it is, there are very few things that are clearly streamlined here. Each time we seem to be using a different process or contact to get things done.

 

India Calling US – Job Fairs in New Jersey and Santa Clara

August 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Two years ago, at the early stage of my India job hunt, I was talking to an executive at a large technology firm. I had just finished telling him about my two prior attempts to move to Bangalore (in 2004 and 2006)  and that I was hoping for third-time-lucky in 2008. Clearly the number of Indians contemplating the return back to the homeland was increasing year-over-year but I was still surprised by his analogy “if 2004 was a trickle, 2008 is like a flood”!

Fast forward to 2010 and we have the front page of Yahoo India with the following story – India Calling US – Job Fair 2010. Shine.com (a venture of Hindustan Times) is organizing this US road show. Excerpts from the story:

  • Apparently 60,000 Indian professionals working and settled abroad returned to India last year. (I’ve been hunting for this stat for a while btw).
  • Job fair #1 at Raritan Center, New Jersey on Aug 28 and 29
  • Job fair #2 at Santa Clara Convention Center – Sep 3 and 4.
  • This job fair will also provide an opportunity for NRIs to meet up with real estate consultants representatives from major educational institutes in India to facilitate relocation and ironing out procedures for their children’s education needs back home. India Calling looks like an event well packaged to provide a complete career shift and relocation platform for NRIs.

A big shout-out to all my passive should-we friends in US (especially those in Northern California and New York/New Jersey area), if you are too lazy to visit India for your job search, India will come to you! 🙂 If you are wondering what-the-heck I meant by passive should-we, you can quickly peruse The two types of Indian immigrants.

A sense of satisfaction… and accomplishment

August 13, 2008 3 comments

“You stink”, yelled my 7-year old nephew when I tried to give him a goodbye hug. “But I showered barely 2 hours ago”, I protested. Of course it was a different matter that I was packing stuff into suitcases, creating piles of junk, and loading suitcases into the rental car in preparation for the drive to Manhattan. So maybe (just maybe) I had broken into a sweat. Sorry Rohan! Will be more careful next time around 🙂

On the drive to Manhattan I reflected on the toil and sweat (and maybe a little bit of tears) that went into our 25-day moving/vacation saga. Apparently we had to work really hard to pull off this ulaari 🙂 So what am I talking about? This is a tale of five garages (in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, Pleasanton, and Basking Ridge), Salvation Army, Goodwill, Hertz Car Rental, and a Manhattan condo.

As you already know, we had decided to sell (or donate) practically every household article with the exception of the following:

  • Our clothes (really a subset since we earmarked a good chunk for Salvation Army)
  • Subset of Sanat & Amrit’s toys. Thanks to their sweet cooperation, it was just a suitcase full of toys.
  • 5 year old Power Mac G4.
  • MacBook, Canon TX1, Western Digital & Iomega USB drives.
  • * 15 boxes of books (after giving away about 4 boxes)
  • * Photo albums
  • * Squash racquets
  • * Didgeridoo and flute
  • * Poonam’s wedding outfit & related paraphernalia
  • * 4 boxes of CDs (plan was to sell them at Rasputin Music but we ran out of time)

The point of liquidating everything was to avoid the need to ship any “container” to India. Which meant that the short list of articles above had to fit within the baggage limits for 4 passengers. A cursory look is enough to say “No way!”. There were 2 constraints we were dealing with: 1) No shipping container, and 2) Cross-country road+train trip with a flying departure from JFK (not SFO).

Solving for the first constraint involved a lot of logistics but was straightforward. We just had to fit our top-priority articles into 8 check-in bags (= 6 suitcases + Mac G4 + Mac G4 Monitor) and carry-on bags. All the articles prefixed with (*) were thus not traveling with us. So we had to find a temporary home for them. The thinking was that after settling into our new apartment in Bangalore (after ‘finding one’ i.e.), we would have them shipped to us piece-meal. The 15 boxes of books went to my cousin’s garage in San Jose, the wedding outfit & related to a friend’s garage in San Jose, music CDs, squash racquets and a few unsold Craigslist items stayed in my sister’s garage in Cupertino, the didgeridoo, photo albums and flute went to our friends’ house in Pleasanton. So far so good.

Solving for the second constraint required some creative thinking. Since we were driving a Toyota Camry rental car to Chicago, we knew how much we could carry with us. This worked out to 2 large suitcases and all of our carry-on baggage. The 2 computer boxes and the rest of our clothes etc. we packed into 4 Home Depot shipping boxes and sent them via parcel post to my cousin’s house/garage in Basking Ridge, NJ. As it turned out, the night after we vacated our just-sold house we spent a good chunk of time in my sister’s Cupertino garage sorting through our remaining stuff (which was still a lot). We managed to generate 3 additional boxes which my sister also shipped to our cousin’s house in NJ.

After prancing around the country for a few weeks, we arrived at my cousin’s house in Basking Ridge. There was the little matter of buying 4 suitcases from Jersey’s Little India (read “Edison”). And finally moving the stuff from the shipped boxes to the suitcases which was a walk-in-the-park for phenomenal Tetris player Poonam. We also managed to generate 2 additional suitcases which we couldn’t carry with us. Enter another dear friend from West Orange, NJ. He volunteered to bring these suitcases to Bangalore later in the year – cool!

The final logistics hop was to get all our baggage from Basking Ridge to my other cousin’s condo in Manhattan which we achieved in two separate trips. And finally (yes, really this time) a Super Shuttle ferried all our luggage to New York JFK airport – this was the most straightforward trip of all. As I reflect upon the above, I cannot help but feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment for pulling it off.

P.S. Perhaps I should named this post “The Great Social Move” or “The Amazing Race”. What do you think?