Friday, September 11, 2009

Channel That Energy!

It is quite often the case with expat Indians, that over social gatherings, email groups, facebook, twitter, and even the dinner table that passions run high about what is wrong with a certain event or thing regarding India. Friends have a good time channeling their attention and intellect in a selfless direction far from the daily grind.

However, at the end of such debates and discussions, a feeling of emptiness and / or futility often follows. It's easy to forget it and get on with the routine, but I'm sure that somewhere it adds to a feeling of helplessness in life. If this doesn't happen to you then this blog post is not for you. But if it does, here are a few constructive suggestions.

What I'm outlining below is a simple process by which you may be able to feel better the next time you do get into such a situation. Of course, these are merely suggestions based on personal experience so they may or may not work for you, but at the very least, it'll get you thinking about the topic! At least in my case, it has meant a lot to have certain things to focus on, so that I can be more composed about everything else that I might be exposed to.

I have kind of followed this path when I was an expat, but probably have meandered around a bit. The net result will, I think, be the same with the recipe below:

1. Discover Your Passion
Among all these India-related discussions, what interests you the most? What kindles your fire? What keeps you awake at night when you start thinking about it?

There may be a lot of discussions you get pulled into. You may hear about a lot of different things on radio or TV or from friends. Some may be mildly interesting to you, some others may be fascinating. Sometimes what really fires you up temporarily may not be what stays in your mind. So it's generally a good idea to give it time. Calendar time as well as mindshare. Let it sink in, until in your deepest of thoughts and even in your most relaxed moments too you know that these are the two or three things that you really care about. It could be anything: Sports, religion, culture, language, poverty, population, traffic, environment, food or for that matter education! It doesn't matter, as long as you think you will feel better when you get more involved in it. It's all about the journey, since this is not really your career we're talking about. In my case, I felt I was the most passionate about two topics: Marathi language and classical Indian culture.

2. Issues Please
So, once you've settled down on one or two topics, you can research it a bit - may be give yourself some ammo for the next heated debate that you are going to be in. It's a great idea to discuss this with friends and family, since you feel so passionately about it, you might find out for yourself from the debates how right or wrong you are. Somewhere along the way you will know the few issues that you can do something about. In this research process, you might also run across organizations or individuals who are doing something about it.

3. Help the Cause
Now that you have the specific objectives, and perhaps know people who are working roughly towards the same cause, you can make donations, spend time, bring some useful goodies on your next trip back to India. Many US-based charities allow you to make "earmarked" donations that are specific to a cause, and you might get a tax-break on them too (if the organization receiving the donation is an eligible organization). Because you have zeroed in on a certain charity or cause after doing a lot of research, the feeling that you are impulsively throwing away money will likely not be there.

This overall journey has been, in my case, fruitful, enriching and also helped me overcome frustrations I had otherwise felt when anything prompted me to think about various aspects of India. It will most likely give you a sense that you are utilizing your spare time in a more meaningful way and who knows, you might see the fruits of your work sooner than you think!

PS: Full Disclosure: I am an office bearer of Maharashtra Foundation, so it is in a way selfish for me to say "donate!", such that it might benefit an organization that I am on the executive committee of.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

कोणी बॉम्ब लावतो कोणी गोळ्या झाडतो, तरी भारताचा राजा झिम्मा खेळतो

My sincere condolences to all those whose near and dear ones have been killed or injured in the attack. I feel really sorry and helpless that this happened and we just watched, paused for a few days and are back to work now. Some politicians are taking the fall - some of them undeservedly, but the real problem of intelligence failure isn't even being debated.

This one aspect that isn't getting enough publicity is what I want to highlight here: The intelligence signals that the government had received, but failed to act on. I don't know why these intelligence signals were ignored, but looking at the news in the past few weeks, all our politicians were doing at the time were filling their coffers through more FSI deals at the Maharashtra state level, and at the national level, after two years of silence, fanning anger among the public by suddenly parading the likes of Thakur, Purohit and Pande in time for the state elections.

My demand here is simply that if the current government considers itself answerable to the people, we need a detailed answer as to why these intelligence reports were not acted upon, and what are we going to do to avoid such failures in the future.

1. RAW had provided several intelligence reports on the same day that they had intercepts, which included specifics like Mumbai was the target and a sea route was going to be used. These reports were given to the government from Sep 18 - Sep 24. An excellent article in (a sister publication of the Wall Street Journal) covers this: "Why was warning on Taj ignored?"
2. US Intelligence agencies (CIA?) had warned India about specific locations including the Taj hotel were targets. A news item in ABC news covers this: "US Warned in October of Potential Terror Attack"

Another great article highlighting the intelligence failures is here in Newsweek: "Flunking the Intelligence Test"

I request our media to give this aspect more coverage, and I beg our politicians to do something about it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

बांधा रे बांधा

शेतीची सुपीक जमीन मिळवा भाजीच्याच भावावर
कुंपण लावा, बेघर करा अशिक्षित ते खेडेकर

नद्यांकाठची वाळू उपसा, कोंबा जुनाट धुराडी ट्रकांवर
असह्य भार त्यांवर घालून खुशाल तुडवा वाटेत कोणी येईल तर

चिकण मातीच्या भाजा विटा ओकत धूर परिसरावर
त्याही भरा अशाच, आणा सगळं आमच्या प्लॉटावर

झाडं तोडा, मजले चढवा टीडीआर् ची करून अफरातफर
पार्किंगच्या जागीही बसवा दुकानांचे फर्निचर

रस्त्यांवरतीच लावा तुमच्या वाहनांचे ते लटांबर
ट्रॅफिकने तुंबूदेत रस्ते, गोंगाटाचा होऊदे कहर

विलायती नावं द्या, शोधा लोनधारी कस्टमर
नोटांच्या राशी भरा घेऊन "वरचा" पैसा खंडी भर

थोडा वाटा, थोडा ओता वाढदिवसांच्या जाहिरातींवर
उरला लावा नवीन प्लॉटांत, नाहितर चमकत्या गाड्यांवर

काही बाकी राहील तो आमची मुलंच उधळतील दारू वर
उद्यानं, अंगणं उरलीच नाहीत, मग करतील काय ते विसावल्यानंतर?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

electrical endeavors

For those who have recently moved from the US or are planning such a move, a note about the electrical and AV choices I've made and some rationale behind them. I've wasted enough $$ that I wish others don't have to do the same. I'll write about issues to worry about in two categories of things - electrical and video.

The major differences between the US and India are in the following aspects:
  1. Voltage and frequency (110V / 60Hz in US versus 240V / 50 Hz in India)
  2. Mismatching plugs and sockets (parallel plugs in the US versus round sockets in India)
  3. Availability of power
  4. Voltage Stability

For the basic voltage compatibility, the equipment determines the solution:

Low Wattage Electronics

If your equipment is low-power electronic equipment, chances are that it has an external power adapter that converts AC to DC. Most of the new adapters handle a wide range of voltages and frequencies, including the Indian one, so you don't have to worry about just plugging in the existing adapter. One very important thing to note is that while there are some sockets available that allow a US style plug to go in (these are commonly fitted in newer buildings), the "earth" hole of the Indian socket is meant for the "earth" pin of the domestic plug, which is bigger than the US earth pin. So sometimes when you plug in a US plug into such a socket, the earth pin won't make contact to the earth wire in the socket and your equipment won't be earthed properly. (I was hooking up my ipod and learned the hard way by getting a strong shock that the earth pin wasn't making contact!)

The older DC power adapters don't support multiple voltages. For such systems, you can get a simple SCR-based power converter (e.g. one made by a company called "Kundip") that attaches to an Indian socket on the one side and provides a US socket on the other side. I bought about 10 of these and found about 5 to be not working from the beginning, and after I used one of the working ones on my "continuously on" Linksys router, after about 6 months, the router started misbehaving. So this solution has been very unreliable for me. Secondly, it is important to note that these converters cannot be used with battery chargers. I tried to use one on my chordless drill and the drill charger blew up the next second (with a bang, smoke and all that.) A better solution here is to actually buy an off-the-shelf DC power adapter that provides the same DC voltage (and max current.) A lot of variety is available here, and depending upon the brand of your equipment (Panasonic, Sony, etc.) you will likely find a compatible power supply that matches the brand of the equipment you have. The best way is to walk into a store that provides such supplies with the existing adapters and get replacement ones. (Note: Most stores which supply these things have "variable pricing" - i.e. they determine the price by looking at how much a customer might be willing to pay, so it's better to call and ask the price in advance of showing up.) Once I started using the local DC converters, things have been working reliably, regardless of the power fluctuations.

The two PCs I had were compatible with the 240 V / 50Hz system, but there was a small slide switch on the power-supply of the PC that I had to physically slide in order for the power supply to work on the higher voltage. I fortunately realized this before I plugged in the PC.

I haven't used the popular variable-transformer based voltage stabilizers for any of this, and even though my house has noticable voltage fluctuations, the PCs, monitors, RAID storage server, printers, etc. (everything that basically converts to DC before the power is used) have worked just fine for the past 9 months or so. The reason I decided not to use such stablizers is that if you look at their response times (which is in a few hundred milliseconds), I'm sure if there was a real surge, it would do much harm before the stabilizer adjusted the voltage. I've instead got two protection mechanisms: One is that the house supply is fitted with an ELCB which will trip instantly if the voltage goes too high, and secondly, in some cases I've used a power-strip that comes with a simple solid-state surge-suppressor. This gives me some level of confidence that the equipment is safe.

Simple Electrical Equipment

This includes microwaves, and other kitchen appliances such as a food processors, Dosa-griddles, etc. We bought quite a few of such equipment. The great thing about these is that they are not so sensitive to voltage fluctuations, with a simple step-down transformer you can hook these up to the regular power sockets. Such transformers are somewhat bulky, but you can use one for all your equipment, since not all of it is on at the same time. Note that if your microwave has a clock, the different frequency will mean that the clock will not work properly in India. I got a transformer like this from Kings Electronics in the Budhwar Peth (Pasodya Vithoba) area. The "variable pricing" rule applies here too.

High-Wattage Electronics

This is the toughest category, because it requires a stable power supply of the right voltage and frequency. I made the mistake of shipping my Plasma TV from the US to here. The solution I created here is to have a custom-built "in-line" UPS which converts the input voltage to DC, charges a battery, and the battery then "in-line" feeds an AC power converter which supplies a constant 110V / 60 Hz, regardless of the input power supply fluctuations. I have used this for my music system and my Plasma TV, both of which are relatively expensive equipment and I didn't want to risk it with the voltage fluctuations. A side-benefit of this strategy has been that we can watch movies even when the power is out. The custom-built UPS cost me about $1,000 but I didn't do competitive bidding here, so I'm sure I could have gotten it for a couple of hundred dollars less.


There are two considerations for making video equipment compatible in India.

  1. NTSC versus PAL video
  2. DVD region locks

I had a TV that only took in NTSC (even from composite video), and the satellite provider I use does not support NTSC, so I had to get a converter. I bought a ComWorld CMD 1500 converter for this, with less-than-perfect results. I've heard its pretty much the same with other converters, so my conclusion has been that it was not a good idea for me to ship my TV from the US to here.

The other problem I had to deal with is the video region codes. Fortunately, most bollywood stuff is not region locked, but the hollywood DVDs we bought here refused to play on our systems. There are hacks available to change the region codes for equipment, but those hacks didn't work for us. Our problem was that one of our DVD player was a part of our expensive music system and the other was a part of a gaming system. For now, we've just bought a cheap DVD player locally, and have to switch between the local player and the game system when the kids want to watch a Hollywood DVD. We haven't solved the problem for ourselves (parents) yet. I had bought a AV multiplexer that came in handy for the kids. The TV didn't have enough composite video inputs to support everything that was to be plugged in, so I bought a "multiplexer" (which was basically a simple switch) to switch between the various inputs.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

एक रविवार घाईचा

भारताबद्दल आणि भारतात राहण्याबद्दल माझे विचार लिहित बसण्यापेक्षा मी एका चांगल्या गेलेल्या दिवसाचं आणि एका रटाळ दिवसाचं वर्णन करतो, म्हणजे वाचणाऱ्यांना इथल्या दिनक्रमाचा अंदाज येईल. तर पहिली गोष्ट आहे एका अचानक आलेल्या सोनेरी रविवाराची.

अदल्या रात्री घरी बरेच पाहुणे येऊन गेल्यामुळे रात्री झोपायला जवळजवळ दोन वाजले होते (पुण्यात सर्वांनाच वाद घालायची हौस आणि माझे अमेरिकेतुन परत आलेले दोन पुणेरी मित्र आल्यामुळे वाईनच्या साथीने भारत / अमेरिका ह्या माफक विषयावर आम्ही रात्रभर उहापोह केला होता). त्यामुळे सकाळी ७ वाजता दूधवाल्याने जेंव्हा बेल वाजवली तेंव्हा थोडा वैतागूनच मी जागा झालो. धडपडत जिना उतरून पिशवी घेतली तसा तो म्हणाला "साहेब बाहेर एक पिशवी का नाही लाऊन ठेवत - मी त्यात दूधाच्या पिशव्या ठेवत जाईन..." अर्धवट झोपेत मी होय होय काहीतरी पुटपुटलो व परत जाऊन झोपलो. कधी नव्हे ते पुण्यात थंडी पडली होती, त्यामुळे माझी झोप खरं म्हणजे गेलीच होती. तरीही मी आपली "निसटून रात्र गेली" वगैरे विचार करत पुन्हा पडी टाकली.

थोड्याच वेळात हिनी उठवलं "अरे अवंती येणार आहे ना? ऊठ! ऊठ!!" - अरे हो की! हिच्या मावस बहिणीला सकाळी नाश्त्याला बोलावलं होतं म्हणून जरा सुस्थितीत असणं प्राप्त होतं. नाहीतर सासरी काय काय बातम्या पसरल्या असत्या कोणास ठाऊक! थोड्याच वेळात ते दोघं आणि त्यांची ७ वर्षांची मुलगी घरी आले. येता येता त्यांनी गरम गरम पॅटिस आणले हे बरं केलं - म्हणजे हिनी केलेला शिरा मला आवडला नाही असं नाही, पण आमच्या घरी पॅटीस आवडणारा मी एकटाच असल्याने मला सकाळी घरच्या घरी पॅटीस खाण्याचा योग क्वचितच येतो!

तर त्यांच्याशी काम असं होतं की आम्हाला गोव्याच्या सहलीचं नियोजन करायचं होतं आणि सत्यजित हा ट्रॅवल एजंट असल्यामुळे त्याच्याशी आम्हाला बोलायचं होतं. थोड्याफार गप्पांनंतर आमचं काम पण झालं आणि ते निघाले - बघितलं तर बोलण्यात १ कधी वाजला हे कळलंच नाही.

माझी मामे बहिण कोल्हापूरहून कल्याणला परत जाताना वाटेत तिच्या आई-बाबांना (म्हणजे माझ्या मोठ्या मामा-मामीला) पुण्यातून घेऊन जाणार होती. माझ्या आईला ते जायच्या अगोदर त्यांना काही वस्तू द्यायच्या होत्या, पण ते माझ्या धाकट्या मामाकडे राहात असल्यामुळे मी आईला कळवलं होतं की मी गाडीनी तिला घेऊन जाईन. म्हणून मी लगेच निघालो आणि आईला तिच्या घरुन घेतलं. आईनी सांगितलं माझ्या बहिणीलापण मामाला भेटायला यायचय, म्हणून मग वाटेत तिला पण घेतलं आणि आमचं लटांबर मामाकडे पोहोचलं. मामाच्या घरी त्याच्या कुत्रीनं आमचं यथार्थ स्वागत केलं म्हणजे अगदी पाय धुण्याऐवजी पाय चाटून पुसून काढले!

काही वेळात मामे बहिण तिच्या दोन गोड मुलींना घेऊन आली व एकीचं कुत्र प्रेम व दुसरीची कुत्र्याबद्दलची भीती ह्यावरून दोघींच्या फिरक्या घेण्यातच खूप वेळ गेला. मामीनी केलेली चहा भजी वडे वगैरे खाता खाता एकीकडे क्रिकेट मॅचमध्ये पाकिस्तानचा धुव्वा उडवताना बघताना लै धमाल आली. मोठ्या मामाच्या विषेश टिपण्ण्यांनी मॅच अधिकच खमंग केली. बाहेर पुण्याच्या त्या दिवशीच्या कोवळ्या उन्हात झोपाळ्यावर मुली दंगा करत होत्या आणि मामाच्या कुत्रीला अधिकच चेव येत होता. असं सगळं करण्यात खूप उशीर झाल्याची पुन्हा जाणीव झाली.

आम्हाला संध्याकाळी गाण्याच्या कार्यक्रमाला जायचं होतं आणि मी अजून इथेच! गडबडीने सर्वांना टाटा बायबाय करून आम्ही परत घरी पोहोचलो, मुलांना आणि बायकोला पटकन् गाडीत घातलं आणि मुलांना मराठीच्या शिकवणीला सोडलं. वाटेत बाबांना फोन केला की त्यांनी शिकवणीतून मुलांना घेऊन घरी जावं. आई-बाबा रांगोळीच्या प्रदर्शनाला जाणार होते, तर ते मुलांना घेऊनच जातील असं ठरलं.

नेहमी प्रमाणे आम्ही गाण्याच्या कार्यक्रमाला साधारण अर्धा तास उशीराच पोहोचलो, आणि नेहमी प्रमाणे आम्ही बसलो आणि पडदा सरून कार्यक्रम त्याक्षणी सुरू झाला! कार्यक्रम होता संजीव अभ्यंकर व अश्विनी भिडे यांचा. साथीला आजकालची नवोदित कलाकार सायली ओक पण होती. तबल्यावर पण परिचयाचेच कलाकार होते. मध्यंतरापूर्वी प्रत्येकी एक एक राग म्हणुन झाले, पण तेंव्हासुद्धा संजीवनी मारव्याचा कहर केला. उत्तमोत्तम ताना, सुस्पष्ट स्वर आणि खर्जातल्या खोलीपासून तारसप्तकातल्या ऊंची वर आत्मविश्वासानी स्वैर धावणारा त्याचा आवाज ह्यांनी कमाल केली.

मध्यंतरात वडे, कोकम सरबत, चहा वगैरे जीवनावश्यक गोष्टींचा भरपूर मारा करुन पुन्हा कार्यक्रमाची सुरवात झाली ती जसरंगी जुगलबंदीने. हा गायनप्रकार मी आधी एकदा सीडीवर ऐकला होता, पण प्रत्यक्ष ऐकण्याची माझी पहीलीच वेळ होती. ही एक आगळी वेगळी जुगलबंदी आहे. एक गायिका व एक गायक असतात. गायिका एक राग म्हणत असते, व त्याच वेळी गायक त्याच्या वेगळ्या पट्टीत दुसराच राग म्हणत असतो! पण निर्बंध असा असतो, की गायिकेच्या रागाच्या स्वरांची पट्टी बदलली की गायकाच्या रागाचे स्वर येतात. म्हणजे ऐकताना दोन्ही रागांमधले भाव वेगळे वगळे कळत असतात, पण बेसूर वाटत नसतं कारण तेच स्वर दोघांकडून ऐकू येत असतात आणि शिवाय गाण्याचे शब्द तेच असतात, म्हणून जेंव्हा दोघं एकदम्‌ गाणं म्हणतात तेंव्हा दोघांच्या तोंडून तेच शब्द (पण आपापल्या वेगळ्या रागांत) येत असतात.

अश्विनी भिडे गात होत्या संपूर्ण मालकंस आणि संजीव अभ्यंकर गात होते भीमपलास. जुगलबंदी रंगात येत होती - कधी अश्विनीची तान संपली की संजीव सुरू करायचा, कधी दोघेही आपल्या ताना थोड्याश्या एकमेकांवर पडू द्यायच्या आणि समेला येताना बरेचदा दोघेही एकदम्‌ गात असायचे. म्हणजे कधी वाटायचं की अश्विनीच्या मालकंसाने विचारलेल्या प्रश्नांना संजीवच्या भीमपलासाने खेळकर उत्तरं येत आहेत तर कधी वाटायचं की प्रश्नोत्तरं एकमेकांवर पडून एक वेगळाच अल्लड संवाद होत आहे. जशी लय चढत गेली तसे मालकंसाच्या तानांचे प्रश्न अधिकच क्लिष्ट होऊ लागले, पण त्यांना भीमपलासाकडून मस्त खेळकर आणि कधी सांत्वनाची उत्तरं यायची. हा वाद विकोपाला जाणार काय अशी भिती वाटताच इतका सुरेल संवाद ऐकायला मिळाला की मन अगदी प्रसन्न झाले. अंगावर शहारेही येत होते आणि सर्व टिळक स्मारक मंदीर प्रत्येक तानेला यथेच्छ टाळ्यांची आणि वाहवांची साथही देत होतं.

पण मुलांच्या काळजीने मात्र आम्ही पहिली जुगलबंदी संपताच निघालो आणि आई-बाबांकडे पोहोचलो. तिथे कळलं की मुलं आई-बाबांकडेच जेऊन माझ्या म्हेवण्याबरोबर बॅडमिंटन खेळायला गेली आहेत. मग उशिरा का होईना आम्हीपण तिकडे जाऊन थोडी फुलं धोपटली आणि शेवटी थंडीत कुडकुडत असलो तरी कोंडाळकराकडची मस्तानी हाणून घरी पोहोचलो.

असां सजला आमचा पुण्यातला एक गडबडीचा रविवार!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Minutiae of Moving

This section is just about the logistics and details of the move, and if you aren’t considering moving in the near future, you may skip this section. It’s kind of boring but somewhat important for other travelers.

Our journey began a little before when the movers rolled into our house in early September 2007. We started packing some stuff in advance and also donated some of the stuff we knew we didn’t want; the movers got in a few days later and took care of the rest. Since it was going to take over a month for our stuff to arrive, we planned on “camping” for the most of that month in our home in the US and living in for a few days at our folks’ houses in Pune awaiting the arrival of our stuff. Back in the US we’d made three categories of things, some that will be shipped using the movers, some essentials that we’d carry with us and yet other stuff that we’d use in our house during our camping period and then sell, give away or throw away. So before the movers got in, we marked stuff that they didn’t need to ship with blue masking tape. This tactic worked great, and we were pretty much left with what we expected after our container full of stuff had shipped.

Reading on some of the “return to India” discussion forum websites, there were some interesting pointers about various dos and don’ts regarding shipping , customs, etc. We hired the company “Air7Seas”, and over overall experience with them was very positive. We’d read on the web that we should ask the shippers to put the electronic items closer to the door of the container, but the shippers insisted that the electronics should be at the back (perhaps to prevent theft). When the container arrived in India, indeed, the customs officers asked us to bring out the electronic items so that they could inspect them. Now since the electronics was all the way at the back, it caused a few hours of misery in Mumbai’s searing heat to bring all of those out. Also, the movers in India were a bit more careless, and that little inspection charade caused minor damage to our stuff – which until then was in great shape – including the same padlock that I’d put on it when it went from our house.

The two-three weeks of camping in our own home in the US was fun. It was amazing how we could pretty much live using the junk in our garage. We had about 10 plastic chairs that formed every possible seating, an old desk (basically just wood plank on a steel frame) that was lying in our garage served as our dining table. A folding table that we’d use for parties in our yard served as my computer desk. A couple of spare futons were our beds. An old TV that our kids used to plug in their game consoles was moved to our family room to serve as our main TV. The kids had a few of their toys left over but their biggest asset was the whole empty house to run around and play in. We’d left the backyard pretty much as it is, except their bikes and scooters were gone – but they could still play basketball.

As our travel date closed in, we sold off our cars, and called in our friends to see what of the remaining stuff they wanted. It was quite relieving that most of the stuff we had kept for our camping period was useful to our friends and we didn’t have to just throw it away. Even so, we ended up putting about a mid-sized truckload of stuff into the garbage – including some of the junk that had piled up in our garage over time.

In Pune, we had an apartment that we had started remodeling about 6 months back. As everything in India, the main items of remodeling got done very quickly – in about a month’s time, but the last few details are taking forever and it’s not yet done. Even so, the apartment is now quite livable.

Our stuff arrived in Mumbai in mid-October – a travel time of about one month, but it took an additional week to 10 days for it to actually arrive in our house. I didn’t need to go to Mumbai to clear it, but I went (instead of having to mail my passport to the customs agent). The Nhava Sheva port where the customs inspection took place is quite well organized, though the customs agent (Gajendra Shetty of Akanksha Shipping – an Indian partner of Air7Seas) said that domestic goods import is much faster at the old port in Mumbai. The container storage facility was secure, and unlike what I’d feared, each and every package arrived in our house. The little damage that occurred (including one really nice art piece – that had broken during transit), probably happened in the Mumbai customs inspection task or during transit between Mumbai and Pune.

We had underestimated how little space there is in a typical Indian apartment. You can’t go just by square footage; a house in the US typically measures square footage in terms of “usable space”, whereas in India square footage not only includes every inch of floor including walls and columns, but also a percentage of common areas, so the two are not really comparable. We therefore ended up with about 10 cartons full of stuff that we can’t place anywhere in our house. We will probably end up donating / giving away some of the stuff that we had planned on keeping with us here. And this is after we've discarded a lot of stuff in the US already.

On the move...

Hi guys,

I know many of you are eagerly awaiting an update from me regarding the move, and more than anything else, for the past month or so,sitting at a desk and in front of the computer was not really on my agenda. But now I've settled in to my new apartment, have bought cars, hired a driver, got phones, etc. Diwali is also over along with its distractions, so daily life is less of surprises and more about a routine.

I don't really have a clear verdict, so you might be disappointed if you're looking to find out whether India has been / is "better" for me and my family than the US was. Of course, our decision to move was based on a picture about how life will be in India and how our future might develop, so I can talk about the surprises / disappointments regarding that.

The first thing that I should mention is that in no circumstance can I imagine the move to be a "light" one. It's a huge commitment and a radical step that alters almost every aspect of your life. One can perhaps argue it's really not even the same person that was living in the US before, since so much about him / her has changed as a direct consequence of the radically different environment the person is in when in India. Buying things here and selling off your belongings in the US is an expensive exercise and it's really hard to let go of things there that you've so carefully selected over the years. So if you're considering moving, you better be very sure about it.

At a personal level, things are better for me so far. Life is more"connected", there are a lot of things that I like about being here -and I haven't even started socializing yet. The initial shock of pollution, crowding, traffic, etc. has subsided so given a choice again, I'd quite likely do this again. The same is true for my wife. My younger son (7) has adjusted very well and is quite happy here, but my elder one (10) is still squarely in the "why the hell are we here" camp. He's managing his outlook and emotions very well, but I'm quite sure that deep inside he isn't yet happy with the move.

At a work / career level, I haven't really decided what I'm going to do next. I'm continuing my Internet startup (web2rank) as of now, and it's doing quite well, but it seems somewhat removed from the reality here,so it gives me a little less pleasure than in the US. One thing to note here is that I can definitely feel that the reform oriented nature of the government seems to be unraveling somewhat and parts of government are going back to the "stop everything" mode. IT is still not affected as much, but levels of corruption seem to be rising alarmingly overall (after perhaps some improvement a few years back). This affects the optimism that you see all around and the ultimate"where will my career be 10 years from now" question.

At a social level, I feel very pessimistic and depressed. The kinds of politics, corruption, use of force, media control, education control that the ruling congress party is engaging in is really depressing. It has for the most part probably been the same in India, but now I understand it better I guess. It raises a lot of questions about the future for our kids, and our extended families, etc. I've not paid a lot of attention to all this yet, but knowing that my future is now in India makes me really worried about all this. Ultimately I think about it this way - I've tried moving out of it and in the US I have found myself sitting on the distant sidelines of a vast and rich social playing field. Here, I'm in the thick of a losing battle for almost everything I like, but at least I'm a small part of it and there are a lot of people like me to share the joys and sorrows of it all.

All in all, India is right now in a state of massive change. Right down to personal decisions about what is right and wrong, everything seems to be in question - and the younger generation is at the bleeding edge (our kids being a part of it). It was amazing that while we received a lot of warm welcomes upon our arrival here, very few said "welcome back home" - people mostly said "welcome to India". I wondered why, and I concluded that the place has changed so much it doesn't feel like home to anyone here either!