Now that we have decided to move back, I have been thinking hard, really hard about what could have been done differently, what could have changed our experience, and in general, how I can help anybody else in our place.
So here are some tips, tricks, suggestions and gotchas. If you are reading this and have any additional points to add, please let me know and I will gladly update the list.
- First and foremost, find a place to live close to the person you are closest to in that city. If not in the same complex, find something that is less than 15-20 minutes of drive time. Ideally, walking distance. You may not pop into their home all the time, but it sure is a huge help when you need to find the nearest/best hair cutting place or a reliable plumber or grocery stores to avoid, etc.
- Be ready to become dependent. I am not talking about losing independence because you may have to move in with parents or in-laws. I am talking about being dependent on domestic help of various kinds – full-time/part-time servant, driver, the guy who presses your clothes, grocery delivery, etc. All these service persons are available, for relatively low cost too (esp for “IT” salaries), but most of these tasks are not doable without them. Usually there is no dishwasher, so if the maid does not come, you end up having to wash each thing by yourself. It is very dusty, so there is no way you can go more than a day or two without dusting the whole place. Driving is extremely stressful, so you do need a driver for most of the day. And so on. So be ready to give up your independence (in that way).
- Even though cities like Bangalore are “built for the expat” as in they have communities catering to expats, services built to address expat needs, etc., I would strongly urge you not to live life in India as an American (or any other country person). You decide to move to India, live like an Indian. You will get extremely frustrated if you live life like an American. Don’t get fooled by the setup. Underneath, it is all Indian, no matter what the façade looks like.
- Related to the above point, don’t try to live in a bubble too much. Don’t protect yourself by living in air conditioning, drinking only bottled water, etc. After the initial few weeks of transitioning, just let go. Roll down the windows and take in some of the diesel smoke. Have normal “RO” water at good restaurants. Let the kids into the community swimming pool. The sooner you blur the line between “there” and “here”, the better. Of course, you need to use discretion like eating at roadside stalls but not drinking their water, but in general, live outside the bubble.
- If you have a choice between an extremely large complex with plenty of amenities and a small complex with basic amenities, choose the latter. I know it may seem counter-intuitive because if you live in a big complex, the chances you will make more friends are higher. However, what we noticed was, the bigger the complex, the easier it is to not meet the same people more than once or twice, ever. If you are in a smaller complex, I feel there would be a better chance of actually getting to know the neighbors.
- Service providers are not responsible. Just keep that in mind. They have no sense of ownership, no attention to detail, and most importantly, no sense of responsibility. A plumber may say he is coming at 10am but won’t show up all day and will never even call you that he cannot make it, and worse, won’t apologize for either of those issues. Just know that the biggest issues will arise when you set up various services. Typically you won’t need to interact with these guys on a day-to-day basis. However, as I experienced, it is extremely frustrating when pretty much every single service provider repeats the same crime – being late or not showing up, doing an incomplete job, providing incorrect updates or instructions and in general doing what would be considered an unsatisfactory job. Just be ready for it.
- Give up your politeness. When dealing with any service provider including servants, drivers, waiters, parking garage attendants, watchmen, etc., don’t be afraid to be what you may consider borderline rude. Being bossy is always better than being polite. If you notice that the other person is someone who can handle politeness, you can turn down the volume on the bossiness. The general rule of thumb is if you don’t indicate that you are running the show, they will. And you don’t ever want that to happen. I must admit, this was one of my biggest challenges. I simply could not behave like that.
- Some logistics – get proof of residence established early. Address verification is a big deal and if you don’t have a local address it would be hard or impossible to get any service started. Keep 100s of passport-sized photos of the entire family ready. Well, not 100s, but dozens at least. You need them everywhere, just like the proof of residence. Make sure you have an ID proof that shows residence too. California driver’s license did not fly in some cases for me, because it did not have proof that I am an Indian. Finally, make many photocopies of these various proofs.
- Save yourself the trouble and get an automatic shift car. I know there are advantages in a manual shift, biggest being a cost advantage, but my left leg is screaming for rest after maybe 10 minutes of driving in a stop-and-go situation. Which happens all the time. An automatic shift car will give you the much needed relief when driving around in traffic.
These are just some of the thoughts that I could collect. I may keep adding to this list over the next few weeks.
I realize that this may be something every person who returns to India may write, but I didn’t want that to stop my contribution. Hope this helps :-)
I wrote something earlier about how I felt frustrated with the lack of attention to detail with most Indian service providers (and software developers).
Our elevator recently got new wooden/laminate flooring. All good, except it seems like the goal was to “cover most of the floor” and not “do the flooring”. See how they have left about an inch off the edges? It’s not like they are going to put some sort of cover there. The flooring has been like this for 3 days now.
Here is my attempt at using Data Explorer in Excel. I used it to extract Sachin Tendulkar’s runs by ground/location from ESPNCricinfo’s excellent Statsguru feature.
It was such a breeze to bring up the stats, get the URL, import it into Excel via Data Explorer and get running right away.
Then came the complications – there are some grounds like The Oval which are not really cities or locations. Also, there are some places like Surrey that default to US cities with the same name.
With some help from Dan English (@denglishbi) I was able to clean it up by concatenating the opposition name to the ground to at least get the country right.
The next issue was that since I was using the opposition name to derive the country, and since ESPNCricinfo does not distinguish between home and away, or include that as a column, all the matches showed up as “v “. So I had to run two queries on Statsguru: one for home where I then hard-coded “, India” and another for away where I added “, ” and .
Then I used “append” in Data Explorer to merge the two data sets and then threw in a Power View Map on top of that data.
Sorry, the sexier part of this experiment, the Power View report is not visible on Excel Web App, so you will have to download it.
Overall, I came away quite excited and pleased with Data Explorer and how easy it is for business users to build compelling analytics. Find more info at the Data Explorer for Excel blog.
We are on a small vacation. At this resort, one of the service staff asked my son where he is from. Without batting an eyelid, he said “America”.
I was a bit stunned, actually. We have not told our kids about our decision to move back, so it is not like he had a hint at all.
This does reinforce our hunch that the kids are not settled here at all, and are reacting negatively in their own ways (being more cranky, being different in behavior than they were, etc.).
Again, just wow at what happened.
Yes, after 5+ months of being in India, we have decided (after some weeks of discussion) that we are going to move back to the US. It was, for obvious reasons, not an easy call to make.
The decision was made because we got the letter from our kids’ current school about registering for the next year, and since we were unhappy with how things were going here, we had to start seriously considering the options.
Some of the options we considered were moving to Bombay where our entire network is, staying put for a few years, or moving back. And we thought, all things considered, that moving back would in fact be the best option. Nobody has seen the future, but as far as we could see, it seemed like for all of us, it would work out well.
We have learned a lot here in the past several months. We have enjoyed many of the things we came to enjoy, like being in the same time zone as our parents, being closer to home, the convenience of having domestic help, getting things done by someone else (car wash, car drivers, etc.) and such. We have also, of course, been frustrated a lot. I have written about some of those examples in this blog earlier. The wife has even more examples of things not working out well for her.
And of course, the kids. They really miss their friends there. They are unable to connect with their classmates here like they had connected with their friends there (naturally, it takes time). There is not a single day that goes without them remembering their friends and something they did with them “back in Santa Clara”. They don’t protest the life here directly, they are too young to express it. They have changed for the worse instead, in terms of their behavior. They are more cranky, they are more dependent on us for the smallest of things, they have regressed a lot.
No idea about the timing when we move back, but it has to be before the school ends there so that we can at least enroll the kids for the next year. I have to think about my job too. Will keep that topic off the record for a variety of reasons.
The venture/adventure was worth it. Anyone who is planning to move, I strongly recommend actually doing it and experiencing it themselves. The adaptability and the comfort level will naturally be different for different people, so it is best to do it yourself. And if it does not work out, IMO it is definitely ok to cut your losses (so to speak), and wrap it up.
Which is what we are doing.
Much has been discussed among Windows Phone (and Windows 8/RT) circles about lack of podcast features in the phone and lack of a native app on big Windows.
I am a big podcast listener. Not huge, but I do listen to a few podcasts regularly. In fact, so regularly, that I have formed a nice list of things I would want in an ideal podcast app/service. The reason I put app/service is because we are now no longer in a single device world.
- Native apps for my devices: I use Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT and Windows 7. I would like native apps for at least phone and “Windows Store”.
- Catalog: Big enough, and fresh enough catalog so that I don’t have to add podcasts by URL.
- Easy subscribe settings: Options during subscribe should include auto downloads, number of episodes to keep, episode delete settings, etc.
- Remember played position: For each podcast, for each episode.
- Cloud: Sync settings, subscriptions and played positions to the cloud. Configurable setting for syncing on-device episodes to the cloud as well.
- Refresh/check for new episodes: Check for new episodes when app is opened, automatically. Also, check on a schedule that can be configured and have a default. So if the default is 3am and 3pm every day, I know when I get up and am ready for my commute, there may be some fresh episodes waiting for me. Same, with a 3pm check for the commute home.
- Playback speed adjustment: Must-have for me, at least 1.5x.
Some bonus territory items:
- Playback in the cloud: If my subscriptions, settings and on-device episodes are synced to the cloud, I suppose I should be able to play those episodes from the web too. That would take care of machines which don’t have native apps, for example Windows 7 or Macs/iPads/iPhone/iPod.
- Discovery: Based on what I have subscribed to, and perhaps extending it to my social networks, suggest other podcasts.
- Live tiles: I don’t care much about getting notified of new episodes, so I put this in the bonus territory. Live tile notifications of new episodes.
- Usage notifications: Notify (via live tile or otherwise) me about space used being above a certain threshold, or unplayed episodes going above a certain threshold.
Things I don’t care about but I have seen in some apps:
- Visual niceties: Like the tape player in the iOS app. Don’t care about it since I always lock the phone screen anyway.
- Social sharing: I don’t share either while listening or otherwise, so I don’t care about that feature.
Too much to ask? Is there any podcast app/service that does this already? I think Downcast on iOS comes very close in terms of functionality but they are only on iOS so far, but have expressed that they may look at WP with no real commitment provided. The iOS Podcasts app does not seem to delete episodes after they are finished which is a bummer (either a bug or a feature, but either way, a bummer for me).
None of the Windows Phone 3rd party apps do auto-download yet. There are some in the process of getting released with promised functionality but none generally available yet.
The native Windows Phone feature does not have a manual check for new episodes, and there is no clear understanding when exactly it checks for new episodes. Besides, there is no corresponding app on Windows 8, and of course, there is no playback speed adjustment.
Let me know if you find any compatible apps
While I have been less than impressed with how service providers behave here in India, what happened this morning as I got to my work really, really annoyed me and made my flip my table.
I have long suspected that my desk was being used by someone else when I was away. Of course, I haven’t been able to prove it, or convince the facilities folks about it. Nevertheless, what I saw this morning was enough to prove it.
I was unpleasantly surprised to see food marks all over my desk this morning. As if someone ate their food (sloppily, too) at my desk and left without cleaning up. It was absolutely disgusting to see those food marks all over the desk.
I barely found space to put my computer down and take some pictures to send to facilities and have them clean it up.
My irritation is as much with someone using my desk and associated problems like my chair being constantly switched, but the absolute unprofessionalism that one of my co-workers showed by not cleaning up after eating. It’s not like my cubicle seems abandoned – there are a bunch of cables lying around and of course, a giant monitor and my freaking name plate!
If my co-workers behave this way, what am I to expect from “the common man”? These are educated people working for a multinational company and if they care so little about such things, the situation is quite dire in general.
I know this may seem like an overreaction if you read it in vacuum, but the fact is I have been seeing similar unprofessional behavior all over the place across several people interactions I have had since I moved back.
At this point, it has been about 30 minutes, and nobody has responded from facilities. :-/
He had an ability to be awkward in family settings. He had “dad jokes” left and right. He was a philosopher. He was a Gandhian.
Despite all the quirks, he was a pillar for his wife. He was there whenever she needed him. He was there when the kids needed to be brought up and she was busy with her job. After all being an OB-GYN with a truckload of principles is not easy – you could get calls in the middle of the night for an impending delivery, or a surgery that must be done when it must be, etc.
He was there to pick up any of the many visitors coming to visit. He was there to drop off anyone at any time of the day or night, to any part of town. Despite his age.
He was the one who taught me defensive driving. He was the one who taught me how to drive fearlessly in the US. He was the one who made me aware of so many legal issues that plague a normal, law-abiding citizen in the US, and how to be wary of it and how to plan to handle it.
He was the one who taped curious news items (during those days where tapes were cool). He was the one who could always bring up a reference to some news or politics that related to the topic of conversation. He was the one who mined the local newspaper for tidbits to discuss at the breakfast table.
For all that he may have had to endure from extended family, he was probably one of the most taken-for-granted members of the family.
And now he is no more. Passed away in his sleep, just like he would probably plan it for himself. No pain, no trouble for family members to rush him to the hospital. No extended care. As usual, picked up his wife in the night from her job, went to bed reading a book like he always does, and (hopefully) painlessly moved on to a better place.
R.I.P. Masa. I will miss you.
Been sick for 2+ days now. The only position that is comfortable is lying down in bed.
Can’t think of worse feelings, physically at least.