I am back in Mumbai…


Yes, I am back from my short stint in Delhi and I DID NOT, I repeat, “did not” miss Mumbai. I am going to have to back track a bit from the time I left this maddening city, because there are some important details I do not wish to miss. This is how my Diwali started on the auspicious morning of the 26h of October – it was NOT a Happy Diwali for me: Unlike the 25th of October where I jumped out of bed at 7:30 am, the 26th of October shot me out of bed at 6:30 am. Yes, the blasting of firecrackers began at 6:30 am and I was sooooo infuriated that I could not sleep in as I had an afternoon flight to catch and needed some rest.

I arrived in Delhi at 4:30 pm and was treated to cool weather; breeze and mild temperatures dominated the country’s capital and it was such a treat to walk around without breaking a sweat. The evening was spent as Diwali should be truly spent: having a quiet dinner with family and lighting lamps outside the house. Here are some pictures:

Lamps and Candles in the Building Verandas

Lamps and Candles in the Building Verandas

Here is a picture of the lighting of the diyas (lamps) that are traditionally burnt by using a thick bundle of cotton as the wick and having it rest in oil which is contained in a clay lamp. This lighting of the lamps was originally done when Rama returned home after saving his wife, Sita, from the demon Ravana. The lamps were a symbolic way of welcoming Rama back home.

Lighting of lamps inside the house

Lighting of lamps inside the house

And this picture is the lighting of the diyas outside the entrance of the house:

Of course, all this business of celebrating Diwali in a traditional, peaceful, and quiet way all went out the window at around 9 pm when the cacophony of firecrackers began. And it continued till I left Delhi…. 4 bloody days of noise pollution!!

The nights in Delhi were cool, so cool that i need a shawl in the late evenings and early mornings….and we are still only in October where one would think that Delhi would still be warm, if not hot. In any case, I was not complaining. We rented a car and driver and took a one day road trip to the state of Uttar Pradesh, where we ventured into Fatehpur Sikri and further onto Agra, taking in the sights of the Taj Mahal and other remains of the great Mogul Empire.

The state next to Delhi, is called Harayana, which, once upon a time was a lush green, underdeveloped state. Now, this state, particularly the city where I lived in, Grugaon, is littered with shopping malls and…..yes, more shopping malls. The week that I was there also happened to be the debut of the Formula 1 race in India, being showcased in Delhi, and the F 1 fever was on. One the malls advertised F1 in grand style, and although I am ambivalent about my feelings regarding India hosting its first ever F1, I am sharing a picture of the life size advertisement I saw in one of the malls:

Formula 1

Formula 1

I landed in Mumbai in the wee hours of the 30th morning, only to enter a very humid and damp home. It was such a shock to my system, coming from the very cool and crisp weather in Delhi to the humidity of Mumbai, all in a matter of a couple of hours flight. The entire day continued to be warm and sticky and I tried to think cool thoughts hoping that I may get some relief. Oh! How I was tempted to open a chilled beer and chug away, but refrained from doing so as I am now begining to develop some kind of respiratory illness: sneezing relentlessly and coughing intermittently.Perhaps a reaction to all the air pollution?

And now, as I am trying to relax into the night and type away my blog, the firecrackers continue outside. This is adding to the already warm temperatures, making my life unbearably miserable. Indeed, 5 days after Diwali, and this noise business continues to persist like an annoying mosquito that just won’t go away.

So, I am back in Mumbai, and find it difficult to be back here. It really surprised me that I did not miss it at all. Of course, I missed my cat and she was not pleased, one bit, that she had to deal with the blasting sounds and noise all by herself.

 

Diwali – The Festival of Lights


…..in your dreams!!! It is more like the festival of sound, irritation, and frustration. This morning, I jumped out of bed ready to take shelter under the bed because I heard a deafening sound and thought the city was being bombed; that there were air raids and we were under attack! I got out on the balcony and saw that there was no such thing and I was completely confused because I jumped out of my skin when I heard the sound AGAIN! Even the cat was stunned. On further inspection, I found a bunch of kids burning fire crackers on the other side of the road. It was f****** 7:30 am……7:30 in the morning!! Who, in their right minds, lights firecrackers so early in the morning, when the city is just waking up and getting along with its day?And mind you, this is on the eve of Diwali, not on the day of.

Diwali is actually a very symbolic and auspicious festival. It is based on the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, detailing the spiritual battle between Lord Rama and the demon Ravana. Of course, as with all epics and dramas, the good is victorious and prevails. So is the symbolism of Diwali, a reminder of the eternal and existential idea that the light within has to shine, and like Rama triumphed over Ravana, we too must strive for goodness and positivity and have these virtues or qualities triumph over evil and negativity, both from within and without. Here is a glimpse of one of the many streets of Mumbai that are littered with lights:

Of course, these days, where we are in the advancement of technology and social media, not many people really celebrates Diwali for what it is; for the rich meaning and important lessons it has conveyed over centuries and generations galore. Now, it is apparent that more and more people are solely interested in meeting family, going to parties and socializing, eating out, buying gifts, and the most irritating thing of all, one that tops the list, burning firecrackers.

I have managed to take a couple of videos from my balcony this evening – it’s pretty dimly lit on the streets, but you get to see the crackers. In this video, someone is burning a “fountain” firecracker in the middle of the freaking street while there are pedestrians and traffic. Notice the cloud of smoke it leaves behind:

Here is another video of what i call the “rocket” bomb. If you notice, the rocket flies out, toward the sky, and only god knows where it lands and who it kills on the way. Have a look:

Finally, I only shot the last few seconds of this massive bomb fest that took place outside my house, but it give you a sense of what I have had to deal with the last few hours AND over the next few days:

I really don’t know or understand why this tradition of burning crackers continues in the age of modern technology, and where such noise and toxins from the crackers pollutes and disturbs the environment. I have no clue.

But, this picture is worth a million words because this is my cat in the early hours of the evening when the noise pollution just started. Clearly, she is better accustomed to this nuisance than me. Of course, now she is hiding under the closet and praying for her life.

Lesson learned: If you don’t already have a heart attack, you could very well get one with this stunning noise! And if you have already had a heart attack once, be sure to face some serious trouble when you are living in the midst of this chaotic and deafening noise… you just might die.

p.s. All the dogs, cats, and rodents from the streets are cowering under cars and in the buildings or in the earth, praying for some respite from this melange of harsh and rude sounds.

Still got the Blues


It’s been 8 weeks since we have moved to Mumbai and the gap between life in San Francisco and Mumbai gets wider with every passing day. Yes, hard to believe….. or maybe not. I don’t know. I just feel like life in this city is quite tough and I still find it very, very surreal that I have left San Francisco, left a life of fun and comfort, for this place, this maddening place I am trying to make my home.

I’ll give you an example: When I was back in the US, everyone kept telling me, you are gonna be so lucky! You will have your own maid, you won’t have to clean the house or do laundry, blah blah blah. And I was excited about that and felt that there was a silver lining to my cloud of sadness. However, 8 weeks into living here and I realize that having a maid is more hassle than a luxury. It’s like I have to manage my schedule around her because she cannot come in the mornings, if she is late she won’t bother letting you know (even though she has her own cell phone), sometimes she will show up much later than her expected time and not bat an eye, and so on. So, now I have decided to “make up” or give her a fake schedule so that she realizes that I really cannot accommodate her timings any more and that she will now have to accommodate mine, as it should be.

We are two days from Diwali and I am told that the sounds of the firecrackers are going to deafening to the extreme. I am already getting a taste of this noise pollution because people are lighting crackers as of today, but it seems quite sparse. When I was living in Mumbai in the late nineties, every time it was Diwali, I’d have a mushroom cloud of dust and smoke in my living room and bedrooms for at least 3 hours in the late evening as the people of the neighborhood (both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, civilized and uncivilized) got together to burn away their money and to kill their neighbors’ lungs. Now, by 6 pm, I shut all my windows so I do not have this cloud coming in, although my suspicion is that it will find a way to seep into the crooks and crevices of this old, old house.

I am learning, with time, that India is a great teacher and sometimes, a ruthless one. I have yet to see anything “motherly” about my Mother India. I am trying to be tolerant of the extremities of this city right from the weather, to people’s attitudes, to the levels of corruption, to the levels of education….. the list is endless. Perhaps this image most aptly illustrates how I feel…..

Cracked and broken

Yup! I’m feeling pretty cracked and broken right now…..kinda disillusioned by this city where there is so much chaos and dysfunction. By the way, this is the state of many of the manholes that are supposed to be monitored by the water department of Mumbai. This image is one in a hundred I have seen in the last few weeks. And what’s even more hilarious is that this gaping manhole is in front of one of the city’s most old and renowned restaurants. A city of extremes!

The Expat Club


A warm, balmy, Sunday night, I am recovering from my rendez-vous with some of the expats of this city; people who have made or are making Mumbai their home – some since the last few years and others since the last few weeks. I am discovering that there are tons of expats in Mumbai, a lot more than I had seen in the 4 years that I studied in Mumbai, from 1998 – 2001. In fact,  just last month, I took a double turn when I saw two Caucasian women get on a local train from Churchgate to Bandra and it seemed like it was a normal affair. I know that when I was living on Mumbai 10 years ago, I had never seen such a sight.

I am on the expat listserve in Mumbai where, but of course, all expats, from all walks of life, exchange ideas, share experiences, and commiserate on their experiences of living in the city by the bay. This is a great listserve to meet other expats as well and to connect with like minded people who may be going through similar experiences, or for that matter, very different experiences from you.

This weekend was filled with a host of many such connections. On Friday night, my husband and I had dinner with a couple who lived in the US for about 10 years and have moved to India about 10 months ago. The woman is originally from Iran, and if she can find a way to settle amongst the storm(s) around her, I shouldn’t be complaining and whining about being in India! It was great meeting this couple and sharing stories about life on the other side of the world. What started off as just dinner over a couple of hours, lasted into a longer evening ending at around 1 am.

Saturday was another fun evening as well. My husband and I attended a “French Cooking class” at Chez Vous, a French bistro at Churchgate. There were about 13 people who showed up for this class that was hosted by the owner, who is French, and it was essentially a bunch of expats who came together to learn a few recipes. We all had a choice of 4 recipies to  work with, and for whatever reason, I was the only one interested in experimenting with the Apple Tart Tatin recipe. Of course, my husband had to join me, by default, and there were all of 2 (of us) in this team. However, we were all told that in addition to cooking, we would also be judged on our finished products. The 4 teams were making Aubergine Caviar, Chocolat Fondant, Madeleines, and Apple Tart Tatin. And, drum roll please………..the winner for today’s competition is Rochelle & Bharat Suri!!! No jokes! For us being the only members on the team, I guess we did not have too many cooks who spoiled the broth and had just enough creative juices to create a winner! Here is a picture of our very own creation in the kitchen of Chez Vous, Mumbai:

This event was followed by drinks with another couple in Bandra. The man (who works at the American Consulate) and the woman, originally from Croatia, were a lot of fun as well. They were a hoot and a half and it was fun and heart warming listening to the American accent again. Felt so nice and felt like I was back home. That night was also a long night and we closed shop when the bar closed down, around 1 am.

It feels good to make such connections and to meet people who are walking on similar paths and carrying similar crosses and developing similar connections with similar people. I am looking forward to many more such connections and meetings, hoping that it will make living in Mumbai a little easier…. at least for now.

The City of Miracles


My mentor and “international mother”, a maternal figure I adopted during my early years in San Francisco (actually, we both adopted each other in a blink of an eye), says that Mumbai must be a city of miracles. Why? Because she is shocked to hear that I have decided to “slow down” and “take it easy”……something she has been asking me to do in the past few years. This is the only city, in all my life, that is making me slow down and really take one day at a time. This is no exaggeration. You see, I am one of those personalities that wants to get things done immediately, that wants to go places, see things, etc……and it has to happen at a pace that is fast and furious; it has to happen at my pace. Some people may call it ambitiousness, others talk about me being impatient and not slowing down. Whatever one calls it, I am certainly not one to sit back and simply watch life go by. Oh, no! Not me.

However, this city has the power to change things around. And amongst the many things that I have had to change and adjust to in my life, slowing down my pace is one of them. I have learned, even in the piddly 1.5 months of being here, that being in the present moment is all that we have. I have also observed, day in and day out, that the Indian people are always living in the present moment; like existential gurus who have mastered the art of being in the here and now, the Indian way has a sure-fire way of making you live one day at a time, a concept I am only beginning to re-discover.

Two examples come to mind.  A few weeks ago, a family member mentioned that she was having her 4th wedding anniversary party and was planing for it and looking around for decorations and caterers. I was a little surprised that she did not invite me for the shindig. After all, it was only 2 weeks before the party, and what if I had other plans? I would need enough notice to re-schedule everything and make arrangements to attend the function. I was bummed, but then I was happy when she called me on Tuesday night and invited me for the party on the following Saturday. I was really in awe with the fact that, a) she only gave me 4 days notice and b) she was certain that I would be there for the party with this measly 4 day notice. And I was there.

Second example: I was on the phone with my great aunt this evening (Tuesday) and she asked me to let her know when me and my husband were free for dinner in the next couple of weeks. I immediately told her that Sunday evening would work for us. Her response was (to my amazement), “Sunday is too far away and I can’t commit to Sunday right now. Call me on Friday night and we can see what Sunday looks like.” I was taken a little aback, thinking to myself, ‘On which planet is Tuesday sooooo far off from Sunday that the lady can’t figure out if she is available to do dinner with me or not.’ For the love of god, even my maid reminds me that we can only figure out things for today because, after all, and she is right, “kal kisne dekha” (who has seen tomorrow)?

This kind of philosophy, and planing, and attitude is starkly different from the one I was used to in San Francisco. My experience has been that my friends and I would plan in advance because we all had such busy lives and seldom would we just do things on a whim. I am not suggesting that such spontaneity was completely absent. I did have my fair share of it in SF, but am finding there is a lot more of it in Mumbai, and possibly in the rest of India.

I am also finding that in order to be an integral part of this culture, I have to start embracing this “one day at a time” mentality. I have to be in the present moment and not get sucked into this rat race that most people are a part of. In a remarkable poem that aptly describes my state of mind, Joyce Sutphen says:

From Out the Cave

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

“From Out the Cave” by Joyce Sutphen, from Straight Out of View. © Beacon Press, 1995

I am hoping that I continue coming out of my cave and truly immerse myself in Mother India and the many lessons of patience, fortitude, acceptance, and hope she has yet to teach me.

The one who has Nine Lives


I wish I were talking about me, but no! I would like to introduce you to my cat, who we call Maitri. Maitri, in Sanskrit, means “compassionate friend”, and one she is indeed. I realized, in the last few weeks, that I have failed to make mention of my sweet companion, my trust worthy friend in this city, the one who always has my back. So…… here is a special mention for Maitri (M) and her adjustment process in Mumbai (My guess is she is probably still adjusting like the both of us) .

We adopted Miss M in 2002 in San Francisco, when she was all of 6 months. She is now 9 years old and you wouldn’t really be able to tell that she is an old lady, or at least getting there.  What started out as a 3 week “foster” program ended up in an adoption, and now she is a very important member of the family. Of course, my husband would not agree and M does not hold that special a place in his heart as she does in mine.

In any case, M made this arduous trip with us from San Francisco to Mumbai. I knew she knew that something was up from the moment my husband and I decided to close shop in SF and move to India. She must have surely sniffed the stress, anxiety, the frustration, and the sleepless nights that my husband and I so often endured. In the last month, she was lethargic,  aloof, and disengaged from us both. In the last week, she was extremely down and I could tell that she was one unhappy cat. She saw her home disintegrate in front of her very own eyes, and I was the one breaking her wold apart. I knew that, and it broke my heart.

Forwarding to September 3rd, 2011, when the three of us boarded the flight from SF to Mumbai: M flew in-cabin with us on Lufthansa Airlines, which was accommodating and provided a smooth process for transporting our cat. We did not give her any sedatives or tranquilizers. All I did, a few days before our departure, was put a few drops of Rescue Remedy in her water. Through out the plane journey, she was, by the far, the best passenger on board. You would not have know that an unsedated cat was on board and was on a 25+ hour journey across the Atlantic. You would not have know at all! The poor creature did not make a single peep and went through and through several aircrafts, through security checks, through waiting in a couple of airports, and so on.  She was an angel and I am thankful that she was sooooo good about the whole journey. Of course, I have no doubts M hated me by the time she landed in Mumbai.

M’s first reaction to Mumbai and the new house was to hide under the bed for the first few weeks. It was unfortunate that we landed during Ganesh Chaturthi and she had endure the fire crackers and extremely loud processions. The new house, the regular noise pollution, the humid weather, the regular visits of the maid, and the chaos of everyday life in Mumbai was something M was completely unfamiliar with. But, with time, she has learned to acclimate to this new life, or perhaps in her world, to this new horror.

One of the things she still does is sleep under the bed. I think the noise and the extreme heat must still drive her crazy. She has started to come out from under the bed a little though, and now makes her self comfortable on the bed. Here is M, for your viewing pleasure:

M is also intrigued and fascinated by the number of crows and pigeons that parade themselves in front of the balcony almost everyday. She sits in the balcony most evenings and talks to the crows who taunt her with the fact that she can never get to them because of the aluminum grills that separate the two from attacking each other.

One more thing, M refuses to drink the boiled water that my husband and I have – she plain refuses it. And off late, I have started noticing that after we are done with our showers, M will sheepishly venture into the bathroom and drink the water off the bathroom floors. I will never know why she does this and i have now given up trying to give her boiled water or stop her from drinking from the toilet floor. I have now tried to make a compromise with M, and I think it is working: I have given her the  best of both worlds – the unboiled water and the bathroom ambiance by putting tap water  in a mug and placing it near the bathroom. Genius! Here is M who is working with this compromise and appears to be satisfied:

So for someone who drinks the (unhealthy) tap water of Mumbai, and seems to enjoy it, this cat sure does have 9 lives!

Winds of change!


Well, well, well! The last few days I have been complaining about the miserable heat and humidity that has taken over Mumbai. But, little did I know that it was only the calm before the storm; a preparation of sorts for the chaos and elemental violence that was to ensue.

Last night was yet another painful night, warm and muggy all round. This morning was slightly cooler and I was curious as to why the change. Anyhow, I thought to myself, ‘This is Mumbai. Anything can happen, and in most likelihood, anything will happen’, and went about my day. By around 6 pm, the skies got extremely overcast and I could sense that the winds of change were just around the corner. What I could not sense, was the intensity and force of these winds. Much to my surprise, around 7 pm, I heard the pitter-patter of rain drops and it was a light shower which I was disappointed with. I really wanted the rain to come down on mother earth and was praying that the streets of Mumbai would be blasted by showers from heaven, cleansing and nullifying every pore of this city. And boy, did I get what I asked for. By 7:15 pm, it just poured like something I had not seen in a long time. Mother nature did put on a show, and she wasn’t shy about it.

Below is a short footage of the view and sounds from my window. You will notice the sound of the rain, the thunder, the fact that some parts of the neighborhood did not have electricity, and finally, the most magnificent of them all, the lightning. Please indulge in some of mother nature’s antics:

Rain!!!!

Gosh! This performance went on, full force, for about 2 hours and I had never been more terrified by the thunder like I did today. Even my poor cat refused to get out from under the bed and was clearly disturbed by the whole sound and light show. My grandmother’s words kept echoing: “You will know when the monsoon season has finally come to an end. The thunder and lightning with come with a bang, announcing the end of the rains and the beginning of the second summer.” And, now I know.

What I also know and am keenly aware of is the metaphor that these storms, the thunder and lightning, represent in my life. Sometimes I feel that there is the darkness of uncertainty that I am traversing through, and once in a while, I get glimpses of light thrown my way, illuminating my path in this lifetime. I must also add that with the storms, came also really cool breeze and very, very pleasant weather. As I am sitting in my study, with only the fan on, it feels like I am in an air conditioned room, and you could never tell that we were in the midst of the second second summer. It is really incredible how the weather has changed overnight and it gives me immense hope that things in my life will also change; and perhaps change so drastically that I would be in a tizzy from all the goodness that came my way.

A sweaty train ride and no where to go


Just for the record, to update you on last night’s post, I did not sleep well at all. It was really hard for me to stay focused and I found my thoughts running in all directions, about a hundred of them per minute. However, I did wake up feeling more assured of the positive and fulfilling things that would soon be a part of my life. There was a renewed hope and a feeling of lightness. I received a call from a psychologist I had been trying to get in touch with for weeks now and who is well known in the field. It was nice speaking to someone who has been in the field in Mumbai for several years and getting the lay of the land from her was helpful in many ways. I then got a call from a potential client and had a session set up with him for sometime this week. Things were picking up on this warm Tuesday morning. Perhaps, being the day dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles was showering me with his blessings, telling me that I have nothing to fear and that things will work out, just as they were meant to be, until…..

The highlight of my afternoon was a meeting with one of the top psychiatrists in Mumbai at Hiranandani Hospital in Powai. Powai is a good one and a half hour journey from my part of the city and, for a person such as me who does not own a vehicle, involves the use of multiple trains and a rickshaw. I got dressed up for the meeting, requested my neighbor to let the maid in in my absence, and marched on to the railway station where I purchased a return ticket. So far, so good. I got onto the train and got off at Dadar, the hub, the big mama where all trains meet and trickle into the several hundred arteries of the city. I was in a daze…..swarms of people moving through out the station, several announcements echoing through and through, trains moving in all directions and to all destinations….I was in a daze!

What was most amazing were the rivers of sweat running down my face and down my back and stomach as I frantically changed platforms and hopped from the Western Railway Line to the Central Railway Line. I couldn’t believe it. You could have thrown a bucket of water on my face and my face would not be dripping as much as it did when i was at the station. And when I looked around the thousand faces that passed me by, hardly any of them were sweating. It felt like I was on another planet, with its won temperature and climate.

Long story short, I got on the train and am pleased that 1) I did not pass out from the heat and the sweat, and 2) That I stayed calm in the face of a trillion people surrounding me (something I have not experienced in 10 years!!!). But of course, as I previously mentioned, the elephant god had other plans for me. When I got on to the next station, I saw that I received a text message from the person I was to meet. I was going to look at it, but first decided to ask the passenger next to me if I was going in the right direction. The young girl, who looked like she had been riding the trains since she was 5 years, stated that I was traveling in the wrong direction. I immediately panicked and knew that now I was going to be delayed, and what kind of an impression would that give to the chief psychiatrist? I jumped off the train, after having forced myself through 15 other bodies that were trying to get in. I looked at the text which stated, “Where are you? Are you close by?” I responded and texted back stating that I would be there in 30 minutes. There were a few exchanges back and forth, the psychiatrist determining which station I was at, how I was getting there, and finally, letting me know he had to attend to an emergency. In the meanwhile, I asked the owner of a magazine stall at the platform if I was indeed going in the wrong direction. He answered in the negative and I was sad that I got off the train and that I now had to wait for the next one. But, nothing is an accident and there are no such things as coincidences….at least according to Richard Bach. As I was waiting for the next train, I received another text from the psychiatrist letting me know that he would not be able to see me after all. I was really amazed at how I was misguided by the young girl (who looked like she knew what she was saying) and forced to get off the train, only in time to receive this disappointing news. So, I decided that instead of getting upset, I would sit a while at the station, do some people watching, make my way back home, and cool down with some fresh coconut water. And that’s exactly what I did.

Now, as I think back on my day, I still believe that positive and fulfilling things will soon be a part of my life. It is only a matter of time.

The Heat is On!


My god, is it on or what!!! I am suffering in this cauldron of humidity, putrefying smells, and rising temperatures as I try to make sense of the drastic change in weather. And I am not kidding about the smells. In the last few days, as the evenings get more humid and dense, there is a strong smell of sewage and waste that makes its way into the inner roads of my neighborhood by around 9 pm. And it doesn’t just pass by….oh, no! It is here to stay and can possibly put a skunk to shame. This smell is pronounced by the fact that the rains have receded, and with it have gone the pleasant weather and the somewhat cool breeze that would occasionally make its presence known on a warm, sultry evening. The last few days have gotten excruciatingly painful and I try to deter myself from having more than one shower a day in my brave attempts to acclimate to my new life and the new environmental changes.  Some days I succeed, and some days I end up having three showers a day!

As I sit and type this blog, I can’t help but draw parallels between the hot, steamy weather in Mumbai and the turmoil and storms that are developing inside of me, consuming every vein and cell in my body, reminding me of the very few times I actually had to sweat in the cool, comforting weather of San Francisco. It is the second month of our arrival and I am still not sure about what I am doing with my life. A colleague just shared with me a quote he once read; a quote he says is the guiding principle of his life: “Life is not about discovering ourselves, but creating ourselves! 

It is so very true. I think about this opportunity that I have been given where I am able to learn more about myself and be kinder to myself than I usually am. As a psychologist, I find it intriguing that I am constantly learning and discovering new things about myself and re-discovering the much sought after virtues of kindness and patience: to my self and to others. In the rat race to achieve things, to go places, to be someone, and in our attempts to chase this elusive phenomena we call “happiness”, I think a lot of us forget to be kind and compassionate to ourselves and others. We forget that it is in giving that we receive and we are constantly asking and demanding favors and material goods from others believing that everyone and everything else holds the keys to inner happiness and peace. I don’t know…perhaps I am rambling. And if I am, I cannot help it. I have spent 3 hours round trip traveling to New Bombay for the second time in order to get all my ducks in a row for the quarantine certificate of my cat that we brought with us from the US. I got into a cab today and knew that I was going to pay for it, both literally and figuratively. It was in the middle of the day and by the time I got home, I was sweaty, exhausted, and felt like the life had been sucked out of me. It did not help that as I went through the rest of my day, it got warmer and more humid, till this point where I feel like I can barely think anymore.

So, on that note, I am going to turn in for the night and ask myself, “What am I doing with my life? What should I be doing with my life?” And perhaps, just perhaps, my dreams may paint a picture, an image that I would never imagine about my life. Or, I may just sleep like a baby, oblivious to the smells and sounds that lurk in the warm nights of this city.

I can never get a straight answer….


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….or, I’ll get to hear what I want to hear, and for once, I hate it! Frustration is probably the only word that remotely describes how irritating and upsetting it is when I am told things the other person does not mean. Yes, I am referring to the fact that, as a culture, Indians in general cannot be upfront and honest with you. They will tell you exactly what you want to hear, they will lie to you, and then they will make up a gazillion excuses and reasons as to why they were not able to deliver the goods. Do you know how many times I have heard, “Ha, ho jayega. Bus, 2 minute lagega,” (yes, it will happen. It will only take two minutes), or “Abhi, ek ghante mein ayenge,” (I will be there in one hour). Of course, the one one hour turns into three and I spend my whole day waiting and waiting for the person to show up, all the while a cauldron of anger and irritation is bubbling inside of me. And the amusing part is, (I guess it is now becoming amusing because there is only so much I can get irritated about without loosing my mind in India), is that no matter how much you scream at the person or even be abusive toward them, they will always display a sorry look on their face and exhibit a sense of complacency suggesting that, ‘Rochelle, you better get with it. This is just how it is in India.’

So, I am mustering every grain of courage, patience, and acceptance in my body and psyche to just be OK with the very different processes that are set in place in my motherland. I am hopeful that some day, I will have mastered the art of hearing and being fine, perhaps even being nonchalant, with being told what I want to hear or being lied to, when I know that it is far from the truth!

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