I get asked all the time, “Why do you choose to stay in India?”. I am asked this by my Indian friends, by friends overseas, travellers I meet and most recently by my parents who are here visiting me for a few months.
It is not an easy question to answer, but whilst reflecting on the year that was 2012, I thought it might be time I tried.
Let me start with the reality that is living in India. It is hard work! When you look at things through Western eyes like I do, almost everything here is challenging.
Walking down the street to get some milk in the morning can be a real effort, like trying not to the fall into massive holes in the footpath that could break your neck, and of course dodging all the human and animal waste on the ground. That said, I also have the luxury of being able to wander downstairs and pick up the freshest fruit and vegetables to cook with each day. That is a huge bonus of living here.
Anyone who has read some of my tweets would know that I love food and really like getting out and trying new things. Unfortunately finding good food in India that is not Indian or been “Indianised” is close to impossible. Whilst I love the local food sometimes I just want my Italian without a huge dose of masala. On the flip side, the variety of Indian food that I can get here goes far beyond anything I have experienced elsewhere. I have learnt so much about the different regional cuisines and am really enjoying discovering new cooking techniques and varieties to try every day.
Sadly one of the things I find the most challenging is the attitude of many of the people. I have written posts about some of my experiences with Indian men here and here and about the treatment of women. The issues of how women are treated in India has become even more prevalent on the global stage in the last week with the horrific gang rape and death of a young girl in Delhi, but this is only part of the issue. Rape and horrific crimes are a reality for so many here in India. Thankfully, I have been fortunate not to be personally affected in such a horrendous way.
On a day-to-day basis, I am affected by the way people treat each other, particularly in Mumbai. I have found my daily life can sometimes be a struggle because of rudeness and plain disrespect. For example I walk everywhere as a preferred mode of transport, and cars just drive straight into me (literally) and appear to be quite happy to run me over. When I say something I am either ignored or subjected to rude hand gestures or a simple shrug of indifference. There doesn’t seem to be any care for other people.
This lack of civic responsibility extends to littering in the street, accidentally spitting on people (because many don’t look where they are spitting), pushing and shoving. A small walk down the street can be downright exhausting and distressing. I don’t think it is pleasant to live amongst a place that resembles a rubbish dump, and where people are only interested in looking after themselves. The strong streak of individualism (in what is viewed as a collective culture) and complete disregard for other human beings and environment is something I find really hard to accept here.
So why do I choose to live in India? The answer is simple; because when it is not beating me down it is lifting me up.
I feel like I can do almost anything here, the opportunities seem endless. When I get on a roll, it is quite exhilarating. When I left Australia I had worked in large corporates for over 16 years. Yes I had a successful career but I wasn’t very happy.
It never occurred to me that I could try a new career (like writing) or freelance as a business consultant (I specialise in various areas including corporate and marketing strategy, customer experience and business planning). It certainly didn’t cross my mind that I could start my own business in a new area (I am currently exploring establishing a textile business, a restaurant and a food wholesaling business, have already done some clothing exports and am looking into opportunities in the travel industry as well). It is really exciting!
These are all things that give me a lot of energy and make getting up in the morning really interesting. I now work from home and for myself, which is a real luxury. Whilst I am certainly not on the same salary I was before (currently I earn about 10% of my previous Australian income), I can live comfortably on it here. Something I certainly couldn’t do in Australia.
From a personal perspective, I have met some great people from all walks of life. My social circle is small but distinguished, with a mix of Mumbai locals, travellers and some expats thrown in. I have learnt a lot from my new friends and it has expanded the way I look at the world.
Thankfully, modern technology means I am still close to my dear friends in Australia. With Skype and Facebook, I am contact with those I love regularly.
I have also been fortunate enough to do a lot of travel, and I have plans to continue doing much more next year (and for the rest of my life). When I travel through this country and see the different regions, it is fascinating. The culture, history and feel of each town is completely different from the last, and there is so much left to learn and be taught here.
India has taught me so much, but particularly about humility and compassion. Whilst I like to think I always had some of these traits before leaving Australia, I feel now I am exploring the depth of these emotions much further. It has also taught me to be incredibly grateful for everything I have. Everyday I am confronted with how hard life is for so many here, just struggling to survive. It is heartbreaking. I am lucky for the privilege that I have.
So all in all, India is a real mix of emotions for me. There are no shades of grey; it is either completely deflating or entirely exhilarating. Whilst the lows aren’t great, I am loving the highs so much I plan on sticking around here to see where they take me next.
So as I enter 2013, I hope to continue to grow and learn and appreciate what I have. I wish the best in the coming year for you too.
32 thoughts on “Why I Choose to Stay in India?”
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Amazing. Can’t believe I found you writing amazing stories after all these years. Been ages since the Myer days
Howdy stranger, I happened to stumble across one of your editorials. It’s been a long time since the days at Myer 🙂
Howdy indeed, it has been a very long time. I hope all is well with you.
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You know something, even though I have lived India all my life, I have the same question as you – Why am I living in India – and other than the fresh vegetables part (I am almost a cannibal), I have the same answers as you.
I do not agree that the struggle for survival, as it was pointed by someone, makes people rude, on the other hand, I think its an inherent arrogance which has creeped in the cities and the belief that might is right which makes people rude. People in villages struggle more than us, but the warmth I find among Villagers/ small town folks, I do not see in big cities.
You write beautifully. keep doing it for many more years 🙂
Thanks so much. It is nice to hear I am not alone in my thoughts.
I hear you!
I have recently moved to Delhi and perfectly understand some of the points you mention in your post. Particularly the fact that people are many times rough, and just go about their business. I think that there are SO MANY PEOPLE in this country that they tend to become individualistic for the sake of your own survival.
It does take time to get used to it but, as you say, there are indeed good things about living in India. And yes, I love the fresh veggies everywhere too! 😛
Yes I do tend to agree with you, I find the Indian culture very individualistic.
Probably it’s to do with secular nature of the country 😉 —
I love to welcome you and your family to Haryana ( north india ) or rajasthan and want to show what make India so special. Mumbai is developed city of india and there are very little to see there if you want to see real india which make you to fall in love with India so much that you wish to born here next time.
Thanks, as you can see in my blog, I have already seen a lot of India, including Haryana and Rajasthan. I already am in love with this country 🙂
Do you actually need someone to tell you that india is not the country for you?
You lived all your life in australia. Your friends are there. They talk like you and you talk like them. They share your thoughts and you share their thoughts.
We indians are used to india very well than you think and we know for a fact that you can never get accustomed to the things in india.
You should live in australia and stop wasting your life here in india. It saves everyone the criticisement that life in india is too inconvenient and australia is too convenient.
Find a western oriented man. Have kids.Make merry. Grow old etc etc.
Thanks for your thoughts. As I have said in my post I am actually happy living in India and have no plans to return to Australia.
It sounds illogical to me. My best guess is that you desperately wanted to leave australia.
India just happened to be that place where no one knows you or anything about you.
There is one book you may find interesting which is called “shantaram”. It is about an australian man who comes to india and how his newly found anonymity gives him a new lease on life.
Umm thanks for your interesting guesses about me. As I mention in other posts I am actually of Indian origin and have family and friends here.
I have read Shantaram many years ago. It was a great book, but I am happy to say the authors situation bears little resemblance to mine. I am not a fugitive nor involved in the underworld here 🙂
Indeed the guesses are interesting 😀
Thank you for liking my guesses. I’m still baffled why someone would want to leave family and friends from a lifetime behind to move to a non-domesticated country. Orcas in captivity develop permanently collapsed fins. I’d lock myself in terror if I were you.
I was reading your old posts and suddenly remembered this NRI women who is totally similar to you. Notice the accent also.
hmm, not sure I see the similarity between them and me, but very amusing video.
Great choice to live in India. I know there are lot of difficulties as mentioned in your post. But still if you really want to live India then explore the real depth of it that is supreme spiritual knowledge available in the country. Being in India don’t restrict yourself to only material world because that is only one part and will end one day. You must go on and explore the more subtle world that exist beyond this material world. For business purposes every place in the world have its own kind of opportunities and success depends upon your luck and efforts. But make use of this chance of living in India, do some more work along with your material desires and explore your real self. You can find it in whole India or i can guide you from where to start (if needed). Good luck and God bless you.
Well, while we’d LOVE to have you back at home, we’re happy when you’re happiest! So much inspiration there, by the sounds. Glad you’re having these amazing opportunities xx
Cheers. I hope to see you here sometime soon. xx
Im one of those who’ve often wondered why you choose to stay here! I’ve lived in a developed country only for 6 years, and have found it challenging to live in India again (Delhi doesn’t make the transition easy!). But after reading about the highs you talk about, I realize that that’s exactly why I’m still here too 🙂 Thanks for the reminder, and a happy 2013!
Cheers, and happy new year to you too my friend.
Interesting observations and got to agree with the rudeness aspect of Mumbai. Its a kind of birthright with most people here but after a point you tend to identify with them and somehow becomes part of one’s natural response.
Thanks for your honest comment. I am still in the resistance phase, I am not sure I am ready to become a true Mumbaikar 🙂
Please don’t become one would be my advice. Else you end up like one of us. We call ourselves the Maximum City or the city that always stands up but the reality is we are merely fooling ourselves.
Most of us are uncouth and race at a fast pace through our lives and never stops to take in details. Its almost always a reaction and never a response. I don’t exclude myself from the madness. I am still a part of it but try and break the structure when I can.
I remembered a funny story about a person from Delhi who found the Hindi spoken in Mumbai to be an assault on his senses but when he does go back to Delhi, he realizes he has caught the city’s bug and his language is just as bad.
Wish you a happy, and memorable stay in India for years to come, and of course looking forward to read sequels of this post on 31st Decembers of the future! 🙂
Thanks Ashish, happy new year’s to you too.
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I think you are amazing to have made such a big move to such a different culture and survived! India is such an amazing place and I can understand why you would want to stay there. I hope I can visit again soon. xx
I hope I see you here again soon too. Our trip from Delhi to Mumbai has given me some of my favourite memories of the past year. Time for another Thelma and Louise effort soon I think!