I don’t know about the others but I can talk for myself (might be at the risk of irking my near and dear ones). I want a better quality of life for my boys, my husband, for myself. Of course each individual can define what this “quality” means. To me I want to be able to spend my weekends with my husband at home instead of him working in the office just being there because that’s the work culture! Better still I would love to spend weekends in the countryside maybe to visit a farm like we did in Dorset, England or to have a cycling holiday pedalling through the woods past the flowing brooks, or to have a barbecue at a beach like we recently had with our friends in Hong Kong. One might argue that we could do similar things in India. Maybe…maybe not….but do we have the time and the facility to pursue our hobbies, to do what you always wanted to do without giving up your career? And that is possible because life is more organised abroad. People plan their holidays a year in advance, party invites are sent out a month in advance, everyone values each other’s time and work around it. Out here if I go to a beauty parlour for example (since I am at one right now) with an appointment, I will be asked to wait very politely with “Sure just wait for 5 minutes.” After 15 minutes of patient waiting when I ask “So how much more time would the stylist take?” pat comes the reply “Only 5 more minutes really ma’am,” and it goes on amd on. I do finish what I had come to do but with an added extra hour! That meant if I had planned something else right after my “appointment” I would be terribly late not only because someone didn’t care about my time but because for the next one hour I would be stuck in a traffic jam!
I want my kids to enjoy their childhood, try out activities of their choice and not spend half their lives studying or doing home work or taking tutions. I want them to breathe better, fresher air, run around in open parks, meet farm animals in a farm and not on the road, and know what a real rainbow looks like. I want them to have the confidence of making new friends, meeting new people and learning new languages. During my school days the only way one could pass exams is through rote learning and mind you I mostly came first in class (ranking system!!) so I must be very good at that, but did I actually learn anything or remember anything that was taught after the exams were over? Did that kind of pressure let me focus on anything else besides studies…. though I was lucky to have a mother who would encourage us to do extra-curricular activities. For the last three years that my son has been in Primary school, not once have I felt any kind of pressure as a parent to do make him to any extra work at home. Everything is taught in school, remains in school and his bag is filled with just 2 books that come home everyday – his calendar and his spellings book! End of the year report was a nice summarized version of his strengths and weaknesses in different aspects like academics, physical education and music and not a list of marks given in each subject taught with a Pass or Fail at the end.
Another reason why I do not wish to come back to my home country is because I feel that it is far easier for me to be a stay-at-home mum abroad. With no help from family or helpers I have more than enough work to keep myself completely occupied and to justify my role. I am sure if I moved to Mumbai my boys would start taking the school bus, then head for tutions after that and with my ‘bai’ (helper) doing all the housework I would have no other choice but to start working!
Having said all this Hong Kong life is quite similar to Mumbai’s, they both being fast growing cities with an extremely fast pace of life. The Chinese are similar to Indians with their love for local food, their local language and their fierce competitiveness. (In fact I have learnt that the Chinese parents want to make super-heroes out of their children and start working on their studies and other activities almost after birth!) From that point of view I do prefer staying in England, but I can get away by staying in HK because it is a transient location where people from all parts of the world come, work, live and then move out. A whole lot of international schools are catered to this population and the society is geared towards dealing with this ‘outside’ influx which makes life a lot easier. Maybe then it is an ever better location than the West as it combines the Western lifestyle with the Asian culture!
Of course I wish my my kids could bond more with their grand parents, their cousins, their extended family. I wish they could speak our local languages and learn more about their history and heritage ….but that is why I am here today, aren’t I? Besides who knows, my priorities might change as the kids grow older and as time passes by maybe I would think differently one day, or maybe Mumbai would be the next super-power city and would offer all the benefits that I seek and more…..till then I will continue to spend my summer holidays there.
Kavita Sanghvi says
Excellent read Mehroo!!! I agree with you 100%. Quality of life is key and although quality may mean different things to different people, I totally agree with your definition. In Mumbai I hear some of my friends (our generation) get pulled into family committments and events..what in gujarati we call "vehvar". They get so tied into all these obligations, that they never have time to do what they really want to do..like chill or go to the park or visit friends, etc. I'm not saying all are in the same boat, but majority seem to be. I would also like to say it is not just India…London in some ways is very backward in their thinking (sorry if I am offending anyone here, but stating facts that I'm seeing). If you live with in-laws, etc and there thinking is old style, then you get sucked into the same "vehvar" cycle. lastly, I think you keep wanting to go back to Mumbai ..even if it is for summer holidays, because "home is where your family is" and part of yours is still in Mumbai. Keep up the blogging girl!! Love it and miss ya
Very thought provoking Mehroo! We all go through these thoughts as expats every now and then but its so nice to see someone summarise them in words. I agree and understand all the feelings mentioned here expect that even in India you would easily justify being a housewife as the 'bai' though widely visible is unfortunately not 'relaible or regular' as there is no accountability so even in this area (labour) abroad is better than India!
Another comment is that like you I also enjoyed my time in England so I appreciate that you have looked at HK with such an open mind 🙂
Thank you for your comment and your thoughts about this subject. You are right about the 'invisible' bai out here and its amazing how dependent we get on them that we schedule our days or change plans to accommodate them! Keep the thoughts flowing.
Hey Kavita, so nice to receive your first official comment on my blog so keep it up! Yes that's a very important point that I missed out on that sometimes extended family bonds can get a bit sticky and become more of a duty than pleasure. Another very important point that I missed to write about is that the 4 of us – i.e my husband, my sons and myself have come so much closer as a family, forgetting our petty differences as we know that in the absence of an extended family net we only have each other for support and also this leads to us doing common things over the weekend or holidays instead of each one going their different way.
Faiyaz Engineer says
I agree with you on your point of quality of life…. but if I was given a chance to fit in your shoes I would still prefer to be where I am. Yes, I would want my children to be close to me, but can you imagine your yesteryears without the love you got from Adi Mama.
Staying in Mumbai, I have walked through the green medows of Panchgani, the forest of Matheran and all my life my boy scouting camps has taken me to places where I have seen rainbows and clear starlit skys in the night.
I have had the privilidge to be loved by all my relatives.
It is all a point of view.
I find it hard to not be there for my parents and I see the happiness in their eyes when I am around.
OK, so yes, people dont respect others time, and you do send out invites one month in advance in firang country, but Mehroo dont you find it more fun when you call out to your cousins and friends just 2 days in advance and they are all there for your party…
Coming to the point of education, here in India too, there are schools that now follow the international cirriculam and provide you with report cards as you have stated.
Im sorry if I have posted this blog against your taste, but believe me Mehroo, we all miss you a lot.
What makes us all really happy is to see you and Kaiwan and the kids doing really great…thats how families are meant to be.
Lots and Lots of love and best wishes to you…
Very thought provoking Mehroo, all expats go through these thoughts every now and then but so nice to see someone put them down in words. I agree and understand all the feelings and thoughts u mentioned except that even in India you would easily justify being a housewife as the 'bai' though widely visible everywhere is unfortunately not 'reliable and regular' as there is no accountability so even in that area (labour) abroad is better than India! And just like you, I also enjoyed my time in England so its very interesting that you have looked at HK with very open mind 🙂
so nice to receive this heartfelt comment from you that at first I was at a loss to answer. Yes you are right and like I have mentioned your immediate family is whom you miss the most including my kids missing out on their grandparents and that is exactly the reason why I am spending 6 weeks in my home country away from my home and my husband. I used to think exactly like you once upon a time, but trust me you will think very differently once you have children and also when you see and experience what life has to offer them abroad. I feel very touched to know that you miss me and the feeling is mutual. Hope we make the best use of our short time together. Love Mehroo
Sabyasachi Patra | Tales from Wild India says
Some nice thoughts. I agree that kids should know their culture. I feel, every person should know his or her roots. When they stay in India for sometime, they will also realise the competition through which we have come up and hopefully that should rub off on them. A few years back, when we saw few people hanging from the bus, National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi commented that people in India are competing hard to come to the top. That polishes the instincts of people. I have seen that to be a big factor as most of the times people from India and China shine.
Mehroo Turel says
Hi Sabyasachi, thank you for your very first comment on my site. Of course we should know our roots and that is one of the tasks I have undertaken as an NRI parent to teach all our family values, Indian culture and language to my children. Competition is good but I think too much competition forced upon a child could make or mar him and honestly I am not ready to find out how my child would take it. I am happy to encourage them if they wish to pursue something and maybe add a bit of pressure to see them fulfil their goal, besides that I think it is totally upto them.