I am here now finally...after months of waiting...marking off the calendar....counting the days with my sons...we are finally back home in Mumbai, India for our summer holidays. Today is day 2....40 days more to go...and now that I am here...away from my very busy, very planned life I wonder what am I going to do with myself and my sons? Ok so we will go and meet some relatives, some friends, eat the local street food that we have been missing, spend time watching TV like never before, relax a bit and then what? Head back home? And where is my home? Is it here in this city where I was born, have my whole family, have my childhood friends and where I spent most of my life - its joys and sorrows; or is it in that alien nation speaking an alien language that I am trying hard to understand, living like an outsider trying to follow their rules of the society and yet trying hard to make a niche for myself? So I wonder why am I still living there? What is it that lures me like millions of others to make their home away from their home country first as expats, then as NRIs, giving up our Indian passports, never to return back home except for these short and sweet holidays?
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.
Labels: family, home, Hong Kong, India, life, Mumbai, school