So, I am back to USA after spending a little over five months in Bharat. This has been my longest stay in Bharat since I left it for USA in 1970. When I was working, my maximum stay had been 10 weeks but on average all stays were around five to six weeks. I feel that I am no longer an NRI, but an RB (Resident Bharatiya.)
What was meant to be a four month stay got extended because of unfinished renovation work of my matushree’s house in Karnavati (that is, Amdavad.) I was not sure, how we would fare staying in Bharat without any family support; all these years, my sister and brother in law, who live next door had taken care of all our needs and logistics and we did not have a care in the world. This time it was different. Now they also have moved to USA to stay with their children.
It was an interesting and challenging experience. Getting the phone connection re-started, selecting an Internet provider and then have it installed, getting Reliance Dongle and Vodafone reactivated, getting gas line connection for geysers, finding a milk delivery man and newspaper delivery service, everything was new to me. Where to find groceries, where to go for a haircut, seemingly simple things were not so simple for me. But together, my wife and I persevered and made it.
Biggest challenge was to find a reliable contractor for a million rupees renovation who would complete the job in time bound fashion. It took about two months to find one. He was good but he too, as is the wont is in our dear country, exceeded his committed time by 100%, forcing me to spend Rs. 25,000 in airline fees for extending two tickets.
Working with the contractor and his construction workers and subcontractors gave me a true picture of the work ethics (or the lack of it) that prevails. It also demonstrated that we care a hoot for lives of the workers who toil in sever heat, often barefooted. Work safety is an alien concept here. No hard hats, no safety shoes, no goggles, no gloves and yet these single bodied, underfed men and women continue carrying heavy load of stones, bricks and tiles on their heads up two flights of stairs.
Labor is cheap so no one bothers to use modern methods and equipment that are so common here in USA. It was good for me to bond with these workers who are otherwise treated as second class citizens.
Going to vendors and selecting material, be it tiles or electrical fittings was an eye opening experience. On one hand there is implicit trust, on another sheer lies told with confidence to get your business. With the contractor in tow, a person would give thousands of rupees worth material on credit; otherwise, you better have all cash up front- yes cash, because the guy does not bother to honor debit cards, even though your purchase may be worth 50K.
It was also a different life when I had to live like a gypsy, moving from this room to that room every day depending on where the work was going to take place. One day we would eat our lunch in the kitchen and next day in a bedroom on a makeshift table. We had to change our sleeping place frequently too. Intense dust was all pervasive and at the end of the day, when I started to sweep it as much as I could, I sorely missed my vacuum cleaner!
But this experience was worth having, notwithstanding running around in 44⁰ C (111⁰ F.) every day to take care of things.
I had limited travel this time- to Mumbai, Vadodara, Rajkot and Junagadh. Met tons of family members and also a few friends. Attended three weddings but sadly, also three post death rites of loved ones.
Warmth of our society is unique and I hope it stays so even with the Western wind blowing so strong.
I will write another time about my observations and feelings about future of Bharat. Right now I have not been able to shake off my jetlag yet after three days so I sleep, wake up and eat at odd hours. Today for the first time, I felt like sitting down and doing some constructive work like writing this post. I know that within a week, I would get immersed in life here but right now I have withdrawal symptoms. I miss that hustle and bustle, that sweltering heat, that Alphonso and Kesar mangoes, that unending noise of traffic on nearby road. Worse, it is super cold here- unusual for this time of the year. We wake up with 6⁰ C. (42⁰ F) and temperature creeps up to 25⁰ C (75⁰ F.) during the day. I have not ventured out yet but at least grass is greener and trees are full of leaves. अच्छे दिन आ रहे हैं।