Friday, March 30, 2012

"I wanna go baaaaack"

In April 2005 after a six month stint, I left India for the first time. I didn’t set foot back into the country until November 2010 when I landed to search for a new apartment. In the 4.5 years that passed between those dates, there were no fewer than three situations where I thought I’d get a chance to go back for anywhere ranging from a couple weeks to multiple months. However, as the announcer in FIFA ‘99 would often tell my buddy Jimmy in our N64 glory days, “chance gone begging there” when he missed a shot on goal back, the chance for my return trip to India went begging as well; it never materialized.

As I transitioned to my new job in the US (still heavily involved with working with India), I was delighted to learn that three trips had been budgeted for my return to my adopted homeland in 2012. Not just three trips, but three two-week trips. While I had no intention of spending six weeks in India this year unless absolutely necessary, I took the fact that six weeks of travel had been planned as a relatively safe assumption that I’d wait less than 4.5 years for my return. In fact, the first trip was planned to commence 4.5 months from my return.

I had visions of a productive week of work and a weekend in Delhi filled with my favorite restaurants, a brunch (oh yes, there would have been a brunch), a stop at Maharaja Arts for a rug (the old rug from Home Depot beneath our dining room table is a very nice rug; however, when placed in proximity to our rug from India, it starts to look like, well, a rug from Home Depot), and maybe even a trip back to Grover’s (my tailor) at Khan Market. Of course, as part of this vision, my trusty driver Kailash (whom I obviously would have requested and received, because you know, he was my driver for two years) would have greeted me at the airport with a fresh batch of photos from his recent wedding. Everything was going to be perfect.

Then last Friday I received an email from my boss with a rather ominous subject line: “India is ‘off.’”

That didn’t sound like good news. Hoping that maybe she had mistyped, I still opened the email. Unfortunately, bad news confirmed. The trip was off. I could have saved a few keystrokes and just trusted the subject heading.

The repatriation process is tough. It’s tougher, in my opinion, when you return domestically to an unfamiliar place. I have to admit, after four months back in the states, a busy month of December getting moved, and two months of constant work travel and visitors, I was really looking forward to getting back to a familiar, comfortable place.

In some ways, it helps that I saw some Indian colleagues in Chicago a couple weeks ago, including my boss while I was and the gentleman that replaced me. In fact, we hosted him for dinner at the new house in Orlando when he visited for a couple days the following week. It’s fun to have visitors and show off Lindsay’s “finds” and tell the stories of how those finds were found. It’s more fun when you show a home full of Indian objects to someone from there that truly appreciates it (I mean, people humor us and tell us the stuff we brought back is cool; but what do they really care?). I used to describe our home decorating style as “Pottery Barn and Asia involved in some sort of conflict that has yet to be decided.” As we showed Jagmohan around the new digs, it was pretty obvious Asia came out on top of that conflict.

As good as it is to talk to and see people from India, and I’m not at the “Jack in ‘Lost’” state yet, sitting drunk at the end of a runway wailing “I wanna go baaaaack.” But the reality is, I do want to go back. At some point here I’m sure I will, and 4.5 months may have been a little unrealistic.

Let’s just hope it’s not 4.5 years.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anatomy of a Color Fight

As I write this, in village and cities all across India, merrymakers are preparing to celebrate the festival of colors, known as Holi. At first glance, the average American might think it's kind of a goofy holiday where you throw colored powder on one another. I'd offer that it's no goofier than something like Halloween, where if you look at it through a foreigners eyes is comprised of dressing our children up in costumes and sending them out unattended (at least in my day) to beg for candy by ringing the doorbells of strangers.

As an experienced repat, there are certain triggers that make me miss my adopted home. For me, a primary trigger seems to be holidays. I regret never experiencing a true Holi, one out in an "unprotected" area where you're likely the primary target of who knows what being thrown on you. Probably not the safest of situations, but a regret nonetheless.

Regardless, to administer a little self-therapy, I was looking through last year's pictured from our "protected" Holi celebration at Manvar resort, halfway between Jodhpur and Jaisalmer. If you've ever been curious how people get "colored" during the celebration, this series of shots will help explain (though there wasn't water involved so the end result was nowhere what you might see in an "unprotected" celebration.

Happy Holi!