Saturday, April 10, 2010

Indian Summer

I got to thinking how different my life is here in India as compared to how it was in Finland. Here are some reflections:

Today is April 10th, so in Finland it’s barely spring yet. The snow has just melted because of the rains. Here in Bangalore it’s already officially summer and it’s been a bit hotter than normal, the forecast for today is 36 C. So far, it’s rained twice during the past two months. But of course the rainy season is approx. July-Aug, which is the hottest (should I say "warmest"?) time of year in Finland. It's so far been sunny here nearly every day.

The food I eat here at every single meal is just amazing. Sometimes I can hardly believe that food can even be made to taste that good! Especially the vegetarian food (which I eat for free at work every day) is truly delicious. Can’t say much for the Sodexho food back home. And at home in Finland, we were mostly too lazy and/or tired to cook so we ate a lot of foods that “go bing” and also payed an arm-and-a-leg to eat out. Here we absolutely never eat anything that isn’t freshly cooked and eating out is mostly dirt-cheap (especially for Westerners).

In Finland I did a lot of housework in addition to my work at the office. Here I do nothing at home since we have a house-boy who cleans, does the grocery shopping, cooks, does the dishes, waters the plants and the garden and does the laundry and the ironing. Or, to be specific, he does not actually do the ironing: he sends it out to the nearby village! Sometimes they deliver our laundry early in the morning when our house-boy has not yet arrived (he comes around 8 am), and we need to pay the delivery guy: a big pile of ironing costs 55 rupees, home-delivered. That’s about 90 euro cents. We pay a fixed fee of 3000 rupees a month for laundry and ironing, i.e. around 50 euros. That’s actually really over-priced for India!

In Finland I drove an 11-year-old VW Polo. In the winter, we had to dig it out from under piles of snow. Sometimes we couldn’t use the car because it was simply buried too deep under the snow (we lived in Töölö). Here, I have my own personal driver who is at my disposal 24/7. The car is a diesel Toyota Innova, which is nearly big enough to be a mini-van. Every single expat in India seems to have one.

In Finland we mainly did housework, took walks, and watched TV on weekends. Here, we’ve travelled somewhere nearly every weekend. I’ve now been here just over two months and we’ve already been to: Chennai, Mamallapuram, Pondicherry, Goa (Panjim, Palolem and Bogmalo), Pune, Mysore, Srirangapattana, Kerala (backwaters, Kovalam and Varkala). This weekend we are, exceptionally, staying home. But already I’m thinking it would be nice to go to the beach near Mangalore next weekend…or to the Coorg hill station…it's apparently really nice and cool there...

At work, my company is in the process of getting rid of approx. 500 people in Finland. The morale is not great. Here, everyone is really motivated, really proud to work for their company, there’s not even a trace of cynicism. It’s truly a pleasure to go to work every day.

The most common trees in Finland are pine, spruce and birch. Here we see palm trees, banana trees and trees whose name I don’t know.

In Finland, many people only see their parents a couple of times a year. They could easily see them more often but either they’re “busy” or they’re not that close to their parents. The first time we gave our driver a long weekend off, he was over-joyed. I asked him why. He said he had not been to his home village in a year! The previous people he worked for never gave him a single day off. He calls his parents every day and he has their first names tattoeed on his forearm.

In India, everywhere we go and no matter what we do, we are constantly stared at. I feel pressure to always look good…I’m starting to understand how movie-stars feel...

I still feel that everything I see here is really interesting. There’s constantly something to look at, something to wonder at. I am constantly asking the locals: what’s that? Why are they doing that? Etc. Feels like being 3 years old all over again. India is infinitely fascinating.

What about negatives: well, little things like not being able to rely on hot water and electricity. We had minor digestive issues for approx. the first month. People have a lot of desire to provide really good service, but sometimes they seem not to know so much what they are doing. What I mean is, it sometimes seems to be very difficult to buy something because it takes them 5-10 minutes to find out how much it costs. Little things like that. We don’t dwell on them, we like to focus on the positives.

It’s tough to see real poverty, tough to know what to do about beggars. However, there are not so many beggars in Bangalore since there is so much work available. Poor people do mostly seem very happy. Or is it just the way in Asia that you are always supposed to put on a happy face? At least my yoga teacher is always telling us to "keep a smile on the face" and to "be of good cheer". Indian people seem to think that it's good for the health to do so...I tend to agree! :-)

As they say in India: No issues!

Pink Lady

P.S. The photo shows Pink Lady at Brindavan Gardens near Mysore. It's very popular: there are 2 million visitors a year!!