Reality Bytes:One Year Later

I know this post is long overdue but we have been so busy the last few weeks between our Seattle trip, Holibirthday celebration with mom; not to mention Varun’s annual day and of course work; that I didn’t get time to collect my thoughts.

In fact the Seattle trip and the trip to Lonavla played a big role in my thinking. When we came back from Seattle, I missed everyone so much. Even Varun missed Vivaash and kept asking “Where is Vivaash, mama?” I also met a friend who recently moved to Redmond and simply loving it there.

On such days I dearly wish I was in Redmond.

And then there are days such as last weekend where we all made an impromptu trip home to celebrate my mom’s milestone birthday. The entire family was in town and we had fun. Last minute, no pre-planning, no scheduling. Just hopped on the train that we booked that afternoon and were with family the next.

How on earth would such a thing be even possible in US?

This pretty much sums up our one year here.

Weather, driving, traffic, dust, heat, pollution – we have got used to it. Work -regardless of how or how little it is, we have to deal with it – late night meetings, long work hours etc.  Maids, cooks, drivers ;when they come;  are a great help -so you can focus on life. On a good day its like an icing on top. On a bad day, we lament over moving to India.

But family, oh dear family, what can we do without you? And friends, my dear friends, how I miss you so!

Reality Bytes: Ten Months Later

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Vipul came back from his 10 day long trip from US and reminded me that its been 10 months since our big move. Wow. The last two months have gone by swiftly. It’s no surprise given that we did a little bit of travelling ( Andaman islands and Hampi) and also met with friends in Lonavala.

We made an impromptu road trip with friends which was exciting as it was our first road trip in our car. We ( as in Varun and the car) fared well  so we are looking forward to more road trips. Luckily, per Times of India,  there are more long weekends this year that 2012 to allow us to explore around Hyderabad!

Over the last couple of months, we have met at least 5-6 other folks at work who have moved back from Redmond to Hyderabad – it is comforting in some sense. One of our dear friends from Redmond, Sushil – Athika  have moved here and we met them over dinner one evening and just chatted – like old times in Redmond.

The best thing that happened in last couple of months was my recent stay in Mumbai – thanks to the relatively easy workload. It was fun being in Mumbai. Familiar places, shops, restaurants, language, mode of transport. I knew where to go, what to do – unlike in Hyderabad where I have to always find out my bearings. It made me wonder if we had moved to Mumbai ( or any city where you have lived in the past) would it have been an easier transition? On one level that would have been awesome but I don’t think Vipul would have loved it one bit. He hates Mumbai, its traffic, pollution and is allergic whenever we visit 🙁

Working at IDC

On work front, there have been several changes at Microsoft, including folks moving back, charters changing and new opportunities coming up – some exciting and others ho-hum (IMHO). Some of the charters that moved back were the ones Vipul and I were considering to opt for when we moved so we felt relived that we didn’t choose those teams then. Else, we would be back in US by now without much of a choice.

The trips and dinners with friends and family offer a way to not think about the day-to-day life and just chill. Vipul’s work continues to be crazy. He barely has any energy left to do anything other than plop in front of the TV which drives Varun and me crazy! Varun wants to play with Vipul, Vipul wants to watch TV and I want both of them to leave me in peace for a few minutes – which rarely happens 😉

Life with Varun

On top of that we had to go through Varun’s nasal procedure, change his day care, find a school for him. Its stressful on the school front. Almost every one tells us to enroll him in nursery next year in a school and curriculum of our choice as its easiest to get into in nursery than in later classes.  We were trying to defer this to next year but seems like at least in a couple of schools that we are interested in, we may be in for a surprise if we defer. In fact, I met a little girl on the flight from Mumbai who was about 3-year-old and attends a pre-school in US. It got me thinking that if Varun was in US, I would have probably enrolled him into a structured school there, so shouldn’t I be doing the same here? Lets see, we will think about it for one more week and then decide.

To Stay or not to Stay

Being here for so long, everyone wants to know about our plans. Be its friends, family or colleagues. Some are more discrete than others. Will we stay here? How long will we stay? Will we return back after two years? Will we go back to Redmond or some place else?

Will we buy a house here? Apartment or villa? When will we know when we are ready to commit to India? We have received advice to move back as schooling is better in US, lifestyle is better, savings are better. Yet, we see more and more families moving back here. Sigh.

At face value, all of this makes it hard to want to stay here. But I don’t think things are much different from what would have been in US. Except for less traffic on the roads and more variety of food/ wine, and frequent meetings with friends, things would pretty much have been the same. Additionally, we would have had to do housework and cooking. So yea, some days we are all in favor of moving back and others we want to stay put.

In Two Minds

We are constantly in two minds – which makes it real hard to live in the present and be at peace. That manifests itself in squabbles over little things or in fleeing away from it all. I really envy people who actually had a solid reason to move back to India ( practice a religion, being closer to family and family moving in with them, moving to the same city where they lived and easily adjusting). They have moved on with their lives buying a home, customizing it and enjoying it. Or the ones who realized this is not right for them and moved back.

It takes us months to commit to buying a piece of furniture. Design, style, color, pattern, height, firmness …the reconciliation of what we both agree on takes forever. This is much more complex than that – we have Varun and his future to think about, save for our retirement and plan rest of our lives!

All I know is that whatever we decide, will be binding. We are not moving again after this decision. I had my share of change. I think I am craving constancy now. And a house with a white picket fence. I wish we could make up our mind as well. But it’s so freaking hard!Lets see what choices we make this year – either ways will keep you all posted!

Reality Bytes: Eight Months Later

Diwali is around the corner. Family is in town. Lights, lanterns, festivities, shopping, sweets and delicacies and fire crackers. We celebrate Ganesh festival, Dusshera and even smaller festivals like Kojagiri Poornima.This truly encompasses what being in India is all about.

Our last two months have been more on adjusting to life in India.The usual suspects are still lurking around.

Traffic

Traffic is bad. I feel even more now that I have started driving. With our small car, we had to take the car seat out when we had family in town for a month. Now Varun refuses to sit in the car seat though he usually sits only on backseat.Once a valet didn’t come forward on seeing us as he suspected Vipul was a driver as he saw Varun and me in the backseat. Since then Vipul insists on all of us sitting on front seat at least when we go out dining. We even did a long road trip recently ( though Varun was on back seat on the long drive). Most of our long distance driving is restricted to-day time; but I must confess I have been on one trip with colleagues when we drove at night with kids on laps. But in our defense, these friends are used to driving in India at night and the highway was divided as well as lit – so its didn’t feel as dangerous as I would have once assumed it to be.

Lifestyle

The temperature has become more bearable. We have made several trips making most of the good weather. Mumbai and Lonavla for Gauri and GanapatiKochi and Kumarakom with my brother and SIL, Kurnool with colleagues and Srisailam with parents.  Only one regret we couldn’t visit a waterfall and have a good soak this monsoon. Maybe next year.

We visited several in Hyderabad as well – Lotus Pond, Shilparamam, Jagannath temple – photos will be shared soon!

We have shopped a fair bit – Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Promod, Marks and Spencer’s, Pantaloons. Cant always defer to US or Mumbai trip for shopping. Next up is a quest for a tailor.

One good part about Hyderabad is that there are several Sunday brunch places around the town. Westin, SO, Taj Krishna, Novotel – have a buffet style brunch that you can indulge in. Varun runs around, tries his favorite pasta and chicken, bread sticks, juice and ice cream and dozes off on the way home. We don’t have to worry about what to order. And as we eat early, almost always are first ones on the scene. Fresh food, attentive service, happy Varun- what else can I ask for.

Working at IDC

Finally with release of Windows 8, Vipul is now a bit free and relaxed. We went to Ramoji Film City for his Ship party and made a movie – It was insane. Varun and I went along with him ( family was invited) and we stayed overnight and had a custom ‘Nizam night’ hosted to celebrate the team shipping and watched the movies made.

This past month was also a month-long Giving campaign at Microsoft. At IDC, this takes a new dimension as one of the goals is to ensure everyone participates. So variety of events were planned at team, division and at Microsoft IDC level. On our team we had a sports tournament (where I was named MVP as I had most points..hahahah!) , Talent show (where all girls on the team performed a medley), Auction and a Family event (where we invited families and hosted them for an evening with Bingo, food, music and fun!)

It was a fun way to bond with team mates over the month.

We had our ship party as well as released in October as part of Office 2013. Our ship party was in Leonia Resort where we spent the day and then did the Gangnam Style performance.

Yea, its been most fun at work with manageable work loads. The atmosphere is more college like with all young recent grads actively participating and leading these events.

Chores and Help

Our honeymoon phase is definitely over.  Our cook left us for some unknown reason and we had to scramble to find another one. This new cook is getting used to our taste and schedule. She comes twice a day and prepares better food than the previous one – although charges a lot more money than the previous one.

Our maid is still the same – though she sometimes skips work and we are stuck with a pile of dishes to clean. I am seriously considering getting a dishwasher. And a dryer is on the list as well since our existing one died on us.

The guy who cleans the car comes regularly though does a poor job of cleaning the interior of the car. Vipul or I go down once in couple of weeks and deep clean the car. Varun loves this part as he can make a mess, play in water etc.

A lot of folks ask us if we will stay or return. We still are on the fence. I have seen quiet a few folks return due to work reasons, charter changes, reorganizations etc. I have seen quite a few folks not move back but find another role in IDC. I have seen a steady stream of imports as well ( as our PM directors calls us ;)) in management positions. Returning to Seattle will be very hard. I don’t look forward to the rainy drizzly overcast winters. And living with out all this basic help outsourced will be harder now that we have had a taste of good life. But we are nowhere near to rushing out to buying our own house and settling here.Lets see. Time will tell. We had decided to try it out for couple of years before we make up our mind.

I have heard about 12 month mark being a true life changer. Onwards to that. Till then I have Diwali, sweets, shopping and fire crackers to think about!

Reality Bytes : Two Months Later

Well, it’s almost two and half months since we moved, and today, I have found some time to sit down and write again. Life has become so busy and hectic that there is almost no time to do anything else.

Between work, Varun, swimming classes, house hunting, car shopping etc the days have simply flown. So here’s a rundown at how things fared in last couple of months:

Working at IDC

It’s a little bit different from working in Redmond. I am slowly getting a hang of work life in India. In US, work life revolves strictly around work. Statements like ‘ I spend enough time with you all during the week, I need evenings and weekends for family’ are not uncommon. Work life is more social here. It’s a cultural thing to bond over meals and IDC is no exception.As soon as meetings or serious work is over, people hang out together – be it for lunch or for tea and snacks – virtually no one eats at their desk. I tried that a few times and then promptly gave up. It’s hard to resist the interesting conversation that happens over meals.

Redmond ‘Softies read books like ‘Dont Eat Lunch Alone’ – here we live by it. Networking is not the goal (as the book defines), but it’s just to spend time with friends and catch up.

The biggest plus point of this social culture is that the management shares information, business data etc in variety of different forums as well is available for reviews/walkthru with us ( and not just limit themselves to key audience).

There are people playing table tennis or carrom at all times of the day . Work pace is bit relaxed during the day and then picks up pace in the evening. This is largely due to the younger crowd at IDC than in Redmond. Moms like me typically end up leaving early and logging back in later at night to catch up on work.

And, all hands are an interesting experience. Visiting exec’s from Redmond are treated like superstars, complete with showbiz style introductions. People applaud enthusiastically and are generally interested in the All Hands content which was not the case in Redmond. The focus of all hands is not just on the Division goals and progress, but its on overall Microsoft. Needless to add, the event was catered – Chinese, Chaat and Kulfi 🙂

Life in Hyderabad

Like any other second tier city in India, Hyderabad life is predictable. Maybe life in Hyderabad with a kid is predictable. Which is not a bad thing. Traffic is manageable. Its not as polluted as Mumbai or Calcutta. We are within 20 mins driving distance to Jubilee Hills and the indulgences it has to offer. The only thing that is making us miserable is this heat. 42  C – 45 C is not something humans were meant to endure. By the time I drop Varun and reach office, I feel that I am dehydrated.

And for the couple of days that the AC is not working, we are melting in our own sweat. We just cannot sit in a room without the AC’s on. To say evenings are warm is an understatement. The hot stifles around me as Varun and I take a walk at night. And the constant hum of AC’s around when we are out for a walk tells me we are not alone. I really can’t wait for the monsoon to begin.

Relocation Experience

As we could stack our relocation benefits, we are still in corporate accommodation with the cook, help staff and driver at our disposal. After 2+ months, its hard not to feel pampered and it will be even harder to give it up after the benefits are over. I don’t think we will live without a cook or a maid in India, but driver is something we are debating about. Spoilt rotten that we are now, we are in fact thinking of getting someone for evenings and weekends so we can actually get some more free time 😉

Also, in the last few weeks, we accelerated our house and car search. After visiting 25 + gated communities ( apartments and villas), almost signing a lease and then backing out, we are planning to stay in JayaBheri Silicon county (details to follow) – the same community that we had our temporary accommodations in. And after test driving 3 cars, we have booked Skoda Rapid as well (again, details to follow). As much fun it is staying in all paid for lodgings with a chauffeur driven car, we long to be in our house with our belongings and drive our own car.

We changed too many things this year, now its time to bring sanity and routine to this change. Hopefully, we will truly begin settling in once we move into our own house!

A million things are happening

We are moving in exactly 2 weeks!

Fortunately, Microsoft takes care of relocation. It would be next to impossible to move on our own on such short notice without this benefit.We are assigned a relocation co-ordinator who is our primary contact. In our initial meeting, he walked us through the relocation benefits and gave us an overview of all the things we have to take care of before we leave, from immigration consulation, tax consultation, actual move consultation, sell the cars, rent or sell the house to getting reimbursements for approved expenses/losses. Also he gave an overview of the things he will take care for us, like booking flight tickets, rental cars, accomodation on arrival to introducing us to MS approved vendors for the move ( packers and movers, house rental agency, real estate agent, tax consultants etc).

Even with so much taken care of, it seems like we have a zillion things to do before we leave.

This is our To do List:

  • Meet with couple of real estate agents to discuss selling the house ( probable price, market trends, sales strategy etc)
  • Meet with rental agency to discuss rental option ( possible rent, fees, expenses etc)
  • Number crunching spreadsheet – Rent or Sell
  • India Tax consulation
  • US Tax consulation
  • India immigration checklist
  • US immigration checklist
  • Pre-move survey – to figure out how much more we can take with us 😉
  • Schedule the move
  • Needs analysis – to help figure out what we need on arrival in Hyderabad ( driving lessons, language lessons, schools/daycare, housing etc)
  • Investments analysis – Figure out what to do with 401K and other retirement investments
  • Furniture Shopping
  • Staging the house/ making it market ready  – Meet with couple of agencies to get quotes on staging as well as repairs/painting etc
  • Research rental lease agreements ( this is so personal, you cant just copy someone elses!)
  • Lookup how to transfer utilities
  • Look into mail forwarding
  • Sell the cars, pay off loan, transfer the ownership/ register the sale in DMV
  • Put stuff for sale on Craigslist/ MS Classified ( follow up in timely manner)
  • Sort/ Donate/ Throw
  • Talk to folks in Hyderabad about their move experience, do’s and dont’s
  • Get Varun’s health records
  • Print photobook (of our time in Seattle)
  • Help our nanny find another position ( follow up on questions/ give reference etc)
  • Plan meals around persihable food stuff that we cannot take with us
  • Give away house plants
  • Organize a party to finish all the booze in the house 🙂

True to my profession, I have an Excel spreadsheet with details on things to sell, buy, donate; their costs, where I have put it for sell etc as well as status of these things and follow up actions.

Most of the day is spent on finishing up on current work items, transitioning them to new owners as well as following up on this ginormous To-do list.

Luckily, it will be over and done with in 2 weeks and we will be able to finally breathe a sigh! Till then, back to the spreadsheet, flurry of emails, phone calls and txt messages.