30 August 2013

Thank you India!

I always felt like I’d be here forever. Or maybe it’s just because I feel happy and content here and would like to stay forever.

I could never imagine leaving India. “Someone will have to drag me away, kicking and screaming,” is what I thought.

But all things come to an end. And change is something which has to be accepted.

I feel very fortunate that for the past 6.5 years I have been able to live here continuously.

My husband and I had decided to move here. We weren’t sent over by some multi-national company. Before moving to Bangalore, we were living in London. One day I decided to quit my job. A week later my husband decided to quit his. He didn’t like living in London and wanted to leave. So we started to think of where to move to next… We didn’t want to go back to Belgium and I didn’t give going back to Canada even a thought. There were many opportunities in his field in the US, but moving there was out of the question.

We had been to India several times before, and as connoisseurs of Indian music and dance, it was time to give India a try. It felt right. And it was, because he got two job offers: one in Bombay and one in Bangalore. I was praying for Bangalore, and Bangalore it was.

I was able to continue my study of Indian classical dance in Bangalore. We went to concerts and dance performances, and travelled all over India to attend music and dance festivals. ‘This is what we came to India for,’ we would say, and I think we made the most of it. Working full-time, my husband often did not have the time to travel, but I didn’t hesitate to take off solo.

India gave me the chance to breathe, free my mind and let my creativity manifest itself. I started writing and this blog came into being and I found myself spending a lot of time writing about things I enjoy, mostly the Indian arts and places I’ve visited in India and found that people wanted to read what I wrote and even publish it. India gave me the inspiration to become a writer.

Thank you India!

I feel like I have experienced and seen a lot of India in the past 6.5 years... but I also feel that there’s still so much more to see and experience…

I know I’ll be back, but something tells me it won’t be the same. It won’t be like living here full-time, all year round.

I don’t know when I’ll be back and in the meantime I’m not sure what to do with this blog. Should I continue publishing something every month, at least a few photo essays, to keep my readers coming to my window? Or should I just put this blog on stand-by until the next time I’m in India?

I believe that things happen for a reason and the pain of leaving India is alleviated somewhat by another dream we’ve had which finally came to fruition recently. For years we’ve wanted to renovate an old stone house in a lovely medieval village in beautiful Istria, that magical peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. This house is helping me leave India, and embark on a new adventure. Though I’m awfully sad to leave, I’m ready to try something new.

A new adventure calls for a new blog… Thank you dear readers for looking through my window all these years. Wherever I go I’ll always have a window to look through, so please do visit me in my new home and share with me the view of Istria Outside My Window.

15 August 2013

Packing up

It didn’t take long for our neighbours to figure out we were moving. I guess they were alerted by all the pieces of furniture disappearing through the front gate as buyers came to pick up the things I had put up for sale on an expat forum.

My landlords started getting inquires about our apartment from prospective tenants. The fruit seller asked me if we had a television to sell. The electrician told me he was interested in ‘kitchen items’, and the maid blatantly told me: “Whatever you don’t take with you, give to me.”

Then one day as we were parking the car, the security guard who’s stationed at the office just opposite the house approached us and asked if we were selling our car and for how much. A few days later, as I was returning home from the market I saw three men studying our car. One of them (who works as a driver for the director of the office) approached me and asked when ‘Sir’ was coming home that evening because someone had come from Mysore to buy the car! Later I found out from my landlord that the security guard had decided to look for a buyer for our car and take a tidy commission for himself.

We sold anything of value easily. Also, I learned it’s very easy to get rid of unwanted junk. After 6.5 years I had accumulated a lot of it.

I had tons of paper to get rid of – magazines, brochures, pamphlets. I filled several bags and waited for the paperboy to come by, but of course weeks went by without me hearing his timid knock at my door.

So one day just as I was reaching home, an older man on a bicycle yelling ‘Paypaar!’ was passing by, so I told him I had some paper for him. His eyes grew wide when I presented him with my many bags full of unwanted paper. He started pulling out his scale from his canvas bag, but I told him I didn’t want to get paid for each kilogram, and that he could take all of it. His eyes grew even wider and he put his hands together in a very respectful namasté and bowed his head, which made me feel uncomfortable because this ‘gift’ of waste paper he was grateful for was just junk I wanted to get rid of and he was actually doing me a big favour by taking it away.

Then there was the issue of getting rid of the real junk: stuff I couldn’t impose on anyone. Stuff that has to be thrown out in the garbage. But something as simple as putting out the garbage is not such a straightforward task. I had filled several bags and I've learned it’s not a good idea to leave them unattended on the roadside… because if it’s not picked up quickly, the contents will end up all over the road, the work of stray dogs or the rag pickers who open and sift through garbage bags. But how to catch the garbage collection van? By the time I hear it and run outside, it’s gone. So I solicited the help of my ever-helpful landlord who told me he’d keep an eye out for them. They didn't come on Monday or Tuesday, but they did show up on Wednesday. I knew they were there because I heard my landlord yelling at them. “Why haven’t you come the whole week?” he berated them. He told them to pick up the bags I had left just inside our gate. The garbage collector started to make a lame excuse, saying they only pick up the garbage left on street corners, not in front of houses… Then he saw the 10-rupee note my landlord had in his hand (he was prepared), and quickly shut up and picked up the bags, pocketing the tip. (My landlord then launched into a long tirade about corporation employees and how they’re too lazy to do their jobs and that the only way to get our garbage collected was to pay them a few rupees every week which we shouldn’t be doing because they’re already getting a salary. Like I said, it’s not as easy as putting your garbage bag on the curb!)

It’s amazing how liberating it feels to get rid of stuff… as our furniture disappeared and the house was slowly purged of years of accumulated ‘stuff’, I felt lighter and lighter. I happily gave away things (to the delight of the maid) and felt more and more liberated. However, once the moving boxes were packed with only our essential and beloved things, I no longer felt so light-hearted as reality hit me.

After almost 7 years, we're leaving India!