Friday, August 16, 2013

Do you get to relax when you go to India on a holiday - a question for NRIs

Today, I have chosen this unusual topic because I have realised that whenever I go to India for a holiday, more than the chance to relax, I am constantly occupied with doing things that were not done by my family members (who are in India and not with me) in my absence. This has to do mostly with financial matters, but, also, there are things like shopping, planning a with-the-family holiday, stuff to do with your own affairs - whether professional, legal, social or others, visiting your elders, remembering to purchase return gifts for members of the family, relatives, neighbours, and what not. 

On my last annual holiday, I had to run to get my Aadhar Card, a sort of National I.D. Card. Although I completed all the formalities from my side within 2 visits, the card actually arrived at my residence in Mumbai THREE months after I had returned to Saudi Arabia. I also ran from bank to bank to submit forms and signatures to get the new cheque books which were mandated to replace old cheque books before 31st March 2013. Although they extended the deadline later on to 30th June, I was able to complete the transition during my stay because I remained steadfast on this job. Between the four of us, we operate about 12 bank accounts, give or take, so I had to literally struggle with this procedure ... at multiple locations, ranging from Mazgaon, where I stay, to Mohamed Ali Road (+3 km), Charni Road (+4 km), Bhendi Bazaar (+2 km) to Byculla (+1.5 km) to do these things. At each place, I was required to first bring home a form, get it signed by the account holder, attach copies of proof of identity, proof of address and photographs, and then re-submit the same to the banks for acceptance. So, you can see this involved a lot of running around. I was significantly handicapped by the fact that I had no 2-wheeler this time, and it is not possible to take one's car to so many locations. 

Coming to the social aspect, I had to visit several elders of my family, but was ultimately able to visit only a few of them. I was to visit one of my aunts who stays in Pune (a city that is about 250 km from Mumbai by road), but was unable to do this due to lack of time. Due to the problems of distance, I was similarly unable to visit so many others. I felt bad because of this, but what was I to do? Meeting up with friends from my school was also on my agenda, but I could not do this either. To some extent, I must admit it was because of time constraints, but, it was also because many of my school friends did not show any desire to meet me. I tried to coordinate this with my good friend Hemen Majithia, with whom I have chats on Skype, but eventually, it did not work out. I did manage to go on two outings with 2 different groups of friends, and I must say alhamdolillah at least for that.

My mother stays in a separate house and has a lady companion as she is now alone. I made it a point to visit her at least 5-6 times during the entire month. Each of these visits lasted at least an hour or two, and sometimes, I shared a meal with them. I also took her out once - to see flamingos at the Sewri mud-flats. It was something she had never seen before and I enjoyed seeing her relax, watching the thousands of flamingos feeding, flying or simply ambling a few hundred meters away from us.

There was yet another factor that took up a lot of my time, and that was escorting my family members to their place of study or work, or bringing them back home in the night from these places. To this end, I must have travelled at least 300-400 km during my one month stay! On one day, it would be Nishrin requesting a lift to the parlour; on the second, Hannah would ask for a drop to Churchgate, where her college is located; on yet another, it would be Inas, wanting me to go to Colaba to pick her up from Juice. I must have spent at least 5 - 10% of my total day-time doing this activity! Not that I totally hated this, but it did eat up into my free time - time when I could have relaxed.

As the rest of my family is out for most of the day, it devolved upon me to look after affairs of the home ... such as supervising the maids who came to wash the utensils or clean the house, starting the washing machine cycles - then putting out the clothes to dry - then taking them back in and folding them into neat packets and putting them into respective almirahs, putting all the dried vessels back into the larder, receiving courier-parcels, answering the doorbell, taking phone calls, managing unforeseen household accidents or emergencies (such as when you try to take out a bottle of tomato sauce from the refrigerator, and it slips from your hand and falls to the floor, spattering the sauce and the broken glass all over the kitchen, over your clothes, and over everything else, besides.), and so many other things that make up house-keeping. On the positive side, it made me realise how difficult life must be for my ladies when I am NOT there. They must do all these things only in the evenings or at night. On the negative side, I used to sometimes get so tired of all this activity that all I wished was to run away from the house ... or even ... return to Saudi Arabia.

I think I have said most of what I wanted to say ... perhaps now it is time for you, readers, to comment upon this post. Thank you for reading.

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