Thursday, September 10, 2009

Home is where the heart is...

Its been some time since I was here...
There are times, every crab shall go into his shell... but he will always emerge back out of his shell, when he has recovered, recuperated and feels secure and strong enough to face the world again.

I missed my blog therapy. Sometimes other kinds of therapies work better. But then, as always, there is a searing need to right, to express, to let the thoughts flow out. Without any restrictions, without any controls, without any reins. And so here I am back again :).


Home is where the heart is. I say this often. Because I have been pretty much the homeless wanderer for most of my life. I have enjoyed it in the beginning, but after a point it starts getting to you and you crave for geographic stability. But circumstances have kept me on the move through most of my life. Through 7 cities in a span of the last 10 years, out of "home" since the age of 17. And I crave to settle down now. Not like forever, though I would give anything to have a city I could call home forever. But, if that luxury shall not be granted to me, then at least give me a city for 5 years at a stretch. And for those of you whom I have heard talking about craving to be a wanderer and a gypsy of the world, well guys, let me tell you, try it for 10 years of your life, before you jump to conclusions. Because every other "senior wanderer" I have met, has told me the same story. That after 10 to 15 years there’s a craving to settle down. And beyond a point, wandering is not the best thing to do in life.

There are two parts of me, and they seem to be in conflict. The first part, craves for stability. Stability in relationships, in social circumstances, in finances, in geographic locations. I do not like changes in these things. I am a true cancerian. Dont groan if you do not believe in sun signs, I don’t either, but its just a coincidence that I am born under the sign of the crab and all the standard crabby definitions fit me perfectly. But there is another part of me. The ambitious, restless part. Which seeks change in what I do in my career... a constant recurring change. Any kind of stagnation in my professional life just won't do. Which does not let me languish and relax in a job, in a role, in a college, in university, until I keep getting newer challenges. This has made me switch roles nearly every year of my life, and has given me a diverse spectrum of work exposure, from HR Recruitment to BPO to Mortgage technology to Information Technology to Consulting to Sales to Business Development. And for some reason the latter part of me has governed my life, has dominated all the major decisions taken at the cross roads. But maybe its time I let the former part of me take more control. Maybe its time the wanderer settled down. Maybe its time to take out the gypsy hat, to wear the regular baseball cap and settle down to a more "regular" life.

Which brings me to an interesting discussion I had the other day. We were a group of consultants and managers from.. umm.. lets see... 3 companies. All of us "desis" and all of us abroad for approx 2 years or more. And the discussion was regarding the same old "do we settle down in India or abroad". So this one guy came up with this extremely interesting theory about which is the best country to settle in. For some (or should I say most) of the members of the group, India was out of the question, because there is no way they see themselves fitting back into that work culture. For me it still is the biggest option, but maybe I am an old fashioned desi crab. So the next country discussed was, yes you guessed it right, the US of A. Our dear old amreeka. Lot of pros and cons thrown in, distance from homeland too large, fewer number of home trips, weather conditions (you are living in the Nordics for heavens sake, anything in USA is better than this!), safety and security, financial condition etc etc on the negative side, and more desi population, ease of fitting in, no language problems, no cultural divide and more desi stores and restaurants (lol) on the positive side. But given the market situation, US of A today is certainly not one of the hottest destinations. So what are the other options? Elsewhere in Europe? Germany? France? UK? Everyone shook their heads together, Sweden is certainly one of the better places to be in. Even the UN says that it’s the 6th best country to live in (read about it HERE). So what are the other options?

So this guy comes up with this amazing idea. Singapore. Modern city. Excellent work culture, mostly derived from the west. Multi-cultural, but with no language issues, universally accepted language is English. 3 hours from most cities in India, which means you can almost fly back home every weekend!! And will never have to miss any wedding or festival back home (one of the major regrets of NRIs). Now our brain-stormer had everyones attention! Weather.. as good as any city in India, temperature ranges from 22 to 34 degrees (not bad if you come from Delhi or Kolkata). Humid... very humid, but then not worse than Kolkata or Chennai. Absolutely modern infrastructure, a paradise for shopping and generally considered a safe city (again, heaven as compared to any Indian city). And the best part is the taxation. It ranges from 0 to 20% and if you are middle or upper middle class you will end up paying 8.5% tax (more info HERE) Compare this to the 32% tax one pays in Sweden!! Or the 10-20-30% slab taxation in India!

I am sure a there were a lot of hits on Singapore job portals that night. Sometimes I wonder about us NRIs. What it is that we seek? I wonder about the restlessness that doesnt allow us to be happy anywhere, neither in our home country, nor outside. No I do not speak for the entire NRI community, I am certainly no spokesperson for them. I just speak on behalf of the NRIs I know of.. first generation and outside India for less than 10 years. SIGH! What will become of us?

Drop me a note if you know of an opening in Singapore. I know of some very talented ladies and gentlemen who might be interested in a shift :). Sometimes, just sometimes, job, career and profession is not everything in life. Even for corporate geeks. Sometimes, just sometimes, being at home matters. After all, home is where the heart is.


I had another one of my parties. And together with MBF, whipped up a great menu, thought you might be interested in the pics....

P.S. I do not want this blog to appear like a food blog. But it still remains the blog of a foodie, so it is inevitable that food related updates will be given :P. You might be interested to know that I have been accused as being the only male desi blogger in the world who blogs about cooking. I do not know whether to be flattered or to get offended ;).

Menu: Chicken Tikka Masala, Bengali Chhole, Dum Alu, Rice and Sewai Kheer (Payasam) and Gajar ka Halwa :)

And a closer look at the dersert for today: Sewai Kheer (Payasam) and Gajar ka Halwa :).
All credits for Gajar ka halwa goes to MBF.

Picture credit for title picture:


  1. Singapore definitely is a good place to be in. I find that the Indian culture is similar to the East Asian culture in many ways (as against the western culture which is diametrically opposite). Food habits, family values, social values, etc. Besides, Singapore has avoided a lot of pitfalls that Indian cities have fallen for - it has clean air, open spaces, wide roads, safety & security, no corruption. If there is a drawback, its this: I find Singapore too clinical, too rules-driven, too low-spirited.

  2. hmm.. somehow the point of going back and settling somewhere else does not even come to me. Is something wrong with me !! heheh!

  3. I've been home almost all through my life, and absolutely love it. I was away for barely a year and was miserable. It's true I guess, home is where the heart truly is, which is why maybe its time for you slow down. :)

    Btw, food looks delicious! And dessert is absolutely mouth-watering! :)

  4. Oh my God! You made Payassum!! That looks sooo totallt delectable :)
    Although, if you ask me, Payassum should always be served in a steel/aluminium vessel :P

    Hmmm...about the whole Singapore issue, you won't believe it, but a few days back I too had a similar discussion with some members of my family. Some were in full agreement that Singapore is the place to be. Whereas the others were all cynical and negative, often saying 'there isn't much growth'.
    I personally love the place - food there is like awesome awesome. Shopping - even now when I close my eyes and think of Singapore, the first thing that pops in my head is Takashimaya :)

    I posted a short story with a similar title ,'Home is where he is' check :)

  5. I saw the food pics, had an early lunch and came back to comment...first - welcome's good to see a foodie male crab around blogger who can cook...the payasam looks awesome, tht's one of my fav deserts...and singapore issue, I know people doing their MBAs outta thr in S. P. soon as they get a job there, i wil ask thm to contact u? :)

  6. Merlin, the food looks incredible! Well done, and nice diversity in the dishes, while still having things that go together well. At least, I think so. I fully admit, two of the dishes are unfamiliar to me but I think I understand the basic ingredients.

    The nomadic life has its charms. "I'm not tied down. I never have to turn down an opportunity because my roots have grown too deep." Like you, every wanderer I've encountered comes to a point where they crave roots. I think, in part, because all of the places that they end up going, they are surrounded by, essentially, a root structure.

    Just like when you were in India, and craved going elsewhere, eventually the difference of being settled is the difference that is craved. Being settled starts to become the "different" structure that appeals.

    I'm sure there are particular concerns when living outside of your culture, and that informs your choices also.

    We did know a man a little bit like you in terms of wandering, nothing more. He was Indian by way of Australia, then Canada, then four different places in the U.S. before he landed in the same company with my husband. He had a family, and when his kids got to be school age, he sent them to boarding school within India. He and his wife eventually made the decision to return to India to be closer to their children.

    There were a lot of farewell parties for him, he was a very well liked man, but it did turn out he had a secret. As a young child he had strep, and it went untreated for a bit too long, not through neglect it was just one of those things that happened.

    Twenty years later he found out that his heart and kidneys had been irreversibly weakened. Eventually there came a point where he knew his heart was failing. He didn't tell anyone that was part of the reason for going home, but he did die within a year of returning to India.

    His wife still had affairs to settle here, and we saw her several times. She eventually told us that was the reason he had returned to India,

    He was a lovely man, and much missed by all who knew him. I did find it fascinating and heart rending at the same time. He left India as a teenager but there was no question in his mind that he would return home.

    There's no real point to my telling this story, nothing profoundly revealing or anything of that nature. I've known a fair number of people from different countries, and a fair number of people from India. The Indians I have known have, for the most part, tried to convey that there is a complexity to being from India that you don't necessarily find in people from other countries.

    A sort of love, plus distance, and fond irritation. I'm absolutely terrified of misspelling this man's name, because it's been several years and I really only ever heard his name, vs. read it. Anyway, the reason I'm bringing it up, is that a huge part of Vinkata's (please forgive me if I'm butchering the heck out of that) decision to return home?

    He wanted his son to be able to make an informed choice. He assumed his son would basically repeat the pattern.

    I can't define this well, but that pinpointed the complex relationship to home better than anything anyone has tried to explain to me. Being there wasn't the goal, as much as having the love engendered, so it could be taken with his son (and he also had a daughter) wherever the journey ended up leading.

    Everything I know about Singapore makes it sound like a lovely place, very well structured, and often so beautiful. Too hot for most Americans, of course.

  7. Merlin,i would say that..there can be no place better than your own country..u may like the life style the modern culture of other way more developed countries..but when it comes to settling down..the peace which u would get in your native place is above all..
    but whatever your decision is..wish you good luck in all your ventures..
    i have scrolled up thrice and have been gazing at that gajar ka halwa :) its bliss :)

  8. I have been living in Gurgaon for past 5 years and was in Delhi for 5 years prior to Gurgaon, and I really want to move

    I too have given a thought and would love to settle in Singapore or Canada, but guess this will remain only a dream as HR pros only end up in Gulf

    And snaps look tempting

  9. hey
    it surprises me how you 'being a guy' who just have to cook for himself or two get himself to make so many dishes!! kudos to you, ya

    here am i eating everything my maid cooks.. and seldom trying to cook something dinner-worthy on my own!! motivated seeing your pics, have decided to invite my friends for dinner tomorrow:))

    move whereever you wish afterall "home is where heart is"..:))

  10. hi friend thanks for dropping by.... yes you are right blog therapy works :)

    And the pics of food you added are temptong :P m feeling hungry now!

    I believe in sunsigns and m glad i met someone who blv too... most people don't :)
    I always used to think its good to have such life where you can roam around all the time.. and infact i still feel so... After reading your post i felt a sense of discomfort you facing..

  11. The food looks so tempting!!!!

    I think I go thru a conflict all the time, I seek stability at times and at times I want a change...

    Singapore sounds like a great place!! Go there, we'll come visit! Although Europe is much nearer from here!

    Feel better and take care of yourself!
    And keep doing the "Blog Therapy"!

  12. I don't think I can say anything that hasn't been said.. as always is the case with you - food looks really delicious..
    Regarding settling down - that's a very hard decision. I know that's something I have struggled with for the last decade, and until you decide which place you are going to call home, I don't think you'll totally be at peace.. but it is also a very personal choice - it's not a decision you can ask someone else to make for you..

  13. Yes, I'm from Europe, exactly from Hungary:)
    Now, I'm on a slimming diet, I can't check your blog out, because of the pictures I become hungry :D

  14. Yeah, I think Singapore would be a nice option.. As far as settling down is concerned, everybody wants that in hearts of hearts..Being a vagabond is tiresome..I have lived in nearly 6 different cities of starkly different cultures and met different types of people but unlike you I would still want to go abroad and stay there for say 5 years and then think of settling down wherever my destiny takes me..
    I wonder why are u not happy in Sweden when it is one of the loveliest place to stay..