Monday, August 25, 2014

Phoren story

A middle class family with the father being the sole bread-earner and mother tending to the children and the house, varied demands of the extended family, both the children of the house were encouraged to study well, take part in extra curricular and were provided well within the best of the abilities of their parents. Time rolled by , the children grew up, gathering life lesson and study lessons along the way. The elder one worked hard when it came to boards and with blessings from the Higher power, secured  admission into one of the best colleges in India and years rolled faster and in time, she graduated and got placed . Though the company where she got placed was not well known , the day-to-day job she had to do in the said company was something of her interest and her liking as well. Just when her project manager/leader were making plans of sending her abroad on a longer assignment, she announced her marriage plans and even without checking with her, the management assumed that she wouldn't be interested now that she was getting married, they took her off the list-of-people-to-be-sent-onsite.

Now, in the background, as early as within 6 months of being in the job, the "question" started coming from various quarters. Now, what is "the question"? In fact different flavors of this question are:  "US pogaliya? , foreign chance varaliya", eppo US poga pora" ? (Are you not going to he US? When is your foreign chance?)

The person whom these questions were posed is me and yes, even now, I'm still not sure if our society in general is  US/foreign obsessed or only the people whom I had to interact with or who were my acquaintances were so damn obsessed!

I cant blame all those people, for I lacked the maturity to handle this situation as well. I got so caught up with the people and these questions that I refused to use my own brain. I started taking all this quite seriously and in fact didnt disclose this to my parents as well, thinking they would be worried. In hindsight, I feel I should have shared this with them and asked their help to deal with the situation. I cannot control what others talk, but I could have checked my emotions and mental state. But, gradually, these questions along with friends informing that they are going to the US/UK/whichever foreign location started developing a strong desire within my mind. Questions in front of a crowd like "Unakku innum oru foreign chance um varalaiya" (Havent you not got a single chance to go abroad?) "Onnum illa, arrera la pass panna my <insert relative's chitappa's neice> has joined so and so company just last month and he went abroad last week. You passed out from a good college and still they have not sent you?" and "I think you should change your company when they don't send you abroad. What kind of a company is it when they don't send employees abroad in this day and age?" started hurting me so much that I started having second thoughts of continuing my employment in the company that I was working. Instead of just listening in one ear and passing out in another, at that age , I took these a bit too seriously. There was an opportunity for me to travel to Germany but that kept on getting postponed indefinitely and only when I quit the company and joined another one, I get a call from a person whom I had trained before I left to take over my role calls me and says that his flight tickets are booked. In this new place too, there were plans to travel and visa was done, but somehow the project start kept getting delayed for quite some time. The questions kept coming, now from my in-laws side of the family as well, as I got married in the mean time. But with a supportive husband who had just then returned after his stint from the US, I began to ignore and just let-go , though I wouldn't say the desire just flew away from my mind and heart.

Finally, the opportunity came and in the 7 weeks that I was in the US, I had a very good time. What with one team member being the official driver who took us to all places, another team member making sure to cook delicious dishes every single day and the third, my best friend who gave me company all through the stay! We were put up in a hotel where you need not lift a finger to do the dishes or the bed. A very elaborate English breakfast will be served and we tried various restaurants for lunch and dinner was home-cooked delicious food. Work was light, the purpose of the trip was mainly on getting trained and we went in summer. All in all, a pleasant experience. We went around quite a few places as well and my thirst was satiated :) .

After coming back, the questions stopped briefly only to start again. Now the questions were "Oh! its been long since you went, are they not sending you again? " "X's Y's niece went there once, now they have extended and its been 3 years since she came back, her stay is on and on getting extended. Didn't they extend yours?" and I can go on and on. But, now thankfully my brain started functioning and I developed some good sense within me to ignore or rather not take these questions into my head.

Years rolled by and now we got the opportunity to work and live in UK . After coming here, only when we started searching for a house to rent and moving into the house and trying to get into a routine here, we get to know of the practical issues that people face here. There is a general perception among us Indians (atleast among our parents generation and the grandparents generation) that all is well in the America or England. Well,I cant talk of America now as I've not really lived there. In the brief period I was there, I was in a hotel, with everything from morning till night duly taken care of . But, here, in the UK, when we are actually living, we face more or less a subset of issues that middle class Indians face. To record our experiences here they go : Houses do have plumbing issues. We faced a plumbing issue and to resolve it, at-least in India you can call up the plumber and request him or agree to pay him more if her comes and resolves the issue within the said time. But here, everything is in the hands of the letting agent /agent who takes care of the property. The houses that are taken care of by the owners directly are few and hence maintenance for majority of the houses are taken care by an agency. Now, agencies don't work beyond 5 PM or before 9 AM. Yes, they are also employees who have working hours and they stick to the working hours quite strictly. I tried calling them once at 4:55PM and was told that people were out for the day and I called up once at 5:01 PM and was answered by the answering machine. So, plumbing issues exist.

Next comes the electrical issues. If your heater in the house doesn't work, call up the agency who in turn will call up the electrician whom they are tied up with and again here, the electrician or the plumber also have working hours and they don't work beyond their stipulated working hours. And the best part is your issue will go into an appointment calendar and only when your appointment is fixed, will the plumber or the electrician will come over to even take a look at the issue that you are facing. And the same appointment system works for when the said technician has to come over to fix the issue.
We had issues with the toilet flush and it was working at times and at other times was not working. When we reported this to the agency , the agency said that they will send the plumber to check it out, but in case if the flush does work when the plumber tries to flush, then we will have to bear the cost of the plumber charges. And for the record, plumber's charges for one visit is a whooping 150 pounds. I had to go on at length with the letting agency to make her understand  our situation and when I'm saying that it does work sometimes, how can they charge us. Anyways, finally the issue got resolved. the crux is practical issues still do exist in developed countries(at least in the UK. I would like to hear/read about how such issues are dealt with in the America) and we seem to think all is fine in the west.
Best part is for a friend of ours, the letting agent denied them to install a dish or an antenna because that will mean drilling a hole in the wall/roof for installation. And they cannot watch TV without an antenna or a dish!

But, to look at the part of the glass that is half-full, the good roads, electricity, water supply are given here and roads are do damn clean and well maintained. No stray dogs, good road sense among citizens on a average, following rules in the road, pedestrians being given priority on the road, and no honking. I hear education is free for all (atleast till high school) .

Overall, all is not actually green when one lives abroad. Each place has its own pitfalls and some of the issues are quite common across the globe. Just the way its dealt with and the timeline its dealt with varies . I was expecting that if at all there is any issue, it gets resolved then and there or rather quite quickly without any follow-ups , but nope, not here. Especially with service providers also working only in their stipulated working hours , it only gets a bit more difficult. We tend to use (atleast I tried doing, the natural instincts dont go away that soon) our techniques like explaining them how serious the situation is, only to hear from the other end"I'm sorry, our working hours are untill 5 and we dont work on Saturdays and sundays. So, the earliest you will get any response is on Monday". Yes, with the flush not working,(wait: partially working) when you hear such a response, do we have many options to choose from :) ?

Need to record more of my perceptions/observations of living in a foreign country.

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