100 Days in India

September 13, 2009

It has been a 100 days since i moved back to India, after spending a fruitful few years in the US. I went to the US back in 2004 as a graduate student, and later spent a few years working on Wall Street, before packing up my bags to come back home.

A few months back in the run up to the Indian general elections, PM Manmohan Singh promised to turn the economy around in 100 days. That hasn’t quite happened yet, but amreekandesi’s 100 days in India haven’t been any less exciting than a Harbhajan Singh driving his Hummer around the streets of Chandigarh.

I am happy.

Happy to be back home. Happy to not be an alien in a foreign land. Happy that i will not miss important events in my family. Happy that i can get my dose of Gulab Jamuns without undertaking that long trek to Jackson Heights.

India is crazy. There is no discipline. There is pollution. There is crime. There is no courtesy.  There is no power, nor water. There are scoundrels for politicians who would sell us all for money if they could. You sweat so much in India.

India has gotten so expensive. It is often said that Indians going to the west would convert all the prices into rupees and get scandalized. Its the reverse for me now. I find myself converting prices into dollars and getting shocked at realizing that a lot of stuff is sold for prices comparable to what you would get in New york.

It’s taken a while to come to grips with this new India. This new India that keeps changing rapidly, for good or for bad only history will tell.

A Paranoid India.

Earlier when i used to come to India for my holiday trips, the family would go to the new swanky malls that keep coming up like Agarwal sweet corners from back in the day. Right at the entry, i would be x-rayed and then patted down. Shoulder, chest and butt. I would protest, but to no avail.

Here in India we are constantly under scrutiny. They make those funky mall complexes, and then treat everybody like a prospective terrorist.

At the office, every day the security chaps will check my bag. In the morning, and in the evening. I lost it earlier this week when he actually reached inside my bag to turn things around. WTH! Not too sure whether it was the humiliation caused due to all these checks, or the concern over all those germs coming my way in these swine ridden times.

For all its paranoia over terrorism, the US is way easier to live in. I was never patted down even at airports.

Getting anything done is such a headache. You open a bank account and they need a million documents to prove who you are. You get a DTH television subscription and they too need a proof of identity and a full set of documents.

God forbid you try to get a loan - there will be calls made to random neighbors to ascertain that you aren’t a criminal. I got to know after moving here that as part of my pre employment check, they actually contacted my neighbor to check my credentials.

A Lawless India.

An elderly man got stabbed to death in a Delhi bus as he tried to stop some goons from eve-teasing/pickpocketing. A bus driver somewhere in Bengal got killed by a truck driver who rammed his truck into the driver’s body after he wouldn’t let him pass on a single lane road. A journalist got beaten up by goons whom he tried to stop from molesting a woman.

What the hell is wrong with Indians? For the smallest reason, mobs start going around destroying public property. Road raged people don’t hesitate in killing others over petty matters.

Whether it is shortage of police staff, corruption, or just ineptitude of our law enforcement agencies, you are happy as long as you are not in trouble, because its a free-for-all in this country.

A Rude India.

All along we keep harping about Indian hospitality and politeness, but things seem to have changed now. In the mad rush for survival among the millions of people all over the place, we Indians have forgotten all basic rules of civility and etiquette.

It’s all about me. You can got to hell, but my life is more important, and i need to get my work done first.

Above all, An India that is Home.

India has its shortcomings, but it is home. For all the problems, there is the comfort of knowing that you are in your own country, in your home.

Before moving back, somewhere in my mind i used to have these images of a progressive India where people have begun to care. An India that is poised for greatness. An India that is going to be the next developed country.

All those visions have long fallen down one of the open potholes in Gurgaon.

Our government may shout itself hoarse about the new world order where India needs to be a permanent member of the UN security council, but all that is farcical. India is a poor country where the people don’t have access to basic amenities, where women (or for that matter, anybody) need to think twice before going out,  where politicians are busy spending crores on statues while the country rots away in draught, where farmers continue to drink the fertilizer that was supposed to give them rich harvests, where millions of people continue to live in abject poverty while the Shashi Tharoors find shelter in fancy suites in 5-star hotels.

I love my country but love cannot be blind, and i was never one afraid to call a spade a spade. India needs to wake up and do something about the pathetic state of affairs, before it is too late.

All said and done, India is an adventure, and i feel like a little child learning something new everyday. I may crave for the Newyork style pizza from my favorite Ray’s Pizza, but the Gulab Jamuns more than make up for it. Besides, i can finally go to a McDonalds for one of those munchilicious burgers. (The American McDonalds don’t server any Veggie burgers)

Like they say, I’m Loving It.

(All images copyrighted to me)

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39 Responses to “ 100 Days in India ”

  1. Mahendra on September 13, 2009 at 9:48 am

    So in short, a paranoid, lawless, rude place, that we call home! :)

  2. Vinod Sharma on September 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

    These are fine a words of a guy who proves that love need not be blind.

    We need many more Indians like you!

  3. R.D.B. on September 13, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    but with all itz shortcomings India is still dear to us , more so, when we stay away from her :)

    .. is it patriotism!!! or r we just a crazyy lot?!!!! dunno.. but most of us take pride in our identity i.e Indian

    and yes, congratulations on finishing ur 100 days at home :) must b bliss (almost !!, ignoring the chaos n floods!! )

  4. Perx on September 13, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    I don’t know cuz i’ve never been out of india, expect for a vacation or 2, but i sure hate it.. it is my home.. but i still hate it.. and u know why? because we don’t want to change.. we’ll lecture and be moral, but we are not ready to stand up for ourselves or our ideas let alone for anybody else.. and anyone who tries is silenced.. its just an endless cycle..

  5. prerna on September 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    A very honest post, straight from the heart. Can’t contradict anything!

  6. Philip on September 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    looking fwd to a 1000 day post from you. Enjoy buddy.

    i experience all that you mentioned in my holidays to India. No complaints though :D

  7. amlistening on September 13, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    100 days ….congrats!

  8. Usha on September 13, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    I read the first line and wanted to say a quick “Welcome to india”.
    I read the whole post and this time with a big sigh: “Welcome to India”

  9. kavi on September 14, 2009 at 12:14 am

    100 days !!! Well, as they say,if you survive the first 100 you can survive it all ! Glad to know that you are soaking up home. And the gulab jamuns !


  10. The Quirky Indian on September 14, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Couldn’t have said it better!

    Yeh jo des hain mera……

    Quirky Indian

  11. Solilo on September 14, 2009 at 2:42 am

    That’s an honest post about our India.

  12. ruSh.Me on September 14, 2009 at 4:28 am

    We all hate it. but can’t escape it.. I think its all about emotions…

    Its emotions that we invade others privacy and call it warmth; I assume emotions make us joyous when we make a mess of traffic on every religious procession… :)

  13. Akshay on September 15, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I’m shocked at the paranoia,dislike and ridicule my nation is being subjected to. :(
    Seriously, no one is asking you people to stay. If you’re so bloody unhappy here, just leave.

  14. Roshni on September 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    I’m glad you have a very realistic picture of how our country is. Akshay…no one is ridiculing anyone! It is as much our country as it is yours! But, no one should be blind to flaws..how will we fix our problems otherwise?!

  15. Akshay on September 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I’ve read several such voluminous posts on how “India is pathetic”, but I’ve never agreed with much of it.
    Maybe because I’m simply not that experienced, but more so because I’ve never found a single link of fact or figure in them. Of course, it sounds great to pick up random incidents from the newspaper and and portray them as the real thing, but call me whatever, it’s rather hard to digest.

    Anyway I agree that there are widespread problems, but they’re not solved. Why? Because our definition of deshbhakti is streches just as far as to bitch about the “sorry state” in that pseudo-patriotic tone. I too do that many a time. Just see the original post. It is “India” that needs to do something about the sorry state of affairs, not the author, you, me or us. See, we’re subconsciously shirking our responsibilities, and that’s the real reason for all the “problems” you’re so offended about.
    In short, there is no need to point out flaws. They’re already visible for all to see. The need is to get rid of them. Anymore pointing out or highlighting is a waste of time. And the worst part is it is a mockery of those people who dedicate entire lifetimes to eradicating the problems the author so passionately describes. The people who work quietly in the trenches while we sit here and indulge in useless banter.

    And why so angry about the security checks? You have a problem with less security and you also have a problem with more security?!

    Nothing personal. Just I don’t like bad things written about India, however true they may be, especially when no one is doing anything about them.

    • One Good Brother on April 1, 2012 at 8:14 am

      Can’t agree more with you. We do not need any more highlighting of the events. Get up and work towards the better. But I liked the post, though, because it made you & me think. A writing that makes us think is always good :)

  16. Ritesh on September 15, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Hi Amreekandesi

    Congrats on successfully completing 100 days in India. Your post is very true and straight from the heart. Do I sense ‘regret’ about moving back to India in your post? This is a serious question.

    I agree with Akshay above me that, we must do something about it. Enough said about the problems in India, its time to provide solutions.

    I am returning to India in next 4 months after staying away from it for over 8 years. I want to do something on a very small level to solve a simple problem. Don’t know where to start. I am sure there are millions out there just like me.

    Good luck


  17. Roshni on September 16, 2009 at 2:05 am

    I am not sure if I speak for anyone else, but I think I can speak for my parents..who by the way are not NRIs. They have stayed in Kolkata most of their 70 odd lives. They are one of the few who strive to be the driving force for change in the city and the country. They are involved in NGO social work and they contribute their time, energy as well as money in trying to make the city as well as the country a little better for future generations. However, even they have their frustrations, despite living in the same place their entire lives (and not having been dropped back into a relatively new culture after 5 or 8 or 10 years)…this is because for every one person who genuinely wants change, there have been 10 who don’t want it…who have opposed it because it did not suit their convenience..because they may personally be inconvenienced, and who may lose monetarily because of it. Such people also exist who will NOT tolerate change but get angry if you point out the shortcomings of the status quo…simply coz they feel that it is unpatriotic to do so. How will you solve a problem if you do not identify and accept that it is a problem? Such things may seem obvious to people like us, but there are a vast body of people who don’t understand this (again quoting my parents since I obviously don’t have any personal experience)!

    Yes, I can certainly stay where I am and never come back…but where will you banish my parents to?!

  18. amreekandesi on September 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm

    @Mahendra - Maybe i should just have tweeted that, instead of a 1000 word rant!

    @Vinod - Thanks. I want to do more than just talk about the issues. Let’s see how things shape up…

    @RDB - Yes, you feel even more strongly when you are away. Surprisingly i have come across some articles lambasting NRIs as being losers who will cry for their country while staying away. It’s funny to see this anti NRI sentiment despite the numerous contributions made by NRIs towards Indian society.
    Thanks. It is bliss alright; i just need a helicopter that would bypass the crazy traffic.

    @Perx - I agree that there is a lot of hypocrisy going around, but you can always start with yourself. Good begets good, and little acts that show that you care will always be appreciated.

    @Philip - Thanks, and sure you will see a 1000 day post too. I am not going anywhere.

    @Prerna, @amlistening, @Usha, @Kavi, @QI, @Solilo - Thanks!

    @rush.Me - I think its all about respect for others emotions. We typically tend to ignore the others in our zeal, which may not be the best way to go about living our lives.

    @Akshay - Your country! Aww…i am so sorry i disappointed you thus.

    @Roshni - Exactly, in order to fix something that is broken, we first need to introspect and figure out what exactly we are trying to fix.

  19. amreekandesi on September 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    @Akshay - I am not just picking facts from papers, but talking about my experiences. I was away from India for half a decade and came back amidst immense hype about how India is this wonderful upcoming country. Now after coming back i find that all that hype was hollow, and people (like you?) keep patting themselves on the back for how great a country we live in.

    If you don’t like to read bad things about India, howsoever true they may be, that’s your prerogative. You can be an Ostrich and go around raising ‘India Shining’ slogans, while the country keeps rotting away.

    The youth today have this responsibility to do something about our problems, and i am sorry to say that’s where my biggest worry lies.

    What am i doing? For starters, being a good citizen and being respectful of other people and their lives/opinions. But then i can keep being a nice citizen, and people will just walk over me, and nothing good will come of it.

    How can this country change? There is probably no sudden solution. People’s attitudes towards the nation need to change, and they need to start getting a bit more involved.

    What are you doing, aside from asking me to leave ‘your’ country?

    @Roshni - Thanks for sharing your feelings. My parents too have spent a lifetime of honesty, and have struggled sometimes in a system where the dishonest are treated well, and the honest have to face a hundred questions at every juncture. But still they are happy and lead contented lives, and have passed on those genes into yours truly.
    India is close to my heart, and that is the reason i am not packing up my bags yet, or anytime soon.

    @Ritesh - Thanks, and good luck with your move. I am going to do another post covering some logistical aspects of the move; maybe that would be helpful to you.

    Regret? Not at all. That’s the whole point - i am in India because i want to be, and not because i though that India is the new America. I feel for the country, and want to do something about it.

    Let’s see, maybe one day i will chuck everything aside and jump into public service, once i have a clear plan.

  20. Poonam on September 17, 2009 at 5:11 am

    I agreed with every point. Lawlessness, Rudeness and Inflation. But this is home. Haminastu… Haminsastu

  21. Akshay on September 17, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    1)India isn’t great. Far from it.
    I never said India is “shining”. The country is “rotting”, true, but because the people don’t care. You say people are lawless, paranoid and rude. How? On what basis? You have any comprehensive data? Or are you just extrapolating a few million experiences to a billion people?

    2)”How can this country change? There is probably no sudden solution. People’s attitudes towards the nation need to change, and they need to start getting a bit more involved.”

    We just keep giving such bullshit while the country “rots away”, as you said. The key is to do what you can within your power instead of wasting time writing about what the problem is, which was what I was trying to say. Because everyone knows what the problem is. It’s just that no one bothers to do anything about them.
    3)What am I doing?
    I am a member of the very youth whom you detest(?) so much. I don’t say I am a deshbhakt, nor am I an exactly worthy citizen. But atleast I don’t complain(!).
    Anyway I do have plans on how to contribute, but that’s later…

    4)The cause of my angst is that it’s become “cool” and fashionable to ridicule/criticize/rubbish anything Indian, often without any facts or logic, and without any visible urge to make a difference. My ire is directed particularly at the Indian privileged section, which includes NRIs. Such people may leave. I wasn’t specifically referring to NRIs, urban people in general.

    I see this has turned into a n vs. 1 contest, with several feathers having been ruffled and with a lot of accusations made and there is a lot more I want to say, but I am not going to waste my breath and degrade myself.

    If only all this energy was seen in actually building the nation I’m supposedly banishing you from.
    (I mean, just look at this reply of mine. It’s just a waste of time, isn’t it? :|)

  22. amreekandesi on September 17, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    @Akshay - I agree. Your reply was an absolute waste of time.

    • indiandesi on December 11, 2011 at 9:35 pm

      Now, aren’t we rude… just like our brethren

  23. The Quirky Indian on September 18, 2009 at 12:26 am

    @Akshay: Most of us contribute in our own small ways. As AD said, being a good citizen is really half the battle won. Having said that, let me also tell you that AD has been much too kind to this place. It truly sucks, and if the extent of your ‘patriotism’ - like many of our fellow Indians - is to vent on people who can point this out objectively, then, as I have long suspected, this place has no hope.

    @AD: I agree, his reply was a complete waste of time, but there’s no harm in trying to get someone to see the error of his ways. At most, my effort will be a complete waste of time as well. :-)

  24. Akshay on September 18, 2009 at 8:57 am

    Ok, went overboard with previous comment. Sincere apologizes to anyone offended.
    Well if you really love India, I just hope you do something about her problems, something beyond writing about it on the net.
    It would be nice to see someone who complains and then actually does take initiative to change all those things he’s unhappy about.


  25. Roshni on September 18, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Hey Akshay,

    you know what? I think you are right in a way that we are wasting our time just making retorts at each other! All of us (I think) are contributing in some way but how about making a collective effort? You seem to be sincere about your commitment to make India a better place and I am sure you already have some great ideas….why not share them with us and let’s see if we can, in a small way, help make a difference!

  26. Akshay on September 26, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Lots of things I want to say…lot of digression…..written a blog post…read if you want.

  27. saachi on October 5, 2009 at 7:40 am

    Dear AD,
    Honest post. Its been 9 months since we returned to India and I still feel the same way you do. The traffic on road do not follow any rules and each time i have to cross a road on foot, i say a prayer.
    The poor get shouted upon and treated unfairly.
    I have seen people throw wrappers on roads from their imported car windows. I have escaped being spit on on roads. Last but not the least, I lost two wonderful people on the boat carrying tourists in Periyar lake last week.
    They were parents of my best friend.
    Why? because someone was in a rush to make more money without testing any passenger safety.
    My friend has always wanted to return to India like me……but now…I will not blame him if he never comes back.
    We should probably open an NGO. Educate school children to spread the word to their parents and others about how to have the right attitude to behave like a responsible citizen.
    Children and more sincere and honest.
    Inspite of all this why do I stay on in India?
    Because I cant live far away from home and open a beer can in the evenings and lecture about sad state of affairs back home and sleep after that without giving a damn about people who live or die each day in India.
    Instead, it is much more meaningful to me to say thank you to the cycle rickshawallh who drives me home in the evenings.

  28. All About Returning To India | AmreekanDesi on October 29, 2009 at 12:19 am

    […] reason that will sustain you through the transition period (and beyond), during which you will crib about everything from the traffic, pollution, corruption, cows, buffaloes, and the silly speed bump outside your […]

  29. NS on November 9, 2009 at 10:36 am

    I’m patted at every US airport :( (im Indian)

    At the risk of sounding sadist, im actually quite happy that even Americans are getting a taste of their own medicine in a foreign land!

  30. phantom on November 23, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I read this post and the replies from y’all and I can’t help but smile. Not in jest, but because I go through this sense of utter frustration and confusion every time I go to India. Having lived almost half of my 27 year life overseas, I’d be one of those “NRI’s” that grouse and “whine” about the many visible and not-so-visible deficiencies in the Indian system (from a bureaucratic, governance, practical way-of-life, cultural perspective). But I want to go beyond the compliant, beyond the frustration, beyond the annoyance.

    Firstly- there are two kinds of NRI’s or PIOs who whine about india’s problems. The first is the NRI that whines with self-thinking, needy sort of considerations…where he is frustrated directly because of the inconveniencies to himself per se. This type of NRI/PIO has developed a sort of detachment from the Indian foundation, and chooses to view India through he lens of a first world citizen. He sees the deficiencies, the cracks in the system, as what they literally are – problems. He does not question the problems, or pore over the cause-effect aspect of the flaws or even try to ponder the solution. He is quick to highlight the problems and is quite ready to let go of that sentiment of adaptability that is badly needed to survive within the Indian system. He is willing to do this because he is a “visitor” to india, in every sense of the word, physically and emotionally. I have met several well to do Indians who reside in india, and are still “visitors”, in the sense of their detachment from the Indian system, and their condescending attitude to the true spirit of india (in its rawest form, with all the holes and cracks).

    When the above type of NRI/PIO whines and whinges, I feel like slapping them and telling them to bugger off to US, UK, Canada, Aus or wherever they live the life of a glorified corporate slave.

    Which brings me to the second type of NRI/PIO (and I like to think I’m one of them). This one too clearly sees the deficiencies, the failings, the inefficiencies, the obvious misery. But this one feels a sense of frustration, not because of the sheer individual inconvenience caused on a practical plane, but because of the feeling of helplessness that despite the whole “India Shining” show, the reality is that there is much yet to be done, much to be repaired, much to be learnt and much to be taught. This NRI feels a sense of desolation that despite the country possessing millions of educated, genuine, well meaning individuals, the system is still so flawed. This NRI feels the genuine deep rooted sense of loss that a parent feels as they watch their talented child throw it all away because of “bad company”, lack of vision or just bad luck. This NRI wants to help, he wants to motivate, he wants to help make his country a better one, but he is also confused as to how he can do it, and amidst that confusion is an ever growing sense of resignation to the vagaries of the Indian system, a system that rewards those who manipulate, those who grab rather than ask, those who corrupt rather than adhere to rules, those who bypass the system rather than trod it, those who view and practise life as “eat or be eaten”. This NRI is joined by the millions of well meaning Indians who share the same sentiments, the same sense of desolation, the same sense of regret, the same acute frustration.

    What is the solution – obviously there isn’t one easy one. At a high level, the below need to, at the very least, be implemented:

    1] Implement a more secure and honest election process, at all levels. Get more voters from the educated segment (as this demographic is woefully under-represented in the voting spectrum). Perhaps restrict voting rights to only those with 8th / 10th standard pass (to limit the possibility of “uneducated” voters who’s votes can easily be bought off). The combined affect of this might be that we see less of the literate, corrupt thugs coming to various levels of power.

    2] Re-vamp the judicial system…we need to have laws that are in sync with modern judicial requirements and considerations. We also need tons more judicial staff, to clear the massive backlog of cases. With a more efficient judicial system, accountability and enforceability will be easier to accomplish.

    3] We NEED an autocrat or bunch of autocrats at the top who are able to enforce (top-down) the various rules, regulations and boundaries that define a successful system. Western countries are where they are because of this simple concept of accountability and enforceability. There HAS to be a “danda
    in place, whether a physical one (jail, capital punishment), or a financial one (fines, penalties). Democracy in itself is a farcical concept, especially for a cultural/social system with such complexity, diversity and variance such as India. I have absolutely no problem with a bunch of leaders sitting atop the hierarchy and making tons of money….but let them enforce a system of governance that allows for efficiency, accountability, enforcement and equitable allocation of rights.

    4] Mobilisation by the media. Why do we, as a nation, tend to focus on the rare and statistically insignificant instances of success, when simultaneously ignoring the more relevant and infinitely more important cases of failure??? Why do we glorify the tiny proportion of IIT and IIM grads that happen to get the massive salaries…but we ignore the thousands of universities that provide sub-standard education. Why do we glorify the shiny IT campuses in b’lore, hyd and gurgaon, but superficially gloss over the pathetic public infrastructure just outside of the private campuses?? Why does our media not continually highlight the many obvious symptoms of failure??? Perhaps its because such news doesn’t sell….the average public doesn’t want to read this, they see it everyday, and have seen it since they were born. But how else to reach out to the junta and remind them that it is NOT ok to accept this lying down, NOT ok to condone things the way they are. People underestimate the power of public opinion; it can be hugely influential factor in all matters of governance, social behaviour, private/public activity and as a mechanism to enforce public shame on wrongdoers.

    Ok, I tire now, enough of ranting.

  31. Pankaj on March 31, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Good luck bud! I moved in Sep 09. India needs to still grow up. We are wayyyyy behind in public morality and consciousness.

    I always think about a song “Khushiyan yahi pe milegi hain mere, sapna hain apna - yeh des -pardes” :)

  32. Prasad on May 15, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I agree with the things what you have written and it is true, But after you coming here what you have followed, which you feel it is right. The change what you want has to begin from you itself and start doing small things, couple of generations things will change. dont expect things to change in just a half a decade. you start teaching things arround your neighbour and be positive. Love your country and start cleaning it.

  33. vadakkus on January 1, 2011 at 11:13 am

    I dont like Gulab Jamuns. Or Bollywood. Or Cricket. Just saying :)

    But very well written. Honest, true to heart. But it has all got even worse here since you have written this post

    Keep going, Sir!

    • amreekandesi on January 1, 2011 at 11:23 pm

      thanks for the appreciation, mate!

  34. Pritam on January 6, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I completely agree! I recently moved back to India from U.S., and will be completing my 100 days here soon- I am stealing your idea and putting up some of my experiences.. hope thats ok :)

  35. Vijay on April 30, 2011 at 12:29 am

    too good bro, hope you are settled now,,

  36. Kos on October 4, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Its September 2014 and almost exactly 5 yrs since you originally wrote this piece. the government has just completed 100 days and it would be nice to see a similar article viewed through the prism of this one.

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