How India Helped Me Find My Purpose in Life

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Should I Move To India?

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5 Things About India that Attract Me

I often get people writing to me, wondering why I choose to live in India. Here are five reasons why I'm under India's spell ....

5 Things About India that Attract Me 5 Things About India that Attract Me

Sickness, Sickness, and More Sickness

by Sharell शारेल on August 14, 2010

in Daily Life in India

This monsoon has been the wettest in five years in Mumbai. Last month, it rained constantly and heavily most days. And it’s pouring rain as I write this. The weather has been perfect for the spread of a whole range of nasty illnesses. There’s an outbreak of malaria across the city, with many hospitals stretched beyond capacity. Other people are suffering from fever, swine flu, and even jaundice.

My husband has been sick with fever three times in the last couple of months. The second time, I was really concerned as he also had body shakes and head pain. I rushed him to the hospital for a blood test to see if it was malaria. However, the tests only revealed an unidentified virus. The troublesome thing about most of these illnesses is that they all have the same symptoms.

Looking back, I’m convinced I had a mild case of dengue fever two years ago. It started with a terrible fever. After it went away, the joints of my fingers and toes swelled up and started hurting. Foolish me was concerned I might be getting arthritis! Then, my body broke out in a rash. I was really perplexed about that, but still clueless as to what it could be (we don’t have these types of illnesses where I come from). I felt weak and dizzy, so finally went to the doctor. However, she didn’t identify anything specific wrong with me. She simply gave me the usual assortment of brightly coloured pills, and sent me home.

The interesting thing, which shows how differently each body functions, is that I haven’t had fever once this year. Instead I’ve fought off three colds, and often feel lethargic with a blocked nose and sore throat. It doesn’t help that I’m allergic to mould. During the monsoon, it grows plentifully on wood, cane and leather items — including furniture, shoes, belts, and floor mats.

But I can’t hate the monsoon. The air is so delightfully cool and fresh!

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A Multi-Cultural Cocktail Party

by Sharell शारेल on August 8, 2010

in Daily Life in India, Family & Friends

Post image for A Multi-Cultural Cocktail Party

On Friday night my husband and I went to a cocktail party at the home of a couple of our expat friends, who very conveniently live on the same street as us. We were an interesting mix of people — Indian, Australian, Scottish, Dutch, French, and African.

Thoughtfully, the host had devised an inspired multi-cultural cocktail menu for the night. And, it was the funniest, and most fun, night I’d had in a long time. There were all sorts of antics from horrendous karaoke performances (me, because I’m tone deaf and don’t even pretend I can sing) to gymnastic displays. I can’t even remember what time we got home, but it wasn’t much before sunrise!

Now, I know my husband isn’t the tallest guy in the world, but this is quite ridiculous! See what happens when he’s in the company of a lanky Dutchman (who is 6’6″). It makes for entertaining play time though. Yes, we’re all just a little bit crazy! [click to continue…]

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If you’re not a married, vegetarian, Hindu couple or family, it’s likely that you’ll find renting an apartment in India harder than expected. In fact, it’s likely to be quite a challenge. Especially, if you’re unmarried or Muslim.

I first discovered the pitfalls of renting an apartment in India when I was living in Kolkata. Two of my English girlfriends and my husband (who was not my husband back then, but rather a guy I was seeing casually) decided it would be fun to live together in a large apartment as one big mixed happy family. Very naively, I thought that it would be a straight forward process to find an apartment. After all, we were decent people, who had the financial means to support ourselves. And this kind of shared living arrangement was common where I came from. Needless to say, it didn’t happen.

There was no anonymity of dealing with real estate agents like I was used to back home. Instead, we had to personally meet the potential landlady and be scrutinised by her, while she laid down a number of archaic conditions. “No alcohol, no staying out after 11 p.m., and no members of the opposite sex sharing the apartment”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Had I all of a sudden travelled back in time? Surely it couldn’t be 2006. And I couldn’t be an adult. Those kinds of rules were for teenagers who were still going to school!

It wasn’t an isolated incident either. Everywhere we looked, we encountered the same response. Most property owners didn’t even want to rent their apartments to foreigners. And a man could definitely not, under any circumstances apart from marriage, occupy it with us. [click to continue…]

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My Terrace Before and During the Monsoon

by Sharell शारेल on August 4, 2010

in Daily Life in India

Post image for My Terrace Before and During the Monsoon

Many of you will remember the day I was jubilant about having painted and decorated the terrace…. all by myself! Many people (including myself) also doubted that the beautiful red colour would last through the monsoon season.

The doubts were well founded. Two months into the monsoon and just about all the colour has been washed off. Not surprising, as it has been raining heavily every day in Mumbai. But what’s even worse is that the paint has been replaced by a layer of dirt and slime. Yuk! I do love the refreshing monsoon rain, but it requires a lot of restoration work afterward.

Just in case anyone needs a reminder, here is a “before the monsoon” photo of the terrace. Ahhh, it looks so pristine!

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Delhi Commonwealth Games and the Lack of Accountability

by Sharell शारेल on August 1, 2010

in Daily Life in India

Sigh. Less than a month after the nationwide India bandh, the Indian government and its lack of accountability has again got me riled up enough to write a blog post about it.

Normally, try to overlook the goings-on of the government. After all, I can’t change it. So I might as well accept it. However, this time the issue is closer to my heart. Over a year ago, Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) submitted a report on the preparedness for the Commonwealth Games to the government. Not surprisingly, the report found that the government’s preparations for the Games were way off target. What is surprising, is that the report was “buried” by government and not placed in the Parliament.

I just find this completely unfathomable. How can the report not be tabled in Parliament? I’ve mentioned that I used to work in the accounting field in the government back in Australia. What I’ve never disclosed is where I used to work. It was actually at the Auditor-General’s Office — the Australian equivalent of the Indian CAG.

I also spent some time working at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee — the Parliamentary committee that is responsible for reviewing and following up government budgetary initiatives, and the reports of the Auditor General. (I don’t expect that many of you will be interested in such a dry subject, but I wrote a substantial amount of this Report on the 1998-99 Budget Estimates).

Both in India and Australia, the Auditor General reports directly to the Parliament, and the public. The government is legally required to place Auditor General’s reports in the Parliament. Yet, somehow, this particular report on the Commonwealth Games, full of damning results, managed to miss its tabling deadline. It was to be tabled during the budget session that ended in early August 2009. But, it never happened. What I’m astonished about is how could it not happen? What exactly is going on in the Indian government that allows it to get away with not tabling a report in the Parliament? This is no minor matter. How does the government manage to avoid accountability like this?

Now, it seems that a miracle will be required for the construction works to be completed in time for the Games. Allegations of corruption are all over the media. One swimmer has already been hurt during a test event, due to sub-standard material and poor workmanship. And officials have stated that safety certificates for many of the new Games buildings have been faked.

The Commonwealth Games is a unique opportunity for India to showcase herself to the world, and dispel common perceptions of poverty (Slumdog Millionaire). Unfortunately, this world is being shown a lot of things, and they’re not positive. Apart from the obvious lack of accountability, I find it upsetting because so much potential is going to waste, again because of India’s politicians who are more interested in what’s in it for themselves rather than their country.

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