Life, death, and everything in between

Being a fairly young Indian couple in the US, hub and I were friends with people in similar age groups. In fact, I think the oldest person we were friends with in the US was in his late 30s! I doubt if we socialised with anybody in their 40s or older! This was not by design, but just the way things ended up being. Now, obviously death is not a very ‘in the face’ thing for people in that age group. All we spoke about was the opportunities in the tech world, start-ups, stock market, kids, schools, day-cares, weekend getaways, and the like. Not really vain, but definitely not covering the gamut of life. The only older people we got to mingle with were the older parents of our friends and relatives who were there on a vacation. And even then the topics spoken with them were fairly limited. It would typically be about their tickets, airlines, air travel experiences, immigration, comparisons between India and the US, their failing health, etc.

When it was just the two of us, all this was quite perfect for us. And, because we spoke often to our own parents back home, we would hear of other happenings in our extended families, and neighborhoods. But, after my daughter was about 2 years old, and when she started grasping things around her, I was quite sure that the limited social exposure was just not going to be enough in the long run. Yes, she was going to grow up and meet her own friends and get involved in their lives, but still I really wanted the kids to get involved in the myriad of life’s experiences that a place like India offers, more so because we have our family in India. One of the very important events that made this a certainty for me was when one of my uncles in India died. Typically, there are multitudes of ceremonies and rituals that happen after somebody passes away. And if you are in the immediate family circle, you take part in most of these rituals. Now, why are these ceremonies important? I am not sure I am aware of the significance of the exercises themselves; however I know that these events make strong impressions in our minds, and such impressions are very important to our own growing self. When I was a young child, I lost my grandfathers, both in a period of 2 years. I was at an impressionable phase, and I was part and parcel of the happenings around me. When my paternal grandfather died, we had to rush to our native place, because my dad was the eldest son, and hence he had a lot of responsibilities back home. This happened in March, just before my 6th standard exams were to start. Now, I was one of those school toppers, and academics was the most important thing in my life or that is the way it had been laid out for me. But, when my grandfather passed away, we dropped everything, took permission from school and just went. Somehow, that helped put certain things into perspective then, and continues to even now. The entire family had gotten together under one roof and we all went through the motions for those 13 days. I was just a child, but a very observant one. Death is anything but scary even to this day because of those few days in my life. And personally for me, I did not want my kids to miss out on such of life’s experiences. There is more to life than what meets the eye! Death is definitely one of the vital aspects of life. I definitely didn’t want ‘death’ to be just a concept; something that happened to distant relatives in a faraway land called India, or what happened to innocent victims of random crazy acts in the US.

Another big factor is, in India, not everybody we know is in the tech industry. We know different kinds of people having different kinds of successes and struggles in life. Again, in the US, within our own immediate tech circle, it was going to be very difficult to bring in a variety for our kids. There were probably 2 kinds of people we knew amongst our bay area Indian friends - the fairly well off and the very well off. But here, I am glad that we know people in all strata/classes of society. My kids get to see my maid and her family at close quarters, and then some relatives who continue to live in our native places and leading very different lives than ours, and yet some that are right here in the city and still leading a very different (read non-tech) life. I cannot be anything but thankful for this exposure that they are able to get without any added effort. I really wanted the kids to grow up with empathy. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to provide the required environment there.

In the bay area, almost all of us threw wonderful birthday parties for the kids. The kids, like butterflies, could flutter from one party to another. Each one giving and receiving tons of wonderful gifts. Every kid’s parents being able to afford it all. That was limiting, very limiting. Also, one of the reasons to return back when the kids were really young; before they start missing out on the “good” things after we returned to India.

The uniformity of every Indian family we knew in the US was very good in its own way. We didn’t have to think twice about what was appropriate and what was not. We could talk the same kinds of things with everybody, and have “intellectual” conversations with everybody we knew. That had its own charm. But when it comes to raising the kids, we do have the responsibility of exposing them to varieties of things. Also, the reason why I am not ticked off at the lack of infrastructure here. I really think it is alright to grow up with some short-comings in our immediate surroundings. Nothing wrong with that! We grew up with many, many more, and turned out fairly balanced, IMHO! To not have a little electricity from time to time, to use water wisely, and to not have everything great around you in general, can only add value to their little lives.

All that said, there’s really no easy formula to raise kids. Here or there, as parents, we have to go through our own battles to raise our kids, and to raise them well. Hopefully, this decision of moving back will be one of those factors that helps us. Keeping my fingers crossed…
Would love to hear your thoughts.