Installing India – Phase 1


Photo credit: Flickr – Holy Cow


It’s been two months since we’ve moved back to India. And life has been very different. (I’ve heard that’s what happens when you move across the globe).

Start with routine things like, taking a shower. In the US that meant: taking a shower. Here, things get a little more complicated!

Let’s take this evening, for instance. The kids needed to shower before dinner. So, 15 minutes before bath time, I go to turn on the geyser (a device that heats water in the bathroom, for the uninitiated). Turns out there’s no power. Our apartment building’s generator runs lights and fans, so power outages sometimes go unnoticed. Except, of course, when you go to turn on things that the generator doesn’t run. Like the geyser.

Okay, switch to Plan B: Shower after dinner. So I go to heat up leftovers in our…oops, the microwave doesn’t work on the generator either.

Onto Plan C. Change dinner plans and make dosas on the stove top (thankfully powered by gas in most Indian kitchens). Pull out pots and pans, make dosas and messes and ta-da – the power comes back on and the microwave beeps a cheerily obnoxious, “Aha, Gotcha!”

Just an evening in India with all its unpredictability.

I know India is the land were Yoga was invented, but all it takes for you to be flexible here is your everyday life. Power through your ‘GetThroughYourDay’ Asanas and, in no time, you’ll be able to take down any contortionist on America’s Got Talent. 

So, here’s some of what I’ve been learning so far:

  1. You need a lot less stuff in India. Like a LOT less. After two months of living here, I’m like, “Costco? What’s that?” Initially, when I saw the small cupboard in my kitchen that was to be my pantry, I threw a mini fit. That was till a friend came over and commented, “Wow, you have a cupboard just for food?!” Perspective.
  2. You appreciate the little things a lot more. Like the microwave springing back to life. Or a stretch of road without potholes. Or someone – anyone – showing up on time for an appointment.
  3. You develop a sense of patience – and a sense of humor. There’s a reason why the word for tomorrow and yesterday in Hindi is “Kal”. Yup, it’s the same word because time is a fluid concept. I don’t know about tide, but time waits for every single man, woman and child here.
  4. You learn to adjust maadi. That’s a Kannada term that I’ve grown to embrace. Everyone adjusts. Ask the cows that saunter through crazy traffic like they own the place. If the cars and trucks didn’t adjust maadi, India would have been the world’s largest exporter of steak.
  5. You learn to value stuff. Every Indian knows that if you add water to the last bit of dish soap and shake it vigorously it is guaranteed to last another 10 days. Nothing, I repeat nothing, is thrown out. Now that I’m on a limited supply of Ziploc bags and American paper towels, I treat them like fine silk. Indians probably invented the idea behind ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ without even intending to!
  6. You get to talk to people. You have to talk to people. All. The. Time. This morning the doorbell rang at 6:30 am. That would be 6:30 in the AM! The newspaper lady wanted to know if we’d like a monthly subscription. And that’s just the start of the day. Order stuff on Amazon and expect a package at your front door? Not so much. In India, you get a call from the delivery guy asking where your house is (Dude, there’s an address on the label. With a landmark.). Then another call saying he’s at your building. Then you get a follow-up phone call asking if you received your package. Then another call asking if you’re satisfied with the product. Okay then, so much for online transactions.
  7. You stop hearing and smelling things. The blaring of the honking trucks right outside your bedroom, the open sewers that you have to drive over every day, those become part of your new normal. I remember when I first went to the States I finally understood the term ‘deafening silence’. It won’t be long before the honking becomes the white noise I need to fall asleep.

Okay, that list sounds like I’m Mother Theresa sacrificing my life in India. Don’t be fooled. There are perks aplenty.

We have four babysitters, aka grandparents, available at a moment’s notice. Who cares about driving through Pothole Central if the destination includes free food and free childcare?

I feel like Lady Mary on Downton Abbey confessing this but, like most Middle Class Indians, we have a maid. Yeah, I don’t fold my laundry any more. Or a bunch of other things that I won’t confess to not doing so you can hate me less.

And if you thought delivery = pizza, India will open a whole new world to you. You could get a goat delivered to you if you wanted. Not kidding. So far, I’ve stayed away from live animals, but we’ve had people come home to deliver furniture and groceries, do pedicures and take blood tests, drop off ironed clothes and fresh fish and, of course, Amazon packages

After 33 phone calls, obviously.

But I’m learning to adjust maadi and looking forward to Phase 2 of the Indian Install.


  1. Rekha says:

    Susan, Susan… Your alliteration alley always makes me smile. Even laugh out loud. 🙂 Always refreshing to see your comical point of view. Sending you tight hugs! Love to the family too. Ask Malaika if she remembers me. ( make sure she does!)

  2. Peg Bussell says:

    Thank you for writing! I enjoyed getting a glimpse into your life in India. Life sounds full of adventure! I can hear you and Ranjit laughing at generators, microwaves and delivery guys. I would very much like to hear about the maid help! I am sitting here amongst a pile to be put away right now… And dishes! Happy for you guys to be home around family! Prayers for you and your family!

  3. Anne V. says:

    Susan, I often look forward to your post! They make me smile, they make me nod my head in agreement , they make me think and rethink some things I take for granted! Thank you Madame! Wonderful post!

  4. Susan says:

    Hey Susan that was an ironic and well thought description , i wish i could pen down the opposite of how it feels when you move to the US when one has just lived by the life u just described????

    • Susan Narjala says:

      That would be interesting! What have your experiences been? Where you in India for long before you moved to the US?

  5. Marcia Rigamonti says:

    I have always wanted to go to India. I applied to Ramabai Mutki Mission for Girls before the Lord led me to Italy. So your blog is giving me more insight into this country I would love to visit! Someday….!

  6. Ruchi says:

    Oh that’s such a familiar feeling. Welcome to Bangalore. I hope you are enjoying drinking freshly-cut, young coconuts delivered right to your doorstep. Thanks for teaching me a new word: maadi.

  7. Sankar V says:

    Came across on a facebook post. Well written. I could really feel the hurt, disgust, shock and pain of your everyday adventures. It’ll get better or rather you’ll get use to it. I’m sure it’ll turn out to a wonderful journey and will be glad you took the plunge!!

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