I can never win!

A word of advice (if I may):

Never change countries while changing jobs while your house is still not fully complete. It is a nightmare! More on this in the upcoming posts (maybe some rants will be involved too). But in this one, I wanted to share some of the funnier things that have happened so far.

When we decided to move I did tell Mr M that he would be an odd man out in my city, especially in the place where we were planning to settle down as the influx of people from other countries is very minimal (read zero). You might find a handful in the city centre or in the malls, but out where we are close to the hills and almost 15 km away from the city centre, none. He had his share of incidents where he was asked to be part of a selfie, a group photo, etc. where they find him interesting and looking so different to everyone around. He has also had incidents where in shopping places, he has been given the royal treatment and I am ignored like a nobody 🙂 even in spite of being the person who is footing the bill for his purchases (he doesn’t have a bank account here as of yet). He has also had incidents where he has been ogled at or rather stared at and pointed at and whispered behind hands to the presence of a foreigner (for them) amidst them. This has put him off from time to time but he started coping by waving at people who stare at him. That takes them by surprise and they either smile and wave back or just turn away and don’t look at him anymore.

I am curious as to what the folks around here think when they see him. I grew up in this place and I can, to some extent, understand the curiosity of knowing why someone who isn’t from India wants to be in such a remote part of the country, but would I have stared at them wondering or would I have had the courage to say hi or at least respond to them if they had said hi to me? I think it would be the former. I am an introvert at heart (even though people who know me now might disagree but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t like initiating conversations).

The other day we were going for a walk when a car screeched to a halt next to Mr M and the fellow who was driving asked him where he was from and why was he walking (all the while totally ignoring me who was right beside Mr M, he did not even look at me for a second) around the area in the dust. Mr M was trying to convey that he was out for a walk and that he lived close by and that it was totally fine but that gentleman wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted that he would be happy to drive Mr M to wherever he wanted to go 😀 (and nope, he still didn’t bother looking at me while having this conversation with Mr M) Mr M then had to explain to him very patiently that he has a vehicle (which he doesn’t drive by the way :P) but that he chose to walk to know the place etc. etc. and that fellow was so surprised that a foreigner would like to go for a walk whereas the locals wouldn’t even consider something like that at all (I am sure some of my neighbours who are out for a walk every single day would be very offended by that statement if they heard that gentleman). And then he turns to me and asks me where was I from and that is when I unleashed my weapon and spoke to him in Tamil and told him that this was my hometown. Boy was it fun to watch his surprise. He apologized to me (for what I don’t know) and then bid us farewell and went his way.

This wasn’t the first time that kind of incident happened. We have got a scooter and were out to fill petrol (or gas as you might call it on the other side of the world) and this young chap who was filling the petrol spoke to me in English (or what he knew of it) once he saw Mr M. I knew he was trying his best with his limited knowledge and so encouraged him by answering in English (questions ranged from where were we from, what is Mr M’s country etc. etc.) and then when he asked me about my place I didn’t have a choice but to tell him that this city was my hometown and he then started to chat in Tamil and chided me (in good fun) that I could have let him know about it and he would not have tried too hard in English. But I didn’t have the heart to crush his attempt at making an impression with Mr M.

It wasn’t just them. Even the folks in the school I joined (for a brief while at least) all thought that since I moved here from the UK and since my husband was Irish, I wouldn’t know Tamil. On what basis did they come to that conclusion I don’t know. I look like a proper Tamilian in my current surroundings. There is no mistaking me and my Tamil face. But by association (even though they haven’t seen my Irish husband) they all assumed me to speak only English. One day when I uttered a line from Vadivelu’s (a Tamil comedian) movie scenes, they were surprised. I had to tell them that I was in this country until recently.

You know what gets me though. When I moved to the UK, people in the UK thought that I wouldn’t know enough English because I came from a part of India which isn’t popular and there were surprised to hear me speak good English (and comment on that too). I had to explain to them that I studied in an English medium and worked in MNCs (multi-national companies) which had HQs (headquarters) in the Netherlands and San Francisco and have had to deal with clients from other countries for almost two decades. Now that I am back in India, people here think that because I have an Irish husband, I don’t know any other language other than English. The irony of it all heh. 😀 I can never win. I end up explaining to people no matter where I go…Is it because my face is so generic in nature that I can be categorized as Indian in the UK, European in India, and alien on Mars? Who knows, heh! At least Mr M’s presence in the community is getting normalized day by day and fewer people are staring at him unless they are new to the place or passing by. Now, this doesn’t mean that people here can understand him. That is a story for another time.

Nature’s Welcome

While we are still settling in India, here are a few photographs of nature welcoming us with its beauty. These birds have got a permanent home close to where we are staying currently and they do put on a very good show every day 🙂

The journey to a pause…

This might seem like something different to what I usually post, but on account of what I have gone/am going through, I thought it might help someone else too or at least join me in my rant.

Menopause (if you don’t want to read about it anymore, might stop right now and move on 😉 )… First and foremost…why a “pause”. I don’t get it. What do they mean by “pause”. It is not going to come back later in life, is it? It is supposed to be the end of the menstrual cycle and it is still called menopause? OK…as usual I digressed. Back to the topic now.

For the past year and a half, I have been having the symptoms that are listed on NHS’s website for menopause (not all, mind, but at least half of them). When I told Mr M he was like “you are too young for menopause”. I was like “no…not really”. This was also the time when I have been doing a lot of yoga for my yoga teacher training and that does have an impact on your body. I can feel some sort of change happening but these hot flushes and night sweats were there even before I started my training. I had my doubts, but you know how it is with anything menstrual…it is never clear because it varies from one body to the other. What with the lockdown and all, I couldn’t have done anything about it even if I wanted to (apart from using AskMyGP which wasn’t how I wanted to discuss this because I had a lot of questions) and then slowly my periods kind of became too irregular. I wouldn’t have them for 45 days to 75 days and then have them for a day or two and then zilch. The only major impact I had because of that is my lower back pain and being grumpy for a day or two and then whooosh…it’s gone.

When the lockdown restrictions were lifted and my long-awaited cervical cancer screening which was postponed for a year got resumed, I took the opportunity to talk to my GP and they confirmed that it “could” be menopause. Mr M was like “really? at your age?”. I was like “why not? my body is tired of producing eggs when it kind of knows that nothing is ever gonna happen anymore…why bother producing it and go through all the cycle. Might as well just shut down the system and be done with it”. It might sound very callous to my body but it is the truth. Now I know that the menstrual cycle plays a very important role in a woman’s body because of all the hormones that get generated and how it is a natural cleansing process and once it is done, your body undergoes a lot of changes which may or may not be healthier for me. But having said that, I will also be happy to just let it go. I am acutely aware of the changes that go through my body and I kind of keep track of it and at the least be aware of any major changes so that I know what to look for and be prepared if I can be.

The topic of the menstrual cycle also became a forefront now because funnily enough, my parents were talking about preparing my niece who might soon be attaining her puberty. I wish I was prepared for it. I never was. And I am glad that things have changed from my times and I am very comfortable talking to her about it and letting her know that it is nothing to be afraid of. But there is not much I know myself apart from my personal experience, which was full of pain (courtesy of my mom’s genes which I have inherited in abundance and my occasional fainting episodes due to the pain). My sister on the other hand kind of breezes through it (and it annoys me to no extent). Recently I came across this podcast called 28-ish days later by India Rakusen which I stumbled upon in BBC Sounds. I am still on the 12th day of the 28-ish days, but so far I have enjoyed it because they not only go through the ins and outs of the menstrual cycle but also discuss various experiences and talk about it. It is also not a very long episode. It is short and sweet and very informative. It also helps to hear people talk about their experiences which are so similar to your own (I hated the event that happens when you attain puberty too…the drama of it all…urgh…). I hope I can use the information that I have gathered from that to help my nieces and anyone else who might need it (given that I will be dealing with girls of similar age in the school when I start teaching). If you are interested in this topic, I would suggest having a listen to that podcast.

I still don’t know for sure if I am going through a peri-menopause or just a menopause phase but either way, I don’t care so much now. The not knowing kind of irks me a bit but I guess I have come to accept that some things happen in their own time and as long as I am aware of that and keep myself as healthier as possible, it should be alright. I also know what works to help me alleviate any pain or discomfort and what symptoms I should be looking for to be prepared. But there are things that still surprise me and I am trying to be OK with it, to some extent. If I am not, I just rant about it and get over it. But what this ongoing experience and the podcast have helped me realize is that a woman’s body is a universe of its own. It is so mysterious and yet so wonderful and I can’t wait for my menstrual cycle to finish what it started and enter the menses-less phase.

Stonehenge

First view of the Stonehenge
Closer view
A comparative study of the sizes of the stones

What will I miss?

I am relieved of my official duties, we have shipped our things, we made our one last final day trip within the UK to a place I wanted to always visit (more on that later in the day trip post on the other blog), we have given away all the things that might be of some use to others, found my plants a new home with my friends, etc. etc. There are a few last-minute bits and pieces left to do until the next weekend when we finally board the plane. But there is one question that a few asked me for which I am trying here to find an answer. What will you miss when you go back to India?

Honestly? I don’t know. Materially I don’t think I would miss anything. Life has taught me (without being too maudlin) that it is easy to replace the material things if you have some savings left with you and you might even come to know if you absolutely needed those things in your life or not. And with the globalisation of things, we can get a lot of stuff that we get here in the UK back in India too (although I should say I remember seeing more American stuff than British stuff… times might have changed…who knows…I will update you if I do see a change 🙂 ) Jokingly, I would say I would miss the concept of a bath. Just soaking in that hot water until I turn into a prune is just heavenly during the winter. I can never have that in my place. Half of the time we have water shortages, especially in the summer. What about English Breakfast? I might have to travel to Bangalore to get one but definitely not in Coimbatore 😀

What did I miss when I moved to the UK? I am sure some folks asked me the same question when I was about to leave India. After living here for 5 years, what did I miss? Did I miss the dosa and paratha or the temples or my travel fridge magnets (100’s of them) that I had collected over the years which are now stored in a locked room? Honestly? No. What then? People in my circle, my very small circle. This circle consists of my close friends and immediate family. Thanks to WhatsApp, Skype, GatherTown, Zoom etc., the distance between them and me seems to be that bit smaller.

Having been here in the UK only for 5 years, my circle is much smaller than the one in India 😀 and since the sudden change of work, place, country etc, is gonna hit me hard next month, I guess I will miss them sharply given the way we have been together. So here is a shout out to those few poor souls who happen to be in my circle and for whose presence I am forever grateful because they made my life a bit more colourful here. (Only pseudonyms in my blog sadly… but I hope you can spot yourself in this post 😀 )

When I moved from software engineering to teaching I didn’t have much help and was floundering to find a way (thanks to some online courses and books) but Mr Millwall came to my rescue with his 30+ years of teaching experience. He just took me under his wing and taught me the ropes of education and became my very close friend. He is also the first to call me if there is some interesting news in the cricket world 🙂 I am glad he is enjoying his retirement and is doing well. Hopefully, he will learn how to call via WhatsApp soon so that I can connect with him.

The tall Croatian teaching assistant has been there to give me an extra hand whenever I needed one and kept me sane. We didn’t have anything in common and in spite o that we bonded very well. Being much more experienced than me both at work and in life, she was a good sounding board and we started hanging out of work too, sharing bus rides and life stories and eventually became friends. I am glad that I could get her a churidar from India last time I was there and she looked absolutely gorgeous in it.

Ms Iskcon was Mr M’s friend but she is now a family friend, thanks to our heritage and shared native language. We used to spend our Christmas Eve at her place playing board games and puzzles with her family, which gave us the feeling of being a part of a big loud, amazing, and chaotic family from now and then. She used to come to our place for the Sunday lunch (she had a knack for calling us exactly at lunchtime and would be invited inevitably 😀 It helped that she lived only a floor below us.) Any time we talk, we end up discussing and debating everything under the sun. I will cherish her ability to discuss anything and everything (spiritual, political, socio-economic, you name it). I sincerely hope that she can visit us in India.

Now comes the group in Swansea 🙂 Who knew that a kick (literally) would start a friendship. I keep telling Mr Half-Trousers that in terms of his age he is closer to my nephew than to me but that has only made the friendship more fun. He has tried to teach me frisbee (emphasis on the word tried…). He has also fed me so much baked stuff it feels like he was fulfilling some debt he owed from his previous life 😀 His sticky toffee pudding is one thing I will never be able to replace. I wish he keeps up with his star baker abilities in spite of his busy software engineering lifestyle, which he has taken up now. He has also been my yoga student for the past 6 months helping me in my journey.

Mr Tall and Grumpy (I can say this and get away with it because he knows he is, lol) was that person whom I thought would the quiet and studious one but turned out that he is all that and also the naughtiest. Both him and Mr Half-Trousers have been the reason I am known in my team for throwing squishy toys at people. They drove me nuts with their antics 😀 but he was also my partner in crime at work. We taught together quite a lot and that gave us a lot to share in terms of knowledge and experience. I am very glad he is having a stint at the industry now and I will miss seeing his daughter grow (hopefully he will keep me posted on that and would take a trip to India and go on a good food tour).

Mr Badmintennis is one of a kind. An old soul trapped in a very young body. He amazes me with his knowledge of all things old and historic. I should call him Mr Minecraft or Mr Gamemaker because he is very well known for that but more than that he is/was my badminton/tennis partner. We have been playing the game for a while now and I hope he continues to play it with the rest of the group. I am sure I will engage his expertise in my new job when I have to do something in Minecraft or even take us on a virtual tour of computers.

Ms OrganizedArtist joined us during the first lockdown and so there has been a delay in getting to know her but my god, she is talented. I am always happy to be associated with very artistic friends like her and Anita. They bring a lot of colour in my life 🙂 She is the second person in my life (after my friend in Bangalore) with whom I haven’t felt any reservations whatsoever, while being before their camera and knowing that they are taking my photograph. She is yet to perfect her art of hitting Mr Badmintennis on his head during the tennis/badminton games but I am sure she will get there with a little bit more practice 😉 (make sure you let me know when that happens, girl!) She did a painting of my portrait which is available on my Instagram and I am very thankful for that. It is definitely getting framed. I am sure she will definitely make her way to South India and I will get to visit her home country (Ukraine) soon.

There are a couple more people I know and are part of that small circle but this is my group whom I would like to keep in touch with no matter where I go and what I do (assuming that they feel the same 😀 ) I am again hoping that the various communication channels that helped me keep in touch with my group in India while I was in the UK would help me do the same with this lot. This is also my way of conveying my thanks to them for being part of my journey and saying a proper goodbye I guess, even though we did say our goodbyes by doing a South Indian food tour and what a day it was 🙂 So much fun.

Diolch yn fawr for everything and hopefully we will get to meet again sooner rather than later.