Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A rocky patch

Yup, it's been a long silence from me. Thanks to those of you who have continued to check in despite the dearth of new material. I hadn't dared to look at my blog stats until today, but they were a pleasant surprise.

The fact is, India and I have not been getting on too well of late. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that our relationship has been through a bit of a crisis. And for various reasons that's meant that the last thing I have felt like doing is sitting down to write about the experience.

It all started when my mum went back home (mum, if you're reading this, this doesn't mean that this is your fault!). I don't think I realised it at the time but I had got quite accustomed to having her around, quite quickly. And when she went back to England it triggered a wave of homesickness that, if not quite tsunami-like, would certainly give surfers something to get excited about.

Unfortunately, that also added to some ongoing work-related stresses and the exhaustion induced by a heck of a lot of travel (which has also had an impact on the blog - hard to write about India when I seem to be spending half my life in London of late), and I went into a major down turn. Nothing I couldn't handle - eventually - but enough to keep me away from much productive activity outside of holding down the job and keeping up to date with my study (which I have barely managed to do, and we won't talk about my most recent assignment grade).

I honestly believe that when expat life feels miserable, it is 99% about internal factors and what's going on in one's life than the country itself. If I had been in Switzerland, Angola or New Zealand, the last month would have still been awful. Similarly, the lowest point of my life to date - the first six months in Korea - were almost entirely about my feelings about myself and things that were going on in my personal and family life, not about the country itself.

But the thing is, that's not what it feels like at the time. At the time, all you can see is that you're feeling miserable and that everyone around you is trying to make you feel worse. All the things that are normally the stuff of humorous anecdotes become very personal attacks on your own sanity and well-being. The restaurant that doesn't have the dish you want (about half the restaurants I go to, it sometimes seems); the driver who frightens the crap out of you by pulling up behind you and blasting his horn; the shop where the security guards insist on checking your receipt despite having seen you make the purchase three feet in front of them; the airport security guys who arbitrarily change the rules every time you board a plane; the pizza delivery place where everyone thinks you've said "three" when you've said "two". They're all out to get you. And you find yourself saying the dreaded words: I hate this bloody country!

This is where one of my least favourite creatures in the world, the Moaning Expat, starts coming into being. Anyone who's spent any time overseas has come across them: they've lived in the country for at least a couple of years, probably have at least a couple to go, and spend their every waking second moaning about it. They tend to huddle in self-sustaining small groups, which delight in swapping the latest tales about how bloody awful everything is here while slurping down the proceeds of their (or their spouse's) highly paid job in a local bar. The only thing they seem to enjoy more is swooping on some wide-eyed, excited newcomer and punctuating their misguided optimism with some harsh realities about the hell hole they've just moved to.

As you can probably tell, I don't want to become a Moaning Expat. But I've come perilously close this last month. I think the kicker was when I was getting deeply impatient with a taxi driver in Bangalore who didn't know how to get to where I was staying (admittedly, right by one of the biggest hotels in the city, so he should have known, but everyone knows that taxis in Indian cities are largely driven by migrants who don't benefit from much training, so you just have to be patient). I had a slight out of body experience and saw myself: mouth pinched tight at the corners, eyes rolling, saying things like "it's one of the biggest bloody landmarks in the city, for god's sake!". It wasn't pretty. I didn't like myself very much.

(In my defence, I had at this point been travelling from London via Dubai and Delhi for something approaching 22 hours. But still.)

So I decided enough was enough. Yes, I'm still a bit homesick, and yes, I still have to do lots of work travel, and yes, there remain significant challenges at work (given that I'm trying to set up a whole new team, that's hardly surprising - and one of the reasons I took the job was the challenge). But I found myself wondering when I got so angry, and more to the point what I really have to be angry about (answer: let's face it, not a lot). Stuff that. When I got back to Delhi I got a good night's sleep and then went back to the gym, started eating better, and met up with some friends. Because if I've learned one thing about warding off depression, it's that physical and social well-being go hand in hand with mental contentment.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't suddenly turned into Pollyanna and India remains a place that would test even her sunny disposition at times. But like I said, it's 99% about what's happening inside. And I feel like I may just have turned a corner that very much needed to be turned.

And maybe - just maybe - that means I can get back to regular blogging again.


ka said...

India can be pretty disgusting when you start feeling down. And it's not easy to shake the feeling off. The best way is to take a holiday back home (if possible). And there, out of the blue, one day you find yourself missing India (just a small bit of it), and start thinking 'why?' and things like 'do I know myself'? One way to reconcile oneself with the country is to think about all the things you'll miss when you go...

Sonya said...

Ah, Chris! Sending lots of positive thoughts your way. Sorry you've had a shitty spell, I totally understand it (and have been having something similar lately too). You are doing the right things to get through it, and you'll soon be back feeling perky, you know that. Thanks for sharing xxx

www.bombaysun.wordpress.com said...

Glad you're feeling better and happy to have found your site, its really great and interesting.
Hugs from Bombay!

Chris said...

Thanks to all of you for the supportive comments (I am horrified with myself for not replying sooner). Please forgive me! xx