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Positives, Negatives and Opportunities in [Re]locating to India

My last blog – Leave Everything Behind – was about architects and creatives relocating to India. What are some of the things they might have to face, positives, negatives, and opportunities?

This story is not unlike that of the steel worker who was asked: do you want the bad news first, or the good news? He replied: “Any news that makes the sparks fly is good news!”  While our apocryphal steel worker may have had his tongue-in-cheek, for us its best to put the bad news first and get it out of the way.


First, the climate and its accompanying side effects is one of the most formidable obstacles. For those used to mild, temperate and cold climates of North America and Europe, the climate in India is a constant battle against extremes of cold and warmth. Advice: do not fight it, but go with the flow. Its much easier to ‘let’ yourself perspire for while, even for the better part of the day, and then end up in the local ‘air-conditioned’ hangout space with friends.

The contrast makes it seem like heaven!

The same for the cold. While many parts of north India do not have extremely cold temperatures as compared with, say, New York or major parts of Canada, lack of central heating in homes means that the home is never quite as warm as one might like it to be. Once again, go with the flow. Its better to feel a little cold and then swaddle up at night, then not to experience – or try and escape – this climate.

And one full season of this heat and cold – including the monsoon, spring and fall – will make you an ’old’ India hand. Its what the country is all about – though we never – or almost never – talk about the weather, unless its to complain about it.

The same stoic acceptance of the weather translates into other things too. Transport – now that’s a big thing. Getting from one place to the other in a big city is a daily and significant part of the day. Luckily, there’s a bewildering variety of options available. Public transport? India offers you autorickshaws and rickshaws, public buses and local trains – and in some cities, a sparkling new metro. Don’t let the ubiquity of this transport fool you though: autos and taxis are expensive, buses are slow and crowded, and with the metro.

Well, it never quite goes where we really want it to be!

Not unlike a minotaur in a maze, the metro is out there, waiting, and there is no Greek demi-god waiting for redemption. Or is there?

So, what do we do? Well, we could hire a car – recommended for the short-term visitor – or a bike. Most big cities have this option available – just ask around, or your homestay or hotel will have plenty of options. Now you’re in a different league of freedom altogether – no more depending on public transport! But once again, this freedom doesn’t come cheap – fuel is expensive and a hassle to get without a queue, and traffic snarls are de rigeur.

India’s cities are not for the faint-hearted.

And speaking of hearts, a pack of cards has four suits, one of them being hearts. Reminds one of the game of chess played by the Pandavas and Kauravas, except that here what was at stake was an entire kingdom. Kings came, went, and left, but what was remaining was the city of Delhi.

So let’s dwell, instead, on what are the positives. Well, there’s plenty of leisure time. Time in India can and does move slow, and for the Western visitor accustomed to instant service (or maybe not so any more!) service times in India can be agonizing. This is when you need to ask yourself – how can yoou be more creative with your time? One of the main reasons why India is full of creative people – from all walks of life – is that there is a lot of time to be creative in. Routine and Structure is for highly controlled societies – and this is where the freedom that one enjoys in India really comes to the fore.

It takes time to understand it.

Now lets come to opportunities. Considering everything above, opportunities are plenty. Real-time messaging? Develop your own apps. Vernacular language portals? They’re doing it out there. Financial and tax software? Users number in the millions. School improvements? A mega market. Women’s rights? Begging for intervention.

One can pretty much think of it, and its there. And – here’s the crux – it always will be. Why can we say this with so much surety?

… Well, that’s the basis for another piece, maybe later down the line...

So there we have it. There’s nothing much more to say. Though one could fill tomes on this topic, detailing each proposition and option – and there’s another market for that too. Though, once again, that’s another story.

In our next piece we’ll talk about the ’hows’, ’where’s’, ’when’s’. Though each of these might merit a separate piece, we’ll attempt to tackle them in one go.

Good hunting. It’s what we can do when our limbs start to fail.

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