Bangalore Calling

Cubbon Park, Bangalore (circa 2009) – Pic courtesy thehindu.com

(Someday this post shall be completed. Until then, here’s a relevant comment thread between me and a New Jersey Indian American woman contemplating the move.)

Other posts related to the “Where in India” decision:

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Hi Vishy,
Great and interesting blog!! I am a 26 yr old married woman staying in NJ from last 2 years. My hubby works with an investment bank. We two are also seriously thinking of moving back to India and we definitely belong to “should-we” group..:)I read all your posts, sequentially, right from the first one and really felt surprised how simila we ppl think in terms of living in US and when talked about going back to India. We also are in the process of deciding upon the city to which we want to move. And we hav also selected Delhi/NCR, Bangalore, Mumbai as our options. Both of us belong to UP.
I have seen New York city and absolutely love its diverse and cosmopolitan crowd, the freedom in the air. And thats why I am more inclined to settle in Mumbai. When I was reading your post “The Bombay Seduction”, I felt its something special about Mumbai city that everybody who goes there falls in love with that..:)but later in your post found out that you are settled in Bangalore. Would you please tell me why you and Poonam made this decision? I understand its all the individual’s choice and the preferences but in the end of the post you showed your intent of living in Mumbai. Actually I am collecting all possible informations from my friends and different sources which can help us in making a right decision about the city, job etc while moving back to India. Your valuable experience might help us.
Once again would like to say I really liked your blog. You have put your thoughts and experiences in a very interesting manner. Would love to hear from you,
With Best Wishes,
PS

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Hi PS,
So glad you are finding the blog interesting & useful. There are 3 posts that I never completed:
Gurgaon Growling
Bangalore Calling
Why we chose Bangalore

I have a fond hope that during the Christmas holidays I’ll complete them (your comment is inspiration enough). Meanwhile here’s the short version of our decision:
1. Since we have 2 young kids, having sufficient “playing spaces” was a top criterion. This translated to “gated apartment communities” which were present in greater profusion (& affordability) in Bangalore than Mumbai.
2. Had we been contemplating this move 10 (or even 6) yrs ago – an era sans kids, Bombay might have trumped Bangalore.
3. New York is to Mumbai as Silcon Valley is to Bangalore. During our years in US, both Poonam & I longed to live in New York for a few years. The window of opportunity (we felt) was again in the pre-kids era so it passed.
4. I’m not saying a family with kids cannot live in Mumbai – it’s just that for a family with kids returning from US, Bangalore is a softer landing than Mumbai. In your case (assuming you don’t have kids yet), Mumbai sounds like a great fit, especially if you consider the fact that your hubby is an investment banker (for financial folks, Mumbai trumps Bangalore big time).
5. Finally, after spending 10 excellent yrs in Silicon Valley, the fact that Bangalore ethos was the closest to it clinched it for us. Will elaborate on this in the ‘Bangalore Calling’ post :)

Wish you the best in your moving plans. Hey – maybe you should start your blog? And keep the questions/comments coming..

Vishy

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Hi Vishy,

Thanks for your reply!! Many of the NRI people whom I have interacted with have chosen Bangalore to settle down while moving back to India. I wish to know the positive aspects about B’lore city- is it
1. plenty of job options
2. similar-to-US lifestyle
3. Pleasant Weather

However, I have heard from my age-group people that Bangalore has extremely high cost of living(high rents and real estate prices). And the road traffic is sickening and horrible over there.

If possible, pls share your views and experience (till date) about Bangalore and Mumbai city. I will be looking for a job in an IT co., so would like to explore whether Mumbai would have enough IT job opportunities. Also as you have moved very recently there, is the IT job market bad in India too? Is hiring taking place?

Looking forward to your next posts..:)
Happy Christmas and a great new year 2009!!
PS

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PS,
Yes to all three – plenty (read PLENTY) of job options – especially for techies, closest to SF Bay Area (& by corollary US) and best weather among all the leading metros. One cannot over-emphasize that aspect. There’s a reason Californians are happier than East-coasters (ok – I only have anecdotes as proof). I believe every Indian metro has one redeeming quality – in the case of Bangalore, #1 is the weather. For a techie, there’s also a strong #2 – abundance of job choices.

Yes – traffic sucks big time. Then again, with the exception of Delhi/NCR, other metros are no great shakes either. Mumbai traffic is quite lousy, Hyderabad’s traffic might get better faster than Bangalore’s.

Regarding IT jobs in Mumbai – sure there are a fair number of them but it doesn’t come close to Bangalore. If you are looking for a career in technology product development, Bangalore is a clear #1 (followed by Hyderabad, Chennai, and Gurgaon/Delhi – order depends on who you’d ask). If it’s IT in finance, Mumbai would be a really good bet.

The IT job market in India is not yet bad. However the operative word may be ‘yet’. Technology product & service companies are still hiring in 2009 but everyone’s really cautious. In this global meltdown state, it’s hard not to get affected.

Vishy

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The Coconut Seller’s Daughters

A few weeks ago we were parked opposite the Raheja Arcade – li’l A, Sunil and me in the car while P and S had gone to the bank. A was watching the perpetually interesting traffic while my attention was drawn to the various actors on the pavement. By ‘actors’, I mean the usual foot traffic that’s typical of Indian pavements.

A coconut seller (probably in his 40’s) had laid anchor on the stretch of pavement close to our car. He had a standard wooden cart laden with fresh green coconuts. He also had other sackfuls of coconuts – one of which his wife loaded on her head and headed off (presumably to sell at a wholesale rate somewhere). She didn’t return for another 15 minutes – during which time I sat transfixed watching the rest of her family. A drama began to unfold in front of me – not quite the Shakespearean kind but more the slow, poignant and inexorable kind that Satyajit Ray is famous for.

The coconut seller had his two young daughters with him – the older one was probably six and the other close to three. The older girl was dressed in a bright colored South Indian traditional outfit and the younger girl was a bit more shabbily dressed. The girls each had an orange-yellow plastic bus toy tied at one end with a piece of string. The 12′ x 8′ section of the pavement trisected by two trees was their ‘playground’. In between their playing, the kids ‘snacked’ on one of the coconuts which their dad lovingly cut for them – what a doting look he had. The six year old’s facial expression was mostly inscrutable but I could detect a resigned look one usually sees on older countenances. The three year old was more playful but she was clearly missing her mother. The mother’s return was celebrated with glee.

The above sequence I observed would be repeated throughout the day for all 7 days (don’t think the family could afford taking a day off). The girls would probably take a nap (if they did) right next to their father’s cart. For my non-Indian readers, I need to mention that the concept of public toilets hasn’t really taken off in urban India. This was a grim and sobering sight. The depressing part is that there are tens of millions of such families. Want to hear something even more depressing – there are hundreds of millions in India who are worse off than the coconut seller’s family.

A few closing stats:

  • India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries.
  • India has 828 mil (75.6% of pop) below $2 a day. Sub-Saharan Africa is better – 72% of pop (551 mil) are below $2 a day. Source: World Bank.

(Jan 22, 2009 Update)
Hope, optimism and dreams are powerful things. This morning I read this article Born on the road, she aims for Miss India and I was uplifted – ever so slightly.

The social graph reacts to our move

Back in July, in typical Kuruganti style, I sent an email to the vast majority of my social graph about our planned move to India. It was a rather painstaking process since there’s no easy way to pack all the relevant email addresses into a Bcc field. Using Facebook as the mother lode, I systematically sent batches of email to my social graph over a period of one week.  I would have loved to have met all of you Bay Area (and Portland, New York, and Chicago) folks but last minute logistics prevented that. I hope to meet many of you in Bangalore and the rest of you in Bay Area (when I make a business trip). I was overwhelmed by the heart-warming responses – some of which validated my rationale for starting this blog (see Why the urge to blog now). This post is part-tribute and part “Reply All” to my social graph. Hope you’ll enjoy it. I’ve organized the responses into a few different categories and included responses where appropriate.

A sense of surprise, shock, admiration, and… lots of questions

  • It’s very exciting to hear that you still have the courage to start a new life.
  • Great decision. I admire it.. Good luck for your future endeavors.
  • What a brave decision, I am sure your parents/in-laws are very happy. Tell me more, how did you finally make this call?
  • Wow! I didn’t know you are moving. Are kids the primary driver?
  • Wow!!  This is a big and sudden news to me!  What happened?  Why this move all of a sudden?
  • I am very surprised to hear this. You mentioned you would be staying at Bangalore. So did you land on a position there?
  • Best of luck!  Have you taken an offer in India?
  • Wow! What a change…. are you going back for “long term” (i.e. more than 2 year)?
  • Vishy! Holy cow! Wow-what a big change! Will this be a permanent move?? In any case, please take care and looking forward to reading your blogs of the farewell trip.
    • We are thinking of “long-term” as a sequence of “short-terms” 🙂
  • What happened to Graspr?
  • I wish you all the luck. Are you starting up an office for Graspr?
  • Wow!  i’m dying to go to shasta. Are you moving your start up to India?
    • Graspr is alive and thriving. I decided (in April) to move on to my next adventure in life – which turned out to be this move to India.
  • Are you starting a new business in India?
    • No. I accepted a role with Adobe India to manage their Shockwave/Director business.
  • Vishy, best of luck.  Sounds like just going to be closer to your brother will be worth it.  Stay in touch.  I keep telling myself I need to get to India one day and it would be great to look you up!

Warm Sendoff

  • Congratulations to you and your family, Vishy.  I wish you well.  I’ll be following your blog and can’t wait to read all about your journey. Obviously, I won’t get a chance to look you in the eye to say goodbye, so here’s a hug. You’ll probably be back in the US for a trip before I get out to Bangalore, so please reach out if/when you happen to be here.
    • You bet!
  • We will definitely miss you guys here, I was looking forward to some of those hiking trips now that the kids are handling the walk up the hill 🙂 Seems like you are having/had an interesting time before taking off -a road trip, hmm.. tempting..  I would definitely follow what you guys are up to via the blog and stay in contact.
    • Hey – let’s do a family hike next week we meet (either in Bangalore or in the Bay Area).
  • It’s nice to have worked closely with you again towards the end of your chapter here in the US — It was a great pleasure and honor to back then, and it was truly cool to have collaborated again this year. I know we’ll stay in touch and I hope to see you in India when I come down sometime, so just want to wish you and your family the best during your transition. 🙂
  • Sorry to hear you’ll be leaving here, but congrats on the move and the next steps for you and family!  Sounds like an exciting decision, and the right timing all around.
  • Good luck to you with your endeavors! It’s awesome that you decided to move back to India and good to see you’re leaving in style 🙂 Quite a trip you have planned to get to JFK.
  • Hey dude, sorry it took me so long to get back to you, life is very busy w/ a baby. So, this is good news man!  That farewell tour looks pretty fun! I’ve always wanted to do that.  Do you have time to get together for lunch before you depart?
  • Good luck back in India. Let’s get lunch before you go. BTW, I am leaving Yahoo! soon. Give me a call and let’s catch up.
    • Sorry I ran out of time.
  • Thanks for the update.  What an exciting new chapter for both your family and career!  Best of luck to you in all your endeavors and adventures.
  • Good luck with the move! That’s a big change – hopefully it will bring you closer to your family. I myself am thinking of ways to make the move up to Oregon to be closer to home…On your way through Oregon, make sure you wave to my mom and brother in Eugene – and if you happen to make the detour to Bend, you may try to picture me living there! My sister is already there with her husband – I just got back from visiting yesterday. We’ll miss you and your many talents here in the States! Maybe I’ll be touring parts of India one day soon (vacation – would like to visit northern India) and will be able to wave to you from afar – or better yet, share stories in person over a cup of tea.
    • As it turns out, we did stop in Eugene to have lunch. I could have sworn I saw your twin sister at a Starbucks. Look forward to seeing you in India – now go ahead & plan that trip! 🙂
  • WOW … that’s a big move!! I wonder if there’ll be how-to video on some site somewhere … Your farewell tour sounds like fun. We just came back from a long weekend in Shasta, which was really good fun. Fires are calming down now, but we saw some pretty cool sights like a huge water bomber landing on the lake. And then within an hour, we were up in the mountains, throwing snowballs! Only in California. Anyways, good luck with everything and stay in touch on FB!
  • Call me if you’re in Chicago for more than a few hours – I’d love to say hi!
  • While in NYC, feel free to call me for lunch. America will miss you!
  • Good luck to you and yours, Vishy.  I live in Portland, OR now.  Let me know if you’d like to have lunch or something on your swing through.  Don’t feel obligated though.  I know the scheduling can be tight on this sort of trip.
    • So sorry I couldn’t get to meet with you folks in Chicago, NYC & Portland.
  • Thanks for keeping me updated of your status. It is my privilege to get to know you. I enjoyed our conversations. Enjoy your journey! I will read your blog about the journey. Good luck to your new venture.
  • Best of luck Vishy. Have a wonderful journey and have fun settling in – I hope everything goes smoothly for you. I look forward to hearing about your future success!
  • Wow, life is a journey, enjoy it! I guess this means you’ll miss my mead class in August. 🙂 Keep in touch on linkedin, will ya?

Active/Passive “should-wes”

  • For a definition of “should-wes”, check out The two types of Indian immigrants.
  • This is great.  What are the plans.  I am excited for you.  One day I will join you.
  • Really cool decision. I might probably see you there soon. We are waiting for my husband to finish his MBA before exploring the option of moving to Bangalore. That is my husband’s hometown. Wish you all the best!!!
  • I read your blog. I like it – I appreciate that you are honest about your feelings. I wish you and your family all the best and success. Going back to India after staying here for so long really requires courage. I salute the determination. We tried it twice (that time we didn’t have any kids) but couldn’t do it. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t do it later again. Anyway have a nice trip and keep in touch.

Fellow immigrants who returned home

  • Wow…what a big move…First thing first, I wish you have fun traveling to the mid west before your long flight back and wish your family the best. Well, you know i made a decision removed my family to my home town Hong Kong 2 yrs ago. It was a huge move to my wife and son, and taken us months to pack and unpack stuffs (both mentally and physical stuffs)…2 years gone by, still a little adjustments here and there, but overall we love it.
  • Glad to hear about your move back. I came back in 2002 after spending 13+ yrs in US. We are loving it here, no regrets on the move. If you need any tips on adjusting back, let me know. Too bad you did not consider Chennai, it has the best of several aspects, and a very good quality of living. I visit BLR often, keep in touch.
  • Congratulations on your move! I remember well, how we’ve talked about this issue when we moved in 2002 (gosh it’s already 6 years that we’ve left the US). While for us it took about 2 years to really arrive back in Germany we are now really back home and happy about how things went. We’ve had a wonderful time in the US but it was also the right decision for us to get back to our roots. I am sure that your move back won’t be always easy and it will take time to really settle back home. I wish you, Poonam and the kids all the best. I hope that one day our paths will cross again. Hope to see you guys some day. In any case, if you ever come to Germany please ping me! And one day, I will go to India and I will visit one of the chicken stores (with life stock) in Tamil Nadu that Rani had always talked about. Take care and all the best.
  • Good to hear this and welcome to Bangalore. You may be aware that I have moved back to Bangalore last year and still working with Yahoo. You can reach me at [x]. FYI, I am residing in HSR Layout.
  • I was just in New Dehli and visited the Taj a few weeks ago.  I’ll be in HK for at least another year, if you ever decide to head east, let me know… Good luck on the move, and have fun on your tour of America!
  • Wow what a decision! Thanks for keeping me posted. i am glad that you finally made your choice which seems to be after much thought and debate. An Indian friend once told me all Indians, no matter where they are on the globe, all have one home traced back to india. now that you are heading back to this home of yours, i wish you all the best 🙂

Warm reception from the folks in India

  • Welcome to India. You always wanted to return. All the best. Will see you in Bangalore soon.
  • Welcome home Vishy 🙂 Wishing you & your family a safe & enjoyable journey…
  • Glad to hear that you are coming back to India. Nice journey plan, in fact gr8!!  Wonderful idea to visit all the places before flying back to India :). Let me know, if you are going to Bangalore via  Mumbai.
  • Thank you for the update. Best wishes to your new movement to India. Good thing is that India is close to China, so welcome to visit Beijing! 🙂 Enjoy your farewell tour ahead.
  • Cool man !! Welcome back ! So which co. r u joining here ? Another startup 🙂 Let me know when u r here, we will catch up. my # is [x]. looking forward to meeting u and the additions to ur family 🙂
  • Aha! Certainly Bangalore’s gain!! Hope you have a great ‘farewell’ tour and a smooth relocation to Bangalore.

Looking forward to seeing you folks in Bangalore…

  • Best of luck to you and your family back in India! Hope you have a smooth move, and enjoy it in Bangalore. I will be there myself shortly — maybe we will run into each other.
  • Wow.  That’s pretty cool, Vishy.  Have a great time out there.  Next time I’m in Bangalore I’ll give you a call.
  • Love the blog, excellent writing, keep it going. The very best of luck with your new journey. Bangalore is home for me, so hopefully will meet up when I’m there… Cheerio.
  • Congrats on the move… One of the gigs I am looking at could put me in Bangalore a fair amount.  You will have to show me the ropes….  When are you all arriving NY?  I would love to meet you out for drink/dinner if you have the time.
  • Wow! This is a huge move! Best of luck to you & your family Vishy! Will this get you closer to your wider family? I’ll ping you next time I’m in Bangalore …
  • Good luck – I will catch you in my next visit to Blore. Sorry to see a good friend leave from the bay area! I know you must be very busy, but let me know if you have some bandwidth to sync for maybe 1/2 hr over coffee and catch up before you leave.
  • duuuuuuude! I think this is a good thing? Bad for us.. good for India. I’ve never been to Bangalore, but if I do perhaps I can look you up. Same goes for you if you ever make it to Austin/Texas. Seems like you’re going the ‘northern’ route to NY though.. heh. Man! Well.. best of luck.
  • Wow! Sounds fantastic. Have a safe and enjoyable trip back to India. Do stay in touch. I visit India on business every couple of months and do stop over in Bangalore, so hope to meet you there once you are well settled.
  • Wish you well on the move…what is your plans when you get to bangalore.  I am there every 2-3 weeks. Let’s definitely stay in touch.
  • Good for you. I have heard wonderful stories about folks returning to India and really enjoying the good life and reconnecting with family and culture. Enjoy your US tour and stay in touch. My partner and I are looking to vacation in India next year. Please stay in touch as we might like to stop by and visit you in your new home. Cheers and best wishes on you new endeavor.
  • Wow! Big move. Hope to see you in Bangalore some day.
  • Have a safe, wonderful journey.  Hope the transition back to India is smooth for you.  Perhaps I’ll track you down the next time I’m in Bangalore.
  • All the best to you. I hope my travels will once again bring me to Bangalore, and if so, I will definitely be in contact.  Travel safely and keep well.
  • Wow!! That’s amazing news. I’m really happy for you! I’m also glad to have someone to visit if i’m ever in bangalore again. 🙂 Please keep us all up to date. Good luck!
  • Wow that is big news!!!! Would you happen to have some time before you leave the bay area to meet up for a coffee or something? Would love to connect before you head out to BLR. My in-laws are in BLR and we do visit every time we go back.