Living In and Out of the Bubble

We had a busy weekend full of activity that doesn’t separate us much from the middle class  at home:   Friday evening, swimming at the pool;  Saturday, little league, the mall and later a party and dinner;  Sunday, brunch with friends and taxes.  We are being audited.  Sigh…

You can live in a bubble in India or anywhere – isolate yourself with friends who speak the same language, come from the same paradigm, share your interests, know your path.  In China we lived in a compound, a gated community of expats and wealthy Chinese.  I knew families who didn’t live much outside of the gates or outside of their own limits.  It was a shame.

In Delhi, there are no compounds and we live in a neighborhood – a very wealthy community, yes… but still, local.  It’s easier making friends in India because there usually isn’t a language barrier.  And often, with middle class Indians, you find that many have been educated and/or worked in the U.S. Someone I met in the Consular Section at the U.S. embassy told me that India sends more students and workers to the United States than any other country in the world.

My life is dotted with Indian friends and these relationships develop slowly, more naturally.  Expats tend to get cozy with each other pretty quickly because we share lives that are a bit riskier than our lives at home.  We don’t have family nearby or a web of support in crisis – so we weave that web pretty fast after landing in a new place.

I’m rambling a bit and not sure where I’m going with this, but my original intent was to share with you the stories of a few Indian couples whom I met at dinner on Saturday.  We were invited to a friend’s home – Nic is from Mumbai and Kirin grew up in Nigeria, although she is ethnically Indian.   Her family is Hindu from Sindh, a province that is now in Pakistan.  Prior to partition in 1947, a good chunk of the Indian subcontinent (or South Asia, to be more politically correct) was one place.  Now, that chunk is India, Pakistan and the disputed areas of Jammu and Kashmir (administered by India).  After partition,Kirin’s family fled Pakistan and migrated to Nigeria.  I met another Sindh woman at the dinner party whose family moved to Shanghai and later Hong Kong after Mao kicked them out.  She speaks perfect Cantonese.   The modern Indian diaspora is wide and shows the still strong connections between former British colonies.

Our dinner that evening was delicious and included typical Indian fare, as well as treats particular to the cuisine of peripatetic Indians.  For example, one dessert included mung bean vermicelli (asian) boiled with saffron (“from Spain only!”), cardamom and condensed milk.


Earlier in the evening Jim and I went to a goodbye party for a bookclub member of mine who is moving to London with the U.S. Embassy.   How lucky is she to live in London on the generous U.S. dole?  We will miss Eden in book club – her weighty job doesn’t keep her from being a faithful reader and regular attendee.   Here’s a photo of the club members at the party – we are dressed in theme (I’ll let you guess).  Eden, standing to my left, and I are in the minority  – we are the only ones in the photo who are not married to men from India or Kashmir:

We rounded off our weekend celebrating an old friend – China – with new friends.  We are all connected to the middle kingdom and in search of good zhong cai (Chinese food):


Remember  Angle of Repose, the entry I wrote March-February-ish ?  You’ll have to look it up… Isn’t this photo just the perfect metaphor for India?


Our local taxi stand.  That’s the recycle guy picking up empty liquor bottles from the guys who drive the taxis.  The drivers live in a tent at the stand..  In the second photo you can see their “home” and a bed and the table that holds the phone for service.  The beds get put away during the day:

And finally:  this is what they spray outside of our house to combat mosquitos and the spread of dengue.  I’m not sure what, exactly, it is – but it doesn’t smell good.  I’m writing this as Eddie lies  next to me, asleep with a very high fever that hasn’t broken since 5.  It’s now 11:30.  He complained earlier that his legs ached.  I’m hoping this pain was just the onset of fever and nothing more …

4 thoughts on “Living In and Out of the Bubble”

  1. da jaozi mei you dengue! actually, if anyone gets it in the family, it’ll be george. shit happens to him, and him alone in this family…

    Big in China will be promoted BIG in Delhi… I promise. I want a galley… OK?
    Give your better half a hug from me and tell her that every one of my dearest China friends, Yaely, Viv, Vicky… is coming to me in November and she needs to do better at being the boss!

  2. Hi Theo,
    My name is Jackson Wolfe and Giles Horrocks is my very good dentist. He passed your info on to me yesterday. I am a cross-cultural consultant withTucker International in Boulder, Colorado. For the last 20 some years I have been helping companies and individuals prepare for living and working overseas. (space finished)

  3. Hello Again Theo,
    Ever since my first visit to India in 1966 after finishing two years as a Peace Corp teacher in Ethiopia, I have been fascinated with the sub-continent. Even though in my work I specialize in African and Middle Eastern countries, India is deeply embeded in my heart even though it can sometimes drive me absolutely crazy. Jackson

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