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05/02/2016

A departure high in colours...

It’s Monday night. I haven’t eaten the whole day, too busy “closing” things at work (actually you never close anything but nevermind...). Luckily (smartly?) I have packed the bags the past weekend – it’s crazy how complicated it can get to travel with a baby, starting with checking whether winter clothes fit and finishing with folding the portable cot!

Now it’s 7:30 PM, Baby Samurai is asleep, the nanny on the train, the husband in the taxi, and I’m putting a final touch to packing (with a special focus on food). And suddenly I hear the baby call for me. And as soon as I lift him up he vomits on me profusely. His first vomit ever in 16 months, we are both stunned... Unable to take a step without walking on puke, I have no idea what to do. So I first clean him up, put him back to sleep, wash the floor then myself and get back to the luggage. I lost my appetite. And then he pukes again. I wash him again, he seems to feel better, and I am still running around in my underwear. I’ll take a shower at the last minute, you never know.

It’s 10 PM. I have to shampoo the cat. Some would argue that the time may not be perfect but I have to help the poor animal to get rid of his special guest (some kind of ringworm) and I could not find any other time!

10:30. The taxi is downstairs. I grab Baby Samurai to put some clothes and he barfs again, all over me, again. One more shower and we’re off!

And he empties his stomach again in the car, what nightmare! The 8-hour flight to Europe promises to be very long...

india,gurgaon,toll booth,jats,protest,taxiI notice that we are on a flyover, on the highway and there is traffic which is very unusual at this time of the day (or rather night) and also there are lines of trucks parked on the side. What the hell is going on? Suddenly two men bang the car, intimate my driver to lower his window, pluck his mouth/cheeks, strangle him with his seat belt. All this while I’m screaming to leave him alone, my baby is sick and I have a flight to catch; they ignore me superbly and eject the driver from the car, taking him away. And then nothing. After five minutes I call my husband and then I just blow a fuse. Total panic. I have in the background the horrifying stories of colleagues of friends gunned up at Gurgaon tollbooth – stories I never pay attention to but they obviously enter by one ear and don’t leave by the other. So fuck it. I get out of the taxi, covered in vomit, baby in my arms and start yelling on the truck drivers, demanding that my driver is given back to me. They seem to have no idea what is happening, well done in pretending they are not part of this hold-up!

A car stops, and then another, and another. A man in each vehicle. All come out and ask me “What is wrong Madam?” “What is going on?” Half sobbing half screaming I explain that my driver has been abducted. And they find him immediately, kept captive in a van just behind our car. He takes his seat and we hit the road again. No thank you for the rescue! And I have get the end of the story. What were these trucks doing there? Why this jam in the middle of the night? Why did these two men in civilian attire assaulted my driver?*

I arrive at the counter of the airline, stinking and still dripping with tears. I must look awful and out of place, especially at the business counter. And guess what? While things could hardly get worse, I can’t find my passport. Well actually I do. And then? Lufthansa just upgrade my husband. They could not have chosen a better time to do it I swear...And baby slept almost all through!

* I just found out, about two weeks after the event that there is a possibility that the trucks were parked there to wait for the opening of the toll between Gurgaon and Delhi which takes place at midnight. And that this racket is institutionalized for taxi drivers who do not pay the toll. So maybe I wasn’t after all in the heart of coup being fomenting a or a revolution or any other uprising – which have become quite common these days with the Jats protesting regularly (see this article). Pfff... I lost it for no reason!

04/18/2016

Moving to Gurgaon

My job change, effective on March 1st, led to further upheavals. Like moving to… Gurgaon! And this is not nothing... To tell you, I even almost did not go to the interview when I saw that the job was there. Gurgaon.
Gurgaon is on the outskirts of Delhi. Already living in Delhi is not easy when you come from Mumbai: the freezing cold winter, sweltering summer, power cuts, lack of neighborhood life – others would add pollution and insecurity but I have not experienced any of them personally during my year there.
But the suburbs... Especially for a girl born and brought up in Paris... It’s a bit of a stretch...

But hey, you have to put a little water in your wine. And as my husband was game, we packed our suitcases! A few weeks before the big day, we went on a small expedition looking for a place. During which I discovered that Gurgaon was not a suburb as a Parisian would understand it. It is a city by itself.
It’s a new and ‘young’ town that came out of the ground ten years ago. It has managed to attract multinational corporations, malls and bars that brew their own beer (there are dozens of them).
But hey, it's still paradise either. First of all, there are these towers of flats which are really upscale with their swimming pools, sport grounds etc., but remind me of hives. Also you have to take your car to run any errand. And especially this mushroom sprung in the desert so cuts (water and electricity) are common.

That said, Gurgaon offers friendly enough housing options, for instance villas with private pool in a complex, which ensures safety and continuity of water and electricity supply and offers play areas for children and sport grounds. We have seen worse! Gurgaon thus became much sexier after visiting one of these villas!

A few weeks later we moved in...
And we immediately got into the difficulties of managing house staff. Especially in a society where watchmen-cleaning ladies-cooks-drivers-etc. are organized into a mafia and take advantage of the “isolation” to impose their will.
We are far from Mumbai! First maids. Here one cleans the floor, another one comes to dust, another one to cook. Beyond the cost, it becomes a lot to manage... Especially when you always have had one person to do everything! Fortunately, when you want you can, and we found a way. Beside this whole cleaning lady thing, there was the nanny thing. Being a little prejudiced, I brought my nanny Mumbai! I had tried to find a local one before moving, but whoever I asked only warned me, against nanny agencies, against leaving a baby alone with a nanny. I didn’t hesitate long… (in Mumbai there are a lot of Christian (hence English speaking) ladies who do a great job but this ‘species’ does not exist in Delhi and the best option seems to hire a Nepali girl).
Then the driver. When you ask for a contact, you are again warned: “first, before hiring him, you need to check his police record and register him with the police”, “it’s hard to find someone you trust”. Moreover, as recently as last week a driver burgled the house of his mega-millionaires employers. So, I saved myself the headache for later and I’m driving. And you should know that in Gurgaon, people drive like PIGS. If you think that Indians in general have an archaic driving behaviour, you have not seen anything until you’ve come to Gurgaon. Pigs I tell you.

Then there are all these little joys of moving in: running after the carpenter to barricade the pool, after the air conditioning guy, the plumber to fix the leaking toilets or insulate a wall. Even if you don’t pay them until the job is finished, they just take weeks before coming back to finish the job and get their money! This is madness…

India,Gurgaon,moving,villas

04/11/2016

A look back at 2015

Ah 2015 ... Thank you! Thank you for the discoveries: the joy of motherhood, the sleepless dazed state, the horror of falling hair, the joy of short hair. All this on a background of great travels, in Switzerland, France, Sikkim, Kerala and Corsica (all this with the baby). But of course there was a stain in the painting : I had to experience the inconsistency of the Company (at least mine*) claiming they want more women managers and then let them drown without lifting a finger when the transition back to office of the said women managers is not as smooth as planned after a long break.         

For me, the beginning of the end started in February when, two months after the birth of Baby Samurai, I received a message from my boss who wanted to shorten my maternity leave (I had a six month leave, as per the policy of the company, or so I was told since I was 6 weeks pregnant).           

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeedingBy the way, if anyone imagines that a maternity leave is anywhere close to a holiday (like me before the baby’s arrival) I am sorry to cut the dream: it is ANYTHING but a holiday. There is of course a kind of workaholic mother who buys a pump at the third month of pregnancy, gives birth with her Blackberry in hand, hires a nanny right out of the hospital and works from the house the first week. But the common mortal has non-functioning neurons (it’s hormonal) for a while. And since a baby, even the coolest one on Earth like mine, eats every 2-3 hour, there is a good chance that any videoconference be interrupted by a feed – in which case the only solution is to mute the mic,  adjust the webcam and pretend to care about what is going on in this meeting on increasing wages, a topic that usually fascinates you (or not) but that is completely beyond you right now.        
And apart from the fact that they feel completely disconnected, there are mothers who want to focus on their baby and just don’t want to switch on a computer. A lot of them are in their thirties, educated, ambitious and hard-working women who become breastfeeding champions who suddenly have only one thing in their mind: survive and feed their baby. Fierce, they do not let go; to set the tone, sometimes they even reach the point of screaming (inside) from pain and cry (silently) while applying cream and plasticky breast protectors on their cracked nipples but nothing will make him miss a feed! In the process they will not hesitate to continue breastfeeding after the six months prescribed by WHO; even after a year, let's be crazy ;)
They can also secretly take the baby and the grand-parents to a seminar in France to continue breastfeeding smoothly.

And well, these warrior-mothers, they believe they deserve to be left them alone for a few weeks, if only in the name of all the extraordinary efforts they have made for years (and even up to 8.5 months of pregnancy) to prove that they are as capable and bankable for the company than a man.            
That may be a bit pretentious to say so, in these times of crisis and job insecurity, but there is no way to put it otherwise, they won’t take any shit. They are like that, they have the power – even if sometimes takes a coach for them to realize it.         india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding     

So when you are pressurized to reply to mails during your leave (mails? What mails? But it takes you a week to gather the courage to cut your nails so imagine switching on a laptop. Now you understand... that mails... well...), and to get back on top of your game – but it doesn’t work, there is nothing to do, you understand nothing, you can’t even remember whether you have taken a shower in the morning. You can only try not to cry and hope that better days will come… And they do come, when the hormones finally calm down, or just that the storm has passed. But you find it difficult to swallow that bitter pill, even when you regain your self-confidence and manage to reach the objectives. You quit. And they call it a “motherhood crisis”, a crazy move that I will quickly regret.          

And there is very likely some truth in it. Perhaps, in my case, this difficult return from leave was the cherry on the cake, in a context where, to be quite honest, I was very tired. But leaving a company that taught you everything and a boss that taught you everything, developed you and made you feel “talented” is not so easy. Luckily I was helped by my new company which contacted me a few weeks after I got back to office. A couple of days after I burnt my breast pump. I was enjoying a break from the baby (who was sleeping, for quite a long time) and fully absorbed by the preparation of a seminar, I forgot the pump which was being sterilized in the pan. This incident is quite important since the company in question makes... breast pumps!  

* Doing some research, I found out that only 25% of new mothers go back to the office after work. And by the way, India ranks 115 (out of 128 countries) on « Empowering women at work ». So when they get pregnant they get fired or demoted or their salaries get cut. And if not, same things happen when they come back. They are however some companies who really go out of their way to retain or hire women who have been on a long break (they had to look at these pool of talents as they anyways find it difficult to recruit women here):

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding

This is called the “Back to Work” programme though I personally prefer “Back to Office” as being a stay-at-home is really a job, according to me!

india,back to work,back to office,maternity,motherhood,maternity leave,baby,breastfeeding

Cartoons from: http://www.awesomeinventions.com/doodle-diary-of-new-mom/