Having lived in India and UK I find both places have their pros and cons. I lived in India all my life and spent my childhood to adulthood in Pune. When the opportunity presented itself, 15 years ago to tour UK (London), I did not know what to expect, except took it as a new experience. As I’ve lived in London and Pune, I cannot comment for the rest of the UK or India but from the little I know Pune and London have their own interesting quirks. To clarify, there is no bias for either place, this is purely based on my experience and time spent there.
If it’s the Work setting -obviously the first thing to sustain one self is to work, and moving abroad makes it no different. At the time, for a girl (who had barely travelled from Pune to mumbai alone) to explore the job market in London, it was not only daunting for me but simply put terrifying. Upon landing up a good job, the first thing that dawned on me was the work culture. Yes a lot of work places in London are micromanaged, bureaucratic and politically driven but a majority are pretty relaxed, employee motivated and interesting to work at. The good thing is work done well here is appreciated, applauded and rewarded, something which is important for the employee morale. Have you heard of Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF)? Working in London, I realised companies mostly follow the TGIT – Thank God It’s Thursday rule! Well in London the weekend well begins from Thursday afternoon, with jolly good humoured colleagues (well mostly) all through Friday – all in anticipation of the “much needed” DRINKS.. heading to the pub! People work hard (or hardly) all week and spend their weekend enjoying it off, thereafter once Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday come, they are weaning off hangovers and the cycle happily continues! Not to say a similar culture doesn’t exist in India – a place where the older generation believed in saving their earned money, their kids and grand kids would want to spend and enjoy life. Kal kisne dekha or kal ho na ho (thanks shahrukh khan eh!)
A lot of corporates in India work with international companies and follow their working hours- with employees doing their bit. It’s important if it’s a “work horse” environment they should be rewarded or atleast appreciated.. Companies are playing catchup to this, as for the employees- the ones that deal with situations proactively and tactfully survive. The rest? well might just change to another job and another until they get what they want!
Moving on to children’s education; London boasts universities colleges attracting millions of students every year, however their basic primary education was questionable until schools tweaked syllabus and now are decent to say the least. Yes their high schools and universities are still worthy of the attention they receive. An interesting aspect is their methods – these are very different with focus on practical learning, logical thinking and understanding what is being taught. It’s not a run of the mill “mugging up” like few Indian schools. Again I’m not berating. It is this very education in India that has made me what I am today.. the kids in India are brilliant so if the Indian education boards incorporate more practical, logical aspects in their curriculum, I imagine the kids will find learning more fun than a chore. When I speak of the competitive nature in Indian schools it’s unbelievable. It’s a rat race where everyone wants to be the best. In this queens land, it’s more easy going, a focus on children’s ability and enhancing of their strengths while working on their weaknesses. One way this is possible is their classes have around 18-20
children max which means the teachers can concentrate better. Think of that as opposed to 50-55 kids? A Taare Zameen par moment!
I’m no one to Judge but the strange thing is some of these clever kids in India study their hardest, give high level exams and few of these end up working abroad, possibly as they understand the prospects or know the life-work balance that exists or simply see the £ or $ clinking. Well it is what it is and may not require delving deeper.
Coming to regular life; beautiful Pune, once flourishing with trees and bungalows is slowly converting to high rises, has crazy traffic and becoming commercialised. What’s not changed is the afternoon siesta times for some shops to remain closed and once reopened staying open till 9pm
or so. Most people own a 2 wheeler in Pune and that makes commute so much easier, though crowded and busy. So life here is pretty much relaxed and hectic and interesting.
In London some shops start by 9am
and close by 6pm
. Again timings in summer for few differ with them remaining open for longer. What’s interesting is the accessibility and infrastructure in London which is pretty impressive and with a decent income one can live well here. On the flip side though, most of the items are imported from various countries so the post brexit transition will be an interesting one! Also demand for our “Indian” products is high and many of the things we take for granted in India be it spices, masalas, Ayurveda to simple mangoes is restricted to “Indian recognised Wembley or southhall stores.” I have seen gunny sacks with vegetables like muddy potatoes are considered to be “ordinary” in our Pune markets, while in London such sights are rare. If potatoes of this status are found, they are respected, elite, organic and highly priced. keeping different customers financial considerations in mind, supermarkets in London have the “basic” title to many of their products. Here quality is not compromised and remains affordable. Always a plus I think.
In many places, it’s all about the presentation. As they say you are paying for the idea and clever marketing. However ordinary a product is if it gets spruced up and presented well, you have a win win!
In every place, different people are different. A bit variations in thinking, mentality but overall most demand respect and give respect where it’s due. Again as in other countries, London sees the favourite cultural divide where however secular a country tries to prove itself to be, the small niggle will always remain. Understandably so, as how would we personally like if “outsiders” came in and took our jobs! Well if some of the immigrants are more qualified than local applicants for a position.. Who do u think will get hired to do the job well? That seen in occasional scribes non British residents face.
In London, there are people in the Indian communities that stick together and encourage their own community/people to progress professionally. Simultaneously, in British culture there is no favouritism (or so we believe) it’s black or white and by the book, leaving little or no room for exceptions.
Concluding, I can’t stress the importance of grandparents. Many families abroad, also in India feel that void. That’s Something that can be logistically overcome by either of them travelling to the other. It’s a matter of choices one makes and ultimately how it’s managed or balanced.
I do believe, wherever in the world we remain, the Basic values of honesty, integrity, good manners and respect to name a few are important to instil, both within ourselves and our young ones.
Published in Jame Jamshed 21st June 2020