Jason stared helplessly over the hood of a leased Toyota Innova wondering where to find tampons in India. This was a topic with which he was thoroughly unfamiliar. He knew what tampons were—25 years of marriage has that effect—but was mostly sheltered from having to consider them. As his driver barreled through midday Hyderabad traffic, Jason carefully considered his options.
The question is so common since our repatriation that we’ve joked about creating business cards summarizing our answers in an easy-to-read bulleted format. It’s the ice breaker du jour—a convenient, six-word sentence uttered by virtually everyone familiar with our recent two-year hiatus from U.S. residency. It’s a crowd-pleasing, comfortable, mildly depressing party question that evokes a fair bit of stammering, questionable statements, and creative explanations on our part. It’s a question you shouldn’t ask lightly—because you might just get an answer that surprises, or delights, or possibly sets one off balance in a way that leaves you wondering why you asked in the first place.
Most expats are unaccustomed to having help around the house—unless we have children, or as we used to call our kids, “little indentured servants.” Indian drivers, housekeepers, nannies, and cooks are foreign concepts—no pun intended. But in India, most of the places you’ll consider living have servant’s quarters, a separate servant’s entrance, and potentially a separate elevator. What is a normal part of affluent Indian life seems quite absurd to many of us.
The 2017 Hyderabad half-marathon is two days away and guess who’s running. That’s right! I am throwing my hat, legs, and will power into plodding the 21 kilometers from Hussain Sagar Lake to the Gachibowli Stadium—13.1 miles of treacherous, urban Indian roadway in the middle of monsoon, the steamiest, wettest, smelliest time of year. This seems like less of a good idea with each passing day.
Newish President Trump has got me considering the idea of introspection—the examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes. Despite the never ending parade of self-help gurus all touting it’s benefits, surprisingly few people are introspective. Those opposed to self-examination still rise through the ranks, lead people, and even become President of the United States, yet remain ignorant of their shortcomings. Rather than toil in self-awareness, they plow through life pushing aside others with blissful disregard. But what if they’re right? What if we don’t need introspection?