Change is good

Aug 8, 2013

I remember feeling really good about my life for a while after my last visit to Mumbai. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was exactly about that visit that made me feel better, so I chalked it off to being back in the city where I had grown up and seeing all the familiar sights and how some familiar landmarks had changed for the better. But now, on my second day here in Beijing, I’m immediately feeling the change in my mood. And this time around I know what’s caused it. It’s because of the change in location and all the new things I’m seeing around me with each moment.

A couple of months back I read an article somewhere that said that how we perceive time has a lot to do with what we are doing. If we continue to do the same thing day in and day out, time appears to speed up. And I had vaguely agreed with the content of that article, since the past few years really do seem to have just flown by. Another article that I had read said something along the lines of “You truly feel like you are living only when you are doing something new”. And it is only now that both articles seem to be clicking with me.

I remember being really excited about Bangalore the first time I went there. All the small 2-3 storeyed buildings, the cool climate, the dry air; it seemed like the perfect place to be. At the time, the world appeared to be my oyster and everything seemed just within reach. And then somewhere along the line and over the past three years (god, has it really been that long?) the place lost most of its charm and turned into just another place. And I told myself that I had just become more realistic over time, as concerns of bills to pay and new games to buy crept over my life, I lost all desire to be someone, to achieve something. Sure, I would regularly have these pangs to make some games or to achieve something, but in general I was just contented with my life and disinclined to do anything to rock the boat.

I had become so complacent that I was actually resenting the guy who asked my manager to let me accompany him to China. I convinced myself that the timing was all wrong, that I would be hard-pressed to find something to occupy my time, that it would be too hectic for me to fly back to India on the morning of the 15th and then to again fly to Mumbai a couple of days later. In fact, leading up to and during the cab ride to the airport, I was half-heartedly toying with the idea of calling in sick or faking hospitalisation in order to to get out of the trip.

And now that I’ve been here for a day, I’m feeling really, really happy! Beijing is a beautiful city with beautiful people, and unlike Bangalore it actually deserves being called a metropolitan city. The people here seem more laidback and uninhibited and not-at-all self-conscious. A simple example of this can be the way people stand in elevators. Hop into any elevator anywhere in India, and you’ll see all the guys standing in one corner and girls standing in another corner. If the elevator is too crowded for this arrangement, you’ll see each gender leaning heavily away from the opposite sex. In complete contrast, people stand straight and freely in elevators. Just today I was in a crowded elevator with barely enough room for three more people, and then five girls got on the elevator without any hesitation. One of them was actually standing close enough to me for my hand to accidently brush against her (bare) thigh. I immediately pulled my hand away and pinned it against my ass, but she simply continued to nonchalantly continue her ongoing phone conversation without skipping a beat. Then later when I was in a restaurant trying to figure out what I should order, the waiter patiently stood by and put up with my clumsy attempts to communicate with him when we lacked a common language. In his position, any Indian waiter would have huffed and puffed and scowled, would have crossed his arms and rocked back on forth on his heels, would have looked around for someone else to take his place. But our waiter just stood there, patiently leaning in while we translated words from English to Mandarin on our phones for him to read. And, comically enough, every time he brought us a dish he would mime what we were supposed to do with it. He brought us grape juice and then mimed sipping it. Then came a starter dish (don’t know what it was called, but it sure was delicious) and mimed gobbling it down. What a nice kid.

There are so many other things that I really liked about this place. For example, in no particular order:

  1. Elevators have buttons on both sides of the entrance. BOTH SIDES.
  2. People more-or-less follow traffic rules.
  3. Lower population. It doesn’t feel as congested as most Indian cities.
  4. Not many Indians around. This might sound like a minus, but in my books it’s a plus.
  5. Stuff isn’t expensive. I don’t know how much my colleagues here make annually, but the average price of things here is about the same as that in India. And food is actually cheaper. For example, tonight’s dinner set me back about $3, while a similar meal in India would have been at about $6.
  6. Smart solutions to everyday problems (except toilets, which I’ll touch on in another post dedicated to the topic since I’m gonig to have to be explicit and grose about it). For example, the aforementioned elevator buttons. And animated traffic signals. And cycling. And chopsticks.

And so I’m contemplating moving here.