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Posts Tagged ‘identity’

Marketing Wallah – An Introduction

In Marketing Wallah on December 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm

After 18 months in India I have realised that there is a great big career-sized hole in my life. I don’t have a job and I don’t contribute financially to my household. I don’t equate that state with the person I think I am.

I have never actually looked for a job in India for the following reasons:

  • I don’t have an employment visa
  • I’d have to get a job to get one (* see below for detail)
  • Life in India is difficult enough without looking for a job as well
  • I’ve already got a job – part-time CSR consultancy for my husband’s company
  • I’ve been studying part-time

I am also pretty much in the middle of a career change; in 2005 I decided that my long-cherished career in social housing just wasn’t meeting my need for creativity so, after some toing and froing, I got my first job in marketing in June 2009: The plan was to work in this junior position for about a year and then look for another job; I left the job in April 2010 bound for India, so I was just about on plan. However the plan didn’t take into consideration the points above, particularly the visa issue – I had no idea.

My career history would make a job search in the UK challenging enough. It certainly doesn’t motivate me to look for work in India, where there is no shortage of marketers with commercially relevant, Indian work experience.

So my career is in flux, I haven’t got a job and I want to do something about it. The accepted expat wisdom on this issue is a portable career; a career that you can take with you anywhere around the globe. The on-line community is crowded with examples of exceptional women who have achieved just that. As inspiring as they are, I think there is something missing, i.e. how do you get from wanting to jump on that plane and go home to having a genuinely portable career that is both financially and personally rewarding? Well Marketing Wallah is my story; I can’t promise a happy ending but here’s hoping!

* Accompanying spouses get no automatic right to work in India. I would have to apply for an employment visa in my own right. For this I would have to find a job at a high enough salary (about £20,000), ask my employer to wait while I return to the UK (presumably at my own expense), apply for a visa and if successful return to India to work.


The Curry Diaries – Cardamom-Sented Chicken Curry

In The Curry Diaries on September 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm

This curry is brought to you courtesy of Anjum Anand (“I Love Curry” page 102)

I am learning how to cook Indian food. It is one of the things that I want to achieve while I am India. It’s going OK.

I have two cookbooks to help me on my quest. One of them is by Anjum Anand who is (ironically) a British Indian. There is one vital thing that you should know when you are using a British cookbook to cook curry in India – everything is much hotter here. As one of my friends said, “even the garlic and ginger are spicy.” I cooked Chilli Chicken Balti also by Anjum Anand (page 99) and nearly killed my husband AND I only used half the chillies stated!

There are a number of reasons for learning to cook curry. One is that I am thinking of have a curry night at ours; I’m thinking a range of dishes, different meats, some hot stuff, some not so hot, rice, bread, sides and dips. Now, while that’s a nice idea it’s not that easy so I’m practising. Also curry is a good dinner party food in any country because you can cook large quantities of it and cook it the day before, so it’s a skill that I am happy to have. As you may remember, I have also committed to filling my husbands four-tier deluxe tiffin box every day. This may seem foolhardy (it often does to me) but I do actually derive a considerable satisfaction from feeding my man. My final aim is all about pleasure: It’s taken me a while to get this but cooking is my hobby and in my crazy world of shifting identity I am over the moon to have rediscovered something that is all about me.

Anyway, here’s the deal: You need to refer to the book to understand the detail:

It’s cool to adapt curry recipes so I have.  I buy the ready ground garlic and ginger because you can use a whole bulb of garlic in one curry recipe and life’s too short. I used a tub of puréed tomato (about 4) because that’s what I had available. I cut out the chilli altogether because 1) I’m worried it’ll be too hot even without the chilli considering my past experience and 2) my palate is sensitive to the heat and I want to really taste the flavours while I learn to cook and 3) we are eating other dishes prepared by my housekeeper which will be quite hot. I didn’t use cornflour.

The ingredients used in most curries seem quite similar to me. I think it’s the way that you put them together that gives you the taste. However, I haven’t encountered cardamom seeds before. I cracked open about 15 green cardamom pods to get them. This seems unnecessary so I may consider just bunging in the pods next time. You can probably just buy them in Tescos in the UK. I think I’ve smelt cardamom in Iranian cooking but I’m not sure – I’ll check this. This also gave me the confidence to leave out the chillies because Iranian cooking is rich but not spicy.

I had to joint the chicken legs that I bought because you can rarely buy what you actually want in India. Getting the rest of the ingredients together was fine. You would hope so in India but actually if you live here you learn to expect nothing.

Generally, what’s really missing from my Indian cooking is a depth of flavour. I have picked up two tips on how to achieve this, 1) you need to let the onions go deep brown and 2) you need to let the spices cook before you add the meat. This definitely makes a difference.

Cooking chicken without skin and not browning the meat are both alien to me in my cooking but when in Rome! I also cook my chicken so it is falling off the bone. I don’t think that this is very Indian but I can’t get out of the habit. I added more water than the recipe said by mistake but it all boiled away so it wasn’t a problem.

It took me about an hour to cook it. When it was done we ate it with boiled rice, a daal and a pumpkin side dish. The pumpkin came from our garden which I think is quite impressive. It was a really nice supper. I would recommend it.

Being a domestic goddess ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

In Being Ma'am on July 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm

So how about plans to replace the housekeeper? Well there aren’t any. What? An expat wife cleaning her own toilets? … Er no, there’s still someone to do the cleaning, but I have decided to do the rest i.e. cooking and laundry. Sounds easy right? I mean who doesn’t do that in the UK? Well it turns out it’s not!

Following the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’, school of thought and to appease my husband, I have started to cook Indian food. Dean likes a curry and takes a tiffin to work each day. It’s the deluxe 4 tier model which means 4 different dishes; protein (usually meat), veg, daal or beans and a carbohydrate (chapati or rice). Forget sandwiches and a drink – this lunch is in a league of its own.

Next there’s the washing up: I don’t have to do the washing up, I could get the maid to do it but there’s a lot of it and she has other work to do. If she did the washing up, she would either do less of the other stuff or have to spend more time working, neither of which suit me. Because I’m cooking I need my pots and pans ready when I want them and I don’t like dirty dishes sitting around, she would only do the washing up once a day so logistically it doesn’t work either.

Hmmm the pile of ironing is rising before me like a Gurgaon skyscraper. Most of our clothes need ironing because they are mainly cotton or linen. I had convinced myself that it was possible to wash and iron everything in a day because drying is not a problem in India. Of course it is possible but only if you have nothing else to do.

So why am I putting myself through all this. Especially as I don’t have to?

Domestic staff is a way of life in India. Most expats in India have domestic staff. It also seems the norm for expats globally. However expat life is also generally dependent on one member of a couple (usually the wife) giving up work. So here’s the rub; like many other expat wives, I became a housewife at the same time as having no housework to do.

For me that statement is literally true; I moved into a home that was already set up so I have always had a full contingent of staff. There have been a few reshuffles but I have never not had a housekeeper, until now.

I knew I would need some help on my journey here. So I packed what I now consider to be a piece of gold, a book, “A Portable Identity: A Woman’s Guide to Maintaining a Sense of Self While Moving Overseas” by Debra Bryson and Charise Hoge. They offer practical tools for dealing with the most significant change that occurs when you follow your husband overseas; your change of identity or “Who am I?” It strikes me that being a housewife with no housework is something of an identity crisis.

I think ‘home making’ is something I’m pretty good at and, apart from washing up (which I detest), I quite enjoy. In the UK I wouldn’t have put it right at the top of my list of priorities but it was something that I did. When you follow your husband abroad the familiar goes out the window; it’s disorienting and challenging. However this is a familiar role that I could have pursued, but I didn’t. I can’t change what happened then (and I don’t want to) but I am ready to reclaim the role now.

One of the things that occupies me is the potential lack of achievement in my expat life, both day-to-day and over the assignment. As an expat wife nothing I do is strictly defined (unless I define it). By contrast cooking a meal is definite. In a life where achievement is rare, that is a big deal.

I struggle with scheduling my time. Housework has to have a schedule otherwise it mounts up. My ironing suggests that I need to do some work on this! I have a theory that settling into the routine of housework will add structure to the rest of my ‘working’ life.

I have a year’s worth of experience of being a Ma’am. One of the things I have learnt is that it only works if I have things my way. It sounds harsh because I am talking about other human beings but there is no room for creative decision-making in domestic staff. They can’t place your vase over the other side of the room because they though maybe it would look better over there or play around with the timing of dinner to achieve greater efficiency. It has to be what, when, where and how you want it. It is directional management. I think doing it myself will make me clearer about what I want and therefore better able to pass this on to my future housekeeper, if there is one.

So being a domestic goddess is hard but good. However I still reserve the right to give it all up in favour of G&T drinking at some future date!