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Bombay or Buckhead?

May 2007
Bombay or Buckhead?

It is 1:00 a.m. Toothpicks are holding up my eyelids as I type with one finger. My eight-month old daughter, Keya, is wide-awake in my lap. Being a mother is challenging in any time zone. I have been one in Atlanta for about four years, and am currently playing the role in India.

Inexpensive domestic help does make the job easier here and allows for more personal time – to work, exercise and sleep. On the flip side, I cannot be as self-reliant as I like. I enjoy driving but here I must be chauffer driven – traffic is a mess and parking in the city is impossible. Yes, I have the option to delegate household chores, but do I really care for the daily drama of overseeing a team of "servants"? Do I want to hold my breath when the bartanwali (a servant who does dishes) does not show up?

And then there is the city. It is not the most child friendly place. I can barely walk along the streets let alone take Keya in a stroller. I've gotten used to people staring at us during my daily walk when I carry Keya in a sling to pick up my son Jahaan from a nearby school. I avoid taking the kids grocery shopping. Only a few stores have shopping carts, and then too, mostly dirty and rickety. People almost never fall politely in line. Most restaurants do not have high chairs or children's meals. There are very few parks and museums.

I miss sprawling on the grass at Piedmont Park, taking Jahaan to a play or a symphony at the High. As a paranoid parent I miss the 911 emergency service the most.

Raising my children here is a precious opportunity to educate them about my culture and country, to let them forge bonds with kin. My son cannot understand why so many live on the streets. Or why there is so much garbage and poop all around. I fill his head with visions of a new India he can help create.

Bombay or Buckhead—as a parent you make the best of whatever is at hand without whining. America has taught me to multitask beautifully; India gives this mother her faith.

Reetika Khanna Nijhawan.

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