WILL IT BE INDIA OR WILL IT BE MEXICO?
DECIDING ON A PLACE TO LIVE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE
Don’t know how many years – or days – I may have left to live out my remaining span of life. Probably no more than twenty years and that might be pushing it. But let’s say twenty just for the sake of argument.
Now, you might think that decision to move away from the United States to another country is the result of this year’s election of Donald J. Trump, the epitome of reality show politics morphing into real life. But if this is your view, you would be only half right. I’ve been thinking about shifting from the U.S. for several years now. On the other hand, the election of this deranged, non-human life form only spurs my desire to quit the U.S. India, a country that I am familiar with after nearly four decades of visits and work stays, was my original destination.
Then I spent a couple of months in Mexico a year ago and all my tentative India plans got scrambled. I fell in love with both the people of Mexico and the state of Guanajuato. Both places, India and Mexico, offer the distinct advantage of being a hell of a lot cheaper to live in than in the U.S. and since I’m now basically living off of my past earnings, the cheaper the better. Of course there is always the conundrum that if I die tomorrow or next week or next month I will regret like hell that I didn’t spend all my savings on fabulous trips, expensive clothes, luxury cruises and mounting a world tour of the best three starred Michelin restaurants.
India, as chaotic as it so often is, (witness the demonitisation kerfuffle currently slashing across the subcontinent) has become easy for me. I no longer spend a day or two adjusting to opposite traffic flows or wondering which one of the 20 wall switches, all neatly arranged on a wall plate, turns on the overhead light. A nation of sharp contrasts, immense wealth and equally immense poverty, I’ve grown accustomed to expensive Mercedes Benz’s sharing the roadway with dhoti-clad men on rusted, rickety bicycles. Then too, there is the Indian political scene with all its drama and endless throwing of tantrums and excited palaver without much in the way of actual accomplishments.
A few years ago, the Delhi High Court struck down Section 377 of the Indian Code that criminalized homosexual activity – a carryover from British rule – but it was then re-instated three years later by India’s Supreme Court. But just recently, Indian Railways added a new category on its reservation forms under “Sex” – “Transgender” so who knows? But such dichomities are common for India. But India is rapidly changing. The new, young, urban middle class is burgeoning and wielding more power than ever before. Walmart and Ikea are recent entries into the Indian commercial scene and more such intrusive western creations will follow on rapidly. On the other hand, India and Indian society are so steeped in its thousands of years of tradition, religion and history, it takes a lot to profoundly change the character of the country.
Mexico, in contrast, is much more a nation of “go along to get along” and drama, with the exception of the Northern border drug wars, is not so much a part of the national scene or the Mexican psyche. Mexicans know that every level of government is corrupt and accept it, adjust to its demands, pay whatever price they must and go on with their lives. On six or seven visits to the country – pretty much everywhere with the exception of the Pacific Coast (Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco) – I’ve been taken with its beauty, hot, humid riotously jungles in the Yucatan near the Caribbean coast, as well as hot, dry desserts and cool, green mountains elsewhere.
|SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE|
I fell in love with San Miguel de Allende, about three hours northwest of Mexico City, a couple of years ago. A World Heritage Site, the city is a treasure of historic architecture, red, yellow and blue houses climbing up and down the city’s hills along narrow, cobblestoned streets and home to a vibrant arts scene. Then too, the town boasts some of the best restaurants I’ve ever patronized. One of my favorites is a pizza place that has a rooftop terrace overlooking the city and its many church spires. Sunset is the best time as orange light bathes every structure in a warm golden glow.
I am impressed with both Indians and Mexicans but for different reasons. In general, Indians are a creative, inventive and energetic bunch, no more so than when they are studiously defying all the rules and regulations that they seem to feel are just so many impediments to actually living their daily lives in peace and comfort. Indians can be aggressive – after all with 1 billion people occupying a land area of one-third the United States but with three times our population - competition in one form or another is simply an accepted way of life. Foreigners, however, are pretty much exempt from the tat-a-tats then accompany daily Indian life.
Mexicans, on the other hand, seem much more inclined to let sleeping dogs lie, as the saying goes, and are more stoic in the face of adversity and government foolishness. Friendly, kind and helpful to a fault when faced with my three word Spanish vocabulary, I’m always amazed at how polite Mexicans are towards one another even when amassed by the hundreds of thousands for All Souls Eve (Halloween) street celebrations. In general, I’ve found the Mexican people quite compassionate, kind and loving.
So this is my dilemma. At the moment, with the impending birth of my first grandchild next spring, Mexico has the upper hand. After all, it’s much closer to the United States, flights from the U.S. are frequent and cheap, and as far as living expenses go, while it is more expensive than life in India would be, it’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than in the United States.
I will keep you posted on how all this turns out.
Meanwhile, have a wonder day wherever you are!