Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Manuel and Me

This past week has been a bit surreal for me. Manuel is in Paris and for the couple of days before he left we were having some pretty heated and intense conversations. Not fights, just heated conversations. I had been questioning if Manuel was actually happy living in India and a couple of times suggested he take a bit longer in Europe to consider if India is really a place he wants to be. I think what Manuel heard is that I anted him to stay in Paris and so after a bit of a tense phone conversation the day before he left, Manuel asked me if I wanted him to come back. I started my sentence with “I don’t know…” and was planning on finishing it with something along the lines of only if it is what he wanted and if things would change and we would get our life back to how it was when he first arrived.

When Manuel first came to India, we spent our weekends exploring the city, wandering aimlessly through streets and neighborhoods taking in all the local sights and sounds. We would usually follow that up with a trip to Aqua or QBA for cocktails or perhaps 360 at the Oberoi or Ploof for dinner. Lately we have fallen into that trap of sitting in front of the TV, not really talking and life has become something that happens elsewhere. I’m not sure how we went from not watching any TV to becoming non-communicating couch potatoes. It was that realization that prompted the trip to Jaipur a couple of weeks ago. I felt we needed a bit of an adventure injection and was hoping that would help kick-start things in a different direction.

Before coming to India, Manuel and I didn’t really know each other. We had met in January 2007, just a week or so before I left for India – I will save that story for another post in the coming days. We spent months chatting on MSN and having the phone calls here and there, but after that initial 24 hours together, we didn’t see each other until he arrived in Amsterdam and from that moment, we were living together. It might seem hasty, but it was the only way to give it a go. Having done the long distance relationship thing once before – and that was only with 200 or so kilometers between us and living in the same time zone – I was not up for it again. So, we both jumped in without really knowing the other person apart from those initial hours and some online chats. As anyone online knows, a persons online and offline personality can be very different. Fortunately for us, we clicked immediately when we saw each other again in Amsterdam and I don’t have a moment of regret.

So when Manuel heard the “I don’t know…” part, he responded quickly by saying he was going to stay in Paris. I was stunned. I had suggested he stay in Paris a few weeks and think things through, reconnect with friends and maybe see some family, but I hadn’t meant that he should stay there, unless he decided India (or I) were not for him. When I got home that evening, I couldn’t even talk to him. I as angry and hurt and felt quite betrayed. Eventually we started talking and that made things a bit worse. I get very emotional and am a person who vents. I talk, I write, I discuss things. Manuel completely shuts down and doesn’t say anything and then an hour or two later, sometimes the next day, he comes back with his point of view. So what I feel should be a conversation turns out to be first my download, followed by Manuel’s sometime later and then we gradually get into conversation mode. That coupled with my complete lack of patience – Yes, I have been known to be a bit impatient every now and again – can easily lead to hurt feelings on both sides. And if I am feeling hurt, then I want the other person to feel as miserable as I am. I have been both blessed and cursed with a very quick mind that can form and deliver some pretty intense zingers in micro-seconds, often with some pretty devastating consequences. It's something I have learned to keep in check, but when emotions flare, out they fly.

Manuel shocked me with a statement he made before he left that has been on my mind since he mentioned it. He told me he didn’t think I was happy in India. I thought I was, but I realized I wasn’t as happy about it as I liked to pretend. The main reason is that here I am something of a second class citizen. On the one hand, an expat here gets fabulous benefits, a great salary, invitations to parties, etc. But on the other hand, can’t get a credit card, can’t invest, can’t participate in any programs to cut taxes and save money, can’t buy property, can’t exchange money into any foreign currency, etc. So life is something of a half-life and all the while I pay a ton of money in taxes. These things are really getting on my nerves, perhaps more than I should let them.

But I may have just stumbled across not only a solution to that issue, but also something that could lead to a whole new life. I was in a meeting yesterday working a pitch we are doing for a new client in the area of investments. I mentioned I was pretty out of touch with that world in India as I can’t even get a basic credit card and someone told me to just set myself up as a company. It costs about 40 US Dollars and then I need to have about 200 US dollars in an account as capital. That will give me the rights to own property (I can own for less than I am paying now) and get a credit card. In addition, I have also come across a fabulous business opportunity with a very good friend of mine that I think is going to change a lot of things. More on that later as things develop.

So now Manuel is in Paris and he is coming back on the first of August. I miss him and am looking forward to him coming back. I am also looking forward to getting everything back on track. The good news is, that all the things that weren’t so good between us, are easy things to fix. At the core, we love each other and enjoy each other. We each need to tweak a few things and then I think everything will be great. I am so looking forward to it!

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