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Living in New Delhi, India as Expatriates

My husband got a new job in New Delhi; hence my five year old son and I also moved from Tokyo (Japan) to New Delhi (India) at the end of January, 2007. Prior to relocation, our primary concern rested on our son's education and his adjustment to the new environment. However, now we believe that living in New Delhi is one of the best gifts that we could give to our son, while it poses a different set of challenges to us, as parents.

As India going through a rapid economic growth, the socio-cultural as well as socio-economic environment of Delhi, the capital of India, is getting diversified, including that of expatriate community.

As for my son, he is mingled with a multinational body of friends in his kindergarten classroom at the American School, which accommodates a large number of students from various countries, their parents being diplomats, business people, or working for NGOs. My son loves going to the kindergarten everyday, albeit his nil English proficiency.

As for our housing, we live on the second floor of a three-story house where the landlord (Indian Sikh family, the owner wearing the turban) lives on the first floor, and a family from Saudi Arabia (Muslim family) on the third floor. In front of our house, there is a community children's park where Indian children play cricket early in the morning and late in the evening, when it is cool outside.

Once we leave our home or school, we face the realities of urban Indian society. One Saturday, we were invited over to my son's classmate's birthday party, which was held at their residence, which looked like a palace; on our way back home, some children on the street were knocking on our car windows, begging for money or selling newspapers or whatnot, as usual.

Coming from a comparatively homogeneous country like Japan, my son has numerous questions upon his arrival to New Delhi. Why are some children on the street? Where are their parents? Why are we not giving money to those poor children? Why can't we live in a house like my classmate, a house with a huge soccer field? Why do Sikh people wear turbans and why can't they get their hair cut? Why is the Muslim woman upstairs all in black? What is our religion, then? Why are many people vegetarians and can't eat meat? Why didn't the plumber or electrician show up today even though he said he would?

As parents, we try to learn and understand the local culture and protocol together with my son. Concurrently, it requires some contemplation on our part to give age-appropriate and prudent answers to many of his simple questions, as we live in dual realities; that of expatriates and that of locals.

An expatriate's parent at the kindergarten said to me, "Living in New Delhi at this time of the history is one of the best gifts that we can give to our children." I totally agree. But I also believe that it is up to parents to make the most of our children's experiences. As for me, my son's innocent questions drawn from his attentive observations remind me of the gravity of our way of being parents, expatriates, and global citizens here in New Delhi.
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