Being an NRI’s spouse: How to carve your own niche?

This article I wrote after I watched Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a Bollywood movie that projected the lonely life of a woman, who married an NRI man, so convincingly.

Living in London or New York or Sydney isn’t all that rosy or what you see in movies. NRIs, especially their spouses face a lonely life abroad which is a fact, unfortunately. Many women find it difficult, especially, who grew up in a joint family system or have been once with a big circle of friends or have a busy social life back in India.

All that glitter is not gold – the life outside India is full of uncertainty as jobs, visa and lack of support make it more stressful. During the initial days, most have to go through visa hassles and obtaining their permanent residency status that may take up to 7-10 years depends on the country they live in and the category of labor applications.

So, how to cope up with lonely life during the initial days of marriage when you have not started your family and all you know is your spouse. Here are few tips for you to make it better and brighter –

Enrol in professional development courses: If you wish to pursue your career and you need specialized or professional education, you can plan for the same. It would be the best investment at an early stage to jumpstart to your professional career. This planning must be done before you start the family as it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to continue with additional responsibilities.

A dependent spouse can study part-time in a university by taking 6 credit hours (2 classes) per semester without having to change the visa in most of the countries. If you could take average 6-7 classes in 4 semesters, you can complete your master’s degree within two years.

Widen your social life: This is a bit tricky as a bigger social life may not always result in happiness, so try and find like-minded friends to form an active social circle.  The easiest way to do is to become a member of any local Facebook group, Meet-Up group or WhatsApp group to find your interest group with whom you can meet occasionally to socialize for different reasons.

Craigslist is quite popular in the USA for finding activity partners. Now, there are many groups including mums group on Facebook are available that cater to a particular city such as Tokyo mums, Hong Kong Moms or Hong Kong Desi (Indian living in Hong Kong) etc.

Most of the major cities in the world have Indian diaspora that arranges festival or gathering on Diwali, Navratri, Durga Puja, Holi and other traditional events.

Hone your hobby: If you wish to start something different, try to check if you can get back to your hobby that you always wanted to pursue. It will keep you busy and happy. If you are really passionate about it, you can earn money through your hobby by selling your creations such as knitwear, pottery, paintings and freelance writing. Your hobbies and interests can also include attending painting exhibitions, operas and concerts in your city.

Asmi Udassi has turned her hobby into full-fledged art profession. Currently, she teaches art and preparing for her first artwork exhibition in Hong Kong.

Try to take up a job: If the local government permits you to work, you can take up a job. The most common website for this is ‘indeed.com’. All you need to do it is – enter job/role and location, it will fetch the data from relevant websites and compile the results for you. You can register for the job alerts by providing your keywords on the portal.

Involve in activities: The adventurous activities not only help you in boosting your mood but also help you stay fit. There are many social clubs or meet-up groups who arrange hiking, trekking, surfing or sailings.

Most of these activities are suitable for kids. You may involve and introduce these activities to your kids at an early age to develop an interest. This would be a nicer way to connect family members well over the weekends.

Go for a little entertainment — Internet TV: First thing you need to do is check if your TV package is ‘good enough’ for you. Nothing

can substitute TV programs to fill in your time. There are many internet TV service providers offering annual subscription at a competitive price. They include Indian as well as global TV channels. Most of these TV channels have ‘movies’ sections that offer excellent choices.

Start reading: Most of the cities have city libraries for free or at nominal membership charges. You can spend time reading, discussing the topics and making book-buddies. You also have options of joining a reading club to keep yourself updated.

Connecting with your family: These days’ international calls are cheaper or free due to WhatsApp and Skype, making it easier to connect with your family and buddies back home.

Volunteer in social work: There are plenty of social or community work options available. You can volunteer to keep yourself occupied in some meaningful ways. Many communities have some annual programs planned and mentioned in their office. Sometime you may not be able to participate on regular basis. You can check them out as it would provide you with an option to regular participation.

Understand your spouse and his role: You can’t nag your spouse for your loneliness as he/she would be much more stressed with the job and visa related issues. He/she must have their own workplace problems. Be the brighter side of you when you are with your spouse. It will give warmth and strengthen your relationship.

There could be more on your plate at home in absence of maid or helper as you may have to do the daily chores. You may be able to hire part-time or on weekend basis in the US, UK or Australia but their services are very expensive; except in Hong Kong, Singapore and the middle east… where you have an option for live-in helpers at an affordable cost.

So, be prepared to face all the reality abroad and create your own world. After all, life is all about what you make of it.

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