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Insiders say the Gymkhana is a way of life — quite literally.
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Every morning, Shanti Nanisetti is up by the break of dawn. She packs her daughter's lunch box, sees her off to school and then relaxes for a while before rushing off to the college where she teaches. After work, she supervises her daughter's studies while cooking dinner. By 10. 30pm, she is in bed. "My day may seem boring and insipid to an outsider but I am much happier now, " says the 37-year-old, who gave up her comfortable corporate job five years ago to move to a small town in southern coastal Orissa.
Shanti was working as an AdSense Associate in Google's Hyderabad office when she decided to turn her life around. "My career was at its peak. I had worked on a year-long global automation project, which won me the prestigious VP award, " she says. However, two personal tragedies and a long-cherished dream pushed Shanti and her husband Serish to change their attitude to life. "The sudden deaths of my only sibling and my father within two months made us wonder what the rat race is all about, " she says. "My husband had always dreamt of starting a school for rural children in his native place in Orissa but we were always procrastinating. "
In 2009, Shanti decided it was time to take the plunge. "I decided to leave my job, the city, the comforts and the material pursuits and move to a small town called Gopalpur-on-Sea, " she says. Since she was accompanied only by her six-yearold daughter, the initial days were tough. "I decided to go first to test the waters, " she says. "The first thing I bought was an inverter because there were six to eight-hour power cuts and my daughter would cry, terrified, when the power failed at night, " says Shanti, who also took it upon herself to supervise the construction of their house in the village. "My husband finally joined us two years ago, " she adds.
Today, the family leads a very simple life, a far cry from their city life in the city. "Family outings to a multi-storeyed mall or theatre, the comfort of digging into a hot, gooey double-cheese pizza, or the joy of walking into the nearest bookstore to pick up your favourite writer's new book are no longer possible, " she says.
As a busy executive, who often left home at 7. 45am and worked till past midnight, Shanti barely had time to enter the kitchen. "I had two part-time maids then - one to help with domestic chores and another one to cook. I just had to pay their salary and chill, " she says.
Today, while she does have a maid to help with household chores, she does all the cooking herself. "If we fancy something, we have to make it at home. Back in Hyderabad, I never had the time or the inclination to make sweets at home except maybe suji halwa and vermicelli kheer, " says Shanti. "But now I experiment a lot and have graduated to baking cakes and brownies. I also invent different kinds of rice dishes to whet my daughter's appetite. "
The money spent on enjoying or acquiring things has also come down drastically. "Even though we sometimes indulge ourselves when we go to Hyderabad, we are careful about what we spend on. I prefer to travel by RTC buses now and don't even use autos, " says Shanti, who now shops online. She has also traded in her jeans for saris and salwars. "I wear only traditional clothes here, complete with sindoor, kajal and bangles, something I had not done in ages, " she says.
Life in a small town has not been without its own set of challenges. "Serish and my daughter Srishtii are still adjusting to the new lifestyle, " says Shanti. "The language, culture and academics are all different for Srishtii. " Shanti has also got over the shock of seeing men, women and children relieving themselves on the roadside and the chaotic traffic on Berhampur roads.
She feels that the shift to a simpler way of life has made them all happier. "In Hyderabad, my day was hectic. I began work at 8. 30am and often returned to see my daughter fast asleep, " says Shanti. "Now I am completely involved with Srishtii's upbringing and academics. I enjoy spending evenings at the beach with her. "
Though she now earns a quarter of what she once did, Shanti finds more professional satisfaction teaching village children. "I used to give tuitions and spoken English classes at home. I took it as a challenge when my students didn't understand something I explained in English and expected me to explain the same in Hindi, " she says. "I refused and made sure that they started speaking in English. "
Today, she works as an assistant professor, teaching communicative English to first year BTech students. "When they say 'Ma'am you are the best!' the satisfaction I get is something I've not experienced before. I'm much happier being a down-to-earth teacher in a small town rather than a high-flying corporate executive in a multi-milliondollar company, " she says.
priya. menon@timesgroup. com
What was the easiest thing to scale back on when you downsized?
The amount of time and money spent on making unnecessary (and soon-relegated-toa-corner-of-the-cupboard ) purchases
What was the toughest/what did you miss the most?
Accepting the lifestyle overhaul and the money crunch. We didn't eat out or order in or travel in AC compartments. Sleeper class travel with a child was especially tough
What kept you from slipping back into the old lifestyle?
The fear that we'll soon run out of resources that will push us back to the rut of material pursuits. But most importantly, I really love(d) the serenity of the small place and I preferred my time with my daughter
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