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- J-9/13, Rajouri Garden New Delhi, India, 110027
I have known very little about India, though I did my part of research about the country before shifting. I have friends, who had visited this country two years ago. They told me about their experiences, and about the culture and the casual lifestyle people follow but even then, I couldn’t have the clear picture about it.
I had very limited expectations from India, or any place in general, because I know that new things take time to settle down and keeping expectations would affect only me, in the end. So, I had kept my mind open to possibilities and set myself in a way, that new things don’t surprise me in the flow. That will be the waste of my time and efforts, anyway.
The cleanliness – sanity and hygiene at several places! I couldn’t bear the smell outside the airport itself, it all looked clean but still the wind had some minute particles of dirt, splashing through my face. Later I realized that it was some uncovered dumpster around the corner, only when I sat in the cab and moved out of that area. But that was not the end, I saw my driver spitting on the road itself, several times, on our way towards my flat. There has been several similar incidents, urinating on the sides or dumping waste on the roads; it was quite disgusting to look at! Now, I carry mask and tissues’ packet everywhere I go.
Crowdy streets and driving sense! At first, it was really overwhelming for me to watch such huge crowds, at one place. The area is new to me, and then facing such large crowdy streets was really hectic. My workplace is not that far from my flat, but still they allotted me cab services but looking at trafficked roads, at any given time of the day, I switched back to my personal conveyance – walking and/or sometimes auto-rickshaws. I took a large part of time, till now in this country, to get used to crowds and jammed roads. I don’t understand of how often, even the widest roads, happen to be jammed for several hours.
Adding to the list of my daily challenges, after cleanliness and crowdy streets, I often have this fear of misbehaviour from men around me. I have heard stories about the men around here, of how a woman is not considered a human being after 9pm; from my friends back at home and few of my colleagues. I have to double-check my house locks before sleeping. I carry pepper-spray bottles in my bag. I even have to think, everyday, what to wear and what to avoid completely. I don’t get positive or healthy vibes from people around me, even at the office. Looking at me, in a total different way, rolling their eyes from head to toe and smiling at me while exhaling smoke in corners; definitely convinces me to carry a knife as well, just in case.
At first, it was really challenging for me to get into certain circles, of friends or teams, already formed on different basis. But as time spent, within working hours and after office hours, the atmosphere was made pretty comfortable for me. From morning snacks to lunches, when they used to feed me with pure Indian-taste delicious food, to evening outings. We got dissolved into each others’ culture. I got to know people from different backgrounds, for instance, in my friends’ circle – two are from Maharashtra and one is from Kashmir. Also, I got learn some words in
Hindi, that totally helped me in talking to street vendors, who cannot or are not aware of English language. Along with these instances, there were plenty of transfers across different cultural backgrounds, including of my own.
With my experience in this country, I would say mind-set and lifestyle. People, in this country, have a very casual attitude towards things, happening in their lives. Each one has a very different thought process, can be similar to others’ at some stages, but the front end results are dipped in hypocrisy. What to wear and how to wear is not just my struggle, everyday, but even my female friends at office question the same thing. Their faces won’t show worry, would have the perfect confidence but still, their mind would be in deep confusion. Their competitive nature, at work, might turn into a devil’s game; it’s that strong. Even people in my society had such huge issues with me living around them; some of the women won’t even let their kids come near me as if I’m a terrorist. But they happen to exchange smiles, only when one day, I stepped out wearing a suit. I learnt how closed they are, to adapt to any new thing in their cycle.
Experiences and advices from my colleagues. They told me how to live here, how to not offend my society people, how and what to wear at specific places, like markets around the corner. But the most, my experiences came in handy. I had to change a lot, with my schedule and my lifestyle, to let myself get dissolved around people here. I went on for shopping, to buy some ‘cultural’ clothes, attended many society’s and office’s parties, met new people and made network. But I never compromised over my work and my comfort level. I didn’t go forward with what I wasn’t at ease. There was time when I couldn’t just survive with the atmosphere, and my colleagues made it easy on me and helped me to find a mid-way, to get the work done. Life isn’t easy still, because of how few people have not changed with time, but I have found solutions and made my peace with that.
I cannot say that it was pretty comfortable, but my new allotted flat, by the company people, was good and comfortable. It was enough spacious for an individual with modern kitchen and hall space. The society was good to live in too, with security and facilities. The environment was friendly, except my landlord. I have spent a tough time with my landlord, making him understand about my work schedules and about several repairments in the washroom. All he do is, pass me the number of the plumber and say, “I won’t pay a penny for this, it is all on you.” On the other hand, I was expecting no rules and regulations to be followed at this age in my life, but he was sitting with an entire list of them. No boys, no loud music after 11pm, no pets, etc; were in the list among others. I, somehow, managed to convince him for half of the rules, even though he interrupts in between for those, but he is very strict for the other half of the list.
Totally; some men cannot even stop staring at my fair(er) skin, while standing at the bus stops, or if I am waiting for the cab on the pedestals, or at the metro stations. Such instances scare me away, of whom to trust or whom to look out for help. Sometimes, even in the women’s coach in metros, they maintain distance from me as if I am from some other planet. I have heard plenty of times, women whispering to each other, “Look at the type of the clothes she is wearing!”, “Look how white she is!” etc. Like get used to it already, live in your skin and stop getting surprised from everything non-Indians do.
Apparently no, with the requirements and the documentation, authorized people and officers were really helpful, and they happen to be of great use, at my comfort level. The only trouble I had was when I had to travel long distances to the office, using public transport. As I said, it is my main conflict with this city.
“Get used to what and how Indians live! You would not want to argue or get into a conflict with them; there is a possibility that you might lose your sensible brains as well.” It might sound rude but it is true, you cannot happen to have a hope to mould their thought process in your, or even in a whole new direction. They will either prance upon you, blame it on you for not adjusting or might as well ignore you.
Plan it out and enter into this country with an open mind and loose-tight ships. It can be either worked out in your luck or might just happen in the opposite direction, but it will happen; be patient. Be calm and try to get a hold of the soft points, where people around you get to know you or are interested in knowing you. Handle your own situations and don’t be dependent on anyone for your work, until you are pretty sure about it.
I can make a list of this and wrap it around my waist, as a Saree.
I had to entirely change my wardrobe, from tops to shoes, and shop for everything. Initially, I used to wear not just my clothes, but every pair of eyes on my shoulders, while walking around. And there were number of times, when I had to just compromise on the quality/styling of the clothes in place of my old clothes. With time, I got habitual of the quality of the fabrics as the level used to decline with every wash.
Basic problems were language and understanding. Initially, when I couldn’t speak and understand even a single word in Hindi, those were the hardest days in this city. I was not able to go to local vendors, down the street, and order basic necessities. Because I was forgetting the most basic necessity – the language, that they will understand and respond to. First it was my neighbour, who was of great help, and helped to settle down over there. Then with time, I got into the flow of conversations at my workplace and at the society, due to which I was able to adapt the communication levels.
I am more of a party person, and like places which are open and vast. I have heard a lot about Goa, being the party destination for long weekends in last months of the year; at the office. I am also getting fond of Kerala, as one of my colleagues belongs to that place and his culture interests me a lot. I have also searched online, about that place, and the life over there.
I guess, I have listed down all the experiences, on the basis of the social conditions in this country. If we are discussing about the political environment in this place, I believe that it is very competitive in nature, around the city.
Foreigners, in specific, receive a huge attention if they are found walking around such political seasons. Expressing it by experience; I was stopped and interviewed, a little, by an individual of one of the political groups.
About women, I am very specific about safety concerns. Scared as well, with all the happenings and the news circulating around the city with women day-by-day, I feel unsafe at home, workplace and even at a crowded street! I am not going to blame someone in specific, not even men, because I know all men are not the same. But with rising cent, I am more worried about the safety issues towards women, than anything over here.
Male-Chauvinism. Men cannot expect women around them, to be more competitive, to be successful. Not at any major or official level, but with my job, I was given such vibes with men around me. It was a greater challenge for me, as it had two elements in it: chauvinism + security. I was made feel unsafe at the workplace for being better at my job, than they ever could have been.
If there can be any possibility of change, as per my views then teach some open-mindedness to Indians. This one lesson can change them into better human beings, who can adapt and learn from their experiences, around them, and fix one basic comfort level for everyone. Having a close mind tends to limit one’s thought process and this can, evidently have, lead to many crisis.
As I have counted on many people already, they were helpful during my entire stay in this country. Had there been no help or no people, in this long time, I would have broken up at some stage. I cannot thank them enough for all the memories, I have made and spent. At some level, not minding your own business has also helped others. Being concerned and aware about people, whom you see every day or probably have connections with, help in major/danger times. Initially, it was bearable but then it turned my schedule upside down. And my new schedule was all matched and managed. I had a good time.