Leaving India for good…
When I started planning to move to India in 2005, my friends said I was mad. “How can you work in a newspaper there? You don’t even speak Hindi,” one said.“It will ruin your career,” another said. “You will never get a job in the UK afterwards,” he added.
At that time, India was not spoken about in the western media at all, apart from when the odd calamity such as an earthquake occurred.
Little did anyone know that a couple of years later, the term ‘India Shining’ would be coined, and the whole world would start looking at India and China as the future global growth stories.
Since I arrived in 2007, Mumbai has ironically, been the place to be for any journalist worth his salt. I had no clue India would catapult into limelight. I just came because I liked Bollywood, Brick Lane, Bhangra, (and of course, Indian men), and sensed it would be an exciting place.
But my radical decision turned out to be spot on, not just for me personally, in that I got to do fascinating things like spend the day washing clothes with dhobiwallahs; wander around slums; and interview Katrina Kaif, Mark Tully and Danny Boyle (and, of course, date the odd real Indian man…)
But even career-wise, journalists in the UK that had never shown any interest in India, suddenly look at me with envy and my inbox now gets flooded with emails from them asking me how to get a job here. That is connected not just to the buzz in the western media about the Indian growth story, but also the Mumbai terror attacks and Slumdog Millionaire, both of which have atapulted India, and especially Mumbai, into the top news headlines.
But while some of these new firang arrived starry-eyed hoping to find magic and spirituality, others are unable to cope with life here.
What I have discovered is that India is a complex society. It takes a firang time to realise that things work here as perfectly as they do in the west. It’s just done differently. ‘We are like that only’ as Indians say.
I was packing up my flat last week, and called the recycling man round to collect the newspapers. He peered around my apartment and offered to also take my old clothes, shoes, saucepans, broken, cameras and TV, anything that I could not fit in my luggage to be precise, and even pay me. Wow! On the contrary, in the UK I would have had to pay several thousand rupees to the local government for the pleasure of driving them to a tip, or be fined for leaving out too much rubbish. I guess this is what is called jugaad.
My maid too took a lot of my items and it felt like such good karma to give them away to her. Why anyone would sell their items (apart from to a recycling man) beats me, when there are so many needy people here that would happily take them..
My maid was not just a worker, but my best friend, and she even accompanied me to the doctor when I was ill. Saying good-bye to her was especially upsetting.
These are just a few of hundreds of examples of how amazing India can be, if you let her.
But now, that I am returning to England, I’m having a deja-vu, as westerners and Indians alike are suddenly now telling me not to return, and this time to stay in India! They bang on about the booming economy and Western recession. But it feels like the right time to go for me in my life.
I have learnt that following my heart, rather than logic, is ironically the right way. Besides, when I moved here, everyone advised me against it, and look what happened. It was the best place to be for a journalist!
I’m sure I will be back before long as I anyway feel semi-Indian…. Apart from adopting two Indian cats, which are now already in the UK (they flew back unaccompanied last week), I also now speak Indian English (“I’m shifting back to the UK”; “Tell me” I now regularly say), I am an expert on dating Indian men, and even packing my flat up has been done Indian–style! Firangs often fret when they think Indians are not working on a task, an then are astonished to see it done to perfection at the 11th hour. The same way, the day before I had to move out of my flat, I could not see the floor for all the rubbish, and had to tell my landlord I was not ready and get an extension until 9am the next day. He was pretty relaxed about it – something that would never happen in England… I stayed up all night clearing it, and minutes before the landlord came to take the keys, it was clean and ready to hand back!
So, again now, true to style, I am going against the norm, not listening to what everyone tells me, and returning to live in England.
You see the lesson I have learnt is never follow the masses; do what your instinct, rather than what others tell you, as following your gut is often when man’s biggest achievements happen.
(You may continue following Naomi on her adventures, at her personal blog, at http://naomicanton.blogspot.com)