Two weeks into my life as an expat in a new city, a new country and a new continent, I have more thoughts than I can possibly put into words. But if one maintains a blog, it is kind of obligatory to at least try .
Geneva is a small city, albeit being the second largest city of Switzerland. It is also among the top five expensive cities in the world, beating even biggies like London and New York, and has been rightly tagged as an “international city”, being home to offices of organisations like the United Nations, Red Cross, and of course the dream research facility called CERN. For a person in her twenties travelling thousands of miles away from home to a place like this and settling down by herself, it is more than a mere adventure.
It is one thing to have a short relaxing trip to a different country, and it is a completely different experience to become a resident. When one ventures into this long journey, one is full of excitement and high hopes, which are soon overpowered by the feeling of concern for her well-being and ability to adjust to the new surroundings. There are only people she has interacted virtually with, through emails or Facebook or Skype. There are images that she has seen only on her computer screen, and there is a whole new language to learn, simply for basic survival. The biggest challenge of all is to build a professional attitude, and somehow ask the happy-go-lucky you to take a backseat. You know your lame jokes will not be laughed at anymore, and you know you have to painfully do away with the habit of eating with your hands and pick up the knife and the fork. It is difficult, and sometimes embarrassing too. But all you have inside is a heart full of hope and optimism.
The best thing about being Indian is that one finds fellow Indians all around the world. Whether you talk to them or not, it lights up your day to spot the occasional salwar-kameez clad auntie or the pagdi-clad Sardar, or simply to catch a word in Hindi or any other Indian language from a passer-by. It is the best day of the year for you when you attend an Indian event or festival, even if you hardly know anyone there. You have a hard time cooking for yourself initially, but then you start loving it, as you feel proud of the traits your mother has passed on to you unknowingly. You would travel those extra miles to get to the Asian or Indian shop that supplies all the vegetables and spices that make you feel at home, although you can easily satisfy your appetite by the insanely many options of bread and cheese you can choose from.
However, despite all this homesickness (one is always homesick, whether they admit it or not), the reason one chooses to live in a foreign land is because she has a mind which is ready to embrace the new. She understands that deep down inside, all humans are the same, regardless of language or ethnicity. So it’s wonderful to hear your Swiss friend speak broken Hindi while she serves you Raclette cheese, or your Taiwanese friend asking to be reminded about the Bengali prayers that were sung at the Durga Puja ceremony, or your Indian friend cooking Pulao for you on your birthday. Home is always near – you just need to believe that it is.