- Recommended Expat Blogs: India
- J.D. Viharini: Enjoying India
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- Dana: my india encounters
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- Lauren: English Wife, Indian Life
- Mani: A New Life in India
- Neil: Learning India
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Mumbai, etc.
I am a sound engineer, technical production manager and writer. I have been coming to India on and off since I was seventeen and fell in love with the country way back on my first visit. I’m now 32 and mother to a beautiful daughter Saira who is now two years old. She has spent half her life in India so it is as much home as England, our country of birth.
When Saira was a few months old her godmother took us on holiday to Goa. I’d lost my job in the UK when I got pregnant (yes that is illegal!) and was pretty fed up with life in the UK and the circumstances which surrounded becoming a single mum.
When we arrived we happened to be staying near the Sunburn festival – I had a thought – maybe I could work doing sound engineering out here? I went to another festival – India Bike week and made a contact in a Mumbai based PA company. A year later I was working for that company at the very same event and living in Mumbai with my daughter and Indian then-boyfriend.
Now I live between London and Mumbai – how I came to end up living a double life is a long story – one I am still writing in my blog!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I was already a published musicologist and writer. I have a great love for writing as a hobby, but ideally I would like to get more work as a writer. I wanted to write a blog for professional reasons as it is a good way to get more writing work.
However, when I began my blog some of the subjects I started to write about I felt very passionate about – feminism, cultural issues and of course the beautiful and crazy country that I had made my home. My blog became something personal – I wanted to share my experiences and what I had learnt from living in Mumbai. It was also a great way of keeping in touch with my friends and family back home who gave great encouragement to keep on writing.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I love this one about my experience being a sound engineer in the first Women’s circle red tent in India. It was an amazing experience and hopefully it makes for an OK read – but most importantly I hope it has helped to spread the concept of Red Tents in a country where women’s rights and issues surrounding women are a pressing subject.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Mumbai differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
The biggest challenge living in Mumbai has been learning Hindi. There is a big misconception that everyone speaks and understands English – not true! I have learnt enough to get by – give directions at work and to auto drivers, buy things in shops and make basic conversation – but at lunchtimes at work I couldn’t join in with jokes and chit chat and this was quite isolating. The working week is six days and some of the hours were very long and I didn’t see enough of my daughter, let alone have any time for a social life. I was so busy with work that I didn’t notice how lonely I was.
As far as culture shock goes – I had spent a lot of time in India before as well as travelling and working in other countries so things like the poverty, Indian style toilets, local trains, spicy food etc. that normally affect or shock other tourists I was well adjusted to.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Mumbai? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I can say with confidence that I was fully prepared and I have no regrets about any of my decisions. The only thing I would have made better preparation if I could do it all again is to book a flight that I could have changed the dates – I lost all the money as the Indian visa office gave me hell and it took a couple of months longer to get my employment visa that I expected. The FRRO were utterly horrible to me in the beginning as the guy I was dealing with took particular offence to my lack of husband as did my housing society so in hindsight I would have just lied and said I had one to make my life easier – I find this reality quite sad.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Yes, my experience with Mumbai Public Transport.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Mumbai?
- Don’t underestimate Indian bureaucracy’s ability to mess everything up for you at every opportunity! Expect everything in regards to this to take five times longer than it should!
- Pack citricidal (grapefruit seed extract) – best remedy for ‘Delhi belly’ and don’t drink tap water or even brush your teeth with it – no matter how long you have lived in India and think you have some immunity to bugs and bacteria!
- Break out of the expat bubble. Love India. Experience it. Live it and embrace it. If you try to fight it you are bound to lose!
How is the expat community in Mumbai? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I have no idea about it! I met one expat only, who was kind enough to give me a cot for my baby. If I’d had time maybe we would have become friends but I was so busy working and I lived in an area where there were no foreigners (Kandivali). I have a lot of Indian friends and made a lot more and generally hung out only with them. Maybe I should have made more effort with the expats! InterNations has some good events that I would have loved to have gone to (and now I have a different job maybe I will have the time!) and there are several facebook groups you can join which are a good place to look if you want to meet other expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Mumbai in a single, catchy sentence?
I did Bombay the hard way – and it was worth every second of it!