It’s been a month since I moved to London from Hyderabad and I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. I still can’t believe I’m living in London. Most of my friends who had been to London before had told me that I would fall in love with it. While it’s too early to tell, I’m beginning to understand why they’d say that. It’s a city that respects and appreciates the past while hurtling towards the future. It’s a city that gives back as much love as it gets. It’s a city where you can’t go a minute without learning something new. But what this city is not, is home. Home is still the lazy metro city Hyderabad where personal space belongs only in a dictionary.
So, why am I in London? I’m here to pursue a Masters degree in Disasters, Adaptation and Development from King’s College London. Five and a half years after getting my bachelors degree in Management I’ve decided to get back to academics. It’s a big shift from what I used to do and I blogged about it earlier this year. A big thank you to my Parents for giving me the space and time (and money) to get to where I am today. Also, thank you for not being like most other Indian parents. Even my international friends think you’ll are cool!
Speaking of stereotypes, one of the things I’m always conscious about is how I represent India. My worst nightmare is that I’ll be known as the weird Indian girl (Okay not my worst nightmare, but you get the point.) I’m glad to have broken the Raj Koothrapali stereotype of Indians for at least some native English speakers. I’m also happy to report that I’ve rarely been asked to repeat myself because the other person couldn’t understand my accent. I’m even happier to report that I’ve introduced people to the real Masala Chai and taught them that ‘Chai Tea’ makes no sense!
The thing about this experience that I’m most thankful for is the set of flatmates I have. I live in a flat with seven people (mostly Postgraduates) representing America, China, UK and India. All of us understand what it means to share a space while also maintaining our personal space and that is what makes our flat warm and friendly. I like to think that this is the reason I’m not homesick yet. What I’m most proud of about my flat is that none of us has made a habit of eating out or ordering take-out! It’s very easy to give in to that at the end of a long busy day but we’ve managed to make a habit of cooking and eating healthy. We have a Vegan in the house too! (For Indians – Meaning of Vegan.) It sucks that she can’t eat most of the food we make, but we keep our eye out for recipes that are vegan so that we can all enjoy a meal together. In turn, she occasionally brings vegan cupcakes, donuts, and what not for us and they’re surprisingly good! Turns out, vegan food can taste good. Beyond my flatmates also, I’ve made some really good friends in the residence. I can already tell which friendships will go beyond this one year at King’s.
Not that I don’t miss home, because I do. Especially since it’s the festival season. But I like having the opportunity to be responsible for myself. Many of you know that I like to be organised and some of you have seen my bedroom at home. The ones who know both of this know that there’s a major mismatch there. I have been shamelessly asked, “Considering how organized you are, why does your room look like this?” But here in London, my bedroom perfectly reflects my sense of organization. I kid you not when I say that I am so good at cleaning and tidying that my Mum should just fire our maids and pay me instead. Except for laundry – that’s something I haven’t gotten a hang of yet.
Coming to my course and college experience, it’s been good so far. Turns out there’s quite a focus on India in this field. I swear I have heard the word ‘India’ more times in my classes in one month than I have this entire year. I’m absolutely fascinated to look at India from an outsider’s perspective. My professor recently said to my Pakistani classmate and me (since we’re working on a group project together) that in this class we are not Pakistanis or Indians…we are scholars and we must look at this subject only as scholars.
Now that I’ve mentioned ‘Pakistan’ I want to spend a couple of minutes on this. I have always been curious about Pakistan. I have always wondered why Indians must see Pakistanis as rivals. After all, we share the same history. You may tow the line of “oh, they’re attacking and killing our soldiers…does that mean nothing to you?” First of all, my father and uncle have been in the Indian Air Force. So we know a thing or two about serving our country. Second of all, our fight is against terrorists, not Pakistani civilians who form the majority of Pakistan. And yes, there’s a difference between the two. I haven’t met one Pakistani so far who has looked at me with disdain or contempt. In fact, I’ve received nothing but warmth from them because there’s somehow a shared sense of brotherhood. And if you strip away this typical narrative of India and Pakistan that has been fanned by political and extremist ambitions (as well as our lack of exposure), you will find that both countries face similar problems such as poverty and gender dynamics. As I write this, I know I’m digging a hole for myself therefore I’m using this tactic of striking through, but I also know that nothing good ever comes from letting fear suppress your instinct of doing the right thing.
That felt good!
Finally, let me address the most frequently asked question – Did I find a boyfriend.
Exhibits 1 – 3:
It’s almost as if I should’ve walked out of Heathrow airport and there should’ve been a guy standing with his arms wide open. I’m not in a Bollywood movie! I’m absolutely amused by this level of interest in my love life! Anyway, did I find a boyfriend? No. Why? BECAUSE IT’S ONLY BEEN A MONTH! Also, because everyone here is younger than me. That’s a story for another time.