From time to time I’m struck by an overwhelming nostalgia for the years I lived with my daughter in India. I have written 100s of amazingly positive articles about what it was like to live in the country. The articles were 100% true and normally included thoughtful insight into how my own lifestyle was the opposite to what was deemed ‘correct’ in India but that I enjoyed learning about Indian culture.
Turns out that time can be a cruel bitch and it has changed the way I write (and remember) my time in India. Sadly I recall the bad times more vividly now than I do the good. I honestly don’t know why that is. I’m not doing it out of spite, it’s certainly not a conscience decision, and it’s not meant to be disrespectful. It is what it is and I don’t know how to change it. Last year I even penned a piece titled the #1 Thing I Hated About Living In India, an honest account of my experience with sexual assault there and why the treatment of women is the #1 thing I despised.
So this week I thought I’d share some of what I loved most about living in India. I tried to nail down one overarching theme like last year’s piece (that one was on how women are far-too-often treated as property and are certainly not free like men). I’ve been thinking about it for weeks now but what I keep coming back to are the friends I had, lessons I learned, and opportunities I was given.
The Gifts of India
India changed me and I know it changed the life of my daughter – in very positive ways. Friends aside (because my friends were the best part of my time in India), here are the LESSONS and OPPORTUNITIES I am most grateful for during my time in India >>>
Appreciating A Simpler Way Of Life
I had been living in Spain for eight years (12 in total if you count the four years I was there in my early 20s) when I boarded a flight for my new life in Bangalore. In España, I lived in a lovely seaside village just south of Barcelona. I partied hard on the weekends and cared WAY too much about first-world crap. It mattered what labels I wore and I had a very set shoe budget.
From the first night I went out after making friends in Bangalore, I realised that people there didn’t care about my shoes. Everyone looked great – and sure the majority of my new friends were sporting labels – but it didn’t matter to anyone if I wore Prada. The wealthy friends I had even projected a ‘simplicity of being’ that amazed me. Everyone digs into the same kind of food at parties. There was no ‘fancy’ dining at parties no matter who the host was, which I had never seen before. When we’d throw parties in my old life, each host would try to wow their party guests with perfect playlists and ambiance, and posh nibbly bits and canapés played a part in that.
I was never a makeup person but I did start spending less time on my hair and realised that people liked me for just being me. I spent less money on my clothes and shoes because I honestly had no money to spend on it (but that’s for another story) and I realised that I preferred not trying to impress anyone with exterior symbols and it has changed me. Today I am so wildly laid back and casual that my Barcelona self wouldn’t recognise me anymore.
Aside from handbags and vlogging gear, I haven’t bought a ‘label’ in longer than I can remember. And I know that it’s okay and that clothes don’t define me or give me worth … and I have India to thank for that.
Speaking honestly, I know that I unequivocally owe my professional boons to white privilege. I’m not going to try to justify it but please just know that I acknowledge it.
The first opportunity came when my blog AngelasBangalore.com in India started to gain a following and the newspaper DNA offered me a weekly column to post what I wished about my life (I think it was every Thursday). At first it appeared back on page 9, then page 7 … then as my column gained popularity it pushed up to page 2 or 3, which was CRAZY! They had originally (illegally) stolen my photo and blog post from my blog and published it without my permission. I was angry and contacted them … and an alliance was born. Because of the type of visa I was on I couldn’t be paid so I told them what I wanted was my photo added to the bi-line with each column and they agreed. I was the first columnist given a pic in the newspaper week-on-week and it served me well.
Turns out that my blog was something new to India. There were amazing blogs out there but no one else was publishing a steady stream of 5-star hotel and Sunday brunch reviews & videos. It caught the eye of Condé Nast Traveller and they wrote about it in their print magazine. Then I was asked to be an INSIDER for them, which was very cool. I have contributed over the years to them and hope to continue doing so in the years to come. That collaboration has opened up a ton of doors for me.
Touring with Guns N’ Roses
Lastly, in 2012 I was contracted for the Guns N’ Roses Live India Tour. I was hired to handle all of the social media and digital marketing for the band, touring with them across India. My expertise IS in digital communications but back then it was with technology start-ups. I had never worked in the music industry or for a band or celeb so this was a turning point. Back in Spain or California I would NEVER have been chosen because the promoter would have demanded someone with music industry experience. But in India I won the project.
Since then I’ve worked for G.E.M., China’s #1 female recording artist, and a celebrity TV host on Asia’s SyFi Channel. If I hadn’t had the tour experience with GN’R neither of those would have happened.
Final Thoughts on Living in India
I started my first blog the day I moved to India, too. So I owe my blogging and vlogging life to India and this is now my favourite hobby! You’ve also ruined me forever with masala dosas! How is it that not a single Indian restaurant can seem to make a proper masala dosa outside of India????
The cards my daughter and I were dealt in India allowed us to grow as people like nowhere else. Our lives would have been very different had we stayed in Spain.
I wish I only remembered the good bits about my time in India. But that’s not India, is it?
India is a land of contrasts and contradictions … and that continues to be true for me today. I loved AND hated it. Yet I am a better person for the lessons I learned in India.
So thank you, India. You’ve got a helluva long way to go with women’s equality, gay rights, and safety for women but there’s a whole lotta good you do every day. And for that I will be eternally grateful.
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