Naomi Canton is a British journalist, who started working with Hindustan Times as a special correspondent in 2007. She is now returning to England.
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 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 the limelight. I just came because I liked Bollywood, Brick Lane and Bhangra, 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, as well as interviewing Katrina Kaif and Danny Boyle. But even career-wise, journalists in the UK that had never shown any interest in India, suddenly looked at me with envy and my inbox was soon flooded with emails asking me how to get a job here.
While some hoped to find spirituality, others were unable to cope with life here. I discovered that India is a complex society. It takes time to realise that things work here as perfectly as they do in the West. It’s just done differently.
I was packing up my flat last week, and called the recycling man to collect old newspapers. He peered around my apartment and offered to also take my old clothes, shoes, sauce pans, 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.
My maid, too, took a lot of my items and it felt like such good karma to give them away to her. She was not just a worker but my best friend, and even accompanied me to the doctor when I was ill. These are just two of hundreds of examples of how amazing India can be, if you let her.
Now, that I am returning to England, I’m having a deja vu. Westerners and Indians, alike are suddenly now telling me not to return, and that I should stay in India! But I feel it is the right time for me to go back. The lesson from this is to never follow the masses. Follow your instinct, rather than what others tell you, as following your gut is often when man’s biggest achievements happen.