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My journey from Yamuna to Yarra

It's tough to be independent in a foreign land, feels Dushyant Pratap Singh.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 18:47 IST

Landing on the Changi International Airport at Singapore I thought, Mughal emperor Jahangir could call Kashmir 'Paradise on Earth' only because this airport wasn't constructed then.

And for some odd reason I felt as if my decision of going abroad for further studies wasn't at all incorrect.

Vineet, a pal from my Engineering College days in Agra who had also secured a place at RMIT, said, "I wish I could stay here my entire life."

But, he couldn't. Nevertheless we went on a city tour in the seven-hour break between the flights. And after another eight hours flight, we landed in Melbourne - the city of my dreams!

I had never realised that a week could pass as if it were a single day. Everything was great; I fell in love with the city almost instantly. The roads, the street-cafes, the houses…everything was like a treat for the eyes. And my uni (as they call the universities, here) - simply mind-boggling!

It really felt something else sitting in the lecture theatre, sharing space with people from different countries with various dialects; different not just in physical appearance but in their ideologies too. Some even had a first-hand experience in the industry. I remember I could not concentrate on the lecture for a couple of days - the entire ambience was distractingly awesome.

Truly a marvellous experience!

I felt like calling up Hirdesh, my closest chum who is working in Pune, and giving him a day-to-day analysis of the place. But, I spared his eardrums of the long recitals.

For a month life was absolutely exhilarating, not that it is any less now, but two years ago, when I was a newcomer in this city, I was more of an explorer. There was so much to learn and discover not because I was in Melbourne but since I was independent for the first time in my life.

But, trust me it's tough - to be independent in a foreign land!

When you know mom is not there to prepare you a nice, sumptuous breakfast in the morning; when you know there is no car standing at your driveway; when you know that at the end of each day you have to calculate each cent that you have spent; when every moment you have your sub-conscious mind hitting hard on you to put up to the expectations of your parents, and as if that's not enough, the timely reminders of the loan you have taken for your studies.

Once a group of Indian guys from college decided to go to an Indian restaurant for lunch. Saying that the preparation was below par would be an understatement.

I had never eaten such bland food in life. I mean, not only was it non-spicy but tasteless too. My favourite chholey was prepared in a sea of water, with mere specs of visible chickpeas. The aloo-gobi still worse and the chutney could easily be crowned as 'the worst' in the platter. Disappointed by the main course, we ordered gulab-jamuns for dessert.

Well, if not the taste at least the price made us relish it. Can you imagine eating a gulab-jamun for almost Rs 90?

The only sour part of my tryst with the enthralling life here was the money factor. I couldn't help but convert my spending in Indian rupees. And that would send jitters to my stomach.

Any other NRI reading this would coincide with my thoughts that initially when you land on a distant land you tend to convert each dollar into Indian rupees.

Not just my spending, I used to convert my earning too. I felt proud earning somewhere between $300-500 (around Rs 10,000 to 17,000) a week. But, then the cost of living equals the big bucks!

I am happy I have got rid of this annoying and futile habit now.

The toughest times while living abroad are those of festivals. When you know your family is celebrating Diwali.

When there are fireworks all around your country, when your house is illuminated by umpteen diyas, when there are countless boxes of kaju-barfi and laddoos lying in your kitchen.

When you know all this is there - only you are missing out the joy and festivity.

I remember how awful I felt when I didn't receive rakhi on time, last year. And worse still when I had to tie it myself and could not experience the sheer joy of giving Rinky a present. I so wished I was with her that day.

One thing that I've learnt after coming over to a far away land is that nothing can match the spirit of India.

Life is very different here. People are friendly yet, distant in their manners.

Not at all meaning to imply that Australians are any less amicable or pollyannaish than Indians. Yet, there is something about the warm nature of we Indians that makes us uniquely perfect.

I remember, once Junaid (another Indian guy, who I met at the uni and who happens to be my closest buddy now) and I were buying groceries at Coles department store when, for the first time after our arrival in Melbourne, we saw an Indian lady wearing a sari.

We were absolutely elated to see a lady gracefully draped in a silken burgundy sari. I couldn't resist the temptation to compliment her but, by the time I could reach the outside of the store, she stepped in her car and vroomed off.

My Mom, is one of those typical sari-clad Indian women but little did I ever know that to see a woman in a sari would one day become something that big.

Well, that reminds me that my kurta-pyjamas must have by now become home for the silverfish family. Seriously, I haven't worn them for two years now. Once an Indian friend asked me if I wear kurta-pyjama here, I couldn't help laughing and replied, "I'll be the laughing stock of Melbourne if I wear those."

Strangely enough, I notice that Indians feel intimidated by following their traditions abroad. Though, our so-called 'western' counterparts have no qualms following their customs and habits anywhere across the globe.

Why then do the Indians feel 'odd' to do so? I ask this question though; honestly I too do not have an answer.

Maybe, that's the reason that one yearns for one's homeland more.

(Dushyant Pratap Singh is a student of Masters of Business in Information Technology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Australia.)