Millennium Post

Freedom @ 65

Freedom @ 65
Their forefathers came, saw and conquered India. Now, they come, see the opportunities and move bag and baggage, pollution and corruption notwithstanding. Sometimes, like in the case of Darlymple, India is an indulgence they cannot do without.


'No resentment despite shared history'


William Darlymple, Author

I must say it is not a land of opportunity at all at the moment, things are pretty stagnant. And I had not jumped on to the Indian bandwagon, so to say. I came here 25 years ago. Having said that, I must also say that India is a fabulous country to be if you are a writer. It's incredibly complicated, yes. Most of my British contemporaries fluctuate between the limitless ideas it offers and what-to-do kind of situations. But it is a dreamland for intellectuals.

Other thing that surprises me really is that there's no real resentment considering the black moments in our shared history. It's not like Germans in Israel where they had to deal with the past. Very rarely there is resentment, if at all. I think in that sense Indians are very forgiving.

It slightly becomes an issue if you are in a position of authority. You know, when a gora is running something, like in the case of the festival [Jaipur Literature Festival], it becomes a problem slightly. But by and large it has been surprisingly easy to survive here. I could get on with my life quite easily.

As for the literary scene, it was already up and running when I arrived. There were writers like Seth and Rushdie already. Change happened in the sense if the bestsellers sold 6,000 copies before it could sell 30,000, 40,000 or even 50,000 now. The market has become obviously much larger, but it hasn't changed dramatically, say like how Gurgaon changed Delhi. I think the real change in the literary scene came in the '70s, '80s and the '90s. I think we have a disappointing generation of fiction writers: the last 25 novelists to come out of India are very disappointing. But the non-fiction has seen some excellent, very journalistic kind of works, like that of Aman Sethi. Rushdie and Seth remain the best fiction writers to come out of India still.

[If I have to crib], it has to be the climate: Delhi could get horribly muggy in June and July. That I think is more of a challenge. And then there are moments when your Internet is not working, there are power failures... They could be unbelievably frustrating and they seem to happen more often here than elsewhere. But mostly it has been a fantastic place to be, and, besides, I can leave tomorrow – and I would have left – if it gets boring. But India, as you know, is never boring.
 

'Keep an open mind'


Jacqualine Tara Herron, Yoga Instructor

As an expat in India, one has to have an open mind, especially in relation to time frame. The legal issues, weather, importing things are all part of my work. One has to be patient. In India, it is important to understand the virtue of patience. Religion plays an important role here.

I still think Indians look at foreigners as an oddity. In Britain, we have accepted the multicultural society. But in India it is difficult to be white and female. You feel different and people relate to you differently.

Socially, there are people who are warm and open and others are cautious. I have met warm and friendly Delhiites. But it is not the norm. More people are quite wary of you. But if you are here with a partner it would be different. In terms of opportunity, expats bring in more integration of skills and experience along with more international management approach to bring in a different perspective.

There is more growth in the East which is catching up in certain ways. West is going through a dry spell. India is developing a lot. One thing I don't like here is that people honk a lot. It is very rude and impatient and makes you feel insecure. I also don't like to see guards posted outside people's homes and the poverty all around. Would the British rule have been good? I don't know but they definitely did a lot of development work when they were here.
 

'India's never boring'

Caroline Rowe, Entrepreneur

India right now has a lot of opportunities, at least in my industry. It is the up and coming destination. Though I have been living in New Delhi for about four years now, my association with India is more than a decade old as I kept visiting the country on holidays. I came here for writing. It's a land of diversity. You can't get bored here. The country keeps surprising you. I love the culture and the sense of history, having studied history in Oxford. In China, it is more about moving forward and the future. I love that in India you can go to a nightclub and listen to the centuries-old Sufi music and still be considered cool. Or read Tagore and Kabir and wear and sari and be cool.

As an expat, there are always challenges. The key is to look at it positively. I like the fact that I can go to Jaipur over the weekend. It's so exciting. Or when I am unwell, someone's mom will cook khichdi and send it over. In UK, the economic situation is difficult. In China, you need to know the language. The US is expensive.

India is changing. Overall, it is a great place. In India, changes happen quite slowly. In four years, I have seen lesser changes than I have seen in Shanghai which means it is more stable. You don't want to have a bubble that will burst suddenly. In my area of passion – food and hospitality – I have seen a lot of new restaurants opening in the past one-and-a-half-years. From standalones to those serving world cuisines to those serving regional Indian cuisine – people are embracing different cuisines and that is so exciting.
Jemima Raman

Jemima Raman

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