Not to be boastful; candidly speaking, I have been blessed with a pleasing personality and an appealing, charming persona. Everyone who encounters me is of the opinion that I can make friends easily and get comfortable in alien surroundings with ease. So; the forgone conclusion is; settling in India or abroad would be a cake walk for me. Now, I agree I am a social person, and also accede to the fact about having a pleasing personality. But I think this is where the similarity ends. I definitely can’t make friends and I absolutely shy away from introducing myself and making acquaintances, idle conversations and frivolous outings are very uncharacteristic for me.

Travelling often, the chance of making friends and keeping in touch was always a tough call. Delhi has been the only place where we have stayed long enough to be able to make friends and live a non -‘vagabondish’ life. Moreover, like I mentioned in my previous article, London never was in my good booksL.

Stopping with the preamble; after the settled and cozy life of 9 years in one place and given my inhibitions and ‘preference to solitude’ nature; I was very skeptical about moving to London for more than one reason, this being the pivotal one. Starting life afresh and making new friends and that too abroad, where I would be the ‘foreigner’ caused butterflies in my stomach.  I am so comfortable being on my own and amidst known faces, making new friends seemed like a stretching job. Thus, I stepped into this foreign land planning to befriend ‘my own’ kind from ‘my country’; the most natural and least stressful solution; the outsider in search of other outsiders.

London is very cosmopolitan; being a developed economy; most of the world flocks here in search of a better life. I acknowledge this with mixed feelings that ‘my own’ are more abroad than they are in their own country.  So, finding a foreigner in this country is easier than finding a local.  Even in a locality which is predominantly non Indian I come across Indians every day. My apprehension of being an outsider was unfounded and inconsequential.  And with time a sinking realization came to me that the feeling of being an outsider came more in the company of these other outsiders than in being with the local- foreigners.  This was my bitter sweet learning.

I begrudged foreigners from the developed countries because I sensed an air (wrongly), a kind of a supercilious attitude and the way they ‘looked down ‘upon us. My prejudice could not have been further away from truth. If anyone chances to board a local transport in London and looks around; the magnanimity of this country is very awe inspiring.  90% of the commuters are expatriates or ‘foreigners’. And the minority group is the people belonging to this country, the original residents of London.  Yet, they are welcoming and open minded, smile and befriend without any trace of prejudice, anger or malice. They are not forthcoming; they do not shirk either. With the owners becoming the outsiders and living amidst foreigners I would have cribbed and complained, managed bare civility. But this was not the case here.

In such a short time and with my minimal social interaction also, a veil has verily lifted off my mind. My own are shifty, uncomfortable and it was totally discouraging even to put on my best smile and befriend them.  This whole fancy of befriending my own soon went out of the window and I ended up befriending with who I could connect with, relate to and have a pleasant conversation with.  This place was large hearted and welcoming the outsiders and I found myself to be very stringent and orthodox, unwilling to be half as open minded as my hosts. Much to my misery most of my own are like me, myopic and clouded.  We have taken over their territory and set up our own shop here. We have not really brought any good from our wondrous homeland; instead we have limited ourselves only to financial prosperity.

The first few months had robbed me off my disarming smile and I lost hope of being happy in this place. The weather was dull and wet, places were cold and wet and people too seemed cold and aloof…. Thankfully the fog in my head has lifted; I don’t feel like a foreigner now and better days have come, spreading sunshine and smiles. It is the people that count not the place and the people are warm and welcoming despite the cold depressing weather. I am still a foreigner in a country which makes me feel very much at home and like a ‘resident’.  London has surprised me in many waysJ