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Dublin Diaries-8

Dublin Diaries-8

Looking beyond…

We will be completing three years in this lovely country, in November, and this country continues to keep me intrigued, revealing interesting new learnings every day.

This nation has endured immense hardships, undergone suffering and is now wanting to match strides with the other developed nations like America and its nearest neighbour, England. I find this admirable when I compare the mindset of this countrymen to the people in my country; and my tug of war with ‘Desh-bhakti’ commences. I never got the feeling of being an immigrant in this country. Unlike other immigrants my husband does not believe in living ‘amongst their own kind’. Conclusively, I live in a predominantly Irish locale, a very touristy part of the city. Yet, I don’t feel quaint or unwelcome or feel the prying distrustful eyes on me (like almost all immigrants feel globally). America has rebounded from the first Afro- American President rule, to building walls on the Mexican Border and making the immigration rules inordinately stringent. The developed world in a way is closing its doors on the rest of world, salvage its depleting resources, and revive their culture (especially the British). Don’t know much about the Americans, except that, I feel they cried ‘freedom’ too long and too loud. The meaning of freedom has been taken to extremes and appears like ‘individual anarchy’ today (to me). Every state, member of the house is demanding freedom, from what and who, they are confused, clueless and thus inconclusive.

Immigrants world over are now made to feel unwelcome; uncomfortable and apprehensive to say the least.  We watch over our shoulder, and wait for the bomb to drop. We don’t know when we may be asked to leave, when our papers might be rejected, when our continuance may not come through, it is all uncertain today. The world has not just shrunk in size, the inhabitants are forced to mark and guard their territory ferociously.  Yet, taking the citizenship of a developed country continues to lure the people of developing nations. Nothing seems to deter us, we still vie for foreign postings and a chance to make the first flight out of our own, abysmally failing country is more than welcome.  Thus, I find it doubly endearing that Ireland has not only kept its doors open to the immigrants, the Irish make them feel at home.

The Irish Times: “Last Sunday, on the morning of his 36th birthday, Leo Varadkar posed on the steps of the RTÉ Radio Centre, a bottle of water in hand, deep, tired circles under his eyes and a smile on his face. The deed was done. “I am a gay man . . . Looking back now, I always knew, but I didn’t know in my own mind really until maybe a year or two ago. I’m not sure why that is or was, but that’s just the way it is.”

The above – mentioned person is an Irish – Indian, the new leader of Ireland. The father is from Mumbai and mother is an Irish lady. Leo is their only son; they have 3 daughters, born and brought up in Dublin, Ireland. He first came to the limelight because of his honesty declared his personal preferences.  Ireland is still a very conservative, catholic dominated country; accepting a gay person is a huge step, moreover accepting a gay half Indian -half Irish person to be nominated for the most prominent leadership post in the country is a big change.  In times when the rest of world seems to be pulling the curtains over immigrants and trying to reclaim their lost indigenous status, Ireland willing to accept a gay, half Indian – Half Irish person to lead their country comes as a pleasant surprise, and reveals a very magnanimous side of this nation, which truly wants to see beyond religion, race, colour, a one world, unified brethren.

Despite being forced to acknowledge and intensely dislike the many faults my country has, I always have been a hardcore Indian. Travel the world, but the final resting place is home, and home is India.

That was the mindset with which I have lived all these years. So, coming to Ireland was also temporary for me, I always intended to go back home. We have lived two and half years here, and we can now apply for a long term stay permit, if we want to. And the truth I acknowledge to myself is, ‘I am open to the idea. I can spend the rest of my life in this country’. This is one of the few countries in the world which has made me feel like I can belong here, giving meaning to the phrase, ’home is where the heart is’. To be honest, my own country is plagued by interstate war. This country has won my heart, it does have its wars, of religion (catholic and protestants is a big issue here), women empowerment, problems of the youth are also on the rise. Yet, it is bold enough to face them head on, pick a young leader, a leader who dares to defy, does not fit the accepted nomenclature. But, they stand as one, for the country as a whole and not indulge in inter-county wars, bicker amongst themselves. They are trying to create a new blend of tradition and values which can be understood and imbibed by the present generation. Whereas in my own country, interstate wars are commonplace today, the prosperity of one state waves a green flag in the neighbouring state!

Ireland and India have more in common than I cared to acknowledge. I feel sad that we (our countrymen) have moved a step backward and are trying to break up our own country. No outsider wants to come home, we are ready to leave home, and to top it all what is left of our nation, we are very well disintegrating it. On the other hand, this country has moved forward, overcome its own limitations, fears and inhibitions and continues to retain its simplicity, see beyond the physical boundaries and make everyone feel one, belonged. A thing or more to learn form this thriving country.

Dublin Diaries :  Videsi – Desi

Dublin Diaries : Videsi – Desi

Finally about Dubiln! That entire prologue was imperative just so you all know my state of mind! How this mind and heart tug war has continued to create havoc with its perpetual state of decision and indecision.

Here goes, no more dilly-dallying. We (my daughter and I) were not particularly eager to make the shift from London to Dublin. We had come to London with the mindset of staying for a year at least. Barely 3 months down the line and my husband was getting fidgety yet again!

My daughter had just settled in her new school, made a few friends and started to get some recognition and rewards. Secondly, after a lot of gripe, grumbling and cold –war (with better half of course) she and I had adjusted to the London weather. We had rather painstakingly familiarised ourselves with the bus routes, tube and DLR services and were pretty much independent now. We had done a major share of the sightseeing on our own with the able guidance of Google Maps. So, this big shift was again too soon and much unasked for. Whoever we chanced to ask and get some information on Dublin, we used to get a very standard response, ‘Wetter and windier in Dublin! Buy an extra raincoat and umbrella love!’ That itself was so depressing for us.

We enquired about local transport (the biggest plus point that we had ticked off in London), they said, ‘Dublin is a small place darling! Having a car is better!’ What would we do with a car! I do not drive and my husband is barely in town to chaperon us around!

So, we were basically going from a wet, cold, dull, unsmiling place to a wetter, colder, duller and thus concluded a definitely ‘sad’ place!  Why in the world did my husband make such decisions (yet to figure that one out)?

Anyway, two ‘grumpy grumblers’ and one ‘cheerful under duress’; we boarded the flight to Dublin.  It was very cold, and needless to say, raining cats and dogs when we landed. Every prophecy seemed to be coming true! With a sinking feeling and a glacial look at my husband, I hugged the coat tighter and braced myself to step out of the airport; to face the cold-wet-windy ‘new abode’ of ours.

Surprisingly, there is absolutely no similarity between the weather and people of this extraordinary place! The first person we spoke to for our rental car was welcoming, jovial and in sunny spirits! He was not just being courteous or polite, he was definitely very friendly, eager to help and interested in our wellbeing! He was totally untouched and in contrast to the cold, wet and windy weather! His disposition was warm, sunny and very soothing to my frayed nerves!

Ah! Maybe it was because he was in such a line of work; if he is not well behaved he won’t get customers! (My cold, sneaky and suspicious thought process!). I should not jump with joy, not yet.

The hotel staff was the same; happy, cheerful, smiling and ever ready to help. My thinking-, “Even they are in such a line of business! Etiquette is their bread and butter!”  Okay, so still no need to jump with joy! Real Dublin and its people HAVE to match the weather! How can they be so unaffected and unfazed and stark opposite; defying all odds, logic and reasoning? I need to see more of this place and meet more people before making any conclusions and forming a definite opinion.

We went for our GNIP card the next day, same story. Our taxi fellow was most boisterous, helpful and genuine.  We went house hunting, apart for one real estate agent (he was not cold or stiff, he was the typical ‘sales agent’ formal and to the point) the rest of them were like family; sweet, unassuming and gentle.  I was never made to feel out of place. They all seemed interested in my opinion and had time to chit-chat; no hurry whatsoever.  This was all strange and stranger by the day!

The last straw came on my first day of walking. In London ( I apologize, but I must make this comparison) we walked miles and miles ( my daughter and I, and we had fun too) but not a single time has anyone even stopped us to ask for directions, much less to smile or give a cursory nod even.  Here, I barely reached the main gate and someone passed me by with a broad smile and, ‘Hello, How are you? Lovely weather today! ’

I literally turned back to see if someone else she knew, was behind me. She couldn’t possibly be talking to me! But, she was talking to me, smiling so beautifully.  I cheerfully greeted her and said, “Hello! Yes, beautiful day!” and we parted ways.

I went further down and some other total stranger pleasantly greeted me and moved on. By the time I returned home my jaw was stretched and hurting with the amount of smiling I had done in the last one hour!  This had not happened even in India; forget London! For a while I forgot that I was the ‘videshi’ here. I was at home.

It is cold, it is damp, it is cloudy, there is no sunshine for a whole week at times; it gives full room for everyone to walk around with a long, gloomy face, with nothing to look forward to. Yet people here are happy, in competition with no one, very content with life.  Everyone is warm, welcoming, uninhibited and open. The air here is filled with inherent joy or the attitude to seek and spread happiness. The people stole my heart and I feel at home!

I know I am a’ Videsi’ yet my heart feels very ‘Desi’ here. This place has taught me many things. I discovered that Ireland and India have a lot in common. But all that is my forthcoming articles. Please continue to read, ‘Dublin Diaries’

London Journal

London Journal

My London days have just begun and so bear with me, readers, all my writings will now be the hues of London. To be candid, I came here with many prejudices and misgivings. England had ruled my country for 200 years, looted, plundered and left it with a begging bowl. Today we are a third world nation and London is the land of developed rich. Thus, England never featured in my good books and I have a very cynical view of anyone who settles here. Probably why God decided to send me here, to be able to wash away all this idiocy and be realistic, live in the present and enjoy what is, rather broods about what was.

I settled in with great enthusiasm and gusto, new country and living up to his reputation my husband chose a very beautiful locality to reside. We are very close to The Thames River and the Greenwich Meridian, the 0 longitude – Latitude line is a place we pass by everyday!  This is very historically rich and every road has a story to tell kind of a place. And, lucky for us, we could come in the summer months, where the weather is at its best behavior.  The first month flew by speedily. My daughter and I were at our adventurous best and managed to visit the important landmarks. We downloaded the app for bus routes and found our way.

This sightseeing month we did manage exemplarily well because we had the app on us. The timings of the bus, the directions, the next stop, route everything is marked and comes up immediately on this app ‘City Mapper’. All we used to do was type the place we had picked for the day and press ‘search’. In a flash, viola! All the options come up with  beginning with how long it takes to walk, then the bus- train routes available, then in case we wish to hire a cab what would that cost us.  A rain safe route also is given and that was our biggest thrill; discovering this ‘city mapper’.  This is the fun of a developed country.  Within a month though we had exhausted most of the routes and the city mapper has worn its charm. This is a vice of a developed country! Boredom sets in even before the enthusiasm can bid adieu properly.

We now knew which bus to board, where to alight and what time the next bus came and so on and so forth.  So, we had shifted to our next interesting task on hand, observing the other passengers.  A very interesting observation was: ‘people here rarely smile’. Most of the faces look hassled or brooding.  Everyone had their noses buried into a book or the damn phone. Everyone had earphones plugged in as if it was a part of the ear itself.  Phone and earphones are ubiquitous and people talking to each other are like the appearance of ‘Hailey’s comet’! Babies had the pacifier stuck into their mouth; so the most crowded bus also is usually eerily silent. So, apart for an occasional ‘sorry’ (when someone is asked to make way) and ‘thank you’ (when someone vacates a sit for an elderly person) our 50 minute bus ride was in absolute silence and stiff boredom.  “Nobody looks at anybody anymore, even if they do; they have suspicion written all over their faces.” (This was a co –passenger mumbling to himself; I was totally in agreement with his disgruntled mumbling)

 

In India, asking for directions and making friends on a journey is like second nature to everyone. By the time we left our house and reached the destination we would have made friends with the taxi driver, the security guard, and asked directions after every 5-7 minutes and made friends with all of them too. I am not that social a person to begin with and I definitely do not ask every second person for directions either. But this sharp contrast of totally relying on the phones and never ever asking anyone for help had me stumped. I spontaneously would look up and smile or try to strike a simple conversation and the response is very akin to London weather; cold and windy (not forthcoming to say the least). They have people from all over the world and maybe that makes them very hesitant too, the lack of awareness of culture and rules of the place is a handicap. And when the technology is so advanced and omniscient they may wonder why this harried looking silly – smiling woman is trying to chat up with them. What could they possibly know which the phone in my hand could not answer?  Funnily, the bus drivers also are strictly aware of their routes and their stops only, ask them about any other route or if this bus is close to some area, they look blank and clueless.

Now, my present test is, by the time head back to India, will this place rob me off my smile or will I succeed in making a few friends and pass the smile on. Will keep you all posted as it goes; latest is I am kind of blending with the place or adapting to London ways. My daughter has earphones glued to her ears and I have started to read on the bus. Let’s see when the weather changes and I can dazzle this place with my sunny smile. Wish me luck.

Disclaimer: The picture is a download! but I have many answers for that question:)