Which country, madame?

Originally published in Finnish on 28th December 2017

My third year in India has begun! I never could imagine how quickly time goes by! Recently, I traveled in Goa. When telling about this trip to some of my Finnish friends he submitted: Goa, so typical Indian place! Somehow, that felt a bit strange on my ears. I would never describe that holiday paradise as My India despite the tropical sun, palm trees, cows and dogs lolloping freely on the roads. Goa is not My India, even if I can spot typical Indian auto rickshaws and enjoy Indian style food there. In fact, that statement made me to realize that My India very probably happens to be in Bangalore: the frantic traffic, rush, dry dust hovering over the colourful streets… countless temples, street vendors, oxcarts and motorized vehicles side by side, ongoing construction work all around. Here our family – once so foreigners – have learned to shuttle on our daily routes to office, school, shop, hospital, bank, post, to our hobbies and not least to meet our precious friends.

During these years in Bangalore our network has expanded. We have got many new acquaintances, friends and we are surrounded by nice neighbours. I really hope to keep in touch with many of them also in the future! One thing is very clear: I will never forget how heartily I was taken care here when I desperately needed it. I was seriously hurt in an accident not so long time ago. After being operated in the hospital I still needed to rest. I was weak, walked with underarm crutches for several weeks. During my recovery I was blessed with countless supportive people, their messages and greetings, got even practical help in everyday life. Meals, fruits and delicacies flowed into our house. My pain and concerns definitely became easier to carry when they were shared. Encouraging, caring – so essential parts of the Indian way of life! I really admire that. Even coming from Finland that has one of the best government welfare systems I humbly noted that heartfelt human beings and well-intentioned friend´s support are invaluable.

Here in Bangalore I tend to spend much more time with Indian people than foreigners. Due to that fact, I seldom think that my nationality would be relevant. Deeply inside, I of course carry some values and culture of behaving, speaking, thinking in the Finnish way since my early childhood. “When in Roma, do as the Romans do”, is my motto. That principle makes easier to feel home wherever I am. I even forget that I look so European that I stick out in public. Sometimes I even get surprised when someone who I have never met opens the discussion by asking: “From which country, madame? How do you like India?” Every now and then I just tell laconically, that I am a true Bengalurean. Well, I also tell the truth that my roots are in Finland. Still not so many people in India can even roughly recognize that distant small country with less than six million people, speaking a rare language. Some local people know from the recent news that Finnish education is very advanced. If we have a longer chat, I can describe my native country as a beautiful place with it’s large forests, Baltic sea archipelago and thousands of clean lakes. In fact, Finland is almost like four different countries in one and same package – the conditions, views and weather change substantially during the four seasons. Being proud of my nation I also often mention that we Finns are famous to promote equality and peace, both within our country and internationally.

Hmm, how do I like India? Honestly, that is quite complicated question. When I arrived here for the very first time I could not imagine how deeply I would grow attached to this country. India and this city of Bangalore in all its complexity and occasional chaos is my home, my fireside – with all its diversity and contrasts. Without seeing and knowing the nuances, it is too simple to only focus on evident problems and judge. News that you can read in the Finnish online news too often show India as a dangerous, backward and even primitive corner of the globe. Being too one-eyed and negative makes me feel sad. I have seen in practice so many happy and positive stories that I am sure those clearly outnumber the bad, but they seldom make headline news. There are troubles and challenges in India, too – some of them huge, extremely difficult and slow to solve. Inequality, for example, is a heavy burden to witness. However, people having very low income and even miserable situations can have their happy moments and feel optimistic. Still, I hope we would no more accept that nothing can be done to change the unfair destinies, human beings not having means for the basic living nor real opportunities for improving their life. Deep in my heart I promise to take some actions towards a better and more human world for everyone.