Monday, September 03, 2007

Mr. Schmidt country and some lessons …

I still remember writing a blog from a small café two days after I reached Hamburg.. all excited and gaga over the trip..And a year went by as quick as...well 365 days!!!.. giving me unforgettable experiences...fulfilling many a dreams and a lot more..

I complete one year of stay abroad today. And a year has taught me some wonderful lessons. (As if am going to learn ;-P)…All the lessons learnt in the eyes of a small town boy who was exploring a new country just like a scaled down version of Vasco de Gama…

Lesson 1

For someone like me who never had to interact with a Caucasian before in life it was a new experience. When I was a kid a white man/woman were a kauthukka vasthu (can’t get the exact English translation for that. I guess it means ‘curio item’)..I used to look in awe at the phoren tourist who came to shed their clothes at our kovalam beach. They were looked at like aliens with a curiosity to touch them to see if their skin is like ours or if they had five fingers in each hand just like us.. Like we always looked down ourselves as a poor hangry people. ‘no money..poor poor..please Saar some Singapore white fair and lovely..very rich fella..’

The whites were a people much above us...The last one year helped me shed this apprehension or stigma I attached to interacting with a Caucasian..If I say in more dramatic cinematic style I ll lift the line from a movie and say, I learnt to talk man to man.
The white skin doesn’t awe me anymore. I understand they are as human as us..and as inhuman as we are.. I might have still carried that baggage of white “the better guy” stigma back home.

P.S. My co-workers are nice folks who happen to appreciate our culture and ideas..I like my work place coz I get to work in a team of Indians..Germans..French..Spaniards..Brits..Russians..Poles and Japanese ..We have Hindus..Jains..Christians..Atheist..Muslims..Bhuddhist and Jews in our team.. Am sure this combo is a real heady mix…

Lesson 2

Had a picture that poverty existed only in Africa and Asia..Learnt that poor people exist throughout the world even in the supposedly affluent west. And sometimes I think the trauma the poor here goes through might be much more agonzing than what the poor back home face coz here they are simply alone. Completely isolated from the society in the midst of prosperous and affluent lifestyles...At least back home the poor have a network of their own...they have people amongst themselves to share their miseries and sorrow. Here the poor are folks who have succumbed to drugs or binge drinking and in the process became social discards…

Lesson 3

Faith is almost non-existent here.. Church is a place where they can get married and they can be packed in neat caskets for the delivery to hell or heaven..wherever...
Otherwise the church isn’t of much relevance…The west now suffers spiritual poverty. This country is now having an atheist population of 40-45%.I have nothing against atheists myself having harbored such sentiments in the past. But the point is atheism has indirectly resulted in an intolerant society where atheists ridicule sentiments of the believers.

Lesson 4

However communication gets better. However advanced be is just not the same as having the friends around you. Technology still doesn’t get better than bytes or pixels.. I have learnt how important is to have friends near you. I have friends out here but they wont ever be like the friends back home..

My close friends are now in different corners of the world. Wondering when we ‘ll get a chance to meet again.. There is nothing like the nostalgia of good old times that can make you crave about home.

Lesson 5

Although the foreign land has all the facilities you can think of… the majestic Alps…the charming castles…Disneyland…stylish cars…trains…it doesn’t stand up to the beauty of our country. We have more people smiling in out part of the world despite the fact that we don’t have reasons enough to smile about… We have more people sharing food from the same plate despite the looming poverty…

Our country is colorful …Almost as if we try the extra bit to literarily make our life colorful...Everything looks like shades of grey out here…

The colors…the tolerance…and the spirit of our people are simply unmatchable…You learn to appreciate how good our country is when you stay outside, even though there are thousand reasons to crib about our own country. How true when Gregory David Roberts said…” In India the heart is the king.”


I got lucky when I was given the thinking blogger award from Mishmash who in her own rights is one of the best foodie bloggers around here having a distintive style of lacing a food blog with anedcotes of little stories back home.Thanks a lot..

I would pass on this award to my obvious choice of fantastic four who might have already got this award and a few others like ..
Shruti..who blogs quite far and in between..but I love reading her philosphical insights about life..Alex who create sparkling gems from no where..and Rupa who writes some thought provoking posts...

Dedicating this song for friends out here..


jac said...

Kudos to your last two or three paragraphs.
Well-done matt

Abhi said...

"no money..poor poor..please Saar some Singapore dollars...." Hahahhhhahhaaaa ROTFLMAO

Your team roxx! Seriously! I thought nowhere we'd get the kinda diversity that our school gave, and here we have a place which improves on that!

"back home the poor have a network of their own"-Do they??

I loved the lesson nos 4 and 5 a lot! I really thank you for providing insights like these, esp since am waiting @ home for my doj doing nothing at all! The post started out as a typical Mathew post, bt then u turned serious @ the end, making it a dramatic ENDING! AKA Bollywood eshtyle!

Usha said...

beautiful post, mathew!
lesson 5: totally rocking n so very true.

ap said...

Really No.5 is so so true....
So what happened to your Paris trip???

J said...

Living abroad does change our perspective of people outside and within our homeland, isn't it?

amna said...

was quite thought-provoking. reading ur post.. i can totally identify with the stigma part of it, having been raised in kerala myself..

congrats on the award :)

silverine said...

Beautiful post!!! Working with expats I have also realized that they are just like us with maybe a little more discipline. They do need to be a little laid back like us and stop taking work so seriously. It seems to be the only religion they follow :) But what I appreciate about them is the trouble they take to learn the local language like Kannada and their respect for all cultures.

Alexis said...

Nice one Mathew and the congratulations on the award.

The exposure with other cultures certainly develops our personality as we get to know more about them and we are able to appreciate their culture and they get an opportunity to know ours.

And the last para is great...

Mishmash ! said...

Mathew, another insightful post from u.Many of us go through the honeymoon period u mentioned in your post, when you land in a foreign land, especially in the western world, and then the real marriage with the "Lesson 5" starts stabilising... The pulling factor...the belongingness feeling....! You concluded in a very Grand Style!!!


Nanditha Prabhu said...

mathew, i was hooked with similar thoughts and had decided to vent it out through a post!...but you have done a wonderful job here.
i have lead a nomadic life traveling and staying in different countries... but i still feel away from home....the only solace is the decision we have taken to go back soon!...
mathew , beautiful post!...and congrats for the award!!!:)

Keshi said...

nice one Matty!


KiKS said...

Chekku chaetta... Hats off for this post... Really thought-provoking one with dollops of humor thrown in between... Really rockin'... Do post this one in our company blog...

ToOothlEss WOndeR! said...

However advanced be is just not the same as having the friends around you.

Ah, how true.
The best thing about this country is that I can wake up late on a Sunday, not brush, and go to the grocery store in my worn out tee,
Be a little too loud, and I dont have to worry about anyone saying - "look at that Indian guy!".

here I dont have to wear my race's reputation on my sleeve. :)

Great post!

Adorable Pancreas said...

Good one, mathew!

starry said...

A very well written post and I have to agree with you that India is king.after all it will always be home no matter where you roam.

Anonymous said...

subtly done :) phir bhi dil hai hindustani.

mathew said...


Well..actually I had more fun in college coz or school was almost working like a patella camp!!

Yeah..I think all who are outside the country with empathise with that point

It is scheduled sometime end of this month or beginning of next ..I hope the winter is not severe there..

Thanks for dropping by..
True as u see more people and places, perspectives definitely change..

Yeah..but I donno whether such stigma�s still exist considering that a good chunk of our people are outside the state..

Ahh..well I think you have met the wrong people..In my place they work for abysmally low working hours..compared to Indians who have a apparent tendency to slog even if it doesn�t give any results� ;-P

Wow..learning kannada..should be some real hardwork..btw u should be coaching them with our language ..right!!;-P

mathew said...

Thanks Alexis..btw expect a volley of comments soon if you don’t write a blog soon.. ;-p
Exactly..It helps in coming out of the cocoon of narrow views and mindsets..

Athe…that realization hits hard..I see Indians here settled for 26-30 years often wondering how much they have really blended with the society out here..wont that belongingness factor still persist…

Well you got lucky to get back home.. :-)
It is hard to get best of both the worlds..Though it is worth visiting the places if you are just traveling around..It becomes a tough question when you face the question of settling down..

Thanks.. :-)

Thanks..yeah will put up there soon.. :-)

@Toothless wonder
You have put it never truly become the citizen of another country ..The country where you are born and brought up still where the heart is…

@Adorable pancreas
Thanks.. :-)

@Starry nights
True..second you in that..


Aparna said...

another wonderful post from u!

liked all the lessons u learnt, especially the 3rd, 4th and 5th.
kudos dude!

Venkatesh A.R. said...

great post again dude..
again, more lessons learnt than those from college syllabus!!! [:D]

amna said...

thank you mathai.. for saying my blog is nallathu :)

srijithunni said...

I beg to differ..!

... that you were lucky when you got thinking blogger award.. You truly do think well.. I still have that stigma..! ( I mean.. inikku innum avar kauthuka vasthukkal thannae

Seriously, in india, we`ve learnt to live.! We`ve learnt to live well.! with harmony, happiness, with humility to accept our faults, with grace to accept our accomplishments..! Truly no place like home..!

Hope you and your friends, get together once again, and give us, another fun post man..!

until then, Have Fun, take Care, God Bless and Keep Blogging.!

With Best Regards,

Confounded-Lady said...

@ Point on Poverty: Thats indeed very true. THe homeless and the neglected are in a very depressing state in Europe as opposed to India or even the U.S. for that matter. I've always thought that the U.S. takes care of *every* single citizen there, like giving thema job even if it means a few bucks an hour. Europe is sad.

@point on the mysterious devotion on our side for the white-skinned: Yes, at the end of the day, nothing like eating your meal at your house, in your garden watching your gardener water the plants. A lot of 'em outside are still sadly racists.

Very enlightening.

Rupinion said...

That was a "smileful" post :). I just wished the list would go on and on but alas!, it stopped at #5 :(.

yet again, a beautiful one!

Alex said...


Getting back to blogging.

Just saw this post. Thanks dude!

PS: Getting settled in Univ of Hyd in MA Economics.

Unknown said...

Wow, what a team that you work with! That truly rocks. And congrats on your award! You really deserve it, nice thoughts, written in a very good style. Its a pleasure reading through your blogs :)