'I wasn't okay being stared at'

'I wasn't okay being stared at'

'I wasn't okay being stared at'

Expatriates love Bangalore for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, salubrious environment, food and people. Gaya Lynne Jenkins, an expat from the USA, shares her experiences here.

Gaya Lynne Jenkins left her home in California, USA and arrived in Bangalore in 2005. Within a year, she had started a 24-hour taxi service for corporate clients called Expat Express Travels, Pvt Ltd. Six years into her business, she has trained her staff well enough to trust them to run the place independently, while she simply signs the cheques.

“When I reached Bangalore, I saw the need for a good taxi service that catered to foreigners who came here wanting the same quality of service and a feeling of safety while riding in the cars. The existing cars were not at all maintained according to international standards. It was difficult for me to find taxis and more so, drivers who could speak English so that I was comfortable in their cars,” says Gaya.

In her business model, which is based on quality control, she believes that a car is a car but the difference is in the driver. All the 52 taxis under her company have drivers who are English speaking, uniformed, licenced, prompt and courteous. They carry mobile phones so they are reachable at any time during service.

“I came here as a baby and in one year, I became a man,” says the 68-year-old, talking about how she learned the tricks of the trade to survive in this country. “In my country, there was too much while here, there was too little. Indians are very wise knowing how to survive and stay in the race. It was challenging at first but soon, we became the number one premium vendor in many of the companies we serve.”

The one difference Gaya notices since her arrival is the increased number of expats who have made the City their home. “When I moved here, it was rare to see a foreigner. And I really wasn’t okay being stared at. These days, one can find a lot of Westerners here,” she says, adding, “I live a very insular existence and treat my office colleagues as my family. What I miss the most being here are my friends back home.”

She quickly adds that she loves the fact that there is a California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) in her neighbourhood that makes this feel just like home.
Gaya was previously married to an American for 27 years and has four

   But she met the love of her life, Padhu, a Bangalorean, in the City almost in an act of destiny. Another faithful companion she values is Baba, her fluffy cat who refuses to sit on anyone’s lap and true to his Indian heritage, only eats fresh kibble, no leftovers.
Gaya loves the festivals of India, the fact that there is a sign of a God on every street (her street itself is called Krishna Temple Road), and most importantly, the pulse of the people.

“In my country, individualism is important. But what you lose in your individualism is the unity of a culture. It is the Indian traditions, rituals and family structure that have held people together for generations,” she says.

When asked if she is genuinely content with the way life has shaped for her, she thinks for a minute, smiles and says, “I’m a happy person and so, I can be happy anywhere. It’s not about the place. The West holds a piece of a dream that’s very dynamic. India’s much slower and living here is the opposite experience. But what I realised was India’s gift to me was to teach me how to be patient.”