'I know all the roads here'

'I know all the roads here'

Claire Rao, a French national, has adapted to life in India so well that it’s hard to believe that she is an expat. Settled in Malleswaram, Claire says that she cannot imagine living anywhere else. Claire moved to the City in 2006 along with her husband Sanjeev Rao, an entrepreneur. In a tete-a-tete with Metrolife, Claire shares her experiences in Bangalore. 

“I first came to Bangalore in 2001 and then returned in 2006. My first impression of the City was that it is lovely with a lot of greenery and offered a good quality of life. Of course, when I came back in 2006, there were a lot of changes,” she says. 

Nonetheless, she wanted her two children, Manou and Leela, to experience and learn the Indian culture. “People here are very welcoming. I never felt I wasdifferent,” says Claire. 

Ask her if she connects with the French community in the City and she says that she doesn’t. “I don’t feel the need to connect with the French community here. I am not here for that. Anyway, it is difficult to make friends since they are a floating population,” she explains, adding that the area they live in has very few foreigners.

“I speak to the children in French and once a year, we go to France during the holidays, which keeps them exposed to the country,” she adds.

Claire’s food habits are typically Indian and she likes vegetarian homemade food.

“I was used to Indian food even before coming here. I prefer homemade vegetarian Konkani food, which is very healthy and suits the climate here,” she says.

Claire, who stays close to temples and market places, admits that she loves the neighbourhood. “My daughter loves going to temples, markets and parks. Even when we have visitors, we take them to a temple close by,” she says.

Like most expats, she is critical about Bangalore’s bad  traffic situation and waste management. “There is lack of urban planning and infrastructure. The City has expanded too quickly in the last 15 years and the infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with the growth,” she notes. “Even though there are a lot of traffic issues, I feel that the traffic police is doing a good job,” she adds.

Claire, who is comfortable driving around Bangalore, says that she still prefers cycling in the area. “I avoid using the car for short distances. However, I love driving here,” she says.

Although many expats in particular complain about troublesome autorickshaw drivers, Claire says that she never had a problem with them. “I know all the roads here. So, it has never been an issue,” she declares. 

Claire has been running an NGO called Nakshatra along with two others for the last four years. Through this they hope to support a school in Benson Town. She has been making a conscious effort to bring about significant changes in the City. 

She is also part of a group called ‘We Care for Malleswaram’, which raises awareness on the importance of solid-waste management. “Our group meets once in a week, generally during the weekends. When segregation of waste was made compulsory last year, people were motivated. But later, they lost interest. If you aren’t behind people, the work never gets done,” rues Claire. 

She has travelled to Hampi, Kerala, Goa, Ooty, Agra, Jaipur and Gujarat. 

“I found Gujarat to be a beautiful place and my experience there was just unique. It was good to see different kinds of craftsmen at work,” she recalls. 

Claire, who used to teach conversational French at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore for a while, says that at some point, she decided that she had to set aside French to concentrate on local languages. She is learning Kannada and can follow Konkani.  Ask her if there were adjustment issues and she says that it is important to make an effort. “It depends on one’s mindset when they come to a new country,” she feels. 

“The system of education is good if you can afford it. At the school my kids attend, there is a balanced system which is not competitive,” she adds. 

While Manou, a fourth grade student of Mallya Aditi International School, loves going to Lalbagh, Leela, who is in second grade, enjoys visiting the markets and temples. Manou also enjoys playing the guitar, which often takes the family to BFlat and Hard Rock Cafe. Otherwise, they visit Cubbon Park and Century Club. VI

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