'It's been the right move to stay here'

'It's been the right move to stay here'

It isn’t easy to make a new city your home. But for Valeria Duflot, who has been living in Bangalore for the past two-and-a-half years, there were too many possibilities here to make her want to go back to her home in Picardie, France.

When the French expatriate first arrived in India to pursue an MBA internship in biotechnology, she found herself wanting to explore new arenas. “I wanted to go to an English-speaking country with a different set of values and people. India was on the top of my wishlist and I grabbed the opportunity to come here. It was an intense six-month internship where I was working with all the teams of the company and training to be a consultant. 

I even got the job there but the company was bought over and I was frustrated because there was no scope for creativity or innovation and they were mistreating their Indian colleagues,” says Valeria. 

Luckily for her, conversations with the right person led her to discover the vast scope in the field of healthcare, in which her interest lay. “As it turns out, Bangalore is the best place in the world for healthcare. For the last few months, I’ve been organising a community where people who are interested in using technology to make healthcare more accessible can work together. India has communicable diseases, chronic diseases and women and child-related diseases. So if one can tackle all these problems here, they can do it anywhere else in the world,” notes Valeria, who also works at The Humming Tree, Indiranagar. “Humming Tree is my boyfriend Nikhil’s project and I’m a very supportive girlfriend,” she jokes, adding, “I’m trying to build a network, develop events with cultural institutes and getting social entrepreneurs on board.”

With her mother from France and Madagascar and her father from Madagascar, she never experienced a culture shock here. “Bangalore’s a very cosmopolitan city, where you get to meet interesting people doing different things. But I don’t live as an expatriate or do the expatriate brunches or parties,” she says, adding, “There are many similarities between Madagascar and India, like the traffic, pollution, rickshaws and cows. But that’s true of any developing country. The only difference is that instead of stray dogs like you have here, there are chickens on the road there.”

The 26-year-old adds, “What I don’t like here is the lack of open spaces. I love to play sports like basketball and swim but you can’t go to a swimming pool here unless you live in a big complex with a pool or are the member of a swimming club. My problem is that I can’t unwind here and when I need to, I have to leave Bangalore. I also miss certain aspects of home like the food, the culture and my friends. But it’s been the right move to stay here.” 

However, she finds the City extremely unsafe for women. “The main difference is the freedom for women. In France, people are very aggressive in the way they flirt, which is annoying but you don’t feel endangered. Here, men look at you in a scary way. 

For my first six months here, I wore only kurtas out of caution,” she shares, adding that a stranger once touched her hair on an overnight bus ride and that was a horrifying experience. 

Ask her about her experience with Indian food and she replies, “The food here’s good and tasty but the problem is that there is a lot of pesticides in it. Still, I eat Indian food everyday and ‘dal makhani’ is my comfort food. I’m dying to learn how to cook it.”

Her tryst with learning Indian languages hasn’t been too successful either. “In the beginning, I tried to learn Hindi. But when I left to travel for a few months, I forgot everything! But I don’t see language as a barrier because most people speak English. Also, a lot of body language is used here, which makes it easier to communicate,” she says.

Valeria has also explored the independent music scene coming out of India during her stint at The Humming Tree. 

“I’m really surprised because there’s no conservatory or music school here like in France but the quality of music is really good. You have an active scene with people trying to do fantastic things. It’s still a small growing community but people are genuinely supporting each other. I like that because when I think of the Europe music scene, I think of big egos. I was amazed when I saw Bangalore’s trip-hop band ‘Sulk Station’ or ‘The F16’s’ from Chennai. And there’s also Carnatic music, which is really beautiful,” she wraps up. 

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