'I love wearing sari'

'I love wearing sari'

Long before she knew she would come to India, Sandra Leisk had a fascination for this country, thanks to the Bollywood movies she grew up watching. Her mother, a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan, had introduced Sandra to the Bollywood superstar through the movies.

“My mother just loves Amitabh Bachchan and even though she doesn’t understand the language, she has watched many of his films. And does that even to this day,” smiles Sandra.

So when her husband’s job brought the couple and their two sons to the City in 2009, she was transported back to her childhood. “I was really excited to come to India since I had heard so much about the place. Many of my friends had moved here, hence I was hardly apprehensive. I just couldn’t wait to explore the country,” she says.

But after having lived in Egypt, London, Italy, France, Germany among a host of other places, there were certain things that she had to get used to here. “For instance, I was surprised by the sheer number of people here. And like most other expatriates, I found the traffic situation quite chaotic,” she shares.

Remembering her life in Ghana, Sandra says, “It’s so different over there. Since it is a small country, one doesn’t have to worry about the traffic. Even during peak hours, which is between 5 pm and 7 pm, it is manageable.” “But,” she quickly adds, “I love experiencing and accepting each country the way it is.”

Her favourite Indian festival, she says, is ‘Deepavali’ and that’s when she dresses up in the traditional Indian wear. “I love wearing sari,” she adds.

Sandra, who along with her family eats out twice a week, says that her favourite dish is mutton ‘biryani’. “I’ve also learned to make it. My maid helps me out with it. I also enjoy ‘paneer’ and fish dishes. I am particularly fond of the Kerala- style fish curry. But what I have also realised is that vegetarian food here can be tasty,” she says.

She adds, “Sometimes I find the food very spicy. But I do make it a point only to eat healthy food. Junk food is a complete no-no.” She loves to eat at Benjarong, Teppan, Tandoor and the restaurants at ITC Gardenia and Vivanta by Taj while her favourite places for shopping are Commercial Street, Garuda Mall, Phoenix MarketCity to name a few.

“But I miss the restaurants in Ghana, which are open 24/7, and the place itself is so green with a lovely beach,” she recollects.

Ask her if she connects with other expatriates in the City and Sandra says that she has a close circle of friends. Pointing to Irene, she says that they meet up often and sometimes have a meal together. “I have a couple of friends with whom I sometimes go out for dinner. We also meet at parties,” she says, adding, “Even my maids are like my second family.They are so good. We treat them like one of us.”

Sandra, who doesn’t drive here, uses the autorickshaws frequently. “Although I can get a car and a driver, I’d rather use the autos. That way I can be independent. But I feel many auto drivers cheat a lot although there are some good ones also,” she says. However, the violence suffered by women in India bothers her. “As a woman, I’m worried for myself. I prefer to stay at home in the evenings rather than go out alone. There are many men here who act inappropriately and pass lewd comments,” she explains.

Sandra, who speaks Asante, the language spoken in West Africa, French and English, says that she has been able to pick up only a couple of words in Hindi. “I only know ‘namaste’ and ‘nahin’. It’s quite a difficult language to learn,” she says.” “But,” she adds, “My children are picking up Kannada and Tamil. It’s good to see that the children have so many Indian friends.”

Happy about the education system here, Sandra says, “My children go to an international school, where it is very interactive with a number of activities.” Sandra, who enjoys travelling across the country, has visited Mumbai, Coorg, Kabini and is keen to head to Kerala. “Mumbai is such a beautiful city. And I’m really keen to see the beaches of Kerala,” she signs off.

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