'I absolutely love the food here'

Expat zone

Moving to Bangalore was an easy shift for Katie Mackay from the UK, who came here in September 2013 for a volunteer placement.

She found herself a comfortable paying guest accommodation in Koramangala, made friends at work and outside and even found herself a place in City-based downtempo electronica project ‘The Burning Deck’, for which she plays the trumpet and sings.

   “A number of factors brought me to Bangalore. I studied BA in music at the University Of York (UK) but while studying, worked part-time as a personal assistant supporting an adult with learning disability. I helped him lead an independent life and specifically supported him in organising charity music performances. I loved this work and decided to continue in this area after graduation,” recalls Katie.

Following this, she went on to support other adults and children with learning disability and was also a project worker for a charity called ‘The Children’s Society’.

   “I really enjoy travelling for my work and made two volunteering trips to Malawi, Africa. After that, I had my mind set on another placement overseas but wanted this one to be more relevant to my professional development. I had a number of options, mainly in Asia, but after much thought, I decided to come and work for ‘EnAble India’ in Bangalore. It’s an NGO that supports the employment of people with disabilities,” she informs.

Adjusting to a new city and culture came surprisingly easily to her.

“I come from a town called Guisborough in north-east England. I grew up outside it in a rural area that’s very green with fields, forests, hills and moorland. I had heard that Indian cities can be quite intense so I did have some apprehensions not knowing what to expect. But I feel I settled really quickly into my new life here!” smiles Katie.

“In Malawi, I was living in a village without electricity or running water for
seven months. In Bangalore, I’ve been staying in a ladies’ paying guest accommodation that houses around 30 young women who are mostly students or working. I share a room with three lovely ladies — two from Kerala and one from Goa — and we really have fun. Moreover, all the delicious meals are cooked for us, so it’s a completely different experience to anything I’ve done before,” she adds.

Indian food was an instant hit with Katie, who enjoys the spice quotient unlike most
expatriates. “I absolutely love the food here and don’t miss Western food except when I’m sick. I’m generally not fussy with food and I like spice a lot. I’ve been lucky that the PG aunty is a good cook. I love rasamand sambar and can have them three times a day,” she laughs.

Having studied music and been a part of an agit-swing UK-based band called ‘Reason Breeds Monsters’, she explored the music scene in Bangalore extensively.  “Music has always played a big part in my life. My parents both play brass instruments and I started learning trumpet at the age of seven.

I brought along a lovely trumpet that was gifted to me. I managed to connect with some musicians fairly early in my stay here and had fun performing at the GoMad festival in Ooty and some Bangalore venues. I met Sandeep Madhavan in November at a rehearsal for a band and was invited a few weeks later to collaborate on a few tracks for his new album and solo project ‘The Burning Deck’,” says Katie.

She continues, “The trumpet really fit well with the sound and we felt that it would also work well in a live setup. Since then, we’ve played six shows across Bangalore and one in Goa. Each of these performances has been very special to me — for instance, we performed at Goobe’s Book Republic on Church Street with author Jeet Thayil and then recorded a new song with him based on a poem by Rabindranath Tagore. I personally feel that Bangalore has strong opportunities for gigs because there are a lot of venues here and some really interesting artistes passing through.”

Though she loves the City, her only complaint is that the standard of living here is on the higher side.  “Entry to certain clubs and festivals or even buying a drink can be quite expensive. But what I love is that I can eat a really filling and tasty meal within 100 bucks!” she wraps up with a smile.

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