Indians everywhere

Many Indians live abroad in the midst of an alien culture, hoping to create a better life.

My wife and I have been ensconced in London for the last one month bonding with our 3 year old grandson. He and I have been discussing various important issues in life. He in his pure Brit accent and I in my multi-city Indian style. But with all that, we do share a liking for one item which he must have inherited from my genes: curd rice.

I have come across people of Indian origin living in places far away in the midst of alien culture. It is not just the IT professionals and people who went for their higher studies, but ones from all walks of life. All with just one aim, how to create a better life for themselves and their family.

Tales of Indian labourers being taken to Malaysia, Fiji, South Africa and the Caribbean in the early 20th century are quite well-known but you will find our countrymen in other parts of the world, too.

Last year when my wife and I were in Hong Kong, the doorman at our hotel was a young Sikh from Moga in Punjab. His father-in-law had moved to mainland China 40 years back and wanted a son-in-law from his own community. Now this doorman and his wife work in the same hotel and speak in Punjabi with one another. At home their children speak only Mandarin and wonder why their parents speak in such a ‘difficult’ language.

In Mauritius, we found that some parts of the capital seemed to be transplanted from the villages of Bihar. Most of the staff in our hotel spoke Bhojpuri albeit with a bit of a French accent. Many people from there regularly visit India to trace their roots.

One of my Bangalore golfing friend’s relative ran away from Palghat in the 30s and ended up as a priest at an Indian temple there and married a local girl. So now my friend is on a mission to trace out his overseas relatives.

My colleagues and I were in Shanghai some years ago and were soon struggling with the food. To our dismay the local restaurants had no clue what gobi manchurian was! By accident we traced out a modest Chettinad restaurant. Drinking hot garlic rasam there was like manna from heaven.

In 2011 we had gone on a trip to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk in the UK. My daughter-in-law had made the hotel booking on the internet. It was a pretty well-known one with a typical British name. When we went to register on our arrival we were surprised to find that it was owned by a Punjabi family that ran a popular chain of Chinese restaurants in Delhi. Further, the steward was a Malayali boy who originally came to Britain to study nursing.

One of the interesting offshoots of this migration is the phonetic adaptation of Indian names. So we have Naidoo, Ramgoolam, Coomarasamy, etc. Imagine, if I had been one of those immigrants my name would have been spelt Narine!

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