For Troy Erstling, India was love at first sight. Each city in the country has given him a story to remember, a friend to keep and an urban malady to cherish. Troy talks about India like how a small child describes a new candy store — with a voice full of love, hope and bubbling curiosity on what to expect next. He initially came here for six months but ended up living quite the dream for two years.
He came from a town in New Jersey, USA, with one aim — to live and work abroad. This took the ‘energy bag’ to Argentina, where he studied multi-disciplinary studies; South Korea, where he worked as an English teacher and now Bengaluru, where he is an entrepreneur and helps people from abroad find work here.
Troy has always found India a place of “high interest, in a weird, serendipitous way”. In contrast to its poverty-stricken image, he imagines Bengaluru as a growing tech-hub, a melting pot of cultures and a land of opportunity. Initially, he was overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds of the City but eventually settled down here. “I love Bengaluru,” he says, without a trace of doubt. From a thriving entrepreneurship culture, an affordable cost of living, the craft beer and microbrewery scene to the amount of weekend getaways, he rattles off the reasons as to why he loves the City.
A traveller at heart, places including the rich beaches of Goa and Kerala, sandy deserts in Rajasthan and traditional terrains of Varanasi have left an imprint on him. He is awestruck by the diversity of the country and has enjoyed the various cuisines too, to his heart’s content. “I love the street food and items like ‘dal makhani’, coconut water, chicken ‘biryani’, ‘ragi dosa’, ‘channa masala’ and ‘naan’. I sometimes cook my own Indian fusion food. I put a fried egg on top of my ‘idli’, a ring of capsicum around and pour ‘sambhar’ on it. It tastes delicious.”
He has also savoured traditional cuisines at a few South Indian weddings. “I love Indian weddings and festivals because they are colourful. People are dressed up in traditional and exquisite clothes,” he adds. Troy also enjoys Bollywood movies and secretly wishes to act in the industry someday!
However, one of his biggest takeaways has been the instant warmth with which Bengalureans embrace others, as opposed to the West, where Troy finds relationships to be transactional. “In the West, most people mainly talk to others if they feel that the latter have something to offer. Here, people just open up and burst into random conversations. I like this and will continue to keep this mentality even after I go back.” But he doesn’t romanticise the City completely and hopes to see a few changes such as traffic-free and garbage-free roads.
Yet he has found a certain anchor here which no other City has been able to provide him. He wants to stay here for a longer period and is wrapped into the City’s arms. “This City gave rise to all my passions. Here, I have had the opportunity to act in plays, take to freestyle rapping and lend my voice for animated films. I’ve done random jobs for fun and it has been a beautiful experience.”
If ever Troy is drawn back home, it will only be because he misses his family (though he is trying to get them here, hoping that his mother will stay in Kerala and enjoy coconut water). He says, “I see a lot of positive changes here which are overshadowed by a few negative aspects and I wish this mentality shifts so that people know India is a great place to be in.” Troy has emerged unscathed from the chaos of a city that has cradled him and has gained wisdom from the City’s silence as well.