From darkness to light

From darkness to light

Expat zone

From darkness to light

The first time he came to India, nearly 10 years ago, he was a tourist. On his second visit, two years later, he merged into the City and now, Sal Yusuf doesn’t appreciate being called a ‘tourist’ at all. The Londoner, who has Turkish roots, says that although he is from the West by blood, his philosophy mirrors the East strongly.

“I came here because I was sick and tired of living in the UK, and making ends meet as a teacher. Instead, I thought I’d come to India and fulfill all the dreams I didn’t in London.” Ask him what these ‘dreams’ are, and he quickly says, “First, I wanted to try stand-up comedy. Second, I wanted to explore acting. And third, I wanted to pursue my talent as a voice artiste.” Now a successful comedian, actor and voice artiste, he adds, “I have had it tough; I’ve lived a life where I didn’t know where my next job would be coming from. But I’ve also learnt more living in this country the past eight years than I did in London my entire lifetime. Here, I had to struggle to stand on my own two feet.”

Talking about London, he elaborates, “People paint a beautiful picture of London but it is actually miserable and grey everyday. Even in summer! When I used to go to school, I’d wake up and it would be dark. In between, there would be some light but when I get home, it’d be dark again. It’s really depressing and it does effect people. Bengaluru has the best weather in India!”

Although he attempts to converse in Kannada, he only has a limited vocabulary that includes phrases like ‘Yennappa’, ‘Ai, barolai’ and ‘Eshtu aayithu’. But this is more than sufficient as, “I’ve been stopped by traffic cops who speak to me in Hindi. I reply back saying ‘Sir, Hindi baradilla, Kannada baradilla’, and they start laughing and let me go. They appreciate that a foreigner has made the effort to learn something.”
Sal is also clear when he says that he doesn’t want to be called an expatriate. “I’m an economic refugee or immigrant.” Spotting the shoddy attempt to cover up a terrible colonial hangover, he says, “A major downside to staying here is that India is still badly exploited.”  

But this is the place that gave him the opportunity to fulfill his dreams, so he can’t help but brag a little. “About five years back, I went scouting to see if there are any stand-up comedians in the City and I found that there were none. That’s when I got together with three more comedians and began performing. I can now boast that I was one of the first stand-up comedians in Bengaluru.” These days, he frequents stages and televisions, appearing in advertisement and Malayalam movies.

To add to his Bengaluru identity, he frequents the City’s old eateries, like CTR and Brahmin’s Cafe. “I know all the good ‘dosa’ joints, including A2B. The breakfast here is good, and I wouldn’t like ‘idli’ and ‘vada’ if it weren’t for Chamarajpet.” But his favourite Indian cuisines are Malayali and Goan. “If I were on death row for some horrible crime, the last meal I’d want is ‘kodampuli fish curry’. I also love Goan pork sausages and Coorgi ‘bhuna’. Actually, I love most things with tamarind in them, and with pickle. I could eat ‘aloo paratha’ with curd and pickle any time,” he says. He doesn’t forget to mention his liking for Andhra chilli chicken.
Sal doesn’t fail to notice
the City’s rapid development either. “It has developed quickly, and the change is for the better and worse. To see the way areas like MG Road and Banaswadi have developed is interesting.”

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