Bitten by reality

Expat zone

Bitten by reality

As a sardonic laugh escapes her lips, it swiftly shatters any hasty judgements that are thrown her way.

It doesn’t take long to see that her unassuming and petite framework are nothing but a disguise for a good helping of spunk and gumption.

Not one to take things lying down, Becky Bowers’ biggest give-away are her discerning eyes.

“When I decided to move to Bengaluru, people said things like ‘You’re a woman and you are going to India’. I thought that was kind of everyone!” she says.

Becky moved to the City a year ago, but it isn’t her first time in the country. Born in Sussex, UK she adds, “The first time I came to India was in 2010 — I went to Goa for a 10-day vacation. Then, I found myself in Delhi for a conference in 2014.”

Here to complete her PhD fieldwork, the anthropology student found herself in Bengaluru next and has been exploring the City since.

Her PhD topic is an interesting one that lets her dive into the layered fabrics of Indian society.

 “I’m focussing on the construction industry and women in particular. I’m interested in the level of mobility they are able to experience, living and working in Bengaluru. It’s also an overview of the construction industry — how a middle-class life is somehow structuring the inequality that exists.”

This close proximity to the lower rungs of the City has brought some perspective to her work and life. She mentions that it wasn’t a surprise when she ended up in India.

 “I was always interested in women’s rights. And at the time, a lot of stories had started to come out about India. I wanted to look at how women inhabit a space. Bengaluru inspires so many kinds of visions (the most common one being that of a technopolis) but I was interested in the people who literally build it. India has always held some kind of fascination for me.”

So in return, she asks, “Why not India! No one was surprised when I told them I was heading over here.” Along this journey, Becky has picked up some Kannada.

“I know about 10 Kannada words — ‘banni’, ‘swalpa swalpa’, ‘chennagidira’, ‘howda’, ‘ayyo’, ‘kelsa’ and ‘oota ayitha’. Okay, not even 10! But I use them with autorickshaw and taxi drivers.” Ask her how much Hindi she knows and she’ll quickly respond, “Mein thoda thoda Hindi bol sakti hu.”

She even watched a Hindi movie — ‘NH10’ — without English subtitles. “It wasn’t too bad because there aren’t many dialogues in it.”

 Her other favourite Bollywood movies include, “I thought ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ was great. And I liked ‘Peepli Live’, ‘PK’, ‘Salaam Bombay’ and ‘Chak De! India’. I love Shah Rukh Khan; he’s got the best voice and is so charismatic!” 

Saying that she’s “all about the bread”, she explains, “I love all kinds of breads — ‘naans’, ‘rotis...’ But I’m never going to get it right eating rice with my hands.” She also loves ‘dosas’ and went through an ‘idli’ phase, but is over it now.

“I also like ‘gulab jamuns’ and ‘coconut holige’. And I’m mad about pickle.”
Narrating a funny incident, she says, “I was craving ‘pav bhaji’ one day. I was at the Foreign Regional Registration Office (FRRO) and went to an eatery during lunch time. There, I saw ‘pav bhaji’ on the menu and ordered it. But they gave me ‘papad’ with tomato on it. I told the guy, ‘Yeh pav bhaji nahein hain’ but he wouldn’t believe me. I finally Googled an image of it and showed it to him. But I never got to eat it because I had to go back to the office.” Making her feelings for the FRRO clear, she jokes, “It’s a place where all hope goes to die and drown in a pile of pointless paperwork!”

On home and growing up, Becky elaborates, “I grew up in the country (but I prefer cities now), around many boys so I was a tomboy for a while. I loved playing outside and playing cricket. After a certain age, I always had my head stuck in a book; I was a massive geek and was even in chess club!” Does she miss home? “I don’t miss it much but I do miss the beer, steak and cheese. And the variety of crisps.”   

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