Dear Blog,

Long time no see! I’ve not been writing here for quite a while now as I’ve been travelling and working a lot during the past month. However, I’m finally back in London, back to my usual routine and have time to update you.

The first and main event of the past month was my business trip to India. I think that calling it a business trip doesn’t give it justice as it was much more than that. First of all, it was a completely unexpected surprise for me, at a professional level. I’ve always heard of people travelling for work, paid by these huge corporate firms with important names and high revenues. To me though that has always been a distant world, a place that I could not realistically achieve (who am I, after all?), Peter Pan’s land basically. I did travel for work once while I was at uni to help as an interpreter at a fair but that’s really far away from that corporate scenario and my job lasted only for the length of the trip. I’d never imagined that a boss would come to me and ask: Ester, do you want to go to India?

Kerala’s backwaters

That was the first of many unexpected moments because India is definitely not as I imagined it to be. I’ve always been attracted to this country because of all the stories I’ve read and heard. Lots of travellers talk about India as the land of self-discovery, the land where they found the meaning of happiness or a new perspective on life. As a reader, my mind went straight to the novel Shantaram and the descriptions of a very busy city life. That, and the images of Julia Roberts cleaning the tiles of the temple in Eat, Pray, Love. Well, the India I saw was not exactly like that.

To start with, most people are not vegetarian but eat meat, beef included. Kerala may be a dry state but we definitely had drinks at a restaurant in Kochi. We went to clubs in Mumbai that are way better than the ones I’ve been to in Italy. It may have been a poor country, but now the economy is growing at a very high rate and you can see that everywhere: construction sites, brand new shopping centres, tall buildings and a go-to attitude on people’s faces. Men did not stare at me all the time just because I’m pale and the level of hygiene is higher than I expected. I thought I would see a place similar to Madagascar in terms of pollution and lifestyle but I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s not London but it’s not that far away either.

A club in Mumbai and a horse race field below

There is something true though among all the stereotypes we have on India and that’s related to people’s friendliness and happiness. Every person I met smiled at me. With friends and at work, I’m usually the happy one of the flock, smiling and being more optimistic than the average. Well, in India I felt I was in the right place as most people at work were generally in a good mood. It could as well be that for them we were a nice distraction, new people in the office that interrupt their routine with lots of meetings and that follow strange habits (like having a Dosa at lunch and not at breakfast – that was me, by the way).

A pier in Kochi and an art project from Kochi’s Biennale below

They were also very open about their private life, sharing information about their families and their wellbeing. I thought Italian people were all about family bonds but hey, in India they are on a completely different level! From what I gathered, the majority of people lives together with their parents or other family members even after the marriage. They also keep in touch with the extended family as well, including what we would consider distant cousins. It was only in the city of Mumbai where the majority of people we met don’t leave with their parents and that’s because they moved to the city to find better work opportunities, while their families stayed at the local villages. In general, it was very clear that everyone’s wellbeing and productivity was heavily influenced by the family situation, which I found very interesting.

However, the best discovery of all was the level of friendliness and openness people are willing to offer if you let them. The kindness and generosity I experienced in India were unique. Friends of friends that had just met us letting us stay at their place when we had issues with our Airbnb apartment, a girl letting me use her makeup and clothes because we somehow got invited to a horse race and I didn’t have anything posh enough in my luggage for that event: their friendship knows no boundaries. I truly admired that and I think that’s one of the reasons that made this journey so special. Feeling successful in my career and feeling loved without having done anything remarkable. And the rooftop swimming pool at the hotel, of course!

I hope I’ll go back to India soon to discover more and more about this wonderful country. In the meantime, I’ll patiently wait for spring to arrive in the city. Wish you all a wonderful weekend, see you soon!

Hugs

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