Expat Voice: By Luck, And Design
Just as Vera Rossini was contemplating a move to Brazil after quitting her job in Italy, the designer got an offer to work for a hand embroidery company in Mumbai. “Things don’t always work out the way we expect it, right?,” Rossini, who was planning to settle down with her boyfriend, tells Little India. That was four years ago.
Now, the Russian-Italian creative consultant, 37, lives in the bustling fashion hub of Shahpur Jat in New Delhi, designing India-inspired fabrics and accessories. She never took a single class in the hand embroidery but her love for handicraft prompted her to learn it on her own. Rossini designs necklaces inspired from Indian motifs and has an online platform to promote her products. She is a frequent solo-traveler who enjoys exploring different parts of India. She now hopes to learn more about meditation and yoga, and take it with her wherever she goes next.
Rossini threads together her experiences in India for us:
A Tough Choice
During my days as a young fashion designer in Italy and England, I saw many productions shift to India and China. That is when I started working with Indian suppliers and got engrossed into hand-embroidery.
Even though moving to India was a great opportunity for my career, it took a toll on my personal life. I and my boyfriend had to go separate ways as I could not move to Brazil. I took India as a change. I came here as a single, and am still single.
It took me one interview to get the job, but seven to get a house. I thought the reason no one wanted to give a place to me on rent was because I am a European woman, since they don’t seem to have a great impression in India. But I realized later it wasn’t just because I was European but because I was a “foreigner”.
After settling down in Mumbai, I joined an Italian expat group and made some friends. I feel at home when I meet them. Being in an all-Italian group, we speak the same language, enjoy our meals together and talk about our day-to-day problems, like the fuss of having to call the electrician a hundred times to fix something at home.
Mumbai vs Delhi
After a year in Mumbai, I had to shift to Delhi, which I did not like. I like Mumbai, I love Mumbai. It is my city, a place where I can find the most fascinating buildings. They are well-maintained but give an ancient feel that you would just want to stand and stare at.
I later discovered that Delhi has the largest Italian community in India, and with time I made many friends. I do miss Mumbai sometimes, but the people here are friendly and welcoming. However, Delhi feels like a village instead of a city to me, but that’s because my interest lies in the old and the antique rather than the new and the modern.
Fire in Food
Initially, I only ate vegetarian food like dal, sambhar, idli, and vada-pav. Most of the dishes tasted like fire because of the amount of spices. Even though I have got used to the spicy food now, I still struggle with it sometimes.
I miss Italian preparations like Spaghetti al Ragu, or Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Although these are now available in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, they are extremely expensive.
Since I come from a multi-cultural family, it was easier me to accept the cultural differences in India. My mother is Russian and my father is Italian. So I am used to cultural differences, and learned to appreciate practices like eating food with hands, which may be considered inappropriate in my country.
Being a fashion designer, I love to see how people dress differently, and how each part of the body is considered sensual in different cultures.
Since I live alone, I find it difficult to interact with people because they always seem too busy with their family and friends to be interested in knowing someone from another culture, and are instead just interested in clicking selfies with a “white lady”. I did manage to find a few amazing Indian friends though.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.