Expat Voice: Enjoy the Moment
India teaches a person to go with the flow, and take life as it comes, says Bengaluru-based Russian consultant Yulia Aslamova.
Yulia Aslamova first visited India in 2012 for a 4-month internship with a travel agency in Jaipur.
“I landed in Delhi only to find out that the person who was supposed to meet me at the airport didn’t hear his alarm and, therefore, wouldn’t be able to pick me up. I was scared to do things alone. I will never forget what I went through to find the bus stop to go to Jaipur, take care of my luggage and then find the place where I was supposed to stay,” the 28-year-old PR consultant tells Little India.
Born in Siberia and brought up in St. Petersburg in Russia, Aslamova eventually moved to Bengaluru in 2014 as a representative of Russian companies that wanted to do business in India. She talks about her stint in Jaipur, life in Bengaluru and more:
At the time, India was an unexplored country for Russians. We were only familiar with Goa.
When I moved to Jaipur, I was amazed to see people wearing traditional clothes (women in saris, etc.) on a daily basis, unlike Russians. I have traveled to other countries as well but I don’t think I have ever seen people follow their traditions and culture so closely.
People here could be working until late in the night but will still get up early to do puja in the morning. I think this is what makes India different from the rest of the world.
Life in Jaipur
I interned as a PR consultant in Jaipur. I helped the company connect and collaborate with travel agencies in Russia. When I moved there, I thought I would meet a lot of Indians but because it was an international internship, I met people from different countries but none from India.
At the time, there were no supermarkets in Jaipur. It was very difficult for me to find non-vegetarian food. Jaipur is mostly vegetarian whereas 95 percent of Russia is non-vegetarian. Also, I came during the winter and it was extremely cold even inside the house. I remember telling my mother that if I die here, it would be because of the cold.
In Russia, we have central heating systems inside our homes, where the temperature does not go below 25° Celsius. In Jaipur, the houses are made of marble, which makes you feel colder during the winter season. My friends would laugh at me saying, “Out of all the things you can complain about, you choose the cold weather.”
Another thing that really got to me was the unnecessary attention I got because I was white and blonde. I would go to office and while on my way, 3-4 people would ask me for pictures almost every day. I was okay with it for the first month but then it really affected me.
The city has some beautiful forts and historical monuments. I don’t think you can find painted elephants anywhere in the world. But it is not easy for a foreigner to live in Jaipur as it’s very traditional and orthodox.
Living in Bengaluru
I moved back to India in 2014 for work. The Russian companies I was working with wanted someone with experience to represent them here and were okay with me staying anywhere in India. So, I did a bit of research and decided on Bengaluru because I had visited the city previously and loved the weather.
Bengaluru is just like any other normal cosmopolitan city. It is a very alive, vibrant, modern and fast. It’s easy to talk to people and make friends here. It is the best city to live in for those wanting to get into the startup industry.
Also, nobody cared about how I looked. Nor did anyone ask me for pictures! In Jaipur, I followed the culture and wore kurtas, etc. In Bengaluru, I didn’t feel the need to do that. Finding non-vegetarian food is also not a problem at all.
The traffic is crazy. There are not many places to walk here as compared to Russia. Both Lalbagh and Cubbon Park are far from my place and if there’s traffic, it takes double the time to reach. When I talk to my brother and tell him that I have to go really far from the house – about 10 km, he feels that it’s nothing because in Russia, travelling 1,000 km is not really a big deal.
‘I Have to Reach Home’
It was a challenge to drive here initially. Every time I got behind the wheel, I thought I would lose all my hair due to stress. I will never forget the first time I drove alone in the city.
I decided to participate in a marathon, which was scheduled to begin at 6 am. My husband refused to get up so early in the morning and drive me to the location. He asked me to go all by myself as I already had a license. So I left at 4:30 am and reached the location. There’s no traffic so early in the morning. I was already extremely nervous about driving alone. Unfortunately, the marathon got delayed by an hour. All I was thinking was that it would take me 30 minutes to run 5 km and by that time traffic would be at its peak. How would I drive back home?
I ran so fast that I won the marathon. I did not even feel tired as my only concern was to finish the marathon and drive back home before peak traffic began. When I finished the marathon, they asked me to wait till the end as I was supposed to get a prize for being the first woman to win it. I just said, “No, no I can’t wait. I am really sorry. This was amazing but I have to reach home.” The organizers were shocked as I didn’t even get myself clicked and just rushed home.
I came home told my husband I won. He asked about my medal and started laughing when I told him that I couldn’t collect it because I had to drive back home before rush hour began.
The Art of Negotiation
I learnt the art of negotiating with shopkeepers while interning in Jaipur. I realized that the quoted price is never final and that I must bargain for a cheaper deal. In Russia, I found it creepy to ask for a discount. Here, I realized that it was abnormal to not ask for one. It’s part of the culture here. Now, I’ve become a pro and can bargain better than my husband.
I also learnt the importance of saving money. We have a lot of government support in Russia, therefore, we do not think much about having a financial back-up plan. But, here, it is necessary to have one in place.
Happy and Content
I realized that happiness does not depend on my income, rather it comes from within me. I learnt to go with the flow, be flexible and not try to control everything.
India taught me to have full faith in God and the Universe and take life as it goes. Don’t be so focused on achieving success that you forget to enjoy the moment.
Staying here has made me a more chilled out and stress-resistant person now. India is my second home. I found my life partner here. My daughter was born here. I’m absolutely content with my life here.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at email@example.com to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.