Expat Voice: A Home in Haryana
Russian model Elena Tuteja talks about her marital home in Haryana, and her career in Mumbai.
Elena Tuteja came under the spotlight when she participated in the Mrs India Earth pageant earlier this year in New Delhi. As a Russian woman married to an Indian man, the journey from participating in the pageant to being crowned as the second runner-up at the event was fraught with questions: How could a Russian woman compete in an Indian pageant?
“I am an Indian Mrs,” Elena, 34, had then clarified her stand about her eligibility to compete in the pageant in an interview with the Diplomat.
Tuteja shuttles between Mumbai, where she works as a model and an actress, and Haryana where her husband and son live.
She tells Little India about her life in India over the last 10 years and how she feels at home in the country:
Moving to India
I was brought up in the Moscow region and the society there is very liberal. My husband and I met in college in Moscow. We became friends and as the song goes “pyaar hua, yeh mat pucho kab hua” (we fell in love, we don’t know when).
After we got married, we moved to Haryana and it wasn’t easy for me to adjust to all the rules and restrictions of the Indian society. The society in Haryana is quite conservative and the place is known as one of the most unsafe states in India. That feeling bothered me. Every woman in Haryana experiences the same problem.
The fact that I had a family in Haryana made it easier for me to survive in a different country. A family helps you adjust, leads you in many ways and supports you when needed.
As I loved Indian culture and Bollywood since childhood, my life here was an adventure. It was difficult and interesting at the same time. I am now fluent in Hindi and can cook a number of Indian delicacies. My favorite dishes are rajma chawal and bhindi ki sabji. I also love kulfi, rasgulla and rasmalai.
Carving a Career
When I started my career as a model and actress two years ago, I understood that it will be not easy for people to accept me since India has a very male-dominated society. My marital status and origin were proving to be an obstacle for my career. Then a friend suggested that I participate in the pageant. I thought it was a great idea and I applied for Mrs India Earth 2017.
The pageant was well organized and I had a wonderful experience. The atmosphere was warm and that made me feel at home.
After I won the crown and the title, it became a bit easier for me to represent myself in the country, although I still face some problems as I am a foreigner. People usually don’t take women from foreign countries seriously here. So, I would like them to change their opinion.
The Many Homes
I have been to a few cities in Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Goa. I spend most of my time in Mumbai. Needless to say it’s my most favorite place in India. My idea of a holiday is by the sea and if you add a happy face of my son playing in the sea or building sand castles, I cannot imagine a better holiday than that.
Mumbai and Goa are the easiest places to live in when it comes to the quality of life and the openness of the society.
I cannot deny that sometimes, I do miss the snow and green breezy summers of Russia. I also miss my parents and home. I love India, but Russia is my motherland and my heart will always belong to the country.
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.