Expat Voice: Kiev Connection
Marianna Sharma, a graphic designer from Kiev, Ukraine, moved to Pune after meeting the love of her life.
When Marianna Sharma, a marketing professional from Kiev, Ukraine, first came to India in July 2011 as part of a meditation group, she had no intentions of staying in the country forever. Her heart, however, was already in tune with India since joining the group Sahaj Marg (now known as Heartfulness) in 2009.
Sharma’s fascination began with the practice of mindfulness and progressed into appreciating Indian cultures. She began celebrating Diwali in Ukraine. She rapidly made new friends through the group, many of whom were Indians.
In July 2011, Sharma came to India to participate in the birthday celebrations of the meditation group’s spiritual leader in Tirupur. She was transfixed by the topography and colors of the land. It was also the year she met her husband, Sudhir, after they were introduced by a common friend, a director-photographer from Belarus.
Sharma, who has a master’s degree in marketing from Kiev University, now works with her husband at their brand design consulting firm in Pune.
“When I decided to move to India in late 2011, my parents weren’t sure how safe and comfortable life in this exotic country could be. Yet, they never opposed me, suggesting that if living in India makes me happy, I just should go ahead with it,” she tells Little India.
“Tryst with India has the magical power to evoke all kinds of feelings. Some people feel horrified, encountering that chaos on the streets, while others take it as an adventure. I liked India, but never felt overwhelmed or overexcited,” she adds.
Though the transition was not easy initially, her husband’s support made sure she never felt tempted to rethink or look back.
“After leading a self-sufficient life in Kiev, in India, I suddenly felt like a child, forced to learn, how to cross the road and buy vegetables in the market,” she says.
She recounts her experiences to Little India:
I believe that work is extremely important if you’re a foreigner living in India. Professional pursuit makes you stay socially active and focused, naturally fostering adjustment in the new culture.
While English works in an Indian office, it’s rarely helpful when you shop, travel by rickshaw or try explaining the address to a delivery person. My basic Hindi is enough to watch a Bollywood movie, converse with my mother-in-law or buy things from kiranawala.
Showing that you understand the language is at times more important than knowing it. A few words in Hindi do wonders, especially when someone tries selling you something at a higher price, meant for “foreigners.”
“If you love Indian food, you will love India,” Sudhir said to me when we first met. Preferring vegetarian meals most of the time, I was amazed by the variety of dishes in Indian cuisine. Equipped with spices, pressure cooker, chakla belan and hundreds of YouTube videos, I used to spend evenings trying out recipes. Indian chai and chapati were two things that took me a few months to master. Today, my mother-in-law doesn’t even need to peep in when I cook in her kitchen.
Travels in India
Travel for me and my husband often means business trips with a little bit of leisure. We enjoy holidays by the sea and long drives. Goa is my favorite and most visited place in all these years in India.
Mrs Sharma’s Blog
Starting a blog was a great way for me to connect with other expats in India and abroad. It is also a creative way to connect with old friends from Ukraine, who love reading about my experiences of life in India.
Power of Mundane
I’ve seen the Taj Mahal and palaces of Jaipur. I have eaten golgappa on the street, and met my guru. India has so much to offer, much more than you may be looking for. With time I could see another, invisible side of this country, that reveals itself in mundane, everyday life.
Watching TV serials with my mother-in-law, making chapati for dinner, driving, or rather being stuck in the traffic, seeing peacocks from my window. I love it all, which today makes me feel at home.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
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