Expat Voice: So Similar, Yet So Different
Mauritian national Zulfikar Nayamuth loves Indian food, and the optimism that helps Indians get through rough patches.
Zulfikar Nayamuth moved to India from Mauritius in 2016, so that his daughter Alynah could get acquainted with the culture of the country her mother hails from.
“My wife Fiza, an interior designer, is from Mumbai,” Nayamuth tells Little India. “I met her in Mauritius in 2008 when she was working there, and got married the same year.” Nayamuth, who is a hospitality expert now settled in Mumbai, feels that India has business opportunities worth exploring.
He talks about the hurdles he faced in India, his love for Indian food and hospitality, the various social evils plaguing the country, and more:
Challenges Faced in India
I found it a bit difficult to adjust in India, and language has been a problem. Since many Indians don’t speak English, it becomes difficult to communicate when I take a cab or a rickshaw or go to a shop.
The paperwork that I had to get done for my daughter and myself after we moved here was a task. This is because most of the time, officials don’t understand the difference between an OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) cardholder who has an Indian wife or foreigners who live in India on a work permit.
Also, I have lost count of the number of times I have received calls from sales representatives wanting to sell their products or schemes. I don’t understand where they get my number from.
The culture, religion and the way of living is similar in both countries. Mauritius is a small country, so we look at India like a big brother always ready to help us when in need.
You can never really tell the difference between an Indian and a Mauritian, as they look similar. I faced this first hand when I moved here. People would just start talking to me in Hindi, assuming I was an Indian. I would have to tell them that I do not understand the language and request them to speak in English.
During the festive season, people play music everywhere — throughout the day and even till late at night. There is always some wedding or a puja taking place somewhere in the city. It’s not a common sight in Mauritius as we have specific days and particular areas where it happens.
A 360-Degree Vision
I drive to work every day and the traffic is crazy at all hours except during the night when it’s a little smoother. The roads are full of potholes, further slowing down the traffic and increasing travel time.
It’s difficult to drive here but not impossible if you understand the concept of driving in India and have a 360-degree vision of what is happening on the streets.
I traveled from Navi Mumbai to CST in a local train once. I did not go during the peak hours but it’s something I will not do again. There are no doors and the trains are crowded beyond one’s imagination. I have seen people travelling on top of the trains as well — it’s crazy and unsafe.
Once, I booked flight tickets to Mauritius for my wife, daughter and myself through a reputed travel company. Even after the payment was made I didn’t receive the tickets for five days. I contacted them only to find out that they could not issue tickets for my daughter because her name, apparently, is too long.
I tried to explain to them that we have never faced issues while booking tickets for her earlier. We flew to India from Mauritius when we decided to move here, therefore she’s been on a plane. I found it surprising that a reputed travel company could make such an excuse. They couldn’t fix the problem but, fortunately, refunded my money, which I received after six weeks.
Travelling Across India
I have visited several cities in India and learnt a lot about the country. I love Nasik and have been there several times. I am a wine lover and love going to the Sula Vineyards in Nasik. The atmosphere is great and the place is peaceful and untouched.
I like Pune as well, and I am also fond of visiting museums as I find history quite interesting. Aurangabad is stunning and has an interesting history. Similarly, Jaipur is also an incredible place to visit. I saw snake charmers there and the architecture is amazing. I liked the fact that there were electric rickshaws, which shows that they care for the environment.
Social Evils Plaguing the Country
I have read about farmers committing suicide due to the burden of debts and also about the problem of malnutrition here. It is sad to hear about tons of grains rotting in storage houses while people on the streets die due to hunger.
It is sad to see children begging, working in shops and selling things on the streets. It is not something that I am used to seeing in my country. I know that there are many organizations making an effort to tackle the problem and I hope the situation changes soon.
The gender discrimination here also came as a shock to me. I come from a country that treats both genders equally. They have equal opportunities and freedom to lead their lives the way they want to. I hope there’s more awareness regarding gender equality in India so people understand that men and women should be treated as equals.
For Love of Indian Food
I love the food in India. I have tried Indian food in other countries as well but it is nowhere close to what you get here. The food in Mauritius and India is similar but it’s not as spicy as it is here in India.
I hope people from across the world get to experience the true taste of Indian cuisine. It would be my biggest takeaway from India (besides my wife) if I ever decide to move back to Mauritius.
The hospitality of Indians is amazing. No matter how difficult life is, there is always a smile on their faces. They are always ready to help and are full of positivity. It has given me a lot of strength and taught me how to fight adversities.
India is a big country. I have a long way to go and lots of things left to discover and experience. Living here has made me a better person. I am looking forward to an exciting and fruitful journey in this amazing 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.