The Lifestyle Portal is proud to launch a series of international feature stories, where our Writing Program Student, Anusmita Dutta speaks with four different Indian women living across the globe. Presenting to you, the first of our international feature series, where Anusmita speaks with Luxembourg based, Arya Mukherjee who has been living abroad for over a decade. Find out how life’s been treating this mother of two, in this quaint European country. Does she love it? Does living abroad has its challenges and benefits? Read on to find out…
Text by: Anusmita Dutta
Think Europe and you are transported to a Yash Chopra film scene where the stunning landscapes leave a captivating impression on our minds. The butter-smooth roads, the lush greenery, fairy tale style homes carved on the mountains and meadows transport us to dreamland. We then it makes us wonder, how lucky these people are who get to stay in such picturesque places! Well, in reality, we never realise their challenges especially when our fellow Indians have to relocate for further studies, post-marriage or job. Migrating abroad it is said is not as perfect as they look from afar. Is it true? The wives of migrant Indians especially are more at the receiving end of the ‘flip side’ because often, they are the ones who struggle with loneliness, and caring for home and children in unfamiliar territory.
Arya Mukherjee, living it up! Photo credit: Arya Mukherjee
Then we meet someone like Arya Mukherjee, Masters in Mass Communication from the University of Kolkata and a homemaker who has been living away from the country since the last 10 years. Sharing with you our conversation with Arya who smashes all notions that centre around the so-called ‘lonely’ life of an NRI homemaker with her sheer positivity and self-belief.
Arya a mother of two, after spending her initial years of marriage in Florida in the US where she bore two sons, now lives in the cosmopolitan environment in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a small country in Europe and is surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany. The weather is freezing at times, dropping to 4 degree Celsius and one feels bouts of alienation at times; but Arya is not dwelling on it. She is instead totally committed on taking in the best that an advanced country offers her as a parent to bring up her children as independent citizens of the world. Not just that, she has an active social life and her own pursuits, which never allow her moment of dullness. Indeed, Arya lives up to the adage that ‘life is as beautiful as we make it’.
The shift from India
So, was the move abroad post-marriage a smooth-sailing one? Arya, who is originally from Kolkata was working and living alone in Mumbai, shares some fun tidbits about her initial days in Florida. She recalls how the initial days were all about learning and unlearning. Arya says “I remember once at the doctor’s clinic, I wrote on the introduction sheet, “I know three languages – English, Bengali and Hindi. As if the other 2 mattered at all to them!”
The biggest hurdle, however, was in Florida where like many housewives who migrate from India, her movements were severely restricted because she didn’t have a driving licence and public transport like in many places in the US was barely existent.
Arya recalls how she felt she was in ‘house arrest’ for the initial 6 months. Moreover, she was terrified to talk to anyone because she was too scared she wouldn’t understand their accent and vice versa. A feeling of social exclusion was inevitable but that was thankfully temporary. Gradually with time, things started to settle down. Arya started socialising and making friends. Every Thursday, Friday, Saturday either Arya and her husband would visit their friends, or they would drop by.
The balancing act
Generally, it is believed that a sense of emotional void is felt by many people, especially women who stay home when they migrate abroad. This could be because one is far away from their near and dear ones. However, Arya was very practical as she focused on soaking in the new experiences. She was anyways, living alone in Mumbai as a working girl and used to seeing her family only once or twice a year. Even here, annual visits home and the regular phone call made sure that Arya stayed connected to her family. Today, after a decade of living away from India she is so accustomed to life in Europe that she feels that apart from missing her parents and Indian food, everything else is as smooth as it can be.
She and her husband are avid travellers and they make it a point to visit different places in Europe. Moreover, if she misses her family too much there is always the option to book the tickets for India during her kids’ long vacations.
Arya Mukherjee with her family. Photo credit: Arya Mukherjee
Yet, Arya agrees that some common myths about the life of NRI women do exist. The most common is that NRI women are miserable due to lack of domestic help. But according to Arya, hired help is available abroad too. Moreover, in advanced countries, there are myriad options in supermarkets to make any household task a whole lot easier and therefore, it is possible to survive without help as well.
However, it is regarding child-rearing that Arya holds some interesting insights. The common misconception Arya says is that it is tough to manage kids alone. Arya feels she is better off without all the distraction and the pampering that would come her way if she was near her own people. At least, abroad, she is free to raise her children the way she wants. On being asked if it is tough to raise kids alone, she counters, “How come the regular American woman can manage 4/5 kids on her own and we urban Indians are fussing over how to raise 1? Moreover, raising children abroad is as challenging as it would have been in Honolulu or Haldia. Raising children in itself is a challenge and that is another topic. The place according to me doesn’t pose any challenge.”
So what does she think are some advantages of raising children abroad? Arya is candid in sharing her thoughts, “The advantages are manifold and depends on what kind of experience you want your children to have. For one, they get to learn different languages from a young age. Two, being in a very cosmopolitan country like Luxembourg kids get access to other kids from different social backgrounds. They get more worldly which would hopefully help them become respectable and tolerant “citizens of the world” in future. As social harmony and a sense of community are getting bleaker gradually, these kids I feel would be able to revive that someday. Three, they get exposure to diverse cultures and experiences. Four, they get to travel more. Since we are in Europe where many countries are physically very close to one another, the urge to travel is more than what it would have been had we been in India.
Last but not least, as rude as it may sound, we all must admit, kids sure do get a better quality of life with less pollution and a much lesser urge to belong in the rat race to score better marks in schools and colleges.”
Coming to her own career, Arya had left her job to join her husband abroad. She doesn’t miss working as she always wanted to raise a family and be with her children. Her daily routine as such is pretty hectic as she is out the whole day dropping and picking her kids to and from school and their activities.
However, many Indians, especially women who do not have an independent visa of their own find it hard to land a job once they join their husbands. However, Arya feels there are solutions and it is easier to get a job if a woman takes admission at the university for some course because the course can lead to an internship and then a job. This route is adopted by many Indians in both the US and Europe to get an entry into the job market.
Talking about her own life, apart from raising her children, she is very busy with her individual passions and has a busy social life. Says she “ My current hobby is learning a European language. It takes most of my time nowadays so much so that my social life is taking a backseat much to my dismay. Nonetheless, my almost non-existent social life gets alive during Durga puja, Poila Baisakh, New Year’s Eve or a birthday here and there.”
Finally, any tips she would you give to women who plan to move abroad after marriage or work?
“Go for it. Take the plunge. Enjoy it. Assimilate it. But please refrain from giving this swaggering uppity vibe to our dear fellow Indians once you go back.”
That was very honest indeed!
As I wind up our conversation, my heart is filled with love and respect for the lady. A home maker’s life is anything but cakewalk but Arya with her clarity of thoughts and clear-cut goals has made a fulfilling life for herself and her family, in a faraway land.
Please Note: All views and opinions are purely of the interviewee.
Share your story:
If you’re an NRI living in any part of the globe and would like to share your wonderful stories revolving around food, travel and family, we’ll be happy to publish. Send us your original write-ups in MS Word along with 4-5 good pictures to [email protected]
About our writing program student:
Anusmita Dutta works as the Content Head in GetAConnect.in. She started her career in the e-learning industry but moved on to writing in the print and the web medium as well. She is also a Spoken English Tutor and a children’s storyteller.
The Lifestyle Portal Online Writing Program:
Would you like to empower yourself with the simple yet effective tools of writing? Learn to write better with our online writing workshops. Sign up for The Lifestyle Portal Online Writing Program and fine-tune your writing skills with us. Write to us at [email protected] to know more.