I arrived in India in September of 2015. In a reversal from the past, where one would leave India behind as a memory and look out into the world, I was returning to a country 40 years after my father had left. I am probably the unlikeliest person to move to Delhi- America born and raised, single woman, under 30, with no close friends or family in the city- but there was something calling me to India. Something intangible that I couldn’t find before when I was living in Manhattan.
I had always come to India with my family when I was younger. These grandiose trips across the seas to reacquaint with relatives that one would squint to recognise after years passed.
I found myself enthralled to lean out over the balcony during those days.
I’d listen to the birds squabble from trees with names I had never heard of, see the local dogs nap on cars, watch the people pass by, strain to hear about their lives and where they were going. But just like everything, the trips would come to an end. I would pack up my suitcase and return to the din of the American suburbs, with their stoic pine trees, and where only the slight rustle of leaves falling could be heard.
And I would think back on being in India, yearn to be part of the energy and capturing the potential the people and country had and still have.
Fast forward, after receiving a B.A. in International Politics from New York University, I found myself lured into a finance job in New York City that provided me with quite a comfortable bank account. Day after day, I would go to my desk with my suit on and stare into the abyss of the cubicle. Clock out at 5pm, gym for an hour, quiet dinner in my vast 1 bedroom apartment on 26th street. Netflix. Sleep. For 5 years. I was deep within a system that was trying to tell me that the big apartment, the (I will still admit) fabulous wardrobe, and inclusive vacations are all that you should ever want. Yet the voice at the back of my mind knew that getting more is an insatiable thirst, it can never be satisfied.
I desired a larger sense of fulfillment out of what I wanted from my own life. Wasn’t there something I could give as well?
After some soul searching in those years, my frame of mind began to change. Instead of what I can get out of a job, I began to look at how I could contribute to something greater than myself. I made the decision to leave my job and pursue a Master’s degree in Globalisation and Development, with a focus on India. As I gained a greater understanding of the rooted complexities, I began to think of how I could apply my skills to create the world that I wanted to see. I arrived on the shores of India with the intent that, with my education and experience, I could play a part in the next phase of growth in India.
Not an India that is lagging behind, but one that is leaping to the front.
Like any country in the world, there are challenges and there always will be. Often I’ve found that people are more likely to talk about the challenges of being here rather than the benefits.
How I see it is that India is not only a hotbed of many of the world’s challenges, but more importantly, of its solutions.
I have been inspired and my hope resolved when meeting entrepreneurs, teachers, innovators, friends and citizens who are all consciously working towards making the India that they want to see. It is not an ideal of the past that we are all working towards, nor a particular dogma, but armed with a fervour that the future can be better than the present.
I didn’t want to sit back from miles away and wax poetic on existing issues, but actually be in India to find the answers- even if they were complex.
I’m here because there are challenges, and the best way to face them is to contribute to their solutions. And in this space, we all have something we can give.
There’s not a day that I regret moving here. At times I may feel a little depleted, but that is when I wander over to my balcony, and look out as different lives pass below, hear the birds continue their squabble, and know that this is now home.