HYDERABAD: Expats having rude cultural shock on their maiden visit to the country is almost a commonplace. All the reading up on India and its cities particularly Hyderabad, scouring over the Internet, conversations with Indians – nothing prepared Taijrani Rampersaud for the shock that she encountered the moment she landed on Deccani soil – so many people! But after staying in the city for two years during which she completed her masters degree, Taijrani fell so much in love with these people that after completing her course she went back home only to return.
“After returning from Hyderabad I taught graduate programme at university in Guyana for three years. It was last year that I realised that I wanted to come back to India and there was no better place in my mind than Hyderabad,” she says. Last August, Taijrani once again found herself at the portals of University of Hyderabad, this time as a PhD scholar.
“There are a multitude of reasons why I returned to Hyderabad. My subject of interest – development communication – could best be learnt in a developing country rather than the west and then I already knew India and was so much in love with Hyderabad. So it was the obvious choice,” says TJ as she is lovingly called by her friends.
The Indian connect
Being a fourth generation Indian-Hindu, settled in Guyana, Taijrani had some idea about India and its customs. “I knew about Indian festivals – in fact we celebrate Holi and Diwali back home. I even have two priests in the family. So, while I knew about Hinduism, the Indian cultural aspect was new to me,” she shares.
Coming from a liberal family, Taijrani found it a little unsettling that girls here could not move outdoors as freely as they could in her country.
A dancer and photography enthusiast, TJ says she misses breaking out in a jig on the roads as and when she wants. “People would give me weird looks if I did so. I was also appalled that girls could not tease boys here!,” she says and laughs.
TJ however admits that though being a woman and an expat could be a double whammy for others, she was lucky to have found friends who have “adopted” her and a city that is like a home away from home.
Recalling several incidents where she and her friends visiting her from Guyana had to face unpleasant situations in Mumbai, Goa and Jaipur, she says her experience in Hyderabad has so far been the best. An avid traveller and self-proclaimed fiercely independent woman TJ says, “I have travelled extensively in India and have been to almost all cities in the south but it is Hyderabad that I feel is the safest,” and quickly adds, “You also get the best chaat here.”
The city’s diverse culture, its rich heritage and its “amazing people” are what she calls the best things about Hyderabad. And, it is the “crazy auto” drivers that she says she will never forget about the city.
Quiz her on what she misses about her home and pat comes the reply, “fish and plantain chips. I also miss going to sports bar unaccompanied,” she rues.
Having been in the city for nearly three years now, TJ has an advice for those expats soon setting foot in the city. “Come here with zero expectations – don’t have high hopes or even bleak opinion of the city. Hyderbad is vast and diverse. Don’t come with preconceived notions, come here to make your memories,” she says.