Pursuing a journalism course in Chennai without knowing the local language might seem like a tough task, but Masseh Abdullah from Kabul, Afghanistan, has pulled it off with no trouble at all. He says, “Everyone here understands English, I didn’t have to pick up Tamil. I speak to shopkeepers, drivers and other locals in English.” The 24-year-old is a postgraduate diploma student of new media at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. He landed here after his friend in Kabul suggested this college for higher studies. “India is known for its quality education, especially higher education,” he adds.
Having been in India for more than six months now, Abdullah observes that his impression of this country was not close to what it really is. “I knew there was poverty in India. But I had no idea that it was this bad. Even the diversity in India is something I had not foreseen. Two Indias exist here, one is the upper class and the other is the one you see on the streets.” He finds it tough to come to terms with this divide.
Coming from Kabul, this aspiring journo has been exposed to Bollywood. Though not an avid movie-goer, he did watch the recent blockbuster movie, Rockstar.
“The music was amazing. I am hooked to it,” he confesses. If Bollywood showcases one India, Abdullah was exposed to the second India during an educational tour to Vellore as part of his covering deprivation module. “During the trip, I came face to face with virgin nature and greenery. That is something I loved about the trip and India. It is so rustic and beautiful.”
Abdullah admits the Chennai cuisine does not suit his taste buds.
“I mostly eat in the canteen. But on some days I do order pizzas, burgers or butter chicken. What I love most about the food are the sweets and snacks.”
It will take the Afghan a long time to forget the gulab jamuns and gajar halwa. Despite the sweets and natural beauty of India, Abdullah plans to return home when he completes his course.
“I can’t think of living outside my country. One year is the maximum I can spend away. I love my country a lot and would not like to work in India,” says Abdullah.