Learn How Luvena, an Expat in India, loves calling India her Home now!
“I love meeting people, am very easy to talk to and I love talking, so it was easy. I joined the ALL Ladies League and chaired the Bangalore Chapter and met a lot of awesome women to build community. As a yoga instructor, I meet many people – practitioners, teachers & students who helped build her own personal network & community”, Luvena vocalized.
“I mix and mingle with everyone. My upbringing has been in a cosmopolitan environment – that’s where and how I thrive. I love cafes and tea houses and seeing the bulletin boards of local events and interesting people”, she mentioned when she was introducing herself to BananiVista.
Like most of the expats, even Luvena’s shift from the Middle East to India was no different. Even though she was coming back to her homeland, India, she had to face its challenges. Originally from Mangalore, India, Luvena was born and raised in Kuwait. Her parents were married there and her children would be the 4th generation born and raised in the Middle East until they moved to India. As her husband’s job priorities, Luvena along with her family (3 kids and husband) moved to Bangalore, Karnataka in April 2014.
Luvena, a holistic health practitioner, coach/ counselor and wellness educator currently focusing on yoga anatomy and Ayurveda education to teachers in training. She has been in the Oil and Gas industry for a long span of 15 years, although her main academic background is in medicine & wellness. She is an avid reader, writer and speaker, and above all, a mum of three.
My children were very upset over the move – especially my oldest. He was just about 12 when they moved and, like Luvena herself had never been to India. He also had a whole lot of stereotypes and misnomers that were dissuading him from moving – he thought there was no internet, that animals roamed on the streets, that he would not get any junk food and he thought no one spoke English!! When Luvena learned about his thoughts, she was clueless on their source. But those thoughts scared him so much that at one point he even said he would kill himself if we moved. “It didn’t make things easier when our postal address said, “Kudlu Village”. It took a few months of coaching and discussion to finally make the transition amenable to him. One of the methods was a promise of having a dog – it worked! The younger two didn’t have any issues”, she informed.
Living in India has its own challenges. “My biggest challenge was the lack of openness of the community members at first. It took me one year to get to know people who lived in our gated community. I think the row-houses are largely left by themselves. I eventually made friends (I have an infectious attitude too ) and I think I just coped by smiling and being open. The society in itself is very accepting. I didn’t have to worry about oglers or eve teasing. My community is a safe space for my children”. She suggests areas like Whitefield, Yelahanka and North Bangalore good areas for expats to dwell in, providing the schools and offices to be at a minimum distance.
Driving is something Luvena misses in India. She got her drivers license in India easily, but she doesn’t prefer driving on these roads. “I really miss the freedom of safe driving. Honestly, I wouldn’t like to use public transport (buses) – but I have taken the shuttle to and fro from the airport and it is good. I don’t know within the city as I haven’t used it yet – but the crowded facilities would not make me comfortable. Since I don’t drive, I would ideally take a cab and those are the best. I think owning a car and having a driver, for me, is the safest and most convenient”, Luvena added.
Healthcare is one of the foremost things that one would like to have the best. Being in a foreign country even Luvena found it difficult to choose the perfect hospital. “I think I’m lucky to have access to some brilliant medical facilities as I was faced with a medical crisis 3 days after arriving into the country with no one to help. I had no neighbors to welcome us and our driver was very new. I didn’t know the distance to the hospitals or the kind of facility to go to for my daughter, who had fractured her arm. I took a call and went to Sakra World Hospital and I would pledge my loyalty to them. Their staff, doctors, nurses, facility, and attitude is very helpful and caring. I had a bad experience with Narayana – their staff were callous and couldn’t be bothered. Manipal is very good too”, she quoted.
While talking about the tolerance of the local Indians of foreigners, Luvena mentioned that discrimination might be lower but the usual stereotypes surrounding religions and women and that goes above and beyond Indians and foreigners prevails in the society.
Even setting up the work is no piece of cake. She mentioned that there is a lot of ambiguity around business practices, legalities etc. Word of mouth didn’t always help, but they did open doors to people who were government bodies and policies that were unclear on applicability and the possibility that she would need to speak in Kannada to get the work done. Notarization of endless documents.
Settling in a foreign country with kids is no fun. It was difficult to search a perfect school for the kids. “I didn’t know the country, city or locality. I didn’t even know how reliable Google Maps was and I had absolutely no clue about the school websites and images. We finally took a call and chose a school near the house and it turned out to be a disaster for my oldest who just couldn’t cope. The next year, having known the city and the areas better, I moved him to Oakridge International School, Bangalore, and he has been thriving since. I would suggest the International Schools – Oakridge especially in the younger years, TISB, Greenwood High would be my top choices. I personally didn’t like Inventure as the attitude of the admissions coordinator was quite haughty and unapproachable”.
Luvena suggests that breaking stereotypes and being open to relationships from both ends can make the life of the expats better in India. While she signed off she advised the fellow expats to be open to the environment. “The country and society are changing, so while the transition happens, be practical, be safe”, she added.