First of all I would like to rephrase this to ‘working in Chennai’, Tamil Nadu, which is a state within India. There are 28 states in India and 127 languages spoken, each state has its own culture, language, food and personality, so the point I am trying to make is that India is a small word for a large country. The population of Chennai alone is 8 million people and even though I have been working with people from Chennai and living on and off here since 2003, I am only beginning to understand how many layers there are. I like to think of India as an onion, with each layer a sensory overload. There is only so much that a foreigner (as I am known) here can take in initially and as I dare say ‘get used’ to in this layer, for another one lies underneath, with even more surprises to behold.
Many foreign writers have written well about India, but truly this is a country that must be experienced for oneself .It will provoke a reaction that either appeals or does not, there is no in-between. This is a country that does not like to be controlled or forced, perhaps there are just so many people, communities, traditions, religions and so on, but India does like to flow and if you allow yourself to be flexible, armed with bucket loads of patience and a great sense of humour, then you will find the India that people fall in love with.
Along the way brace yourself for many misunderstandings as they are part of the course, due to the fact that English is still the second or third or fourth language, and it is common for people to speak 3 other Indian languages also. People do speak and understand English however it is a unique flavour of the English Language. I now speak two new basic languages Indian-English and Pigeon-Tamil, which are necessary and fun to use in communication during day-to-day life here. The reaction I get from my Tamil is priceless, especially from the Auto-Rickshaw drivers, however when they ask ‘your native place madam?’ and I proudly say Ireland, there is truly no connection I have found yet (except for our Cricketers World Cup 2011, but most have forgotten that now) for the Indian people to our beautiful Island, so they respond Iceland? Holland?, no a small country next to England I say sadly.
My daily one hour journey to work is like a National Geographic programme in reality, which suits me as I have always been an adventurous person who loves travelling, new-cultures and an avid photographer/videographer. So by the time I get to work, I have a head full of images and feelings from what I have just seen and every day is truly an adventure! This of course is true in any place in the world, however I guess the difference with India is that the experiences here are so powerful and colours so vibrant, noise, smells and so on, it is more intense than the quiet sparsely populated island I come from called Ireland. Most days are amazing, but there are some what I have termed ‘India Days’ where the patience runs dry, the misunderstandings high and the answer to all your questions could be the same nod for ‘yes and ‘no or ‘naalaiku’ which means tomorrow, in these cases it’s best to lay low, breathe and find yourself what I call an oasis. There are a few I have as a backup here!
My job here is what is called a ‘bridge’ which means I have an understanding of both cultures I work with. Naturally the stronger would be my own; however when one lives and works in another culture the understanding comes naturally in time, when you make an effort to integrate. This is by no means stating that I am an expert in the Indian culture, but I do feel very comfortable here, with many Indian friends and can now call Chennai my second home. At our office I am one of a team of multi-cultural bridges both from Europe and India, therefore promoting our banner slogan ‘bridging culture, building quality’ in a global software development way.
Manager – Business Development