Lessons from Living Abroad

I am a big believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason, that there is method in madness and we are always being driven toward our true destiny. I wish that I could say that I believed these things due to being profoundly wise or spiritual, but in reality these notions are the hope that we cling to that will mean anything we suffer, endure or overcome is not in vain and is not endless. Because of my belief in these notions, I do try to be reflective and introspective and have deeper appreciation for the path I have walked in my life.
I definitely do not possess conventional education, or even conventional experiences and at times I feel like for someone my age I have achieved nothing. At other times however, I count my blessings and acknowledge my unconventional experiences and learnings.
Living in a foreign country as a young woman taught me so much about myself, my culture, the way that I had been conditioned to think and behave and gave me a totally different perspective to see life from.
Particularly living in Punjab and in a joint family taught me so much about the need for harmony in the home, when to speak and when to keep quiet, as well as how to communicate more effectively in my own language to be easily understood.
Seeing how life is lived on the other side of the world enlightened me in so many ways about notions of truth and history, of law and order, freedom and just how simple, secure and luxurious life is back home.
From basic amenities like access to clean water, or power supply and to access to safe and fresh produce it is abundantly clear how much harder day to day life is in Punjab, how hard it is to manage with intermittent electrical supply when you rely on that supply for your water source. In Australia I turn on any tap in my home and can have hot or cold running whatever with absolute ease. In Punjab we rely on private pumps for water supply, and tanks on our roofs to store the water needed for bathing, or washing clothes and then again we rely on filtration systems to make our water safe to drink. So many simply cannot afford these facilities and even if they can, when electricity supply is interrupted all of these facilities are rendered useless. It is a daily task to ensure that you have enough drinking water, and that your water tank is full enough. In terms of hot water, we had a small gas system at home & if the allotted gas tank provided ran out we would have to source one on the black market and pay double. This basic anecdote demonstrates how different life can be.
In Australia we experience a relatively low crime rate and in terms of safety women have a lot more freedom than in India. From how we are raised to what we are permitted to do in our adult lives, Indian women simply do not have the same opportunities. There are a number of memories that stand out for me, memories that have fueled my rage for patriarchy and my compassion for women, particularly in Punjab. I remember the death of a newlywed girl known to our family. She had been murdered in a dowry dispute and the police had deemed it suicide. Seeing the images of her dead body splashed across newspapers and observing the inaction of police was heartbreaking. Witnessing the corruption, bribery, the intimidation tactics and the disregard for the lost soul of this beautiful girl was abhorrent. Another memory that remains vivid in my memory years later was another death, this time of a young father who had committed suicide while embroiled in a property dispute. A father and husband no more, the wails of his widow echo in my mind to this day. Not only had this woman lost a provider, a partner and a father to her children but also her stability and status in life. Nobody could say what the direction of her life and that of her daughters would be after her husband’s passing. Would she be ostracised, would she be blamed, would her in laws still keep her in their home. These events remind me of the need there is in India for volunteers, for charity, and for people ready to advocate for women and children and those suffering as minorities but they taught me about the resilience of the Indian people.
Not bound by expectations or weighed down by notions of control or entitlement, these people placed the onus upon themselves to remain happy, to remain positive, to push ahead and work towards a brighter future for them and their children. Daily life tends to be so complicated and full of hardship in India, but you would not know this from the people. The Indian people have such life, such vibrancy, excitement and a positivity.
It is such a relevant and practical reminder of how trivial our problems sometimes are in the west and serves as a reminder to give thanks for our blessings and abundance by helping others.
India gives a fresh perspective, a renewed happiness and frees our weary spirit from the desire to control and engineer every aspect of our life. Sometimes we have no control of what is happening in our life, and it is us who can decide that this is okay too. Everything is pushing on as it should and life is too short to waste time on worries.
Had I not lived abroad and experienced such a wild ride of self discovery, of introspection and of observation in India I would certainly not be the person that I am today, I would not think as I do or be as compassionate as I am. Life in India has given me such appreciation for myself, my values, my experiences and my abundant life in Australia. India taught me so many things that I want my son to learn, and I am sure India has so much more to teach us both. I absolutely trust that my experiences will carry me throughout my life and I would not change my life at all. There is so much joy and passion in my life and so much to do in the years ahead of me.


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