Life of the eternal Nomad
Born in India’s Tech Capital, Bangalore in 1987, the earliest childhood memories I recall are from my early seven years in God’s Own Country, Kerala. Living in Kottayam & Cochin as a non Malayalam speaking kid, I picked up English very early in life. While Hyderabad produces many engineers, Kerala seems to produce a lot of great English speaking economists like Gita Gopinath and also Aathira my former colleague/boss at the Dubai International Financial Center. My childhood in Kerala along with life in Hyderabad, Delhi and Milan allowed me to find Dubai to be a very familiar city. The city of expats, each with their own story. Here is mine from when I can recollect.
Kerala, India: Childhood at God’s Own Country
Life was a bit confusing back then in Kerala, as I struggled with the compulsory Malayalam in school, but topped English and Math with ease. To get better, I started Malayalam tuitions for 2 hours in the evening at a neighbors house popular with other local students. This sacrifice of giving up on precious TV and play time, was to be my first step in life in understanding a local culture.
Living in a well nationally integrated housing colony in Cochin, life was great speaking English and Hindi. For my tuitions, I had to venture out into a different part of the huge government housing quarters. Towards the apartments that were mostly full of local habitants. I made many new friends and picked up on massive confidence before I had to finally bid farewell to Appam & Egg Curry and say Hi to Hyderabadi Biryani.
Growing up in highly literate Kerala
From fearing Malayalam to improving my listening skills, I ended up performing pretty well in the exams to follow. Local friends were also shocked to see me get better Malayalam grades as I still hardly spoke much of Malayalam.
What they did not know was that, unlike them I had allocated extra time and energy to start a new daily habit of 2 hours of Malayalam that would also enable me to meet other students of all ages from different schools.
Unlike me, these students were here at the Tuition Lady’s house to study everything. From 7 year olds like me to those doing their big Board exams, everyone visited the Tuition lady.
The face-off between talent and hard work
No body likes to go to tuitions after school. I was completely against it. My Father who had trained me well with English and good general knowledge, would make an exception only in this case. The young little me, knew that there was no other way if I had to learn something completely new.
I improved a lot as a student during my time at this place. The habit of sitting early in the evenings to finish your studies before you have fun, allowed me to become a top student overall when I started schooling at Bhawans Hyderabad as a bright 10 year old.
Kerala was great, I ate loads of fish and Appam & Egg curry, went to swimming classes in summer, collected and exchanged postal stamps, visited the port and ships often, visited the local back waters in Alleppey, and selfied with Elephants in Thekkady.
All my friends spoke great English or at least showed great motivation to improve at a really young age. At school, in Chinmaya Vidyala, my brother helped me with my science project and I managed to sell it to the judges who awarded me the first prize for my magnetic needle compass, which did work pretty well.
The next year, I shifted to Hyderabad for my Dad’s job, after finally succeeding in learning little Malayalam, improving my grades, learning to swim, winning the science competition and making so many friends.
Hyderabad, India: The city of pearls, Biryani and engineers
Devastated by the sudden shift to a new school, but quickly reconciled within the initial months due to an absolutely awesome class teacher in the 5th Class or Grade 5 at Bhawans Hyderabad. J K Rowling probably met this lady before she came up with the idea of Dumbledore.
A great teacher not only explains something, but also inspires or pushes us to learn more about it. – MilanKaRaja
Life in Hyderabad is always the best. Good food is available in abundance. Our housing colony in Hyderabad was much bigger than the one in Kerala. Stamp collecting could not find itself anytime in the high tech world of Hyderabad.
From squandering precious study time and habits on computer games from the newly acquired second hand home computer, I continued to allocate too much time on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon while juggling through the various sport options in Tennis, Cricket, Table Tennis and Gym, all accessible to the tenants of Road No 12, Banjara Hills.
Tale of 3 cities: Hyderabad, Secundrabad and Cyberabad
The old city of Hyderabad was ruled by the Nizams. Secundrabad covers later settlements like the British Indian army cantonment area. Seperated by the Hussain Sagar, the city once hosted the richest man in the world. Today, the city nurtures several other leaders including big international CEOs of Tech companies. Hence, the future of Hyderabad came to be called as Cyberabad.
Within 2 years of moving in to Hyderabad by the age of 12, I was connected to the Internet. Makes me feel sad though, that it took me 16 years to finally build my own website. All hope is not lost world, some seeds of ideas take time to germinate.
Hyderabad is the Italy of India: Sweet life
Improved on my Hindi in Hyderabad, as we finally had native Hindi teachers. Made loads of friends in Hyderabad early on. I also got introduced to the Walden Book shop in Hyderabad, from where I picked up a book every month to read more about English country side picnics that the Famous Five seemed to enjoy in every book.
I loved my school Library so much. With a great collection of reading material available, to complement my home owned World Book Encyclopedia collection, I was learning loads of stuff.
In a few years, I would be strolling the school premises with authority as a house prefect leading over 350 students in various competitions and tasks to win the final trophy. Just like how Trump became the president, I too became the prefect in the most jaw dropping and unsuspecting manner, in free elections, a first in our school.
What kind of a leader I was/am/want to be?
Just like Trump, I was not ass kissing everyday for the responsibility. When the situation demands for it, I knew I had to oblige. I was a very Manmohan Singh type leader. Silent and trying my best to get the job done with minimum divergence in plans.
If you give me leadership now, I would maybe turn into a Narendra Modi, but ideally I would like to spear head something more like Arvind Kejriwal. Will not write away Arvind Kejriwal‘s influence on the world so soon, I think the storm is coming.
Americanized Cyberabad or Nizami Hyderabad
Living in Hyderabad, you are very influenced by American culture. No wonder you have a Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon offices in the same Indian city. Hyderabad has its pros and cons, but it will always surprise you with its charm as you give it a little time.
Hyderabad a potpourri of cultures
Cultural melting pot with Telugu people from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with its traditions maintained at the old city with loads of great food going around to fill all flavorful desires. Most of the affluent folk speak Hyderabadi Hindi with abundance of Urdu and Telugu when they are not speaking English like a native.
Even if they speak Telugu, Hyderabadi Hindi is fun to listen as it is a mix of the north and south and much further beyond. The richest man in the world was ruling this city about a century back. His family has left behind some legacy and class in culture that is widely enjoyed by all those who prefer to live the life of the Nizams with affordable housing, service, food and everything.
Move to Hyderabad and bid farewell to house cleaning if you plan to blog like me. The earnings may suffice. Best thing of Hyderabad is the lake, the Hussein Sagar with the Buddha statue on an island in the middle. The lake coast lit up with bright lights has earned the name of the Necklace Road.
Get prepared to buy some jewelery when you visit the City of Pearls, try to get one customized for you at the old city. Just take care of strange looking old city guys. No personal experience of mine, but was just sharing the story of this funny low budget Hyderabadi Hindi film called the Angrez or the English speaking foreigner.
Ramiah IIT JEE Coaching Center and the big rat race
This part of life was bound to come. To compete against the best Indian students while distracted with all the goodness of Hyderabad was going to be a challenging task. Rat race was at its most popular peaks. Watching films like Karate Kid and Rocky did not make things easier.
So with stealth mode in class 10, I spent my weekends at a place called Evans, a coaching center that trained students with math, physics and chemistry so that they can then compete in the entrance exam to study at the Ramiah coaching center, which would then train you for 2 years to make you ready for the IIT JEE exam.
These 2 years were quite intense and definitely helped in loads of way. Firstly, to keep me committed to wake up everyday at 3:30 in the morning to go to class at 4:30. On the other hand, I would have preferred to study for an exam with more time for myself and less time spent listening to teachers in a class.
Video lessons would be more like it, but it still needs dedication to finish watching the entire video. Ramiah trained me to be a nice kid. The high level of discipline unfortunately constrained other important aspects of a building a good personality.
When I finally did make it to IIT Delhi, I would finally get to witness the pros and cons of a Ramiah style coaching.
New Delhi, India: My first North Indian experience in the Capital
Moving to Delhi to study, enjoying a bigger allowance from home and enjoying more independence from family would finally teach me the famous: “With great powers come great responsibility”. Here is more about my life at IIT Delhi.
Apart from my stay in the massive IIT Campus, that hosted many low budget restaurants and coffee shops with good greenery and vast sports fields, life in Delhi otherwise revolved around the shopping zones of the city.
Places like Saket, Priya, GK, Defence Colony, Connaught Place etc were the usual meeting spots. Until we took things to a whole different level, covering shopping malls of Gurgaon and Dwaraka. Farther places were now accessible by new metro routes. Borrowed motor bikes further helped us explore majestic Delhi.
Adapting and loving North Indian culture
From missing Hyderabadi food initially, I soon adapted and enjoyed butter chicken with naan. Most of my friends were vegetarians, hence we often ordered spicy paneer dishes with naan and fresh onions. The place which made this awesome dish really used a lot of oil. But every once in a while, the guys in IIT Delhi would order spicey paneer and dal for dinner. It just tasted better than our hostel food.
Living in IIT Delhi, we had our gangs that took care of each other. All that support from friends in collage, kept me exploring Delhi like never before. The metro which was far less crowded back then made my travel easier.
Without any smart phones around, even Internet usage was very limited. We were all buying new laptops at a time, when browsing was much slower than today. Studying in University without complete Internet access seems like a very silly idea now.
When Internet finally did become more accessible in my final years, I splurged all the bandwidth on Orkut, Facebook and Gtalk. Living like a gang with complete independence was quite a thing. Part of life that would build me up into a tougher person maybe.
As you stay in a city for a long time, say 4 years, you tend to learn the local language. You finally get accustomed to all the local cultures. Just like how I went on doing Sales in Italian in Milan after 5 years of stay, my last days in New Delhi were very memorable. New Delhi felt like home to me a would be global Nomad. As I frequented the Italian embassy while crashing in with friends still living in IIT Delhi, I relish the last days of a memorable stay in a city that finally became familiar.
Catching a thief red handed in New Delhi
I had always know Delhi to be an unsafe city with a lot of cases of pick pockets and thefts. Having lost my own mobile costing over 200 € back then, I found myself catching a thief and handing him over to the cops. Even better, I had proper evidence in form of cctv video. The evidence of the thief swiping my friend’s card in a music shop near by, finally leads to his arrest a month later.
Modus Operandi of the Delhi wallet thief
The thief would frequent the dormitories looking for open rooms. In this case he had stolen my friend’s wallet from his room one month earlier. In our investigation of a credit card transaction of a big amount, we were able to trace the card usage at a music and software store near by.
The owner was kind enough to helps us out providing us the number and a glimpse of the cctv footage. This would eventually help in catching the thief. Unfortunately we didnt recognize him, but almost a month later, I spotted him on campus and conspired quickly a plan to confront him.
Upon conversation, we became doubtful of accusing someone based only on a cctv video. Morever, it was recorded over on my mobile. As we were about to bid farewell accepting that the video was not clear enough to accuse him, I asked him for his phone number so that we could discuss again later if he was busy at that moment.
The moment he gave me his number, I switched on mine not to take it down. Checking it to confirm the number left behind at the shop, I was pleased to have caught my man. As I checked the digits and saw the exact same number being spoken to me until the very last digit took a different value.
Sherlock solves the case of the Delhi thief
This was like one of those epiphany experiences from Death Note, where I suddenly had complete evidence in my hands. Not like there can be two people who look very similar but also have the exact same mobile numbers except for the last digit.
What happened next was all great for us, but not very good for the thief though who was a young person a few years older. In such situations, I always find it best to act like our favorite party poopers from Hollywood.
Please pardon my reference to a gruesome scene from the Inglorious Bastards. But its very difficult to not appreciate the diligence and fear the Nazis bring in the films at least. Hollywood has clearly made the Nazis look the most bad ass ever along with the Russians and the Japanese. You just dont want to mess with these guys. I think my memory from watching the Man in the High Castle has taken me into a different trip.
But thinking about it as a senior cop wishing to take things to the next level of no more mister nice guy, the nearest thing he would connect to if he watches a lot of movies would be the these guys.
Am I the only one who loves Delhi?
Delhi was awesome and I made the best of friends, though most of them too were visiting Delhi from outside. You could try some real interesting food in Delhi, if you know where to look for it.
I missed Hyderabadi food when I moved to Delhi. Just like how I missed Keralite food when I moved to Hyderabad. Today, I very much miss the Delhi food that kept me live and kicking for 4 years. Check my food blog for more information on the food I enjoyed during my various internship experiences.
Dubai,UAE: A city of dreams that does not disappoint
I spent 3 memorable months interning in Dubai during the winter. Loving work at the DIFC, I also enjoyed after hours living like a Sheik. Arriving in Dubai after a year in Milan, I was completely spoilt on arrival. Live like a King in Dubai with numerous cheap food delivery options all around Sheikh Zayed Road. The choices in food is almost a blend of Kerala, Hyderabadi and Delhi food. Along with a wide range of global options, you could absolutely find anything in Dubai. Everything is available in excess at Dubai, apart from the food even the high rise building were often equipped with gyms and swimming pools.
Shopping malls are always fun with food courts where you could find Mexican tacos and Norwegian fish to food from Iran and Philippines. The steakhouses are popular, though I am a stranger to beef and pork eating. I should give a name to people who eat a union of Chicken, Sheep, Goats, Fish and Vegetarian.
Life in Dubai, Simply exciting!
Though you cant buy alcohol from the supermarkets without a license, you can still drink at a bar. You can visit pubs in most high end hotels and should not feel bothered at all. The thing to take away is that you are not expected to drink and head out partying in the streets. That can get you into trouble. Instead you can sit back and relax at one of Dubai’s many dance bars. They seem to be very successful in promoting culture and consumer spending.
Taxis are cheap and you always meet cool Indians with nice stories to tell. This one time, I was speaking with an Indian FX Trader who was living in Switzerland, but had lost big money and was in recovery mode driving a Taxi in Dubai. Thats why you need to blog about your story, you never know when the pennis in ad revenue add up.
As an Indian, life can be awesome in Dubai. As people come and go, everyone is looking for a friend in Dubai. You would not be disappointed at all as everyone speaks great English and has a unique story for being in Dubai. Even at the gym, I made many friends and great conversations.
Dubai: Almost an Indian city with lots of international crowd
Indians love Dubai as it reminds us of how our own cities may turn out in the future. Anything that works in Dubai may also work in India. To understand India, you can very well just visit Dubai.
Like India, Dubai too seemed to have a higher male population outside their homes. Dubai is surely better than India in earning and meeting new interesting people after work or in the weekends. However, you always feel like a foreigner in Dubai.
Though working in Dubai can be really great, I knew I would not really have much time to appreciate and understand the local culture and language while we all worked in English. Plus there was always so much of fun distractions after work.
A great city to make money, save money and spend money, but I was not sure about the entrepreneurial innovative confidence built from the ground, that I would be seeking later again in Italy as I return to the land of Leonardo Da Vinci & Macchiaveli to complete my graduation and start a new career.
Milan, Italy: Understanding the Italian Job and the Euro Trip
I liked Italy from the very beginning. People were polite, and this was the most European experience I was having. Later, when I met other nationalities and entered the job market, I realized that politeness is relative based upon priorities. When you have a bunch of friends around, your mood is always high.
Studying at University, the new life was super exciting. Made loads of friends, understood business like never before doing job interviews like never before. Ended up backpacking in Salento my first summer here.
Living in Milan, you end up having a huge bucket of travel options. Just last week, my flatmate booked a flight for Romania for 5 euros.
From Dolce student Vita to making of a Gladiator
As I finished university and moved to the real world, new priorities took place. Was no longer a student here to study and travel. I was now a working expat here to make money and travel.
My brother in Nuremberg, Germany and an other good friend earlier in Paris and now in Belgium were the only people I really knew in the Continent. I had gained some interesting work experience already in Dubai. But language skills were going to be critical for a career in recession hit Italy.
Nonetheless, I thrived. From kicking ass in every job, I had my ups and downs. Definitely, a lot more ups thanks to support from friends and family including someone special from the land of Baguettes.
Click here to read more about why I love Italy. As I already speak a lot about my royal Italian life, its time to conclude the lengthy article on the life of a Global Nomad. My previous travel experience allowed me to adapt easily, thus facilitating in further adventures.
I would still like to speak German with my brother and French with my girlfriend. Maybe I might find myself making a big jump again. Learning a new language should be easier now. Stay tuned.
Read more interesting stories at milankaraja.com