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'Featured Blogs' is a collection of interesting articles from established Bloggers and writers.

Bronwyn McBride


Bombay is a city with a pulse and a heartbeat. All sorts of people come, for all sorts of reasons, to chase all sorts of dreams in this space that is seeped in history and shaped by the struggle of every local and migrant who chooses to stay.

The city provides a backdrop for an incredible variety of experiences. Despite the unimaginable spectrum of wealth, access and opportunity in this city, emotions like anxiety, love, loneliness and lostness apply equally and beautifully to everyone.

I moved to Bombay over a year ago to work with Atma (www.atma.org.in), an NGO that focuses on capacity building in the development sector, focusing particularly on education. My blog www.littlebirdbombay.com shares my view of Bombay through the lens of a young expat, seeker, professional, and human like the 20 million others who share their city with me.

How India Helped Me Find My Purpose in Life

I was reading a feature in the Mumbai Mirror yesterday, about six people who left their high paying professional jobs to follow their passion and pursue a career in cinema.

It made me start thinking of myself and the giant leap of faith I took. However, the big difference between me and those people was that I had no idea of the direction I wanted my life to go in when I left my job. And I was hardly enthusiastic about creating my new reality.

I had to be pushed by a crisis of mass proportion.

2005 wasn’t a very good year for me. In fact, it was the toughest year of my life. I’d been working in the same government office for 10 years. I was unfulfilled and unmotivated by my choice of career as an accountant, but I tolerated it because it paid very well. The only thing I enjoyed about my job was writing reports. In order to break the monotony of my life, I spent too much time partying, shopping, and taking long lunches. Life had fallen into a very predictable and unproductive pattern.

Then, my long term relationship came to a traumatic end. Along with it went all my plans for the future.

I was completely lost. Nothing of what remained of my life inspired me. I had no choice but reinvent myself. How though? My situation was made even more difficult by the fact that I hated change.

I decided that the only solution was to completely throw myself out of my comfort zone, open myself up to new possibilities, and accept every opportunity that came my way — no matter how much it scared me. And the best way to do it would be to go to India. Having travelled there twice already, I knew of no place that could challenge me more. To take my mind off my woes, I resolved to do community work for five weeks. I chose Kolkata simply because it was a place in India that I hadn’t been to.

I took six months long service leave from my job, left a friend in charge of my home, packed my bag, and boarded a flight.

Then, fate stepped in. Along with it started the long chain of events that led to me to be where I am today — living in Mumbai, married to an Indian guy, and writing about India travel for a living.

I met my husband-to-be within a week of arriving in Kolkata. I immediately felt comfortable with him. He had such a relaxed energy and lightness of being about him, and absolutely no pretenses. When he laughed and smiled, it was for real. And he did it often.

I deliberately spent very little time with him though, because I didn’t come to Kolkata to get involved with anyone. It was curious then that I left Kolkata, after my five weeks, with a heavy heart and the unmistakable feeling of unfinished business.

Back at home in Melbourne, I felt at even more of a loss. There was nothing to keep me there, so I threw caution and conservatism to the wind. Within a month, I was back in Kolkata to resume the adventure.

After staying there for three months, it was almost time for me to return to Melbourne again. I felt troubled. I dreaded having to resume my old life. But how could it ever be possible for me to remain in India? What would I do? I considered taking a call center job.

Then, one night as I was running late to meet my husband-to-be, I happened to cross paths with a friend from Melbourne. Incredibly, she asked me if I’d be willing to manage the guesthouse that she’d been leasing in Varkala Kerala, for the tourist season.

I’d always dreamed of running a quaint little guest house somewhere. Here was my opportunity!

At last, having the incentive I needed, I quit my job in Melbourne. I boarded a train with my husband-to-be, and our lives in 11 huge bags, and headed for Varkala. Like me, he also needed change in his life. We spent eight months there. He worked as a DJ in the beach shacks. We had a marvelous time. We even adopted a homeless dog. However, I discovered that running a guesthouse wasn’t really for me. I felt uncomfortable having strangers around me all the time, and having to interact with them.

It was in Delhi, on the way to Manali, that I had some inkling of where my future career might lie. I saw an advertisement for a writing course in a newspaper. That was it! I wanted to write! I’d always had some natural ability. In fact, my old boss often told me that I was the only person who prepared understandable reports.

What would I write about though? I had no idea, so I pushed the thought to the back of my mind.

My husband-to-be and I spent four months in Manali. I earned some money by selling unique items from India on Ebay. We also had a small shop in Manali. An opportunity came up to work on the set of a Bollywood movie that was being filmed nearby. We took it. However, I couldn’t see myself making a career from any of these things.

I was browsing the Internet for jobs one day, daydreaming about what I could do in India, when I came across a position that caught my attention. Content writer wanted for travel website. Of course, I couldn’t apply because I didn’t have an Indian work visa. However, it made my mind up. I would write about India! Always absorbing, often confounding, never boring, India.

I submitted some pieces to an article library website. They were accepted. I also signed up to the writing course that I saw advertised. Then, fate again stepped in — in a way that still amazes me.

Not long after I’d moved to Mumbai, I received an email from a complete stranger who wrote for the same article library website. Apparently, she’d read my India travel articles and really enjoyed them.

If I wasn’t working full time, she said, I should apply for a position that was going at About.com (a New York Times company). They were looking for someone to write their India travel website. In particular, they wanted someone who either lived in India, or visited there frequently.

Needless to say, I applied and after a tough selection process, got the job. It was obviously meant to be.

A year later, I still can’t believe my good fortune. Work doesn’t feel like work anymore. The days pass so quickly. Whenever someone asks me about my job, I’m happy to say I can always give a positive and excited reply.

It hasn’t been an easy journey though. At times, I’ve felt sick with fear and uncertainty. I’ve questioned giving up my comfortable, stable life in Australia. I earn a fraction of what I did previously, and live in a flat a quarter of the size of my old house. I also miss being close to my family and friends. However, I can’t deny that I feel motivated and inspired like never before.

My life definitely hasn’t turned out like I planned — but in a way it’s so much better. It’s also given me the belief that we really can create our own reality, and that the universe will support us. Reassuringly, I feel like I’ve been rewarded for my courage in daring to do something different.

Some days living in India can be unbelievably difficult. Despite this, I know in my heart that this country is responsible for my life being so fulfilling now. It’s given me a home, a husband, and the opportunity to experiment and find my purpose in life. India has also colored my life with knowledge and learning, as it slowly reveals itself to me a little more every day.

Visit Sharell's Blog 'Diary of a White Indian Housewife' at http://www.whiteindianhousewife.com/ for many more interesting experiences.

Sharell Cook - Author of 'Diary of a White Indian Housewife'

Sharell lives in Mumbai with her Indian husband, where she writes and manages About.com's India Travel website (part of the New York Times Company) and also has a popular personal blog, Diary of a White Indian Housewife.

http://www.whiteindianhousewife.com/

 

Her journey to this point started over 10 years ago, when she first visited India as a tourist in 2000. She came back in 2002, and again in 2005 to do some community work at a women's centre in Kolkata. That proved to be a turning point, as she met her husband in Kolkata and also received an offer to look after a guest house in Varkala, Kerala for the season. She later branched out into writing about India and India travel. The depth and diversity of this fascinating country ensures she's never left wondering what to say.

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