Thursday, April 19, 2012

Indu’s Trip To New Zealand

Nahi yaar, it is truly great. The air is so fresh and clean and although the stream outside our house is like a nala, you can see the bottom – so clean.

Wow, sounds beautiful.

It is 

Indu wasn't lying. What she didn't add was, she was lonely. Here she was, in a new country, the envy of all her friends back home and she was miserable. In fact she was hurt and homesick. She wanted to go back home and be among people she knew and had so much interaction with - shared laughter, movies together, yawns at boring lectures; Madras Cafe’s delicious and affordable idli-sambhar, more roadside junk, shopping sprees... In the evenings it was simply more of the same and at night, if she wasn't partying she had her family, warm and delicious food cooked and served by their live-in maid, no washing up after, chats on the phone, the internet, TV. It never stopped. She wasn’t lonely for a single moment.

Well, New Zealand was beautiful no doubt. But how long was she supposed to dish out the praise. She was beginning not to mean it anymore. Every time someone asked if she was enjoying New Zealand she dutifully dished out what she thought they wanted to hear. But if she had to say how wonderfully clean and green the country was, how fresh the air, one more time, she would scream! How long was she supposed to keep looking at hills or streams or ducks, penguins and natural beauty? Where was the action? Where was the bustle of life? Where were the roadside stalls, the crowds of people eating junk, visible and enjoying themselves? 

People seemed to go to work, Uni or school, then get back into their little cubby holes. After that there was nothing but four walls, the internet and TV. There were bars and pubs but they weren't really her thing. Movies, plays, cafes, shopping? Yes, there was that, but who did she go with? Alone was no fun and as for grownups... Indu sighed. 

She was staying with an Indian family, nice in their own way, but worked off their feet - working, chauffeuring kids to and from various activities, cooking, cleaning, washing up. She tried to help. She was really grateful for a touch of home but she understood they weren't expected to entertain her as well. 

God knows they try. Indu sighed. As for their get-togethers, they are slotted away into weekends, mostly 'at-homes' for other older folk whose teenaged kids never show up. Don't blame them, thought Indu, with a smothered laugh. They are so boring. Nothing seems to be spontaneous and fun ...and young, she thought despondently. And the weather! No help at all. Is it any wonder people remain indoors? 

It hadn’t started out like that. Indu had come to New Zealand for her degree in management literally on air. She was going to take her new country of temporary residence by storm. She was going to enjoy each and every moment. She was prepared to like and be liked. She was going to top every class. 

In a way she had idealised the kids here without really knowing they were as human and varied as kids back home. Her expectations had been way up. Her attempts to join in were misconstrued as over eagerness, rude interference or plain neediness. Her efforts were met with blank stares or polite smiles. The couple of conversations she’d attempted to join had died quickly. She was baffled. The light that she'd exuded was snuffed out. Confused and hurt, she’d begun to withdraw. Her face had acquired an aura of loneliness. 

How juvenile my expectations, she thought jadedly. Huh! Who do they think they are, she thought defiantly. Who needs them anyway? Oh, how I miss my life back home, my family and friends. I hate New Zealand. I hate the people here. 

Indu hated weekends and dreaded weekdays at Uni. Huh, Uni. Can’t they even say that properly?

Colleges over here are called Unis. If you call them “colleges” they think you’re talking of school.

What! Crazy. How can a college be a school?

I know. Stupid, isn’t it? Indu deleted that. It wouldn’t do to let on how she felt – on second thoughts, why the hell not. Seema is my best friend, she thought.

I know. Stupid, isn’t it? Then, deciding to put a cheerful spin on it, she added, When I saw some young kids in uniform spill out of “Abel-Smith College” opposite our house on my first day here I just assumed they were visiting the college on a school trip. 

Haha, and when they disappeared into classrooms you thought they were a whole bunch of child geniuses. Right?

Still the same old Seema :-) Good talking. I’d better go. It is early morning here and I should start getting ready for college, I mean, Uni.

Haha, you clown. Don't you dare go all Kiwi on me. Okay, bye for now.

Indu looked at the clock and reluctantly signed off. Dear Seema. She was the one person who still brought a smile to her lips. What would she have done without her regular chats with her close friend? She had better start getting ready. Indu dreaded Mondays. She hated the feeling of walking into the class and having every eye on her. No one said anything. The silence was deafening. She even sensed that group of girls, the ones she'd tried talking to, smirk behind her back. 

She looked to see who else smirked with them. To be fair, everyone was busy and nobody was paying her any attention at all. Sadly, she couldn't decide which was worse. She went and sat in a corner, seemingly busy as she used her phone to text a message. She ignored everyone too.

“Hi, is this seat taken?"
"No, I don't think so." She gave the girl a friendly smile but having been hurt too recently, she went back to texting.

Unfazed, the girl made another friendly overture. "Wow, Is that the Apple IPad 3?” Indu looked up to see the girl looking at her phone. She held it out politely, with a guarded smile.

"I find it such an improvement on the IPad 2," she ventured.
The two chatted for a while, careful to keep the conversation on mobile phones, things happening around them, the new class, even the weather but nothing personal. Indu chuckled. When she saw the girl look at her puzzled, she said, “It is only after coming here that I’ve realised why people talk of the weather so much.” 

The girl chuckled with her. "Here it seems to change from minute to minute." Then she added, “I’m Estelle, by the way.”

“Oh. Indu.”

That was the first bit of personal information they’d exchanged after a full five minutes of conversation. As they chatted, the two glanced at each other from time to time, to ensure the other was still interested, not distracted. If that happened, Indu was ready to move away. She felt skittish and at the same time, she had to admit it felt good talking to someone in class. If she glanced at Estelle, the smile seemed to be in her face and eyes. Indu opened up by the minute.

It was unfortunate she'd given up on making friends after one or two casual encounters with a few people she hadn't clicked with. There were at least a hundred more in that class. She knew now that it would have been better to have still remained vulnerable, human and approachable. She wouldn't have wasted those few precious days being miserable.

The lecturer (not professor, thought Indu with an inward smile) entered the classroom. Estelle took the seat next to hers. The two darted a quick smile at each other before getting their note books out. 

Indu knew she had lots to tell Seema when they chatted that night. She also knew she really liked New Zealand. So beautifully clean and green.

I swear, Seema, it is so clean and green. 

If you say that once more I'll scream and I swear you'll hear it all the way to New Zealand.

But it is, Indu protested. You've got to come and see for yourself. Why don't you? she added, meaning it with all her heart.

Thanks Indu. Will start collecting now and who knows, in fifty years...

Heehee. You'll never change.

Indu did not quite top the class but was happy with her results. There were too many distractions and what the heck, one is young only once.
Microsoft free clipart



  1. Great KayEm! How true it is that we need the human connect before we can enjoy anything else around us!

  2. Thank God for Indu's happy ending!!! :) awesome presentation.....

    1. Glad you liked it Flying Hiiii. I somehow knew you'd like happy endings. I do too.

  3. One is young only once! You summed it well KayEm!

    1. And we spend the rest of our lives trying to get back that degree of health and vigour back into our old lives! Thanks, Rahul.

  4. Nice writing...lovely breezy read!