I think visiting a new place, a new city or a new country is in itself a life-altering phenomenon is one’s life. You get to soak in all that is new and different and metamorphose into a another, more evolved, more tolerant person. Visiting a place is like opening a new chapter in life; in terms of video gaming, you can consider it moving to the next level! I’d like to recount my #JodeyDilonKo experience when I moved for my BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) to Davangere, Karnataka which initially was a frightening and uneasy phase and later turned out to be one of the best things that have ever happened to me.
When I got admission in one of the leading dental colleges of India, I was nervous because I had never stayed away from home which was in Central India (Madhya Pradesh) and suddenly, I had to shift my base all the way up to South India where the regional language was different! The regional cuisine was different and the way of life was also a bit different. Being an Indian, unity in diversity motto runs in my blood so, I began this beautiful journey with a few similar souls who began as strangers and soon, with time, turned into the gems of my life, my friends.
I visited Davangere for the first time with my Dad. It was a sleepy town in Karnataka where Butter Dosa was the staple food and filter kapi (coffee) was the staple beverage. I realized I will be stapled to this place for the next five years of my life and the feeling of staying away from my family was slowly sinking in. I entered the place as a shy, reticent kid who hardly spoke and didn’t quite know how to make friends.
As it turns out, making friends isn’t rocket science and my batchmates who were from all over India soon turned to be my great friends, my partners in crime! All I had to do was be nice and smile. I think the rule holds good no matter which part of World you do. Be it India, be it Pakistan.
Making Friends With the Locals
Kannadigas are warm friendly people and they also happen to have a killer sense of humour. I was welcomed in Davangere with the sight of a scooter slamming against an auto-rickshaw in peak traffic hours and as me and my Dad were expecting fireworks, the two motorists smiled at each other and waved a hand in apology and moved on! With that image of Karnataka in my mind, it wasn’t difficult to start my journey. With my patients ranging from septuagenarian gentlemen insisting that I should eat more, to scared ladies who’d not let anyone touch their teeth and insist on written prescriptions to relieve pain, I learnt that all it takes to strike a chord with people is compassion. It was the first time in my life that I truly understood the philosophy of vasudhaiv kutumbakam.( The World is one family).
Making friends with my batchmates
Now, I had people from Nagaland to Haryana to Gujarat to Bihar in my batch, plus of course there were locals. I realized that although the World is one family, people can be as different as chalk and cheese. It was my baby steps into the real world where I had to listen to differing opinions and develop my own view, my own personality. A strife that was going to teach me how to live in a sea of emotions and contradictions.
It was never easy to share a room, eat at fixed times, to not be able to complain about the lunch or dinner menu. Hostel life, that too in a whole different place was an experience that required a lot of flexibility. Fortunately, I was keen to adjust and adapt in this new situation. I made friends with the mess workers and consequently I was treated with greetings and smiles everyday as I entered the mess. Slowly, they became my friends and mess workers would come to me and ask what I wanted, would bring me chapatis and even insisted like family members that I ate more. When I was leaving the hostel, even the mess workers came to my room and said their goodbyes.
Yes, obviously one misses one’s usual ambiance. There was no poha for breakfast in Karnataka. I later came to know that they did. They just called it avlakki. I started doing things that I had never done before. I joined a swimming pool, I started jogging in the morning (which didn’t last very long but hey!), I learnt Kannada and I even picked up local slang!!
Falling in love with the new place
And then comes the eventual scenario when I imbibed all the cultural values, the sensibilities and become one with the place. I started loving the smell of freshly prepared crispy butter dosa and I started appreciating the richness of Kannada language. I also fell in love with the simplicity of the people there and people in general. My faith that people in general are always good became stronger. I’d like to end this post by narrating one incident that happened to me while my stay in Karnataka-
An elderly patient had appointment with me for his dentures. He was old and the commute from his home to my hospital was a real hassle for him, still, he used to keep all his appointments and come regularly. There was one day when the work was not ready and if he came, I’d not have been able to perform any procedure on him. I tried to call him to postpone his appointment but he didn’t answer my call. By the way, I knew very little Kannada and I wasn’t really sure if I’d be able to convey anything if he picked up. I decided to go to his home and tell him not to come the next day, and picked up my bike. The address on his case sheet was really vague and I asked around in the area to find out that there were at least five people by his name in the area. I took a deep breath and knocked on the first door that had his name. It turned out to be his home. I told him with gestures and broken Kannada that he doesn’t need to come tomorrow and I’ll call him when to come.
As I was about to leave, he grabbed me by my hand and made me sit. I was humbled by the old man’s insistence and sat down on their sofa. He asked his wife to bring me dinner. I nodded like an idiot not really understanding at once. Before I could realize and say no, the plate was in front of me. I was humbled and touched by their gesture; they didn’t have much money which was evident by their humble abode but the old couple had hearts of the size of the largest mansions on Earth. Their granddaughter came later, she was a small shy kid. I think kids who are under their grandparents’ patronage are the best. I talked to her- bright kid, she knew some English too. The Grandpa took much pride in that. With my heart and stomach content, I took their leave and came out. My eyes seemed to have caught some mist and I wiped them and started my motorcycle.
There! That was my greatest lesson living away from home. If you are nice, the whole World is your nest; no matter you are in Mumbai or Karachi or Bangalore or Lahore, it’s one and the same!
Thank you for reading. Much love!