Charlotta Osterbergi, 30, Yoga teacher, Navi Mumbai. Started “YogYug” to spread awareness about yoga with the help of social media.
In India: 7 years
I come from a sparsely populated country, which is quiet, cold, and dark during most months. People in Finland value their private space and we create both physical and mental boundaries around us. I had to learn to let go of those boundaries and learn to relax with people around me. I think in India people are afraid of not being noticed because the population is so huge. In Finland we are afraid of being noticed, and we want to blend into the masses. You could say that I’ve let go of many masks that I used to hide behind in Finland. I’m not so scared of being seen, and particularly being seen as natural and flawed.
I also had to let go of my need to know things in advance. Indians do what they feel like doing in the present moment, not what they told someone that they would do two weeks ago. I know it sounds like a cliché but yoga helped me accept that I can’t control everything, and more importantly that I shouldn’t even try. When people say yoga teaches you to “let go” it is not just a random saying. Yoga can really teach you to surrender this obsessive need to plan ahead and be on top of things. My husband sometime tells me that yoga has changed me, and he notices that I’ve become a happier person. It is not because my surroundings have changed, it’s because I have changed. I have this feeling of gratitude towards India for all of this.
The best thing about India for me is that the belief system(s) aren’t so black and white. Finnish people generally believe in science, empirical evidence, efficiency and being practical at all times. I feel that there is a possibility to go beyond all these worldly things in India, to add a spiritual angle to life, and to make everyday life just a little bit more interesting. If you bring up a topic related to philosophy, spirituality or religion in Finland it can get a bit uncomfortable. In India it’s acceptable to believe in something without proof, and many times the lines between true stories and myths are blurred.
A negative thing that I found when I moved to India was filth and garbage being strewn across a really beautiful country. Coming from Finland, a place where people took the environment and cleanliness very importantly, the lackadaisical attitude of Indians towards keeping the country clean was disconcerting. It is great that the new Government has introduced the “Swachch Bharat Abhiyan” which is trying to help remedy this problem.
Initially I decided to stay in India for my husband, who has his own business in Mumbai. Moving out of India didn’t make any sense at the time, so it was a natural choice to stay here. As I see it I have two homes now, Finland and India. It’s a blessing to have the opportunity to live in two different cultures. I don’t think about “going back home” anymore, because I am at home all the time, wherever I am.
Indian cities have seen rapid growth over the past 7years that I have lived here. Globalization has brought people from around the world to places like Mumbai, which are big growth centers. Hence you find more foreigners in Mumbai which has made people’s attitudes towards us more relaxed and accepting.
The population in Mumbai has also generally opened towards different groups like the LGBT community and acceptance levels towards diverse groups and lifestyle choices have increased. Women’s safety and empowerment has seen a marked improvement I would think, which is thanks to the media spotlighting this important issue.
I have also noticed a change in people’s attitudes towards politics and have witnessed that youth are now more inclined to bring about positive change in the country and are gravitating towards actually doing something about it. There has been a change in psyche of the youth from the “chaltha hain” attitude towards wanting to create an India that they feel they deserve. The country voting for change in a very big way during the general elections is a good indicator of this change in political attitude.
Economically Mumbai has definitely become a much more expensive place, but we see people with more disposable income as well. Unskilled labor, which was extremely underpaid in the country has now seen an increase in wages. This is perhaps due to Government policies like the MGNREGA.
My best memories in India revolve around our Big Fat Indian Family. Every birthday, anniversary and festival is celebrated together and pompously and that it is really refreshing. I also love how even extended family members goes out of their way to do things for their relatives, and this bond is what really makes the Indian culture so special.