Esther grew up in a multicultural family in India and her interest in the world has taken her far from her home country. After she introduced herself on our Facebook page we spoke to Esther about living abroad, the importance of being open to different cultures, and finding her place in the world.
To start with, could you tell us something about yourself and your background?
I grew up In Cochin, India. It’s a very tropical place and extremely tourist friendly. Centuries ago, it was a port city that participated in the spice trade between Europe and India.
I live just outside London now. My parents are multicultural in origin. My father is an Indian brought up in a fishing village. My mother however had Spanish and Cuban origins. I have family in Brazil and Cuba. However as time passed, they changed their religious and cultural views to blend in. In India, arranged marriage is the norm even now (most of the time). And that’s how my parents met.
My father travelled a lot and brought me up with a wide knowledge of the world outside India. He instilled in me the value of thinking for myself and being open to different cultures and languages. I generally even now look at the world and the human race with child-like wonder and awe because of this. I would consider myself as very liberal and open-minded and generally encourage free spiritedness in others. And to not allow oneself to be ‘boxed’ by what’s seen as the societal norm.
How did your multicultural family background affect you when you were growing up? Do you think it gave you a different outlook?
Yes, it did give me a different outlook. I often felt different from the other kids. This was both good and bad in some ways. It made me very sympathetic to people who were different in appearance, ideologies, lifestyles and choices. I am more of a change lover who had knowledge in all sorts of areas (a bit of a renaissance person). But for a long time, I struggled to fit in with the cliques at school. I felt I had opinions and concerns that other kids simply could not understand. This even led to bullying in some cases. Eventually though this only made me more eager to travel and explore and find my own place in this world.
Why did you decide to go abroad for university? Was living in the UK how you expected? What was easier / more difficult than you expected?
I wanted to see a practical demonstration of what I felt in my heart and knew in my head about life and the world. And I felt I needed to mature and grow up beyond my national and cultural boundaries. Some of these boundaries I felt had started to dictate my identity due to familiarity/comfort and I was at a stage where I was forming my identity as a teenager. I felt the younger you are when you break away from these boundaries, the easier it would be to become the person I wanted to become.
Living in the UK (Scotland to be exact) and them moving around trying to find what I wanted or who I really am was more difficult than I expected. At least in the first three years. Not only is life as an immigrant tough, it gets even tougher when you have a world citizen mindset where you want to hear and see all the different options that are there to explore regarding lifestyle choices. I felt stretched and pushed to my limits and constantly confused. And mostly, other than people who think the same way you feel alienated a lot. Suddenly you don’t know if you fit in with the people and values that you grew up with or whether you belong to this new country and values. In my case, I could not fit in with both groups because I saw myself as belonging to the entire planet rather than one country. I think this identity crisis was probably the hardest thing I had to encounter. Whether you should go with tradition, what is regarded as normal wisdom rather than finding your own unique truth.
When I was searching for/while doing my internship in New York which is a melting pot for all the different immigrants all united by just their dreams and hopes for a better life, I finally started finding my place in this world. Something clicked. I suddenly realised how similar we all are, wanting to believe in the best of each other. I generally observe things happening across all continents now and have an unbiased concern for each country. However I would call both Britain and USA home.
Did your upbringing influence your choice of career?
My upbringing definitely influenced my choice of career. I work at a charity that deals with world aid. I have travelled a lot for this. Mostly to Africa, North America and around Europe.
What are your plans for the future? Will you stay where you are or keep on travelling?
I would like to travel and work more around the world. Especially to go back to USA and France. I would also like to live and immerse myself in the cultures of countries such as Japan, Italy, France, Australia and the continent of Africa.
I would like to volunteer and help with the rebuilding of communities in the Balkans, Rwanda, Cambodia. I would like to master more than seven languages in my own lifetime. I speak two fluently and another three in a more or less basic manner.
I would like to experience living on all six continents and see humanity and the same universal truth in all its different variations and interpretations.
Along with the USA and UK, Esther also considers France to be her home. She observes festivals of most major faiths and cultures in her day to day life.
About the authorLucy