J.D. Viharini: Enjoying India
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J.D. Viharini is an expat who has really developed a deep connection to her ‘second’ home over the years. Originating from the US and having lived in different parts of Europe, she has long had a fascination for India and came to finally call it home around ten years ago. She is the author of the blog Enjoying India and a book of the same title.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to India, etc.
I’m from the US, but I’ve lived about a third of my life in other countries, mostly India, but also several countries in Europe. I’ve done many different things. I’ve been an artist, owned an art gallery, did some computer consulting, and various other things. Now I’m a writer living off the proceeds from my book, Enjoying India. I’m also a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, which I’ve practiced for more than 40 years. I have a Masters in Vedic Studies.
I first came to India in 1980 and loved it immediately. I knew even then that I would one day call it home. I came to India almost every year since 1990, though it was only about ten years ago that I found myself spending far more time in India than elsewhere. Now I live here on a long-term visa, at least for another two or three years.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
The blog was a natural extension of my book. I started it shortly after I launched the book, in the summer of 2010. I felt there were so many things that I couldn’t include in my book, and I especially wanted to share my photos. Also, I felt it would be a good way to make updated information available for my readers.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in India differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
For me, culture shock is something that happens when I go back to the US. I’m sure there have been moments of culture shock over the years, and there are some features of life in India I still am not 100% comfortable with. However, on the whole, I am so much more comfortable here than in the US. And I feel much safer here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in India? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Fully prepared in the beginning? Probably not. After the first few trips, I had quite a good idea how to proceed. Still, I have to admit that there is almost always something that has somehow gotten overlooked each time, usually some little thing I forgot to bring.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Recently I was trying to explain something to someone in Hindi and he absolutely refused to believe that I was speaking Hindi. He just kept saying that he didn’t speak English! The funniest part was when he turned to his friend and said (in Hindi) that my English sounded almost like Hindi. Although my Hindi is far from perfect, my accent is good enough that most Hindi speakers can understand it.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in India?
- Do your homework before you come. The more you know about where you are coming and what kind of a situation you are coming in to, the easier it will be.
- Be aware that life in India has its own pace and you can’t force things to go the way you expect. You just have to go with the flow.
- Try to connect with other expats in the area where you will be before you come. Besides InterNations, which is a wonderful resource, you can also connect with people through online discussion groups such as Yuni-Net (a Yahoo group) in Delhi.
How is the expat community in India? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
For three years, I was based in Delhi. However, now I live most of the time in a remote Himalayan village, which has only a handful of like-minded people.
How would you summarize your expat life in India in a single, catchy sentence?
I’m a pretty independent type who likes to avoid the beaten track.