In October 2008 after a year in India, I still had no idea what to do or where to settle, but I had no choice but to fly back to France because my second visa was running out and I seriously needed to process my intense experience. I got back to my father’s home feeling completely disorientated. All I could do was take Life as it came, listen to my heart and take things slowly, in order to recentre myself. I spent some quality time with my friends and family as I hadn’t seen them for so long, and I spent a lot of time on my own, re-building my personal website, organising my photos, re-reading my old writings and writing new feelings. After three and a half months in Europe, it was clear in my heart that I had to carry on my life in India, perhaps to realise that I would miss Europe far less this time. I still had a lot of money and it was impossible for me to go back to a Western life with a job! I had to go back to learning Hindi, to the Indian violin journey, to my relationship with Kishan, to Indian children…
Flying back closer to my heart
I got a new six-month visa and flew back to India in January 2009. I headed straight to Khajuraho, because Kishan’s third sister was getting married and the family really wanted me to attend. Going back to a life in India also meant I had to resume learning Hindi seriously, but this time I didn’t want to do it on my own – I wanted to find a teacher. In February-March I spent a month in Varanasi taking more violin classes and trying to find a good Hindi teacher. It wasn’t easy and it took me to many doors, but I ended up making great progress thanks to two great teachers. Most importantly I visited Banaras Hindu University (BHU) to enrol on their two-year Undergraduate Diploma in Hindi starting in August 2009 as I wanted a longer term visa, and because studying at university was going to force me learn to read and write the Devanagari script fluently. (Read more about my Hindi learning journey – coming soon!) Talking in Hindi in the registration office saved me a year, because the administration let me skip the beginner-level Certificate course!
I still wanted to try to volunteer with children and I visited various schools and orphanages in Rishikesh, Mussoorie and Varanasi, but I hadn’t come at the beginning of the season so nothing worked out. An orphanage in Varanasi had space for me to teach English to their children in April and May, but it was going to be far too hot, so I went back to Khajuraho instead, as I preferred to be with my dear Indian family to face the dreaded hot season! I stayed there until the end of June and ended up teaching some English to a couple of children privately for two months.
New life in India – Varanasi
I flew back to Europe again to get my student visa, and only a month later, mid-July, I came back to settle in Varanasi. The City of Light was to be the residence of my life in India for the following seven years. For the first four years I had a room in the house of a lovely Brahmin family by the river Ganges. My kitchen consisted of a meter-square of my floor in one corner separated from the rest of the room by a metal shelf on one side and a thick wooden chair on the other . Inside my meter-square I kept my gas hobs, a filtered water dispenser and a clay pot for non-filtered, cooking water which I had to go and get from a tap at the ground floor. I loved the simplicity of my cute kitchen, and squatting to cook on the floor!
After I completed my Undergraduate Hindi course I enrolled on the Violin Diploma in the Faculty of Performing Arts at BHU to be able to keep my student visa, because I didn’t want to go for the Postgraduate Hindi Diploma. I had become fluent enough in Hindi and I wasn’t interested in learning literature and poetry; besides I wanted to have more time for violin. The violin diploma was amazing to make some Indian friends, because it opened a whole new scene of Indian classical music students to me. And speaking Hindi was the invaluable key to socialise even with those who couldn’t speak English! (The Hindi course was one for foreigners so it hadn’t helped me making Hindi-speaking friends.) After four years of life in India I finally made my first Indian girlfriend – another violin student. It is not easy to make Indian girlfriends in traditional and/or rural India, because women don’t go out much so it is difficult to even meet them, they rarely speak good English, and when they do they are very shy to speak to foreigners. Most of them don’t have much conversation outside house and beauty related topics (read more about the condition of Indian women here). Having a music-loving, and more open-minded because well-educated Indian girlfriend was just amazing. I was also part of a great community of Westerners who came to Varanasi a few months every year to study music like me or other disciplines like Hindu philosophy and religion, Sanskrit and Yoga. And I met many amazing people who ran socio-cultural, educative or health-related NGOs, a few of which I contributed to. I still work as Responsible for Media Communication for Taaro ke Bacche today.
Whenever I could, during holidays and festivals, I visited Kishan and his family in Khajuraho. He also came to visit me in Varanasi whenever he could. Our secret relationship blossomed and we got married in November 2011.
Moving to Khajuraho
I dropped out from BHU half-way through the second year of the Violin Diploma, because the classes were no longer satisfying, and I no longer needed a student visa since I was married. I got a spouse-accompanying X visa for the following year and in June 2014 obtained a PIO card. I continued living in Varanasi and studying Indian violin from Guruji, but he was often on tour and gradually I started spending more and more time in Khajuraho. My savings were slowly running out, and it was clear that I would not be able to continue my life in India between two cities for much longer, because this meant I couldn’t start any project in either. I really needed to start making money though! I had been helping Kishan’s family because life is hard in Khajuraho and their handicraft shop had no longer been sustaining them for many years, but this could not carry on. Over the years and with my help, Kishan got a lot of works done in the house, including adding glass and mosquito nets to the windows, changing all the pipelines and getting a water tank to improve the water supply, building a new room and a bathroom with Western toilet and hot shower. In November 2014 we opened our homestay.
Since then I have been based in Khajuraho with my Indian family, and I visit Varanasi for a few days whenever I can. Life in India is not easy financially but it has been improving slowly, steadily…