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the-south-asian.com                         November  2000

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At home in South Asia

By Saikat Neogi

For a number of westerners South Asia, and particularly India, is becoming a second home. The trend is not new - artists and philosophers from the west have in the past settled down in Manali, Pondicherry, Calcutta, Colombo, Lahore and several other known or little known places. In most cases it was not marriage but choice and love for the land and its people that kept them back. In recent years Mother Teresa, Mark Tully, and Barry John are among many who have made India their home; Arthur C Clarke has lived in Sri Lanka for over 30 years now all by choice.


Mark Tully..."India offers freedom to overseas professionals" - Mark Tully


Englishman John Paul Napier lives in Karnal in Haryana. He knows more about this small town than most of its inhabitants - because he has been staying here for the past three decades. A friendly soul, who now speaks fluent Hindi, loves Mughlai food and visits the temple every Tuesday. Napier is one among the growing community of foreigners who have made India their home. Three decades ago he came to Karnal on a special mission to look for the grave of his great grandfather who was killed in 1857 and was buried in a cemetery on the outskirts of Karnal. " I came, I saw and I fell in love with India and decided to spend the rest of my life here," says the 62 year old Napier who is a bachelor and gets a sum of Pound Sterling 250 [roughly around Rs. 15,000] a month from a fixed deposit in England - enough to ensure him a princely life in Karnal. India is becoming a second home to many Indophiles who came to India, fell in love with the country and decided to stay back to start alternate lifestyles.

Mother_teresa.jpg (20529 bytes)Mother Teresa, born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 to an Albanian builder, came to Calcutta in 1929 as a teacher at Loretto School. It was in Calcutta that she had her first encounter with poverty and decided to make India her home. The Mother would later say that it was on a train journey to Darjeeling that she received a call from God " to serve the poorest of the poor". She left the Loretto congregation and set up her own congregation Missionaries of Charity in 1950. The Saint of the Gutters earned widespread admiration for her work and received virtually every award including the Nobel Prize, the Leo Tolstoy International Award and the Bharat Ratna. In an interview just before her death in 1997, she said, " India inspired me. I fell in love with the country the time I came here." So did a number of other foreigners.


mark_tully.jpg (24354 bytes)When Mark Tully first came to India in 1965 as an assistant representative in the BBC, little did he know that he had come to his second home. Now retired from BBC, Tully is very much a part of the Indian milieu. Mark Tully's stint with the BBC for over 30 years, with a short break during the emergency period, set the standards for future television reportage from India. " After that I didn't feel like going back. Over the years, I realised India had become my adopted home and I was a part of its traditions, its culture." Tully, who speaks fluent Hindi, has travelled extensively and interacted with people from all walks of life. During his three decades long stay here he has written three widely acclaimed books. After retiring from the BBC he has been writing and doing radio programmes for various international channels. He is also working on a programme on religion seeking certain common factors between Hinduism and Christianity.


wacziarg.jpg (29093 bytes)Culture, in a different sort of a way, attracted Frenchman Francis Wacziarg. Back in the seventies, Francis came as a tourist to India after his Masters in Business Administration in France. Once here he was 'spellbound' and took up a job with the French Trade Counsel in Bombay. The job took him around the country and he met and interacted with artists, craftsmen, musicians, which formed the basis for his future business interests. Francis set up his own consultancy and became a buying agent for Western companies for handicrafts. His consultancy has helped companies like Lacoste and Novetell to set up businesses in India. Wacziarg has also tied up with art historian Aman Nath, to restore forts in Rajasthan and turn them into hotels. The first Neemrana Fort is very popular with the rich Indian and foreign tourists and is booked throughout the year. " Restoring the fort and converting it into a hotel was not simple. It needed skilled restorers and masons to give that original look," says Francis who has also written two books called Havelis of Rajasthan and Traditional Arts & Crafts. But Wacziarg is not the only one who has made India his business base.

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