Being a Doctor in India is a tough job, and it is a tough job in a different
country where you do not speak the language fluently. Or at least not yet.
The COVID 19 Situation makes the transition scenario from doing the tough
job in home country to the tough job in a different one definitely little trickier
than it already is! But that’s for a different time.
I recently completed one year of living in Germany, rather a small town of
East Germany, where they say the real charm of living in a
‘Deutschsprachige Land’ lies. I spent two beautiful quaint Christmases here.
The pretty Christmas markets, the chatter of the old, chirping of the children,
the Glühwein and Stollen, the city decked up in mellow lights are a soothing
sight. Then there are the cobblestoned streets interspersed with cafes and
bistros, the Museums and old relics preserved in toto amidst the
modernization, the charming open air film festivals of Summer, the trees
flaming up in gorgeous red and orange in Autumn – little bit for everyone.
My tryst with Deutschland began in the summer of 2016, when I was still an
MD Student in India and visited Berlin with an exchange opportunity. I was
25-year-old and extremely eccentric in my approach to life and Medicine. To
a certain extent I still am. But a year of living abroad can bring about
changes as you figure out a new life, one day at a time. In that tour, my
father had accompanied me and as we were seated near the security gates
of Tegel at the end of the three weeks, to my own surprise I was confronted
with a strange feeling that I had never experienced before: an ache for
leaving a place that was almost physically crushing. May be, that’s why in
German the word ‘Heimat’ does not have any translation. May be, I was
experiencing the pain of being separated for the next 3 years from this place.
I mean, India is still my home, it will always be. But Deutschland will always
circumscribe that feeling of being a little something more, something
indescribable: a Heimat.
So, equipped with a German research experience, I complete my
convoluted thesis year back at home with considerable ease and the
rigorous MD Finals that for some reason all central Institutes in my country
conduct for 7 long days. Sometime in my Third and Final year of Residency I
started learning German on my own through Duolingo and other simple
vocabulary books. After that, I took a break and learned German intensively
at one of the Goethe Institutes of my country.
Baptism of Fire
I had other plans of continuing some post-doctoral research and some
collaborations in India itself, or some other English-speaking place while
continuing learning German as a hobby. But as fate had it, I came across
some interesting research of a Group in Germany on a topic that was
somewhat close to but far advanced than what I had already worked on in
India. I took up the courage to write about my queries on the topic. To my
great surprise the Group Leader actually replied. After a few E-mail
exchanges I was called for a Skype interview and soon received an invitation
for one of the short fellowships they call here as ‘Hospitation’. It was a great
opportunity for me to be involved in some real cutting-edge tool and
somehow I felt moving to a different country at 29 made complete sense.
After I met the Professor and his team, I realized in a few days what a
challenge I threw myself into. Well, the work was all new, I did have to learn
using softwares and reagents that I had never heard of before, but more
than that, what made me completely offhand was I could not speak
German. I did have a B1 certificate that was internationally accepted, but I
could not even understand the natives 50%. I think the team and even my
boss were pleasantly surprised that I can actually speak. Now I know how I
could have structured my stay to optimize the learning and time, but that
rests in the story of the past one year now. I am in one way glad that I faced
the biggest challenge of my life so far, even when I was unknowingly not
ready for it.
Love and Loss
In some time COVID happened and my country did need helping hands
during that time. Even Germany needed it, more than ever. Talk of
hin- und hergerissen ! To come to terms with the devastating state of
affairs all around took a really long time, and it’s still in process. But then,
amidst Corona and everything that was changing in the world, Deutschland
happened to me. Slowly I let the Language take over me, taking me along its
twists and turns and giving me back so much more. One fine morning
returning after a long day, as I drifted off to sleep in bus listening to the
chatter around me, it didn’t seem alien to my ears anymore. And just the
other day, I saw a very old lady in the Bus stop in a blue beret and a
weathered white coat closing her eyes, her head looking up at the autumn
sun, the rays shimmering on her wrinkled white skin. I wondered about all the
times she has seen. Maybe I had looked too long, she opened her eyes and
smiled a content smile at me as the Bus arrived. We didn’t talk in the bus but
she smiled again, nodding her head and a look that reminded me of my
gran. People ARE Indeed same everywhere, if only we could see more.