Neighbours By Chance; Friends By Choice

February 26, 2019

Choosing the expat life is a huge step taken towards transforming oneself into a global citizen. Starting a new life in a foreign country, far away from the comforts of one's homeland can be overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. The imminent move from one country to another heralds a new experience, a foreign culture and the possibility of meeting new people. When an opportunity came our way, my husband Amit and I took a leap of faith and shifted base to the UK 5 years ago.

We were looking at setting up a new life, exploring a new country and meeting amazing people along the way, once we had settled in. Two days after we moved into our quaint neighbourhood, we heard a knock on the door. To our pleasant surprise Mary, our 71 year old British neighbor was standing with flowers and a card to welcome us to the complex. Mary's thoughtful gesture, on that day, set the pace for a beautiful friendship that we have nurtured over the years.

Mary and her humorous husband Derek have become our additional set of parents in the UK. We know that despite being far away from our friends and family, Mary and Derek will have our back. It is the little things we do for each other that have been the foundation on which our relationship is built. Each time we return from holidays, Mary and Derek ensure our refrigerators are stacked with bread, eggs, milk and meals for a couple of days. On days when either one of us is travelling, they make sure to check on me or husband and also invite us to have at least one meal with them.

In the time we spent living in the UK, we have been on a number of culinary journeys together, be it at restaurants or in the comfort of each other's homes. Personally I am a huge fan of Mary's extraordinary baking skills and have been asking her to participate in the Great British Bake-off! In an era where few people have the time or the heart to welcome people into their homes, Mary and Derek are warm kindred souls who have whole-heartedly embraced us and our culture. Over the years they have joined us in Durga Puja celebrations in the UK and we are always invited to be a part of their family functions.

Mary always tells me that her 10 year old grandson loves to spend time with me and they have never seen him more "besotted"! My cherished memory of our beautiful friendship has to be when Mary, at her birthday party, introduced me to the guests as "My Indian Daughter". It fills my heart even today that it is so beautiful to be able to share a mother-daughter bond with a someone I have known for about five years, with whom I do not share commonalities like food, language, culture or country. Despite our huge age gap, Mary, Derek, Amit and I regularly meet over dinners, go to the theatre together, visit restaurants and hang out together. We love spending together and sharing anecdotes. We have shared many hilarious jokes together, but this one takes the cake. In one of my casual conversations with Mary I told her, "My husband proposed to me after he had passed out". Mary was a little perplexed as she wondered it was a bit extreme to "pass out" (faint) just to propose to somebody! We finally cleared the air that by "pass out" I meant graduated from university.

Our friendship thrives on our differences. It is a celebration of accepting each other unconditionally - our quirks, wry sense of humor and everything else in between.

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