Global Adjustments’ India Immersion Centre was formed with the aim of acclimatising and assimilating expats to the social milieu here. So, when it opened its membership for interested Indians, it was a curious discussion that ensued.
‘Infusion — Where Cultures Meet’ saw some charter members of the India Immersion Centre — Andrew T. Simkin, Consul-General, U.S. Consulate in Chennai; singer Aruna Sairam; Mohiniattam dancer Gopika Verma; actor Suhasini Mani Ratnam; and Preetha Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Group of Hospitals, along with Global Adjustments CEO Ranjini Manian — deliberate on the give-and-take process that is always witnessed in the coming together of diverse cultures.
Suhasini played moderator, putting forward questions to panellists according to their respective fields. While idli and filter kaapi did filter through, more important topics figured prominently. “It’s an occupational hazard (for us diplomats) that we end up falling in love with the place where we’re posted,” said the U.S. Consul- General.
Elaborating on the difference in the pattern of regional affiliation and patriotism in India and the U.S. he said: “The key point of distinction between the U.S. and India is that we (in the U.S.) tend to move a lot. On an average, a person spends seven years in one place. In India, people tend to live in the same State for years.” Someone added, “Even the same house!”
Speaking on preventive healthcare, Preetha Reddy said: “I seriously ask people to stay well and out of hospital. There is a serious lifestyle change we must be conscious about.”
Health insurance, and the present controversy in the U.S., was touched upon. More importantly, she revealed that Apollo is currently working on a 24x7 helpline that people can reach for any health-related queries. “Also, I want to see a cleaner Chennai.”
Gopika Verma took a more personal route, recalling her coming to Chennai 15 years ago and discovering home here. Being a dancer (she apparently took to the art form when she was two-and-a-half years old!), she also had suggestions on improving posture. “Art helps you be nice to yourself. It makes you more graceful.”
“It is very important to be open. This I experienced while growing up in Mumbai. When I came to Chennai to make a bid for the Chennai music scene, it posed a major problem. My music has many different influences. The traditional Carnatic connoisseurs weren’t sure if I would fit in,” said Aruna Sairam, a self-confessed and reputed “polyglot”.
As a way of giving back something to the city and spreading the ethos of cosmopolitanism, she put forward the idea of training students of the Corporation schools of Chennai in a “list of multi-lingual songs”.
“It’s not something I thought of a few minutes ago. It’s been on my mind for quite some time.”
The unanimous verdict, however, was to brand and popularise the December music festival and make it a source of pride for those in the city, and convert a few non-Margazhi types along the way.
Immerse them in India, Chennai specifically, in Global Adjustments’ parlance.