My life in Portugal – down memory lane

It was in the year 1497-99 when for the first time the renowned personality “Vasco da Gama” first made his trading visit to my India, it was from that time onwards, when we get to hear about the  Portuguese-Indian relations. Born in the mixed ethnicity, of Portuguese paternal family and Indian maternal family. I had absolutely no clue that one day, I would land on my ancestries homeland.

The journey of mine to Portugal (the land of ancient culture), began in the year 2014 i.e. the time when I successfully completed my bachelor’s and was a free bird like every other youngster feels at that point of time, it was that period where every young blood feels to be in “seventh heaven” and simultaneously worried for the next steps, whether its job or higher studies? Being a girl raised in India I can also add a third option “marriage”. Albeit, in all these mixture of thoughts, “always  listen to your heart” was my dad’s advice, and my heart spoke to go for higher studies.

US, UK, Australia, Canada, Europe, which one of these should I go was the next breath taking question to give me a few days of sleepless nights. Roaming through different cities and consultancies, I finally landed up with the decision of going to Europe. Being born as a “homo  sapiens” our greedy mind always wants the best place with good money and luxury, therefore I, with the same greediness decided for either France or Germany.

As it is rightly said “man proposes but god disposes” after doing so much of hard-work for getting into the best countries in the world. Unfortunately, I landed somewhere I could have never ever imagined. Call it to be my “ancestor’s calling” or my fate, I landed up getting admission in my forefather’s homeland “My Portugal” for my masters.

Bewildered to be happy or sad, that though I am going to Europe but not in a country I desired to. I
finally packed up to travel, all that gave the energy was the serene smile of my grandparents who were happy seeing me go to their native land.

February 24 I landed to Portugal, to explore a strange blend of modern lifestyle in ancient and historic environment. The first view of mine from the taxi, took me to surprise for a while to see that the view of Portugal was no different from India. The same construction of buildings/houses and roads (nevertheless this was not as worst as Indian roads), and I could see some Indian heads popping in the crowd, it was like the buds opening up in the midst of different flowers in the garden. Seeing our own people and aunties with Indian attire, gave me a sign of relief, this proved that Portuguese are not only good at trading best spices but also peoples from India.

It took a week to get settled and slowly I started understanding the roads to return to my home. Once I decided to travel across the city of Coimbra (central part of Portugal), where I live. This travel made me love the city and the country. With no idea in mind I took a random bus and never got down till the bus returned back to my stop, the view across the city was commendable, its first look will create an impression of we being in cities like Ooty or Kodaikanal of India, the same hilly roads and roadside full of trees and jungles but later its ancient architecture of building and churches will force every tourist to stop and live with it. On comparing with the countries like the states and UK where nothing much of history is preserved. this country has everything ancient. On enquiring I could find that every building like churches schools, colleges and many more are 100-150 years old and still so new.

I still remember, once on a regular Sunday to church, I took a lot of effort to ask an old grandma that, “why do these architectures still the same why not government renovate it?” she replied in a husky and sweet voice saying “we fear losing our culture and the old building makes us remember our forefather’s hard work and greatness”. I was really inspired to see people so much in love with their culture, and I personally feel India must learn from them.

I can sum up writing few things which made me love this country, first and foremost being the friendly and loving nature of the people. I still remember once I had ruined my health severely while travelling from Lisbon (capital city) to Coimbra, and the entire passengers were at my service, taking care of me.

Second, is the food-the best sea food is here if anyone is a hardcore sea food lover like me then Portugal is for you, and also on the lighter note I thank the almighty that Portuguese once traded India, so here I did not face much difficulty in getting all the Indian spices. Third I would say, its history and the way its preserved till date. And finally which all wait to hear is that it is very cheap among the European countries.

Being away from family especially from my mom was the worst feeling I could undergo (though this was the first time of our separation), but every Saturday I would not miss her so deeply as I usually did, because every week I would visit the beach side where I could enjoy seeing the divine and no
counterfeit love of families, I would give a “painful smile” to see parents and children together, partying, playing, lovers enjoying their best moments together (this scene would always make me miss my love back in India). But deep within my heart I would silently thank the almighty that people in the west still have respect for family and love to spend time with them. The time just makes a race and moving quickly here, giving me so many memories.

It was January 15, I was waiting outside the embassy office, waiting for my turn for the visa interview, with a high lubb-dubb sound of my heart beat, my bp raising more the 120/80, was the time when I could hear my name been called for the interview. Seeing the most discouraging face of the embassy officer I lost all confidence, the initial few questions and answers regarding myself slowly starts acting as an energy drink for me and boosted my confidence. Then came the question that I had studied by heart the previous night, but with the peak of my anxiety I forgot, it was what was biotechnology and why did I chose to study it? Though the answer which I studied by-heart was that “biotechnology is the vast field of science which blends biological science with technology for the service to the environment and mankind”, but with the anxiety I forgot this piece of the answer and all I could remember was my dad’s golden advice “always speak the truth and always speak your heart out without hurting anyone”. So with my most humble gesture I could put up I answered the true reason behind my master study in biotechnology, and it was because biotechnology is the only field which gives a master student do research in the master’s level, since I always wanted to do researches on cancer. Cancer because I have lost many of loved ones from cancer aliments, and every time I see them on the death-bed all I could do was just to shed tears and regret that though belonging to the medical background I could nothing for them, so I deliberately chose biotechnology as my career.

After answering the question, I was relieved, also at the same time I had tears in my eyes and to the worst situation I doubt the officer would have noticed it. Nevertheless, I feel my emotions were true and my answer was genuine, so I didn’t mind if I had tears or if that could be the reason of my visa rejection. The next clueless question was why did I chose to study in Portugal? I was in serious dilemma about what to answer, as I was trained from the consultancy in-charge not speak about the interest of settling in Portugal, and neither could I say that I was half Portuguese, since we lacked the official documents to prove it. So with no idea about the consequence and with some knowledge I gained from google made me say that, since Portugal is a country of Opportunities and best at research field, above all it’s the cheapest European countries, so I can avail all the explore and advantages of a developed country at a cheap price, is just like a dream come true for anyone.

Regardless of the fact that my visa interview was just not much awesome as it was expected, but ending of it was a happy ending since I got my visa done. As a famous quotes says “what is meant to be, always finds a way”, similarly it was destined for me to be Portugal so I am, today if my thought travels to all the memories I had here till date, then I don’t regret staying here rather I feel blessed to get this opportunity, because it’s just a mind-blowing place and people here are just a pure soul. The explorer in me is still incomplete and so is my energy to experience them.

– an experience shared by Jacklin M Anthony

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