The story of Sarath
Having spent the last few years in Europe, Sarath has gained a deep insight into Western culture, so different from the one in which he grew up. Although he loves the deep relationships between people, strong family ties and the kindness of people in India, he also appreciates some aspects of the western way of life, such as individual independence, health care and tranquility of the life.
Sarath graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering in his home country of India. He wanted to continue his studies abroad, so the moment he found out that he was accepted for a Master’s in both France and Germany, he immediately agreed to come to Europe.
“Although I didn’t know the language, I chose France. After two years of studying at the Master’s level, I once again applied for a PhD in Europe, this time in Spain. Without doing any research, I simply agreed to come to La Coruña and Ferrol. I guess I thought it would be fun!”
Studying in India cannot be compared to studying in Europe. Sarath admits that in his country of origin he did not have a single pause during the four years of intense university life. Despite his commitment, he started college without a clear idea or a vision for the future. Sarath always kept improvising and going with the flow.
“I come from the south of India, from Kerala. Every summer I visit my family who still live there. They would love to come and see Europe someday, but honestly, I can’t imagine what a cultural shock it would be for them! India is the only place they have ever been. For over 50 years, my parents have lived by certain values, ideas and prejudices. My younger sister is 25 years old, married and has a child. In India, 90% of marriages are arranged”.
There is a matrimonial website, similar to Tinder from India, which instead of young people, mainly involves their parents. Parents search for a person to marry for their child based on the necessary data such as: horoscope, skin color, caste, religion, appearance, etc. For Sarath, this phenomenon may be evidence of hidden racism.
“People in northern India are whiter than people in southern India. Society thinks that if you are whiter you are more valuable. We have advertisements for products that make your skin whiter. If you grow up in a society like that, it’s very hard for you to get it out of your head. My sister’s marriage was also arranged and she was really worried about her horoscope, according to which she should get married early. My sister knew nothing about these things. I was supporting her but she was scared inside. I think it needs to be changed. We live in the 21st century and there is still the mentality that women have to stay at home instead of choosing their path. It’s absurd.”
India is very different from European countries. For example, both parents have a very strong position in society. Even when children grow up, get married and find a job, they are supposed to share the same house with their parents (until they die). Because there is no social security once they retire, parents are completely dependent on their children. Sarath admits that he always had to deal with a lot of marriage-related pressure and answer countless questions from her family. However, there are still many positive aspects of Indian culture that could be highlighted.
“I think in India there is a lot more humanity left in people. By humanity I mean kindness, the way people understand you, the way they want to help you. It’s much more present in India than it is here. There are a lot more people who want to be with each other and get to know each other. Western society is much more independent, you want to be on your own, in your own way. Society in India is more dependent. An average middle-class house usually has someone to cook for you. Here it’s seen as very fancy. But that’s healthy. There are a lot of people, so not everyone can have a big dream job and stay independent. There are some people who work in your house, who you respect and spread the money around like that. To me that’s something that’s not bad at all.”
With his open attitude, Sarath rarely had trouble connecting with the place or the people he was staying with. What he likes most about Ferrol is the chance to get to know everyone in the small town.
“I have 2 more years left here and then a research stay in Germany for 5 months. My initial plan was to return to India after a couple of years. However, right now I have no idea. There are a lot of cultural differences and I keep changing every year. Overall, I wanted to go back to India and maybe teach kids about the importance of sports. Because in India sports is seen as something unnecessary. We don’t care about our body at all. We just live with it and that’s it. But in the end, you only have one body and you have to take care of it.”
After a couple of years in Europe, Sarath admits that his motivation is very different from what it used to be. When he was in India, he really wanted to succeed with his studies, as well as his career, fame and money. Right now, the “it’s okay” attitude has changed his priorities to simply being happy.
“I don’t really find myself looking for attention or money. I want to live my life and enjoy it. Sometimes, though, it’s also depressing. All over the world, people think you need to strive for success. And when you change your mind, you start by living well, you’re nice, you have enough money to support yourself, you’re living in the moment. But then you see all the people around you on Instagram showing you that success must be something else and sometimes… it’s depressing.
I think a lot of people can relate to this, especially young people. C’est la vie. You can’t work all the time. You work a little bit and then you rest.”
What is the most important thing in your life?
I don’t know what is important and what is not important. Even small things are important to me. Maybe the most important thing would be love? It gives happiness.