Not many from our part of the world would imagine ending up settling in Bangkok, but it happened to me several years ago when a university classmate invited me here to work with a nonprofit. As a Tangkhul Naga from Ngahui, a small village outside of Ukhrul town in Manipur, I’m still surprised to find myself living in Bangkok.
I went to primary and secondary school in Ukhrul and Shillong. I then lived in Dehradun and Bangalore while getting my bachelor’s and master’s degree. In Dehradun and Bangalore especially, I was able to meet people from different countries and learn more about the world outside of India. The opportunities I had in both cities prepared me for life in Bangkok, where you can find people from almost every country in the world.
Because of my appearance, it’s easy for me to fit in in Bangkok as most people assume, I’m Thai. When I’m with my wife, Susan, who is from the US, she’ll often speak Thai to the taxi driver or the market vendor, and they will look at me instead of her and respond. When Thai locals find out I’m not one of them, they ask where I’m from and get surprised to learn I’m from India.
It’s not only Thais who are surprised by this. Most people I meet here respond with, “But you don’t look Indian,” and I have to explain that there’s a place called northeast India that is home to many different tribes. I have to explain that my culture, language, faith, food, etc., are different from that of much of the rest of India.
As it turns out, there are quite a few similarities between Thai culture and tribal northeast Indian culture. Thai culture is a communal culture, like mine, and Thais also respect and take care of their parents and other elders. Food is another commonality. Thais eat rice every day, just like I do, as well as meat, vegetables and fruit. These similarities made it fairly easy for me to adapt to life in Bangkok.
The hardest part about living here is probably the language barrier as most Thais don’t speak English. I have studied Thai, but I still find it a little bit difficult, mostly because of the 5 tones. Like many other northeast Indians, I can speak several languages, so learning another one shouldn’t be too difficult, but I think it’s harder to learn a new language as an adult.
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Aside from the language barrier, Bangkok is a pretty easy place to live. The public transportation options, including buses, taxis, motorcycle taxis, subway, skytrain, and river taxis, make getting around this huge city easy. To get to work, I just hop on a motorcycle taxi for a short ride. On weekends, Susan and I love to get on the bus and explore the city.
Another good thing about Bangkok is how easy it is to get food. I often cook Naga food at home, but sometimes it’s easier to bring food home because street food is available everywhere, all the time. We can walk about 50 meters from our condo and have lots of options. I especially like somtam, which is a type of salad made with unripe papaya. The market is also a quick walk from where we live and we buy fresh meat, fruit and vegetables a couple of times a week.
I am grateful for the opportunity to live in another country. It’s a privilege to live in a country that is not my own and I try to make the most of my time here, both for myself and for others. Susan and I travel when we can and record our experiences to give our family and friends a look at our life here and our experiences in new places. We also like to have people over to our house for a meal to get to know them and to serve them. Wherever we live, our job is to do good to one another as God has called us to and there is a lot of good to be done here in Bangkok.
If I could encourage the people of northeast India, my people, in any way, I would say this: take school seriously, work hard and learn as much as possible, go to university if you’re able and pursue whatever opportunities are presented. Make friends with people from different cultures. Save money and travel. Continue to serve those around you and ask God to lead you. You never know what’s ahead.
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