August 1989, we were relocating to Malaysia. My dad had decided enough was enough in Air India, and took up an expatriate role with Malaysia Airlines. A very important turning point in all our lives. We packed our bags, boxes, suitcases; gave away loads of stuff; pushed a few valuable boxes of books and more books to my grandmom’s place; and travelled across Kerala bidding goodbye. For us kids, it seemed like a grand adventure. I remember an uncle, who I looked up to as a mentor, giving me a whirlwind history of Malaya and how interspersed the cultures of Malays, Chinese and Indians were. I didn’t understand most of what he said at that time but later it was really useful information to assimilate the new context.
After an eventful month of travelling, we were fairly knackered when we landed on Malaysian soil. From the moment we landed, we sisters were sick and decided to make a very messy entrance. However, we had not even exited the airport, when our adventure began. We were detained at the Immigration for lack of return tickets! Many years later, I understood that we had actually travelled on tourist visa because dad’s employment contract had not begun. After a few hours wait (because we had landed in the wee hours of the morning and Malaysia Airlines offices had not opened up), we managed to leave the airport.
Although deeply exhausted, we were excited being in an almost mystical land. Everything seemed just amazing – the ATM dispensing cash, the Holiday Inn hospitality, the amount of rice we could get for 1 Malaysia Ringitt, the set yoghurt in the supermarket and the ToysRUs we visited with no money in our pockets. I must say it set the tone for us to feel thoroughly optimistic about our future.
The very next day we got a sense of reality again. My dad had a test to complete before he would be given the contract. And he failed the test! My dad was cool about it and the next day went again and rewrote the test. He got his confirmed contact that was valid for one year, renewable of course. As a pre-teen, all of this did not seem so big, but on hindsight it taught me a lot of lessons.
Most other expats who came to join Malaysia Airlines came alone, got their contract, found houses to settle into, got admissions for their children in one of the International Schools and then brought their families over. My dad had done nothing of the sort. This was a hallmark of a really optimistic, adventurous, spontaneous man. Friends remark this is also courageous and may be fool-hardy!
The biggest lesson I learnt is that we must trust – trust ourselves and trust others. If we trust ourselves, the world is a big beautiful adventure. If we trust others we will go far in enjoying this big beautiful adventure