Mounika’s Story No 1
Mounika (as she would like to be known) arrived in Wales from India Christmas 2021 with her husband and son. In this first story, she talks about her life in her hometown of Krishnanagar, her move to Chenai after she got married and then to Calcutta where her son was born. Her second story is about her experience of the COVID lockdowns in India. Finally, she writes about her life in Cardiff and her hopes for the future. Her stories are filled with experiences of arrivals and departures and running through them her desire to belong and connect.
Chapter 1: Krishnanagar is my hometown
I was born and brought up in a small town called Krishnanagar which is one hundred kilometres from Calcutta (Kolkata) in the Bengali area of northern India. Bengali is our mother tongue, and most people also speak Hindi in this area. When I met my husband, we were ten years old. Then we were just friends and we saw each other every day. Later we thought we would get married. When we asked our parents the first time, they would not accept it. But eventually both families agreed to an arranged marriage. My father-in-law worked in the law courts in Krishnanagar, as did my father and brother, and they knew each other. My father-in-law and mother-in-law are alone now because they only had one son. Now that we are living in Cardiff, they call us two times a day because they are very attached to my son.
When I was twenty-three, I started working in a nursery school. I worked there for two years. It is a very popular school in our town with a thousand children studying there from nursery to class four. I was enjoying it a lot and I made so many friends there. I loved it and got the chance to learn many things.
When I was twenty-five, we got married and we moved to Chenai, in the Tamil region of southern India. My husband worked there for a well-known IT company. My husband had been working there one and a half years before we were married, and I moved there a few days after marriage. I had to resign from my job. The school said “if you return back to your hometown you will surely join the school if you would like to”. I never had a chance to return to the same situation.
When we moved to Chenai, we did not have any friends. I did not understand the neighbours because they spoke Tamil and it is not an easy language. Very tough language – you can’t understand one word! I learned about three words in two years. We had a rented house, and the neighbours were good, but I could not understand them. I was very lonely.
I decided to apply for a job and I got one in walking distance from my house – an insurance company. I worked there for one and a half years and the office was very good. They spoke English and I made friends there. I decided to learn English online so I could communicate with them. Sometimes they speak together in Tamil but when they spoke to me, they spoke English. They were very friendly, and when I left they said anytime you come to Chenai please come to office. The team leader and two others still contact me on WhatsApp.
I stayed in Chenai for two and a half years and then in 2016 we moved to Calcutta where my husband was transferred. I stayed for six months in Calcutta. My husband was busy at work all of the time and I thought, who will care for me? So, I moved back to Krishnanagar to live with my mother and father- in-law. It is my hometown and I know it. My husband stayed in Calcutta and would visit every weekend.
Then in 2017 I became pregnant, so I became busy with my child. I was twenty-nine when my son was born. Two months later my father died. In 2018 I moved with my son to a flat with my husband in Calcutta. When my son was two years old, he was very noisy and very over-active. I’d turn around and he would throw everything – his toys, my things, spread all round the house. That time was difficult. My husband always busy with his own work. We got admission for my son in a playschool in January 2020. A very good school. My son was enjoying a lot. He learned quickly and made many good friends. Then in March Covid came into our lives.