#men’stalk: Siva Arumugam about Indian guy’s life in Germany, men’s emotions and eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
How much does the dream cost? Siva’s dream to become an Advanced Engineering specialist cost a huge credit in a bank, a couple years of struggle for master’s degree and German language learnt from very basics.
We met in a small Bavarian town Kitzingen when I was in a business trip. This guy will charm anyone with his love for life, wisdom and brains – I believe the last one’s the most attractive thing women can find in men.
Interview by Leysan Berezina, co-author of #men’stalk and Siva Arumugam about Indian guy’s life in Germany, men’s emotions and eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.
– Siva, you lived in India and finished school there. Why did you decide to move to Germany?
– I did my schooling and bachelors in India. Moving abroad was always part of the plan. When I was younger I dreamt of moving to Australia because I had heard a lot about it from relatives there. But at some point after having started with my first job I met this consultant guy from Philippines who was in some way a colleague at work and we ended up being good friends. He inspired me with the work he was doing and right then I knew I needed to do my masters in automobile electronics and started googling. Found a lot of universities all over the world but there was just one in Germany offering a really specific course that I wanted to pursue. So it was like, I was going to apply to this university and if they said yes I would go, if not I was going to stay back. In 3 weeks after I had applied, they said yes. The next morning I quit my job. I was 24.
– Did you know German language to study?
– I had some very basic lessons back in college. But that was in 2007 and had forgotten most of it. So after I quit I had 2 months before I left India. I used that time to do an intensive course in German, like 4 hours a day. This was level A1 & A2. Pretty basic stuff but was good enough to survive my first taxi ride from the Stuttgart train station to my dorm.
– Please share you secret – where did you get money for Uni?
– I had some money saved up from my first job that I used as pocket money and then took a humungous credit from the bank -about 25-30K€. Of course it was risky and a huge gamble. I paid it off after I started working, in about 2-3 years time.
– Where the first moths of your living in Germany tough?
– No. Not at all. They were exciting because you had something new to learn every day. Like for example, I learnt to plan the weekly rations ahead and shop in the weekends. This is not usual in India because most shops are open till 10pm in the night and you could rush to get some last minute veggies. You never really have to stock up for a week. But here most shops are closed at 7pm. So the first months here were a great learning curve.
– Siva, maybe there’s something in you that you take everything easy, but was it that simple? You studied new technologies at Uni and within 4 years in Germany you’ve become a highly rated specialist of a global company. But it wasn’t always easy, ha?
– Of course. I recall my first semester was a pretty tough period right after the breakup and I was struggling to get back on track. But the exams showed up even before I was ready and I flunked one of the papers. This is one of those universities where you have two shots at an exam. Fail it twice and you get expelled. Means you lose 1 year of your life for nothing. That was the dark side of things. On the bright side, you remember the friend that helped me cope with the rough patch, he flunked the same paper too . Not that I was happy he failed, but we got to be great friends after that because we were going through similar shit. We helped each other out and cleared that exam on the retake.
– But have you ever had a feeling like you don’t belong here?
– Actually No. When I decided to move to Germany, a good friend of mine from work also took the same plunge. So technically I wasn’t all by myself. We figured out things together. Starting from applying to the university to a month-long shopping for stuff before we left India. We had each other’s backs at all times. So I belonged wherever I was. Maybe belonging somewhere or not is more about the people you have around you and has less to do with the place itself.
– Siva, did you plan to stay in Germany after your study?
– I was never planning on staying in Germany forever. My plan was to finish my masters and go back and marry my girl. This is a story I eventually got it clinically erased. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind. Joking.
– This must have been fucking hard when you get to know that all your plans for the future, all your dreams about the family were ruined unexpectedly within one second.
– Coping with it on the other hand was a very hard experience. The immediate hours that followed the break up were the hardest. If not for a friend of mine I have no idea how I would have survived that ordeal. But then God had other plans for me. Good ones. Great ones.
– Siva, please give you advise how to cope up with break-up.
– Here is how I would summarize my thoughts on how to survive a break up. After a break up, never be alone. Go to your friends. Surround yourself with people that love you. Once you are over the hardest phase of a breakup, think about this. The primary reason why breakups are so hard is because we witness something shatter, that we hoped was going to last forever. We think that this thing that we have with this special someone is the thing. And if we lose it we are never going to find something like this ever again. But that’s not true. There always will be someone else. Always. Just a matter of time. As they say, time heals all wounds. And it is true. It will be hard, but you will get over it.
– Thank you, Siva. You are as wise as an owl. Let’s talk about German reality today. Did the fact that it hosts many refugees from Africa influence you? And what is your personal attitude to that?
– Germany hosting refugees is a good thing, for those that really need the help. Women, children, families fleeing war. I mean the Germans themselves, many of them, were at one point refugees in the US and other countries. So it’s good that they want to help now that they are in a position to help. But what I personally didn’t feel very excited about, was me being looked down upon as a refugee just because I am brown Well no one is to blame for that.
– Do natives act in a different way? Or say things?
– No, but you get these ‘looks’ from people. And you know for sure that they are for one of the following reasons: a.You just scared the shit out of them because you are brown and sport a beard. b. They have never been outside of their hometown and never gotten to see a person of color before. Well like I said, you really can’t blame them. The recent happenings have made sure they have a reason to be suspicious and disapproving of outsiders living in Germany.
– Siva, from your point of view, which 5 things in Germany made you feel weird?
1.Obsession with Planning – even a 10 minute coffee break goes on the calendar 2. Clear distinction between friends & acquaintances – at times makes you wonder where you stand in the relationship (pun intended) c. Potatoes – are life savers, like in the Martian d. Dialects – Each state has its own dialect and hardly anyone speaks the German you learn at school e. Stereotypes – Once people here know you are Indian, they have these usual set of preconceived notions about you – you like spicy food, you don’t respect women.. .yada yada yada.
– Tell us, what are the main differences between your native country and Germany?
– A lot of them. But to give you a simpler answer, I see this to some extent as a real life version of the movie Avatar. Germany and India are two different worlds. Both beautiful in their own respects.
– And why did you decide to return to India?
– Very personal reasons. Firstly for my parents. Secondly, I feel a void here even though I have everything material that I could wish for. I am going to look for that missing piece of the puzzle in India. At Home…where the heart is.
– We all think that men should be taught. No emotions. No homesickness. But you say something different now to what we used to.
– Well ‘no emotions’ and ‘no homesickness’ for men is a stereotype. Humans are supposed to feel emotions. It is healthy to do so. Man or Woman, emotions I find are intriguing and define the personality. I love emotions. If not for emotions, you and me we are just robots and life wouldn’t have any meaning at all!
– Is men’s life a struggle?
– Actually life in general is a struggle. I don’t think you can grade it based on a gender. In India they say you compare yourself with the one’s you find are less privileged than you. Like a guy with shoes should thank God that he has been gifted with legs (and feet) to wear shoes and not be disappointed with why he is not rich enough to buy Italian designer shoes. It doesn’t mean one should not be ambitious, it is just an art of living contented with what you have. So to answer your question on whether Men’s life is a struggle, I would say – not so much, when compared to the problems Women and the neutral gender have to face on earth.
– Why do you think men have less problems?
– Because the last two classes have a lot of problems that men normally don’t have.
– But the last two classes also don’t have problems men have.
– Men don’t get sexually harassed (most of the times) … Men get on an average get paid more than women. Male dominance prevails over the other genders which means they are in my opinion the ones with least amount of problems in the world.
– All right, Siva, I’m sold. Thank you for this interview! It was my pleasure. This is the last question to you. Happiness is…
– a state of the mind where you are convinced you have ‘Everything’ that you need. Now this ‘Everything’ is a variable depending on people, place and time.
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