I landed in Barcelona on 18th August’14, got comfortably chauffeured to my flat in l’Eixample and while I sat on the steps opposite my flat waiting for my flatmate to arrive, I realised I was fairly comfortable waiting. I was consciously making an effort to accommodate people from different cultures and that was a start to opening myself up to the world.
After spending a few hours setting up my space in the flat, I decided to step out into a bustling street with people and restaurants to go treat myself to a glass of Sangria and Paella. When I stepped out, only to my surprise, the streets were empty and my heart just sank. I knew my destination but I didn’t know how to get there. I had google maps but I am geographically challenged and perpetually getting confused between left and right. I felt this sick sense of familiarity at that point when I related this situation to wanting to be a CEO at 37 and not knowing how to get there. I wandered around aimlessly for an hour and picked up some milk before I decided to call for help. I learnt that sometimes in life you’ve to let others support you if it means you can go up just a few notches.
I walked to the nearest Metro Station with Paulo, a Brazilian from my class at IESE. A guy who was married with a son and yet out most nights with IESE folks, which I thought was efficient time management on his part. Paulo reminded me a lot of Ajit, my cousin brother, very warm and affectionate. We had a nice chat about our profession and life in Barcelona. After changing trains, we met Tullio, another Brazilian who broke out into Portuguese the moment he met Paulo but Paulo being conscious of my presence switched back to English. Tullio was familiar with Bombay as his father worked with ABG. I suddenly noticed how people relate to you not based on your profession but based on your nationality (even though I wasn’t carrying an Indian flag around). Strangely enough, the thought of India made me comfortable and so I bonded with Tullio briefly before we reached this Tapas bar called Irati where the “IESE Wolfpack 2” (This was before whatsapp expanded group capacity to over a 100) was catching up. Majority of them were Brazilians, so naturally the natural mode of communication was Portugese. I was a bit lost at first as I was trying to identify English speakers who weren’t taken (already in seemingly deep conversations with others) yet but the group was too small for me to be successful.
As I gobbled up the tapas at Irati (more about Irati ops in another blogpost), I realised that my networking skills had miserably failed me in this new setting with non-native English speakers. Now, in retrospect, it is like boiling an egg and peeling the shell off carefully. You have to go into hot boiling waters first i.e get out of your comfort zone (put yourself in a group of non-native English speakers) and then allow the hard shell to be removed (Less guarded). So on that note, I decided to pamper myself by calling it a day and head home. I shared a cab home with Frida, a Norwegian, who was surprised that as an Indian, I spoke good English. I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only one discovering new things that night.
Update : During my first few days in Barcelona, I penned down every little bit of my life in plain vanilla flavours as a part of the ‘Chasing a bullet point’ book I wanted to write during my two years of the MBA program until the cases got the better of me and I got lost in fighting my way out. As I was reading through some of the initial chapters, I found that my first thoughts about people, places and pubs were interesting and I wanted to share these stories. So, I’ve recorded my life for about 29 days and I will publish them here as a part of this digital text documentary.