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My Helsingborg equa(connect)tion by Punit Karnik-Thorat

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

On a (not so cold) December 2015 evening in Mumbai, India, my husband came up to me and blurted, "We are moving to Sweden" .....Blackout, shock, disbelief, happiness and excitement followed soon after. Composing myself, pat came the response "Fair enough..let's do this ...Stockholm wouldn't be all that bad". Little did I know that the bubble would burst within no time when the husband announced: "We are moving to Helsingborg..not Stockholm". Forget the correct pronunciation of the city, I had no idea about its existence. Cut to months of random Google searches on 'things to do...Indian restaurants….kids amusement parks...I landed in the city on a cold July evening. Cold..because I landed from 30°C+. My husband had arrived 3 months prior and his stay cum recce worked in our favour.

A girl standing under a tree in a floral dress and smiling into the camera.
Punit Karnik-Thorat

Away from home for the first time, handling a 2+ year child on my own, bidding adieu to my 8-year-old public relations career and fat paychecks, listening to Yeh Jo Des Hai Mera (This country of mine) from the movie Swades on loop, video calling and Google translator became my best friends…..I despised everything about my move and this alien city. Probably because I came from a much bigger..certainly populated yet close to my heart Mumbai. Helsingborg was a complete contrast. Never in my wildest dreams, had I bumped into a place where shopping malls would shut shop at 1800 hours on a weekend. Obviously, I missed the big city drama! But I had to make peace with it...and I did.

Months turned into a year and SFI happened. Much to my chagrin, I sunk my teeth into the fact that European countries love their local languages and there were no two ways about it. This started my language journey (which is still on) and boy, am I glad!! Thankfully, I had always been an admirer of foreign languages and learning Swedish came naturally to me. In fact, SFI brought the world closer to me. Never in my life had I imagined to be friends with fellow immigrants from Iran, Egypt, classroom was no less than the Atlas! We literally opened our hearts to each other's cultures and slowly, I was no more a part of the “I hate Helsingborg" club.

By now, I had moved out of my living room confines and stepped out for social events. Like a late bloomer, I realized that the more I go around in the city the closer it would bring me to it.

With the idea of introducing our culture to our gen-next, we (a bunch of like-minded friends) gave Helsingborg it's first-ever Ganesh festival (a 2-day Indian fest) in 2017 and we enter our 4th successive year this August (2020).

Have I achieved this bit? Maybe yes and no. Yes, because Helsingborg gave me hope..hope to survive in a place I now call home. I have met some wonderful people along the way who helped me retain my sanctity and sanity. No, because...there is so much left to be done and said. Given my experience, I would love to do more for the English speaking community. For everyone deserves an equal share of the pie! I would like to lend my voice and thoughts to those unheard.

If ever I am asked what did Helsingborg give me? Without blinking, I would say.. Silence. It brought me the much needed calm, it gave me reasons to dream, self retrospect and self reconnect. Oh also gave a fluent Swedish speaking, multilingual daughter!! Everyone has their own obstacles and right now, I am navigating through mine. But I am confident that tomorrow is going to be different and better. And why not,? After all, a home always makes room for everyone in their heart.

More about Punit - A quintessential Indian girl with big dreams in her eyes is trying to find her feet in Helsingborg. Photography, travel, movies excite me the most. Given a chance, I would love to be the voice of the English speaking community in the city. Firm believer of 'She came..she saw..she conquered'


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