This is the story of young expats who left their countries years ago and stayed back in Jaipur, making the Pink City their new home.
Happily settled in the capital of the desert state for over a decade now, Marie-Anne Oudejans and Barbara Miolini love India and consider themselves lucky to be in this country at a time when the world has turned upside down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Both of them have not gone back to their families in Europe for over a year due to the Covid induced restrictions, though they are eager to meet them now.
“It has been quite a long time,” said Swiss born Barbara.
“People in Europe and many other parts of the world have been affected mentally due to the strict restrictions imposed there. However, we are lucky to be here as we are moving ahead with day to day life. We have not been affected mentally as those people have,” she said, adding, “I came here on a sabbatical and had planned to travel six months in India and six months in Africa. I travelled to Gujarat, Varanasi and south India but I really loved Rajasthan. I also stayed in Jaisalmer for some time before I landed in Jaipur 14 years back owing to work reasons. Since then I have stayed here.”
“It was not planned at all,” she added with a smile on her face.
Shedding light on her background, Barbara said, “I did my hotel management from Switzerland, then had a factory doing production for Armani and other Italian brands. Then I started with a hotel here and now I am working on a new project.”
Barbara, who is half Swiss and half Italian, grew up in Switzerland and has been in India for the past 15 years. Presently, she owns one of the city’s finest restaurants, Bar Pallidio, which is a blend of the beauty and history of Asolo, a town in Italy, and merges the grandeur and culture of Jaipur.
“I love taking up new things. India is a land with a lot of opportunities. It is a wonderful place if you want to do something. Everything is possible here, but one needs to be patient to make things possible,” she said.
Barbara, meanwhile, is planning to visit her family in Switzerland during Easter.
The other expat, Marie-Anne, is an interior designer who came to the Pink City 10 years back.
“I came to India to work on a project in Delhi and then decided to come to Jaipur as I had my dog and we felt more comfortable in Jaipur,” she said.
“In Jaipur, Barbara asked me to design her bar and after that I have been here for a long time working on a lot of projects. I have floated my own company here, doing some prestigious projects,” she added.
Speaking about the lockdown, she said, “Many of our friends in Europe and other parts of the world are blocked, as most places are still under lockdown. While we can go out in Jaipur now, for most of our friends, the situation is still like a nightmare. We used to travel a lot, used to see our families six times a year as they used to fly here frequently; however, now no one is coming here and we cannot go there because we have business visas. We are worried that if we go, we might not come back as things are changing fast.
“Also, I have a Dutch passport but have not lived in the Netherlands since the last 17 years. It is a complicated case, so we decided to stay here; now we are waiting for the right time to come when we can go and meet our families, she said.
Marie-Anne grew up in France, then went to New York besides staying in Italy and Spain.
“India is very much my home. I have made good friends here and have done some incredible work… So this remains my home,” Marie-Anne said.