FOREIGN DESPATCH
A new language learnt, a new way of life embraced… Gopalkrishna Kulkarni, Senior Manager, MCTCL gives an insight into the remarkable transformations that living in China have led to, for him and his family.

A PROJECT FOR THE FARM DIVISION TOOK
SR. MANAGER, MCTCL, GOPALKRISHNA KULKARNI TO CHINA 10 YEARS AGO. IN THESE MANY YEARS, HE HAS LEARNT A NEW LANGUAGE, NEW CUISINES AND AN ALL NEW WAY OF LIFE. LET’S TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT MAKES HIS LIFE IN CHINA A CHRONICLE IN MANY EXCITING EXPERIENCES.

MUMBAI BORN AND BRED
GOPALKRISHNA KULKARNI HAS SPENT A DECADE IN NANCHANG AND YANCHENG, REPUBLIC OF CHINA. AN EXCITING PROJECT FROM THE FARM DIVISION TOOK HIM TO CHINA IN 2005 AND SINCE THEN HE HAS SPENT HIS TIME THERE WORKING, ACCLIMATISING, AND LEARNING TO LOVE THE CHINESE CUISINE. GOPAL SPEAKS MANDARIN LIKE A NATIVE AND WHAT’S MORE, ALONG WITH SOME INDIAN COLLEAGUES, HE HAS EVEN TAUGHT THE COOKS IN THE COMPANY CAFETERIA, THE NUANCES OF INDIAN FOOD AND COOKING.

How did your move to China happen and what induced you to accept the opportunity?

I had spent five years in Mahindra already, when I was offered this move. I took it up, knowing it would be an exciting challenge. An unfamiliar country, an alien language, the exotic oriental…all had its own charm and I accepted the challenge readily, even eagerly.

Tell us of your initial impressions of China

When I landed in Shanghai airport, I was overawed by the grandeur. This was in 2005, and I had seen nothing like this back home. In that first trip, my colleague and I took an hour to find the rest-room! It was like being in an alien land – part confusing, part quixotic. Nobody spoke our language, or understood us.

Tell us some interesting peculiarities that caught your attention about China?

The number four is inauspicious here - It is a number that symbolises death. So much so, that during important exams, the Chinese Government does not let taxis with number four on their license plates ply, as it believes that this might affect students adversely. Another unique thing is the tone of speaking. A change in tone can make a world of a difference to the connotation of words while speaking. For example, the word, ‘Ma’, said in a different tone can mean horse or mother.

Have you travelled much in such a scenic country?.

I’ve travelled extensively during my stay here. China is three times the size of India and diverse in geography – so there are mountains, beaches, many different places to visit. Last week, I had been to Shangri-La which is the location of the seat of the Dêqên Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

What’s your family’s reaction to being in China?

It’s been a unique experience for all of us. One of the first things we did when my wife came over in 2006 to join me, was to enrol in a Mandarin class. Over weekends, we learnt the intricacies of the language and today, I speak the language fluently…so our stay here has been interesting, fun and enlightening in many ways.

What is the condition of the Chinese economy and how is it affecting the people?

The Chinese economy is slowing down. It is hardly possible to sustain a growth rate of 10% for decades. The conditions are yet to truly and adversely affect the consumer. It will, eventually, in my opinion. These are difficult times and the going may get tougher in the future.

How did you adapt to the cuisine?

When we first came to Nancheng, we would eat steamed white rice and soy sauce for lunch at the canteen. Once familiarity grew, we taught the cooks how to make food for us in the Indian style. Some of our wives assisted in giving demos too. With time, I have grown to love authentic Chinese food, which is very different from Chinese food in India. I love the many ways in which noodles can be prepared – steamed, fried, among others.

What are the things you look forward to in the near future?

My son will graduate from Hong Kong…I am looking forward to that. Other than that, I look forward to another new beginning in life, somewhere in a far-off country.