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Pravasi Woman – Pallavi Aiyar | Journalist and author

Tell us about yourself

I am an Indian foreign correspondent who has lived in and reported from China, Europe and Indonesia. I am originally from New Delhi India. I studied at Oxford University and the London School of Economic in the UK before moving to China in 2002. I speak fluent Chinese and am the author of three books related to China: Smoke and Mirrors (a memoir), Chinese Whiskers (a novel) and the Lonely Planet Guide to China written specifically for the Indian market (travelogue). In addition, I have also written a book about Europe called Punjabi Parmesan. My latest book is titled Babies and Bylines and is a motherhood memoir. It will be published early in 2016.Pallavi Aiyar

I currently live in Jakarta, Indonesia, where I freelance for international media writing about Indonesian society and politics. I am also bringing up two young boys and two adorable cats.

I am a 2014 Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum and a former Reuters Institute fellow at Oxford University. I am also a Brains Trust member of the Evian think tank based at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Where are you living currently and why did you choose that location?

I live in Indonesia along with my husband, who is a diplomat for the European Union. We chose the location jointly as somewhere that could work for both of our careers. As a journalist I believe Indonesia is one of the world’s most important “invisible” countries. It is the world’s third largest democracy, and the largest Muslim-majority nation, yet it remains under-covered in the international media. India and Indonesia have particularly deep historical ties, as well as strong contemporary parallels, making their experiences mutually germane. Someone needs to be reporting these.

Why did you move away from India?

I first moved abroad to pursue higher studies. I read History at Oxford and Global Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. While at the LSE I met my future husband who was a Sinologist and persuaded me to move to China to explore career opportunities. I began writing about China for various Indian publications and have been a foreign correspondent ever since.

What do you miss most about home, living abroad?

Kakori kebabs! And the dense network of friends stretching back to my early years in school.

What do you like most about your current location?

I like how Indonesian people tend to be patient and gentle. Even in terrible traffic jams there is none of the aggression and ceaseless horn honking that is the norm in India.

Did you face any particular challenges moving away from India?

My greatest challenge is bringing up my kids to have a sense of identification with India. I worry about how they will negotiate their identities without any strong national roots.

Who in particular helped you during your transition?

My husband has always been a great source of strength, career support, and ideas. It is his “can do” spirit that has enabled me to live this peripatetic life with relative ease.

Do you live in an Indian community?

I don’t.

Do you think you’ll go back to India one day?

Yes. I am keen to move back to India, at least for a few years while my children are still young, so that they are exposed to the culture, and are physically proximate to their extended family.

Website: www.pallavi.aiyar.com

twitter: @pallaviaiyar

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