22nd July 2013
A visit to Chennai to work as a volunteer at a local school had Aine Edwards falling in love with the city and its dynamism. “I visited Chennai almost a decade ago. My cousin Frank Beechinor had started his company, Vizual Business Solutions, here almost 15 years ago. He is a successful entrepreneur and was forward thinking enough to set up an offshore operation in Chennai back then. He opened the door to India and Chennai for me by taking that first step. The company has now been bought by ADP and is fully Indian- run. As a part of that, Frank had also set up a school. I came to Chennai to volunteer at the school,” explains Aine, who hails from Cork, Ireland.
Speaking about her first impressions of the city, Aine says, “I still remember that I was flying Emirates to Chennai and the air hostess was Irish. So, I kept asking her if I would be okay in Chennai. I was seeking that reassurance. Then, the CEO of my cousin’s company, who was also Irish, picked me up at the airport. Then, I was dropped off at the Paper Mills Road and that’s when it all started to sink in. Perambur became home for 18 months,” she smiles.
Having been in and out of the city for the past decade, Aine confesses that a lot has changed over the years. “It’s really hard to describe. When I came back to Chennai two years ago, the changes were big. The city was developing more rapidly than you could imagine. There are more cars on the roads and people are also dressing in a more urbane manner,” she says.
Aine recently started her own business. “I have an experience of 10 years, working for my cousin’s company. Most people in Europe don’t understand much about business in India. So I help them connect with prospective business partners here. Small businesses there are too far away to judge the scenario here. I’ve lived here and know the city’s business scene better. I recently got a call from an Indian living in Ireland, who wanted to start a business here. It’s ironic,” she smiles.
Aine states that her homeland Cork and Chennai have many similarities. “Both the places are in the south of the country and are very beautiful. There are lovely beaches in both places. Cork and Chennai are my two homes, which are different yet similar,” she reveals, adding that she can speak some Tamil. “Tamil konjum konjum theriyum (I know a little bit of Tamil),” she laughs.
She is a water sports enthusiast who surfs and sails regularly. It’s a love that developed early in her childhood. “My grand uncle had a boat and we spent quite a lot of time fishing. When I was 18, I learnt scuba diving, which became a passion. I became an instructor. I used to teach scuba diving in the Maldives for a while. I also learnt surfing. I recently got my surfboard from Ireland. I go sailing too. I love the sea. I don’t think I could live in any other city,” she adds.
Living in the city brings its own learning curve with it, Aine concurs. “Chennai has taught me patience. If you don’t have the patience, then India is not for you,” she says. Aine concludes by confessing that she “loves the city’s cuisine. I love dosa and biryani. The last meal before I go to Ireland and the first meal when I return is biryani.”
Byline: Tuba Raqshan
Publication: Deccan Chronicle