Susmita Bhattacharya, former postgraduate in creative writing, looks back fondly on her memories of Cardiff University and the birth of her daughter.
Susmita Bhattacharya pictured with her husband Syamantak Bhattacharya and their daughter Rohini
Cardiff will always remain close to my heart. Though, when I landed here on a cold, wet October afternoon in 2004, I really didn’t think that way! It took a while to get used to the ‘Welsh rain’ and the short wintry days. Luckily, my husband, who came here to do his PhD, and I lived in a cosy, little family flat at the Cartwright Court which helped us settle in quickly. We would make the twenty-minute trudge to Park Place every day, through rain, snow or shine, and it was always a treat to come back home and chill out with our other student neighbours and their families.
Being a student dependent at first, I had to find a way to pass my time more constructively. I looked up Choices, the Lifelong Learning brochure and signed up for a Creative Writing evening class. That, I think, has changed my life forever. I started writing a few short stories, and with lots of encouragement from my tutor, I decided to take up writing seriously.
I worked part-time in Boots on the High Street for a while. And believe me, that was the best lesson I got in understanding the Welsh people and also the Welsh accent! I absolutely loved it, because people were friendly and to this day, I still go and say hello to my friends working in Boots. It was a wonderful experience.
A year later, I was accepted for an MA in the Practice and Teaching of Creative Writing at the University. The MA programme was very inspiring. I had the opportunity to be with other budding writers, and also met published authors who would come as visiting lecturers. Our own lecturers were wonderful and always very positive. I had a few short stories published in 2006, which made me believe in myself as a writer.
But the best part of our stay here was, of course, the birth of our beautiful baby, Rohini. She was born at the Cardiff Heath Hospital in November 2006. Suddenly, life was full of nappies and bottles and sleepless nights. It was hard being students and parents, as both had to be treated with great importance. The university crèche helped us a lot, as Rohini settled in beautifully at six months of age. It was a pleasure to watch her grow with other little children.
With my husband’s PhD progressing, and Rohini also growing, life in Cardiff settled to a comfortable pace and we would take time off to visit other parts of the UK. I continued to write and teach English at the Cardiff Council, and also socialise a lot, as Rohini’s friend circle was growing at a very fast rate as well! She learned to speak, and I must say that her speech is peppered with a lot of Welsh terms, which makes it sound very endearing!
We have come to an end of our time in Cardiff now. It’s sad as we’ve had to say goodbye to many of our friends. A lot of them have left Cardiff, being international students themselves. Living in Cardiff and studying at the University has broadened our minds and experiences, as we’ve had to live and work with people from all over the world. That makes us feel like truly international people.
All I can say is I’ll never really say goodbye to Cardiff. It’s my baby’s birthplace, and will always have a special place for me in my heart. I’m waiting for the day when I can walk the streets of Cardiff with Rohini, show her the places where she spent her first two years and enjoy those moments with her.
One of the best times of our lives has been spent in this wonderful city, and I’d like to say a heartfelt ‘Diolch, Caerdydd, Cheers to you!’