Saturday, April 07, 2012

A heart in two places

Gim Killian, who is of Malayali origin, grew up in Cologne, Germany. She talks about the impact on both cultures on her attitudes and behaviour

Photo: Oliver Prang and Gim Killian

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 2002, one of Germany 's leading singers, Ben, was looking for a female crooner. More than 5000 girls took part in auditions all over Germany. Through elimination roads, this was reduced to 100, to 20, to 10 and finally, there were three. “One was me, an exotic person with black eyes and hair,” says Gim Killian. “Then there was a Russian blonde, who looked like an angel, with curly blonde hair. The third contestant was a German, with brown hair.”

And in the end, in a live television programme, watched by millions, it was the exotic Gim who was selected to sing with Ben. And, not surprisingly, the pop-soul song, 'Angel' went on to become a hit. “It became No 2 in Germany, No. 1 in Austria and No 9 in Switzerland ,” says Gim.

However, surprisingly, Gim's career did not take off. “Because of easy downloads, the music industry was going through a bad time,” she says. “The opportunities for singers became that much more difficult.” Gim released a solo album, but it did not do well. But rather than sulk and mope around, like many artistes, Gim switched over to managing singers, models, and actors. And that is what she continues to do now.

At the Killians Hotel in Fort Kochi, which is run by her father, Joseph Killian, she comes across as slim and lithe, with a husky voice, and an easy smile. “I grew up in Cologne,” she says. “My father went there as a young man, became a businessman, and settled there.”

And Gim, like most children who have lived abroad, is trying to come to terms with both cultures. “In Kerala, I am the German, while in Germany I am the Indian girl,” she says, with a wry smile. On this visit, Gim is accompanied by her German boyfriend of five years, Oliver Prang, and his parents.

“There are a lot of situations where I see the stark difference between Indians and Germans,” says Gim. “We drink tea in the mornings, while for the Germans, it is always coffee.”

The Germans always have a daily schedule planned out, even if they are on holiday. “When my parents tell them that in the evening we will be going to my grandmother’s place, they will ask, ‘At what time?’” says Gim. “Then they will enquire about whether the old lady has been told about the visit. My dad then says, 'We will call her on the way.' In Germany, you have to set up appointments, before-hand, even between family members. So, my future in-laws looked amazed.”

Gim is also amazed at the changing status of women in Kerala. “They are getting stronger. Many of them are smart, well-educated, and run businesses on their own,” she says. “That is a good sign.”

Despite the changes, Gim does not believe she will be able to have a good marriage with a Malayali. “I am too free and independent,” she says. “There is a precise role for a woman in a Malayali marriage. I don’t think I can fulfill that. Ultimately, there is too much of Germany within me, to be comfortable here.”

And yet Gim has strong Indian values. She has come to Kochi because she misses her parents very much. “I would be really happy if they move back to Cologne,” she says. Interestingly, when she began a steady relationship with Oliver, she was instrumental in getting him closer to his parents. “That again is my Malayali heritage,” she says. “And I also wanted to get close to his father and mother. Oliver's parents are happy because of this. This is their first trip outside Europe.”

Meanwhile, Oliver, who works in the IT industry, says that he was attracted to Gim because of her unusual looks and open-minded nature. “Gim's family is also warm and close,” he says. “I enjoyed that aspect. And I have been interested in India for a long time.”

At present, the couple is building a farmhouse together. “One day, in the future, we will marry and have kids,” says Gim, as Oliver nods and smiles.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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