I have always thought of myself as an independent and free-thinking person. Growing up, I enjoyed quite a few liberties, thanks to my father. He did not really restrict me with regard to new things that I wanted to do. And that allowed me to have the experiences I have had, to choose journalism, to work in television. I shouldn’t be harping on having been ‘allowed’ to do these things but I know I am lucky to have had the opportunity to do what I have done.
Today, I sit thousands of miles away from him. In a one-bedroom apartment. In a foreign land. Missing what I reluctantly now call my former/other ‘home’. They say it gets easy. But it hasn’t really been. For me.
I’m trying to find my foothold. I’m trying to find all things new. I’m trying to find joy in the smallest of things. I’m trying to find myself.
I recently read somewhere that Indian families never prepare their daughters for life in a different country. We grow up under the protection of our parents, and siblings if any. Parents help us decide every single step in our lives. From which course to study to which motorcycle to purchase to which job to take. And then, when we get married and move out, to a far off place, it hits us. Starting from scratch. Building a new life. Setting up house. Making it a home. Cooking three meals. Ensuring everything is clean. Bills to be paid. Groceries to be bought. It’s a slap in the face if you have never done any of this before.
Fortunately for me, the cooking, cleaning et al have been fairly easy to adjust to. It will never be the same as life was in your ‘home’. But I’m hoping to get there.
The toughest is building a new life. The things you once took for granted are all luxuries now. Not the financial kind. Though that’s there too.
Being able to walk out and talk to your neighbours. Waiting for the vegetable vendor to arrive at your doorstep to buy coriander and green chillies for 5 rupees. Deciding not to cook and instead head to the local fast food joint and eat some Chinese fried rice and Gobi manchurian. Going to friends houses, unannounced.
I did not necessarily do all of these things when I was back home. But the fact is I had the choice to. And now I don’t. These are all luxuries now. Or memories of when I did do them. It’s amazing how you remember the littlest of things and miss them from the bottom of your heart.
While all this is fairly understandable when you move abroad, the worst adjustment is family. No one tells you how much you are actually going to miss them. When someone tells you you are going to miss them a lot, it’s an understatement. No one can even begin to tell you how much you will miss them.
It continues to surprise me, even as I write this, how much I miss my family. And the thing is, you now have to set up your own family. I’m not talking about kids and all though the ‘Is there good news?’ always pops up in the most un-subtlest of ways from an over-enthusiastic aunt or ‘trying-to-be-funny’ acquaintance.
Setting up your own family meaning, now you are the lady of the house and your husband is the man of the house. You turn to each other for advice and discussion and when you hit a roadblock you can’t go running to mom and dad (I’m sure you can, but in the real world you do need to figure out your own stuff unless it’s earth-shattering that parents have to be involved).
The heartache comes in bits and pieces. The smell of freshly-made filter coffee reminds you of making it for your father back home. Looking at fresh flowers in the temple reminds you of the flower-seller hawking your street back home. Watching a TV show makes you try to remember the shows you watched back home. It’s a painful experience. But one that you need to overcome on your own, on your own time and terms.
The wave of sickness can hit you at the most unexpected of times. Don’t even get me started on how it feels when you are actually sick. You want nothing but to be back in that home of your growing up years, to lie down and be taken care of by your parents. A warm cup of milk is all it could take to yearn and crave to go back just one more time and savor everything that you once took for granted.
What I tell myself, every single day, is to try. Because that’s the first step to anything. Trying. Put one foot in front of the other. And try. Try to do better than yesterday.
And so, this new life is like a blank canvas. I get to start from scratch. How many people can actually do that?
I’ve got a new beginning.
Today, I get up at a time of my choosing and it’s a fairly ‘adult’ time to wake up, mind you. Because I know what lies in store in the day ahead and I’m prepared. I make my own rules and decide what I do on any given day. (I know. It’s called being an adult!)
This growing up, this sense of responsibility, this setting up your own family or finding family, is actually pretty cool. No one is forcing me to do it. I’m not unhappy about it. I’m actually enjoying it! And that’s the thing about new experiences. They happen, just like that.
Friends are family for me now. You have them as close as you want but they don’t step on your toes like relatives might. Going out is an event for me. Laugh all you want, but it is. For me. I make a big deal out of the smallest of things i get to do, because I want to enjoy every bit of it. I like holding on to these moments just for a second longer, afraid at times that it may never happen again, but delighted that it is happening.
I get to sit down and ponder things through. Like I’m doing right now, as I write this. This is an opportunity for clarity, for patience, for slow and steady.
I enjoy boardgames. I enjoy cooking (I don’t enjoy looking at a full sink because I’m the one who has to make it un-full). I enjoy reading. I enjoy sitting in the patio and watch the neighbors pets do their thing as the owners pick after in little poopy bags.
This is my life now. And I’m going to make the most of it.
My family is what I make of it. We are two now. We have each other. And that’s what matters.
I get to share all of this every single day with family who live across the seven seas. It’s painful, let me remind you again. But it’s what I have right now. And if you haven’t realized it already, I’ve come to appreciate the smallest of pleasures. And this is one such.
While I do miss the sound of the vegetable vendor shouting ‘Beans, Carrot, Brinjal’, or lighting lamps during Diwali, or navigating my way through crazed traffic, I’ve come to understand the peace and quiet that’s predominant here. It has allowed me time to find myself. To reflect on things gone by and people who have been.
Family is always here, there and everywhere. While my family is far far away, I have another family right here. Family is what you make it to be. It isn’t always about a mother, father, sister, brother and dog (or cat). It can be just two people. Or even friends. Or even acquaintances who could become friends. You build your life with what you have. And this is what I have now.
My new family has made me appreciate my family back home, a lot more. I love them even more. I have also come to realize that family isn’t always blood. They could be anyone who makes you feel comfortable and accepts you for who you are.
I carry my family, old and new, everywhere I go. I think of what they would do if they were with me right then. They sustain me.
I read a quote somewhere that went, “We must take care of our families wherever we find them”. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.