When I moved out of my home, I was eighteen. And while the thought of staying away from home broke me even then, after eight years of staying away from home, I feel just as broken.
I moved out of my city, Mumbai at an age where understanding the “adulting” aspect of life was still sort of unknown to me. I loved Mumbai, I loved India and I loved everything about the comforts of staying put in my own home, where I reigned on the inhabitants like the Queen of England.
Little did I know that moving out of my home would lead to a series of topsy-turvy changes in life that would become so permanent with its tiresome weight that it would break me apart. The first few years when I was completing Engineering, I stayed in a hostel (luxury compared to Indian hostels) and things were sort of homely. I made plenty of friends who would chat with me all night long, watch scary movies with a bowl of microwaved popcorn in hand and giggled at the slightest mention of their alleged affairs.
After completing college, the real struggle began. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was escape the mundane lifestyle of a city, where you worked eight hours a day to pay bills and apparently build wealth, come back home (not the home you long left, but the house that you are trying to build into a home with the aid of IKEA furniture and by cooking batches of rajma chawal) to cook, clean, eat, sleep, repeat. You talk to your folks back home over the phone, skype and describe your life to them, while listening intently at every syllable they say with rapt attention, as if trying to absorb in every tiny detail of their lives.
It is like living in a virtual reality, where you desperately want to be a part of their lives, squeezing every ounce of technology to gain entry into the lives of the family you love most, yet the harsh and final truth is that, you are not a part of their daily lives anymore. You can know how they are doing, and what they ate for lunch the previous day, but can you really know how their faces lit up when they heard their favourite song on the radio? Can you really be a part of their daily arguments, and the time when they broke down in the middle of the night? Can Facetime really cope up with the instantaneousness of the gossip-infused shopping expeditions with your mom-in-law? Can technology ever compete with the absoluteness of being there?
The reason why moving out of my home broke me is because I left a part of who I used to be back in Mumbai. I still love Mumbai, but you know what? I yearn to be back in my city, dance in the monsoon rains, ride the rickshaw to Bandstand and chill for hours at Candies. But, when I do go back, I find myself in an awkward, uncomfortable state – I begin complaining of the same monsoon that I craved for in this desert, I sniff my nose like a typical NRI at the stench-laden puddles of muck and I don’t chill at Candies, because travelling to Candies would take me an hour and half in the traffic these days. So, if we are constantly missing what we leave behind in our current reality and vice versa, where do we really belong?
Moving out of home is so psychologically exhausting because a part of you that was pivotal to who you were is forever lost in the immigration counters of airports. It is somewhat like being pregnant – People look at you with a mix of pity and admiration, always congratulating you for your “special status” yet pitying you for your condition. (Line inspired by an excerpt from The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri)
The biggest pain of moving out of home for your better future is what you leave behind. In this rat race that we humans have created, did we realize when we left our home, that there was no going back? Did we realize that we were giving up on the regular evening chats with our siblings in the wake of increasing the number of zeroes in our bank accounts? Did we realize that the “sorshe ilish” that our grandma so dolefully fed us with soft, willowy rice was a delicacy that would exist only in nostalgia?
Moving out of my home did a lot of good things to me as well. It made me into a hell of a strong girl, who learnt to wake up by herself and make breakfast without making a face, who became responsible enough to take hard & independent decisions and someone who is able to sustain and create. My broken part is lost, yet something new has been built and fixed in its place.
Basically, it made me into an adult.
But, does “adulting” really mean leaving behind the people you grew up with, the city where it all started and the loud, gurgling sounds of laughter that is now slowly fading?
And if that’s what it is, then maybe it is time, we retrospect on what it is we really want.
A lot of money, a great career, a comfortable lifestyle and being alone?
Or a lot of money, a great career, a comfortable lifestyle and a large portion of that “sorshe ilish” and rice?