This week I received a letter from Shreyasi, who has got the opportunity to go and study in Bangalore. She lives in Delhi, and is worried about leaving her home, her family and friends.
Shreyasi, your letter jumped out at me because I’ve spent most of my life in boarding school, away from home. I went to study in Ooty when I was 10, finished my ICSE in Bangalore when I was 16, and went to film school in Los Angeles when I was 20. First, let me tell you from experience that Bangalore rocks; it’s a great place. The people are very chilled out and friendly, and there’s lots to do. Also, pretty much everyone speaks Hindi, so that makes life a whole lot easier.
But that’s the smaller picture. What I really want to share with you is the Big Picture. (Don’t be afraid of the capital letters, they’re just for effect.) I’m really glad I went to boarding school because I feel it helped me grow up, and learn to take care of myself. I believe that living away from home is not just an important part of growing up, it is essential.
At home, our parents take care of everything for us, which is natural... but at some point, we have to learn to fend for ourselves. From something as small as doing laundry (how do all your dirty clothes become clean?) to paying electricity bills. Most of us have no idea how these things happen, they’re just magically taken care of by ‘someone’. Well, one day you’re going to have to be that ‘someone’, and if you’re not prepared, it’s going to hit you like a ton of bricks.
That takes care of the “growing up and learning responsibility” part... but what about the fun? Once again, I shall tell you something from experience; right now, you’re surrounded by people you’ve known your whole life. You’re in a comfort zone. When you’re in a new place, meeting new people, making new friends, that’s when you’ll figure out who you are. And who you want to be. Yes, that’s right, you can still decide that. I can’t ask you to trust me (we don’t know each other well enough for that), but still; Trust me. I’m going to be completely honest about what’s in store for you.
It will be very difficult at first. You’ll be homesick, you’ll miss ‘your family, your bedroom, the food, your friends... everything. You’ll be lonely. Then you’ll start to make friends, one or two at a time. Some of the friends you make right in the beginning won’t last, because you won’t have much in common with them, but some of them will. You’ll suddenly realise that your entire school is filled with boys and girls who have the same passion as you... and that you are surrounded by people who not only have the same interests, but also represent the brightest minds in your field. If you choose not to be among them, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. You will also stay up all night in the hostel, chatting with friends and eating maggi noodles (and probably go to class late the next morning), but let’s not talk about that; your parents might get upset.
Shreyasi, we all have to leave home. It’s a part of life. And scary as it might be, it’s the only way. We have to experience the world out there, fight large and small battles on our own terms. I guarantee that it will be difficult, frustrating and heartbreaking. But once you get past that; I promise you, you will never have more fun than you will with your new friends, never be more fulfilled than you will be in your new school, and you will never, ever regret standing up on your own feet and taking responsibility for your life. Home? Home’s always going to be there.