Reality checks and more: Things you learn while staying alone in a new city

  • Sneha Bengani, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 10, 2016 10:31 IST
Being independent is not as jazzy as it is made to sound, especially when you take into account the bills, erratic food supply and doing things on your own, all and sundry. (YouTube grab)

At the risk of sounding like a sassy coming-of-age chick-flick, what this really is about is the more mundane details of growing up. Some part of it does happen as in the movies, adventures where you least expect them, but most of it is fairly dreary. ‘Adulting’ is mostly plain, pedestrian and painful, with a few friends and fun days thrown in unevenly.

So what does happen when as a single young adult you move to a different city to work? A lot of (mis)adventures, reality checks and some great learning.

House hunting. The struggle is real.

I have changed six houses in the last two years. No, I am not a bad tenant (if I may say so). I’ve had to change homes for several reasons — official transfers, landlord selling the house, wanting to live with a best friend — but that has never made the process any less exhausting.

I have shared a hall, lived in a room on the roof (too much of Ruskin Bond, can’t help it), been in the front seat of large transport trolleys and I know almost all the brokers in my area by their first name. As for my packing skills, needless to say, I have become such a pro, it should be on my resume.

The anonymity. My own invisibility cloak.

Now I understand why everyone I have met in the last two years know most of the characters of American/British television series better than their own siblings. It’s because living away from home allows you a certain aloofness and personal space. For when you have family and friends that can fill up a large banquet hall, there is hardly any room for Jon Snow or Piper Chapman. As it happens, I am currently reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. For the first time (I know, I know).

Being broke is a way of life. So is thinking about food.

At the beginning of every month. (YouTube grab)

By the second week. (YouTube grab)

I started living hand-to-mouth before I found out what it meant. The next month never seemed to get better: Bills, bills everywhere, not a penny to spare. It doesn’t help matters when you’re constantly thinking of how to manage the next meal.

That your mother is a brilliant cook doesn’t help either, especially when it’s not an inheritable magical quality. And hiring a cook or ordering food from tiffin centers do not work for long. So, what do you do? You live on coffee, sandwiches and everything else that doesn’t need sautéing, or frying, or a hot stove. In fact, anything that doesn’t require being in the kitchen.

Finding a maid. Who actually works and doesn’t steal.

This is like looking for The One – the true love you would gladly marry if it came to it.

I never considered it a real problem until one day I had no washed clothes or utensils left. It is a matter of sheer luck to find domestic help that doesn’t require locking everything up or whose work timings actually match your free time. If you have found someone, make them your Bae right away and never let go, for they’ll be the only one there after everyone else leaves, quite literally!

Conversations with the landlord. Fewer the better.

Too much noise, too many late nights, too frequent visits from friends and too late for rent — irrespective of the topic of conversation, your landlord will be annoyed most always, and you, awkward. And if you happen to work late, may the good god bless you.

Half of my independent life has been spent on finding a house whose owner lives in a land far far away. A different city if I can help it, but, preferably an entirely different country.

Animated discourses. It’s like catching a butterfly.

Well, now that you are in a new city all by yourself, you’ll meet interesting people, plenty of them actually. But not every animated conversation will turn into a substantial acquaintance. Even the rare ones you will want to follow up on will not materialise on most occasions. This, however, should not stop you from putting yourself out there. As Dory says, just keep swimming. Who knows, you may just reach the end of the rainbow one day.

Interact with the writer at @sneha _bengani

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