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A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Away from home? Don’t be sad

You know why you’re having trouble adjusting in a city that’s not yours? Because you are trying too hard to belong.

columns Updated: May 26, 2018 16:49 IST
Sonal Kalra
Sonal Kalra
Hindustan Times
Sonal Kalra,A Calmer You,Sonal Kalra Column
A lot of people, who are having to live away from their native place because of studies or work or any other reason, often feel anxious and stressed while missing home.

Because of my extremely good nature, so many of you trust me with your deepest troubles and problems each week. But, I don’t know why a lot of you keep asking me not to mention your name while discussing the topic. Don’t be so humble now, learn from me. Isn’t it cool to see your name published in a national daily, eh, Varun? So what if it is in the context of you wanting to pee outside your neighbour Anil Sharma’s front door in Lajpat Nagar each morning, because he’s such a pain over parking? You’ve done it only thrice, as you clarify, but see the brighter side, you’ve now become famous. You’re most welcome. I already know about my optimistic, good nature.

Anyway, this week, I got a mail from 19-year-old Vivek Oberoi from Indore who is depressed. Hawww, it just struck me that people may be writing fake names in their letters to me. Or maybe not.

Anyway, around six months back, Vivek moved to Delhi for higher studies. And he hates every minute of the six months he has spent in this ‘self-centered’ city so far. His words, not mine. “People in big cities are unfriendly towards those from smaller towns. I really feel out of place. I had so many friends back home in Indore, there’s so much warmth when I call them every day. I hate it here, feel like crying,” he says.

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Dekho Vivek, I can totally understand your problem, but have you thought about what you may have done, unintentionally, for people to become unfriendly? Like tell them your name. You know I’m just joking, don’t you? I genuinely love all Vivek Oberois in this world.

Coming back to your problem, what I’ve gathered from a lot of things you have written about yourself in your mail— which I will not share here, because, you know, I’m fiercely protective of people’s privacy —I think you are a fairly nice, well-mannered and sincere guy. Generally, people of all cities love those qualities. And although I completely agree with you about a sickening bias some people have against those who’ve migrated from relatively smaller cities, I would like to believe that most Delhiites are not like that.

And this problem of ‘not being able to adjust’ is not specific to Delhi. A lot of people, who are having to live away from their native place because of studies or work or any other reason, often feel anxious and stressed while missing home. It’s very natural to. But what makes the situation worse is their tendency to let this I-miss-home feeling keep them from embracing the new place in the true spirit. Although having never ‘lived’ anywhere outside of the city of my birth, I’m not really qualified to preach on this subject, but because of my spectacular wisdom and of course, extremely good nature, I’m telling you about three mistakes, in my view, that you should never make when trying to adjust into a new city.

Mistake 1 – Trying too hard to belong

For all the ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ gyaan we’ve grown up on, it’s a mistake to shed your individuality in a bid to be like the people of the city you’ve moved to. Be the real you, if you want to stay away from depression. I remember, back in college, there was a girl who belonged to Madurai. Every day in the college canteen, I would notice her being visibly uncomfortable and sad. One day I told her how I find certain rice dishes tastier when eaten straight from the hand rather than the spoon. She suddenly warmed up and said that she’s used to eating with hand, and was worried that she’ll be judged for it. Lo batao. To hell with others, yaar, be what you are. That meal of sambhar-rice with our hands was the best meal I had in college because it came with such a rare smile from that girl. Let’s please not forego the joy of living in this bid to adjust. Don’t fake an accent, don’t fake style, don’t fake ‘cool-ness’, don’t fake a smile. It shows.

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Mistake 2 – Harping about your own

Remember, a city and its people cannot warm up to you till you don’t stop harping endlessly about how much you miss your native place, and how much better it is. Every place has its own highs and lows. There may be too much crime in Delhi as compared to your town, but there may also be rare opportunities here to explore and discover culture like no other place. Try to leverage on the uniqueness of whichever place you are in.

Also, it’s much easier to make new friends when you are not always talking to — or about— your old friends back home. As we grow in life, we have to make new friendships. Don’t keep holding too tightly to the older ones so much that your hands are never free to shake them with new friends.

Mistake 3 – Forgetting to thank your luck

Hear it from someone like me who was born, brought up, studied and worked in the same 30km radius all her life. Would most likely retire, die and be cremated within the same area. Sometimes it boggles up my mind. Just sit back and imagine the world as a globe before you. We get to live only one life. A lot of us spend the whole of it in the fraction of a dot that you can’t even spot on the globe with a microscope. Just be thankful if your dot is slightly bigger. It may be hellishly tough to adjust but every new place where you live, gives you two gifts — experience and memories. Cherish them.

Sonal Kalra just got a job offer from Honolulu. She would have accepted it, but she loves her 30km radius too much. Also just saying Honolulu makes her giggle. Happy nature, you see. Mail her at sonal.kalra@ or Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra

First Published: May 26, 2018 16:44 IST