Most of my young adult life was ensconced in the cushy bubble of my parents' home. I was safe there and partook in the perks of their years of hard work, and without grudge they shared the little luxuries of life. But before I knew it 30 was on the anvil, and I was hurtling towards it with no real life-experience.
In a carefully thought out plan I left my home down in a more cosmopolitan south and moved onward to the big city for work, while my well-meaning parents unleashed the drama and tears reminiscent of a vidaai. There was no room or time for sentiments so I wore a brave mask and didn't turn around for a last look at the life I was leaving behind. (The mask has since crumbled many times, but I just put it back together and hope that nobody has noticed.)
So I marched on with some luggage and so much baggage, hopeful for the life in a new city with a new language and new people.
I had romanticised this idea in my head - unlike hostel - the relief of moving out of my parents' and not having to answer questions again, owning the keys to a place, setting it up with candles, curtains and cushions, the excitement of inviting someone over for a nightcap, imagining my make-believe cooking prowess or the freedom of not wearing clothes, I could even club the two and cook while not wearing any clothes. I balk in embarrassment as I write this, was I that infantile only six months ago?
Challenge #1: Making a house a home
There are too many variable factors - location, landlord, and the startling chance of everything being lousy.
The gratification of finding a house is almost never immediate, and working within a budget did not help my case. By the time I came to terms with the hostile sun, chasing one broker after another down dodgy alleys and judging myself as I sat behind this stranger on his motorbike, any house loses its charm - of course the peeling walls, the scum and pigeon shit that has atrophied in the balcony, and oldie mouldy sofa sets didn't help. The pressure of eventually making a hovel my home, my sanctuary, was enough to break my optimism.
Challenge #2: Bills, Bills, Bills
You are never prepared for the onslaught of bills, for the sheer number of things that need to be accounted for.
It begins with the demon of rent that chomps off a chunk of your income at the beginning of the month and this continues like clockwork throughout the month - electricity, water, security, groceries, domestic help, WiFi - but you knew about all this. What you forgot was that the tube light in the bedroom has been fused, and as you fumbled in the dark you sat on your glasses by mistake, but this has nothing to do with the leak in the flush tank, or the Himalayan snow that has built into your freezer, or the necessity of health insurance, or the list goes on.
All of this takes time and money to fix, and both commodities are short in supply and must be used judiciously.
Challenge #3: Money Management
The devil of impulse buying is my downfall, my withdrawal slips are used to discard old chewing gum, I always forget to count the change, and and end up bargaining with the sabzi-wala and auto-wala as a saving grace.
You try to clutch at your money and keep it safe in your fist. But there's a hole in your palm and it leaks from there - the weekend with the friends, the karaoke with the colleagues, the dinner outside that compensates for the lacklustre roti and aloo-gobi . It doesn't end there, even grocery shopping is a challenge - Rs. 345 for apple cider vinegar, bit extravagant don't you think? Yeah, but it'll be great for the salad I toss. And I never tossed a salad again.
Challenge #4: Total Domestic Meltdown
You have slammed into a wall and whatever semblance of a life you had shoddily pieced together with sticky-tape and glue-stick has fallen to bits around you.
Then of course there will be the day when your alarm wails like a siren during a massive nuclear leak or gas disaster. You jump out of your dream and wake up in a sweat, realise you're late, the power is out, and when you open the tap for a shower all you have is a weak whistle of air as your heart sinks to the bottom of the basin. And in that moment you want nothing more than you want your family to hold you in its bosom and tell you that everything is going to be alright, it's going to be well and good.
Applying The Principle Of Life
You see, I believe we live in waves of crests and troughs, and after you scrape the bottom of the trough it is but natural to be lifted up by a crest so that we see the sun and it warms us.
The electrician and plumber comes on the same day, the landlord's celebrating something and sends me a portion of his ghar ka khana, you look at the bill and notice how much you have spent in VAT and service charge. You learn not to get drunk the day your paycheck arrives, jaeger-bombs are cheaper then, and the pain of life and love you left behind slowly starts to fade and you find the courage to give the newness a chance.