I have never had the opportunity to live alone. Brought up in a conservative Indian household, the presence of family members – especially elders – was a necessary part of my youth.
Unlike my brother, who moved abroad after graduation and spent several years living alone before tying the knot, I was married off immediately and never really knew the intricacies of singledom, such as the freedom to choose what to eat, wear, what to watch on TV, or what time to hit the bed.
The choices were always made by someone else, and later, being a mother meant my choices were decided by my children’s needs.
For the first time in my life then, I suddenly find myself living alone. Really alone – in a one-bedroom-drawing-dining suite in a tiny town literally ten thousand miles away from my own bustling Delhi home – with a single bed, with my own TV where I choose what to watch, and a fridge that only stocks foods I prefer to eat.
There is no one to interrupt me as I work on my computer – no bells ring for delivery boys and gardener and watchman and the domestic helper – and if I run out of milk or coffee, I must walk down to Walmart or the Co-op store to buy it myself. There is no doodhwala here.
There’s no husband or kid around to demand attention, and everything is very quiet, as if I am on another planet entirely. I wear T-shirts and track pants all the time, no need for formals or even nightgowns, and I just throw the bra away at bedtime. The laundry needs to be done only once a week, and food cooked once lasts two days. No more duties of running a large household.
I browse through my husband’s and kids’ Netflix accounts to see what they’re seeing, and have got hooked to the same shows as them. I get on the No.1 bus (there are only two here) daily just to get the hang of it, I play with my landlady’s dog, I go for walks in random directions, I work on eShe without distractions.
Never in my life have I felt this free. It’s bewildering.
Barely a month ago, I had been living my usual life in Delhi, overworked, struggling, worried about the future, and somewhat burnt out. Frazzled, I booked myself on a solo trip to meditate in an ashram so that I could get away from it all, but it didn’t work out. So I planned another trip with a group of women. But that wasn’t destined to happen either, because there was something else brewing.
Suddenly, almost overnight, I was pulled out of my comfort zone and thrust into the middle of nowhere, living with strangers, and then left here in the silence for a full six weeks as a medical emergency is sorted out in my life.
Today as I gazed out of my ground-floor window at the pretty North American suburban lane outside, I had the same sense of wonder that strikes me every single day these days: how did I get here?
I had wished for peace. For silence. For solitude. For freedom. For a break. For clean, unpolluted air. And look, here it is.
I just hadn’t expected it to happen this way.
We manifest our thoughts. They will come true, even if not exactly the way we wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
Tat tvam asi. You are that.
First published in eShe’s November 2019 issue