What Living Alone Is Like

When I moved to Bangalore for my Masters that I should be allowed to live on my own was my only request I made to my parents. After living for 4 years in Mumbai during the days of my undergrad and first job, I realised that Bangalore would be the only place where I could actually afford the luxury of a place to myself in the near future. After living away from home for over six years my parents were readily agreed.

However, the actual move to Bangalore was somewhat of a daze, running between college and bank and house-hunting, that I ended up in a PG. While it was probably a thousand times better than the one million other PGs and houses I saw, I hated the place. I hated how I had to share the small little room with a roommate who was so light a sleeper that I found myself studying for my exams sitting on the floor of the bathroom. I hated the routine oily food, I hated how I had no space to myself, and I hated how I still had to spend more than half of every waking hour in that place. I think I hated it most because while the cramped nature reminded me of Mumbai, I didn’t have the people who made life better with me.

I survived a year in the place, mostly because I didn’t want to burden my parents with a move. At the end of the academic year, between the exams, on a call with my parents I finally told them how I had been studying in the bathroom. That’s how I finally ended up moving out of there. I shifted all my things to friends place before going home for the summer vacations and decided to come back a week earlier to house-hunt.

As far as house-hunting goes, I have to say, I hit jack-pot. I started on a Monday and by Friday I had found a place. While I had seen some places which I cannot describe as anything but as ‘little dingy holes,’ in the grand scheme of things, it never ended up being an ordeal that made me want to blow my brains out. As luck would have it my future home was listed on Magicbricks. I honestly don’t know anyone except myself who has actually found a place through that app. So sans a broker and hence the horrible little brokerage fees, I found the place I would call home and I have to say, it honestly was love at first sight.

It’s a small little place, perfect for one person. It exists on a small dingy lane but I guess that’s the price you pay for living in the middle of the city. And as far as dingy lanes go, mine never made me feel unsettled, even the first time I walked through it to see my place. So, two days after seeing the place, my friends helped me shift.

It’s been a little over 6 months that I have been living alone. It’s not long, but it’s longer than I ever thought possible, and I absolutely love it. The one thing almost everyone has asked me is, “Don’t you feel scared?” I always laugh and say, “Scared? What about?” Then I proceed to them how I once thought I saw something move from the corner of my eye and flipped thinking it was a ghost or something, amounting that lone instance to the only time I was scared. But, that’s not entirely true. My first week of living alone, falling asleep had never seemed harder. Living on the ground floor or a building that’s literally 5 steps away from another house on all directions, I can hear everything. A friend of mine says that living in my house is like living through Shootout at Lokhandwala because of the temple right behind and the boys who like to burst firecrackers and whatever else that they do and the construction work going on just opposite my home. Needless to say, silence is a luxury here and to be honest, I like that it’s noisy around. There are, of course, times when I have thought that the all that noise would drive me to an asylum, especially during festivals or drilling days, but on most days, the noise keeps me sane. The sound of the world going on about, of a lover’s spat, of flirting, of friends just having conversations, of the girls who live upstairs giggling as they make their way up, it all just makes me feel like I am not entirely alone. I realise I am beginning to sound like a loner, which I guess to some extent I am. I only have a handful of friends in the city, and of the handful a good chunk of them left in the course of the past year and a half. My social life has considerably suffered as a result, but the truth is, I like being at home. I am very content snuggling up in my bed, reading a book or a binge watching a show, cooking in my underwear and having my own 5-minute dance parties when I want to “throw-down.” The first few days in the house, every tiny noise at night would wake me up and now I think I will be able to sleep through a day of Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations. Though every now and then I find myself checking behind doors and double checking if I have locked the house (I once, like a fool, did go off to sleep, leaving the door open and slightly ajar. I think I thanked all the gods in the world and mother nature and karma and all my lucky stars for actually waking up the next day). Every now and then the slightest wind blowing fills me in with paranoia. However, these instances are so rare and few it’s almost negligible.

I love living alone and that if I could I would live here for the rest of life, never step out and have people come over if they wanted to ever meet me. I have spent the last six months making this place my home. I think for my generation, being transient seems to be the only way the know how to be alive. My parents moved around a lot (no, my dad was not in the army, they just thought that life wasn’t meant to be fully lived in one single place) and so I have never truly known what it is like to live any place for longer than 5 years. I have changed schools about 6 six times, my oldest friend has only been in my life for 11 years and the concept of childhood friends has evaded me. I almost always jealous of people who have always lived in one place all their lives and have friends who have practically known them since they were actually pooping their pants. For me, the idea of home has always been so fleeting that for a long time when people asked me where I am from, I would automatically say, “Bombay,” because that place truly was home for me for a long time and in some ways still is. So while other people of my generation are chasing the life of rootlessness and being from everywhere, I am desperately trying to root myself somewhere.

So now that I have a place I happily call home, I am very happy. The rest of the city, I still have my struggles with. I spend most of my weekends painting or doodling on my wall, cooking for the week and just dancing around in my underwear. I fit an occasional face-time with another human so I don’t become a complete recluse.

For me, the kitchen is a site of struggle. No, not because I don’t know how to cook. I cook quite well and cooking actually calms me. Maybe because it’s a little away from the noise of the world or maybe because there is always a sad realisation that I am cooking for myself. I am not sure why. I feel it bubbling up and I combat that feeling by playing some music or playing an episode of Friends or The Middle in the background. Does that sound escapist? It probably does. I eat most of my meals with the company of a show or a movie. Breakfast, however, is a little different. More often than not, I am running a little late and I have just enough time to stuff a sandwich down my throat and scorch it afterward with a hot cup of coffee. It is in that moment, when I am standing in the kitchen, taking quick breaths between bites, or cooling down the oatmeal with long puffs of air that I feel it. The big L word. No, not love. Loneliness.I wasn’t lying when I said that I love living alone. In fact, I don’t think I can ever go back to having a roommate (a housemate, maybe), but I guess John Donne knew what he was talking about when he wrote, “No man is an island.”

So how do you find a balance? How do you continue to enjoy living a pantless life, and not fall apart? I think the answer is in making sure you don’t become a complete recluse. I do it by going for long walks, sometimes with a friend. I do it by calling friends over, hosting parties and making sure I step out of the house for something other than college at least once a week. I keep myself busy, not just for the sake of it, but because I have the time and space to do things I love. I love my solo dance parties and folding up paper cranes to hang in some corner of my house. I love being able to actually listening to my thoughts and acknowledging then instead of filling up my life with noise and people. It’s not always easy but I have realised that in the past six months I have learnt so much about myself and I have learnt to love myself so much more than I ever thought possible. And if 5 minutes of loneliness peppered across the month is the price I have to pay for that, I would, anyday.

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