#MovingOut: Amidst loneliness and piles of laundry, I grew up

Is it really solitude or just loneliness?

14 April, 2024
#MovingOut: Amidst loneliness and piles of laundry, I grew up

As the youngest child in my big Sindhi family, I’ve always been endlessly pampered with love. Every morning, I used to wake up to the sound of my father's constant chatter on the phone, my mother's warm hugs, and the aroma of chai simmering on the stove, mingling with the sharp tang of my mum's homemade pickle. Breakfast used to be my favourite part of the day, with my father finally putting his phone on hold to regale everyone with tales of his day at the market, his booming laughter punctuated by my mumma's gentle chiding.

I used to spend my evenings with my uncle and aunt. Their apartment, a floor below ours, would be my escape each time my mom decided to pick a fight with me! My uncle is the reason behind my all-time obsession with old rock songs, books, and a strong vocabulary.

Living in such a close-knit family meant there was never a dull moment. Privacy was a luxury we didn't have, and personal space was a constantly negotiated territory (having an older brother means no privacy!).

But the trade-off brought a constant sense of being loved and supported. No matter how small, every milestone and achievement was celebrated with a collective gasp of pride and affection. I remember the day my brother got into his dream college—a prestigious institution halfway across the globe. We popped a bottle of champagne at home, while I shed tears of joy, realising that my brother—my partner-in-crime—would soon be miles away.

A year later, as a 17-year-old fresh out of high school, I was filled with nervous excitement as I boarded the flight for college. I was mentally prepared to be hit by a wave of loneliness, and it did hit me the moment I stepped into my hostel room. The initial weeks were a whirlwind of unpacking, experiencing hostel life, and coming to terms with both, the new city and old heartaches. The silence in the tiny room felt deafening compared to the constant hum of our Sindhi household. The independence I dreamt of now felt more like a burden, something I didn't want anymore, because of what it cost. The sight of laundry piled up on the chair was a stark contrast to mumma's perfectly folded stacks; I still don't know how she did that.

On one particularly gloomy evening, a familiar scent tickled my nose. It was the sweet, musky aroma of sandalwood incense. It hit home, and my self-pity was instantly replaced by a sudden surge of determination. I thought that perhaps creating my own little space within this unfamiliar environment wouldn't be a bad idea. A string of fairy lights found their way back to my hostel and I realised that it wouldn’t perfectly emulate my life back home, but it was a start. As someone once told me, “You just need to do the toughest thing—that is start.” I aimed to create a space that would reflect my family and roots and serve as a reminder that love transcends distance.

Living alone really feels like a mix of solitude and loneliness. It's a constant tug-of-war between missing the warmth of family and embracing the newfound freedom. And while the loneliness did not vanish even after two years, it did soften a bit. After a while, the loneliness ceases to be a constant ache. Instead, it gradually evolves into hour-long video calls with the family, shared family recipes, and panic-dialing my mother every time I experienced a minor inconvenience. All in all, it becomes a reminder of love, a love that transcends miles. 

On the other hand, solitude, once an unfamiliar feeling, has become the reason for my growth. There’s so much to discover about the world and myself every day. And that's what I look forward to every single morning—the chance to explore, to learn, and to grow—and yet still allow myself to feel lonely at times.

Also Read: Everything I learned about love is from being an older sister

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