…Ab Toh Bhai Chal Padi, Apni Yeh Naav Hai…

by | Dec 4, 2020

Having lived grounded for most of my life, moving to a new city would’ve been a horrifying thought. But then there’s a time in one’s life when change is necessary – it hands itself over to you when you least expect it – like finding that crumpled Re 500 note in your jean pocket. They say, sometimes opportunity knocks. In my case, it sent me an email that read “Selected” and a steam inhaler to keep me company over the next 12 months.

I wouldn’t lie – leaving my family and friends behind, and moving to a completely new place, did feel overwhelming. But then who am I kidding. This was always something I dreamed of – moving cities, living by myself.


And now it was all finally happening. In my head, I had romanticized the idea of living alone to such an extent, that it seemed all fun and games, until I found myself never getting out of doing the chores. I had dreamt of Netflix-and-chill in my free time, but all I’m doing is jhaadu-pocha-bartan-repeat, just so that I don’t have to come home to a messy apartment. This challenge of being on my own has indeed forced me to step out of my comfort zone, by adding the hustle of maintaining work-life balance to the mix. It suddenly feels like I’ve been enrolled in a crash course of adulting… Happy to report that lesson one on figuring out the water scene – when to open and close the valves – is finally completed.

Looking back on where I was when I first left home to now living with a roommate, in a 1BHK, I’ve realized just how capable I am – something which I otherwise wouldn’t have really gotten a chance at finding out. From learning how to keep away from the creepy crawlies to getting better at making decisions such as Do logon ke liye 2 cup chawal ya 3 cup, I can only see myself becoming more self-reliant and confident.

With my ex-roommate and a co-fellow, Shefali Gupta (on the right) at Hamirsar Lake

That said, most importantly, I’ve been putting myself out there more often than before, trying to forge new relationships, make new connections. Having to start from scratch, on account of not knowing anyone here, it has been extremely tough. There’s always this constant internal push to try “too hard” or present myself as “I’m-more-friendly than-I-look” to be able to socialize. Thinking of it in hindsight, there might’ve been several situations that can be stored into the “cringe jar”, if any. Terrified as I am of awkward situations, striking new conversations, let alone new relationships, is tricky.

But then, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. And as someone I know once said to me: It just takes one leap of faith. Even if you’re absolutely terrified, do it.

And strangely, this has somehow been working out for me. Rewarding, in its own unique way. I’ve developed new connections and how – some even at the most unexpected of places and times. On one rainy evening, had I not decided to go buy eggs, I wouldn’t have chanced upon Shahbuddin “Kaka”, who then went on to ride his rickshaw through waterlogged roads, just to make sure I reached home safe. Since then, Kaka has been on my speed dial, and my go-to person when it comes to reaching home in case my late-night travel adventures get a little too out of hand.

Besides, I’ve also found myself seeking comfort in sharing otherwise personal details with our pados wali aunties (who are quite fascinated with the fact that we’ve come from Delhi and Mumbai to work with NGOs) to our paani walabhai” (with whom we’re still trying to figure out how the drinking water system works).

Well, all of this didn’t come easy. In these past few weeks of my stay in Bhuj, I’ve come a long way from trying to maintain my distance with everyone to finally letting my guard down. Somewhere in between, I went from calling everyone “ji” to being comfortable in calling them “bhai” and “ben”. Here in Bhuj, Gujarat, adding a suffix of “bhai” or “ben” to a name, is such a widely accepted norm, so natural, so un-analyzed, and so un-dissected, that it seems like a way of life. However, as someone growing up in a Catholic household and a metropolitan city such as Mumbai, where you’d normally not address people as “bhai” or “behen”, this just felt strange.   

While the people around me took no time to accept me as their own and address me as “Anna ben”, my initial inhibitions kept me from doing the same. Honestly, I couldn’t fathom how and why would complete strangers want to be my bhais and bens or rather take me as their “ben”. The only person to be thanked for changing this view is Khamir’s gardener, maali kaka.

Learning and playing garba for the first time with my colleagues on Khamir’s campus

When I was taken around and introduced to Khamir’s team members, and when I came up to maali kaka, he told me how everyone at Khamir is like a family, and that now I’m a part of it too (despite not knowing Kachchhi). It somehow felt strangely comforting how this kaka, without any second thoughts, instantly welcomed me to “his” family and since has taken me as his “daughter”. It wasn’t just him who made me feel at home. Since, I’ve also come to realize that when my other colleagues too call me “Anna ben”, they actually take me as their “chotti ben”. Never had I thought I’d be a part of such a big family – we make one of more than 30 people!

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