The heading is misleading but I really feel that it perfectly embodies what I want to say. So I moved from a city, a metropolitan no less, to a village. I also moved from sharing a 2-BHK with three other girls to living in a “three room+ kitchen+ separate toilet-bathroom+ a balcony” flat all by myself (can’t describe it in terms of BHK. It defies that description). Other major changes included not having running water, maid, cook, WiFi. Also no refrigerator, washing machine, hot water geyser, television or any semblance of the comforts I was used to.
The running water was the biggest issue that rankled me in the beginning. I had never thought a kitchen could exist without a sink and running water.
It took me a while to get used to taking out the used utensils to the balcony in a tub (I got a couple of tubs for the utensils) , filling a bucket with water from the storage tank and then washing the utensils.
But I got the hang of it. I gradually found solutions to the other pressing issues as well.
- Jio came with a welcome offer of free 4G and calling. I must admit I was sick of the high internet rates other carriers charged. It also prevented the trouble of getting a WiFi connection, and all free! What else can the heart desire? Free internet is the dream of the 21st century right along with roti, kapda and makaan. Also I could carry the internet with me, unlike with a WiFi system. That was really handy. I do have to thank my stars that the place where I live has Jio network. Since it’s a tribal, forest area; most places don’t.
- As for the maid, I washed the utensils myself for almost three months before finally getting a maid for fear of my mother’s disapproval. She had a visit planned in mid-February and I got the maid in the beginning of that month – just in time for the maid to adjust to my utensils before my mother came. So it would seem to her that all was perfect, without her having to interfere. Let me narrate the story of how it came to be. The last time I went home in mid-December, she made a big fuss about my hands. Right from the moment her eyes fell on my hands, she started complaining that my hands were not the same. Their beauty had dimmed in the village. I didn’t understand and didn’t pay much attention because that’s just the kind of thing that only mothers can worry about. On my third day home, it slipped out of my mouth that I wash the utensils myself and all hell broke loose. My mom lost her cool saying “You have not gone to the village to wash utensils and “uglify” your hands. Get a maid. I better not hear about you washing your utensils when you get back!” I wasn’t really bothered or paid any attention to getting a maid..until one fine day after an eternity long week in mother time since I had come back from home, my mother complained to my father that she was missing me and wanted to see me. My dad promptly called me that my mother will be visiting and booked tickets for her visit in mid Feb – almost one month since I had come back from home. That’s when I got serious about looking for a maid! But the real challenge lay ahead. Apparently, the entire Shahpur has only two maids. The demand far outweighs the supply. I spent some anxious days thinking if any of them will grant me an interview, since they both had their hands full. Luckily, one of those two maids worked at my landlord’s and the landlady took pity on me and convinced the maid “Bartan zyada nahi honge. Akeli ladki hai. Kar le.” (She is single. There won’t be many utensils. Take the job.) Living alone can sometimes come with unexpected benefits. Now you see, the title of this article is justified!
- I did try to find a cook (finding a cook is just as hard as finding a maid, and more) and found one. But she could only come in the morning at a certain hour. And I wanted her to come in the evening to cook dinner because I didn’t have a fixed time of leaving in the morning. Plus I had made some prior arrangements for breakfast. So that didn’t work out. So the cooking is pretty much done by me and I must say, this is the most control I have had on my diet in a long time. It’s something that I have come to appreciate. Also one of the few things that my mother appreciates about moving to the village is that I learnt to cook. “Good you learnt to cook before getting married!”
- Washing clothes? Well, I wasn’t discarding many since it was winter till a while ago and I wore a set of clothes at least twice. I washed most of the clothes on my own once a week. I also found a dhobi whose services I availed if the clothes got too much for me. Just that he probably washes clothes on the river Machna where many proud Shahpurians go to poop in the morning, Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission be damned. So, going to the dhobi is actually my “dirty laundry taking over my house” emergency option.
- Since it was winter just a little while ago, I didn’t really need a refrigerator. Things didn’t get spoiled outside. Plus I didn’t do much cooking. Now that I do a lot more cooking and summer’s here too, something good happened. Bhabhi (she is one of my NGO colleague’s wife and is super caring) bought a fridge this summer and she very kindly offered for me to use it to keep vegetables. I did look for a fridge for myself but the mini fridge that I would like to have is not available in Shahpur. And Bhabhi’s fridge pretty much takes care of my basic refrigeration needs. As for cold water, I am not a big fan since my throat goes bad really fast. But for the occasional craving of cold water, I am planning to buy a mitti ka ghada (an earthen pot). When in Shahpur, do as the Shahpurians do !
- For hot water during winters, I bought a heating rod. So I had to fill a bucket from the storage tank, carry it till the socket in my kitchen and then once it was hot, carry it back to the bathroom. The positive side being that my back got at least some exercise every day!
- I was never a big fan of television but I did miss it occasionally. Hmm. “On momentous occasions” would be a better description. Like Australian Open Final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Anyone who knows me will know that I am the biggest fan of Rafa and would absolutely not miss a Rafa-Roger match. But then.. village life. Just saw the live updates on the net and tried to be happy with that. Plus Rafa lost. So I was like its better I didn’t see him lose. Then again, I really wanted to watch the Khabib – Tony Ferguson match up ( a mixed martial arts fight). I was actually thinking of getting a hotel room with a TV in the nearest city and watching the entire fight card in peace. But it got cancelled! Khabib got ill making weight. So, again probably God keeping me from complaining..alone. At least it’s not just me complaining, but all fans!
- I used to be a gym rat before moving here. I didn’t expect to find a gym here in the village. But turns out, right about the time I moved here someone had just recently opened a gym. It doesn’t really compare to state of the art gyms in the city, but it’s everything. I am so grateful.
My mom casually declared after visiting the gym, “Your village has a gym. So, it’s a city”. I had to remind her of the “village”ness of my village by giving her an example. I told her that only a solitary rikshaw plies this entire village and I have still not been lucky enough to hitch a ride on it. If one doesn’t have a private vehicle, the only way to travel is by foot. Or a bullock cart, if you have bullocks, that is! I skipped the part about how the gym was an abandoned building infested with rats,snakes and many other pests, out of which bats still inhabit the gym and make weird noises that sound like kissing sounds. Initially I thought someone in the gym was trying to harass me, but then when I talked to the gym instructor about it,I got to know about the bats and it was the funniest revelation ever.
I still have to get a desert cooler and get the scooty repaired (I got a scooty from the NGO in a deplorable condition). The struggle I had to do to get an English newspaper in this village is whole another story .
So what has all this taught me? Cooking for one. (Did I just successfully make a pun? ) Despite all the struggle, I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to live alone and to experience life without any constraints. Make my own rules, push myself and seek help when needed. It’s taught me to be resourceful which I believe is visible in the examples above. I got an opportunity to spend a lot of time with myself – to pay attention to my thoughts, to see where I am in my life and cogitate about where I want to go. All through winter, when I didn’t have field work, I used to sit in the sun with a book and a diary and it was perfect. I used to watch a variety of birds chirping around me; munch on fruits and snacks, read and write. I realized how important it is to just be alone with one’s thoughts.
On another note, my mom was alarmed “This girl shows no inclination to get married. She is happy alone!” She couldn’t wrap her head around how this came to be. After all I was her daughter. And she wouldn’t stay alone for any enticement in the world.
I don’t know if I would get an opportunity to stay alone in my life again but I am glad that this one happened. In the middle of a jungle, no less.