“What’s changed in the past year?” Shreya asked me with seemingly genuine interest.
In the last 18 months, my whole life has changed. I moved from Delhi to Abu Dhabi at what was probably the tipping point of my career. I shifted into a professional environment that was remarkably different from what I was used to. I liked parts of it but a few people managed to make me hate it by the end. I hated them, I hated what they made me do, and I hated what they did to me. They shattered my confidence in my ability to perform. One can take it as a lesson and motivation to do better. But not when you have plans to move to what is probably the world’s most competitive market. London.
I had a long, extended courtship – London thumakda, if you will – period with my husband who is settled in the city. I first visited him in London last summer. The city and its vibrancy won me over. During the same trip we agreed to break the news to our parents. The force that be was kind through that process. It went well and we were looking at a civil registration in December. During that period we visited Istanbul together. It was a dreamy trip with a perfect proposal by the Bosphorous. Don’t try and keep track of the sequence of events. We did first tell the parents, followed by a formal proposal, then a wedding, then an engagement party, and then finally another wedding ceremony. Yup.
By the end of 2014, the year I first stepped out of India, I had visited Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Muscat, London and Istanbul; along with some amazing countryside in the respective countries. This sounds fancy enough to the person that I was when I was based in Delhi. But to the person living this life, it felt normal. The UAE has very little for a traveller, especially in comparison to India. It compels you to cross international borders. Well, I won’t deny that it also pays you enough to be able to do that.
The opportunity to live alone came at a time when I was about as ready as I could have been for it. I wanted to do it much sooner in life, but in retrospect, I don’t think I would have been able to handle it. I cooked. I lazed. I shopped. I gazed. And Skype was undeniably an important part of life. I felt at peace in my cosy studio by the sea. But I had withdrawal symptoms every time a visitor left. Knowing that I controlled the expiry date on that life comforted me more than I credit it for.
Wrapping up in Abu Dhabi was painful. Formalities to cancel the visa, electricity and Internet connections, home lease, credit cards and bank account, along with shipping luggage home, remitting money home and work handovers were draining. Running in parallel was the process of applying for the UK visa, which I’m told is one of the hardest in the world. It took several months to put together the documents required for the application. Also in parallel was the politics of returning to and being in the home country office for a short period. The ugly side of the organisation I loved and still respect was at play. And the remaining time during that same period was used to plan my wedding. The wedding I never dreamed or planned anything for while growing up. I’d never done it not because it didn’t interest me but because I feared never finding someone I could marry.
Wedding days were fun and exhausting, as expected. The days following it were anxious and awkward, as expected. And then I arrived in London.
I left behind family, friends, a career and an independent life to come to this dream city with the man most perfect for me.
It’s been a little over three months here. I’m pampered a great deal. We’re learning to adjust to each other’s ways. Some of his friends have been warmer than I expected. Trying to find a job I’d like is challenging. I knew it would be so when I first decided to move here. But living a challenge is different from knowing about it.
Not working and earning often gnaws at me. I sometimes feel I don’t deserve the life I’m living because I didn’t earn my way here. But when I consider things emotionally, I think I paid enough dues before reaching here. Some kind of a balance, I presume (?).
Mister wanted to show me Paris and we made visa appointments and travel bookings for a long weekend that fell exactly between his birthday and mine. I’ll write about that and the unplanned trip to Berlin separately. This is not how I expected to see Europe. But I cannot complain either.
Through this time, I’ve lost some people to time, circumstances and age. It’s not easy being so far away from so many people who matter. It’s not easy accepting happiness on the back of time that showed what darkness is like.
But I am trying to accept and to earnestly live the life I have chosen and the choices I have made.