This blog post is a continuation of the previous blog post, which you can read here
When people think of sunsets, they often think of going to the beach or going on a drive to watch it with their loved ones once in a while. However, for me, watching the sunset wasn’t a once-in-a-while option rather it became a routine because it was the ONLY option I had for two months.
So, what happened? No, I didn’t suddenly isolate myself from the world to watch the sunset, at least not on purpose. I got placed in Coimbatore as a part of my summer internship for a duration of 2 months. Due to my horrible geography skills, as embarrassing as it sounds, I had to make a quick Google search to find out which state Coimbatore is present in.
(It’s in Tamil Nadu, by the way, if you’re like me and didn’t know this either :D)
Now, I could make shit up like an over-enthusiastic influencer and tell you that I was looking forward to the BEST two months of my ENTIRE life WOOHOO but no, I was shit scared.
Phase 1: Panic
On getting to know the location for my internship, my immediate reaction was to spam all my group chats with friends, and their immediate reaction was to calm me down by telling me that it is a beautiful city.
A beautiful city is not a substitute for loneliness is what I came to realise later.
Phase 2: Overwhelm
I had no idea what clothes to pack. Was it hot? or cold? or pleasant? Google told me it’ll be hot and my friends who had been to Coimbatore previously told me it would be pleasant. But isn’t pleasant weather subjective? Or relative even? Regardless, I mainly packed formals because it was an internship after all. There was nothing else I could possibly prepare for, so I looked at a few Google images to see where I’ll be staying for the next two months.
For our induction, we were called to Bangalore where I met all the other interns. It was there that I realised that I was the only intern placed in Coimbatore. I had exactly 2 days to mentally prepare myself for what was about to come.
Post the induction, I remember sitting outside the boarding gate in Bangalore waiting for my flight to Coimbatore. I had already had my first breakdown after I said goodbye to my friend who was leaving for Mumbai for her internship. With tears flowing down my eyes right outside the boarding gate, I told myself, “It’ll all be okay, you’ll come out with shining colours.” I wiped my tears, took a few deep breaths and put on an almost fake smile because fake it till you make it, baby.
Phase 3: Fear
I had my first scare on the flight when my phone was about to die and my power bank betrayed me. My immediate thought was that if my phone died, I wouldn’t be able to call anyone in Coimbatore for help. That’s when it properly hit me that I’m going to be all alone for the next two months without any backups.
Backups are a strange concept in life. We have a backup for everything - for career paths, for people and even for dreams. We're always told to have a Plan B if Plan A doesn't work out the way we want it to. Jeez, I even had a backup for my phone's battery in the form of a power bank. But life hits you hard when you realise that you have no backup to keep you safe. In life, backups come in the form of support systems that can be your family or friends or colleagues, someone who can come save you when things go south. Now that I literally was in the South (not sorry for the pun), without my phone I would literally be on my own and THAT was a very scary thought to have.
What I realised after two months was that in life, the only constant backup you have is yourself.
Phase 4: Hope
Somehow I got my phone to charge with the help of my laptop. I landed and headed straight to the baggage belt. I looked around the airport, I was happy to see photos of a few monuments and I wondered to myself if I would be daring enough to go alone to view these tourist spots. I kept that thought to myself and called the driver assigned to me by the company. With no difficulty in communication, I got in the cab and I was off to my accommodation. I could sense some level of excitement which was hidden by layers and layers of nervousness and uncertainty. I tried to make small talk with the driver but the conversation died out as soon as it started.
Are small talks called "small" because they're meant to die out? Aren't they supposed to lead to a full-fledged conversation? When you're in a new place, you would always try to be on your best behaviour. Sure, there is no one around you to judge you but you wouldn't want people to hate you either. It's already quite hard to come across people who are willing to have a conversation with you, so chances are that the people you're making contact with are probably the only few people you will be able to talk to. This is when loneliness hits you the hardest.
Phase 5: Grateful
We reached our accommodation, I got my luggage out and looked at the building which I would call home for the next two months. I thanked the driver for dropping me off and entered the colony with luggage in my hands and a nervous smile on my face. The security guard was the second person I came in contact with. I tried to speak to him only to realise he did not understand what I was saying and I didn’t understand what he was saying.
Thanks to the universality of numbers, with a show of fingers he told me I should go on the 4th floor and to reply to that, I gave him a thumbs up. I reached the 4th floor and the caretaker was already waiting for me. I started speaking to him in English because I assumed that it was the only common medium of communication between me and the people in Coimbatore. After making some amount of successful small talk he told me he was from Uttar Pradesh and I immediately looked up and asked him in disbelief, “Aapko hindi aati hai?” (Translation: “Do you understand Hindi?”) to which he smiled and said, “haan kyu nahi aati hogi” (Translation: “Yes, of course”) and that was my first conversation in Hindi in the city.
As humans, we're always looking for connection and familiarity because it makes us feel safe and at home. We're always on the hunt to turn strangers into acquaintances and acquaintances into friends because after all humans are social beings. Remember how I said small talk dies out for me, maybe it's because I'm not too good at finding common ground to hit it off with people. Who knew all it would take for me to hit it off with someone was just talking in my mother tongue?
In the weeks that followed, I realised that coming across people in the city who speak the same language as me is a blessing in disguise. My caretaker, Vijay Bhaiya, was the best blessing I could have got in Coimbatore.
Phase 6: Isolation
He guided me to a small yet cute room with two single beds and of course, fear crept in again. After a horrible experience of living with toxic flatmates for 10 months, I wasn’t ready to share my space with someone new especially when everything was unfamiliar to me. I turned around and asked if anyone else would be joining me, Vijay Bhaiya said, “No, it’s just you” smiled and left me to freshen up for dinner.
In my room alone, when I could finally sit by myself, all the feelings hit me together at the same time.
To be in a room all alone in an alien city is a different kind of scary. You know how when you're editing a photo there's a thing called vignette which adds a faded black circle around the image? It felt like that. It felt as if the vignette that had always been surrounding me but was only present at the edges now came closer and I could do nothing to push it away.
I thought the vignette would slowly go back to normal with time, which it eventually did but little did I know that it gets worse before it gets better.
PS: To be continued in the following blog posts :D