(This blog post is a continuation of the previous blog post, which you can read here)
“How would you eat an elephant?”
“One bit at a time.”
That’s something I read in a book called “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman. Apart from the heartwarming storyline, this dialogue stood out to me and was particularly helpful when I encountered the icebergs in Coimbatore.
Instead of looking at all the challenges together, I looked at them individually and tried to tackle them to the best of my abilities.
Getting over the fear of buying daily essentials was extremely important because as time passed the level of urgency increased significantly. I needed the shampoo ASAP so that I could stop looking like a broom which should have been thrown away months ago. Since I couldn’t order these items at the guest house due to locational restrictions and because I was too scared to go out to buy them physically, I instead ordered them at the office. This was fine until I was walking back to my desk with a bag full of toiletries and bumped into one of my managers on the way. He pointed at the bag with a warm smile and asked, “Lunch?” to which I nodded, smiled back and quickly walked past him. I internally screamed because of how awkward I felt. I did not know how to tell him that it wasn’t lunch but shampoo and conditioner and body wash and a lot of other things that I was too afraid to buy from a store.
But regardless, one iceberg was out of the way.
Not-So-Lost in Translation
The next iceberg was quite a tough one to tackle. There was no easy way out when it came to talking to the auto drivers. It took patience, empathy and a little bit of learning from both ends of the phone call. I learned the Tamil words for “I don’t speak Tamil” and that’s the first thing I said when I picked up a driver’s call. To my surprise, they immediately switched to English from Tamil. We were able to communicate and have an entire conversation with mere words. An average conversation between me and the auto driver went something like this:
Driver calls and I pick up
Me: “Hello, Enakku tamil teriyatu.” (Translation: “Hello, I don’t speak Tamil.”)
Driver: “Drop location?”
Driver: “Pick up location?”
Me: “Rs. 120.”
Driver: “Rs. 50 extra?”
Me: “No anna, take Rs. 30 extra.”
usually some negotiation followed
Driver: “Ok Rs. 30 extra. Coming.”
Me: “Ok, Nanri!” (Translation: “Ok, Thank you!”)
Over a period of time, I met with several auto drivers who taught me the right way to pronounce certain Tamil words while I told them about a few English words that could be helpful when dealing with customers. The mutual frustration grew into a mutual understanding and that’s how I crossed the second iceberg.
Finding Joy in Solitude
Living alone and happiness are often looked at as a Venn Diagram with no intersection but people fail to realise that it takes time for the two of them to overlap, it is a very slow process. It takes months or even years for people to get used to their own company. The biggest learning in 2023 for me has been to be comfortable being alone and overcoming this challenge in Coimbatore played a big role. The first step I took was to find different ways to kill time and so I ordered a Mandala art book with some sketch pens. Colouring the mandala designs was my favourite pastime (it still is). It did not only keep me busy but it also calmed my anxiety.
My second favourite pastime was to watch the sunset. Each day, an hour in the evening was reserved for the sunset. A lot of my friends called it obsessive but it gave me a purpose, it was something I looked forward to every single day. I’m sure, if you were in my shoes and you saw how beautiful the sunsets looked in Coimbatore, you would too drop everything and rush out to see the sunset.
And with that, I was able to cross all the major icebergs.
Post this, life became relatively easy. I started celebrating small victories be it going out to get coffee at a bakery nearby or successfully getting printouts by only using hand gestures. Slowly but steadily, I also became comfortable with going out to buy things I needed from supermarkets and hey, while I was there I also came across three new flavours of Kit Kat that I had never had earlier (spoiler alert: they were not great, OG Kit Kat will always remain superior). I started going out for walks every evening right before the sunset to get some air and it did wonders to my mental health. I even took a bus back to the guest house from the office one day and I could not stop smiling that evening. Before I knew it, two months came to an end and it was time to say goodbye to Coimbatore.
There has been no doubt about how challenging the Coimbatore journey was for me. I mean, three extremely long blog posts about living in this one city? I can already hear my friends mocking me and telling me to shut up about it already. But these two months in Coimbatore have shaped me in ways that I could never have imagined, more than what I give it credit for.
Independence is what I had wanted to achieve for the longest time - to be responsible for my own actions, to be able to do my own chores, to be comfortable in my own company and to look after myself mentally and physically. It was the entire reason I wanted to move out of my home for my master’s. While I did get to learn a lot living in Mumbai for an entire year, it doesn’t compare to the independence I gained in Coimbatore. I can truly enjoy my own company be it at home or be it at solo outings to the movies or the cafe. I don’t have an air of awkwardness and shyness around me like I used to previously. I am way more confident walking around when I am by myself and words fall short of how happy I feel about that.
I always knew I could just adjust well to situations but Coimbatore really put it to the test and I can now say with surety that I am very adaptable . Being in a new city, situation or around new people doesn’t scare me anymore. I look forward to new experiences and with every passing day my bucket list is only becoming longer. manifesting a solo trip with all my heart and soul
Persistence is another quality I learned I possessed. This is starting to sound like I’m giving an interview where listing out my strengths but bear with me. I woke up every single day and gave my 100%. I made sure to leave no stone unturned w.r.t. my internship despite the challenges. Not going to lie, there were times I stood outside a supermarket with tears in my eyes waiting for an auto. Regardless, I wanted to make the best of the time and resources I had. Thought it took some time but I ended up doing just that. Six months later, when I look back, I don’t regret a single thing.
Most importantly, I learned to be my own support system. Be it taking care of myself when I fell sick or finding a way out when my laptop stopped working, I did it all (after a few moments of panic, yes). Even emotionally, I had to be there for myself by patting myself on the back when I achieved something or hugging myself when I couldn’t stop crying. I learned to become my own caretaker, my own cheerleader and my own friend. And trust me, this has helped in countless situations.
I will always be grateful for what Coimbatore gave me. I may have left Coimbatore but Coimbatore will never leave me.