I was actually pretty excited to leave Mumbai. It’s the year 2016. I remember friends and bf being sad about my departure because they were worried that I will find a new friend circle, grow without them and maybe the distance would break us. That didn’t happen, of course. But it was kind of annoying to think that my friends thought of me as a superficial social butterfly.
My mom was definitely worried that I am going to leave home forever. She didn’t say it and I tried to not mention how I was looking forward to be away and discover myself. She however made sure that I carried enough baggage from home, literal and metaphorical. She came to drop me the first time and the taxi was stuck in traffic. We decided to race to the next station, instead of our scheduled station. We were running with so many bags in a accessibility-challenged railway stations! Like, we were literally carrying heavy bags on flights of staircases, over and over again. And at that point, I was really cursing my mom and her overbearing love, because I like to think of myself as a minimalist person. I reached that other station on time to catch the train. Boarded the train with rushed goodbyes, and breathed a sigh of relief.
Hyderabad, here I come!
I had to visit my local guardian first, so I got down somewhere near Secunderabad, which was far from the university. Elle aunty* was my mom’s best friend in college, and volunteered to help me out in this new city if I needed anything. I was confident that I didn’t need anything, as I had booked my flat, that I was going to share with four girls from Mumbai itself. But, mom. Plus, it is not really bad to accept help even if you don’t need it. Uncle, husband of Elle aunty, picked me up from the station. I remember that he was uncomfortable interacting with me initially and he served me cold food. I, otherwise a person who doesn’t want to touch things at other people’s household, just decided to warm the food for myself. It was a weird, awkward interaction but I don’t expect much from men anyway. He eventually helped me travel to my actual flat which was closer to the university. He was more than glad to drop me off the next day.
Anyway, that night, I spoke to Elle aunt for the first time about my gender and I think we even discussed god. It was difficult to convince her that I can survive without a god, but she kinda was more accepting of my struggles with gender. I had told her how, for me, wearing femme Indian dresses felt like wearing a costume. And I really detest it. And to think of it now, it is true for anything super feminine. I remember her saying– that’s an interesting way to look at it! And I knew that’s how far this conversation could go.
I moved into my new flat and the female flatmates there were annoying.. They were two office best friends, and one used to literally mother the other. The other was a b*tch. They had strict rules about no guy friends, they’d lock their cupboards with chain-locks for fuck sake, and I kind of lost my favourite windsheeter there. The larger story here is that I had three needs for a house. They were the 3 Ws- Wifi, Washing Machine and Western toilet. Clearly, the common bathroom was Indian- styled and I said that was a deal-breaker for me. They negotiated with me and said that I would have access to the Western bathroom in their room, and I was like– okay. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I finally left the house with stupid dynamics because the dependent other had brought her boyfriend disguised as “cousin”, and kind of locked me out of the bathroom I needed to use. I don’t care about boys coming into flats, because we all need a safe space to fuck, but I was annoyed at the hypocrisy. I told the Mother friend who had gone back to her hometown, and she messaged the dependent other and the boyfriend/cousin left. I enjoyed that. But I decided I must leave because this animosity is not sustainable. And did I tell you, dependent other would not even flush! It was literally akin to using a public bathroom. And the whole fucking point of not accepting a hostel room was to not have to use common bathrooms.
I quickly searched for another flat. Here too I asked for the same 3 Ws, I had it too for a decent price. The woman said that she was going to move to another flat in the same building. I went to see the flat, it was chill! Cool. I had my own room and bathroom. It was a little further from the other flat and my university, but there was a share rickshaw available, and the woman had all her furniture that she was willing to share! I was thrilled, happy! Good riddance to mother-dependent liar, even!
But guess what, the day I moved– this woman’s phone got stolen. So I couldn’t coordinate with her. I reached the building and the lift was not working. So I carried the same baggage again on another flight of stairs. This time, however, few children playing downstairs in the building, volunteered to help me! It was so cute! Maybe they saw me struggling and thought making a game out of it would be more fun. I even ended up day-dreaming about taking tuitions with such cool kids! Anyhow, I waited at the corridor for two hours and she finally arrived. She gave me a long story,and it turns out that the new flat is not ready to be shifted, and I am going to be staying with her in the current flat in the same building. Let’s call this flat, the lizard house.
This woman was eccentric, bubbly, kind of an exhibitionist. To my initial embarrassment, she used to clean the house only in a towel. I got used to her crazy and she would vent about her love story, or almost-love story and I would give her pretty good advice. She had her mom living with her too, but for the time I was there, the mom had gone back to Kolkata. I was having a good stay at Lizard house, until the damn dumb lizards. Literally, three lizards in my room! Dumb because they’d not even be chased away to safety outside the window. They’d just freeze behind a photo-frame or some fucking furniture. The house, in hindsight, had too much furniture. The woman refused to help me because she saw lizards as good omen, and I stopped giving her good advice in return. I stayed perenially in fear of stamping on a lizard, because yes, the lizards were so dumb (or close to death) that they had lost their ability to crawl on the wall. I kept following up on when we will shift to the new flat, and I realized that it is not going to happen and she has no plan. I came back to Mumbai for Diwali vacations, and searched for a new house online.
I did find one! This one was closer to the college! I booked it immediately. I came back and transferred my stuff with the help of a friend, who was excited that my house was so close to the college. Three Ws- check. Happy roommates- check. No lizards- Check.
Of course, lot of weird things happened to me in this flat too– police involvement, right wing idiot, angry moms, happy moms, sneaky neighbour, awesome terrace, lift noise, friends’ sleepover, and just piling dirt… Anyway, I ended up living here for almost a year. I got myself a cycle! (A nice friend from university stole an abandoned cycle for me, I got it repaired and used it till I passed it on to someone else at the end of the year for free! I am the socialist the world needs!) I cycled back and forth from university. That was it’s own side adventure.
Point being, I changed three flats in my first six month of Hyderabad. My diary reads that I was depressed during that time, but it was not because of these external factors, just general rumination I susceptible too. I did become a lot confident because of these misadventures. But the first year, I felt I didn’t make any exciting friends, was living my introvert life, and chilling alone. Which was a necessary healing period for me, because I was healing from the past and was bracing myself for Round 2389 of Hyderabad– living in a hostel.
I wrote this for a friend I met in Hyderabad, Incomparable*, who was curious about my initial stay. For the rest of it, he was present and mixed in the drama! 🙂
PS: A curious thing about Hyderabad is that you have to pay for drinking water. I spend Rs. 30 on drinking water every week. It used to annoy me a lot. People just accept bad governance and find a way to overcome it. Of course, I have more infrastructure and sociological observations on Hyderabad. But I’ll write about it as I get my writing groove back. Fingers crossed.
*names changed for fun