Society and mental health

Beyond Relocation: Moving abroad was easier than moving within the country

The Bride compares two moves and finds that, surprisingly, she felt more lonely when surrounded by family

The Bride

Before I moved to Hyderabad when I was 23 years old to pursue a Master’s degree I had lived at the same address in Mumbai with my parents my entire life. I was only stirred out of my complacency by the need to follow a man across the country. Because following a man was too pathetic to contemplate on its own, I decided to make it worthwhile by enrolling in a Master's programme. This meant that I landed up in a different city from the man in question, thus somewhat defeating the purpose, but nevertheless close enough that we’d see each other more frequently.

I was excited about moving. I looked forward to living alone and to the college experience. Unfortunately, I was disappointed on many counts. I opted not to stay in the hostel, mainly because the loo put me off, and lived with my uncle and cousin instead. Although staying with family had its advantages, ironically, I found myself lonely, knocking about in an empty house much of the time. Because I lived away from college, I was left out of many of the activities that presumably went on in the hostel. Overall, I found myself with too much free time on my hands. I had been used to full-time work, and the Master’s programme was structured so that I didn’t even have class every day. Because I couldn’t ride a two-wheeler, and there was nowhere near enough to walk to, I found myself marooned at home in a city where anyway women don’t sit around in public alone.

After the first semester, my boyfriend got a job overseas and moved. So the main reason I had moved to Hyderabad ceased to exist. My boyfriend was coping with his own adjustments and grew distant. I found myself in frequent bouts of angst, loneliness and despair. In the midst of it, I was involved in trying to plan a wedding with a man I found emotionally distant and who I believed had betrayed my trust by moving away. Even my uncle noticed and in an attempt to help, bought me a cooler. My cousin gave me the name of a counselor and for the first time in my life I saw one. I am not sure we made much progress, but I gained clarity into at least some of my own defense mechanisms and unhealthy patterns. By the end of the Masters I had a more active social life, but I still was happy to get as far away from Hyderabad as I possibly could.

Two years later, I got married and moved to Hong Kong. Again, for a man. Strangely enough, although I knew no one in Hong Kong except my husband, I adjusted fairly quickly. It helped that my husband and I were in a sweet spot, and so one source of my angst was gone. I also got a job that provided me with a built-in social life so my adjustment was even easier. I was still haunted by the loneliness of my time in Hyderabad and found it triggering to come back to an empty house when my husband travelled, which I solved by socializing after work.

Later, I began having marital problems. Maybe they were problems that had their roots in my earlier dark phase in Hyderabad, or from parts of my childhood. I haven’t really figured out the roots of my demons. Hong Kong has been great to me, but good psychological support is extremely expensive. Strangely enough, I am convinced that I am better off in a foreign country than back home, even with the lack of support. If I had to move back, I fear I would face culture shock a third time.

The writer is a media professional of Indian origin based in Hong Kong. She blogs at

White Swan Foundation