Beyond Relocation: In an unknown city the little inconveniences began to bother me

How stepping out of her comfort zone helped Namrata find belonging in a new city

I want to go to a place where no one knows me!
Equipped with this thought I decided to move from Baroda to Mumbai – a city I had known only professionally as the headquarters of the company that I worked with. I didn’t have any friends or family there and I expected that given the cosmopolitan atmosphere it was easy to mingle without facing any language or culture issues. It was a safe bet, or so I liked to believe.

Quitting a decade old job, leaving behind the safe confines of home and bidding goodbye to all that I knew, I embraced the unknown. The initial six months were terrible, so to speak. Anything and everything was a challenge. From food to accommodation to day-to-day chores, it was all beyond my comfort zone. Added to it was my health condition. I have an autoimmune disease for which stress is a trigger. Surviving on my own was a huge challenge in every aspect.  Most importantly, amidst it all I had to constantly strive to keep stress away.

The Mumbai I saw was very different to the Mumbai I had seen before during visits. Everyone romanticized the city, but no one ever talked about the inconvenience. Water problems, daily commuting for hours, space constraints, traffic, pollution and noise, every nook and corner of this city is thriving with these. The biggest problem I had with this city was the distance. Coming from a small town, spending two hours in a train just to reach somewhere seemed so overwhelming.

Today, after three years I know I have come far. I came here a shy, timid person but am now  confident about myself. This city taught me how important it is to listen to yourself, to be with your thoughts and to know what you want because that's when you also understand what you don't want. The stress that came from the various expectations I was juggling to meet suddenly seemed childish.

There were days when I craved a known face that would smile at me and ask me how I was doing.  Cut to today, when every time I travel in the local trains I see some familiar faces who smile at me. We never had the need to know each others' names. Just a nod, a tender smile and a soft hello was enough. Maybe this is that thin line that we never seem to notice. 

On forlorn night I sat by the talking to my best friend who no longer lived in Mumbai, but had lived there long enough to teach me some important 'life hacks' for survival in this big city. He was my agony aunt, my emergency number, my helpline and my 4 am buddy all rolled into one.  His biggest tip for survival was to create my own memory bank in this city. Take walks; find out new nooks and corners, have your own hangout places. Make a list of your favorite eateries, your go-to places whenever you feel down, shops you like to frequent for an instant pick-me-up. Embrace this city with all that it has and then see how much you begin to feel at home. It is the unknown that scares you, the known is always comforting.

Namrata is an investment banker-turned writer. She lives in Mumbai.​

This story is from Beyond Relocation, a series on migration and how it impacts our emotional and mental health. Read more here:
1. We need to acknowledge the emotional impact of migration: Dr Sabina Rao
2. Employers must focus on the emotional cost of relocation: Maullika Sharma
3. Moving was all of these: a challenge, and adventure and an opportunity to learn about myself: Revathi Krishna

We are a not-for-profit organization that relies on donations to deliver knowledge solutions in mental health. We urge you to donate to White Swan Foundation. Your donation, however small, will enable us to further enhance the richness of our portal and serve many more people. Please click here to support us.

Related Stories

No stories found.
White Swan Foundation