How to live happily without an occasional whiff of tadka on the streets.

A step by step guide based on my breathing evidence

1.Overpack your bag:

With adept knowledge of the American culture gained from sitcoms, books, and movies; dressed up with that fake it till you make it kind of confidence and ready to take on the world smile, I travelled the distance. I nodded at advice, laughed feebly at jokes and agreed with universally accepted truths being thrown at me from friends and family.

2. Indulge in pre departure drama:

I lost my mind a little, like every big occasion makes you loose your mind and shut myself from everyone, fought with my best friend, and ate a little too much of hot home cooked food. Soaking in the love, while I could.

It was not just about settling in a new country, it was settling in a new institution, settling like an adult who knows her shit, settling to like-if not love a new place, at least for the duration of the course. There was no coming back, the pre departure drama was too much to back out from.

3.Checklist— look for senses that might have been left behind:

And then it was really time to go. All the months of planning, preparing, dos and donts, pros and cons, lists and remarks, were about to get real. Like a dream manifesting into reality and becoming so true that you fail to believe it, until it almost passes you.

4. Carry your senses and just let them be all over the place.

The journey was not just long, it was clogged with anticipation, hopes, feelings I knew not I was capable of. It was a twenty four hour long journey, through the night. So, with shades of nights of different countries for company, I drifted in and out of sleep, in and out of thoughts, in and out of sudden rushes of happiness and in and out of sudden chills dwindling with the fact that I was about to step unto a new home, all alone.

5. Remember home, cringe, then look up at the sky— its the same 🙂

I was not, however, alone. With twenty three years of living and loving, if I had learnt one thing- it was making new places home. This wasn’t Delhi or Ahmedabad, or any other Indian city though. In the first few days, I realised, this place missed a lot of things that makes a place, home- the bustle of autowalas and sabziwalas, a known set of signs and signages and colours, streets and trees, accustomed buildings with their friendly entrances, familiar faces with familiar businesses, the occasional whiffs of chaat or a hing tadka enveloping your senses just when you’re hungry, just to name a few. But, what this place does have is a warm welcome. America is a hotpot of sunshine, and sunshine knows no nationality, religion, race or creed. It shines upon you, dancing along with your steps. You share the sky, even if the land is divided.

6. Walk around your neighbourhood :

“No matter where you are from, you are welcome here” read a board in my neighbourhood, and I remember feeling overwhelmed by it on a lonely walk during one of my first weeks here. I did feel welcome, good job America.

7. Understand, that people can make a new place home:

People, irrespective of their religion, country, race and ideologies, are the same is what I soon realised. It was lonely, dark, different. The culture shock was not toned down even due to familiarity, courtesy of globalisation. Same goes for the food. Where do I even start with the food? Kumaris and Nepal houses masquerading under the name of Indian food made me roll my eyes. The school, the streets, the weather, the manners, the leaves, every colour was different here. But people were the same. That’s what matters.

8. Use your phone to click away into the newness instead of calling your ex:

I became unapologetically carefree. A new place is also a new journey. The new experiences will have started becoming a part of my memory already. My phone is now full to the brim with the newness of America, and old memories have crawled so further away in the camera roll that I hardly think of them A new journey is also a good place to be happy with your current state, not thinking of the past, nor the future, just happy where I am. (Too much preaching? :/)

9. Do the thing you would do if you weren’t afraid.

Exactly that, and nothing else. New place=New opportunity. No judgement, no holding back, a fearless start. So I do my thing, and I love it.

10. Avocados make everything better:

I have made up a home out of a house, I have made friends out of strangers, and I have made peace out of the stillness, all in good joy. I am happy, not just comfortable. And I am proud, not just for living alone in a far away country, but being happy about it.

I do still miss my pani puris occasionally, but a hearty availability of avocados and chipotle is not so bad!

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