Monday, June 16, 2014


Every new place I have ever moved to has always thrown the same challenge at me - being without friends. But I found it quite strange that I had a feeling of mild panic when I was actually moving back to my own country for good. It was not so much the fear of starting over again, as it was of getting trapped in the old set up all over again.

It is very difficult to be alone in India. You move into a new apartment and ten minutes later your neighbor knocks on your door. Then, in your attempt to find all the essential luxuries of a modern Indian home (maids, milkmen, newspaper delivery, the laundry guy), you end up making friends with your entire complex!
Then there are weddings. About a dozen a month (specially in summers and winters). In the monsoons, when the weddings ease up, there are religious festivals. Plus, most of the weddings also result in naming ceremonies peppered all around the year. So you are actually left with very little time to "make new friends".

There is another face to the "I need more friends" feeling. It comes mostly from the anxiety of being far away from your comfort zone. When I moved to the US, I was in an all round terrible state of mind. I landed in East Lansing on a very hot summer day in July. I saw my apartment for the first time, I had no furniture, no car and no friends. Bit by bit all of that changed. And as it always happens, I was equally sad when I left the place. I used to do hot Yoga at a small studio back then. And because I was so lonely, I was extremely regular at Yoga. I used to take the bus from the lab, my Yoga mat slung across my back, and return home exhausted at 8:30 at night. I never missed the class, even during snow storms I was there, at the bus stop, in my snow boots (and I was dumb enough to lug them back as a souvenir from my time in the US). I didn't make any long lasting friendships at the yoga lessons. But I did make a lot of friends at work who were curious to know more about the "sword" that I carried on my back!

I found myself reminiscing a lot recently about all these efforts I used to take to stay happy with myself. And it hurt to realize that I had the foolishness to assume that I did not need all those efforts now, just because I am back home and married. And just as the topic of "Me time" was being laid out on the discussion table, I found Paghdandi. :)

It is a coffee shop/book store/ library on Baner - Pashan link road. The monthly fee in a mere Rs. 100 and you can also donate a limited number of old books to get a monthly fee waiver. They serve very nice coffee and home made cakes and pastries. They organize workshops and meet ups for writers and artists. I happened to accidentally walk into a writers meet today and it left me so refreshed, I couldn't stop smiling the whole day.

There were about 20 people in the shop today. The youngest was about fifteen years old and the oldest must have been in his seventies. There were IT engineers, economists, stay-at-home moms, published writers, film makers, students and advertising professionals. All of us bound together by one thing - a passion for writing! It was certainly uplifting to realise that there are places right out of your imagination, in your own neighbourhood. All you have to do is open your eyes and walk into them!

So, if you are in Pune and want to spend an hour of your Sunday morning meeting writers, please walk into Paghdandi at 10:30 AM! You'll definitely see me there!