short stories from the chaotic life of a 23-year-old.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to go away as far from home as possible. To me, getting away from home represented freedom from all that was happening around me. I longed for days like today. It is sunny outside but not scorching hot, just the right balance of warmth and cold. And I have longed for this life since my childhood. Everything works as expected, I have a 24-hour electricity connection and high-speed internet, and everyone around me seems to be on some intellectual pursuit.
And yet, there is a sense of longing to return home. Despite everything, I still long to eat bamboo shoots, mom’s special pork preparation with potatoes, and the sweet smell of freshly harvested rice. They don’t eat fermented and dried fish in this part of the world. If you had tasted mom’s gudok, you would know what I am talking about.
Gudok: you boil beans, potatoes, dried fish, green chilies, onions, dried pork, etc., and mash them. Usually prepared in a bamboo cylinder, but a steel pot or any pot is good enough so long as you can boil the ingredients together. You get the idea, but the smell and taste of the preparation is a bamboo cylinder is non-paralled.
Thinking about home makes me sad at times. Other times it makes me cheerful, and a sense of deep gratitude prevails. Something like, “Started from the bottom, now we are here.” I quite like my life here in Vienna. The coffee here is nice, even if a little expensive. The public transportation is excellent, the air clean, and the weather lovely.
I wonder what it would take to bring a piece of my home here and make my hometown a little more like the city. I know both are daydreams, but it would be so awesome to have a piece of home wherever I go. Two of my IIMA friends visited me over the weekend, and I was glad to see them. I could speak a familiar language, talk about things we all can relate to, and watch a movie we all loved.
Years ago, I thought I wouldn’t get too attached to anyone other than my sister. It turns out that has changed. I don’t know what to do about it; maybe I am aging faster than I thought. As a teenager, I would tell my parents not to worry about my whereabouts and just let me be. Mom always told me, “Become a parent, and then you’ll understand.”
I need not wait that long. I get pretty anxious if I don’t know what’s up with my sister every so often. I recall asking mom why she only asked if I had my meals or not when she called me. Surely there must be more exciting things to talk about. I ask her what they had for lunch or dinner whenever I call her now. Oh, how the tables turn. All jokes on me, of course.
Austrians take their holidays quite seriously. I almost missed out on my registration here (which would mean getting kicked out of the country) because I showed up at the university around 1 PM on a Friday. They shut shop by 12 PM on Fridays, and Saturdays and Sundays are holidays. Almost every shop is closed on Sundays. It gets pretty depressing at times. An Austrian friend told me that the labor laws are quite strict, and hence such results.
A quick thought tells me that it probably makes sense, however. Taking holidays seriously nationwide means that workers in every profession get days off every week when they can focus on their lives and not on the service of others. Grocery shop owners, garbage collectors, and front desk receptionists enjoy their weekends with their loved ones.
After much deliberation, I went on my first-ever hike yesterday. It turned out better than I expected. “We don’t really do hikes where I come from. To us, hiking means going to the jungle.” That’s how I described when they asked me if I’ve been on hikes. The trail was clean and well laid out on top of the lovely weather. It took us more than three hours to get back to where we started, but overall it was awesome. I met many people, tried various snacks, and snapped beautiful photos.
The city has treated me well despite all the paperwork struggles. I still need to get a few more in order, but I am optimistic that they will fall in place with time. Similar to the final year of my undergraduate, I am uncertain about what I will do next. But I am looking forward to whatever the future holds for me. I am happy for now. For the first time in a long time, I feel pretty content, stable, and grateful for everything I have.
I hope you have a great week. Please subscribe to the newsletter if you have not done so. And share the newsletter with a friend. Your support means a lot to me. Until the next issue.
— Debashish Reang