Yesterday, I woke up in the afternoon to a clouded sky. It had rained heavily few hours ago. I live in the first floor of a flat building that is part of a continuous row of identical flat buildings. facing our row of buildings there is another identical row and behind ours another and so on. Most of these buildings have been painted a long time ago and are now blackish. During cloudy days, these buildings appear like specters of a dystopian world – sad, isolated hollow accommodations with no hope or smile.
Housed inside this dystopian exterior, however, there is a different story. Each of the flats has two rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms and a balcony for those who live on first floors. For a family of grown people, it is rather small. But it feels like only yesterday when the house was so big for my brother and me. Growing up, we never complained of lack of space.
This table where I am typing out on my laptop was only four years ago piled with scores of books. I was in my final year of school, preparing for school-end and college entrance examinations. I had a hectic schedule. If there is hell, it is those two final years of school for me. I was studying physics, chemistry, mathematics, computer, English and Bengali and there were just so many textbooks and reference books that if I were made to stand beside the pile, I would soon be dwarfed. I slept little and complained much. I was continuously irritated and shouted at everyone. I had no time for myself, let alone anyone else.
In college, I moved out of my home. The first two years were miserable. I hated the place I stayed in. One of the walls of my room was plywood and it carried over the noise that my housemates made. I shared the tiny square room with two others and would wake up in sweats in the summer – it felt that the fan was miles away from me. Even in the daytime, we had to keep the light on. The food was gross too, but that I adjusted with, eventually. Not a day passed when I wanted college life to end as soon as possible, so that I could finally earn and live in a better place.
The last two years were comparatively better. I moved to another accommodation which was a lot airy and well-lit. Most of the boarders were working girls, and after a busy period in the mornings, the house would fall strangely silent. Of course no place is without its problems, and I had my share of pathetic experiences there as well, but I lived better there.
Life at college improved too. I met a great teacher who inspired me to do new things. I guess the learning curve was steeper towards the final semesters in college that the first four.
When I left the Kolkata, the city of my college, and returned home on the last day of June 2015, I was worried if I would miss the independence that I enjoy while living alone. But as much as I prized my freedom, I loved to spend time with family because I was soon to realize that the time with my family was going to end soon. Soon, I would be shifting to another part of the country and would probably visit my parents once in six months. There would be no eating together as a family and no endless soul-baring chats with my mother. The worst part is my family would be sadder than me when I leave.
My parents were never that successful with their finances. My grandparents were first generation immigrants from Bangladesh and could not provide well for their eight children. My father and his siblings did not receive proper education or food or clothes. By the time my father started his own family, he inherited nothing except few antiquated copper utensils. My grandparents lived with us until they died. Both of them were bedridden for about one year each before death. It was a huge strain on my father’s finances – my mother tells me now that at that point of time, our shop had literally become empty – they was no money to buy goods to sell. What a difficult time it must have been for my parents – to take care of my ailing grandparents and my brother and me.
The good thing about being educated is that you have more control over your finances. When you are well-educated you make smart investments, take informed financial decisions. My father provided for my living costs while I was in Kolkata, but he couldn’t make enough to cover my tuition fees. Whatever savings he had made went towards my admission. I took a loan which has now surmounted to an obscene amount with interest. Ever since my first year of college, I have felt perpetually weighed down with the burden of student loan – I worried when finally would I be able to pay it back.
As I start my career, I think of the same thing. Thankfully, I am more aware of my finances than my father. I do all my banking work myself – something I was fearful of when I started college.
Every year more and more millennials are moving out, flying to different parts of the country or different countries, altogether. When I look back now, I see the child version of myself hating every moment of childhood and wanting to grow up. Now, I am grown up and no matter how much I wish to squeeze Time in my hand to make the moments with my family longer, the days end. So do months. And soon, it will be October and I will move to another part of the country, to officially start my career.
I wish I never grew up!