Moving to a foreign city, where I have no family or relatives present, I have had to create a new community for myself. Strangers have become my friends.
When I first arrived, my relative’s colleague became my apartment and hostel searching guide in what then seemed like a vast city. Trying to find a suitable area for a 21 year old girl without a scooter in a still traditional city was bit of a struggle. But, after visiting electricity-less, unhygienic hostels in the bustling MP Nagar to a two bedroom gigantic apartment above a cranky elderly couple to a tiny one bedroom lacking a kitchen, she finally helped me settle on a quaint little hostel 2 kilometers from my work. She refused to accept my thanks at the end of this ordeal, instead inviting me to her apartment once she’s all settled in. Oh, did I mention, she was showing me around, when she and her husband had moved to Bhopal only a month earlier?
Even at the hostel, I have found a tiny family of girls. All attending college nearby, these seven girls are allowing me to witness the lives of urban Indian youth. Moreover, the girls have recreated a family structure paralleling a joint family, where the collective takes care of its members. I have become one of its members. I can go downstairs in the morning to learn the Suryanamaskara with one of the girls and in the evening, always find a girl inviting me to go get dumplings or to come hang out with her college friends. Recently, I read a very pertinent quote explaining the sentiment that surrounds me at the hostel. In an interview with an anthropologist, a Brahman man states, “Say there is a broom. If you have one straw separate, it can’t sweep. But when all are together, it can sweep.”
Additionally, whenever I arrive at the office, I have a sister-from-another-mother waiting for me. Over the course of one month, the secretary has become an older sister to me. Whenever I need a break from my work, she always offers nuggets of information about places around Bhopal, advice of what a good married woman should do, and nutritional facts about what is beneficial for your digestive system. She even invited me to her four year’s birthday party, where I was treated to delicious chocolate cake and chole bhatura. It’s lovely to know that when you enter the workplace, you will be greeted by such a quirky and caring person.
One of lasting lessons I will take away from this first month is that friends can be made in the unlikeliest of all places. I found friends at the only authorized Apple store in Bhopal. I was introduced to the owner and his staff by the last intern who just left. The workers, all under the age of 30, have become some of my most trusted friends here. They have helped me set up my phone, went and saw Barfi! with me at the local theater, and have let me work in their store while they work.
The people you meet make the life you lead a little bit more intriguing, and in a small city like Bhopal, that is crucial.