I don't know why I thought moving to a village in the hills of Uttarakhand would be easy. Maybe because I don't like people all that much. Maybe because I prefer resourcefulness to consumerism. Maybe because I've done something similar before. Maybe because the air is fresher. In the excitement of shifting to a slower life, my mind races; restlessness does not bode well for a lifestyle that strives to be more present. The racing mind does not stop racing in cleaner air. Quiet comes from within. But I knew that.
Is it possible to feel claustrophobic in a space where there is nothing but space? Apparently so, particularly so when living with another human being.
Other surprises are in store for me as I unpack the steel utensils, the pressure cooker, the knives wrapped in newspaper. Delhi, the smoggiest of cities, gifted me a sore throat and runny nose. On the five-hour bus ride from Haldwani I find myself missing the security of easily accessible healthcare, something I often take for granted. My first night in the village, sleeping on a comfortably firm mattress, I am haunted with nightmares of an asthma attack and Almora, the nearest town with a hospital, being an hour away. A restless mind is exceptional at conjuring worst case scenarios.
Is it possible to feel claustrophobic in a space where there is nothing but space? Apparently so, particularly so when living with another human being. I spend the entire day with my partner: we shop together, we cook together, we clean together, we work together. It is a lot of together -- the last time I experienced such "togetherness" was when my brother and I shared a room. Togetherness can bond, but it can also break. In order to function in togetherness, I need my aloneness, and I plan to pursue that voraciously.
There are many upsides to this new chapter, I see that already.
Like time. There is so much more of it when sleep comes early and waking comes gently, sweetly, with sunlight pouring into the room. There is time to do things I love and time to do the things I must.
Like cooking, which, surprisingly, has led to edible results. Surprising, because the last time I rolled a chapatti was six years ago. Kneading the dough, I reminisce, is as pleasurable as shaping clay.
"Where have you come from?"
"How long will you stay?"
"Do you know how to light a wood fire?"
"Are you going to buy groceries?"
"Have you come back from buying groceries?"
I don't mind the curiosity. It paves the way for conversation, which builds connection. And learning.
Like the arrival of winter. I smile every time someone says, "Winter is coming." While Game of Thrones may not be on their mind, seasons are. Crops need to be harvested in preparation for a colder time, a harder time. It has rained some the past few days, but today is clear. Today, the snow-capped Himalayas peek from a cloudless pocket of sky.