Discovering Myself by Getting Lost in City of Joy

Gatha G Namboothiri

`You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself.''- Alan Alda

Let me put that quote in the right context: I am an 18-year-old Malayalee girl whose passion for pursuing a career in law made her travel all the way from Lord Padmanabha’s city, Thiruvananthapuram, to the City of Joy, Kolkata.

My parents and I heard a lot of “do-not-send-her-this-far” and “you-can-study-law-in-Kerala’’. A friend’s parents were advised against sending her to study Economics in Tata Institute of Social Sciences because she is a GIRL and TISS is situated in faraway and ``unsafe’’ Mumbai. I am sure it took my parents a great deal of courage to quell their fears and let me go study in Kolkata and even travel alone.

So after exactly one day of homesickness and quite a few episodes of cultural shock over six months, I right now find my life pleasantly different. And my journey back home in December for the New Year holidays was just the perfect setting that underscored this new boost of confidence that my lonely existence in Kolkata brought about.

On Dec. 22, the day of my travel, the harsh reality of non-conformation of train tickets confronted me. Along with two of my companions, I quickly jumped to plan B: buy general compartment tickets in the Kolkata-Chennai Coromandel Express and then hope for the mercy of a ticket examiner to get an upgrade to any vacant seat. When I told my father about the 27-hour long adventure I am getting into, he told me to do what I felt was right, and in case of any uneasiness I felt after reaching the station, to head back and take a flight the next day.

Amidst a lot of chaos, we managed to get on to the train at midnight. Shooed away by the elite class in sleeper compartments, we walked through the train at 3’o clock in the morning, looking for the ticket examiner. After listening to our story, the official was kind enough to allot us seats in a three-tier air-conditioned coach, which left us with little money to even buy food for the rest of the journey! I survived the rest of the trip on some cups of tea.


All through this, I kept calling and messaging my parents in Thiruvananthapuram to tell them what was going on.

I am sure my mother would have had a sleepless night and that my parents must have woken up to another set of stories about girls getting raped and tortured inhumanly. Still, in a world where you find parents on tenterhooks even when their child is five minutes late to reach home, their trust in me was reassuring. And sometimes, your parents’ confidence in you to handle such circumstances is your greatest strength.

Today’s youth cannot handle the pressures of the real world because they have been hidden from it all their life. They are put inside a cocoon, guarded from the bitter realities and not given any say in the decisions that affect them the most. This leads to lack of self confidence among the children. Having faith in your children is one of the best gifts they can get.

I had considered myself independent and free till I went to Kolkata. But then I discovered what I am truly capable of. From Kolkata, I travelled to Gujarat alone for a competition and stayed there for 3 days. I learnt how to create a bank account, how to take care of myself when I am sick. But most importantly, I taught myself how to be my own person and not depend on others around me. And as Alan Alda said, I did discover myself.