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Living alone? Toughen up

November 02, 2005

Living away from your family is no cakewalk.

If you thought it was, it's time to knock off your rose-tinted glasses and face reality. 

There are bills to be paid, brokers to haggle with, cooking and cleaning to take care of, difficult roommates/ house mates to handle and much more.

To guide those who leave home for further education or to pave the way for their careers, we prescribed Top survival mantras.

Here are some more handy tips from Get Ahead readers who have experienced the ups and downs of living alone:

Moving out of home, hearth and comfort to a new city is one thing. Dealing with a very demanding 16-hour job as a photographer's assistant is the icing on the cake. And breaking up with your girlfriend and living for five months in a city like Mumbai without an apartment is the cherry.

I had no money in the first place to even think about getting an apartment -- the 10 month deposit was unthinkable. Eventually, my stuff was spread over five apartments between Worli and Andheri. Every night, after getting out of studio, I had to figure out which benevolent friend would let me shack up for the night.

Some nights, I nearly didn't find a bed. The best meal was always lunch, since breakfast always competed with the final snatches of sleep and dinner was a hazy vada pav with only my bed on my mind.

When I did get an apartment at the end of it all, with two other cronies from Delhi, I had to work around the Maharashtrian fear of 'north Indian boys'. Personally, I feel the average Maharashtrian is a helluvalot noisier. The society chairman always wanted to know why we were walking in after midnight. The fact that we were coming in from work was irrelevant (and the fact that we were coming from yet another bacchanalian conquest of Toto's Garage, a pub in Bandra (northwest Mumbai) was never mentioned!)

There's a totally different dynamic to living on your own. It's not home. No one's gonna put up with your crap. You got problems, so does eveyone else, fella. But, it's also the most humane lesson in survival and sensitivity towards other people. And the biggest truth of all -- shit happens!

-- Manav Parhawk is a photographer and lives in Mumbai 
I didn't quite realise that living alone could be instrumental in building all the discipline you needed in life until I moved out of my house, away from my dear folks, to another city for career prospects.
I thought all I needed to keep myself alive was some money for food, clothes and shelter. But that wasn't all -- by the end of the first month in the new city, I hardly had any money even to purchase travel tickets to visit my folks back home. The second month was even more unequivocally detestable courtesy unwashed clothes, food that was not nutritious, a house that was inundated with dust and dirt, and sky-rocketing expenses!
And that was the day I realised living alone can turn into a devastating experience if you don't follow these simple rules:

i. Plan ahead: List down the pain-points of living alone and counter them one-by-one. Decide how much you want to spend on your rent (yes, consider the prevailing real estate cost in that city) and access all the sources (brokers, newspapers, magazines) to find a decent accommodation.

Plan your expenses before you start spending -- list all possible expenses you might incur for a month and allocate funds for each of them. It's fine to be parsimonious during the initial phases.
ii. Adopt a win-win approach: Don't compromise too much on food, clothes, and shelter. You do need good clothes to present a good personality, you do need good food to stay healthy, and you do need decent accommodation to stay away from possible communicable diseases. 

You can afford to cut down on the entertainment expenses in the beginning.
iii. Expect the unexpected: Be prepared to face some teething trouble. These are natural and will disappear gradually.
iv. Observe first, then make a move: Talk to people who have been living alone to learn how they coped with their daily problems. See if you can use those techniques to tackle your problems. 

Make an assessment of the people around you -- note their culture, their language, their way of treating their neighbours. 

Go slow when it comes to making friends with anybody and everybody. Build your limits and chalk out boundaries that your friends/ neighbours shouldn't cross.
v. Health first: The phrase 'health is wealth' made sense to me for the first time in my life. I fell sick three times before I realised it was the food and the place I was staying in that were causing problems.

Nobody is going to nag you this time -- you are going to miss your mom's first and second call for lunch. Always consume healthy food at the right time, every time.
vi. Virtual pals: I always said my best friends in town were the non-living objects -- the television, my Walkman and novels. Living alone can lead to serious clinical depression sometimes. 

Keep yourself busy when you are at home alone. Watch television, read books, listen to music and do stuff that interests you.
vii. Keep in touch: Visit your folks back home at regular intervals, if possible. Give them a call and talk to them once a week. This should make you forget the distance between you and your folks.
It's just a matter of time before you settle down in life and win over the hurdles of living alone. After all, you are doing it for a purpose, and you will have all the support from your dear ones, wherever they are.
-- Aravind Jayaraaman, 26, is a Senior Technical Writer based in Bangalore

I am in my final year, MCA. It was so tough when I first came to Pune from my native place in Goa for the first time ever. I stayed in my college hostel which was not very far from my college campus. Even after having a roommate, I always felt lonely because of the cultural and social differences.

Having stayed alone for the first time away from mother and granny, both whom I am so close too, a cold wave runs through me when I recollect those days of loneliness. It feels like a nightmare.

However, I have learnt many things, and developed a practical and professional approach towards whatever came my way. A few suggestions for friends who are alone or plan to live alone:

~ Make time to analyse yourself at the end of the day.

~ Stick firmly to your goal and do not get distracted by the surrounding influences.

-- Tarka Mahajan, 22, is doing his MCA in Pune

Living alone can be terrible and terrific at the same time. It depends on many parameters, and this I realised while living alone in a country for more than one year now;  where you don't speak their language and it's more true for the European countries. So here I would like to summarise a few tips for those who have just started their life in Europe or going to start.

Language: It is a big problem as you don't understand a single word or can't communicate with other people. We make a serious mistake by taking it far granted that everybody understands English (believe me even the officer dealing with foreign affairs don't speak it). Take weekend language classes. It will serve three purposes; you will learn the language and have some activity over the weekend. You will also meet other people who are facing the same problem.

Cooking and cleaning: You need to do it on your own. Bring a bigger pressure cooker; it will save you from daily cooking. Buy a microwave oven as this will also save some of the cooking burden. Try to include as much fruit and vegetables in your diet as they are not the regular part of Western food.

Coping with loneliness: The toughest part of living alone is to cope up with the loneliness. You realise the importance of family and friends in your life. Be in contact with all of them and share your experiences with them.

Try to make some local friends but don't be totally dependent on them. Regular phone calls to your home are going to cost you a hell of a lot of money and at the end you will realise that a fortune has been drained through the phone lines.

Money: The most important part is to save it for a rainy day. Refrain from spending too much.We count in terms of a few Euros or dollars but that counts for a lot.

Connecting with other Indians: Try to meet as many as you can, and if the person is new like you it will be better. Those who are living abroad for quite some time have their own way of living.

I am happy that I am finishing my term abraod and good luck for those will be doing so soon.

-- Chandan Upadhyay, 29, is a visiting scientist in Europe.

Do you currently live alone?

Was is tough locating a house? How do you manage money every month? Are the neighbours nosy?

What advice do you have for those who are planning to live on their own?

The trials, the tribulations, the bouquets and the brickbats, we want to hear it all. Don't forget to mention your name, age and what you do for a living.

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: Living alone

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Posted by S.S.Kumar

Sub: Living Alone

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Sub: Living alone - more tips

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Posted by Rajesh Mishra

Sub: Yes I am living alone

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