Delayed Teenage Crisis: What Moving Away From Home at 26 Taught Me


Delayed Teenage Crisis: What Moving Away From Home at 26 Taught Me

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

It was only 12 short months ago that I felt like a shiny new penny, all of 25 years of age. Time did its thing, and now, at 26, I’m only going to be considered young if I were to drop dead or become the CEO of a company that makes Uber look like Uday Chopra’s career. It’s at this ripe old age, that I find myself leaving home for the first time, to go to university in faraway Ireland. I’m at a juncture in my life where I’m forced to confront the fact that I’m basically a non-adult who has made his bed seven times in his entire life, who is going to a country no one I know of has visited for more than four days.

While my friends uprooted their lives in this manner at 18, or even as late as 22 or 23, my quarter-life crisis move makes me feel like a cross between two sorts of people: a child that’s practising cutting vegetables, and an entry-level yuppie sage.

I do, after all, have four-ish years of full-time work experience, unlike the garden variety Indian postgraduate, who, at 22, is mostly a self-assured cretin with a degree that matters not one whit in the real world. I can’t be sure of being smarter, but I can be sure of being wiser, from wear and tear and world-weariness, more commonly known as “experience”.

It’s kinda hard for me come to terms with a fresh start at this age. For my entire 2.6-ish decades of being, my centre has been a small, 20-kilometre stretch in Bombay. From Colaba to Bandra has been where I’ve loved, lost, and even made attempts at semi-public lust. It’s where I’ve celebrated the things I achieved, and where I’ve dejectedly shaken hands with failures no less than, well, Uday Chopra’s career.

Going back to the classroom as a more mature person who can make compelling arguments is also exciting.

This prolonged duration of being in (and from) one place comes with its own drawbacks. I’m too attached to Bombay, a city that’s still the dream destination for most of India. I’m abandoning this particular Titanic while much of the young country aches for a ticket. It’s stranger to do this at a later stage in life, and it’s a sharper shock from the change when you live like a spoiled prince, who pays no rent, can’t cook eggs without YouTube, and tries to intellectualise making a bed instead of just taking the minute to do it.

With time, my bonds here have strengthened – with Bombay as a city, as well as my people here. It lends a definite, finite, and bittersweet quality to every damn interaction, and the toll it takes can be overwhelming. It hurts to visit a cafe you’ve been visiting as a teenager and think it might be your last time there. Even buildings, architecture, and streets feel more evocative. Kala Ghoda isn’t just a gorgeous historic neighbourhood for me now, it’s also the location of an arts festival where I was a cinema volunteer for four years. Every fresh connection and break-up, every moment of conflict and camaraderie, echoes in your head like a Nashik dhol gong (Dubstep Remix) smacked by a baseball bat.

The relentless passing of time has moved me from being someone who was aching to earn money and retire at 35, to an aspiring copywriter, to a journalism student who didn’t quite make it as an assistant director, to a legit copywriter who freelances on the side to fuel his scuba diving habit. I’ve lost hair, shed skins, and changed my mind and profession more times than should be legal.

And yet, nothing prepares you for the next level of change, where you’ll be by yourself in a new country, cooking and cleaning and going to business school. To go from laadla beta to another brown person that stands out in a sea of white people, from wearing t-shirts to work to tucking in a self-ironed shirt before a presentation. Without the homemade food, without the friends and family and their familiarity, and most importantly, without jet spray, because Uday Chopra probably told them to use toilet paper.

Yet, there’s more than enough to look forward to. I hear cooking videos on YouTube are helpful, and as an ex-food-writer-who-only-ate, I almost have no choice but get behind the gas and dabble in baking, both things I’ve wanted to do. Going back to the classroom as a more mature person who can make compelling arguments is also exciting. This, I think, will be a handy advantage I have over the younger ’uns, who spent their uprooting years being kids almost blindly bankrolled to get four years of first-world cushion.

All that’s left to do now is to dive into the deep end. Yet, in the moments before one jumps in, there’s a feeling that almost freezes you solid to the ground. I know I’ve got to move quickly, land right, and adapt to the water so I can keep swimming. Sinking, you see, is that one thing people who call Bombay home can’t do.