My bestie recently asked me what was the one thing that I absolutely hated about my life in Riyadh, for I lived there while growing up for ten odd years. For a while, this question took me by surprise…people always assumed that I loved it out there and ended up asking me what I missed about that desert city.
I took a moment to think while fleeting images went past me – a sea of people in black and white (literally, for Saudi men wear a white, free flowing white gown-like attire and women wear Abhayas – the black cloth that bundles them up, covering them completely.
I thought about being away from my grandparents and missing them.
I thought about Riyadh’s oppressive heat, and the boring school life I was subject to… And then it hit me hard.
‘Loneliness’, I replied.
Not having friends of my age in the society I lived in, being at a mentally stimulating age and not having someone to share conversations or games with, not being very rich so as to afford novels and books often, it tore me apart, little by little.
It’s not like I didn’t have friends – school was great when we had lunch hour or free period. But once the clock struck 1.30, that was goodbye to your friends, unless you wanted to chit chat over long calls (which again wasn’t very welcomed by the folks).
I had a few Kannadiga friends that I looked forward to meeting, but that was usually once or twice a month and fun while it lasted.
On a daily basis, I whiled away time with imaginary characters, played stupid and cute games with my baby brother, and kept wishing for some adventure. I was introduced to comics a little late, for I consider 3rd grade pretty late. I took to reading Tinkle comics, Champak I used to loathe, but reading anything felt like a good time pass.. I graduated to Archies, and thanks to my then best friend’s mother, who worked in our school, we got permission to borrow some books on a weekly basis. And then we ended up taking Noddy. What can I say, I missed the whole concept of libraries like hell.
Then I graduated to reading Women’s Era magazines because they would inevitably be at home and I just needed to read something, anything! To be honest, I read quite a few controversial things that made for a good laugh but loneliness – you can’t put a name or describe the feeling… these things persist.
I thought things would be great upon leaving Saudi, and returning to India… That I’d be able to meet and host friends who are quite like me and whose ideas would entice and encourage us to be great. Unfortunately for me, no such thing happened. Reality was that, I was seen as more of an outcast because of my earlier background and I didn’t belong to their groups…
It’s hard being lonely and it’s enough to push you into depression. I know that now but then, I tried to desperately fit in, dumb down, act bitchy and mean to be accepted, found one friend, who happened to be a guy, and you can imagine how that would turn out for a teen?
Ugh. Life sucked. In the end, I cared a damn and gave up on everyone that I was trying to befriend. I cut them out of my life the moment school ended and haven’t regretted my decision since.
I grew friends after that.. When I stopped trying, and I just was. I’m an introvert, so I still have a small circle but that’s completely fine with me. I do wish sometime that I’d be more outgoing and befriend more people.. I talk and meet people, but I think genuine connection is so rare.
But I cannot be more grateful to the people who are in my life.. I’m really happy to have friends who are smart, motivated, dedicated and wholly good people with a good heart. We question our friendship sometimes and then I realise, despite everything that that are, they’re mine.
That’s really all you sometimes need.