Up until very recently, (three years ago, to be precise,) my definition of freedom meant being allowed to stay out at a friend’s place for a sleepover. No kidding! Being the only girl child raised in a conservative family meant that I was always expected back home straight after school and later on, college. If I ever got late, say, for an assignment related work, I had to call my mother and keep her informed of my every move, where I was and who I was with. This practice used to be the norm during school days when I didn’t have a mobile phone with me all the time. In college, the tight rein loosened a little bit, but I still had to inform her every day about my whereabouts. The fact that she could reach me on my phone at any time had her worrying less.

My college was a mere five hours a day, and as I became a sophomore, I started going out after college, blaming ‘extra classes’ for my delay coming back home. By the end of my college life, I had made up so many such extra classes that my mother would’ve thought I was extremely committed to my college and studies! (I was nowhere in the vicinity.) When my final semester exams were going on, I chanced upon a recruitment ad for Indigo Airlines. They were hiring people to be cabin attendants!

So, there I was: nearing the end of my college days, no plan of action for the future, burning with the desire to go out and do many different things with my one little life (my family still doesn’t approve of most of the things that I do). I decided to give it a shot. It was a walk-in interview, and I just had to buy a nice pair of formal clothes and some basic makeup. I had nothing to lose, and a job to gain! I showed it to my parents, and somehow, they encouraged me to go for it. To this day, I still haven’t figured out how they didn’t have a problem
with the job.

I made my way through all the levels of interviews and I received my offer letter. I was to come to Delhi for training for a period of four months, following which I would be posted to fly out of Bangalore. Chennai wasn’t on the list of available bases at that time, and I told my parents that I’ll transfer as soon as a spot becomes open. And so, my life away from my family began.

My short, four-month stay in Delhi opened me up to a number of different experiences and welcomed many new, interesting people from various backgrounds into my life. For the first time ever, I could do pretty much anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, and with whomever I wanted to be with! It was as easy as getting out of a club to quickly give my mother a good night call and then sliding right back onto the dance floor. This became a routine on all weekends. The more I spent time outside in places I never thought I’d go to and with people doing things I didn’t even previously know of, the more I realized how much more there is to life than what I had been taught by my parents, growing up.

There is a common attitude towards strangers, in general: never talk to one, never accept food from one, and if possible, never even look into the eyes of one because you don’t know what they’re up to. The underlying concept behind this is the fear of the unknown. And that was a recurring pattern throughout the 20 years I lived with my parents. I was raised to not do this or that because what if something undesirable came out of it. But their ‘ifs’ could never rein me in. If anything, they only made me want to explore more of what they told me not to.

When I found myself in a new place with new people and nobody to really answer to, the inner rebel in me came out and started becoming a regular fixture on all weekends. With time, all the things the rebel wanted to do became the norm in my life. I was changing and growing into a different person! I allowed myself to explore the world on my own terms and made unlikely bonds, having experiences that simply would not have been possible in my previously tamed life.

Once I moved to Bangalore, I spent a lot of time with myself in the first year. In that time, I slowly started to understand the things that excited me, things I feared, things I longed for and things that simply annoyed me to no end. Uninhibited by others’ opinions or rules for what to do and what not to do, I found myself building my own personal moral values, my own acceptable and unacceptable behaviours from the people I interacted with, and started constructing boundaries which were defined by the various new experiences I started to have.

I learnt to see the world in a new light, one that wasn’t tainted by my upbringing and my family’s painting of it. For example, I was brought up being taught how ‘morally bad’ it is to drink alcohol. I went ahead and drank with some friends and had a jolly great time, and there was no feeling of guilt at all! So drinking went out of the ‘morally bad’ category and into the ‘bad for the health’ category, which is truly where it belongs (I drink very much in moderation and save for a few hangovers here and there, I’ve had absolutely no problem with it!)

It has now been three years since I moved out of my family home in Chennai. What I initially thought would be a temporary stay away from home has now turned out to be a whole new life for me, one which I have fully embraced. I always used to tell my mother, “amma, there is no point in you telling me to do or not do something. I will learn the lessons only when I experience things for myself,” and that could never be truer than it is today!

Today, I take every new day as a new opportunity, rife with possibilities. Every new person is a potential contact to enable something else mutually beneficial. Every new experience I have is a lesson which I learn from and shape my thoughts and mind-set with. In moving out of my house, I started to discover myself. And in finding myself (the process never ends!), I find true freedom. The freedom to be my truest self, the freedom to think everything I want to think, the freedom to be everything I want to be. As the saying goes, the sky is the limit. If you allow yourself to reach for it!

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