My day begins with the alarm ringing loudly. I place the duvet covers even more firmly over my ears. It’s a Sunday, but I need to head to the library. My mother, who accompanied me from Kolkata to London, has gone back home today.
At seven, I amble out of bed, brush my teeth and check my backpack. Wallet, check. Notebook, check. Oyster card, check. Seminar paper, check. Good, everything I need. Before I head out, I need to eat breakfast. I’ve made a habit of skipping breakfast and have absolutely no intention of fainting mid-morning.
I sit down on my bed and begin to eat a banana and a pain au chocolat, which is just a fancy name for a chocolate-filled croissant. I’m craving a home cooked breakfast, but I realize that’s not going to happen in a long time given the facts that I won’t be going home and I don’t know how to cook.
Ready to leave, even though I am groggy eyed and slightly sleepy. I have to return a book to the university library, and I shudder thinking about the fines that will accumulate if I don’t return it on time. In Kolkata, my father always teased me about my over-anxious personality.
My pedestrian commute takes half an hour. I walk toward the large grey concrete buildings that are now familiar terrain, and my first port of call is the university library.
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., my time is spent at the library. The university website emphasises the need for “self study.” I see thousands of students pouring over textbooks and laptops, scribbling down notes or lying down on beanbags, trying to read. Even though I don’t know anyone yet, I can almost sense solidarity with them.
I realize I’m hungry and head out for a lunch break. Sitting down on a park bench, I see bits of lettuce strewn about and coffee stains. Someone’s crumpled Tetra Pak lies on the floor.
Although it rains occasionally at this time of year, there’s always a pleasant gust of wind blowing: nothing that a warm shawl or cardigan can’t handle. This park, on Sardinia street, is very close to university. I often find myself at the park, Subway sandwich in one hand and orange satchel in the other.
A mulch of green, yellow and flaming orange maple leaves decorate the wooden benches. I pick up a large green leaf and examine it. As I look through its veins, the leaf feels alive.
Needing a nap, I return to the halls of residence. I’ve done a lot of walking around, taking down notes and reading. Even while I’m sleeping, I can hear the sound of cars whizzing by underneath my window.
My Chinese flatmate, Sui* walks in. While she tells me about her day at university, I put on the electric kettle to brew us lemon and ginger tea. We sit down and talk about culture, university, our religious and spiritual beliefs. The conversation takes a light-hearted turn when we begin to talk about cute boys in our class.
I answer emails, chat with my parents on Skype, speak to my grandparents and say hello to my dog. My dog licks my father’s computer screen in appreciation and delight. I almost forget that I’m far away from home, away from the din and noise that is Kolkata, in a strange city that hasn’t quite embraced me yet.
When I go down to eat supper, I see many faces in the dining hall that are yet unfamiliar. Some people, like me, are sitting alone. Others are sitting with their friends and chatting discreetly. In my head, I think about how different a dinner table conversation in Kolkata with my friends would be: loud, boisterous and full of giggles.
Eating alone, the bizarreness of the situation strikes me. I was complaining about being stifled in Kolkata and now I’m dying to meet someone, anyone, who asks intrusive questions, is over-friendly and overbearing. I miss the nuanced annoyances that are inextricably linked to my hometown.
I haven’t been in London long enough to know the dinner rituals.
I sit down in front of the computer screen and start listening to my iPod. It’s going to be a long, long night.
*Not her real name.