After a month here, I finally picked up the paintbrush last night. I love painting and yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have all that I need – the art supply, the table to paint on and even the easel, which I picked up at the local market even before I moved into the house because I was desperate to paint. And yet, once I was home, I just didn’t. It’s been two weeks since we moved in. When my husband asked, I told him it was because I did not have a chair to sit on- I could have moved a chair from the other rooms but, that’s the thing- I didn’t.
The chair got delivered a week ago. But, I continued procrastinating in the name of ‘too much sun in the room,’ ‘ having to be around when the domestic help came,’ ‘needing to set the house,’ ‘shopping for pots and pans…’ The list went on and on endlessly. I gave the same excuses for not calling or connecting with friends – I was becoming a recluse.
Despite all the good around me and everything I have, I have been struggling to anchor myself in this city. I’m not sure why, but it feel like I’ve been flung into space, and I’m floating in a place with no gravity. I don’t know if it makes sense, but that’s how I have been feeling – like everything I know is far from reach. This is despite Dhaka being so close to India, and the people here are extremely helpful. I did not talk to friends or family because I had no idea what the problem was. I was also worried about being misunderstood – I did not want people to think I was cribbing or that I was sad. I just…lacked an anchor, something to hold me in place.
Finding an answer
I began asking myself why this was happening (this is what I do when I’m in a fix- I talk…to myself). I told myself that it wasn’t as if I was meeting family and friends all the time before I came to Dhaka. Most of the time, I was connected via social media and phone calls; all of which is still possible from where I currently am. I can still be seen and heard and yet why did it feel like I was in a soundproof room with blinds on; like I was in a space station. It’s probably because other than my husband and daughter, I know nobody else here. The few I know are on a purpose basis- I need to go out, I call the driver, I have hired help, so, they come, do their work and leave- when they need something they ask me, sometimes they talk and I listen; the security wishes me when I step out in the morning for a walk, I pass by other walkers like traffic on the road; when I go shopping, I ask the salespeople if I need something and they understand. When they don’t, I google it and show them the picture and it’s cool or if I need information on something or help with shopping, I ask the HR manager of the company and she helps. What I miss, however, is a sign of recognition and a sense of continuity in interaction.
All communication during the last month has been purely transactional. I realize I need more than that. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for everything God’s given me. In fact, ever since I’ve come here, a lot has happened that has strengthened my belief that all that happens, is for the best – even if it doesn’t feel good at the moment or things don’t turn out as expected, it’s for a reason. For example, I was supposed to employ the domestic help who worked for the people living in this house before us. She was supposed to join us in October. But, we couldn’t move into the house as the mattresses hadn’t been delivered. We moved in a month later. In the interim, we got to know that she had stolen stuff from the previous employer and had been bad-mouthing them. Obviously, I did not hire her. I wondered how I would manage. It’s not that I can’t (I managed perfectly well during covid), but I don’t wish to be engaged all day in household chores.
Everything happens for a reason- Thank God for friends and social media
a) A girl I knew from college (whom I had barely spoken to in college and whom I had bumped into thrice in twenty years of being in the same city and was connected with on FB (thank God for Social Media) saw my post mentioning that I was moving to Dhaka. She got in touch with me and told me that her sister lives in Dhaka and that if I needed any help I should get in touch with her. So, I did. I messaged her sister on WhatsApp (again, thank God for the world of messaging) on the day I moved in and she sent me the number of a lady who had worked for her but didn’t anymore as she learned to speak English and had progressed to Expat homes. This lady now cooks our meals and she is good (God bless her). This lady referred another lady for cleaning the house. And now, the second lady is with us too. So, our being stuck in the hotel, turned out to be in our best interest after all.
b) That’s not the only thing that happened that made me believe that things happen for the best. We had placed an order for bedroom sets, at the beginning of October, from a store called, ‘Isho’. 10 days later, we placed an order for a sofa set from the same store. 2 weeks passed after our first order and the beds were not delivered despite the delivery time being 10 to 14 days. Since, we were still within the 5-day period allowed for cancellation, for the second order, I told them that I’d cancel the order if they didn’t deliver. That’s the ‘stick’ they needed, to deliver the beds. Eventually, though, I did cancel the sofas as they called to say that they would need a month to get the fabric for the sofa. I hated that everything was getting delayed. However, in hindsight, I’m glad it got delayed and we cancelled the order- I checked out the reviews on Google and realized a number of customers have been complaining about sofas from this store being beautiful on the outside, but being extremely uncomfortable.
c) More important than all of this is that my younger daughter who could have joined University in August agreed to take a break after her grade 12. I had coaxed her into joining Uni in February- I told her she needed to eat, rest and have some fun before studying again. I had no idea then that we would move to Dhaka. Her staying back has been the best thing for me. Incidentally, she’s the one who forced me to pick up the phone and speak to friends. She’s been telling me for some time now but I’m a stubborn cookie and don’t listen easily. Then, last evening, she said, ” Speak to a friend not because you need to, but to someone who needs you.” That made me call a friend who lost her brother a month and a half ago and whom I hadn’t checked on for a month and didn’t have the time to meet when I was on a short break in Dubai. I’m not sure how much my talking helped her, but what she said to me did help me. She talked me into beginning painting, reading and getting out of hibernation.
After I ended the call, I went into the art room, opened the boxes of paints, poured the spirit into a cup, and sat down with the canvas. I painted for half an hour before it was time for dinner. I know it’s just thirty minutes, but it’s a beginning. This morning, I woke up with a purpose – the need to finish the picture I started. And then I called my domestic help in India (the one who had worked for us) to check on her and she told me that the reference I had given her hadn’t worked out (that’s another story). So, I sent a message on the building WhatsApp group (again, thanks to social media) and two people who knew me from my art (painting to the rescue again), got back to me that they wanted her. Well, the gist of the story is that I’m feeling better, and although I thought that being virtually connected is enough, it isn’t! I thought that if I had writing and art, it was sufficient. But, it isn’t. I need human connections – not too much, but just enough – I realize it inspires me to do the things I love. And helping someone always feels good.
Before I end the post, here’s a picture of this little chap I saw on the street. Doesn’t he look adorable?
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