I haven’t talked about it much, but about three weeks ago, I moved to Australia. From south India. It took me two years to get a resident visa, and I was beyond thrilled when I saw the visa grant letter in my email.
I was at work at the time, and I galloped to the restroom so I could punch my fist in the air without alarming those around me. It was, after all, a life-changing moment and I had every right to celebrate—even if it meant shouting out inside a bathroom cubicle to muffle my jubilance.
After spending a month with my parents, consoling and convincing them that I’d be fine without them watching over me like hawks, I landed in Australia happy and dog tired. Having flown for almost 17 hours, excluding transit, I was too stupefied even to express my joy and excitement. I sat in the car on the ride home, staring at nothing in particular, unable to muster words, breathing just like another vegetable on the counter.
Jet lag, some people would call it. I wouldn’t, but I also don’t know what it was. Even for a few hours afterwards, I felt as if things were happening too fast for my puny mind to comprehend. I sometimes still stare into space, my mind wandering, unable to believe that I now live in the first world.
It’s natural. Culture shock affects us all in different ways, and this is how it is for me. For the first few weeks, I lived with Indian housemates who’d lived here long enough to become accustomed to the lifestyle. As for me, even my first experience in a supermarket was overwhelming. Although I’ve seen first world supermarkets on my trips to the US, I wasn’t browsing as a resident; I was just a visitor looking for snacks.
And even though there’s plenty of large chain supermarkets in India where I came from, the ones here are so much bigger and have much more variety.
There’s so much variety that it’s insane. I was walking down the aisles, browsing and musing…
There’s canned tomatoes, canned organic tomatoes, canned crushed organic tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, un-canned whole tomatoes, un-canned sun-dried tomatoes, red tomatoes, green tomatoes, and prepackaged tomatoes.
And I’m just cooking for one. I lost the will to use tomatoes.
But that wasn’t all. Take carrots, broccoli, or just peas for goodness’ sake. They’re fresh and whole; prepackaged in bundles; bundled and frozen; chopped and prepackaged; chopped and prepackaged in individual steam bags; and even boiled and ready to eat in packages.
And what a fool I’ve been all my life—I used to buy carrots, wash them in salt water, peel, and chop them before throwing in the pan.
Nowadays, it’s just as easy as buying frozen vegetables and microwaving it for lunch.
I did prepare myself for this move. I mean, I dreamt so much, planned and planned for almost two years. But I wasn’t ready for this.
I’m still lost for words at how much things have changed. This isn’t jet lag—this is a lifestyle, mate.