Usually, you just like shopping on one of the many grocery shopping apps. Amongst the several benefits of urbanisation, your favourite is being able to get anything at your doorstep by shedding a few rupees from your deep-shallow pocket. You are no longer employed though, so you are aiming to cut down on your expenses, and distance yourself from the urban comforts as much as possible. Now you have no option, you must step out of the house and lord knows when was the last time such a thing occurred. You have become quite a homebody now, at least that is how you rationalise (and often glorify) your hesitation to be in public. You have had a tough year, with social anxiety engulfing you whole at your very first real-serious job, and it messed you up.
You couldn’t help but feel your heart escaping out of your mouth every time you entered the office premises. Hence, you decided to take a ‘break’ and basically avoid people, for months. So comfortable in the stale, rented house that you are scared even to fetch a pack of cigarettes from Om bhai downstairs. But now you have to leave your haven.
So comfortable in the stale, rented house that you are scared even to fetch a pack of cigarettes from Om bhai downstairs. But now you have to leave your haven.
After fifteen minutes of zoning out and then dropping back to reality, you ascend from the sofa, a dear friend of yours. You change into your grocery shopping-clothes: linen pants and a flannel shirt, your trusted scarf, not revealing much in shades of grey so as not to catch anyone’s attention. You take your handbag and move towards the elevator, waiting.
It’s all good.
I’ll be back in 15. No worries.
I just need vegetables, coffee, eggs and milk. Easy peasy.
You march out of your apartment building, and for the first time in weeks, taste the fresh dusty city air. The bustle of the streets, a perfect bedlam, stimulates all your senses, and you feel a ball forming in your stomach – anxiety. It is nothing and yet too much to handle. You are not new to this feeling, it’s just a matter of managing and reacting well to it. You make your way to the first stop – vegetable shop. Going to a supermarket isn’t an option, just not the place you are quite ready for yet. You know the vendor and his wife; they smile when you approach the shop. You smile back, your smile laced with some doubt. One thing off your checklist. Two more to go.
Still, the fact that you are a big woman, much taller than the average Indian, have tattoos, piercings, coloured hair doesn’t really help the conspicuousness of your physicality.
You head towards your second stop – the general store a few blocks away. You start, pulling your scarf over your chest, to hide the fact that you are not wearing a bra. Still, the fact that you are a big woman, much taller than the average Indian, have tattoos, piercings, coloured hair doesn’t really help the conspicuousness of your physicality. You try your best not to offend people with your presence. Often you become the object of their amusement or awe, especially children. Well, that doesn’t bother you much. You are aware that children are ruthless, the paramount bullies. You keep walking towards your destination. The fifteen minutes that you have spent outside your house have passed quite peacefully, much to your surprise. Except for the state of your mind, of course. But you are used to that.
Finally arriving at the general store, you face your worst nightmare. The store is crowded with people, bustling with young trainees from nearby PGs drinking tea, chatting, laughing. For a split second, you consider turning around and abandoning the mission.
I don’t really need milk.
I should anyway cut down on caffeine.
That’s just too many people.
They are looking at me.
God, is there something on my face?
They are staring. Yep, they are definitely making fun of me.
It is too late though. You are already at the store. If you turn around now, it will be certain that you are a weirdo. You feel this sudden surge of loathing for yourself, questioning what kind of an adult you are. Sure you can get there and ask for a packet of milk and coffee. You step on the ledge and do the needful. Your voice gets lost in the chaos.
Ugh! Again. Do it again.
You try again. The shopkeeper looks at you without any visible sign of interest, gets you the items. You use your ‘trusted’ payment app, but are suddenly conscious of the many heads that could be watching your screen. You turn down the brightness, tilt the phone and quickly do the needful. Done and dusted. Making your way back to the apartment, your footsteps quicken. Reaching there, you finally breathe, deep and long.
Phew. Back home safe.
You are exhausted. Descending on the sofa, you collect your thoughts, slightly abashed.
Why am I like this? The world doesn’t revolve around me.
God, that was tough. I can’t do this.
Shit! I forgot to buy eggs.
I don’t feel so hungry anymore.
Featured Image Source: Social Anxiety Ireland