On Moving

I have moved 5 times in my life so far. I can tell from experience that moving is not easy. There is the stress of finding a suitable place with a kind and understanding landlord and the pressure of packing and unpacking, renting a van, or hiring a moving agency to top it all. Regardless of the challenges, a new place brings with it the excitement of starting from scratch, decorating and adding personal touches to make it homely.

The memories I have of all the times I’ve moved homes being in China are so vivid. I clearly remember the move when I took my e-bike on the back of a van. My dear good friends drove from Shanghai, helped move the boxes to the truck, went back to Shanghai, and moved my things to my office because I didn’t’ have a place to stay. I was living on the couch of my friend’s home for about two months. Another time, I was moving to a serviced apartment in a hotel. It was one of the most inconvenient moves because the elevator did not go straight to my floor.

Moving from Suzhou back to Shanghai. My friends, Dima and Phil helping out.

What is more, my friends who were supposed to help out had a flat tire on the way there. So, with the help of another friend, we dragged all my stuff all the way up. Five years in, I had collected so much stuff, I was myself in shock. (Perhaps another time, I’ll talk about my experience with decluttering and letting go of unnecessary things.) By the time my other friends arrived, we were already finished. We spent the rest of the day deep cleaning the apartment and went out for dinner later.

One night I was sleeping in my studio apartment (the service apartment in a hotel). Suddenly, I felt uneasy (I’m a very light sleeper). I heard the door, the sound it makes when a card is swiped, followed by the door handle’s clicking sound. My heart started thumping aggressively. Still keeping my eyes closed, all kinds of thoughts were rushing through my mind. Who could it possibly be? A burglar? How is it even possible? What if someone has a gun or a knife? What do I do? I’ve never felt that terrified before. I lay still and frozen for a few minutes when suddenly the light turned on.

Petrified, I opened my eyes and peeped from the top of my elevated bed and saw a man with a suitcase, looking confused. Still affected by the whole scenario, instinctively, some words came out, and I said, “Who are you, and how did you get in?” The guy with glasses looked puzzled. I realized he was a guest at the hotel, but I was furious that a stranger could access my room. I told him to go back to the reception hall and stayed up for the rest of the night.

The same place when I moved in, I found hundreds of cockroaches inside the microwave. I’ve had many crazy experiences, and I’ve also seen and heard many wild adventures of my friends moving to new places. There are also good memories; memories of learning and happiness that make me incredibly grateful for all the people in my life here in China.

The studio apartment in Shanghai. The first place I moved to from the University dorms. The place where I had the wildest experiences.

Wherever I moved, I made the place my own, knowing its not my permanent home. I know I will have to leave this place one day and start over in a new location but I also know I can make the same environment wherever I go. It doesn’t always look the same; the design, the aesthetics, they’re all different everywhere but the homely feel can be created anywhere, not just with material things that you love and cherish but most importantly, from within. Being at home with one’s inner self is the only safe haven there is.

The balcony of my Suzhou apartment. My favorite spot for eating, studying and sunbathing.

I recently heard Satpal Veerji from Nanak Naam mention in one of his videos that everything we have is rented. The house we live in, the clothes we own and our body is also rented. Yes, we pay for some things but they never stay. Clothes get old and are donated, homes get old and are replaced, leases expire, and new ones are signed, our bodies get old, and so we die. So, what is permanent? Life keeps moving, the rivers keep flowing; sometimes, changing their course. The earth keeps rotating, the moon keeps circling, time keeps running, and the years come and go.

I’ve become an expert in moving and creating a new home wherever I go but I know I’ve yet to learn and accept the temporary nature of this body-home that I know is rented but live like it’s permanent. One day the time will come to move on. All I can do is pray and hope and make an effort to tap into that real permanence because in the end what stays when everything and everyone moves?

ਚਲਾ ਚਲਾ ਜੇ ਕਰੀ ਜਾਣਾ ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ ॥
ਜੋ ਆਇਆ ਸੋ ਚਲਸੀ ਅਮਰੁ ਸੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥
ਭੀ ਸਚਾ ਸਾਲਾਹਣਾ ਸਾਚੈ ਥਾਨਿ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥੨॥

– Rāg Siri Rāg, Guru Nanak Sahib, SGGS, Ang 64.

I may say, “I am going, I am going” but I know that in the end, I must really go.
Whoever comes, must also go, only the Guru, the Creator is eternal.
So praise the True One continually and love the Place of the Truth.