Ishani Mukherjee found peace amongst the pandemic in locked-down Aberdeen
Identifying and finding "home" in a new place is strange. The world has been capsized since the pandemic hit. How does one claim a space they have barely known, or how do you let go of your plans of thriving in a new city while returning to an old one? Not immediately connecting with some places can be hard, but I have found that exploring, making memories, and finding friends, all whilst gradually journeying through my own self-discovery in the process, made it that little bit easier.
I found myself, like many others, stuck with the conundrum of returning to my guardian’s house in Aberdeen whilst halls were shut due to Covid. Aberdeen, a city on the North coast of Scotland, used to be my home for the weekends: I visited my aunt and my uncle and spent an awful lot of time there with my younger siblings. It had been home for those three days every week or so, and thanks to the pandemic, it was where I found myself placed once again.
When I initially thought of Aberdeen as a city, it felt like nothing more than a small village compared to Glasgow. The thought of staying there - away from my friends, my social circle, and sense of familiarity - daunted me. As I am sure is the case with most people, halls had given me a sense of freedom that I didn’t find until after I had left home. I had felt included and heard. In Aberdeen, returning to my relatives and their friends that lived there seemed like a challenge.
On my return to the granite city, the first thing that springs to mind was the vast abundance of nature and culture: small nooks and crannies up streets and lanes, vast rivers, one communal park, and a small museum - the polar opposite to what I had remembered growing up. It was uncomfortable with everything locked-down, but Aberdeen had its quirks. It felt much more peaceful and silent than Glasgow. I spent a lot of time walking the roads that led to Duthie park, the riverside, and explored some spots that had creatively inspired me. I found that Glasgow's hustle and bustle had given me a craving for peace. The silence and quiet of lockdown made me introspective, and I began to take a closer look at myself.
"...Glasgow's hustle and bustle had given me a craving for peace..."
The city centre in Aberdeen has a small kirkyard which was, much like the city, made of granite and quaint stained glass. It was absolute heaven for me. I have spent many a day sitting there after work, replenishing with some reading and bird-watching. I even chatted away to a few strangers and - would you believe it? - we're now friends.
In an attempt to reassert my adulthood, I found work in Aberdeen. It was mostly part-time, but it helped me gain so much confidence - something I really needed. With work, I explored parts of Scotland away from town, like Stonehaven, Inverness, and Donside. In retrospect, after staying there for a year-and-a-half, I have realised how Aberdeen is a cauldron for culture. It felt comforting to walk smaller paths and look at meaningful murals in small stairways and skating parks. On my worst days, Aberdeen seemed to play around with the weather and invited me to sit inside and just listen to the breeze.
There are some stunning festivities that Aberdeen hosts every year. The Christmas and trade fairs give the impression of an old sleepy town, but do not mistake it for one: through the evening, street musicians and students crescendo in harmony to give the city its vibrant, lively feel. During football season, I have witnessed how excited the small street gets with music and dancing. The pubs become such beautiful places of bonding, and the hubbub of conversation adds to the experience.
I remember a day distinctly, when I was travelling alone on one of the regular buses. I realised that my aunt had once travelled with me on the same road, holding my hand so I wasn’t too nervous about a new place. As an international student, living in any place outside of Glasgow always felt like a betrayal, but the cafés and bagpipes on Union Street in the city centre alongside the rushing traffic near the coast made that day feel so alive. A simple stroll on the beach with an ice-cream in hand is a perfect way to reminisce on your thoughts whilst admiring the seemingly endless stretches of land coalescing with the water.
"As an international student, living in any place outside of Glasgow always felt like a betrayal..."
Aberdeen was not a place I would have picked to stay by choice, mainly because, from the outside, it seemed so unexciting. After spending so much time in that place surrounded by my loved ones, though, the happiness and warmth made me feel like the city had picked me for itself.
Aberdeen, my small, quaint home, is the one that found me. It was a whirlwind: I have had my worst heartbreaks in that city, grieved, explored my personality and yet, in contrast, I learned how to live independently, take responsibility, understand what makes me happy, and seek peace. Through all of this, the smiles of strangers on the road always welcomed me. If you want a stay that is beautiful, enlightening, and yet astonishingly simple, I welcome you to my home from home.
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