"I stay in Delhi with a roommate, and my parents are in Bareilly, UP. I moved to Delhi for better job opportunities. My roommate was a model with an agency here and she encouraged me to try for modelling too given my tall height. I started getting a few offers, mostly magazine shoots and was feeling happy. Coming from a small town, the fast-paced life of Delhi and the glamour of being in front of the camera and then seeing my pics in a magazine, was giving me a sense of achievement and high that I had never experienced before.
But the life of a model is tough. There were days when I and my roomie used to go without a proper meal since we had to slim down for an upcoming shoot. We used to buy and eat cucumbers to keep the hunger pangs away. And water. No carbohydrates, no fat, no sugar. And then there were times, when we were invited for launch parties or after-parties of an event and then we couldn’t help but eat all the goodies that had been laid out. During all this, I had also started to enjoy my drink and a smoke to deal with stress, work overload, or sometimes when I was happy.
And then the competition in our line was very ugly. People were dropped from photoshoots just because she had a broad nose, or crooked teeth, or was too fat, or too thin, or didn’t emote well...and there would be a line-up of other girls ready to grab the opportunity.
As is the mental stress in our line was high...payments only on cracking a photoshoot, long days of work and then long days of staying at home with no work, eating very little, and networking very aggressively to land contracts.
But with the lockdown things went further downhill. Magazines stopped getting published; newspapers weren’t shooting as much; events were cancelled...and basically I was out of work. My roomie was smart enough to understand the situation well and went back to her hometown in time. I wanted to try my luck further and stayed in Delhi. And then the lockdown happened.
I was left all alone in my flat, or rather lonely. There was no one to talk to or interact much except a few neighbours occasionally and that too very briefly. My modelling colleagues were in a similar situation as me except a few who were staying with their families. I had as is got into the habit of binge watching TV, late nights and keeping odd hours in the due to my professional commitments and now without my roomie, or our ‘didi’ who used to clean our house, I was totally lost. I did not know when it was morning or when it was noon. If the doorbell was rung or the phone rang, I would wake up else would only wake up when I was ravenously hungry. And since I had never given food its importance, I continued in the same vein...eating a slice of bread or just cut up onions and tomatoes.
Since because of lockdown, I had no work, or did not have to go and meet anyone, I was in my pajamas the whole day, binge watching TV, or talking to friend on the phone..and that was my life.
Gradually, and I don’t even know when, all this irregular eating, lifestyle and loneliness started to get to my mind. As the days passed, I lost any sliver of interest I had in upkeep myself or the house. I did not bother about cleaning, or sweeping, and started avoiding phone calls too. If I had to answer a call, I preferred to keep it short. I had lost joy in most things. Earlier with my roomie around, we used to follow some semblance of a decent living; went shopping; tried new foods, went for a movie….now all alone in that small apartment, any effort put towards any activity seemed totally a wasted effort.
I had started ignoring my career as well. Stopped networking which is the lifeline of my profession.
And then came the bouts of crying. Come evening when the sun would go down and I would feel like crying for no reason...sometimes loudly, sometimes whimpering. I used to cry out for my mom and dad, miss my home and talk to them in my head. But I wonder, why I didn’t pick up the phone and talk to them for real?
Things were just going so bad that one day I accidentally cut my finger in the kitchen while chopping up a tomato, but after the initial pain, I kind of enjoyed looking at the blood and feel the pain. It was the first real, hardcore feeling I had experienced in days. Physical pain. I had stopped feeling joy, sorrow, loneliness, success, failure...and this first cut of physical pain, somehow made me feel alive again.
I don’t know what I would have done that day had my roomie not made a video call to me. So wrapped up was I in my pain, that otherwise I would have not answered a video call at all, but accidentally ended up answering it.
When she saw the state I was in--hollow eyes, deep under eye circles, dishevelled hair, colourless skin and a blank expression--she knew I needed help. She asked me not to cancel the call and spoke to me. She must then have arranged for my local guardians to check in on me cause they came for me the next day, during the non curfew hours.
After that I don’t remember much...except being taken to their house and after a few days, my mom coming over to live with me there.
But I do remember being made to talk to a counsellor on phone, which I did not resist, since I had given up even resisting long time back. The counsellor used to give me some activities to do--maintain a journal, have a cup of green tea with my mom alone in my room, talk to a friend once a week etc. Bit by bit, I started getting my life back.
I looked forward to food, tea, ice creams, wearing new clothes, doing up my hair and most importantly--I looked forward to interacting with my friends.
My life was back. You know who had taken it away from me--depression? Why? I have no clue" narrates Saara Kaushal, 20 year old, upcoming model.