Departure

We have never lived in a house of our own. I have never known what it means to actually live in the same place for all my life. I actually find the change rather comforting. I see home as a sort of constant environment that we grow in, so that we can deal with our internal changes without having to worry about external adaptability. This theory is easily refuted by the fact that most of the changes we do undergo happen once we are beyond the comfort of home. Managing our personal space and time, for example. With frequently traveling parents, I have come to find that home is not a structure that houses my favorite relatives. There has to be something relevant to home which makes us so averse to leaving it.

Most of my memories of moving out of homes involves reliving the specifics of the location. I could remember the views from the windows, the people whom I would meet, how the plants were arranged, what the weather what be like. I tend to remember the memories associated with the place, as I suppose most people do. Surely travel locations also hold the same place in our heart. I don’t really care about the geographical location of the place. It’s what happened when I was there and how that counts. So, it can’t be the memories either.

I think that one of the reasons why home matters so much is because of the routine we subconsciously associate with it. When at home, we are at a state of being in which we have certain things planned out for us in a predefined way. No matter what that routine is, if its pleasant and if we are habituated to it, we call that home. Some people find this solace at their workplace, where the constant drive of work keeps them rigidly bound to a series of events. For most people, me included, its hard to move out of a specific routine. That’s perhaps why most people are averse to sudden disruptions or changes in their routine. We don’t like to leave home because we are abandoning the routine that comes with it.

This time my home is not an apartment, it is not my alma mater. It is a country: India. I’m going to be leaving this beautiful place behind for my beloved New York. Throughout my childhood, I’ve come to personify cities as people and as someone who has grown up in a few Indian cities, and now studies in the US, I have quite a geographical family.

Mumbai, where I was born, comes back to me as the young rainy, impulsive baby-sitter that watched me grow from an infant to an eight year old. All I can remember about that city is the rain. It poured torrentially during the monsoon seasons and some of my fondest memories have been in that bone-drenching rain.

The last few days of the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration: Ganesha, the deity of prosperity and good luck, is submerged into the waters as a ceremonial departure to mark the end of the festival. 

My first discovery of mushrooms, snails and earthworms, the long walks I would take with my grandfather during which time he would tell me stories of the plants and trees that grew in the nearby park. It was an hour’s walk from my house to the point where the school bus would pick students up. I can remember my uncle insisting that I finish my lunch in school. The traffic, the sights and sounds of the city (especially during Ganesh Chaturthi) gave Mumbai this lasting impression of driving energy. As the center of national financial activity and home to the entertainment industry, Mumbai’s stereotypical citizens also embody that can-do attitude.

When my family moved to Bangalore, it was still a sleepy town. As I learned later, the IT boom that made it a notable hub was brought by the immigration of IT-qualified people like my parents and many others. With the sudden rush of people, this laid-back, pleasant retirement destination was transformed into a city with as much life as any other metropolis. Since I lived in Bangalore until I was nineteen, I have many more memories associated with this place. In the beginning, the charming weather always made me feel lethargic. It was perpetually cloudy, even though it rained sparsely. But it was never uncomfortable. Learning the local language helped me cross the rather large cultural divide that exists between one region from India to another.

The Bangalore skyline

I can remember learning to adapt to the soft, passive-aggressive ways of the city. The city has grown with me, losing some of its cherished greenery to make way for taller glass and metal structures and bigger names. Oracle, Accenture, Wipro, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Infosys and Cognizant became household names. Computer programming was integrated into my school syllabus from 8th grade. Everyone and anyone worked either in IT, or in some other branch of these large magnates. Call centers sprung up all over the city, expanding its boundaries, much as I was learning to expand my own horizons.

The Bangalore skyline at night

With time, there was a huge influx of expatriates back into the city, which forced another population boom. The city’s cultural profile began to now span across several nations, if not states. What I find most endearing about the spirit of the city is how we learn to accommodate everything. It is a statement that is jokingly referred to as the Bangalore slogan. “Swalpa adjust maadi” which means “Adjust a little” in Kannada. It’s an effective rephrasing of “grin and bear it”. There are a million reasons to complain everyday about many things. But at the end of the day, you become what you work yourself into. Due to the call centers and the IT industry firmly establishing base, this sleepy little town had to work across multiple time zones. Despite the lack of infrastructure to be able to host such growth, the city grows while its inhabitants grin and bear it. I too began to stay up late at night discovering more about my growing passion in Computer Science. One of the first things that came to my mind when I landed was that if Bangalore was a person, I would be hugging it so hard.

I used to think these two places were the most important cities in my life. I honestly can’t compare both of them. One has been an elder sister, who is growing everyday, expanding and making new advances, like me. The other has been a forgotten baby-sitter. She did her duty, and while I may not remember the most important lessons I’ve learned from her, its the fact that she still taught me well what counts.

Then entered a new person in my life: New York. Famous, glamorous, classy, desirable and yet with its own flavor of underground, New York is somewhere I’m going to spending the rest of my years in college. I used to think that I wouldn’t need any adjustment moments, since I was coming from one of the most diverse countries in the world. But then I was put right. This wasn’t just a language or a cultural difference, it was an entire nation apart. I honestly haven’t lived in new York long enough to write more inspiring literature about it, though there’s no dearth of that all over the internet. I think I know where they found their inspiration, though. Its New York. ‘Nuff said.

New York skyline at sunset, most of the blocky buildings with their windows lit up, and centered on a Empire State Building lit up red at its top.

The New York skyline

I’m in Bangalore now, soaking back into a much-needed dose of home. However, with an established routine at New York, that city has become my home as well, even though I am still its foreigner. I simply do not have the capacity to describe what I will miss about Bangalore when I’m in New York. Strangely enough, through my summer break here, I’ve been trying to capture what it is that I miss about New York when I’m in Bangalore. It’s probably the transition between two routines: one of a schoolgirl in a family with doting grandparents and loving parents and one of a strong, independent young woman who is managing her own show in the capital of the Empire State. It feels a bit unusual to adjust to both these routines, but now I realize that I have now grown to fill both these requirements.

I’m leaving Bangalore soon. I’m trying to console myself that this beautiful city will always be there for me, waiting with her metaphorical arms open wide. But while she has come to represent comfort, my best friend 8299.57 miles away wants to expose me to the rest of the world with her. I don’t understand why I should feel so torn between two of my most favorite places in the world. But while they may be cities, I am a human. I am allowed to feel nostalgic and hold on to sentiment. I can never compare between any of them.

Goodbye, Garden city. I will miss you terribly

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