Monday, January 18, 2010

To the city I love

11th January 2009: I wake up a little unsure of my surroundings. I turn and look out the large window and see, from my 13th floor perch, the hustle and bustle of a familiar city below. I’m groggy from the exhaustion of the last few days spent in relocating, depressed about leaving the place I called home in Bangalore, missing the few close friends I made over the past four years, the friendly neighbours, everything. Yet, there is this unmistakable spark of excitement growing within me as I look out the window. A thousand memories flood my thoughts. College, hostel, friends, family, journalism, meeting Gowhar, tears, laughter, regrets, lessons learnt, fears overcome, friendships cemented, reality checks, and much more - so many powerful moments packed into the three wonderful years I spent here. This is where I spent some of the most important years of my life, a city I missed immensely and craved to go back to. A place I wanted to embrace and make my own. Mumbai.

Though I had been meeting you briefly throughout my life, I only got acquainted with you in 1999 when I joined college. Within the first month I was hooked. I never knew a city could be alive and take a personality of its own. As months passed we developed a bond, an unspoken and nameless bond. You accepted me for who I am and helped me find my identity. Far from restricting me, you gave me wings to fly, let me learn from my mistakes and gave me friends and family to cushion my falls. Despite the polluted air, choked streets, poverty, and slums that make you unhappy, you gave me the air of freedom to breathe, ample space to run and play, obstacles to make me strong and opportunities to find success and of course, even love.

I’m looking out the window and smiling. I had my doubts about coming back to you. Today, I am not the same girl who reluctantly left you in 2002. I’m married, I have a daughter, my priorities have changed, my ambitions and dreams are not the same. I’m a bit wiser, I don’t trust that easily, and I’m over cautious. But I’m still over sentimental about things, I still love Juhu beach morning walks, pani-puris, linking road haggling, the monsoon rains, the adrenaline rush of travelling in the local trains. Sigh. I’ve missed you. But now I’m back. Back against my will. I didn’t know how badly I needed this. I should learn to stop questioning destiny. I’m being taken care of. Your streets may look different, parts of you may have got a facelift, but its still you. The same embrace I left years ago. Thank you, Mumbai. Thank you for being you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Change is the only constant

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned my fear of change. Well, it’s happening. Change is happening now! It’s staring me in the face I am not sure if I should run and hide or look at it in the eye and face what it has in store for me. I am not entirely sure I can face it. I’m too fragile right now. I’m ready to break into a million glass pieces that can be swept away into the trash.

Change can be good. It can come as a pleasant breeze that gives things a little swirl, making things exciting and even better than they were. But change can also be harsh. It can be a strong wind that tosses things up in the air and has them twisting and turning, without will, in the melee. Then when done with the torment, it stops and lets them fall back down to the ground. But never will they be the same again. The damage is done.

It is not just change that I’m terrified of, it is the attached unpleasantness that this change is bringing along with it. Or is that just a figment of my imagination? Have I just conjured it up to be an ally to my pessimism?

Stop. Think. Breathe. Tomorrow, when the tide of emotion has calmed, and I can think with a clearer head, I know it won’t look this bad. It will be some time before I truly embrace it. But at least tomorrow I think I will be able to accept it. Accept it for what it is – inevitable and unrelenting. Change.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Glass Globe

I suddenly realise that I am alone. Not literally. But I have become conscious of the fact that I sometimes walk a few steps away from the other people in my life. Standing outside and analysing a tiny glass globe of people who happen to be my dear family and friends. Figuring out what everyone is really about and where I stand in the hullabaloo. It’s a lonely feeling.

As a kid, I was always an extension of my family. No matter how much I would have wanted to break free and be an individual at that point, there was no escaping the fact that my life revolved around the family boundaries. As kids, our thinking is moulded by what we see and hear, and we are conditioned to behave a certain way. As a teenager, we might have argued and rebelled hard enough to create our own persona, even if it was a fa├žade. Yet the strings remain, more for a sense of security and a kind of default identity.

As an adult also, especially in Indian societies, we are always attached to family. Yet there are those who gravitate towards standing outside the glass globe. Some like to look away and live their life the way they want. And some look in and make their lives miserable wishing, wanting, hoping, regretting, rebelling, antagonising and sometimes yielding. I belong to the latter.

As most teenagers would, I have given my parents their share of angst and regretted it later. But generally I think I’ve done okay and been a good girl. At what point in life did I realise that I was free to have my own opinions? Those that did not conform to what I was taught. When did I decide that it was okay to not always agree with the people around me even if it meant standing on a lonely opinionated island? I don’t know. But what I do know is that having that opinion, arguing my point of reason, caring enough about something to fight it out is what makes me ME. And this means I have to sometimes walk alone, look at the glass globe and wonder if differences put cracks in relationships.