When I was 22 and eager to run away from the worldliness of the city of Mumbai that I had oh-so-adored for so long, my youthful rebellion ignited within me like multi-coloured fireworks.
As the day to freedom approached, my rebellion and I did not care whose advice we were throwing in the pit of the back of my suitcase along with all the old humble home pyjamas, stitched modestly to the trim, and I promised myself I would never let them see the light of the day. The rebellion perhaps too like me, wanted to soak in the warmth of my home, radiating quiet honestly like kanda pooha with a whiff of an incense stick stuck outside my door creak for good luck—forgetting to give a rat’s derrière about anything else.
That was a wet goodbye. The baby of a middle-class family was leaving for Bangalore for a job. All alone, and as she wanted (I sniggered to myself throughout the ride to the airport). I hurriedly said my remaining goodbyes and there I flew, both literally and metaphorically, to freedom. The city was new, and so was the work. The people were kind, and so was communicating with them. Friends were made, while for some a wide berth was suggested. All in all, the year passed, with the occasional reminder of the comfort of the home, until, I was made to move to a new city and revisit the old one once work was over.
I was so sure of the comfort of Bangalore, I decided—this city will be my base. Only though, when I did end up finding time to return, things had changed. The roads were not friendlier anymore, the shops were not welcoming. Friends had moved on, and those who remained behind now had more mature obligations in terms of families—invite to some of the kind gatherings politely declined. This nagging feeling that I was just an intruder in a city where everyone I knew, cherished and missed, was all out in the open.
This was the night, after having settled down in a hotel room my company had arranged for, I opened the suitcase trying with a hand to reach the pit dark corner, got hold of the humble home pyjamas, got in, and cried to sleep. This city, this lovely city that had thought me kindness, warmth and confidence, forgot to give me one last hug, one last look as I swept by its periphery. In times that I have had to think about what changed with the revisit, it wasn’t that city closed its doors to me; it was more like I more stubbornly decided this was it for me. My tiny brain decided for me that if I can’t have the vibrancy, the constant let’s-be-on-your-feet, I did not want it at all.
Bangalore is just one chapter in my constant endeavour in finding a home away from home.
Ironically though, the next place I went had just all that. The constant hustling and bustling, the financial independence that I so often dreamed of, the be-on-your-toes culture. ‘This has to be it’ I thought. And it was. I was reporting every day, producing stories that even hardened editors wouldn’t help but appreciate. I fell in love. Lived with my partner who was kind and generous (and oh-so good-looking). It was going all too well, until, it didn’t.
I had to move again to be with my family in Gurgaon. The trauma that forced my shift to date remains too strong for these pages.
But then, with the help of therapists and my family, I was back on the track where I could make the decision—where to next? The obvious answer is the city I love. Ahmedabad.
Now, here is what I don’t understand. Ahmedabad had stayed the same. All my well-wishers were around. Work, once again, was booming. Yet, I hated the existence of the city with all my might.
I have no easy answers around this, but if you want to listen to what my therapist had to say in a quick five minutes before ending the session—Ashvita, you seek trauma wherever you go because it is so intrinsically wired in you. Once you have nothing to solve, no dragons to slay, you try to go back into your shell—just like we all humans do. And like most of us, your shell is also your parents. Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn’t.
Although, her words made me think. The dislike that I feel towards Ahmedabad, or any other city for that matter, may not necessarily stem from any specific external factor or flaw in the city itself. Instead, it could be a reflection of my deeply rooted psychological patterns, a longing for the safety and familiarity that only a bunch of people represented to me.
It is essential to acknowledge that these emotions are valid and have their place in mine or your journey of self-discovery
So, as I write this, there is still so much I am learning. But I can tell you what I am feeling exactly right now: This 29-year-old heart at this moment is overwhelmed with a sense of despair that lingers, casting a shadow upon my weary soul. I stand at the precipice of my life, where the once vibrant colours of my world have faded into a monotonous sea of grey.
I still find myself revisiting cities, like a restless ghost chasing spectres of memories long gone. The streets that were once adorned with promise and possibility now seem devoid of life–their charm replaced by an empty echo.
Jobs come and go, and I jump from one occupation to another, trapping myself in an unending cycle of dull routines. As days go by, I stand here, depleted, burdened by the weight of my many losses. Some of those losses were deliberate choices (whether within good sense, I don’t know), the misguided belief that shedding pieces of myself would bring liberation.
Others, I suspect, were the cruel manoeuvrings intent on showing me the magnitude of my own insignificance. Oh, how the rebellion that once burned within me, the fiery spirit that led me away from the comforts of home seven long years ago, has returned now with a defeated stance.
That all being said, dear reader, it is not a bad thing. I am more self-aware than I was seven years back. And I have found in my heart to find solace in the fact that returning home was a decision I made with a firm understanding of what and whom I want to be. I am sure I will continue to try a hundred things, fail at many, and do well at some.
But if pursuits of revisits have thought me anything at all, it is the fact that it is never too late to begin anew. And oh, it is never too late to hate an entirely new city altogether!