To all the cities I have lived in before

Thought I’d end up with Sean but he wasn’t a match

Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh

Even almost got married, and for Pete I am so thankful

Dear Bathinda

You were the first place I left home for. You were an unknown entity back then to me – I had no relatives anywhere even near you and I had never visited you. Just like that, you were the chosen one to spend my college life in. Looking back, I would have told my 18-year-old self to spend more time figuring out what I wanted for my life, but then we are all so much wiser in retrospect!

The college campus was a sprawling place dotted with trees and green spaces. I liked it as soon as I got there. I have always been a nature lover and the expansive nature of the campus warmed my heart.

Most of my time with you was spent in the college campus. I loved college, not so much for the classes, but for all the things it gave me an opportunity to explore – whether it was writing, speaking on stage, hosting events, dancing, organizing fests, playing basketball. We had some marks set aside in our course for extracurricular activities and those were the only marks I seemed to be interested in. My coursework did inspire me from time to time, but not most of the time.

 

I spent some wonderful time in the girl’s hostel – finding female camaraderie with some incredible friends.I remember late night study sessions before exams, lazy Sundays spent doing pedicures, making creative birthday cards for each other, dressing up in the middle of the night because someone felt like having a photo shoot, making aloo pyaaz maggi on a crude burner and so much more. We had an in-time that was too early by any standard and in retrospect I find it more abhorrent now than even when I was living through it. Agreed there was not much to do outside after a certain hour, but it’s more a matter of principle.

 

As compared to time spent in college, not much was spent outside it. It comprised of outings with friends – eating out at the one solitary decent restaurant called Pizzano (more sprouted as time progressed), watching movies (initially in dingy, rat infested single screen theatres and then in the newly opened multiplexes) and occasionally shopping. We did spend considerable time goofing around in the countryside surrounding the campus.

 

You gave me a lot of things – friends for life, an opportunity to explore my interests (especially to fail spectacularly and yet move on like no big deal), the first taste of being away from home and lest I forget – a degree.

I began conversing in Punjabi here (even though I was born and brought up in Punjab, quite inexplicably, I had spoken Hindi my whole life despite the fact that my family spoke chaste Punjabi typical of Ambarsariyas).  I was fascinated by the Punjabi spoken here because it was very different from the one spoken at home. I developed a taste for Punjabi songs  – singing Ms Pooja songs with fervor. (My brother was scandalized. He had developed a taste for English songs because of me, and here I was, abandoning them and embracing Punjabi songs. He implored my mom to do something about the situation as according to him you were ruining me! )

Something in me changed once I left you though. I just didn’t want to come back again.  Three and a half years and I was completely exhausted by you.

All I could see at the end was a nondescript city with nothing more to give, a place that belonged firmly in the past.

I recently visited you after many years to meet a friend and it was as if you were reciprocating the emotion – the whole of you was covered in a thick smog because of stubble burning and I couldn’t see anything. It was as if you were not happy with me too and decided to hide behind a curtain.

Its curtains on our relationship. I am grateful for all the lessons and all I have left to say is

Thank u , next..

Dear Patiala

I already had a soft spot for you before I moved here full-time for my Masters. You are my nanke and I have been visiting you since I was a child. I have always enjoyed being here – I used to have many cousins for company when I was young and time used to fly by. You are synonymous with holidays.

The University had a sprawling campus – better kept than the previous one (this one was private, the previous government), and had multiple amenities that I hadn’t experienced in the one before – a swimming pool, multiple eateries, a beauty parlour (important – looking like a yeti in campus is not exactly ideal).

It was a new chapter – a chance to discover so many new things and also take pre-existing interests forward.

I continued my involvement in literary activities. I took my love for basketball forward. Thapar is where I finally nailed the layup shot. I dedicated my second year to basketball and the learning was in leaps and bounds.

 

I wasn’t really motivated by my coursework in M.Tech. My best efforts only took me till average enthusiasm for my coursework. Thesis was the real breaking point where I thought, “This is the end of the road”. My doctor dad’s advice,”Medical studies weren’t always fun and games. Sometimes you have to power through”. I hemmed and hawed about doing the thesis but somehow I crossed the finish line. It was a good crossing too – the external examiner was impressed. That came as a shock to both me as well as my thesis supervisor. In the years since, I have got a query or two about my work from people working in that field. It still takes me by surprise. I have never looked back in the direction of my thesis work once it was submitted and accepted.

The framework of not taking up something that didn’t motivate me began to take shape here. There is always a better usage of your time.

I have always been fond of travel and adventure. It was in Thapar that I really got to explore it. It had a thriving Adventure club. I went skiing to Gulmarg twice, spending a month in total. Those trips just between them have given me so many friends and zany memories. (Skiing is such an exhilarating sport – the adrenaline rush is unmatched. I did get to see people getting injured in grotesque ways, but that’s just because ski slopes do not tolerate insincerity)

 

I also went on multiple treks – Triund, Parashar lake, Kheerganga. Each one was a unique experience. It was a totally new way of enjoying nature – instead of just driving to a hill station and stationing myself there for a few days , it was far more thrilling.

 

I got to explore various genres of music- from the ones organized by SPIC MACAY to in-house music nights. (We had a Sunburn music festival in campus once. I did not enjoy that – electronic music probably sounds better on a beach in Goa when everybody is high)

In summation, my relationship with you is ongoing, far outlasting my two-year stay for Masters. All the friends I made while skiing or trekking is all thanks to my stay here in you. It has deepened our relationship which was already very robust. Thank you, next.

Dear Mysore

I only stayed for three months but that was more than enough for you to leave a huge impression on me. I moved here for my first job at Infosys – the training part. The stay was in the campus – and what a campus it was. It was the third campus I was moving to and it continued the streak of each successive campus being more beautiful than the previous one – though I doubt this one can ever be topped. It was a self-contained city. You are in itself a charming city and the campus takes it a few notches higher.

 

It was one of the most magical periods of my life. I experienced the flow state – when you are so engrossed in the activity at hand that everything else ceases to matter. It showed me the potential of doing what you love and loving what you do. I loved my life in and out of the training course.

The training module was the best pedagogy I had experienced in my life. I took my interest in basketball forward. There was also so much more to explore – wall climbing, steam bath, bowling alley, an in-house movie theatre. It became a daily ritual to do wall climbing, play basketball and then head off to steam bath. If that wasn’t enough, there was always the option to go for swimming. I felt like I was staying in a five-star hotel where the whole thing was designed to pamper me.

 

I conquered this wall before leaving. Below is my slow crawl to the top(almost). The conquering attempt happened a few days after this. My friends’ commentary keeps it umm..interesting!

I met some wonderful people whose company enriched the experience –  heading out for a long walk across the campus, occupying a street corner and listening to music, hanging out at the food court. I discovered my love for “Death by chocolate” on one of those late night eating sessions. I made friends from across the country. That was something new – being exposed to such a diverse set of people.

 

It was so much compressed into three short months.

You have given me amazing memories. The  weather and your serene environment added to the whole experience. You have pulled me back even after I left because that bond is so special. But I don’t see anymore dates in the future. Again, I feel like you are a place belonging to the past. Thank you, next.

to be contd… Part 2

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