One taught me love
One taught me patience
And one taught me pain
Now I am so amazing
You were the proverbial big city in the “girl in a big city” movie cliché. I was excited for this move. It was going to be the first time in six plus years that I wasn’t going to live on a campus – not that I didn’t try, the company just didn’t agree! Nevertheless, I was looking forward to it all – having a flat and living on my own, working in a big company, living in a big city. I was fully alive.
The Infosys campus here was aesthetic but it was not a patch on the Mysore version. There were so many other things to look forward to, that I ignored this annoyance. Besides, it was a stunning campus nonetheless. It stood out among all the drab buildings of other companies around it.
I spent roughly two years with you. The first year was exciting as diving into something new is. I explored being a professional – having a cubicle, colleagues (more wonderful, some disgusting), office birthday parties, conference calls, meetings, deadlines, comp offs. Also, Toastmasters, basketball, working out. Simultaneously, I explored life in the big city – checking out all the happening hangout places (Koramangala and Indiranagar instantly come to mind), meeting friends from all the previous phases of my life who had come to pursue their professions here just like me, shopping at Brigade Road et al, celebrating South Indian festivals (they were new to me) and some like Ramzan which were not celebrated with as much pomp and show in any of the places I had lived in before.
Personally it was a glorious time – like walking on clouds. I may have had a good day or a bad day at office; but outside it, life was heavenly.
You are also close to so many tourist places in all the south Indian states. One of the big joys was to explore some of them – Pondicherry, Chennai, Alleppey, Wayanad, Coorg, Chikmagalur. I was very fond of being near the sea (being a North Indian my encounters with sea were few and far between), so all the initial holidays I took were to places near it. I loved trying out cuisines from all these different places. If I just pick one of my favorite dishes – biryani- it has so many variations across South India. It was food heaven.
For a while I thought you were the one – that I was going to settle down here. After all, there was so much to love. But the chinks appeared as time passed.
By the end of the first year, I had begun to notice the awful traffic situation. I was also getting restless about my job. That’s when I took a fifteen day leave and went on Jagriti Yatra (It is a two-week cross-country train journey to twelve cities , with a focus on social enterprise). It opened up my mind to many new possibilities. (It would be another year till one of them would fructify).
Till then, I had an opportunity to explore a new passion – MMA (mixed martial arts). An MMA gym opened near my apartment complex. It was a manna from heaven. I had such a great time learning kickboxing and jiu jitsu. (I have written a whole blog about it so I will not elaborate more here) This is the one thing that I miss about you.
I don’t have any sparring videos, though I do have some of post-workout shenanigans that I made to make my brother jealous. Below a video of a successful handstand attempt – my incessant blabbering a dead giveaway of my excitement at this achievement!
The thing that I don’t miss about you (apart from the traffic) is the hectic pace of life which was almost robotic. I played my own tune, but the hamster on a wheel life was exhausting. Work had become “work” and didn’t inspire me anymore. It was time to move on.
We had a good two years, but I don’t see any more in the future. Thank you, next.
Our getting together was destiny. I had chosen Kerala for my fellowship but events beyond my control conspired to land me with you. And I am eternally grateful for that. I had never been to Madhya Pradesh before. Here was an opportunity to discover a completely new side of India. The one big advantage you had over Kerala was that I didn’t have to learn a new language. That was a big relief. (I still wonder how I was so excited about taking up the challenge of learning Malayalam when I filled Kerala as my choice)
This was the first time in forever that there was no “campus”. The entire district was my campus. And what a stunning campus it was – undulating hills as far as the eyes could see, majestic trees lining the countryside , quaint villages that completely blended with their surroundings , storage dams seasonally full of water, the arresting river Machna meandering through villages (which had fascinating names such as Kaala paani, Jhilpa, Banka, Rathamaati and so forth) .
I was looking for a change of pace and you provided that. Far from the madding crowd literally. In Bangalore there was a clear demarcation between a weekday and a weekend – an occasional long weekend being a source of much joy. Here, there was no distinction. Days just seamlessly blended into each other.
I was looking for a new perspective and you provided that.
I needed to pause. You provided that – to smell the roses, to do some introspection, to serve.
I was looking for a purpose and you gave me an environment conducive to finding it.
I already felt I was self-sufficient but I learnt true self-sufficiency here – doing everything from cooking, cleaning, washing – being a one-person household. I went beyond independence to learn interdependence – relying on my colleagues and neighbours for help wherever necessary and also for motivation and mentorship.
I had been wanting to blog since a long time but it never came to pass, caught up as I was in my pseudo-busy life. Here, having all the time in the world and with inspiration all around, I finally put the proverbial pen to paper. I felt free from following any social conventions of being, I could look inwards and do as my heart desired.
You led me to an extraordinary woman whom I call Shende Bhabhi. She was the wife of one of my colleagues. She was Melanie Wilkis from “Gone with the wind” come alive. I had read the book many years ago and wondered if women like Melanie existed in this world – who could become a pillar of strength for every person who entered their orbit. When I met Shende Bhabhi, it was a revelation. Her magnanimity accommodated everyone in its fold. She vastly enriched my fellowship experience – she was the one I depended on for my every need, she nursed me back to health when I was ill and supported me in every way possible.
One of the big takeaways was that people who have so little by way of resources and are marginalized, do so much for society – after all we wouldn’t exist without farmers. Therefore I – who had far more resources at my disposal all my life – have far more responsibility to contribute to society in whatever way I could. I had never seen life from that perspective before.
I don’t miss places once I leave. You are an exception. I recently dreamt I was on one of those long morning walks I used to take around you. I woke up and realized I would love to do that again. I was longing for a visit. You may not be my forever companion, but you will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you, next.
You have an unfair advantage – you are my hometown. I have spent my entire childhood here in you, gone to school here, have my family here. So whatever you are – you regularly make it to the list of most polluted cities in the world; you are struggling with haphazard development, bad roads, not enough roads – you are still home. You are still comfort.
Here, I lived a cocooned existence – in a particular society set, oblivious to a world beyond that. Then I ventured out.
I have stayed here for short intervals ever since leaving college – six months of training in the eighth semester of under-graduation , three months after my masters and full-time since January last year.
Every time it’s with a new perspective and higher maturity.
Despite my love for you, I do not wish to settle here permanently. It conjures up images of domesticity with the extravagance typical of you– kitty parties, elaborate functions et al. I enjoy being a spectator sporadically but it’s not really my cup of tea.
You are always going to be in my life. It’s a lifelong bond. After all you are the place that my family calls home.
Thank you, next..
I still haven’t found the one. Who knows if there even is a one? The thing I do know is that the journey has been beautiful and the myriad experiences have enriched my life.
Further reading Part 1