As adults who are part of this rapidly globalizing world, we’re often asked to pinpoint the exact, city that we identify as our home. Honestly, it is the hardest question to answer after “…the nation wants to know.” For some people pat comes the answer, it’s mostly the city where they were born and raised. Where they bought their first home or had their first child etc. These answers are usually related to some significant moment in their life. This however, isn’t the case for the larger segment of our society. Take me for example; I was born in New Delhi, raised in Calcutta, college in Pittsburgh, grad school in Boston and worked in Mumbai, albeit briefly. So, when I’m asked where’s home, I find myself, flummoxing, just a little bit. To me, Calcutta will always be dear, I grew up here, my parents live here, my childhood is associated with this city, but, is this where I feel I belong? Or is it simply, just an emotional attachment, since the people I love and need in my life live here. On days that I was terribly homesick while still in college, I’d wonder if I simply missed mom and dad, or did I miss the city? More often than not, I must confess, I missed my family, my bed and my own bathroom. Living in the dorms and sharing your bathroom with 30 other girls can do that to you.
When we graduated high school, the obsession was to leave Calcutta, immediately. It was understood that one must “get out of Cal.” I too carried this feeling of wanting to leave the city that had watched us grow, protected us and given us the perks of innumerable Bangla Bandhs, thanks to the rivalry between CPI(M) and TMC. It was only, when I left the country did, my inner Shahrukh Khan from Swades surface. I became, Suniel Shetty from Border, not missing the opportunity to say, Bharat mata ki jai! 🙂
My first two years in Pittsburgh were miserable. I would fly back home twice a year, just to get away from everything America. One should have seen me on May, 27th 2010. It seemed as though I was being sent to prison, when I packed up to leave for Boston. I heard, Mariah Carey’s It’s a wrap on loop as my plane took off from Pittsburgh. Somewhere, my overdramatic Bengali self enjoys such moments.
Looking back, I think it was Boston where I found myself. People, who have lived in various cities, will tell you that by the time you leave a city, it has engulfed you and you land up leaving behind a little piece of your heart there. Every city in its unique way teaches you something. It could be something about yourself, how you deal with breakups, how to keep your head down and power through school, one’s strength of character is tested and a bond is thus created. We may find ourselves loving a place more than the others, but essentially, that has got to do more with the people and the memories you make at that particular place. I loved Boston, I had already been living and studying in the U.S. for about four years when I moved there, everything seemed familiar, so the transition to a new city was smooth. I remember leaving the airport and taking Storrow Drive down to Commonwealth Ave. to get to my apartment and falling in love with the city instantly. Boston was a city of many firsts for me, and for that reason it’ll always remain a huge part of my global home.
I cannot end this post without talking about, how some cities that were once a cause of great joy, leave a disturbing aftertaste. New York, for me is that city. A city, that I frequently visited during my time in Boston. Some wonderful memories associated with it, but it’s also a city that caused me a lot of hurt and pain. A place, I’d probably think a lot before visiting again.
Cities do that to us. They imprint on us. They mark us as their own, and consume us with every fiber of their being until we can’t tell ourselves apart.