Being a small town girl never deterred me from thinking big. I would always picture myself wearing crisp, ironed formal clothes, meeting with a host of people from all over the world and travelling round the globe. I have had the ‘I-want-to-be-the-President-of-India’ phase and the ‘my-life-is-going-to-be-a-long-fancy-holiday’ phase. People would tell me how unrealistic a kid I could sometimes be. But I would pay no heed to them. Basically, Bollywood had ruined me forever!
I am certain that most of those who are reading this must, at some point or the other, have had similar dreams. Vague, impractical, distorted images of our future selves fashioned from the cameras of impassioned daydreaming. Bursting our bubble, however, reality did to our larger-than-life ideas what a flame does to a moth. At every step, the impediments grew mightier.
Moving to a metropolitan city turns one’s life around 180 degrees! Meeting new people, engaging oneself in dialogue and discussions, looking after oneself because no one else will- opens our eyes to the real world. A world where no matter how good one might think they are, they will always find an equal, if not better, match. A place where one realises that they will soon be expected to shoulder serious responsibilities, to get one’s life together and to prove one’s mettle while they are at it; where a line of distinction is drawn between being well-trained and being well educated; where one finally comes to realise that test scores are really just numbers, often proving to be an inadequate parameter to judge a person’s true calibre. All this, if one does not lose their sanity in the bright lights and loud music, of course.
The flip side is a different story. For someone who has led a simplistic lifestyle, it may be too scary to cope up with life in the city. For them, the competition is too fierce, the pressure too high, the voices too loud, the choices too extreme, the expectations too burdensome and life too twisted. They often lose themselves in the search of things that are far beyond their reach.
Having lived in a metropolitan for some time now, makes me wonder, like any other small town person, as to where my life is headed. While big cities offer varied opportunities, they also baffle young minds. A hundred different people narrating a hundred different versions of a strange tale-what to do and what not to do. Enveloped in such surroundings, it can be difficult to hold on to one’s ground. But amidst all this, there is an invisible force drawing us back to the city. The city which teaches one that none will ever know them the way they know themselves and that one may never know someone else too well either; the city that encourages one to embrace challenges and take risks; that which pushes one to stand right back up after every fall; that which reminds one that people will come and go but the only thing one can constantly hold onto is the self- mind and soul intact; that which trains one to believe and to never underestimate the wonders of honest hard work. This city- your city- ensures that YOU never give up.
Being a student myself, it is not hard for me to imagine how much one can miss being home, how empty life can seem without good friends at one’s immediate disposal, how lonely one can get even in a crowd of thousands, how comforting it is to sit among family cradled in all of the universe’s love and affection and how satisfying maa ke haath ka khaana can taste. But if you ask me, I will tell you that there is a calling within each of us that makes us miss the city life, makes us want to go back. Because, yes, home will always be home; and ghar ka khaana is irreplaceable; and playing Holi with college friends and colleagues will never be as much fun as playing with kids in the colony; but none of this is the key to the future of our dreams. The city is. The inclination towards being independent is not something one can easily give up. We all like being less answerable, we all appreciate our privacy and space being respected. So when one sets their heart to conquering a milestone, they make their peace with distances, inconveniences and memories. After all, home is where the heart is.
In retrospection, one may eventually come to terms with the fact that they may not be the same person they were three years ago. That they now understand better, analyse better and perceive better. One’s problems have escalated from acquiring permission to watch a movie with friends to persistently fighting the dedicated battle against losing oneself in the crowd. Priorities have changed from buying that SUV to sending one’s parents on a holiday that they rightfully deserve. Realisation dawns upon us kids that we probably are our own superheroes. And the city plays a pivotal role in teaching us this.
Growing up may not have been the best thing that happened to us, but the city does make it one hell of a ride!