I would like to start my first blog by ruminating on this point of home, away and what exactly does it mean. Seems most appropriate, since one of the reasons I am debuting in Blogspace (apart from my professional dalliances) is that I am away from home. Home being a place called Bangalore. Of course I have been away from home before, for studies as well as professionally. But this seems to be the first time I am away, with little scope of settling back in Bangalore.
So this is the first time I am really away. And to think the last time I went back to Bangalore after quitting my job in Ahmedabad, I felt very bad because I thought for the first time I was leaving behind a city, where I would probably never come back, and after a very long time I was going home to Bangalore, at that time a very claustrophobic sense without knowing when I would get out. To think, five years later, I am contemplating a life in Ahmedabad, and wondering when I will get to Bangalore.
Somewhere down the line I had the realization that in a way, home to me was mostly in South India. No, I am generally not the conservative South Indian, I dont know Carnatic Music, I hardly recite any slokams, and most days at home, you wouldnt find me eating idly or dosa. Funnily enough, I dont like most of South India. I have never been able to tolerate Madras, have never visited Hyderabad, and although Kerala had its attractions mainly due to the beaches, I dont think I can handle the lifestyle there either. I mean, you cant live in a beach. Even Bangalore, I kind of like bits of it, and increasingly grow to appreciate its climate (imagine, I complained about 32 degrees heat there, this year. When I stepped into Ahm, it was 45). But I had grown to detest the traffic which seemed to cut short the time I had for anything.
But despite never having lived in most of south, I am still at home in South. Its a certain assurance that my instinctive responses there are probably the responses, which even if they are not normal or expected, make a sense within the pattern of life there.
Yesterday, I just went to watch garba out here. It was not one of those fancy club garbas, just a simple one put up by the campus staff, and mostly it was their families out there. Few people were dancing, mostly kids, all excited to be in their chainya cholis. I was fun, just to see them. One little kid had no idea what was happening and simply kept running behind the rest of them. Another was always slow in her steps and went reverse when everyone else went forward. Her over-enthusiastic neighbor used to go more forward than others, and there were many collisions. The older kids were keeping to the steps, in them I saw the different phases of youth, the ones who had come all decked in traditional finery, as well as the ones who couldnt resist the lure of garba, but insisted on doing it in the jeans and t shirts.
And I realized what really was different about me out here. I could never join the dance. It has nothing to do with me being a bad dancer, it has nothing to do with a rather high degree of self-consciousness. Its just that the way I was socialized, people just did not instinctively feel the beats and start dancing. Dancing was not a communal activity. As a kid I have attended communal singing events, and can probably sing in a group. But mostly, the people I knew regarded Dance as a strict art, it was Bharatanatyam, Mohiniattam or whatever, all to be learnt, mastered, and not to become an inclusive communal activity. As I sat watching it, I realized, it would take me many years of re-socialization to ever be able to become a part of a garba naturally.
And suddenly, this Navratri, I have missed it. I have missed wearing our best pattu pavadai which later became a pavadai dawani (various styles of wearing a traditional silk lehenga kind of thingy) and eventually a saree and going to homes for santhanam kumkumam. I have missed golu (arrangement of dolls and idols in wodden steps for the nine days of navratri). And I feel bad that in my adult years, I was too preoccupied with myself and my work to ever take part meaningfully in these navratri rituals. And I am making up big time : last couple of years, I never even went to my neighbors house for golu, this year, I have received three invitations and have already been to the houses at the expected times.
So yes, I like Ahmedabad in many ways. I like my quality of life here. But I am not at home here.
And I realize home itself has many layers. My mother in law for instance, having lived as a South Indian in Delhi for many years, is more at home here, having found a bunch of other South Indians living away from home. She never liked Bangalore in the three years we were there. If people ask how she finds it here, she says its really nice, there are lots of Tamilians out here. Dude, werent there tamilians in Bangalore. Well there were, but there were not enough Tamilians who felt away from home in Bangalore probably, who could give her the familiar feeling of a bunch of people trying to recreate home.