Big houses. Construction. Tiny streets disappear and with that, my childhood. T town, I hope you don’t look hella different the next time I see you.
Last week I took a seventeen hour flight from San Francisco to Dubai and another five hour flight from Dubai to Madras. In the first leg of my journey I sat with two boisterous Afghan women, one whose hair rivalled Cruella De Vil.
The Economy class gives one no option but to befriend your fellow passenger, and considering its seventeen hours you’d almost become BFFs. But isn’t that the most basic of human tendencies? The ability to friend a stranger? Growing up my mother always warned me about strangers. She would drill the Little Red Riding Hood story in to my head and would remind me about the wolf every time I walked alone to my bus stop.
But growing up I’ve realised that not all strangers are bad. In fact the wolves could be people you meet every day.
My theory that urine and phenol is the first smell that hits you when you land in Madras has been verified yet again. Honestly speaking though, I missed the smell of phenol. I always associated it with cleanliness.
Seeing foreign returned Uncles and Aunties at the airport is a nice time pass while waiting in line for immigration. The clothes they come up with are mind boggling. I saw an uncle wearing grey satin pants carrying a leather backpack. Go ahead, imagine.
Aunties wearing silk sarees and sneakers is the norm.
Madras seems a little different, like it’s lost its old world charm. I’ve only been away a year so maybe I’ve lost mine.
The number of times I’ve picked up a book and dropped it to check my phone is despicable. I have a huge stack of books to be read, yet I find myself watching random YouTube videos. At first it was funny like “Oh I’ll just watch this last cat video and get back.” But the thing is it never stopped. There are a million videos on YouTube and somehow I’ve made it my aim in life to watch them all.
The next experiment I tried was to turn off my computer so that I could concentrate better on my book. But my hands have a weird magnetic attraction to my cell phone and the next thing you know I’m checking Twitter. I realize the need to disconnect myself from technology is infinitely greater now.
I can feel technology slowly creeping in to all faucets of my life and setting shop. I know that’s a bad thing and I should stop, especially when it comes to my reading. Sometimes I feel like this online life is inching out my social life and just my life in general. How do I consciously stay disconnected at least for an hour without checking my phone. I don’t even get that many messages! I’m not that important!
When I was growing up I was anti social yes, but I read. I read all the time. I tried my best to get out from playing with other kids so I could read My mom hated it. She pushed me to play with the other kids. We can see now that it had absolutely no effect on me. I just want to go back to the time when I didn’t own a smart phone and my brother didn’t let me touch the computer. Things were much simpler back then. I didn’t worry about the future or Instagram and I managed to finish reading my book in record time.
Time machine or tips, anyone?
I have big feet. At least by Indian standards I do, and it’s always been hard for me to find my size in shoes I liked. Comfortable shoes were even harder to find, thanks to my gorgeous flat feet. I would tear apart every shoe store in Madras from top to bottom in search of the perfect shoes in the perfect size. Shoe salesmen would give me dirty looks. One guy even told me my size wasn’t the “normal” size. The nerve of him! Safe to say, I stomped out of the store.
During college I went through a lot of shoes – sandals, ballet shoes, cheap sandals from Fountain Plaza, pretty ones from Lifestyle, polka dotted ballet shoes from Shoppers Stop, tough boy sandals from Nike, you name it. But none of them lasted long enough. I would see the wear and tear in a few months, and the fourth toe of my left foot would inevitable scrape against the base of the shoe.So the left pair of all my shoes would have a distinct mark. I know, I’m special.
Wedding shoes shopping was another tiring journey but at then end of it I managed to find a gorgeous pair that hurt as good as they looked.
Over the weekend while doing some much needed, therapeutic shopping I saw a Crocs store beckoning me in all its neon glory. I told Jay I’ve never tried on Crocs and I thought that the comfort factor of those shoes was just a myth. I had to find out for myself if it was true. So we entered the store, and I was in shoe heaven. I know all you “fashionistas” out there are like, “Omg, Crocs are soooo fugly”. But honey, you haven’t lived until you’ve lived in my shoes.
Crocs are generally expensive but I got my hands on the most beautiful pair for half the price! Yay for sales and retail and stuff! I think my new shoes perfectly encapsulate the weather right now. They are summery, yellow and so cheerful! I think I’m going to live in Crocs for the rest of my life ’cause these shoes are so comfy! It’s like walking on a baby’s bottom (sorry, baby)! They are made out of some rubbery material so no awful, skin peeling shoe bites and I must say, they look really, really good. So Crocs taught me one lesson : never brush of anything based on what others say, find it out for yourself.
Let’s all raise our glasses to Life, and the lessons she teaches us in the most unpredictable ways.
So my imagination was all I had, all I needed. It made me feel happier knowing that there was a place I could go to escape and all I had to was just push a switch in my head and I’m there. My imagination was what helped me get through some of the most darkest phases of my life. When the going got tough I would zone out and perpetually live in another place, a much happier place. This led me to avoid dealing with my present.
Consciously extracting myself from my head to live in the now is something I have to deal with every day. Is it a sickness? Or am I over thinking this? I don’t know. But what I do know that the safest place to be is in my head. When I don’t have the energy to deal with my life I’m glad to know that I have a safe house.
So tell me, what is your safe house? Where do you go to escape reality?
There are are some days that are perfect. It’s a bright sunny day out. There is a heat wave(!) and you are sitting in a perfectly cooled cafe with a perfectly cooled mint iced coffee, reading a book you are completely engrossed in. You are one with character and you can actually feel the..
“Are you Palestinian Mozlim?”
“Umm, no. I’m Indian Muslim.”
Puzzled look. “Ohhh. Indian?!”
“Are you from the part of India that is near Pakistan?”
“No. I’m from the south, Chennai.”
“I know many Braaahmins from there. So what do I see when I visit India?”
Yeah, I just want to get back to my book. It’s very hard for me to get “in the zone” when I read a book. Although I love to read, I am constantly distracted (thanks again to technology for my short attention span). I need to be comfortable enough, have a good reading snack, the light should be just right, etc. And it annoys me to no end when people want to make conversation thereby interrupting me.
Interruption, whether I’m reading, writing or even thinking, muddles up my line of thought. I’m sure most people feel that way so why would you interrupt some one who is completely smitten by her book. Okay fine, I interrupt my husband every now and then when he is reading but I married him. I have every right to demand his attention. You, however, are a stranger. The one my mother warned me about when she said “Don’t talk to strangers”. You have no right to drag me away from my book and force me in to having a conversation.
I wanted to tell him thanks for the attempt at conversation, good sir but I need to get back to my book. How can I say that without sounding rude? What is the polite way of telling someone, especially a stranger, to leave you the heck alone when you are in the midst of doing something?
I hope you remember me. I miss you. It’s going to be six months since we’ve been separated and not a day goes by where I don’t think of you. Every time I walk out it’s silent and beautiful but I can’t help comparing my surroundings to you. I miss the crows cawing. I miss the sound of autos and the blazing heat on my forehead.
Please know it was never my intention to leave you. You know how fiercely I love. And loving you was inevitable. I breathed your air for twenty two years. We might have had a love/hate relationship but love always triumphs. I can’t seem to recollect a time when you’ve wronged me.
You remember the first proper article I ever wrote in college was about you. You play such a big role in my life even though we are miles apart. Remember all those long summer days when I cursed you for being so hot? Well, I could use some warmth right now. Living in a new country with no friends during the dreary winter is the perfect formula for depression to resurface. I’m using all my energy to keep from falling in to the dark pit.
If anyone knows my love for my clothes, it’s you. But here I have to wear a giant coat under my nice clothes and all that black is making me color blind. I miss leaving the house with just a layer of clothing and flip flops.
I miss your sunshine. I miss how happy you made me feel. I miss how I spent the best times of my life with you. You made me feel so carefree. You put me down, you picked me up and gave me the pat on the back that I so needed. You’ve seen my absolute worst and were a part of my best days.
I miss the beach so much it hurts. I want to roll on the sand and jump in the water. Remember that day in Fisherman’s Cove when the water just perfect? That was one of the happiest days of my life. I can’t count the number of times we used to bunk college with my friends and end up going to the beach. The beach played such a big part in my life. I used to drive there with my friends as and when we pleased and we would just have the best time. I haven’t gone to a beach yet here. I can’t wait to see if it matches up to yours. Even if it does, yours is always my number one favorite.
I can’t wait to come back to you again. But I am scared that when I do come around in a few years you would have changed and you wouldn’t be the same Madras that I left back. I want to say, “Please, baby, don’t change.”. But that is selfish of me. But I can say, please don’t become unrecognizable. I don’t want to land there one day and not recognize anything. That is my biggest fear. Please know that no matter where I go in life I will always love you with all my heart. Reminiscing about you will always bring tears to my eyes.
I don’t care if India Today finally decided to rate you as the number one city in India. You will always and forever be my number one city. New York was an amazing weekend. San Francisco always surprises me. You always make me happy. And that is all I ever want from life.
I love you and miss you.