They say everywhere you go becomes a part of you somehow. But don’t you also leave a bit of your self behind, every place you leave?
I cannot think of any city I have lived in without feeling that lump in my throat, except Trivandrum. And maybe that comes from the knowledge that Trivandrum is home, it’s where I’ll always go back, and there is no leaving, really.
I’ve lived in Delhi, Georgia, Texas. And there are different, younger versions of myself residing in all these places. I only have to go back to see them.
When I visit Rajiv Chowk, I see the 22 year old me on my way back from visiting Valyamma or Achu Annan, waiting for Dwarka line on the other side of the rail. My backpack is filled with the fish fry Valyamma packed for me, or all the Haldiram’s Achu Annan bought me. In December that kid is preparing to become an IAS officer, in March she’s decided she will do International Relations in JNU, and in 2 years I’d be there for my visa interview at the consulate before I leave for Atlanta.
Years later, when I moved from Atlanta, I was sad. I was leaving behind my grad school friends, a place I had grown to love and that I could see becoming my home, a college that gave me my graduate education, a campus I loved to walk around in, gardens and shops I grew to enjoy visiting. I haven’t gone back, but I know I’ll find that 25 year old kid walking the bridge to Target, smiling mindlessly at dogs and the sunset and the dressed-up women posing at the Memorial gate.
There is comfort in familiarity, and I embrace that fully.
To think that we’re where we are because of choice, chance, and the associated what-if’s I grapple with if I ponder long enough (and I’ve had the privilege of choice for a few years). What if the 22 year old me followed another trail of thought to discover something else, what if I’d stayed in Atlanta and not moved?
But we could spend the rest of our lives playing What If, and then some.
Today I was walking back from the Indian grocery store, and I realized I’m growing comfortable here as well, and I’ll miss stuff whenever it is that I leave. I’ll always miss Delhi because it has some of my happiest memories, and that happy innocent kid that I can never go back to. Atlanta, because it gave me so much. Texas, too.
So maybe what we leave behind is our present selves, because we know there’s no way to hold on that comfort even if we want to, except in the form of memories.
But whenever I visit, I know I’ll find those younger versions. They never ask, How are you? Because they aren’t curious, somehow, they’re happy right there.
That Delhi kid still lives somewhere around Karol Bagh. She looks forward to finding out what’s in her evening tiffin, shuffles her way through the loud crowds of CP and reads her yellow Vision IAS notes on the long metro rides home. In Atlanta, Crash Into Me still plays in my room on a dark, rainy evening while Uma hums a tune in the kitchen, putting the chai on.
And maybe we like to think there was something more there, something we missed out on by leaving, that we can’t get back to. That secret, the answer to the what if, only the version that stayed behind knows. Yet when you visit, they only offer you a naughty smile. It’s a secret that will stay there, stay there with that version of you that you left behind. 🙂