Am currently at Gurgaon and the public transport here consists of over-crowded share autos where the rule of the game is to elbow and stay inside or get elbowed and thrown out. But I’ve heard life threatening situations make for great insights into life and that is how I ended up ruminating about the different places I’ve lived in, trying to rank them for want of a better thing to do.
Chennai, the city of my birth and then most of my life too, is according to me simply the best city in the world! Never mind that the places I’ve been to would cover only 10 pin codes even if stretched or that I haven’t exactly lived in Chennai since the age of 17, there just isn’t any place that’s better. Other cities are always free to compete for second place…
First off, Thanjavur, where I spent 4 years supposedly training to be an engineer… but wait ! That doesn’t count cuz I never even went into the town except to the Big Temple once a year. The inside of a University Academy’s campus doesn’t count as Thanjavur……..
Then maybe Kolkata? But no… it was Calcutta back then and most of my memories are to do with my home or school or a park and a palace… Even when I went back after years, I saw it as a tourist destination, not as a city.
Ok then, does Mysore count? Sadly, no… same case of campus life, Infy campus being the only difference. The other side of Mysore I saw was inside Big Bazaar and assorted retailers… there is nothing that would have made it Mysore specific, the brands were global, people spoke English and it could easily have been any other Indian city.
Bengaluru perhaps? But no, I have never lived there for extended periods of time, just too many weekends….
So then, second place goes to Shillong? The silent and laid back city, my second home currently, where I can safely say that the person walking next to me on the road gets 10 hours quality sleep a day? The beautiful place nested among hills where for the first time I needed a heater? Sadly, no… Basically, though the roads have ups and downs that make for enjoyable walks, they lack the buzz that makes a city a city.
OMG ! So what am I left with? Just dusty HOT Gurgaon? The town soooo filled with malls and cars and roads that there’s more steel and plastic than living beings? Where there are more buildings and then some more buildings followed by yet another set of buildings, just in case the population decided to exceed the number of houses? Where buildings are centrally air conditioned and cost crores and get sold just as fast as samosas do at a chat shop? And where crimes are so common that it is like living in the middle of a masala movie? That can’t be! I felt the place had no soul, people can’t possibly feel a sense of belonging with this town!
But 5 minutes into this decision, I for no apparent reason, started noticing things. Like the beautiful kohl-lined eyes of a fellow passenger, the only things visible on her dupatta covered face, bright and animated, awaiting her destination. The wild clumps of Bougainvillea growing profusely on most gates and walls. The way the city unfurled like a flower, phase after phase, each containing its own set of lovingly constructed villas. The sprawling golf course, when you pass which you get a mild spray of mist from the sprinklers. And then I remembered. The tenacious sunlight which makes the day extend till 7:30 PM. The energy and purpose of each person as they stride towards the metro station or auto stand. The anxiety to get to work on time and yet their pleasant rapport with the auto driver. The gentle breeze carrying the faint promise of future rains. The pleasant aroma of new clothes in the few seconds that mall doors open. Happiness that can fill a jar brought by a cup of cold coffee. (You get the drift :)) And all this, among numerous Hindis… the Haryanvi’s, the Delhiite’s, the Punjabi’s and then softly, the Tamilian’s… Truly a city experience! And the decision was reached !
So that’s how Gurgaon came second, after starting last :)