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Country roads, take me home

This was about the forgotten countryside, the slow, meddlesome one, the one that is gradually being depleted year-after-year of people who wanted to stay there ...

Gulf News

I was at an age where there was this subliminal notion that permeated every part of your soul, suggesting that you could solve all of your problems by running — and running head-long at that; against deadlines, against time, against societal norms, against the nightly sleep and running away for the more adventurous.

But this isn’t about that.

It was one of those grey days when I was getting used to the monotony of walking from one of the stations of Dubai Metro to work and ruing the loss of college routine, that I pondered going home for a change. Not ‘home’ as in ‘my’ home, where my parents live, but home, as in the home of my parents where my grandparents lived, loved and were lost. A lush green countryside where technology hadn’t made its presence felt and most of us would curse the lack of connectivity. Somewhat like Arundhati Roy’s Ayemenem [in the novel The God of Small Things].

It seemed a good idea for a visit. But not a return. When I thought about it, it didn’t seem like my parents intended to “return” any time soon either. They always said they would though; like the sun at the end of the horizon — you could keep walking towards it, but never reach or for that matter the childhood that we keep reminiscing about, but never have the luxury to live again.

That was the context of existence for most of us expatriate children. None of us were ever going “home”, the home that none of us had ever lived in for more than two months at a stretch, the home that saw our earphones and shorts as an anomaly, the home that believed that our proclivity to speak in English was our penchant for foreigner’s arrogance (this last one being most untrue).

My college days in another Indian metropolitan city, however, had taught me that this phenomenon of not wanting to “return” was not a function of being brought-up in a certain city. No one in Bengaluru I knew of wanted to return to their still-closer-than-mine villages and home-towns. They’d come to this city only three or four years ago, but now, this was home. My mother’s words echoed: “It’s easier here.”

It was easy; the anonymity of people on the highways you’d never see again, of neighbours who didn’t concern themselves with your every move, but the still-sustained notion of humanity that lurked in the city air, that each needed to be there for the other because every one of them was a lost soul away from home.

What was the bottom-line? That the city isn’t all cut-throat and canned tuna? Granted. But that wasn’t it.

This was about the forgotten countryside, the slow, meddlesome one, the one that is gradually being depleted year-after-year of people who wanted to stay there with its old pepper-vines that clambered across broken brick walls, its ponds — more algae green than sky-blue with no admirers and even less dissenters.

The country is perhaps dwindling, becoming smaller to feed the city whose centre would grow until it was all that would be left. That will be the moment, the city centre ceases, when there is no old country left to define it and no unchanging home for us to dream of returning to.

Nikitha Margaret Vincent is an intern at Gulf News.