Saturday, May 30, 2009

Does your city own you?

I am reading The Comfort of Saturdays these days. Honest, it takes me as long to finish reading a novel as it does to write one, sometimes longer. Please note how effortlessly I sound all author-like. Also, there is no comfort in this Saturday as far as I am concerned. Mahesh has trooped off to Delhi for a friend's wedding. Also, given the pact, I cannot visit the house of Greg till he gets back and that as we all know is most upsetting a situation.

Anyway, so to get back to the book, I read a line there that struck home. Here, let me copy it down for you.
The city encourages actors, thought Isabel, as probably all iconic cities do; look at the Parisians; it must be such an effort being so Parisian.
Is that true? I mean, are we all really prisoners of the brands that our cities have become?

Following that line of thought, when in Mumbai, one must be smart and sassy and street-smart and also armed with that all-encompassing but not quite clear quality - bindaas. We must have a regard for time and a disregard for all things clean in general. We should consider Marine Drive to be the point after which the earth curves and one faces the peril of falling off the face of the planet. We must divide the city into two parts where the south is all things nice and the north is all things vice (well, not really but I do have a weakness for rhyme). We must be tolerant and spirited and brave. And overtly filmy.

And when in Delhi, the other city I know reasonably well, one must be prepared for fisticuffs over a scraped bumper, one must learn to look over one shoulder at all times if a woman, one must be a foodie and have political savvy. We must be boorish when we are not spouting class poetry and displaying obscene amounts of tehzeeb. When we are done doing that, we must bring on the obscene amounts of wealth and start to show it off in all earnestness. We should be bade-dil-wallahs and romantic and unpredictable and a tad dangerous. But the south must be posh and the north, not so much still. We must be gorgeous and dress well and appreciate art. And have fat weddings.

Gosh, no wonder then that I am neither here, not there. I love both cities and I hate them both too and now I really don't know where I belong. Maybe we just scatter pieces of ourselves wherever we live. I don't really know whether Isabel is right or wrong - do we really put a lot of fight in internalizing and then displaying the qualities that our city is supposed to define, a classic case of when in Rome...?

What about you though? What are the people of your city/town/village supposed to be like? Do you belong there?


Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

God made men, men made boundaries.

Anonymous said...

It's true one can fall in love with a city and it can hence own you.
I was brought up mostly in Mumbai,but had a brief stint in Delhi too.I like Delhi more than Mumbai; Delhi has something (which i can't quantify) which is missing in Mumbai.

I think of it as - I like Strawberry flavor better than Chocolate; I honestly don't know why?

Aneela Z said...

though nahee thought yara (re: Isabel)...I think that is what my city gave me..Obsessive Compulsive Disorder..will not rest until Im done nit picking.

WSW said...

I think every city you live in changes you just a little to make you who you are.

s w a t said...

Namma Bengaluru. Swalpa Adjust Maadi!

divi said...

i have always been in bbay besides the 2 yrs of post grad in ahmedabad and i dont think i m capable of liking any other place. i adore bombay. the local trains, the convenience factor, safety, and there's just so much to do. oh! adn 5 yrs of graduation at xaviers.... i heart the city!

Cynic in Wonderland said...

..they do own you. do a small experiment one day, when out of towners reach bombay ( and whose normal style of walking is a leisurly dawdle) and just see them walk on the roads of bombay - they will be brisker, more focused, even if they have nowhere to go and nothing to do. and thats just the walk.

myveryownbloggywog said...

*delurking* My city owns me. It's such a huge part of my identity! It's also arrogance, because by some strange coincidence, the city I happened to be born in is also the most amazing city in the world. The way I explain this is, humans form attachments not just to other humans, but also to ideas and concepts and cities. */delurking*

Nat said...

thats funny. bcos being in NY, this q makes me think too. Here we have our own microcosms which may or may not have anything to do with whats happening on the streets of Manhattan. And yet this is NY. Suburbia maybe but it is. I dont know if the city owns me, I doubt it ever will, yet there's a bit of it you adopt and of course there's the delicious freedom here of not doing so if you dont want to. The only thing I might have adopted is the walking fast and dressing any which way you want and no one batting an eyelid.

Parul said...


Anonymous...That's a nice way of putting it. I like chocolate more, btw!

Aneela Z...Thank you, I have corrected it.

WSW...Well yes, I guess so but my question was a little different.

s w a t...True but my question was a little different.

divi...That is nice but my question was a little different.

Cynic in Wonderland...Ah, you think so too then! And I am going to try that little trick!

myveryownbloggywog...Ah, so you live in San Francisco?! Thank you for delurking!

Nat...I was hoping someone from NY would answer that. I guess there is 'something in the air' about such cities after all!