Here I am, sitting in my new room, in a new building. This time it’s less daunting. Of course, it’s colder, the people look different, they speak differently and I am not used to a world without sun. But I suppose this is where this particular journey will culminate. 2019 will be the year of completion. It’s a year where this degree sees its end, where the chapter in my life which revolves around London closes.
London was a dream that eight-year old Sahitya saw, counting all her pocket money in pounds. She knew she was bound to get there one day. Here I am fulfilling a childish dream through an adult ambition. The Master’s degree killed two birds with one stone.
I left memories for myself to follow over here and they were still there strewn on the footpath like dried maple leaves and in the blinking lights over the pedestrian crossings. All of it is real and were revived as I walked past them nodding in acknowledgement.
There is not a street here I have forgotten, and I think I should have caught a hint at the Bengaluru International airport. The security guard a woman who checked me and stamped my boarding pass looked at me smiled and asked, “You’ve been here before right? I remember you.” I couldn’t help but think that she’d mistaken me. I don’t frequent the international terminal as I’ve been on only two international travels so far.
Every day over a thousand people pass the security check, travelling to vast corners of the world. How could she remember my face and not my mother’s, who’s far more well-travelled than I am? It’s not even as if I have a unique memorable face. But she looked into my eyes and said it, so sure of her estimation as she patted me down. I took my boarding pass and walked out with an urge to look over my shoulder at her.
It was an insignificant occurrence, utterly forgettable. But when I landed here and now when I finally got some time to process this change I am thinking back to the odd memory. Now it seems as if that one remembrance feels like it applies to this city, it remembers me too. I found the same man at the post office when I collected my post, he was there the last time too.
I remember each store, each shelf, and most of the prices. You think you’ve forgotten but the mind really knows how to surprise you. I was nervous, I won’t lie and I was nervous about the city swallowing me once more like it did before. Its tall, metallic appearance much like its personality, consuming you and living off of you. It’s nothing like our cosy cities with their touch of humanity, humans occupy a larger space than buildings, here the people are literally at the feet of these buildings. Our cities are mad, tough and invasive but they’re human, here everything works like clockwork.
It’s a hungry city, you keep giving and it’ll take, and will chew you up when you can’t give anymore. Our cities will let you live, they don’t have enough for humans but they allow the animals to live too, they are part of the city. Science aside maybe it has something to do with the sun, it just allows people to open up their arms, hearts and homes. Here opening up means letting in the cold too.
It’s not without its charms, its comforts, where money determines survival. Everything has rules, they won’t bend and you can’t make them bend. Your life has more value here, your safety is the government’s concern. Here you don’t need to figure anything out, you do as your instructed. You can cross a road and the traffic will stop for you. You look left when the road tells you and look right when it tells you so. Anybody with a working knowledge of English can live here. Cleanliness isn’t a choice here.
I know people who love this city, I love it too. I also know why, because it’s cool, it’s sophisticated, it’s been a part of our fantasies. You get to be someone you’re not over here, someone with some confidence and a little more freedom but at a cost. When we go home we’re what we actually are, tough, scared people without an attitude, reduced to humility by the severity of survival.
This is my new home and it will be until September. And I’ve figured it out this time, keep warm and spend less. It’s just that simple, I don’t want the cold to seep into my heart like it did last time, and I don’t want to spend myself, not just money, but my energy and let the city strip me of my soul. My soul and heart are not for barter.