Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Where do I belong?

-By Swetha Amit

“So where are you from?” Payal looked up startled from her contemplation mode which she usually indulged in while watching waves crash ashore. It was her friendly new neighbor out on her evening walk who paused on seeing her. It was a question she had been asked several times. Where did she actually belong?

It had been three years in this city and yet she felt she had lived all her life here. She had learnt the street smart ways of getting her way around, well settled in her career with a decent social life. Never once did she feel the pangs of the infamous ‘homesickness’ that she had seen innumerable times amidst her fellow migrants from various parts. There was more than one reason for this. She cringed as she often did on thinking back to her past experiences which often stifled her like a plant trapped in a box room.

All through her life mountains seemed to have been created out of molehills. Even a slight shake of head to the smallest thing would lead to a disapproved arch of the brows in a quizzical manner. Shocks would follow with enforcing statements that would often make her want to flee a mile. Right from her eating habits to her dressing and unconventional thinking, she was forced to always comply with tradition even when she viewed its impracticalities many a time. Millions of those jasmine flower studded, garish studded sari clad women, some of whom were relatives, scoffed at her ‘wayward’ ways and stressed on the point of individuality and personality were determined by ones culture and tradition. Any other factor seemed devoid of existence. For instance a superficial thing of developing a liking towards other cuisine was met with derogatory remarks of ‘not being brought up properly’.

Experimenting in varied ways was always looked upon with a condescending eye. Strangely the same folk were enamored by scientists who usually did nothing but that. Growing up with moderate parents hadn’t been easy as they were often torn between the devil and the deep blue sea. Infested with sharks of all kinds, she always found herself to be the victim of retorts. Her vocational stream, her ideas about marriage, and attitude towards life were scorned upon. Many took it upon their right to advice her on the pretext of turning her into a ‘good girl’. Some of her peers as well scoffed at her ‘strange’ tastes in books, movies and music. It appeared that she was treated as an outcaste if her tastes did not meet the popular norms. Was it a crime to be ‘different’ from the rest of the clichéd?

It was just a matter of time; she shut herself to the outside world like a bird which had been caged with a streak of hope that some kind soul would let her free to soar high. The ray of hope arrived in the form of her appointment letter. She was to be under probation in a different city altogether which she only heard about in positive notes yet had never been there. Quickly she packed her bags strangely in a jubilant mood while the ‘rest’ looked on with tearful expressions, some of which she knew were false.

It was the pathway to freedom she realized as she happily landed in the city where dreams were realized in a realistic manner. While the first few months were a struggle inevitable to any newcomer, she couldn’t help but feel the sudden gush of air which gently picked her strands of hair. Novel experiences proved to be a contrast as those ‘judgment days’ were only a thing of the past. Coercive methods were alien as many were given their space. Each individual portrayed a certain uniqueness about them which made the city dwell in diversion and attain its cosmopolitan stance. Even the temple priests welcomed those wearing non traditional attire looking beyond the superficial factor and realizing the depth in devotion behind ones visit. There was none of those ‘reform’ school individuals to preach on following only certain practices to be defined as a ‘proper’ person.

It was on an occasional basis when a distant relative who would pay a visit state “oh being from that place, you would be accustomed to wearing only conservative attire or eating only a particular kind of food”.

Turning a deaf ear, the art which she soon mastered made her ponder about the aspect of individuality. Was it just culture, food, religion and caste that determined ones persona? What about education, ones values, ideas and their deeper meaning to life in general? True that upbringing plays a role in shaping up a person in the right way. She learnt that kids without a secure household often fell prey to substance abuse and juvenile delinquency. Considering such serious aspects to growing up, it was a shame when she was criticized for having an ‘open’ outlook.

Sense of belonging didn’t necessarily mean adopting popular tastes or being from a particular place. Sticking by ones conscience, original ideologies, being proud of who you are summed up a sense of belonging. How many have thought about deeper meanings of existence? They seem content just fishing about in shallow waters constantly. She suddenly found this ‘insightful’ realization dawn strangely after a casual question by her neighbor. Rejoicing at this ‘discovery’ she smiled in elation much to the amusement of the latter.

“You have been lost in thought. I am still waiting”. Payal looked up apologetically at the amused lady as she gathered up her feet in haste. “Where am I from?” she said. Well it requires one to answer a million dollar question. Ever thought about fitting in with your soul?” That’s actually where one belongs”.

Leaving behind a mystified woman, Payal trotted along the shores where the tide seemed high as her spirits. The sun was gradually setting and behind she could hear the impatient honking of the commuters. “This is where I belong” she said ecstatically.
Written for



Blogger Ayesha Parveen said...

WOW, Swetha! This one has touched my heart in a poignant way. I can identify fully with "Payal"; we belong where we choose to belong. Background and birth, upbringing, social conditioning etc. should not stop us from being what we are deep within.

Loved reading it. Thanks a lot, Swetha and may God bless you. Have a great day :)

4:32 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Thanks Ayesha.:-)

9:18 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Comments on MSN:

Ramesh Padmanabhan - Chennai on 2/12/2009 3:31:23 PM
Dear Swetha, Well written and all the best. Regards .RP

3:01 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Sanjay Chugh - Lucknow on 2/12/2009 4:42:19 PM

Can't agree more with this. Today, different cities in our country have different cultures...If one lives in a cosmopolitan city and then moves into a not so progressive and its options become tough! Very well written!

3:17 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

Venkat - Dar on 2/12/2009 6:27:10 PM
DearSwetha, Good one! You belong to a very high writing clan

7:31 AM  
Blogger A New Beginning said...

Hey Shwetha, that's a very meaningful post.People do question those who laed their life the way they want to. I think what matters the most by the end of the day is inner peace. Hope you agree with me.All the very best to you:)

8:28 PM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

@ New Beginning: Thanks a lot for your encouraging comments. Do keep visiting.:-)

8:22 AM  
Blogger Whirlwind said...

bhat - cochin on 2/13/2009 12:09:41 PM
well written; ignore crude sick and disgusting comments made by illiterate 'does not matter does not matter'; let's see if he can write something which will be appreciated !!!

8:22 AM  

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