City: A Hate Story

I am beginning to fear I am not made to fit in this place, or any place maybe. I am not sure since when I have been feeling this but this city is beginning to crowd me and suffocate me. I need some space. A bubble of space around me at all times as I glide through the days, drowning in my own thoughts and dreams for the future. I need silence as my mind speaks to me, observing the people around me, imagining their lives and wondering what it feels like to be them. What it feels like to be anyone else. How differently does life look to each set of eyes, some furrowed with worry, some widened with wonder and almost all with a faraway look, a yearning to be somewhere else.
I too dream of being in places I have never seen before, places I have created in my mind, places that will take me away from here and hold me in their silent emptiness till I feel ready to come out and be pushed and shoved by the masses again. Places that smell like musk and berries and where the air is so thick that the words out of my mouth forms shapes in space and settle on foreign things. Smells that will take away all memory of the smells of this city, the smell of cheap detergent, sweat, and shit. No matter how much I bathe, I cant wash off these city smells from my memory, I need something to overwrite it.
Don’t get me wrong, we have had a good run. This city and me. But now my skin is rubbed raw with the strangers that brush past me everyday, my head too full with dreams of otherness, my heart splintered with abysmal truths and broken shards of hopes, there is nothing that can keep me here. The chaos that enveloped the city like atmosphere is weighing me down as I crave the weightlessness of another place, any other place. I crave days that aren’t peppered with incessant honking of cars that are too impatient at red traffic lights. I crave nights without the loud neighbors, thin walls and ugly marriages.
There are things I love about this city too, the fact that it is where dreams come true, or so we are told at least. It is a place where you will find all kinds of people and you wont walk a kilometre without something to do, eat or wonder about. You will see the spirit to survive, the man sleeping on a busy railway platform, oblivious to the surroundings, without a furrow on his head. You will see the homeless children, make the streets their playground and the garbage dump their treasure hunt. You will find thrill, in the breeze that lashes against your face when you dare to lean outside the speeding train. You will find humility in the stranger who tells you her life story over the course of a short bus journey. You will find love in the beggar who shares his food with the street dog. You will find whatever it is you want to see, provided you look, and are not afraid of what you may find.
The sounds of the city are relentless. The whoosh of the speeding cars, loud talking, loud incessant talking with voices that come together and form a cloud and cover everything in a humming shadow. The hawkers screaming out for customers, the angry bus drivers wildly gesticulating for the road to clear and the bus to pass through the impossibly narrow space. The smoke from the vehicles and the dirt that floats everywhere in the air and forms puddles on the streets and mixes with sewage and forms a mini-swamp with a stench that travels back home with you on your clothes. You cant wash this city off you.
This city where finding a job is easy, but making enough money is an illusion. Where everything costs more and sells for less. Where money determines the space that you can have to yourself if any, where money determines if you are successful not happiness, not how much you enjoy your work, not how much you contribute to make someone’s life better. Where money decides who you can marry or if you can marry at all. Where money finds you friends more than you need, and money makes you more beautiful that you are. Where everyone is always looking to make a quick buck. The city where you can buy a degree but lose your mind. The city where sex is commonplace yet love is the hardest to find.
Walk down a random street in the city, any street that you want and notice that you can never walk in a straight line. There will always be things to jump over, under or across. There will always be haphazard traffic to look out for or a cow, or a dog or a homeless child. There will always be something being sold or something being bought. There will always be someone who will look at you squarely yet bump right into you. There will be a hand reaching out to touch you where you do not wish to be touched. If not hands the eyes will travel the length and breadth of you body, this city will never leave you unnoticed.
This city will fill up all the empty spaces in your head and heart with it sights and smells and leave no space for newness. It will seduce you to find beauty in the macabre, it will keep you tied even as you ache for another place. It will haunt you in the brief spurts that you manage to get away and make you hear phantom city sounds as you try to sleep in faraway hotel beds during silent nights. It will make you want what you do not want and fool you into loving it. It is a difficult lover, this city and I am in too deep.

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8 thoughts on “City: A Hate Story

  1. This is a wonderful, resonant piece. You really bring the issue of belonging into focus, and the sounds and imagery make the city palpable.
    Bianca.

  2. Well I know that you talk about Mumbai: The city where dreams come true… But I feel exactly the same about Kolkata! Exactly the same… And after reading your post I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing! :p. But nevertheless the post is beautifully written as always! πŸ™‚

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