Once again this question was put up against me. A question that leaves me confused. Every time someone asks me about my aborigine I go blank for a second and then reply that I am from West Bengal. But somewhere in my subconscious mind it leaves me unsatisfied with my answer and I ask myself “Do I really belong to West Bengal?”. To be honest I myself don’t know where I belong to. I am searching for an answer to this question myself.
I was born in a town in East Midnapur of West Bengal. Now if that makes me a Bengali then I am certainly one. But my stay in West Bengal has never been for more than a month at a stretch. I was barely a month old when my mom n dad brought me to Nashik (Maharashtra). I was too young to carry any memories of that place with me. The only vague memories that I have of a place would be Bangalore, where dad was posted after Nashik. A place where I started my schooling from and made three amazing friends. Though all I can remember is their names (‘Kaushal’, ‘Hari’ and ‘Divya Lakshmi’). I will not be able to recognize them now even if they come in front. All I remember is that we four were very good friends and shared the same bench in class!! That was in my first standard. But my friendship with them lasted only for around six months and dad got transferred to Tezpur (Assam). Don’t have much memories of this place with me, except for few funny incidents (it became funny once the tremor was over) of me witnessing earthquakes, as that tenure was very a short one, of around six months. Yes one person I remember from my class would be ‘Neha’, a big bully, I didn’t like her at all. And when I think of her now it brings a smile on my face! After Tezpur I went back to the place where I claim I belong to. That was the time dad got posted to Bagdogra (a place near Darjeeling in West Bengal), where i made lots of friends just to bid them goodbye after 4 years of great friendship and headed up north.
It was the month of December I remember very clear. On the eve of Christmas we reached the place. Biting cold it was but I just loved the weather!!! Pathankot (Punjab) is a place I will cherish always…perhaps because some of my beautiful memories are associated to this place, which I would love to visit once more in my life. I just love each and everything about the place…be it its cold weather…the people…the food…and above all my school...My teachers…and ‘Sumeet’…I got the best of it all over there. The best school of my life, the best teachers who pampered me a lot…and my best friend ‘Sumeet’, though even after lot of efforts I went out of touch with her. That is the sad part of being a defense kid. You get to go different places, meet different people, make friends and then one day you leave them all behind and move to another place and the process continues!
And this time my journey came for a halt into the heart of India, Madhya Pradesh. Gwalior…hmmm…another place I love to the core. The thing that I like the most about MP is the down to earth and humble nature of its people. After all it is not the place, it is the people around that makes a place special, isn’t it? Well, I had many of my ‘firsts’ in life here…my first (and last) crush…my first experience of college life…and all the fun coupled with it…and yes this place gave me two of my best buddies, ‘Priya’ and ‘Usha’. This was my second time association with Priya as we had studied together in the same class in Bagdogra as well and meeting her again was like a lost brother found, and this time the bonding became stronger than ever. We three did all the crazy stuff together…bunking classes and spending hours at coffee shops…roaming jobless in the market…eating ‘pani-puris’ and ‘chats’ on roadsides shops…watching movies..teasing guys(in a decent way of course)…well those were truly the best days of my life…!! But all good things had to come to an end one day and this too had an end and I had to come to Chennai.
Delhi was the place I always wanted to go for pursuing my higher studies and the news of my family shifting to Chennai came as not so pleasant news. So after a lot of ‘rona and dhona’ I finally landed up in Chennai and it was a kind of cultural shock for me at first. I had heard enough of non sense about Chennai from my friends who had been here before but i only realized the ground reality once I stepped into this land. It was as if I was in a totally different country. The people here could not understand my ‘Hindi’ and I cannot understand a single word of ‘Tamil’…though it is a metro it didn’t look like one to me…I found my Gwalior which is a B-class city better than this place. It took me two years to get myself adjusted to this part of the world.
My first sense of belongingness towards Chennai happened when I went to Delhi for an internship. There for everyone I was ‘FROM CHENNAI’ and every time there was a discussion over the north and south divide, I unconsciously ended up supporting south and felt so proud to be “FROM CHENNAI”!!! And once am back my entire perception about this place was a changed one. Now I was very much a ‘Chennaite’ and this was ‘MY CITY’. Also it brought me more close to my friends and classmates with whom I had kept a distance for no reasons. But then do I really belong to Chennai?? Because I know one day I have to say good bye to this place as well and head towards a new destination.
So where do I truly belong to? If your place of birth is your identity then I am from West Bengal. But I don’t think I possess any other qualities from that place. After having spent 24 years of my life like a nomad and have been to almost every part of India and met people from all the states, I feel I am nothing but an Indian. I am an Indian in every aspect, be it the colour of my skin or my thoughts or my accent…it all reflects the ‘Indian-ness’ in me…and hence I am an ‘INDIAN’…and to be more specific a ‘Human Being’! Hopefully a good one…!!! :)