Thursday, March 6, 2014

March musings

"A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image."

~ John Didion

When the other side of the globe looks forward to signs of change, to pearly sprouts of spring hopes, this side has begun anticipating the reign of a brutal sun and the imminent decay of anything and everything. Life and Death, spinning the wheels of the world.

A few days back, an Instagram friend asked me to which place did I belong and if I still lived in the US since my posts are pretty random without any chronological coherence, and the quirky hashtags #upperleftusa and #northwestisbest are used a lot to caption them. My answer was: "I live in Hyderabad now, my second time in the city followed by an earlier four-years' stint as a student though I belong to the coastal state of Odisha... and yes, we were in the States for almost five years". To this the friend replied: "You belong to so many places!", and that got me thinking.
I do after all, don't I? I even belong to places where I have lived only for a week, places that I've just been to as a tourist. Maybe belongingness comes easily to me, it's the uprootedness that I have a problem with. And in the process I have given shape to absent spaces, claimed certain parts and people of those places as mine and in turn, made them a part of my little world. How effortlessly I belong to each one of them, ever so easily like wearing a new skin, partaking in their joys and miseries equally. And therefore, I cannot help but mull over these geographies from time to time, be it the fate of the people or simply the changing seasons.

These days I go back to Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul: Memories and the City a lot, a book that I started reading some six months back and have been deliberately procrastinating to reach its end. It's so sensually rich in nostalgia and so brilliant is Pamuk's rendition of his city, that one immediately feels his aching love for the much-fabled streets of Istanbul. An acute sense of loss and melancholy hangs like a light but omnipresent fog throughout the memoir which is beautifully laced with black and white photographs of the city as Pamuk has seen and known it. One sentence that often comes back to me from the book is: "Life can't be all that bad," i'd think from time to time. 'Whatever happens, i can always take a walk along the Bosphorus."

Which is my Bosphorus then? The beach and the mango trees that I call home? Or the view of the misty Cascades that I know as home? Or the disarming smiles of the Himalayan faces amid whom I feel most at home? Or the dusty streets of an old city that I had once proudly boasted of as my second home?


  1. Hello Suman,

    Yes, it is an interesting thought about belonging, especially when one has spent so much time away from the land of one's birth.

    Perhaps there is something connected with age that allows one to be able to feel contented with where one is. It does seem to us that the older we get the more one feels less able to take on new challenges or experiences, happier to be surrounded by the familiar and commonplace.

    We have not heard of Pamuk's book and Istanbul is very much a city that we wish to visit. We shall definitely look it up before we see Istanbul for ourselves. It is always good, we feel, to have an alternative viewpoint to a place and then to look in detail oneself.

    Signs of Spring are indeed all around in Budapest. Our favourite time of year with so much hope and promise in the air!

    1. Dear Jane and Lance,

      Sorry about the terrible delay. Travel and procrastination kept me away from blogging but I intend to be regular from now.
      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment. Yes, sometimes I do feel that way - to let go of the dilemma and just be. Thankfully the summers are in bloom here and one hardly has the heart or head to ponder over places when the heat is beyond 40 degrees.

      Hope you are enjoying spring, and someday I would love to see Istanbul through you.
      Have a great week ahead.

  2. Which is my Bosphorus then?

    A very good question to ask of any ex-pat. It will be in my mind for a while but I am not sure that I’ll find an easy answer. Anyone who has lived in many places will take away good and bad memories; what will be left in the end?

    I hope I’ll find the love that Pamuk found in my own life. Unlike you, I feel I don’t belong anywhere.

    1. Oh, sometimes I feel that way too, Friko. I ricochet between belonging and un-belonging, and after a point get tired of it all. To feel like Pamuk, one probably needs to live forever in one's city of birth, to document its growth and changes, which is such a rare thing these days.

      Have a great week. xx

  3. It's interesting how we each have different memories of a place. I think the land also holds it's own memories and energy and this in turn affects our total perception of place.

    Have lovely week,

    1. Dear Ruby,

      I absolutely agree with you when you say the land has its own enchantments, and probably that is why a place like Seattle stays so close to my heart always.

      Have a lovely week,

  4. Dear Suman, it's a very interesting post! I am not an expat but I know that I don't belong to only one place! It's a weird feeling. And thanks to you I would like to read Orhan Pamuk

    1. Thank you for the appreciation, my dear Celine. I think we Virgos belong to so many places, and for you India would be one, I know. Your love for this country is so beautiful and inspiring; it often helps me to understand my attachment to places which I don't call 'home' literally. It's weird as you say.

      Have a lovely week! xx

  5. Lovely post, Suman.

    Whatever happens, I can always take a walk along the Trent (our nearby river) — but it doesn't have quite the same cachet!

    1. Thank you, Robert.

      Oh, but it's all so idyllic where you live. I can see how a stroll by the riverside could be your panacea. :-)
      Have a great week!


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