A Letter to my Former Self

Dear Former Self,

I know its been a while we’ve spoken. Maybe you think I’m unkind. Or selfish. That I acknowledge you so little. Even though I was essentially, created from you. And I can never allow myself to forget that you essentially are my motherland. My creator. My birthplace.

No, I haven’t forgotten you. You still remain tucked somewhere within some corner of my heart. In the grooves of my memory. Within the folds of my spirit. When they tell me my eyes glow when I smile, I know it’s your pent up laughter that they see. When my slightly restrained womanly demeanor metamorphoses into a child that’s been allowed to run wild, its your carefree spirit that dances within. And on nights when I lie in bed, a vision of you, in the form of my old memories, fleets before my eyes, refusing to leave. Even though you and I are no longer friends, probably rare acquaintances, you live within me. And I carry you within me, with a sense of ownership, pride and honour. even though I might not show it.

I’m sorry you had to go through what you did. I know you weren’t exactly expecting all the disappointments, the tears, the failures that came your way. You had set yourself up for the skies, yet all you met with was the musty ground. You were let down by those you thought would never desert you. You were burned down by strife. By discord. By struggle. Your porcelain doll-esque spirit was shattered to pieces. In a way you never thought you would heal.

But you did. Only to fill those cracks with gold. Like the kintsugi potters in Japan, who believe that broken pottery is more beautiful that its original self, for the scars tell stories of all the wars the samurai has fought, only to return, recover and grow stronger.

And surprisingly, I don’t sympathize with you. Because the older, wiser me has come to understand, and appreciate that, as Destiny’s child, you had to go through all of this, for you to become me. The version of myself that I have become today. In your destruction, lay my birth. My wisdom came at the cost of your naivety. My maturity could only have been born from your innocence. Your ashes were my first cries. Your graveyard, my womb. Your tombstone, my cradle. As  the Phoenix  self-immolates itself, before it choses to resurrect itself from its own mortal remains, so did you have to be destroyed, so I could be formed.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was I. But it was built on ruins.  And so was I. Recreated on my own ruins.Just like water changes form, based on the utensil it finds itself in, I had to, too, change. But lets not call it change. Lets call it evolution. For despite the fires, storms and roads I had to walk through, I have no regrets. Diamonds are created under the harshest of conditions, and so did my soul, have to walk through Hades to find its own Heaven.

There are days I remember you. And like I said before, there are traces of you that still remain within. But having said all of this, I know that in no circumstance, am I going back to you.

Adieu, former self. I hope, with the purest of intentions, that we never meet. For its taken so much of you to be me, that I fear returning to who I once used to be.

Much Love,

Your Future Self

Of Belonging and Unbelonging

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was born in a city. And she grew up in that same city. And she lived her entire life there. And whenever she said ‘home’, they knew exactly where she meant.

Except that I’m not that person.

Because I grew up in one place. And then lived in another. And another. And another. Which meant, that after a while, while my hometown remained the same, the term home stopped implying a place. Rather, I found that I left my heart in multiple places over time, and there sprouted many ‘mini’ homes, each of which I came to love as much as the other, if not more. And it took me a while to understand how home didn’t always mean a place, it meant an emotion, a feeling, a certain sense of ownership and belonging to the place one lives in. And what’s more, in my case this didn’t just pertain to a single place, rather a series of places, each of which I once belonged to. And once you’ve belonged to a certain place, you’ve belonged to it forever.

I’ve fiercely belonged to my hometown Kolkata, a place where the classic culmination of old meets new formed the backdrop to my growing up years. Where memories of the sight of the majestic Howrah Bridge and it’s younger cousin the Vidyasagar Setu, the smells of the pungent fish markets and the wet smell of the earth before it rained in the monsoon, and the sounds of the dhaak during the Durga Puja linger on in the mind, even years after having actively lived there. Where summer season meant swimming every afternoon at one of the numerous British clubs, and the short winters, rounds of badminton in the evenings.  And if there’s one thing one hometown has taught me amongst others, it is the importance of being rooted in one’s culture, of never forgetting one’s humble origins, irrespective of where the future might take them.

I’ve belonged to the the tiny county of Warwickshire in the UK, where I went for my undergraduate education, and where I technically came of age. Where I grew to love the occasional, yet gorgeous British summer, witnessed and lived through snowy postcard winters, and discovered an undying love for Pimms, mulled wine, scones & jam, strawberries & cream, and hot chocolate with marshmallows & Nutella.

I’ve belonged to New Delhi, and its newer, glamorous sibling Gurgaon, where I started my first ever job, where I came to love the diversity and the colorful chaos, so eminent of the place – from the noisy, crowded bazaars of Chandni Chowk, to the more contemporary skyline of Gurgaon, marked with highrises and glass buildings with MNC logos. Where every person from the rustic auto-rickshaw driver to the salwar-kameez clad aunty in the metro to the young professional caught in the rat race, had an individual tale to tell.

And now, here I am, writing this in Chicago, possibly another pit-stop along the way, for I am optimistic that this life will take me places. And while it hasn’t even been a month of my having been here, I already feel my ties to the city being nurtured and only strengthened over time. The hustle-bustle of the big city, with its picture-perfect suburbs and the prevalent artsy vibe have won me over, and I know this is a place I shall grow to love over time and hold close to my heart. And like every other place I’ve lived in, I know I’ll belong here, too.