and new neighbours around my parental house wanted to know everything
about my unannounced visit. When they saw my little one playing
in the lawn with our two pet dogs, one auntyji screamed
loudly from her terrace on the other side of the road. "What
R-ji, you never told us that Richa was to come. Wasn't she here
just a few months ago?". The other aunty said, "and
such a sudden trip, is everything all right?" The first
one said next, "Oho, no jamaai? Is something wrong?"
Without waiting for either my mother or me to reply, they winked,
giggled, and asked, "Or is there some good news? We have
been waiting for a long time to hear of it."
and unsolicited curiosity is typical of this old colony in the
small town I grew up in--or any other colony in any other small
town, for that matter. I know these women well. I also know
how their minds work. I also know it works this way because
they have plenty of time on hand. The forenoons are theirs,
the sunny-winter afternoons are theirs, the chilly wintry early
evenings are theirs. With so much time to spare, it is natural
that they occupy themselves with matters of the locality. Our
house, being a part of that locality, falls in their purview
of close scrutiny. That I am no longer formally employed is
a matter of great concern in the circles there. That I have
had only one child after so many years of marriage is a matter
of heavy speculation there. That I usually make my trips without
The Hubby sends signals to them. That this hurried trip followed
a recent one, without The Hubby yet again, yes, they know it
for sure now--something is terribly wrong somewhere! These women
please themselves with small things.
in this small town is equally nosey. Some are nosier than them,
some less than these bunch of women. But all the same, this
place where I grew up, has it's charm: it's sleepy, dusty, laid
back, contented, unruffled, everything that a metropolis is
not. The only thing people have here in plenty is time. I like
this town. There was always that initial hesitation in saying
where I was from during my early college days, ragging nights;
but soon I realised that it made no difference to my own academic
pursuits. As long as I excelled in what I was there for, people
(the teaching staff, the friends, the classmates) didn't care.
Soon, the rest of the world didn't care.
among you scoring high on personal-contentment index will like
this town. Or several others like this one. They all wear the
same look. There is, in general, peace inside the house, outside
the house. Children smile, play in the huge plots of open fields,
picnic and study together, not in the coaching-centre way, but
in the more fun way of going over to a friend's place to study.
Tottering chaat vending stalls can still be seen wobbling down
the narrow colony roads selling mouthwatering phuchkas and tikkis.
The Mc Donalds of the world, though now increasingly eyeing
these newer markets in their second phase of expansion, are
yet to make these people drool to their tastes. These small
townies find other ways of 'living it' up. I told you, they
have simple tastes.
these are not primitive places. You'll find girls sashaying
down the ramp at public catwalks, you'll find children excelling
at the various national-level academic and sports meets, you'll
find celebrations at the New Year bashes going on till three
in the morning, and champagne flowing at public celebrations.
These are towns where the latest big Plasma Flat Screens have
found a place in the houses and new malls are being inaugurated
on a daily basis. Only, the customers still prefer to hop down
to the nearest metro to shop!
grown up there, the day we leave these small towns for the metros
to study, to work, or to get married, we somehow know we will
never be able to fit back in ever again. The city people liken
this "small-town mentality" to having tasted blood
in the punky urbanity of the big cities. We feel that having
built our ideals on foundations of pragmatism, minimalism, and
appreciation (of small joys of life), we small townies make
a better fit in the urban madness. At least, we are less myopic
than our fully-metro bred counterparts.
it is easy to tell a towny from a city bred. The other day in
Mumbai, someone gave my son an expensive gift. So expensive
that it was clear I would never let my child play with it. So
expensive that it made me want to return that present right-away.
So expensive that it made me scan the box carefully for any
forgotten price tags. Oh my God, there, you see? Now that is
a typical small-towny mentality. You may wear the most expensive
ensemble, but, even more than the shoes, it's finally your inner-wear
that shows what you actually are. So it is with us small townies
-- our true identity is bound to peek from somewhere.
I like being, in essence, a small towny. And yet, strictly speaking,
I no longer qualify as one. I stopped being one the day I stepped
out from my house to study in the big city, and left that severely
wounded man at the accident site near the station because I
had to board the train. Tick tock, tick-tock, Time had started
making it's presence felt. Before I knew it, I was in that big
city, racing against Time itself. Snap, went the connection.
is what sets them apart from the city-breds. If having to choose
between time and humane-ness, they will, most certainly, opt
for the latter. They lead simple, uncomplicated lives, I told