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November 11, 2009

My own roots

Left wondering at an issue of Outlook, I began thinking abut my own roots, as modest as they may be. And I have been left in a state of confusion about my origins. I was born in Bengal to Punjabi parents who all the while that I was growing up have kept their Punjabi nuances high but are unmistakeably Bengali in several of their actions. I have lived in Bengal, Delhi, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Kotagiri, Dubare and many more places that have had a considerable impact on my present. They could have been those memorable days in Dharamsala with Vaibhav and his mother or Vagator when life was supercool and we were the champions of the world.

So where is my home and what constitutes what I call as my home. Okay, when I close my eyes like in the movies, I see Bengal.... but Bengal of my limited childhood vision... those games at the river, cycling and that search for the unknown that must have led so many young lives to their deaths across the globe. That is the Bengal that I remember. I grew up there at least till I was sixteen years old and fervently believe that what I am now is because of those days. But my Bengal was different from the Bengal that outsiders know. We were faraway from the hustle and bustle of city life, from the intellectual capital that is Calcutta, even a small town was big, living as we were in the wild, in the coalfields of the Asansol belt. That was my Bengal and it was a cocoon that we stayed in. And that is what I return to each year. Perhaps, it is the reason for me persuading my parents not to avail their house allowance and shift to their apartment in Asansol but continue staying in the company house that the family has been living in for several decades now. That is what stays behind, those forays here and there without fear of policing, the fact that friends were all several hours away and walking back home each day. These are what my thoughts about Bengal is and this what I call my home.

Delhi was never my home and cannot be so in future. Infact, I dread the day that I will work in Delhi and dread my memories there. But Punjab has always been my home. Like an NRI returning to India, I was glad when I went to college in Chandigarh. It was a personal homecoming and I took to it like I never stayed anywhere else before. The three years in Chandigarh compels me to acknowledge that Chandigarh and again not Punjab is my true home. But will I ever stay there, in the city. Difficult question but yes at the end of the day, I might return to Bengal to live out those days when looking out of the balcony will be my serious preoccupation.

That brings my thoughts to Kotagiri.... Kotagiri where ???? is what most friends still ask me. But Kotagiri is where my heart settled and my body aspires to stay. I have internalized the place to such an extent that presently when people ask me about my roots, my first answer says Kotagiri.... you know Kotagiri near Ooty, then my mouth blurts out that I am a Punjabi and not a Tamil, so actually I am from Punjab. Finally, it is with a grudging nod that I mention that my actual home is Bengal.

So where am I from, from the hills where I have stayed for the first four years of my professional life, from the humid plains of Asansol where I learned what home was or from the picturesque foothills of Chandigarh where I had the time of my life.....

I cannot really answer this perplexing question but the more I see the world around me and the more I rote the phrase that when in Rome, be a Roman....... I realize that home is all that, it is in fact when all all three places are put in a mixer and the resultant is what home is..... Roots are supposed to spread wide, isn't it...