Sunday, June 30, 2013

Seven Years In Bangalore

There is no Brad Pitt in this story and there is no Dalai Lama and this not as dramatic as an Austrian climber trying to take on Nanga Parbat. But it’s been very interesting to me personally…my seven years in Bangalore.

Yes, it’s been seven years since that first day of July in 2006 when I landed in this city called Bangalore. It was not my first time; it was the second and more lasting, thanks to that first 4-day visit back in 2003.

We were on an IEEE educational tour from college, back in 2003. I set foot in this city post a 30-hour train journey and loved it instantly. I don’t know what about it attracted me so much particularly back then. Today I know that it must have been the combination of all that defines this city. We visited institutions like IISc, CPRI, ISRO, Talisma by day and explored the city as evening fell. Many firsts marked that trip too…the first time I went bowling, the first time I went go-karting, my first visit to a discotheque. It was a great time, and it showed me the possibilities that life in the city held; I am sure the zeal of youth would had its own role to play in that fascination. But all in all, I decided then that this was the city that I wanted to work in and live in.

 And it was granted (another one of those dreams that came true!). I was one of the only 6 people in our batch of recruitment to get placed in Bangalore. And so began what has been a period of constant discovery, exploration, growth and learning. 

I have come to know Bangalore as a city that fosters experimentation, given the myriad things people do here in terms of their lifestyles as well as the institutions they build. And so I experimented too…with travel, writing, dancing, copywriting, theatre. And I have come to understand myself better, thanks to this experimentation. I am thankful to the city for these opportunities.

Of course the opportunities really come from the people of this place who run phenomenal institutions like Get Off Ur Ass, LRDA, iReboot, Evam (well technically Evam is Chennai but I discovered them in Bangalore), Rangashankara, BRTFF. For me, the best way to describe Bangalore and its people is

Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Arms

I have met some of the most wonderful people in this city, including my husband, and have some very fond memories of them all. They are what makes this place so great and I am glad to have moved here and met them all. It is downright inspirational, the things that some of them do.

If I have taken to travelling, to photography, to writing freelance, to oratory, to theatre, to cycling…it has all been encouraged and inspired by some well-meaning people in a city that is easily the cycling capital, Toastmasters capital (80 clubs), eco-living capital and what not of India. This city makes you grow. It couples possibility and pace in such a beautiful manner. It is a city of communities that foster…everything. Barcamps for startups, running communities, cycling communities, travel communities, riding communities, book clubs, theatre groups, film societies, music groups and live bands…you name it and you can find a community. Groups like Second To None can thrive only in Bangalore. There is a sense of togetherness that leaves no space for snobbery. Unlike societies that revel in exclusivity, I think Bangalore and its people revel in a shared connection.

Which brings me to the mind blowing shared network that Bangalore is. Of course this sense and realization has been heightened after joining Facebook but even earlier, I always found it exciting how every new person I met was somehow connected to other people I had met in the city. This city is like a village where most people know most people. I love that!

Strangely, in a city that is called the IT hub of India and is recognized even in the West for that USP, I find the people connection to be stronger. This is a city that loves having tweet-ups and zomathons…people who interact online for a while feel the need to congregate in person for no good reason… that’s how they become friends and form bonds that last. And that’s why this city is perfect for me…it brings balance to this Libran’s life… between the virtual and the real, between work and play, between dreams and opportunities.

Like I said, not much of a story here…small-town girl visits Bangalore and gets smitten, moves to Bangalore with big-city dreams, meets wonderful people, hears unforgettable stories, visits more places in seven years than in all the 21 years before that, discovers what’s without and discovers what’s within, experiences fun-failing-frustration but becomes the best version of herself that she could be, meets the love of her life, gets married and begins the journey to happily-ever-after.

It sounds pretty everyday when stated like that but only I know how much this city has meant to me every single day and every passing year. I am leaving in 5 month’s time and it is breaking my heart. I can’t imagine it, not being here, in this lovely city. But maybe going away will make us love it even more. And the consolation is that this is where we will return when we do. 

But no matter where I am in the world, I will remain a Bangalorean. This is the city I connect to. I grew up physically elsewhere but this is where I grew up in many other respects. This is where I lived, loved and laughed for seven years. This is the city of my heart…it always has been. And for that reason, I will always love it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Dreams Come True...Yet Again!

It’s been a month and it still feels like a dream…being married. A dream nurtured all these years, guarded against the voices of those who said it would never come true. It was a dream held close and it has finally come true. It wasn’t easy waiting for this one but I am glad I waited. One sees the pieces fit only in retrospect.

I had always wanted to find my own person, ever since I started thinking about marriage. Someone who would be right for me. Someone I would be right for. Two people who wanted to be together willingly. People called it a pipe dream, too idealistic. They said I was losing time and it was too late to find that person. I will not deny that at some point I started believing them. It was stupid. Knowing how dreams always come true, I should have known better. I should have known that at the right time, that person would walk in to my life the pieces would fit like the jigsaw. No effort, no force, no friction. But I did get scared about chasing an impossible dream. The alternatives scared me too. And so I just waited around for a miracle. A long painful wait.

I had heard friends tell me that when the time is right, it moves so fast it makes your head spin. And that’s exactly what happened. It took one question to set things rolling and start the roller-coaster ride. The last few months have been some of the most exciting in my life, the run up to a traditional Iyengar wedding. And they seem like they went by in a breeze. The initial hesitation around the new family. Getting to know people and making them my own. All the shopping and the time spent over the details. All the discussions, the planning. The fun and the tension. The laughter. It is still ringing in my ears.

The wedding itself seems like a beautiful dream. Meeting my groom after months of virtual presence. The last few days, the anticipation. The house filling up with people and their love. The joy, the happy tears. The small and big rituals, the effort to make it all special for me. It was all over before I had absorbed it enough I think. And I had become a Mrs. already!

It’s been great being married so far. There are a million things about it that are beautiful. Becoming the keeper of a family’s prosperity, the Lakshmi of the house. Learning the layout of a new home, a new kitchen, trying to remember where the sugar and salt are, learning a new way of doing things, new recipes to cook, discovering more about your better half through all the stories told over dinner. It’s also heartwarming to see how the new family adjusts too…the extra chair at the dining table, the cosy squeeze in the car to seat a new family of five, the space created in the wardrobe. It is not easy but it’s beautiful, this process. And you know you are doing ok when you actually feel bad to see your parents-in-law leave back for home while you stay back in Bangalore to continue college…when you start missing them a little bit.

And that’s how yet another beloved dream has come true in my life, leading me to the start of a new dream called ‘The rest of my life’. I already know there will be ups and downs, good days and bad, easy days and tough but I also know that it is going to turn out beautiful when I look back on it many years hence.

Over the years, my pot of gratitude has filled and overflown for the way life has turned out. Sure there were the troughs but they were meant to teach me something, the foremost of which was to believe in my dreams and wait for them to come true. I have been more thankful by the day in the last few months, so much that tears well up in my eyes sometimes just thinking about how perfectly everything has come into place. It’s the start of a lifelong adventure with the culmination of this dream and I am looking forward to every minute of it!