Nietzsche said, “Love is more afraid of change than destruction”. The love for a city, a place, a pigeon hole is so terrified of change. And the logistics is only least of the problems. It takes quite some time to fall in love with the place you’ve moved in. And once you are firmly settled in the comfort zone, it is difficult to come out of it. But then as they say, change is inevitable.
In my twenty three years of existence, I have lived in three cities. Two in India and one, in the United States. And three months in a fourth city in the United States, that did seem like a lifetime. A wonderful one at that. I’ve been away from home for six years. Or rather, away from family. Four years of bachelors in Chennai and twenty two months of Masters and job search in the US of A.
But it was a family in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was the coming together of the most appropriate four characters. Each markedly different from the other, yet united not just by their quest for a better resume, but also attitude, respect for each other and the tolerance levels. I couldn’t have found nicer room mates. Ours was apparently the cleanest house at NC State. Or rather one of the few houses that was NOT infested with bed bugs! Why? Because we cared. None of us was the quintessential grad student having no time in his hand to do some basic household chores, cook daily or eat properly. The Crest Rd apartment did not have such rules. We cooked daily, never compromised on spending for food, vacuumed the house regularly and had as minimum furniture as possible. The learning curve is steep when you start living alone trying to co-operate with a bunch of people. Most folks don’t realise that and are never ready to change themselves in a certain way.
Raleigh, as a city, is all about tranquillity. With its myriad of oak trees giving it an effect of an enclosed township within a city, it is not difficult to fall in love. For all its boastings about the presence of Research Triangle Park and a fast growing US city, it is a lot cleaner and quieter compared to other major cities in the east coast. It’s probably due to the absence of a snowy winter. But given that, the weather can get quite unpredictable and at the same time, nice in a way. A rich academic culture with three major universities in the area, I’ve always felt Raleigh is the ideal place to lock your doors and get a degree, or open your doors and start a career!
To repeat, I did not have the traditional when-will-this-end type of grad student life. Not that we had a Bessie to go to on Sat evenings, or had a popular hangout in campus to order one coffee and sit for 3 hours. No, not like that. That was still a far cry. Just that, I quite enjoyed my 22 month stay in the United States to the fullest. I think I can say that about my room mates too as far as life in a broader context is discussed. We shopped at the Indian store regularly. Every week that is. Our bills at the Indian store alone has often touched $100, for a week. Why? Because the Ghee we bought last week got over thanks to Pongal and Kesari on Saturday! Or it would be time to buy that bag of rice. Absolutely zero tolerance when it came to food. Grad students are not supposed to live like that! Thanks to a responsible, matured beyond age room mate, who had become a mentor of sorts, we had the comfort of a car from the second semester. We had our regular trips to the temple. A weekly visit to the Indian restaurant during summer when we had all the time in our hands. We went on a number of road trips. I drove some great cars that I would probably never be able to buy in my life. I enjoyed New York City to the fullest. And so on. This was also the period when my writing improved incredibly. I became more regular in the blogging circuit and the concept of blog friends started emerging. Soon there would be more readers than posts, more friends on the net than in school and more accessible to contacts online than the next door neighbour.
Such all encompassing experience has to bring a lot of good into you. It prepares you for the life ahead in more ways than one. I have had to make some important decisions over the last six months. And the wisdom behind those decisions has a lot to do with the experience in a new country, new environment and the interaction with some new wonderful people. I returned to India about two months ago and though it was not hard, it was an uneasy decision to make. The last three months in the US were spent in New Jersey. At a beautiful house with some beautiful people. I wondered why I had not discovered them earlier. Much earlier. But better late than never, and am sure this relationship has a long way to go.
Remember that you have everything to gain when you get displaced. Try as much as possible, to get lost in this big bad world. It could turn into the greatest lesson of your life.