Somehow in the place we were born and gradually finished school, college and university all of us had this dream to move 'out' though i still don,t understand why this yearning and 'out' in most cases did not mean moving out of the country simply moving to ' Delhi' , Mumbai did not have much attraction and next the destinations slowly gaining popularity were Bangalore and Pune.
The brain drain or whatever started i think after high school when one of my close friends moved to Delhi to study in an average college, and some other friends got though exams for admission into some engineering college or other. To stay back at Guwahati and pursue mundane graduation in a mundane college seemed a thing of embarrassment and there was more yearning to move out, go to Delhi to be precise. It held the keys to success, luxury a feeling of real world and what not.
First i moved out of my house for a short stay in Delhi. Ironically uncle arranged a pg accommodation for me which i shared with girls of LSR college. Salwar Kameez clad with Dupatta pinned tightly, me, had quite a cultural shock and kept my distance from them cautiously. They were smart and intelligent, at the same time they followed all the ' in' things which my small town upbringing forbade. Na i wasn,t all goodie type but simply didn,t fit into the pattern. Actually i run off miles when i am aware of any pattern and me falling into it. Anyway during that short stay i missed Guwahati so much and somehow knew i was not meant for the big city. I did not have any friends nor i wanted to make any..as if i had left my soul at home. I had heaved a sign of relief as i had left that pg and again settled at Guwahati.
My urge to move ' out' much toned, i was happy in Guwahati. But as life would have it I came back to Delhi after a few years but this time with a job and some confidence under the belt and with lots of other small towners who had cleared the same exam as me, small towners who were much more under confident in matters of speaking English. North India gave me a cultural shock of a different nature. Being Bengali and hard core non vegetarian, slowly it dawned..people do not appreciate gobbling up all the non vegetarian food specially on some particular days meant for rituals and even a foodie like my husband made non veg food a no no at office. Festivals here are celebrated through fasts for an entire duration of nine days where as in eastern India festivals means more food!!
Once i settled with the food issue , the veils were slowly lifting and i could see behind the veneer of urbanisation... the poor and pathetic condition of women. Those who worked with me had no qualms about going and making perfectly round rotis while their male counterparts watched television. Girls invariably were married off at an early age to a boy the parents chose while in east and north east India girls married late and lots of inter caste marriages if not inter religion ones. Dowry was another shock which both the parties happily obliged. Some how in that small city of mine in a corner of the country things were much more healthy at least for a woman. And i learned never to regret having not born in north as i did earlier as if being born and brought up in that corner had my wings clipped.
We adjusted our lifestyles to survive in this city. Scorched ourselves in the heat of North leaving the sultry days of east. We learned to speak and adapt Hindi to the extent my daughter hardly speaks Bengali with us. I remember finding myself babbling in Hindi in my siesta, felt the pangs of grief, is my language leaving me gradually... We learned to celebrate Holi and Diwali more than the Durga Puja, have Rajma Chawal and Dal Makhni and are raising a daughter who is a natural Delhite. Having said that we do love to nibble at the Mughlai Kebabs and Biryanis, enjoy the Himalays at a few hours drive away and love the feel of living in the capital.
Some parts of North east still lives in us as we strive hard to be the hard core Northerners.... People here have welcomed and loved us but only they are alien to the life people lead outside this belt, the food they eat and the language they speak, the boundaries of the state they share. Till then we try to be one of them and adhere to the so called mainstream....