Rather than a very much expected doom-and-gloom piece tomorrow, I wanted to do this today. Today, when I can still attempt to think about these last 5 weeks with some sense of joy, with some sense of equanimity. Tomorrow, the supposed inner sense of equilibrium will not so much see-saw wildly as come crashing down definitely one one side - the side of me that will rail at all things. The day I have dreaded since the 9th of December 2007 will have arrived.
It'd be far too easy to glorify Pune and the life I have led during the past 5 weeks. It has taken a monumental amount of effort to not sing my usual paeans of praise for all things Puneri. But, I cannot let things spiral away to an extent where one starts to think living in this city, surrounded by friends and family is akin to living on Fantasy Island. So, here goes...
It would be superfluous to say that the city hasn't changed. That was inevitable. What I did not want to but was forced to accept were just a few ravages of time. For instance, since when did Pune adopt the 'mall city' title ? Everywhere one looks, there's a large glass building, with an equally huge signboard, in case one missed the jhatak colours splashed on the walls... welcome to the shopping mall, ladies and gents. We sell the same stuff that the next mall sells, at the same price or worse, at a higher price and we love the fact that you visit us. Really, we do. The slightly desperate tone in our voices cannot hide behind the thin veneer of our welcoming smiles. And it goes on. Road after road, building after building, each vying with the other to do what ? More power to the middle class, allowed, but who is the victim on the altar of city development ? The Pune spirit, that's who. And I am very well aware that the Pune spirit is still alive and kicking. But it has changed. That's the point.
Go to the quiet lanes of Apte road, the nooks of the Peth areas, the endless bylanes of Sindh and National Society... and the spirit I knew still echoes there. But even echoes fade...
This city, once famous for its citizenry's sarcasm during confrontations, has now degenerated to a constant state of passive-aggressiveness. I can feel it blanketing the city and it surprises me and saddens me. Where once people would hurl amusing insults at one another while the watching group guffawed in appreciation, people now have no qualms about belting each other in public. True story. It seems like everyone leaves their house hoping to get into any sort of conflict, thereby allowing them to proceed to beat each other's brains out. Or atleast threaten to, and hope for the best.
Tomorrow I leave, knowing what I know and accepting that further changes will be in place the next time I come home. The circle of people I meet the next time will most likely shrink further. What is adulthood about ? Moving away, losing cherished connections, getting buried under an ever-increasing load of responsibilities ? All I can do is hope... that tentative hellos are reciprocated, that the people I value sail the seas of life but not drift away. That Pune... well... I can only show a pair of upturned hands and shrug my shoulders.
Locked away in the deepest recesses is the dread that the city I love and the people I care about may become complete strangers. It's as simple as that.
Songs for the moment: Stay - Dave Matthews Band
The Unnamed Feeling - Metallica