This city was perhaps not what we had in mind when we planned a home for us. It was crowded, it was dirty and it was a chaos. On top of that, it was expensive as hell. We never thought we could bring up our children here, in this city, where land was at a premium. There was no open space for my children to run and play. No place where we could walk hand in hand. No place where we could sit back and relax and watch the time go by. Constantly moving, constantly bustling, there was never a moment of peace here. A lot of time we felt hopelessly out of depth. But slowly, I do not know when, this city seeped into our blood. The city became so much a part of us that it became hard for us to imagine living anywhere else. It became home.
But lately I have been wondering about our decision to stay here. After all, as some people claim, the city belongs to the Maharashtrians first and Indians later. As my name suggests, we are clearly not Maharashtrians. Having grown up outside the state, my husband and I also do not speak the language. We are outsiders here. We have taken the place of some locals who perhaps would have stayed in our flat. My husband perhaps has taken the job of a Marathi who would have got the job otherwise. Education, ability, skill; they all take a back seat. The fact is that we are not Marathi Manoos and we do not belong here.
So where do we go? Do we go to Delhi where I grew up? But we are not really North Indians. I can not speak Punjabi either. Does Delhi belong to the Punjabis anyway? We can go to Patna where my husband was born and brought up. But neither are we Biharis. We are both products of parents who trace their roots to East Bengal, now in Bangladesh. So do we go and stay there? May be we should migrate to Kolkata, after
all we are Bengalis even though we have never stayed there. We do not know the city as well as we do Bombay. Or for that matter Delhi. But that doesn't matter, does it? The fact is that we are Bengalis and we might as well go and live there.
Imagine how peaceful India would be then. No fighting for land. No fighting for languages. No fighting for culture.We can then fit our lives in to neat little labels. Chchat Puja in Bihar, Ganeshotsav in Maharashtra. They can keep Sachin Tendulkar, we will be happy with Sourav. Dosas in the south, parathas in the north, rosogullas in the east.There will not be any friction over culture, speech or festivals. Sheer bliss.
But the trouble is that when I see Sachin play, I do not see the Maharashtrian.. Just like when I hear Kishore Kumar, I do not hear the Bengali. I do not label APJ Abdul Kalam, Lata Mangeshkar, Amjad Ali Khan. Amitabh Bachchan, Narayan Murthy.... when I see them, I simply forget which region they come from. I only see the face of an Indian. But perhaps I am only one of the few who think like that.
So currently, I, with my fondness for Kanjivaram sarees, Sachin Tendulkar, Hindi movies and aloo parathas, am rootless in the city I call home. When I hear Raj Thackeray say that Mumbai belongs to the Marathis, I start to think, where do I really belong then? What label do I use for myself?
I am still thinking about it. I also keep thinking about one more thing. How many of you, while singing the National Anthem, ever think the song is in Bengali?