Prompted by this post by The Bride, I pulled out an incomplete draft I had started earlier this year, in summer, when the sister was visiting, and we spent a whole sunny afternoon traipsing around Fontainhas, reveling in just how beautifully stuck-in-a-time-warp some parts of Panjim are. The reason her post reminded me of my own ruminations about the city life, was that I could totally relate to her feeling of distance, of looking at the city you once loved and called home through the eyes of an outsider. Going back to Bangalore evokes no nostalgia in me anymore. I fly in like a visitor, treat myself to some rare pleasures accessed only in Bangalore, and I fly out emotionless. It’s when I return home, and drive back from Dabolim to Panjim that I feel myself slowing down, and I feel at ease again. And no, I’m not complaining. Its what I love about life here. The (lack of) pace at which life ambles on, the general dreaminess that exists in every nook and cranny. How nobody is ever really in a rush to get anywhere (um, except if you’re on one of the two arterial roads in Panjim, in peak hour traffic. Then, I pity you.) And how in love with life everybody is.
Close to three years ago, when I first moved to Panjim, I fell in love with it. Everything was just wide open and there, welcoming me. All the last straws that had driven me away from Bangalore; the months of stuffy commutes through jam-packed streets, the sheer pandemonium about just getting through life in Bangalore, and the general obsession with people behaving like they’re in some imaginary race, whether on the streets or at work or in social circles; were undone in Goa. Panjim was like therapy after Bangalore. A 10 minute-walk away from the beach. A 7-minute zippy drive away from work and pretty much all essentials needed were within a 7 kilometre radius of where we live.
As a city, Panjim was like a breath of fresh air. Literally and figuratively. Fresh, green, fairly clean, great roads, safe streets, uncluttered spaces and a simple life. After years, I felt safe going for a run after sundown. Heck, when I wore shorts, nobody gave a shit — something that has never happened with me in Bangalore. I enjoyed walking everywhere. I loved the peace and quiet, waking up to the sounds of sheep bleating and roosters calling in the farm next door. I loved the peace. I loved the lack of choice.
This is not a post to trash Bangalore. But more yet another ode to Panjim — a city that has made me who I am. A city that took me in at the right time in my life and nurtured me with everything I needed and gave me a place to become myself again.
Yet, everything is not hunky-dory. We’ve had our fair share of troubles. Where that same in-love-with-life slowness has given me many a reason to rant. Things don’t work around the clock here. Sometimes basic things like medicines, doctors, petrol are hard to find after dark. Which is why I don’t dive in and defend myself when people come here and call it a “slum”. When they look at us with disdain. We’ve had people tell us we’re crazy for giving up the city to wind down so soon in life. There have been some who even went so far as to say this was a dangerous decision to step off the corporate network and go off the grid, because the big cities are where the business is. If only they understood that business was the least of our concerns in life.
So I was thinking about it. What is it that makes us love one city over another? Sometimes even discard the city of our childhood, of our home, so quickly? In the last few months before we finally left Bangalore, the state of the city had really begun to get to me. I was tired of fighting a losing battle with auto-drivers, I was tired of the constant noise in my life, I was tired of being forced into the rat race. And I think the reason I love Goa is because it just worked for me. It was relaxed, surreal, therapeutic and just everything Bangalore was not. If I found Bangalore to be noisy, Panjim gave me peace. It forced me to be still. It showed me people who really didn’t care if I was driving by in my car or traipsing about in shorts. It gave me a sense of freedom without having to constantly watch my back. It gave me access to simpler people. The sabji mandi, where I could have a conversation with my vegetable vendor, and he would tell me the travails of sourcing fresh vegetables. At work, where I could mingle with a whole spectrum of people. It gave me access to meet and get to know the randomest of people: dentists, writers, curators and painters — the kind of people who remain enclosed in their cliques in a city like Bangalore.
You know a city is a beloved city, it becomes home, when it gives you a fuzzy feeling in your heart when you return from a trip away. And that connection happened with Panjim within weeks of moving here. It’s when you know and love what you don’t have, when you’re at peace with things as they are, that you begin to feel right at home, no matter where you are.