Sense of place : what is yours?

The title of this post is borrowed from Michael Shapiro’s book

A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration

, which has some very insightful interviews of prominent travel writers ( among them being Pico Iyer, whose writing I love, and Tim Cahill, who was the Editor of the Best Travel Writing books, who has some pretty neat stuff to say about travel writing). More about this on another post.

Though the name of the book suggest something different ( the sense of place a travel writer brings to his writing), I use it here to mean your affinity to a place. People like us, who, uprooted from where they grew up – which place do they call home? A question that I am sure troubles us all at some point or the other – where do I belong? I mean, in a literal sense, not in any metaphorical sense.

When Appa and I came back to India from the US, we felt quite strongly that we “belonged” more in India than in the US. But now that we are in India, and the question of putting down roots in one place comes up ( read that as the peer pressure of buying a place of our own), there looms large the issue: but where?

I wonder at our own rootlessness, and where it stems from. Partly it is the fact that I was away from my hometown of Guwahati since my college days, and, apart from holidays long and short, have never really lived there. Partly it is the fact that we are looking for  too much perhaps – we want a place where we can have some friends and family around, a place where N can have good schooling, a place which is green, has manageable commute, clean air, is either cosmopolitan or is entirely rural. A place where we can put down roots for a decade or so, at least till N grows up and leaves the nest.

The list is, admittedly, long – but, on the other hand, which one would you suggest one can live without? Somehow the thought of living in a large metro where all one can do is have pizzas and burgers for dinner and watch movies on IMAX cinema for entertainment is feeling less and less attractive by the day.

We know that this lifestyle does not feel right for us. We know we want a lifestyle which is more connected to nature, and where we can live more naturally. Living naturally to me means things like walking rather than sitting in a vehicle for long portions of the day, able to enjoy the sun and rain and natural elements, breathing clean air, seeing things grow. Having plants and birds and animals around. Where kids can grow up in a rough and tumble manner, dirtying their knees on the sand and soil and not on cemented walkways.

On the other hand, we are not hermits. We do want to stay connected to family and friends. And enjoy food and drink as everybody else. But, as we think about our “Sense of Place” it feels more and more that we have to make an extreme choice.

The dilemma is on, and we know we need to make a choice sooner or later.

Three Idiots, and turning the clock back

Thanks to the persistent Little Sis, I got to go watch a movie without dragging N along. This was in Guwahati, so this post comes just about 10 days late.

What a pleasure it was to watch a movie without having to get out every 5 minutes because N has reached the end of her not-so-long attention span. And of course if that movie is Three Idiots, then the evening is a rocking one!

Aamir Khan is unbelievable – how on earth does he manage to look like a just-out of teens boy? He’s past forty, isn’t he? And its not just the looks, the way he walks, talks, moves, everything. Its a pleasure to watch him.

The movie was of very funny, and brought home a point without sounding too preachy. I am sure all of us engineering types, who went to engineering school because… ummm.. we were good at maths and didn’t want to be doctors, had just that slightest twinge of “wish I had followed xxx dream when I had the chance”, or even a little blame game on the parents thing.

I think I have reached the age when blaming the parents for something is no longer really feasible. I mean, where was my own will when I killed myself to get a good rank in the state boards, instead of, say, going off to  basketball games or to NCC camps? I studied like I was expected to, and I knew I did it because I wanted the adulation that went with getting a good grade. That, and the fact that I really did not know what else to focus my energies on.  I guess the one thing that interested me then, and that interests me now, and that has not changed, is the love of the Outdoors. And given a chance, I would have liked to work out a career that lets me spend time outdoors, in the middle of natural surroundings.

Thats a thought, given a chance to go back , turn the clock, what would you do, if you were, say 18/ or even 21?

There is hope yet: Mawllynong village in Meghalaya

I just got back from an 8-day Gypsyfeet trip to Meghalaya and Assam (  called the Fabulous-3 trip, because of the three Fab places, Meghalaya, Kaziranga and Majuli we visit).

We spent two days at a village called Mawllynong in Meghalaya, way out on the India-Bangladesh border.

Why did I take my guests to this place? The village has the distinction of being the cleanest village in Asia. It did not disappoint.

The village was spotlessly clean. Cemented Pathways were lined with bamboo baskets used as garbage bins. There was not a bit of plastic or other litter to be seen anywhere. Flowers on bushes and vines lined the pathways.

THe guest house made through community effort ( and whose profits are shared within the community) is truly pleasing. It has a machan reached by a bamboo bridge.

Mawllynong guest house

The whole village was cleanliness conscious. People swept the walkways in front of their houses, and diposed of the garbage at pits dug for the purpose. The organic waste was decomposed and used as fertiliser.Children were paid some money to collect litter thrown by tourists – the money was from a central fund collected from visitor’s fees. There was even a visitor’s registration desk!

And here’s the beautiful church, designed by a local person taking inspiration from a photograph of a church in England.

Church at Mawllynong

What a pity other villages and cities in India do not follow the example of Mawllynong!