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.

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