Review 2007: Home

Angshuman Das on Mumbai

Home is different from house. When we say home, it encompasses feeling and warmth; it is more than a mere house, which essentially means a shelter. Therefore, the word home is often used as an uncountable noun without any article or adjective.

When I look back at the year, I find that the most important development that has happened to my home and neighborhood is change of location: I moved in the middle of the year. I moved from a Calcutta neighborbood to a Mumbai suburb. This move has been a techtonic shift for me.

The overwhelming feeling has been of dislocation. I am not sure yet whether I have settled, whether I like my new dwelling, or whether I would like to make Mumbai my home for the rest of my life. I am listless and clueless. It's as though I have lost my mooring, yet I don't know my destination.

From a familiar environment, I moved to a new place. I had lived in Calcutta for several years. I had been born in Calcutta, known as a center of art and culture -- and squalor. Calcutta is also a breeding ground of Indian communist and Marxist thought, the capital of a state ruled by the Left Front government, an alliance of communist and Left-leaning parties.

Mumbai, on the other hand, is India's financial and glamor capital. The world's largest movie industry, Bollywood, thrives in Mumbai. It has a great seafront, the skyline from Marine Drive, the main boulevard along the sea, looking like New York's.

Incidentally, both cities are compared with New York -- Calcutta is similar to New York as a center of arts and culture; Mumbai is similar as a center of high finance, glamor, and round-the-clock activity. Mumbai has been called the city that never sleeps. (That's true. At 1'O clock on a Saturday morning, you will find bumper-to-bumper traffic.)

Mumbai has its charms, but, again, is it home? Is it my home? My life is peaceful in Navi Mumbai, a "satellite township" that one needs to cross a bridge over the sea to access. I commute by train -- Mumbai has a giant local rail network that ferries passengers by millions each day.

I am one of those millions, eking out a living from a job in a management consulting company that advises corporations how to make more money and grow their businesses. I should be happy, for Mumbai has been called the city of opportunities.

Yet, I don't know what I feel. Is it ambivalence? Is it incomprehension, or nostalgia for my ealier home? I have no idea. I am lost. This year my home itself has moved, unsettling me.

Angshuman's blog is Cooking in Calcutta.

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The photo of Mumbai is from flickr and used via a Creative Commons License.

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