Did you live there?
Updated: Mar 17, 2019
I once got into a pretty heated debate with my good friend about what it means to have “lived somewhere.” She had recently spent a summer working in a lab in Germany, but still didn’t want to claim that she had “lived there,” only that she had “visited” or had “spent some time there.” I disagreed strongly and felt that 3 months was definitely enough time to be able to say that she had “lived there,” though I didn’t have much else in the way of support for my argument.
Thinking back on it a little later, I realized that perhaps she didn’t feel like she had really “lived there” because it never really felt like home. After all, it didn’t sound like she had made a lot of German friends outside of her small lab group, and she had lamented bitterly about how she couldn’t eat most things because she was vegetarian. Perhaps there was also a language barrier (even though her German was pretty decent). Maybe she just never felt comfortable there.
It wasn’t until this weekend that I finally felt like I have “lived in” Bangalore, that Bangalore became my home. On Saturday night, we all went out to watch Captain Marvel at a nearby movie theater in Ulsoor. I was already really excited because this is definitely how I would’ve spent this particular Saturday at home in Seattle, too. After the movie when we were all walking down the stairs toward the exit, Casey noticed a familiar face among the descending crowd. It was none other than our main mentor, our main squeeze, Nirmita from SELCO! In this city of over 12 million people and probably hundreds of movie theaters, we happened to run into not just someone we know here, but one of the coolest people we know here, just hanging out and living her best life. In that sparkling moment when I caught my first glimpse of the back of Nirmita’s head floating effortlessly down those stairs, I knew that I could go back to Seattle happy and satisfied because I finally felt like I had sufficiently experienced real life as a typical (upper middle class) Bangalorean. In that sparkling moment, Bangalore finally became small enough for me to wrap my tiny brain and my short arms around in a warm, loving, and sweaty embrace.
Even though I haven’t explored all of Cubbon Park or Lalbagh Gardens or even Benson Town where I live or J.P. Nagar where I work, I have:
- Begun to cross the street without thinking,
- Eaten Sunday brunch at MTR,
- Sat in the grass relaxing at Cubbon Park,
- Played soccer on a rented turf field,
- Visited the homes of friends and strangers alike,
- Drank many cups of Fanta and chai in said friends’ and strangers’ homes,
- Ridden the metro during rush hour,
- Bought a whole suitcase worth of Indian-style clothes,
- Painted and beautified a concrete wall on a busy street,
- Walked and driven by said wall countless times,
- Worked for hours and hours in a million different cafes, many as a repeat customer,
- Signed up for a well-used gym membership,
- Tried a zillion different ice cream shops (which is of course still not enough),
- Taken lukewarm bucket showers,
- Stayed out late on weeknights,
- Walked barefoot through the most beautiful temples,
- Haggled with ruthless auto drivers,
- Murdered myriad maddening mosquitos,
- High-fived demonstrators in a woman’s march on International Women’s Day,
- And fed myself with only my hands.
Yeah, I live here and no, I’m not ready to leave.