On the Sadness of Moving

The first time I moved in my life was when I left Calcutta to come to the US to do my PhD, having spent almost all of my life in the same house in the same city. I know I should have been sad, leaving home and family, but I was not . I was excited, deliriously so, for I was looking forward to staying on my own, of not having to answer to a million watchful eyes, of breaking free of a strait jacketed Bengali middle class upbringing, and at the very least, for not having to hide my Pamela Anderson pictures in the C-prog-files directory renamed as P0001.dat.

Now almost twenty years later, I am aware of what I lost that day I stepped onto the British Airways flight. I lost my friends, sure we would meet again off and on and talk, but friendship comes in a context and once that is gone, histories diverge, and all you have are strangers with familiar names and weird forwards on Whatsapp. I also lost my connection with much of what had made me, Bedwin biriyani and mahabprabhu mistanna bhandar and cricket on the streets on bandh days (BBC or Big Bandh cricket), and they all changed too, without me in them, leaving behind husks of what once was known.

I have moved a lot since then, after my PhD to Detroit and then to Maryland and I was in my late 20s and never in all this did I feel a sense of loss, for I was too busy moving ahead, too preoccupied with the next big thing: my first job, my first non-shared place of residence, my first car that wasn’t second hand.

But as thirties moved into the forties, you change. You realize that defining happiness through the prism of attaining the next big thing is not only damned by definition but also doomed by reality, at least in my case, since I fail way more often than I succeed. Faced with the possibility of a permanent affliction of middle aged angst, I have come to recast happiness as the maintenance of familiarity, the comfort of routine, of shopping at the same place, knowing which aisle the produce is, the same drive every day, of familiar faces at work and familiar responsibilities, of an inoffensive social circle and anodyne conversations. I have detached from individuals, for people betray and change and move on, but I connect to the collective, because places are not as fickle, and change slowly and even when they do, not without reason.

Which is why the disruption of a move is unsettling,  being uprooted is to me now like the first few minutes of Up and the last few of Coco. Seeing my daughter embracing her friends and promising to keep in touch breaks my heart because I know it won’t happen, she will move on and so will they, not that she feels any deep sense of loss, that is the blessing of being but five, but I do, in a strange reflected way because it reminds me of what I have lost, the places I will never see again, the part of me I have left behind at various places, hopes and dreams and USB drives.

Of course I know I will settle down in a few months, for time heals broken hearts and amputated limbs and a move is but a trifle in comparison.

But for now, I miss them all, all the places that I used to live in now live in me, as I stumble forward in search of the quiet comfort of the predicted life.

15 thoughts on “On the Sadness of Moving

  1. Great! In nearly a decade that I have lived in the USA, I have never felt unhappy leaving any place behind. Every single day, I still miss Kolkata, with the sane intensity. The sorrow never leaves me. Lets see if I can ever call any other place home.

  2. Shashwat Gupta June 5, 2018 — 5:09 am

    Where to, old pal?

      1. Where in Socal great bong?

  3. I remember your blogpost you posted when you had moved last. A different moving awaits you. These days I move between Mumbai, San Jose and Middle East. Place is familiar but short stay of 3-4 months makes you feel like stranger even in place where I grew up and spent 60 yrs of my life. In San Jose and UAE I am like a Visitor. New people every time I visit.

  4. Well said. I left India over 10 years back now (I now live close to your old neighborhood – Fairfax, VA). When I was in my 20s and early 30s, I used to dream about living in new places and moving to new countries every five years. I did live in two countries before moving to the US but that urge to move seems to have faded as my 40s close in. Familiarity is comforting now.

    I can also relate to your comment about things moving on back home. I find it distressing that everything back home (people, hangouts, neighborhoods) seem to have changed and left you behind. I realize that’s selfish and unfair because I was the one who left them in the first place but still… the feeling persists.

    Have fun in SoCal! Hope you don’t have to move for a while.

  5. ..leaving behind husks of what once was known….

    Priceless wordplay

  6. This is the part of experience of almost everybody’s life. I appreciate your feelings. After going through your writing I am also memorising my past days. Thanks Bukku.
    Stay well and healthy.
    Best wishes,
    Santanu kaku

  7. This is the part of experience of almost everybody’s life. I appreciate your feelings. After going through your writing I am also memorising my past days. Thanks Bukku.
    Stay well and healthy.
    Best wishes,
    Santanu kaku

  8. Bukku, this is life, present day life . You have to keep moving.
    Even the US president has to move out of White House after his term expires. During his Presidency he is all powerful, yet he doesn’t have powers to stay in White House after his term is over.

    Look forward for the positive aspects of moving.

    God bless

    -Bhaskar Mazumdar

  9. Loved this post, anyone who has moved countries will relate to this feeling. Like you rightly said, its impossible to find the old places like they used to be except in our mind.

  10. sulagana biswas June 6, 2018 — 5:36 pm

    i agree with what you said about friendships needing a context. i loved my school friends so much and now I don’t know them anymore. relationships need a shared context, shared everyday needs and anxieties and excitement and laughter.

  11. May be you are bit more sad because you are Kapha type 🙂 ! As a kid i changed my school to be with my neighborhood friend. I lost my top rank and deteriorated in studies.

  12. I have now lived longer in the USofA then in India and after grad school, moved to this town and never left. While you have soft memories of living in calcutta, I wasn’t that rooted. I can say that majority of adulthood before grad school in USA was bombay. Then again, even though we had huge home in bombay, the surrounding poverty, dirty slums nearby, the unending bureaucracy and utter selfishness of people, corruption..never made me have nostalgia. Whenever I had nostalgia, I revisited mumbai and it evaporated as fast as water on hot pan. While life in USA could be better (friends/social circle/culture etc), I have no complains. As I age, I feel the same way. I reject all offers of movement to something “better” because the familiarity of routine is something I do not want to get rid of!

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